By Arthur Alpert
Journalism is superficial, of course. With some praiseworthy exceptions, it’s basically a gloss on politics.
Politics is superficial, too, relative to what it revolves around, power.
Power, however, is fundamental. So is its distribution along the vertical axis we call hierarchy.
“It’s good to be the king,” said Mel Brooks, reminding us that those who sit atop the hierarchy like it there. But there’s insecurity, too – sometimes squabbling within the family, sometimes vague murmurs of discontent rising from below. So the powerful allocate big money to the maintenance of order.
That’s often meant governmental (or corporate) violence, but oligarchs have always exerted themselves to cloud humankind’s minds, too.
They shape consciousness via moral systems, the law, religions (deist and secular) and education, by which I mean culture as well as schooling.
The goal would seem to be a society where each (but particularly the bottom-dwellers) accepts his rung on the ladder as God’s will.
In our times, ostensibly democratic and drenched with information, the preferred strategy for retaining power is to throw an invisibility cloak over the very existence of the hierarchy, its values (such as they are) and modes of operation.
But persuading the citizenry there’s no hierarchy (or what happens on Olympus should stay on Olympus) is insufficient. Rulers feel the need for diversions, too. They want not just bread and circuses, but constant strife, exacerbating social discontent.
Think, “Talk radio.”
Or, think Robert Samuelson. I’ve ridiculed his hobbled intellect here, but that doesn’t mean he’s unimportant. Journal editors use him to inform Mr. and Mrs. Average Reader they’re being robbed by greedy geezers or lazy youth or the neighbors, anybody other those who do prey upon them.
In pursuit of this divide -and-conquer strategy the Journal has published (I kid you not!) more than 1300 of Robert J. Samuelson’s columns so far. And counting!
Yes, Samuelson beats the drum for his (dubious) generational warfare, fomenting strife, exacerbating social discontent. If the oligarchs can pit the poor and middle classes against each other, they’re unlikely to look up and spot the pullers of strings.
Thus does the Albuquerque Journal serve as the public relations arm of those inhabiting the hierarchy’s topmost aeries.
And while Samuelson (likely an innocent) distracts the uninformed, the editors publish all kinds of “expert” analysis from “think tanks” invented by and paid for by the aerie-dwellers.
Prize-winning financial journalist Felix Salmon has an interesting variation on the theme of “think tanks” beholden to corporate interests. In a Dec. 5 post for Reuters, he focused on their influence:
“Influence is at heart a zero-sum game: if the financial sector has a lot of it, that means the rest of us have less. And given what the financial sector wrought in the 2000s, I don’t particularly trust it to get things right this time around.”
Of course, the Journal has never found “what the financial sector wrought” very interesting.
In fact, the Journal exempts from serious reporting not just finance but modern corporate America, its systems, cancerous growth and, in particular, how it exerts power on government.
One timely case in point:
The feds have just advanced the Volcker Rule despite Wall Street’s extraordinary lobbying to weaken it. The idea is to restrain banker wheeler-dealers from proprietary trading (e.g. gambling) while enjoying federal support and protection. It may work, if regulation is effective.
It would have been simpler to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act, which once separated banks from gamblers, but as former FDIC Chief Sheilia Bair, a Republican, told the N.Y. Times Dec. 11, “There wasn’t enough political support for that.”
Because you read real news elsewhere, you knew that. If you’d relied on the Albuquerque Journal you wouldn’t, as the aerie-dwellers prefer.
Ditto the highly secret Trans-Pacific Partnership; the Journal’s published nothing, as the aerie-dwellers prefer.
Ditto astounding advances in solar and other alternative sources of energy; the Journal’s run the minimum, as the aerie-dwellers prefer.
(At the Journal, Solyndra is hands-down the favorite alternative energy story.)
In fact the Journal casts government as the source of all evil – except, of course, when it abets corporate America.
Which abetting is the rule, in this Golden Age of corporate government, no matter which political party holds office. But the newspaper won’t look at how business muscles government, as the aerie-dwellers wish.
No, the Journal retails the notion that politics is about morality, pleasing not just trusting rightists but many liberals innocent about how power works.
Enter now new criticism of inequality, hierarchy’s essence. How is the Journal handling its PR duties? Impressively. I’ll explain soon.