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Political Mass Hypnosis? - Bernie Sanders and Media Manipulation of the 2016 Presidential Race
Political Death by Neglect
In the cutthroat world of American presidential politics, it is fashionable, almost obligatory at some point to blame the media. Ranting left wing hot-heads bemoan a right wing bias, pointing to Fox News. Right wing windbags decry the "liberal media," holding up CNN as an example.
Despite the eye rolling repetitiveness of this topic, I am convinced that the media influences who we vote for, or better yet, who we don't vote for. Despite conservative talking head demagoguery, however, the bias is not as ideologically clear cut as right wing versus left wing. During the primary season, part of the American electoral process by which party candidates are selected for the fall election, the television, print, and radio journalists appear to give major exposure to an "approved" candidate, at the expense of others of the same party seeking the nomination. The dark, insidious conclusion could be that the big media outlets have an agenda. The major news sources are corporations, so although there is definitely unprofessional journalism involved, I suppose one can understand that big money people gathered around a boardroom table will be pulling the puppet strings of their reporters and news anchors to protect their perceived financial interests.
But how do we explain it when non-profit news sources like National Public Radio, a media outlet supposedly financed by individuals and charitable grants, not by advertising dollars, also conforms to the trend to trumpet the virtues of one chosen candidate, while dismissing the others as irrelevant? Do the endowments of charitable trusts and foundations to public radio and television really come with no strings attached, or is there an expected quid pro quo involved? In other words, is any media outlet, be it as insignificant as The Postal Tsunami by Mel Carriere, or as massive and far reaching as CBS, completely free from the influence of money in its political reporting? If Hilary Clinton was buying ad space on my meager blog, would I be as quick to deliver my pro-Bernie rants?
My Super Tuesday Epiphany
Tuesday, March 1st, 2016, a day popularly known as Super Tuesday in American voting parlance, was an eye opening experience for me, a veritable electoral epiphany. My eyes were opened on that day to how the American mass media can influence voting behavior by either neglecting to report significant events, or reporting only one side of an issue as if it were the complete truth.
First of all, for those readers who are unfamiliar with the political system of the United States, Super Tuesday is the day on which the greatest number of states hold their primaries or caucuses. The number of primaries held on Super Tuesday varies by year, but in 2016 it included 11 states, making it the biggest primary block in the nomination process. Fading candidates typically bail out after a bad Super Tuesday.
Although Super Tuesday is definitely significant, it is not the end all factor to determine which candidate is going to be a party's nominee. After Super Tuesday, 35 states had still not held their elections, yet the media was reporting Hilary Clinton's Super Tuesday success as if if her eventual victory was an irreversible conclusion.
On Super Tuesday I was making a trip to the supermarket in the family minivan, one of millions of Americans going about the daily business of life accompanied by the soundtrack of American culture sound bites playing on the radio. I am probably one of the few eggheads among my neighbors that has National Public Radio (NPR) programmed into my preset buttons, perhaps with the mistaken notion that this is the most unbiased and thorough of the various news sources. Yes, I understand this station's liberal slant, but up until now I have labored under the illusion that, unlike the 15 second news flashes disseminated by corporate owned media, NPR gives its listeners enough information to form rational conclusions.
I don't believe this anymore. The Super Tuesday news I got in the family minivan was all from Hilary Clinton supporters and handlers, fawning about how inevitable she was and how the rest of the primary process would pretty much consist of going through the motions.
As a Bernie supporter, I have to confess that I was discouraged by this news. I took it as a sign that, although the Bern had made a good run and certainly had a positive influence on the Democratic Platform, he was all but finished. Stick a fork in that bushy balding head, he's done.
Then, on March 5th, my fervently pro-Bernie son texted me that Bern had taken Nebraska and Kansas. Two states pretty much solidly in the Bible Belt had come out in overwhelming support for a candidate with the ugly, ungodly "Democratic Socialist" label attached to him. Bernie had failed on Super Tuesday to appeal to the ultra righteous Deep South, but were Kansas and Nebraska a sign that there was hope in the less evangelical Northern and Midwestern states? March 8th proved that there was, when Bernie Sanders won Michigan, even though polling pundits had predicted Hilary's victory with a 99% probability. Who are these pundits, and who is paying them?
I went on Facebook and saw pro-Bernie rally pictures of packed arenas with thousands more standing outside, hoping to squeeze in. I took a look at the delegate count and realized that half of Hilary's reported delegates were of the unpledged, "super delegate" variety that are picked by the party machinery, not by the voters. The conclusion I drew from this evidence was that on the grass roots level the contest was still very close. My wavering faith returned, and I began to feel the Bern again. In the process, I realized that the media in general, and National Public Radio in particular, had lulled me into a false belief that Hilary's coronation was all but complete.
Will the media slant, or should we say the media blackout, become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Will potential or even active Bernie supporters hear the reports of Hilary's inevitability and become discouraged? Will they consider their votes wasted, then either climb on the Hilary bandwagon juggernaut or perhaps decline to vote altogether? Does the media have the ability to hypnotize the American public, and derail democracy in the process, by only reporting that which fits the boardroom agenda?
The Bernie Blackout
Is the "Bernie Blackout" allegedly engineered by National Public Radio and other major news sources a reality, or just a phantom, hypochondriac malady complained about by sour grape, sore loser Bernie Sanders supporters? Here are a few examples of the phenomenon that demonstrate there may be some truth to it.
- Alternet reports that Bernie Sanders gets 20 seconds of media coverage for every 81 minutes enjoyed by headline-grabbing ex-reality star Donald Trump.
- In a Christian Science Monitor October 1, 2015, Alan Tyndall monitored broadcast news reports from ABC, NBC, and CBS and discovered that of the 504 minutes devoted at that point to the presidential race, Donald Trump had been given 145 minutes (nearly 30 percent) while Hilary Clinton’s campaign has been reported on for 82 minutes. By comparison, Bernie Sanders had been given a shockingly low eight minutes, or 1.5 percent, on network news. This was approximately the same amount slated for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was polling about 4 percent, while even at that time Bernie was running neck and neck with Clinton in several states.
- On August 10, 2015, the Huffington Post reported - The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena overflowed tonight, not for a sports event, but to hear a 73 year old Senator speak about 'issues'. His last rally in Seattle 2 days ago reportedly had 15,000 people. Tonight's overflow crowd is reported as 27,500. And still the media is pretty much ignoring him.
Bernie Sanders rallies draw crowds ten times as large as those of Hilary Clinton. His small donor donations are a presidential election record, outpacing even those of Barack Obama in 2011. Bernie himself says "“We don’t take money from billionaires, we don’t take money from corporations...And we have raised the largest amount of any candidate from single donations.” The grassroots love and support for Bernie exists in force, but in the media there is nothing but a deadly, deafening silence.
The Bernie Blackout
Follow the Money
In light of these packed arenas and record donations, why is there so much quiet on the Bernie front by the mass media, in particular by so-called independent, unbiased National Public Radio?
One would be hard pressed to find an incriminating paper trail of secret directives being funneled down from NPR management to the staff in the newsroom; a smoking gun full of damning documents ordering them to keep Bernie to a bare minimum while reporting Hilary's nomination as an inevitable, unavoidable fact. But the polling place is full of noxious, asphyxiating smoke that blurs Bernie's name from he ballot, and there certainly has to be a fire burning somewhere.
Perhaps there was a time when National Public Radio could be relied upon for unbiased news, but in the 1980s journalistic integrity at this outlet was put to the flame by those same arsonists burning Bernie Sanders in effigy upstairs, when federal funding to the organization was significantly reduced. At that point the network's executives had to go hat in hand, begging for money to keep their programming on the airwaves.
The smooth, unobtrusive, sleep-inducing voices coming from NPR might lull one into the false impression that this money must naturally be untainted, We NPR listeners, after all, are regularly subjected to live broadcast pledge drives that are worse than the nerve grating 30 second spots over on the AM news channel. The unspoken implication delivered during these desperate pleas for pesos is that if you want to help us keep our programming unsullied by the stain of the evil corporate dollar, you need to dump out the contents of your billfold right now.
As it turns out, NPR is not free from the hypnotizing power of corporate greed. Businesses, even enormous ones like Wal-Mart trying to soften their anti-worker image, contribute about 20 percent of the network's funds. Sometimes this money is filtered through the whitening action of "charitable trusts," but still flows down somewhat befouled by the sludgy contents of the dirty pipe. One of these major contributors is the Pew Charitable Trust, a conglomeration of funds created by an oil magnate with a decidedly evangelical conservative agenda. Pew involvement is typical for NPR, and it gives off a somewhat foul smell, as the name would imply. A 2004 study discovered that in addition to these corporate backed charitable trusts, the network's board members represent the same elite sources that dominate commercial news radio.
Is it any surprise, then, that the news directors at NPR, listening to the distressing trickle of dollars dripping out of the funding faucet, choose to minimize the Bernie message of breaking up the big banks and reigning in the abuses of Wall Street, in favor of the more corporate friendly, Super-Pac funded Hilary Clinton?
Is there a deliberate "Bernie Blackout?"
Does the media function to report events, or does the media function to create events? Certainly politicians like Donald Trump pander to the media by making bombastic, controversial declarations, but do the bigwigs behind the news pick and choose who and what they report about to fulfill an agenda directed by the big money keeping the cameras rolling in the studio? Do these news makers subject Americans to a form of mass hypnosis, in order to maintain the status quo of keeping corporate-friendly people in power?
Per the Mayo Clinic "Hypnosis, also referred to as hypnotherapy or hypnotic suggestion, is a trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis is usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images. When you're under hypnosis, you usually feel calm and relaxed, and are more open to suggestions."
Media hypnosis does not make use of professional therapists trying to dig out our hidden Freudian childhood demons in order to turn us into better adjusted human beings, but it is a grim reality, and carries a darker purpose. An article in the dailykos reported a 2012 Gonzaga University graduate thesis dealing with this phenomenon entitled "THE PROPAGANDA MODEL: CORPORATE AND POLITICAL COLLUSION IN THE CREATION OF AN OLIGOPOLISTIC MAINSTREAM U.S. MEDIA."
I think the title of this work says it all, but I will post the link below for your perusal. What might not be garnered from the mere title is that media hypnosis can be active and inactive. Americans are active participants in an electronically inundated culture basically since we are old enough to say "TV." We come to trust our televisions and other electronic gadgets as much as we do our parents, maybe more so. The media forms and directs our opinions, whether we realize this subtle brainwashing is transforming our thought processes or not. Therefore, when a political candidate is ignored, or not justified by the media, we think of this candidate as not being legitimate, not being worthy of our attention.
Perhaps Bernie Sanders is unjustified by our popular electronic culture because he is just not fashionable. He doesn't marry supermodels and he doesn't live in a gold plated penthouse. He does his own laundry. It is somewhat understandable why the corporate media, trying to capture the limited smart phone attention span of Americans waiting nervously for a finger wave in the doctor's office or stuck behind the lady with 80 items in the 15 items or less checkout line, might want to direct them to the loudmouth man with the bad toupee pushing the gilded baby carriage. Bernie is just not slick and sexy enough, and slick and sexy sells.
Then again, there must be some sort of invisible magnetism emanating from Bernie Sanders, when he can pack concert halls and football stadiums without having to round up the audience, like Hilary Clinton has been known to do. As Stephen Colbert said about the Bern, “A guy in his 70s filling stadiums? Who does he think he is? The Rolling Stones?” Perhaps the rock star attraction lies in telling the truth, and something else that has not been tried in politics before - delivering a detailed, specific message with passion and consistency.
In politics, the enemy is rarely who you think it is. The media moguls hypnotizing the American people behind the scenes understand that attacking Bernie Sander's grass roots message won't do anything except increase his exposure in the public eye, and this attention might backfire into pushing him over the electoral brink to victory. Meanwhile, this so-called left leaning media - the supposed friend and ally of issues that benefit working Americans, delivers unto Bernie and the unbounded millions who would benefit by his policies a slow, painful death by neglect. I'll close then with a few words from Cicero, the philosopher and orator who perhaps best sums up the danger of hidden enemies such as these:
A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself.— Marcus Tullius Cicero