The National Economic Council? I don’t recall voting for members of the National Economic Council. This policy advisory board has recommended to the President that he allow the FCC to permit media giants to buy up smaller stations and thereby control the information, news, culture, etc. that Americans get through television and print media. Anyone out there remember Max Headroom and Network 23? This story by itself would be disturbing and worrisome, but when I look at it against the backdrop of other stories we’ve talked about recently, it becomes a bigger problem. Let’s review:
1. The Defense Policy Board, on which sit people with ties to defense contractors and who have a financial stake in the decisions of the board and the actions of the Defense Department that it advises. This is the group that recommended that we wage war on Iraq.
What is at stake here is independent media. The connection between the government and the fourth estate should never be so close as to threaten or suggest a threat to the concept of an independent media. This threat exists when media giants, concerned with maintaining good relations with the government so that they can influence regulation that affects them. are allowed to dominate all aspects of the media. This type of market domination smothers competition and stifles the critical and alternative voice. The net result is a media environment where an opinion that does not agree with that of the media giants or their government partners is dismissed. Too close a connection between the government and the media undermines our system of government just as the all-too-close relationship between business and government in the Defense Policy Board, for example, does. In a sense, however, this is worse because we are being deprived of thoughts and ideas and an independent, contrary voice when government and media owners are in bed together. Network 23 is not far off. Right, M-M-M-Max?
2. In a story in today’s Washington Post, Paul Wolfowitz, returning from a tour of Iraq to view post-war reconstruction efforts, acknowledged that the U.S. underestimated the task. The story reports that current and former military officials have complained that “[t]he reconstruction effort. . .was also undermined by unresolved logistical problems and secretive decision-making by the Defense Department civilians who led the planning.” This secretive and exclusive civilian body? The Office of Special Plans.
3. The Council for Environmental Quality, on which sit people with ties to polluting industry and who have a financial stake in the decisions of the board and the actions of the Environmental Protection Agency that it advises. This is the group that recommended that the White House remove references to human influences on global warming from the report recently issued by the EPA.
4. The National Economic Council. Another “advisory” board staffed with ”volunteers” who have close ties to the industry that they are advising the President about.