By Ernest A. Canning on 12/27/2011, 11:51am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

The Dec. 26 Los Angeles Times article, written by Jim Puzzanghera and published as supposed front-page "news," typifies the type of corporate media hatchet job that has been the hallmark of corporate media deception and the source of what Prof. Noam Chomsky referred to in Failed States as the "democracy deficit" --- the significant gap between the substantive policy positions of the U.S. electorate and their elected "leaders."

Where Chomsky attributes the "democracy deficit" to the manner in which U.S. "elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population, freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people," the Puzzanghera/Times article, which seeks to marginalize Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and to obfuscate the clarity of message emerging from a candidate like Elizabeth Warren, provides a perfect example of how the corporate media aspire to manage public perceptions in their day-to-day "news" reporting as a means to preserve oligarchic control of our decaying political and economic systems.

In his Times piece, Puzzanghera manages to marginalize an entire popular uprising by misleadingly quoting from selected poll numbers, relying on the one-side-says-one-thing, but-the-other-side-says-another stenography posing as journalism, and by quoting from "experts" without bothering to offer their biased background. The Times article amounts to yet another example of how a dissembling corporate media passes off pro-corporate propaganda as "news"...

Charade of 'Fair and Balanced'

In Moyers on America, Bill Moyers, perhaps this nation's finest journalist, laid waste to the corporate media concept of "'objectivity' which has come to mean allowing two different apologists or partisans to make totally opposite statements with only allegations offered as evidence." Moyers referred to this as "the charade of 'fair and balanced'" --- a far cry from verifiable evidence that provides the core of real journalism.

Like the propagandists at Fox "News," Puzzanghera and Los Angeles Times utilize the "fair and balanced" format to cover that paper's long-running, oblique assault on Occupy Wall Street. It does so by the use of misleading poll numbers designed to depict OWS as a marginal movement and by juxtaposing partisan statements against selected remarks made by Warren.

Misleading poll numbers

In its effort to depict OWS as a radical fringe movement, Los Angeles Times touts a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that only "24% of voters nationwide said they supported Occupy Wall Street..."

While the 24% number is accurate, it does not, as the article implies, reflect that a majority of Americans oppose OWS --- not when 59% "told pollsters they don't know enough about the Occupy movement to form an opinion on it, despite the extensive media coverage it has received."

When one moves from the simple question of support for OWS --- similar to typical questions as to which candidate one supports --- to where Americans stand on issues of substance, the 24% is exposed as an example of the "democracy deficit" which has been occasioned by the extent to which the MSM has obscured the essence of the OWS movement.

Thus, an October 9 Time Magazine poll revealed that 89% of Americans agree that Wall Street exerts too much influence on our political system; 79% feel the gap between rich and poor is too large; 71% feel the executives from the major financial institutions responsible for the 2008 economic meltdown should be prosecuted; and that only 6% of Americans identify themselves as "Tea Party" followers.

Those numbers reveal that the overwhelming majority of Americans are tightly aligned with the substantive goals of the still-evolving, spontaneous democratic uprising we've come to describe as "Occupy Wall Street."

Viewing a movement through an elitist prism

As part of his effort to depict OWS as a fringe movement, Puzzanghera reports that "most Democrats have been hesitant to embrace the Occupy protests."

Puzzanghera, like most corporate elitists, makes the mistake of examining legitimacy from the top-down. Grass-roots movements do not derive their legitimacy by way of approval from elected leaders. To the contrary, as Thomas Jefferson acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, the legitimacy of leadership and of government derives solely from the informed consent of the governed.

Puzzanghera ignores the income gap between members of the House whose income more than doubled between 1984 to 2009 "from $280,000 to $725,000 in inflation adjusted 2009 dollars," as compared to a drop in the median income of American families from $20,600 to $20,500 during the same period. Irrespective of whether they place a (D) or an (R) at the end of their names, elected "leaders" who serve the interests of an oligarchic, corporate security state cannot be expected to "embrace" an anti-corporate, genuinely democratic uprising.

Given that the Congressional approval rating sank to 9%, which is less than the number of Americans who find polygamy "morally acceptable," the fact that Congressional Democrats have not "embraced" OWS by no means suggests that "We are the 99%" is a fringe movement.

For that matter, even if we accept Puzzanghera's misleading citation of 24% public support for OWS as a measure of its importance or legitimacy within our system of governance, support for OWS is 250% greater than support for the U.S. Congress!

Failure to adequately identify source of right-wing talking points

In furtherance of its effort to marginalize OWS and Warren, Los Angeles Times writes:

"The more it turns into a movement that disrupts people's lives or looks like people who are just out to foment trouble or be a demonstration of anger, the more there might be a backlash," said Norman Ornstein, a political scholar at the American Enterprise Institute [AEI] think tank.

If Los Angeles Times had so much as an ounce of journalistic curiosity and/or integrity, it would have gone on to report that AEI is a hard-right think tank that was closely tied to the George W. Bush administration, whose oligarchic, billionaire benefactors include the Walton Family Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.

As noted by Source Watch, Harry Bradley, founder of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, alongside Fred Koch, the father of the infamous Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, "was one of the original charter members of the far right-wing John Birch Society."

Apparently Los Angeles Times saw no need to inform its readers that the "political scholar" (Ornstein) it has quoted concerning "a political backlash" against OWS is directly affiliated with and funded by the same right-wing billionaires who make up the one percent that OWS is rallying against.

In the same article, Los Angeles Times referred to "Crossroads GPS [as] a high-powered national Republican advocacy group" whose ads blasted "Warren for siding 'with extreme left protests.'"

Los Angeles Times failed to point to the links between Crossroads, Karl Rove, and the far-right oligarch Koch brothers even as the paper repeated the hard-right characterization of OWS as "extreme left" --- but then that's the essence of the charade of "fair and balanced." The stenographer posing as a journalist simply parrots a partisan talking point, and then labels it as "news."

Scott Brown depicted as a moderate

The Los Angeles Times article describes, as fact, that Scott Brown is a "moderate Republican" who stresses "bipartisanship." It repeats, but does not question, the assertion made by MA GOP spokesman Tim Buckley that Brown's "main focus is getting the people of Massachusetts back to work."

During her recent appearance on MSNBC's Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell (see video below), Warren furnished easily verifiable facts that paint a very different picture.

After acknowledging that Brown, now trailing Warren 49% - 42% in recent polls, was the only Republican to vote for the confirmation of Richard Cordray to head the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau, Warren added:

Last month we had votes on three jobs bills in a row. The first one would have supported 22,000 jobs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at a time when we’ve got about a quarter million people who were unemployed. Scott Brown and every other Republican voted against it because it would have meant a tax increase…for those making a million dollars or more.

The next week, a vote to try to prevent layoffs for teachers, firefighters and police officers --- again paid for by a small tax on millionaires. Scott Brown and every other Republican voted against it.

And in the third week, 11,000 jobs in the transportation industry, primarily infrastructure, good construction jobs that we really need in MA…would have created a seven tenths of one percent increase on those making a million dollars or more. Scott Brown and every other Republican voted against it.

Those are the type of salient facts real journalists cover when faced with a partisan claim that a candidate's main focus is "getting people back to work." They are, sadly, the type of facts one rarely encounters in reading mainstream rags like Los Angeles Times.

UPDATE 12/28/11: Shameless!

I forwarded a link to this article to Jim Puzzanghera and invited him to respond in our comment section. Instead, he replied, "Thanks for sending that along. I’ll let the story speak for itself."

Then, again, what could he really say in defense of his Warren/OWS hit piece?

* * *

12/8/11 interview of Elizabeth Warren by Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC's Last Word follows...


* * *

Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.