The Media’s Role in Domination and Exploitation…

 As Democracy Swirls Down the Drain

By Rev. Dr. Karen Tate

Humanity has been very adaptable, which has probably led to our success rather than the extinction of our species, but could that adaptability also be our undoing?  Have we as humans, as Americans, accepted too much as normal, from sexism and racism to corporate domination in its many forms, including the corporate-owned media shaping the narratives and steering the ship?  Interesting isn’t it suffering and sacrifice seem to be themes lauded by some major organized religions, which many see as institutions of control and power over the masses?  It seems we are indoctrinated to accept suffering and sacrifice – isn’t that convenient for the oppressors?  

For the last decade I've been speaking about partnership as a value within Goddess spirituality and as one aspect of Sacred Feminine liberation thealogy, because I realized it could save the world.  As a partnership practitioner of Riane Eisler’s Center for Partnership Studies, we examine partnership within ourselves, with our friends and community, between employers and employees rather than the current exploitation found in predator capitalistic domination.  I’ve spoken and taught about partnership between countries to prevent war, and between humanity and Gaia to save species on the planet from mass extinction and to prevent the continued and on-going rape of Mother Earth, in all its many forms.  That’s brought me to pondering how many might recognize the rise of corporate-owned media promoting their agendas and narratives, ignoring or relinquishing their role as the Fourth Estate to keep democracy secure, in the name of profit, as a form of domination and exploitation – or do we just accept it as normal?

Sure I knew about Fox News and the damage being done from that news outlet, but we had MSNBC, and sometimes CNN, to counter all that, didn’t we?  I probably should have been fully awake long before the 2016 presidential election, but I was busy.  I had things to do!  I was writing books, teaching, and doing a podcast.  There were still real journalists somewhere upholding their role as the Fourth Estate, protecting democracy, weren’t there?  It all wasn’t “bread and circuses” to placate the masses, was it?  Surely not!  Right?


With only a few exceptions, hackers included, increasingly it seems, the people are rarely exposed to what is in their best interest by the media, especially if it’s not in the interests of the very diversely invested monopoly that is corporate media.  In fact, subtly and not so, Americans are brainwashed to vote against their economic interests!   The monopoly of corporate-owned media and what guarantees their profits totally dominates the narrative.  Remember the narrative of “you can’t tax the job creators?”  Democracy, patriotism, honor, integrity, and facts are ideas and values lost in the spin of operations designed to focus on what serves investors, Big Money, multi-national corporations, and the 1% with their insatiable greed who never seem seem to have a big enough piece of the pie, caring little for those starving on the few meager crumbs of incrementalism.  There is little to no partnership with the middle class, workers, the poor or elderly in our corporate oligarchy of media moguls.

Better late than never I guess, the full magnitude of losing investigative journalists and an unbiased press did not really hit me in a truly meaningful way until I watched the unfolding of that assault on our democracy (and the role most media outlets played) in that debacle that was this last presidential election train wreck.  Not only did media outlets distort facts, spew disinformation and shamelessly come out and support one candidate over another, they did so as if were normal and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.  The media literally became arms of certain candidates’ campaigns, keeping valuable information from the public and when they did cover the candidates, the coverage was far from fair and balanced.  This should be of concern no matter who your candidate in that election was and if they won or lost.  This sets a very dangerous precedent for the future of democracy and the ability of the electorate to cast their vote with proper scrutiny.

I was not surprised to learn from an independent and not widely publicized study done during the course of several months of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump, the reality television star turned President, who was never asked probing questions about his policies by the media, who was bringing in ratings (aka money) to the networks, had been mentioned on-air 187,000 times.  This was free coverage, as the media hung on to his every word, even cutting away from important events to have cameras focus sometimes on an empty podium, awaiting his arrival. 

Hillary Clinton, the darling of the Establishment Left, neoliberals and the favorite of MSNBC, spent twice as much on media as Trump and had been mentioned about 87,000 times, while Bernie Sanders, who could fill stadiums on a tweet, and who many believed best represented the under-classes, disappearing Middle Class, workers and the “real Left,”  with policies to restore the social safety net, (that were certainly at odds with corporations, including the corporate media), was mentioned an anemic 29,000 times.  Most of these comments were from news readers offering “talking points” provided by their employers that marginalized his campaign and distorting his policies, with media even attempting to convince viewers of his unelectability.  His amazingly successful run for office, speaking truth to power, giving voice to the “everyman” was a the phenomena of the presidential campaigns, but you would never know it because the mainstream media avoided Sanders’ populist stadium-filled rallys like they were infested with plague, no doubt because if his policies became law, companies like General Electric might have to pay their taxes.  Fortunately for Sanders, his grassroots movement paid less attention to the “news readers” disseminating the evening "news" - the tone of which was spun to benefit their employers, which was a real conflict of interest, but for the low information voter, who might not know Sanders and who would most benefit from a Sanders Presidency, this was a true thwarting of democracy.  Wouldn't people want to know we truly did have free college tuition decades ago and it's been taken away from us.  Shouldn't we remind people employers used to make only fifty times more than employees and now it is three to five hundred times more?  Wouldn't people want to know how laws have changed to allow corporations to deregulate Wall Street and risk pensions and economies rather than treat Wall Street offenders as untouchable gods?  I could go on and on how the media controls the message of greed is good, corporations are the untouchable job creators and the social safety net is welfare for the lazy.

It's not that this corporate media domination was totally new, but they weren’t even pretending to be journalists anymore and the disillusionment was demoralizing.   A year later, I can still vividly recall the red-faced Chris Matthews of MSNBC, ranting about the evils of socialism, misinforming the public about Bernie Sanders, rather than honestly discussing the aspects of democratic socialism, which Bernie Sanders actually represented, that seeks to have government work for the people, rather than for corporations.  Here was the perfect opportunity to have a real discussion about the success of democratic socialism, free public college, and medicare for all, actually being achieved in Scandinavian countries, where people enjoy the highest quality of life.  Many called for Matthews’ resignation when it was revealed his wife was running for office and needed the support of the Establishment Left and it would not bode well if he did not vigorously back Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ opponent.  Still chastising MSNBC, we saw their obvious overt corporate turn as we slowly lost the independent anchors that spoke for the people and unions, the “honest dealers” who refused to “tone it down” or just spew corporate talking points.  Even Rachel Maddow became a corporate tool.

Why are so many like sheeple and accept this as benign and normal?  Again, no matter your politics or political affiliation, why are we not seeing this for the cancerous domination and exploitation of the masses that it is?  Of predator capitalism?  Some actually are resisting the temptation to be manipulated and have turned to social media and attempt to separate what’s true from what’s fake.  No easy task sometimes, but at least important issues are being discussed instead of swept beneath the rug for the benefit of the “haves” over the “have nots.”

Yes, it’s daunting, but we can change it. It wasn’t always this way and this cancer of corporate domination can be eliminated.  Let’s start visioning what that looks like in the world of corporate controlled media.  If we can vision it, then perhaps we can manifest it, but we have to know what to want and how we might get there.

Imagine we start to control the narratives in our tweets, facebook posts, letters, slamming the media for having no pride in that important job, being the Fourth Estate, protecting democracy from exploitation, lies and manipulation by those practicing power over, domination and exploitation.  We can boycott their corporate owners.  Stop watching and tell them you’ve stopped watching.  Let’s push our politicians to restore regulation that at least some segments of the 24 hour news cycle must be allocated to unbiased facts, rather than bias or corporate talking points.  Imagine having more PBS-like programming teaching people how this great income disparity came to be and how we can fix it.  When you’re calling Congress, demand they serve YOU, and push legislation mandating programming that uplifts and informs a dumbed-down electorate so they might vote based on facts and evidence.  We might actually discuss important issues that benefit the people.  And before you think this is impossible, one tweet from Bernie Sanders encouraging his supporters to focus on this would result in a firestorm outpouring from the public like the corporate owned media and their news readers have ever seen.  We simply must organize this "statement" or "demand" from the people.  Let them know we're awake and there will be consequences in how we spend our money or our viewing habits.

Film makers are already doing their part spoon-feeding an uninformed electorate of history and alternative economics – because apparently in many cases, challenging the benefits of capitalism in college can result in teachers not getting tenure, so benefits of economic policies beyond capitalism never get fair play.  During the past presidential campaign, Michal Moore's new documentary, Where to Invade Next was released and showed very clearly in an entertaining way what could happen to our quality of life if our tax dollars were used for the people instead of waging war and giving corporate welfare to companies that don't pay taxes – like is done in other countries around the world.  That might have been a wonderful way to enlighten people about what can actually be the norm instead of brainwashing people to always settle for less, or the crumbs of incrementalism.  Why was that not widely shown across the air waves? Or imagine if Entertainment Tonight might tell you the story behind the movie Truth and the domino-effect of the lack of journalistic integrity at CBS that affected the outcome of the Bush-Kerry election that led to the continuation of the Iraq War, that destabilized the Middle East. Or how Trumbo - a great refresher reminding us of the consequences of allowing ignorant bigots to have power over public discourse and policy.  At least portions of the film industry are trying to do their part but we have to get away from regurgitating super hero films and lead people in the direction of more informative and uplifting messages.  Imagine if these films won the Academy Award or at least had be lauded for the service they provide, instead of disappearing into obscurity or getting a bum rap by the media. That would have been an important statement from the Academy of Motion Pictures.

Large portions of the public have totally lost faith in the mainstreet media’s credibility as they seem to laud war and acts of aggression without thinking through the effects or give us the full story.  Everything is about short-term profits or filling the coffers of the Military Industrial Complex.  The missiles targeting a basecamp in Syria come immediately to mind.  Likewise during the presidential election Left-leaning cable networks like MSNBC preferred to shoot the messenger, as in Wikileaks, when they revealed the DNC’s bias and mishandling of Bernie Sander’s campaign.  Of course Russian tampering is an important issue, but what the DNC was doing behind the scenes to stack the deck for Hillary Clinton was also tampering with democracy fairly running its course. How many know about the lawsuit being heard right now about the DNC rigging the election between Clinton and Sanders?  Not many because the mainstream media is mum on the subject because of their collusion.

Call me an idealist, but I think all the news outlets need to come clean or perish.  Outlets should be required to regularly give full disclosure on subjects, saying what issues would benefit corporations like their employer and vice versa. Corporate media is invested in the military industrial complex so of course war is always wonderful for the economy, just not for the little guys and gals who spill their blood.  Programs should be labeled news or opinion.  We should press to have shorter election cycles and the mainstream media should have to give equal and free time to all candidates, not elevate one and have a media black-out on others whose policies would be detrimental to the cable or news network’s bottom line.   Debates should be held with meaningful questions with follow up and the “news readers” need to be educated on topics so they can challenge politicians lying on air.  The public deserves no less. 

Okay, maybe I’m dreaming, but let’s set the bar high. I, for one, am sick and tired of our politicians bringing a knife to a gunfight for the last three decades and wearing blinders as our democracy swirls down the drain.  Let’s aspire to achieve great things, not settle for crumbs, or less.  Let’s demand this kind of transparency and insist partnership be a part of Corporate America, not just the corporate-owned mainstream media and let us have the courage to open our eyes and see what is currently transpiring as the domination and exploitation of democracy that it is.  And in case you haven't gotten my meaning, that also means those on the Left afraid to stand against the Establishment who has abandoned the worker to keep their corporate donors fat and happy and filling their campaign coffers.

Karen Tate