Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Yesterday Rosie O'Donnell had comedian / Sirius talk radio host Pete Dominick on the show, and they spoke for a good half or or so about the lack of media coverage of the unrest in Wisconsin.

(In case you missed it, Wisco's governor and other tea-partiers are invoking a budget crisis in order to eliminate the people's right to collective bargaining. So the people have marched on the Capitol. In order to postpone a vote, a score of Democrats are in hiding out of state (so they lack a quorum).

Rosie went off on how the media is giving top billing to the unrest in Libya and Bahrain - while the real unrest, and the real test of democracy, is happening right here under our noses.

Yes, what is happening in the Middle East will affect gas prices. But what is happening here in the Midwest is far more relevant to people's little-r reality, since it could signal the demise of the middle class. And it's not just Wisconsin. Indiana's Democrats also went into hiding this week, for the same reason, and hundreds of protesters in Ohio are trying to get on the agenda to testify on a similar bill. Even Michigan is getting in on the act (but not Illinois of course; we're too tamasic - although we are playing host to the AWOL Wisco democrats) Read more here and here.

(You can bet that if this were happening in California or New York - and not just the Midwest - there'd be slightly better media coverage).

Rosie was impassioned about the mass demonstrations and unrest, and blamed the lopsided media coverage on Ronald Reagan's deregulation of media (I think she may have meant the TelCom Act of 1996 - which happened on Clinton's watch and put control of the media into the hands of a handful of corporations. Reagan was responsible for throwing out the Fairness Doctrine, which required both sides of an issue to be covered by the media. Its elimination paved the way for Rush Limbaugh, Fox "News" and their ilk).

She is correct in saying that the media is controlled by a handful of megacorporations that determine what winds up on the news (it's actually six; click here for a chart).

Rosie and her guest said that somehow the political right (and Fox "News," et al) has convinced a large chunk of the middle class that access to health care, and the opportunity to join unions who look out for their interests, bargain with governments and corporations on their behalf, etc., are somehow bad for them - even though unions basically keep the middle class afloat (and are the working class's sole lobbying advocate in Washington).

Instead, Pete Dominick pointed out, the right holds up an anecdote about a teacher somewhere who has a large pension, and says "This has to stop," and "this is the cause of all our problems," and everyone gets on board (even Dreyfus brought up one of these anecdotes yesterday). Instead, the right invokes a budget crisis and says that it can be cured by taking money away from working people. Meanwhile, corporate welfare - where the real piles of money are siphoned off - continues unwatched and unfettered.

They also pointed out that the political right gets people to vote based on volatile peripheral issues, like gun control, abortion or gay marriage - and they end up voting against their own economic self-interest.

Dominick said that if the unions lose the power of collective bargaining, it will signal the slow demise of the middle class; unions are the only lobbying group looking out for the working-people's interests and representing them in Washington. All the other major lobbyists represent big business. He pointed out that unions don't just protect their own; good working conditions for union members mean better working conditions (and pay!) for everyone.
(BTW, if the unions are routed, the democratic party will also die).

Rosie was amazing. She yelled and screamed with righteous indignation, and it fired up her listeners. She really has her heart in the right place (I think she is a yogi, because she has a platform and she uses it for good). You can read more about her views here.

She said we should all be talking about this, and trying to do something about it.

Instead, we're worried about gas prices and wondering what Colonel Quadaffe (who used to be in America's crosshairs, back in the 80s) is going to do next.

I suppose that just as Chicago gets the mayor it deserves....

America gets the news coverage - and governors - it deserves.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a member of the Authors Guild (a union! that advocates for me!) and have been covering the media since 1993. (And if there were a yoga teacher's union with teeth, I'd join it, too).