The Bailout, the Media, and the War Party

One is hardly ever shocked anymore: that seems to be the defining characteristic of modernity. Yet I got to experience that rare sensation the other day when I read this blog item on Aha! I thought. So that‘s why the MSNBCers are hailing the Big Bailout at the top of their lungs – their parent company, General Electric, also owns GE Capital, which was declared "too big to fail" and given its bailout infusion the day after the election.

The timing of this announcement was fairly interesting, as noted by conservative-libertarian columnist Jim Pinkerton. Pinkerton was rightly outraged when, in response to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ comment that his job is to "make this presidency work," he told a Fox News panel:

"Well, Matthews is entitled to his opinion, although if he wants to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania in 2010 as has been widely reported he should resign and not have a platform on the air.

"But I think that the overall culture of MSNBC was established when they changed their slogan, post-election, to ‘The Power of Change.’ Now, that sounds a little bit familiar to the Obama campaign ‘Change We Can Believe In.’ Maybe that’s not an accident.

"But of course, I think the big story here, I think it goes right to what MSNBC’s up to as a strategy, is the news that the FDIC, which is now following election returns, is guaranteeing $139 billion of General Electric Capital debt. That’s General Electric Capital, as in General Electric, which is the parent company of MSNBC, CNBC, NBC. Now, for a $139 billion guarantee, I’d consider, I’d probably go more, I’d probably go all the way over to the Olbermann/Maddow territory. $139 billion."

In answer to the question of why the current FDIC would reward MSNBC in this way, Pinkerton suggests that the bureaucracy is looking to the future – or, more accurately, its future – although he seems to back down a bit in describing the corporate proprietors of MSNBC as "lucky." This falls considerably short of outright bribery, but the sudden infusion of massive amounts of tax dollars into corporate mega-entities does indeed have profound implications for American journalism. In the age of bailouts, the wall of separation between the corporate media and the government – never that strong to begin with – is coming down, and this prospect is truly ominous.

I never fail to smile when I read contemptuous references in American news outlets to the "state-controlled media" of, say, Russia or China. This from the same crowd whose news "reporting" in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq might have been written by someone in the Pentagon press office – and probably was! With billions in bailout money pouring directly or indirectly into the corporate "mainstream" media, only the thinnest pretense of independence remains, with the more honest journalists like Matthews coming out of the closet, so to speak, as shills for the government, or this government, at any rate.

Forewarned is forearmed. The next time Matthews expresses an opinion about anything this administration does, turn on your B.S. Detector. Because if and when President Obama goes to war, against, say, Iran, Chris Matthews is determined to "make it work."

So here we have the intersection of two very dangerous phenomena, which, in combination, could prove deadly to our democracy and subversive in a way no foreign conspiracy ever could be. All by itself, a love-struck media – which has been in the tank for Obama since the early primaries – wouldn’t be so bad. After all, any half-intelligent Epsilon-Minus Semi-Moron can see through the bias, which is often unapologetic, as in Matthews’ case. However, add to this the breaching of the wall between the government and the corporate parents of major media outlets, and you’re entering some very dangerous territory.

With the government in control of the commanding heights of the American economy – the financial sector, which, like GE, has its tentacles wrapped around the communications industry – the difference between private and state-controlled media is near abolition. The boundary between media and government has always been rather blurred, at least socially, and now the connection is being cemented with plenty of cash. If the government is now buying "shares" in the corporate owners of the major news outlets, then how close are we to some place like Russia, for instance, where the line between economy and state hardly exists and the major media dutifully spout the Kremlin line?

Our captive media can no longer be trusted to tell the truth about what our government is doing, at home and abroad. That’s why is more essential than ever. We aren’t taking – or asking for – any government bailouts. What we are asking, however, is for our readers and supporters to dig deep into their pockets and help keep the independent media alive in this country by contributing to our winter fundraising drive. Here we are over two weeks into it, and we still haven’t made our goal – which we need to continue operations in the manner to which you’ve become accustomed.

Yes, you’re used to coming here and finding out the real scoop on American foreign policy and its domestic repercussions, which, these days, are many and dreadful. Even our ideological opponents have got to admit that we have the most comprehensive coverage of the international scene on the Internet. That’s because we’re professionals, and we’re on the job 24/7 scouring the headlines so you don’t have to. But all this – including our bevy of regular columnists and occasional contributors – doesn’t come free. We depend on the contributions of our readers. Your tax-deductible donation goes to keep the flame of independent journalism burning – an especially important task these days, particularly when it comes to the field of international affairs.

No, we don’t get a government bailout, nor are we answerable to a corporate entity that’s on the federal dole. We are answerable only to you, our readers and supporters: your contribution is your vote of confidence. I think we’ve more than earned that vote – just by virtue of enduring for 13 years, against all odds. Well, now the odds are getting higher. The economic meltdown, aside from compromising the editorial independence of the "major media," is also making it harder for us to raise the funds we need to keep going. So please, if you haven’t contributed already, please consider doing so. No matter how big or small, we’re grateful for each and every contribution, because it’s all going to the cause of a more peaceful foreign policy. If you’ve already given, think about upping your donation. It’s all tax-deductible. And consider this: where would you rather send your tax money – to the big banks to cover their failed investments, or to to fight the War Party? Enough said!

With two wars in the can and another one on the burner, the War Party has been busy lately, and there’s hardly anyone keeping an eye on them. The usual media myopia is worsened by the financial disaster, which hasn’t encouraged reporters to look much further afield than Wall Street and Washington. And even if they did notice something fishy in the works, would they sound the alarm, or keep quiet because it’s their job to "make this presidency work"?

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].