Diversion

August 21st, 2016 · 3 Comments · journalism

By Arthur Alpert

A thousand years ago when I was young, the Arts and Entertainment editor at my Big Apple newspaper sent me to review a Lenny Bruce show in Greenwich Village. Bruce wasn’t funny at all. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was on his last legs, succumbing to drugs and paranoia. Still, I’ve never forgotten how he ended his routine.

Bruce portrayed a comedian on the way down. Bombing in his gig at the London Palladium, failing to get laughs, this comic desperately pulls out a flag and embarks on a patriotic song-and-dance.

Ever the moralist, Bruce was riffing on Samuel Johnson’s 1775 pronouncement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

These days, that’s no longer news. We’ve seen countless scoundrels (and “losers,” as Mr. Trump might say) revert to patriotism or law-and-order or scapegoating to divert attention from something they don’t want you to see.

Yes, the key word is “diversion.”

What inspired these thoughts was the Albuquerque Journal’s lead story today, Thursday, Aug. 18, headlined “Gov. to push for return of New Mexico death penalty”.

Please don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. I’m not accusing the governor of anything. This isn’t a political blog.

I am suggesting the Journal is in the business of diverting attention from its friends’ political goals and activities. In fact, Journal political commissars have been known to flag-wave as a cover. Last Memorial Day, they wrote all about heroes and made absolutely no reference to the brave Americans who have died or were maimed in wars foisted upon us by stupid elected officials.

The Journal seems to think patriotism and militarism are synonymous.

Today’s Journal, however, diverts via the routine use of headlines and IDs, as well as political decisions on what to publish and what to omit. So let’s begin.

Note first that Dan Boyd’s story on the governor’s initiative quoted its critics in paragraphs six through 10, but the headline writer chose to reflect none of that, not on Page One and not where it jumped to A3.

Also, note that the editor decided to forego a pull quote from either the governor, whose language was dramatic, or from Allen Sanchez, speaking for the state’s Roman Catholic Bishops, who accused her of “trying to create a distraction” from New Mexico’s poverty.

Pull quotes from both would have spiced up the story.

But let’s move to a Washington Post report the Journal might have printed today but didn’t.

“Aetna warned it would drop out of Obamacare exchanges if its merger was blocked” is the headline over Carolyn Y. Johnson’s piece. Her lead:

“Insurance giant Aetna’s announcement this week that it would sharply curb its participation in the insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act was seen by some as payback to the Obama administration for blocking its proposed merger with Humana. After all, in April, Aetna chief executive Mark Bertolini had called selling insurance in the exchanges “a good investment.”

Unusual brazen flexing of corporate muscle, no? Unusual account, too, because it wasn’t just about health care but also industry consolidation. Still, the Journal’s editors were unimpressed. That corporations possess and wield political power is a truism except at the Journal where it’s (like Voldemort) a topic that cannot be named.

If it’s a newspaper’s job to tell readers how the system works, then the Journal policy of ignoring the corporate mastodon in the room is a super-sized misrepresentation of reality, a huge black hole.

The editors didn’t ignore Obamacare today, however. They ran still another Op Ed opinion piece criticizing it, this one written by one Brian Blase, who was identified at the bottom as affiliated with the Spending and Budget Initiative at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Can you guess who’s behind the Mercatus Center? You are correct. The Albuquerque Journal’s old pals, the Koch brothers, finance it.

But the Journal’s malfeasance never ceases. Alas, this anti-Obamacare opinion wasn’t the Kochs’ only ghostly appearance in today’s paper. Atop the OpEd page, Paul Gessing, under whose name we read, “Rio Grande Foundation,” offered one more anti-government, anti-tax, pro-cutting jobs and pay for the lower classes screed.

Thankfully, this time the political commissars left out the usual gobbledygook about RGF being a “non-partisan think tank.” It’s a Koch network front that advocates for exempting oligarchs from taxes and doing away with limits on their use of everybody’s air and water.

Must move on, but not before a final note on today’s Op Ed page. Below an essay decrying racism, the tiny typeface tells us the author, one Leslie Bow, is associated with the “Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal opinion.”

I appreciate the warning. Wouldn’t want to be taken in.

But if the political commissars can tell us where Ms. Bow is coming from, why can’t they identify the Mercatus Center and the Rio Grande Foundation as sources of plutocratic opinion? Oligarchic opinion? Or simply, financed by the Kochs?

Rhetorical questions.

Let’s sum up. Today’s Albuquerque Journal gave the governor’s decision to bring back capital punishment prominent play on Page One while muting what objectors said.

The editors passed on a story about a major health care corporation wielding its power against the national government. It did, however, publish an anti-Obamacare Op Ed piece financed by oligarchs while failing to so inform readers.

And the same day on the same page it published the RGF’s anti-government, anti-wage-earner opinion financed by the same oligarchs and did so with the same lack of transparency.

Conversely, it properly identified the “liberal” source of one Op Ed essay.

What did I say up top? “The Journal is in the business of diverting attention from its friends’ political goals and activities.” Diverting attention, that is, “from something they don’t want you to see.”

And then I offered evidence from one issue.

I think I made my case, but if I have misconstrued something or been unfair, do let me know. I want to correct the Albuquerque Journal, not imitate it.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Emanuele Corso

    This is why I stopped reading the ABQ Journal 30 years ago, Mr. Alpert. I don’t know how you can do it day after day. But thanks for your dedication to truth telling too bad no one at the Journal shares this matter of journalistic integrity.

  • Maria Piernavieja

    Thank You!

    It is just astounding that No Local Media mentioned that AETNA Article, just trivial nonsense. The Santa Fe New Mexican is just as bad!

  • Roland

    In one of the interviews on Sunday, an insurance analyst commented that Aetna was likely pulling out of the insurance exchanges because their profit margin was lower, under the Affordable Care Act they had to provide insurance to “older and sicker” customers. That makes their decision to pull out even more disgusting than payback to the Obama administration.

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