Eighty-Nine Seconds

I was really looking forward to the Republican foreign policy debate, eagerly anticipating the clash I expected between Rep. Ron Paul’s anti-interventionist views and the rest of that warmongering crowd – but I didn’t count on the filtering tactics of CBS News. The televised debate went on for an hour, but Ron only got 89 seconds to make the case for peace.

Paul’s supporters have consistently claimed the Texas congressman is being deliberately ignored by the “mainstream” media, and the amount of noise they’ve generated about this has been the subject of more than a few self-justifying media self-analyses, which usually conclude that, no, he’s getting what he deserves. Okay, fine, that’s debatable, although I have my own opinion on the subject: what isn’t debatable, however, is Paul’s rising level of support.

According to a recent Bloomberg poll, among Republican voters in Iowa he’s currently in a four-way dead heat, a single point behind frontrunner and serial sex maniac Herman Cain. Among likely caucus voters who have already chosen a candidate, however, Paul is way out front, at a stunning 35 percent, leading “frontrunner” Mitt Romney by ten points. In financial terms, also, Paul is clearly in the top tier: he’s raised more money in a single hour than Newt Gingrich has managed to spend at Tiffany’s in a year, and spent more in Iowa than any of the others.

The shortchanging of Paul at the debate is inexplicable, in another sense, because giving him his due would have made for some good television. The contrast between Paul’s views and the rest of the pack would have provided more than a few dramatic examples of pandering, demagoguery, and exhibitionist blood lust in response to Paul’s provocative peacemongering.

What we got, instead, was a decidedly non-dramatic political advertisement for the media-anointed “frontrunners” – Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and the supposedly “surging” Newt Gingrich. The lame-streamers don’t care about good television – they just want to maintain their control of the process. With the Internet cutting into their audience share, and the history of the last decade or so cutting into their credibility, the mandarins of the “mainstream” media are making their last stand on the battlefield of presidential politics.

Media bias is ideological, to a certain extent, but it’s also about economics. Sure, they’re cheerleaders for the President, and have been ever since the Democratic primaries of 2007-08. There’s a political motive behind giving the buffoonish Rick Perry an inordinate amount of airtime, and creating a media phenomenon out of the clueless Cain, and they aren’t even bothering to hide it very well.

Yet it’s also about what they’re selling, and I’m not just talking about the advertisements. Remember, these are for-profit enterprises, not political entities; and they’re media companies, which means their product is a narrative, a story they’re telling their audience, which is hopefully buying into it and tuning in for more.

In the old days, when there were just the networks, the studied centrism that permeated news and opinion shows was the result of a lack of competition: there was only so much space on the airwaves, and it was ladled out jealously and reluctantly by federal overseers in Washington. Those were the days when, say, CBS’s Daniel Schorr could smear a presidential candidate beyond redemption and cost him plenty in the polls. Yet like all monopolies, this one was fated to go the way of the dinosaurs.

The advent of cable television destroyed the networks’ monopoly, and the media mandarins were forced to adapt to the new technology – while still maintaining a modicum of control over the national discourse. The old narrative of “left” and “right” – mediated by a “sensible” centrism – was in danger of losing its hegemony: suddenly there was room for a whole panoply of viewpoints, including those that challenged the old ideological assumptions and premises of this left/right-blue state/red state narrative.

The solution was to divvy up the media landscape, with Fox News leading the way and staking its claim to the “red state” franchise, and NBC following up with the marketing of MSNBC as the Anti-Fox “blue state” network. This arrangement kept the old “left-right” paradigm intact, while allowing for two competing variations on the same narrative to emerge.

In the era of network domination the left-right narrative was strictly enforced, especially when it came to foreign policy. Conservatives were interventionists, liberals were less inclined to go to war, and that was the end of it. This stereotype was inherited by the new media moguls and persisted until the wheel of technology turned once again.

The rise of the Internet as the primary means of information consumption posed a new challenge to the left-right paradigm by giving voice to ideas that didn’t fit in neatly with the intellectual package deals we were used to. It’s no accident that Paul’s campaign is Internet-driven: his supporters, who make up a good proportion (although not the majority) of our audience, are used to getting their information off the net, rather than having it filtered by self-appointed gatekeepers.

The network-cable arbiters of the permissible are determined to maintain their monopolistic control over our political discourse no matter what the cost to their own integrity, and so it’s futile to expect any sort of “objective” journalism from those quarters. I very much doubt many of Paul’s supporters were particularly surprised by the snubbing of Paul by debate moderators Scott Pelley, a CBS news anchor, and the National Journal’s Major Garrett.

The media mandarins are conducting a rearguard action, however: their efforts to stifle debate, or at least keep it within certain parameters, are doomed to failure, as the sheer power of the Internet renders them increasingly irrelevant.

That’s why Antiwar.com has been such a success at not only garnering a wide audience but also having a real impact on the national debate: we debunk the lies of the War Party as soon as they are disseminated, and a nation sick of war is increasingly receptive to our message.

Yet we still are a long way from rivaling the War Party in terms of resources, and we sure as heck don’t have access to the “mainstream” media – and that’s only fair. After all, why should they give exposure to their competitors?

Aside from competing for the attention of the American people, we’re competing with the so-called mainstream media for their trust. After being lied into war repeatedly, that trust is gone – and the media moguls know it.

Our readers, on the other hand, have come to rely on us over the years, and that’s why we have a hard core of supporters who give unfailingly – and generously – to keep us going. They know they can trust us to pierce the veil of illusion and outright deceit that masks the true face of America abroad. They know they can come to this site for the real story of what’s going on in the world – and they’re willing to pay for that invaluable service.

The problem is we need more such supporters – especially now, with all Americans paying the price of empire in the form of a dramatic economic downturn. Our donor base has been decimated, along with those of virtually all nonprofits. It used to take us a week to make our fundraising target – these days it takes over three weeks of constant harping to get the same result. And our costs have gone up, along with the size of our audience – and we are still operating with the same skeleton crew we’ve had for years.

The corporate and political interests that own the “mainstream” media are indeed biased against the peace movement – which is why none of the shibboleths that got us into the Iraq war were subjected to anything other than the vaguest scrutiny. On the other hand, scrutiny is what we’re all about.

We just can’t continue to do the job we’re doing without an expansion of our support: we need occasional readers, as well as longtime supporters, to meet the growing challenge of standing up for peace. Just in case you haven’t noticed, the drumbeat for war with Iran – and now Pakistan – has gotten louder. Americans are being subjected to a constant barrage of war propaganda such as hasn’t been seen since the invasion of Iraq.

In short, we need your tax-deductible donation now more than ever. This fundraising drive is among the most important we’ll ever run. As we stand at the beginning of yet another presidential election season, the much-neglected issue of foreign policy is more pressing than ever. We can’t allow the pro-interventionist mainstream media to maintain its monopoly on the discourse: we need to make sure the alternative media is there 24/7, challenging their biases.

No purely electoral effort is going to break their monopoly – nor will a pro-peace candidate ever succeed without a complementary educational effort. We need to do an end run around the monopolists before we can win.

The media hates Ron Paul for the same reason they hate the idea of losing their monopoly on determining the boundaries of political discourse in this country: because they represent the same arrogance and hubris that motivates their friends in Washington, the empire-builders who thought the “American Century” [.pdf] would last forever – no matter how much we abused and took for granted our vaunted position as a “superpower.”

We are undermining the media monopoly every day, but we can’t do it without your support. We’ve made so much progress since the dark days immediately following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it would be a shame to have it all go to waste. Yet that’s just what will happen if we don’t make our fundraising goal and we’re forced to cut back our activities in a significant way.

So please, give as much as you can as soon as you can – because the success of the movement for peace and liberty depends on it.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, 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].