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The Corporate Media Isn’t Coming Close To Holding Trump Accountable

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The Corporate Media Isn’t Coming Close To Holding Trump Accountable


Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

One of Donald Trump’s first official acts as president was to sign an executive order that will make it more expensive for first-time and low-income homebuyers to buy and keep their homes. His second act was to, among other possible effects, tell the IRS to quit trying to collect the Obamacare tax from people with incomes over a million dollars a year (and begin taking the Affordable Care Act apart in other ways).

But the big media story?

“Trump claims the media lied about the size of his inaugural crowds.”

Increasingly, it appears that the media are simply compliant patsies to whomever is in power, with a higher commitment to sensationalism than to issues that impact everyday Americans.

Throughout the primaries and the general election we finished last November, the media were committed to “issues-free” coverage (except when Bernie came on and took them to task). No discussion of climate change. No discussion of GOP efforts to destroy the social safety net. No discussion of Republican candidates (or, for that matter, Democratic candidates) who were in the pockets of particular billionaires or industries. No discussion of net neutrality (the companies that own our big media are unanimously opposed to net neutrality, so their millionaire News Stars never, ever discuss the topic). No discussion of corporate consolidation or control over Congress. No discussion of the role of billionaires in the election.

Instead, we got a reality show, filled with drama and name-calling, and devoid of information necessary to know who’d govern on behalf of whom.

The average person watching the news would never know that the billionaires almost certainly got a big tax cut (ultimately at the expense of poor working people on Medicaid/Obamacare) while first-time homebuyers just got screwed with two of Trump’s first official acts in office. And Fox News viewers, of course, will probably never know such things.

Throughout the campaign season, Donald Trump (and team) displayed both their contempt for and their domination of the corporate media in America. Whenever things started to get serious in ways that might actually bring up issues, Trump was off with another new tweetstorm, and the millionaire TV News Stars ran, stampede-like, to cover it.

There’s a simple reality here: The Republican Party is the wholly owned front for billionaires and transnational corporations. The Democratic Party, since the creation of Al From and Bill Clinton’s DLC, have aspired to become the same only for the “white collar top 10%” (as Thomas Frank so brilliantly documents in his new book Listen Liberal!) – although there are still Democratic politicians who are relatively or entirely independent of corporate/billionaire control.

But the press won’t ever tell you this. Why?

Why won’t the press point out that our national debt is also the principle place for private savings to be safely parked – but Wall Street banksters want competition for a place to put savings ended by ending the national debt? Why don’t they even bother to note that the one and only time the national debt was paid off and thus the only place private savings could go was to the banks, during the administration of Andrew Jackson, brought us the longest and deepest depression in our nation’s history?

Why won’t the press point out that the same Wall Street banksters (at least five of them within Trump’s inner circle) also want all retirement savings to be in their hands via the privatization of Social Security? Wall Street looks at the $2.7 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund, thinking that if they could just skim even 1% or 2% in fees off the top, that they’d be soooooo much richer, and nobody in the press thinks it’s even worthy of mention.

Similarly, there’s no mention whatsoever in the media about the role Big Pharma and the health insurance banksters (they only handle money; no “insurance” company employee ever treated anybody medically) play in skimming hundreds of billions of dollars out of our economy. Even Democratic senator Corey Booker recently voted on the side of Big Pharma, one of his major campaign contributors, and while the vote was noted, the money he’s taken was rarely mentioned in the mainstream media.

The Republican Party is largely a racket controlled by big industry and a few hundred very, very wealthy people. This same cancer has similarly infected the Democratic Party, although it’s at least salvageable.

The reason the corporate media isn’t pointing out what, in previous eras was called “political corruption,” is because the media is part of the same corrupt system. Between Reagan and Clinton (Fairness Doctrine and Telecommunications Act of 1996), the media has gone from literally over 10,000 owners all across the nation to a mere dozen or so. And, public companies all, their interest is not in having an informed public, but in making the most money they can.

Today’s corporate media bears little resemblance to our Founders’ notion of a free press – which they argued was necessary to a functioning democratic republic – for the same reason our legislators make laws that benefit the top 1% with consistent regularity, but largely ignore the bottom 90%’s needs and desires altogether.

This is not the result of “bad people” in either party or in the media. It’s cooked into the system, thanks in large part to Lewis Powell and our Supreme Court.

A year before Richard Nixon put Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court in 1972, Powell authored the now-infamous (although largely unread) “Powell Memo” to his friend who ran the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

That memo urged business – which at that time was largely apolitical – to get actively involved in every dimension of American life.  Create “think tanks” to get the “pro-business” (and pro-billionaire) point of view embedded into everything from our media to our schools. Privatize everything possible.

In The Crash of 2016 (a book about how the Powell Memo has flipped the entire nature of our nation), I pointed out:

As Powell wrote, “Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.” Thus, Powell said, “The role of the National Chamber of Commerce is therefore vital.”

In the nearly 6,000-word memo, Powell called on corporate leaders to launch an economic and ideological assault on college and high school campuses, the media, the courts, and Capitol Hill.

The objective was simple: the revival of the Royalist-controlled so-called “free market” system.

Or, as Powell put it, “[T]he ultimate issue…[is the] survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people.”

The first area of attack Powell encouraged the Chamber to focus on was the education system. “[A] priority task of business—and organizations such as the Chamber—is to address the campus origin of this hostility [to big business],” Powell wrote.

What worried Powell in 1971 was the new generation of young Americans growing up to resent corporate culture. He believed colleges were filled with “Marxist professors,” and that the pro-business agenda of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover had fallen into disrepute since the Great Depression. He knew that winning this war of economic ideology in America required spoon-feeding the next generation of leaders the doctrines of a free-market theology, from high school all the way through graduate and business school.

At the time, college campuses were rallying points for the progressive activism sweeping the nation as young people demonstrated against poverty, the Vietnam War, and in support of civil rights.

So Powell put forward a laundry list of ways the Chamber could retake the higher-education system. First, create an army of corporate-friendly think tanks that could influence education. “The Chamber should consider establishing a staff of highly qualified scholars in the social sciences who do believe in the system,” he wrote.

Then, go after the textbooks. “The staff of scholars,” Powell wrote, “should evaluate social science textbooks, especially in economics, political science and sociology…This would include assurance of fair and factual treatment of our system of government and our enterprise system, its accomplishments, its basic relationship to individual rights and freedoms, and comparisons with the systems of socialism, fascism and communism.”

Powell argued that the civil rights movement and the labor movement were already in the process of rewriting textbooks. “We have seen the civil rights movement insist on re-writing many of the textbooks in our universities and schools. The labor unions likewise insist that textbooks be fair to the viewpoints of organized labor.” Powell was concerned the Chamber of Commerce was not doing enough to stop this growing progressive influence and replace it with a pro-plutocratic perspective.

“Perhaps the most fundamental problem is the imbalance of many faculties,” Powell then pointed out. “Correcting this is indeed a long-range and difficult project. Yet, it should be undertaken as a part of an overall program. This would mean the urging of the need for faculty balance upon university administrators and boards of trustees.” As in, the Chamber needs to infiltrate university boards in charge of hiring faculty to make sure only corporate-friendly professors are hired.

But Powell’s recommendations weren’t exclusive to college campuses; he targeted high schools as well. “While the first priority should be at the college level, the trends mentioned above are increasingly evidenced in the high schools. Action programs, tailored to the high schools and similar to those mentioned, should be considered,” he urged.

Next, Powell turned the corporate dogs on the media. As Powell instructed, “Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term.”

Powell added, “It will…be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public.”

He then went on to advocate that same system used for the monitoring of college textbooks be applied to television and radio networks. “This applies not merely to so-called educational programs…but to the daily ‘news analysis’ which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system.”

Prior to 1976, giving money to politicians or political action committees or their equivalents was considered a “behavior,” which could be regulated.  From the George Washington administration until 1976, money in politics was repeatedly tightened and loosened (invariably by or after “bribery” scandals).

But in 1976, in a Supreme Court case titled Buckley v. Valeo, Lewis Powell succeeded in laying the foundation for changing virtually all the rules governing money in politics.

Attacking legislation passed in the wake of the Nixon scandals (which included Nixon taking bribes), Powell and his colleagues wrote in the Buckley case:

The Act’s contribution and expenditure limitations operate in an area of the most fundamental First Amendment activities. Discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of government established by our Constitution. The First Amendment affords the broadest protection to such political expression in order ‘to assure (the) unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people. …

A restriction on the amount of money a person or group can spend on political communication during a campaign necessarily reduces the quantity of expression by restricting the number of issues discussed, the depth of their exploration, and the size of the audience reached.

Within a decade, an explosion of now-familiar right-wing/pro-corporate, pro-billionaire think tanks and groups had formed, and they’ve largely shaped the contours of our American political dialogue. Using Buckley as its basis, the Court then extended the logic – blowing open the doors to corporate and billionaire money – in 2010’s Citizens’ United case.

Given that Trump will almost certainly appoint to the Supreme Court justices who will extend and expand “corporate personhood rights” and “billionaire rights” to own politicians and political parties, perhaps for the next generation or more (and given that these “rights” have never, ever been put into law by any legislature), it’s unlikely the deep, systemic corruption of our government by petro-billionaires and their friends will be uprooted. Thus, it’s similarly unlikely that Congress or the president will do anything to push our “news” organizations back to covering the news, instead of providing us with bread-and-circus infotainment.

Which leaves us with only one option: organize, with the ultimate goal of reclaiming political power.

As legendary talk show host Joe Madison loves to point out, we have to take this “moment” and turn it into a “movement.”

Now is not a time to tune out or move to Mexico. It’s time to organize, speak out, and take control of the Democratic Party, and build a broad and deep progressive grass-roots infrastructure outside the Party as well.

Show up. Volunteer. Bring your friends.

Although President Jimmy Carter told me last year on my radio show that American is now “an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery,” there are still shreds and remnants of democracy left in our society.  It’s up to us to bring them back to life.

Tag, you’re it.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump points at the gathered media during his walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking



  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 25, 2017

    The assessment of the Republican Party being like a racket—“…The Republican Party is largely a racket controlled by big industry and a few hundred very, very wealthy people. This same cancer has similarly infected the Democratic Party, although it’s at least salvageable….”—is quite appropriate given Donald and his Billionaire Club holding many of the reins of power. Instead of government of, by, and for the people, the GOP and all other political entities, have made the original idea of governance into a business largely for the convenience of those with deeper pockets, and thus Donald was seen as a perfect fit by the Electoral College, and in compliance with the wishes of Putin, and the less savvy ordinary citizen in the Red Zones.
    And the media bears a huge burden of blame for not putting the screws to Donald, because of their bottom lines. Sensational journalism became a staple item not only of “The National Enquirer” and FOX, but “normal media long ago. It’s just happening on a larger scale now, and rising.

    1. dbtheonly January 26, 2017

      He smiles like Stanley but is built like Ollie.

      As for the article, you know my concern for news for profit, but this article earns a snort of derision.

      1. daniel wright January 27, 2017

        But he won. You just hate that,don’t you?

        1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2017

          Yes, Trump won, but for what purpose save to titillate his ego, and you are so abject as to have fallen for the bait, thus furthering the child-emperor’s ego to bask in the dimmed glow of his highness’ narcissism.

          CONGRATULATIONS, Daniel!! Yes Trump and Putin won. Don’t forget to remind us again as you continue to visit this terrible forum like some hapless child who is easily hypnotized and enticed by articles he disagrees with. Is this your daily Masochism exercise??

          1. daniel wright January 30, 2017

            Yes, a patriotic American won. You seem to think that Hillary would be preferable. You ignore her treason and greed. She will be tried for her crimes and will most likely die in prison. If you want to see the hapless child I suggest you look in the mirror. I’m not the one who voted for a traitor. You either knew of her corruption and didn’t care or were hypnotized by her “charisma”. I am proud of my vote. You,on the other hand should be ashamed for agreeing with a traitor to your country. As for Putin:there is no proof he swayed the election. There is,however evidence that Trump won the actual popular vote. Here is proof that Democrats cheat in every election…http://www.wnd.com/2016/10/democrat-confesses-to-rigging-elections-for-50-years/

          2. Aaron Zanzibari January 30, 2017

            You’re confusing misogyny, lewdness and racism with patriotism. In a land where those values are prized, then yes, you and Donald are true patriots. I suppose you’re the type of guy who would be OK with Trump forcing his beastly lewd self upon your mother, wife, or daughter—is that so?? Maybe those are your values as well, Daniel.

            Face it, Brian—Trump is anti-Christian in every way. The closest he comes to being Christian is having a membership in some church, which he evidently has never entered.
            Are you in the same boat with your Christian values, or lack thereof??

            Talk to me Daniel, and explain your status in this regard.

          3. daniel wright January 30, 2017

            You are so gullible. You claim to be above partisanship and yet you gobble the liberal press’ propaganda like a starving hog. How many lawsuits were filed by his sexual victims? I have seen no $850,000 payouts to one,have you? He has no need for a bimbo eruptions unit. You forgive the well documented Hypocracy of the Clintons but believe the propaganda of a biased media bound to delegitimize the president for purely political reasons. You obviously voted for the would be enabler and chief proving your leftward leaning yet claim to be non-partisan. Sorry Aaron. I wasn’t born yesterday By the way;who is Brian? As for my values;They are my business. This is a discussion forum,not a confessional.

          4. dbtheonly January 30, 2017

            Citing World Net Daily ought to give clues about dw’s thinking.

            I do want to explore your assertions that a 2 Party system will lead to ruin. Your assessment of politics as a rugby match closely parallels C Northcote Parkinson’s of politics as a football (soccer) game. You’ve read Parkinson?

    2. daniel wright January 27, 2017

      You don’t seem the least bit concerned about the millions in Saudy blood money Hillary got for her campaign, how she stole the nomination or her federal crimes and crimes against humanity she will soon be tried for. You leftists are just a bunch of hypocrites who pretend to care,not actually seeing what your party has done to bring America down.

      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 27, 2017

        Daniel, take a deep breath, relax, and read the article with a clear and intelligent manner. Now, you’ll note that the article is about Donald J. Trump—do you see that? Next, notice that the article is not about Hillary, not about the Civil War, not about the crimes of others, or anything else. Think for a change, man, and don’t drag in irrelevant subjects to a conversation. Only children, and bitter men struck with dementia, resort to distractions as yours.

        1. daniel wright January 27, 2017

          Of course I noticed the article was about Trump. Do you think a rag like the memo would ever tell the truth about a Republican no matter how much good he/she is doing? I don’t. You will never see a positive spin about a Republican in this blog anymore than you will see a negative story about a Democrat no matter how heinous the crime is. Actually the memo never says anything about Democrats. It is merely a medium to whine about and demonize Republicans,no more. That’s the problem with Democrats. The word honesty is not in their vocabulary. It’s no wonder your party lost the entire government to Republicans. If your party cared more about governance than iron fisted control things might be different.

          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth January 30, 2017

            You’re still hopelessly mired in a trap of your own devising. Trump, the GOP, and other divisive forces have enervated your mental capacities. No longer are you able to frame your responses outside your narrowly-confined mind defined by an “us versus them”.
            You’ll note a repeat of your oft-expressed phrase along the lines of Republican/Democrats. This gets up nowhere—if you’re intent on going around Robin Hood’s Barn in perpetuity, please do so elsewhere. You’re a tiresome little man with nothing of value to offer save the pettiness of partisanship.

            Good Day!

          2. daniel wright January 30, 2017

            I made no trap. Your leftist buddies are the ones who started this. Partisanship is something I am not into. I am a registered Independent. The Republicans have some answering to do but it is Democrats that made this a war. Republicans are just the closest party to my beliefs. It is obvious to any observer with a three digit IQ and a logical mind that the Democrat party has transformed itself into the communist party. The riots, protests looting and assassinations of police along with the allowing foreign invaders into our country shows me who the real bad guys are. You can take your insults and put them where the sun don’t shine. I see that you are a stubborn know it all elitist who sees himself as a higher form of human. That’s par for the course with lefties so it’s no surprise. Good day.

          3. Aaron Zanzibari January 30, 2017

            Still trapped in the leftist/rightist myopia. That’s such a dead-end way of thinking. Please join the enlightened in the world and leave the darkness that defines a fanatical partisanship which you’re so infatuated with.

          4. daniel wright January 30, 2017

            Soooooo. You are enlightened. I see. I am conversing with someone from the twilight zone. Never mind. Forget I said anything.

        2. dbtheonly January 27, 2017

          Saudy blood money?

          Full of sound and fury
          Signifying nothing.

          1. Aaron Zanzibari January 30, 2017

            Still a buzz word fanatic, Can you by any chance say something that is intelligent? Using your guts and cerebellum aren’t effective, so don’t flatter yourself.

          2. dbtheonly January 30, 2017

            Lord Willing.

            Though I’ll count on you when I slip into that Slough of Despond.

    3. dbtheonly January 27, 2017


      Have you ever seen a more completely buzz word comment than the one daniel wright posts?

      I’ll also cite it as a prime example of the similarity between TPL and TPR. Replace “leftist” with “corporatist”. The exact same post would work.

      1. daniel wright January 27, 2017

        I write what I see. Buzz words are not my forte. The truth is. I’m neither a leftist or corporatist. I am a realist. Arron accuses Republicans of being racketeers. You ignore the robber Barron Clintons who exploited Haitian earthquake victims and the blackmailers Sharpton and Jackson. Earning your money is a crime if the beneficiary is a Republican but but robbing or blackmailing your way to riches is just fine as long as it enriches a Democrat. Hypocrites.

      2. Aaron Zanzibari January 30, 2017

        Daniel is angry and afraid of change. He still thinks that politics is some rugby match.

        1. dbtheonly January 30, 2017

          New “nom de blog”?

          Any reason for the change?

        2. daniel wright January 30, 2017

          Yes,I am angry. How would you feel if your country were being turned into a nightmare. You might embrace Marxism but even you should know how all Communist countries failed in their Utopian promises.


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