Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Effective calumnies

While I doubt that health-insurance companies and their flunkies in the media actually gave serious thought to literally pushing Michael Moore off a cliff, it is certain that they invested much effort in doing so metaphorically: As is common with such cabals when billions of dollars are at stake, their operatives have worked assiduously to find grounds to malign and marginalize an adversary who threatened to make the discussion about health care a transparent discourse including much of the US’ populace.

Michael Moore in a guest appearance on 'The Simpsons'

Michael Moore made two guest appearances on The Simpsons. In this one he is a resident at the Ronald Reagan Reeducation Center.
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As is also common, where the cabal couldn’t find a way to defeat Moore’s arguments or discredit his message, it did not hesitate to make Moore himself the issue. Adroitly exploiting Moore’s brash persona, it painted him as a ruthlessly partisan, self-aggrandizing egomaniac.

How effective has this campaign of insinuation been?

As StumbleUpon member SMA11784’s review suggests, Moore has been effectually sequestered: Liking or not liking him and his work has now come to be perceived purely as a matter of political affiliations, so that he has almost no chance to change minds, but can only preach to a choir whose size diminishes in inverse proportion to its zealotry. This is partly Moore’s own fault: He really does swagger visibly in his writings, and his devotion to the Democratic Party has taken on overtones of blind naivete. But one could hardly argue that Moore swaggers more, or is more partisan, than such mouthpieces of the corporate far right as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. The difference? Wendell Potter is forthright: The media are easily led to promote the opinions of the right and to calumniate the left.

I have written of this phenomenon before. There is a myth among many of the mass media’s consumers — sedulously cultivated by the media themselves — that those media are “liberal.” But as Noam Chomsky explains in Necessary Illusions and other analyses, the range of thinkable ideas as portrayed in them falls well within the scope which is serviceable to the ruling elite: We are allowed to see and talk of tactical objections to what that elite does, but not to examine it in terms of fundamental moral repudiation of its underlying strategy and the assumptions on which it is founded.

On a more practical level, however, personal experience and much close observation have told me that corporate media need not conspire to indoctrinate rather than inform: That they do so is necessary and endemic to their nature. A former publisher of mine was blunt about this: “The advertisers,” she said, “call the shots.” This means that the “free press,” far from taking a skeptical or adversarial posture in reporting on corporate behavior, is consistently sensitive to the desires of its advertising base — which of course consists of corporations. Further, since the publishers and senior executives of the vast media conglomerates, in particular, are drawn as much as are judges and elected officials from the corporate ruling elite, they have internalized its values and serve as effective gatekeepers who reliably weed out those journalists who fail to conform.

The consequence is as ineluctable as it is predictable: The media serve as corporate public-relations tools, and will consistently promote the most zealous advocates of corporate power and deregulated, laissez-faire capitalism and denounce, discredit and defame its adversaries. So, among those pushing Michael Moore off the cliff of public disdain, look not only for insurance executives, but for familiar “journalists” from what passes itself off as a free and “liberal” press.

Originally published as a review of a article on Michael Moore and the health-insurance industry.

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