Tags: Perlstein | McChesney | campaign | funds

Progressives Also Complain About Washington

By    |   Friday, 17 Jan 2014 06:40 AM

John Nichols, a columnist with The Nation magazine, and Robert McChesney, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke to an audience at the University of Chicago about their book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America.

They were introduced by commentator Rick Perlstein, who runs an interview series under the aegis of an enterprise he now calls "Rickipedia" and also writes for The Nation.

In his introductory remarks, Perlstein stated the theme of the book as observations on the transportation of the American polity from one based on votes to one based predominantly on dollars.

In the process of researching the subject, the authors found that total spending on the 2012 election at all levels exceeded $10 billion, much more than conventional estimates of about $6 billion.

Nichols decried Republican proposals to privatize Social Security and to means test welfare and healthcare programs as "zombie ideas that have been reinvigorated by money," based on the view that citizens are not entitled to exercise their constitutional rights until they amass wealth.

He referred to a presentation by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., that it has become impossible to get any legislation through Congress that is opposed by Wall Street.

Nichols complained further that section 317 of the Federal Communications Act, which requires the identification of sponsors of advertising, has led to a dramatic expansion of political advertising and that broadcasters have expanded the length of their newscasts for the purpose of attracting more political advertising for a presumably receptive audience, with the result that the share of profits for local broadcasters from political ads has risen from 2 percent to 5 to 8 percent and then to 20 percent.

The model all three panelists favor is one along the lines of European countries where public affairs television is provided by public broadcasting.

McChesney cited with approval statistics showing that Germany spent 1/32 as much per capita as the United States on its recent election.

Perlstein quoted Jimmy Carter's statement that the United States is "no longer a functioning democracy." (I recall Carter and Tennessee's Butcher brothers as alleged exponents of financing campaigns by looting banks.)

Most significant is McChesney's proposal that journalism should be funded with public money. Readers should expect to see this idea promoted more prominently on the progressive agenda.

In spite of their devotion to the Democrat cause, the panelists seem genuinely troubled by the lengths to which the Obama campaign has gone to build massive databases on the political views of all voters, a technique they predict will permanently alter the future of politics, because it enables candidates to tailor messages precisely to suit each voter, even as these blandishments obscure the image of the candidates.

Advisedly, Perlstein, invoking Lenin's words, asked, "What is to be done?" Nichols responded that it is time for a new "Age of Reform," in which the constitutions would be amended to overturn Citizens United, end gerrymandering and abolish the Electoral College.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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John Nichols, a columnist with The Nation magazine, and Robert McChesney, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, spoke to an audience at the University of Chicago about their book Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America.
Perlstein,McChesney,campaign,funds
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2014-40-17
Friday, 17 Jan 2014 06:40 AM
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