“The media is the opposition party.” – Steve Bannon.
Today we hear prominent staffers in the Trump White House openly talking about the mainstream media as the true opposition, not the Democrats.
And we now see the mainstream media unashamedly producing false narratives – such as a ban on Muslims – to undermine the newly elected Republican president.
This is a crisis that was long in the making.
At one time President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed his worry and concern about the coming power of television news to his own press secretary, James Hagerty. The founding fathers and the U.S. Constitution did not anticipate the power of television news, said Eisenhower. It could emerge into another equal branch of power, like the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch of government.
With one striking difference. The owners of the corporate media could not be impeached and would not be elected and were not really accountable to anybody. When the corporations that financed the television industry finally became powerful enough, they could get whatever they wanted.
Hagerty, who was close to the men who were at the heart of the industry, insisted that they were great men who exhibited flawless integrity. These men could be trusted.
David Sarnoff and William Paley had already met Eisenhower in Britain. Ike had needed help in broadcasting to the European continent after the D-Day invasion.
William Paley was involved in both “black” and “white” propaganda. He would establish radio stations that would broadcast truthful stories to the European continent and then when he had won the trust of the listeners, he would broadcast false information to help the allies.
Eisenhower worried. Just as he worried about the emerging military industrial complex. He told Hagerty that he was an old army man and that the army trusted systems, not individuals. You always have two men count the church offering, Ike said. Not because there aren’t any honest men in church but because a truly honest man wants someone else in that room with him.
By the way, James Hagerty left the White House to become the vice president of the ABC television network.
We have reached a turning point. The rise of Twitter, Facebook and other internet options allow the president to communicate directly with the people. Who in turn can express their views to their respective congressmen and senators. There is a brief opening for a correction in the balance of power. But this window may be too little, too late.
Keep in mind, the media is still extremely powerful. The hundreds of television and movie channels we watch are owned by six companies and those companies are sometimes owned by other companies that are getting money at zero percent interest, directly from the Federal Reserve and indirectly through major banks. Most of them are also getting money directly from the U.S. government. Corporate welfare now exceeds welfare for the poor.Those companies still influence language, culture and politics.
Nevertheless, there is an opening. And we have the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower who recognizes the danger.