(NOTE — This also appears in the EYE ON CLEVELAND web site.)
CLEVELAND, September 2, 2015 -– If Donald Trump accepts the Republican Party’s nomination for President here on July 21, 2016, unhappy media executives and political pros will have only one place to look for an explanation – the mirror.
For the past few decades, U.S. governance has come under ever-increasing influence from the Political Media Complex, something which is far more dangerous than the Military Industrial Complex which Dwight Eisenhower warned us about back in 1961.
What is the Political Media Complex?
It is the alliance of media moguls with the interests of political leaders, especially the two major political parties, and the causes and corporations which feed both issues and funds into the election cycles.
One of the first to identify the Complex is the late Don Hewitt, who created CBS’ highly-acclaimed news program “60 Minutes.” He directed the first Kennedy-Nixon presidential debate in 1960, an event which he described years later, as the night that politicians determined that they were made for each other: TV executives realized political campaigns had unlimited advertising dollars, and politicians realized that TV reached into everybody’s living room.
How big has this influence become? According to the Federal Elections Commission, there was SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS spent in the 2012 election campaigns. Big money influences the outcome of many elections, from the battle for the White House on down.
But it’s not just money, it is big issues also. Many years after the Roe. V. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling making abortion legal, the organization Planned Parenthood decided to begin its own political action organization. According to the web site Opensecrets.org, Planned Parenthood’s Political Action Fund has raised more than $1 million in the 2004, 2012, and 2014 election years. In the donations listed on the web site, 100% of contributions are to Democratic candidates and/or committees. (More about this later.)
On the “other side” is the National Rifle Association, which has spent $1.6 million or more in lobbying for 13 of the last 17 years, according to the Open Secrets web site. Planned Parenthood and the NRA are just two of thousands of organizations pouring money and influence into the political process. You name the issue, from A to Z, and chances are hundreds of organization are lining up donors and using dollars to influence your legislators.
All of this plays into the Political Media Complex.
Little wonder that public opinion of government is at unprecedented low levels in recent history. The public distrusts its elected officials, and – what’s worse – no longer trusts the news media to be objective in its reporting either.
One of Donald Trump’s main campaign themes is that the current political system is broken. He’s right, and voters on the stump give him loud applause on that point in his speeches. Other “nonpolitical” candidates Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are also picking up steam according to polls in advance of the first real presidential political test, the Iowa Straw Poll in early 2016.
(Aside – One could write thousands of words just on the role that the Political Media Complex is playing in Congress’ upcoming vote on the Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. No matter the vote’s outcome, the treaty will be put into effect. Donald Trump will gain politically when it happens.)
What’s really fascinating about the political process right now is that “Millennials” – young adults in their ‘20s and ‘30s – are increasingly turned off by the status quo of the Political Media Complex and are determined to do things differently, both politically and personally. One survey shows that 55 percent of millennial adults would like to start their own business one day. They prefer a free-market economy over a government-managed economy by a 64%-to-32% ratio. So these younger adults, many disaffected, are unlikely to back “traditional” candidates which the Political Media Complex favors, and far more likely to support candidates such as Trump, Carson or Fiorini.
HOW IT WORKS, WHY IT’S BROKEN
When an “undercover” video at a Mitt Romney campaign event surfaced in September 2012 capturing Romney’s “47 percent” remark, that video and the resulting stories received 88 minutes of airtime on the news broadcasts of the three major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, in the month following the video’s release. When former NBA owner Donald Sterling’s racist remarks became public in 2014, the three networks allocated 146 minutes of time to the story in the month following the remarks being made public. That’s more than two hours on the news.
The news stories about Romney and Sterling “fit” the narrative that the Political Media Complex was propagating at the time.
By contrast, the organization Center for Medical Progress has put out (as of this writing) eight “undercover” videos exposing illegal activities of the organization Planned Parenthood — with specificity, breaking the law by selling aborted babies’ body parts. The three major networks have devoted less than 75 SECONDS of airtime to this story in the first 30 days afterward, or just 0.008 percent of their total news minutes.
Why? News stories about selling aborted baby parts don’t “fit” the Political Media Complex narrative.
Perhaps we’ll further examine the people and forces behind the Political Media Complex in a future blog, but the general public has come to understand that the news is NOT the news anymore.
Way back in 1926, the organization the Society of Professional Journalists developed a four-point code of ethics for the journalism profession. It exists to this day.
The first point – Seek the Truth and Report It.
The second point — Minimize Harm.
To many in the general public, media reporting in 2015 has become the complete antithesis of the journalism profession’s own ethics and standards. The electorate is fed up with the Political Media Complex.
That is why the words “Republican Party Nominee Donald Trump” are becoming more and more possible, with the beginning of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland now less than 300 days away.