The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, in a piece for The Wall Street Journal about lessons learned from the pandemic year, writes, "Lockdowns proved a huge boon to America’s corporate media, which primed its captive audience with fear and partisanship. Everything the corporate press did regarding Covid coverage was inseparable from its yearslong obsession with attacking Donald Trump."
The next sentence in the article says, "While it was abundantly clear by May that schools represented low-risk environments for the spread of Covid and that the consequences of prolonged school closures were potentially catastrophic, the corporate media did its best to obscure the data and stoke fear and panic among parents and teachers."
How did we get to the point where one of the top Republican politicians in the country throws around the term "corporate" as if it were a pejorative?
Who does DeSantis thinks publishes The Wall Street Journal if not a corporation?
Nor was this a one-time (or three-time) lapse.
Back in February, a Fox News headline read "Gov. DeSantis: 'Corporate Media' Was Proven Wrong on Florida's Reopening."
The headline was over an article reporting on a DeSantis appearance on the Fox News program "Fox & Friends."
Who does DeSantis thinks operates Fox News if not a corporation?
"Corporate media" is a phrase that DeSantis, knowingly or not, borrowed from socialist Bernie Sanders, who also uses the phrase frequently. It makes sense, or at least is ideologically consistent, for a socialist to portray corporations as nefarious.
But Republicans have been the party of corporate tax cuts and deregulation; the party that at least pays lip service to the notion that the profit motive is consistent with prosperity, innovation, growth, and job creation.
If not corporations, who would DeSantis prefer own the media?
The government, like in Cuba or the old Soviet Union or Communist China?
If it were just media-bashing, perhaps one might be inclined to cut DeSantis some slack.
Yet the governor also has it in for what he, in his State of the State address earlier this month, called "Big Tech."
He said, "Big Tech should not be able to make billions of dollars off us without our informed consent."
He went on, "we cannot allow the contours of acceptable speech to be adjudicated by the whims of oligarchs in Silicon Valley." And he said, "we cannot allow Big Tech to interfere in our elections by putting a thumb on the scale for political candidates favored by Silicon Valley."
Sounds like DeSantis would prefer that Silicon Valley companies make less money, and that the government constrain the ability of those companies to participate in politics or to moderate their own platforms.
The First Amendment guarantees Silicon Valley companies the ability to engage in politics just as it allows Florida interest groups to do so.
Before being elected governor, DeSantis was a member of Congress.
Before that he was a Navy lawyer and served as a federal prosecutor, according to a campaign bio.
The only non-governmental employment experience on the biography was that "To put himself through college, he swept floors, collected trash, moved furniture, parked cars, served as an electrician’s assistant, coached baseball clinics, and set up hospitality tents, earning a reputation as the most employable student at Yale University."
That’s all terrific.
DeSantis deserves a lot of credit for working his way through college and for leading Florida through the pandemic.
But before he’s ready for the presidency, perhaps he could use some seasoning in the private sector, maybe in some larger-scale commercial enterprise?
The most favorable, or cynical, view of DeSantis is that he’s sophisticated.
In this reading, the Big Tech-bashing and "corporate media" talk is just red meat for the pitchfork populist Trump base.
If DeSantis ever does make it to the White House, this theory has it, he’d govern as a chamber of commerce, business roundtable type just like any other Republican president before him.
But that’s a risky proposition.
The problem with politicians bashing business is that even if the politician doesn’t genuinely believe it, eventually some voters may.
It’s true that big businesses sometimes have a tendency to get cozy with government to try to protect themselves from smaller competitors.
But small businesses can be organized as corporations, too.
And behind all of these businesses are owners — not "oligarchs," as DeSantis demonizes them, but entrepreneurs who have prospered in a competitive marketplace by voluntary transactions that create value.
The corporations are owned by shareholders who have invested hard-earned money to back the entrepreneurs.
Any Republican candidate who can explain that in a debate against DeSantis will deserve some serious attention from the press, corporate or otherwise.
And from voters.
Ira Stoll is author of "JFK, Conservative," and "Samuel Adams: A Life." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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