Daou's Triangles, Expanded AKA Shystee's Media Kabbalah
Full disclosure: I am not a Kabbalist. No disrespect intended towards those who are. I did spend some time with Madonna, but we weren't exactly meditating, if you know what I mean.
Although I agree almost completely with Daou's analysis, there are a couple of elements for which I would expand the structure: the influence of corporations and the nature of conventional wisdom.
1. Corporate Influence
Picking up the question from the previous Triangle post:
So why does one Triangle (Right-Wing) work like greased lightning while the other (Progressive) is "dysfunctional"?
Theory #2: institutional, financial motivations
Corporations' benefit to Media:Funding. Media network infrastructure costs money. So do media whore anchor poodles.
Media benefit to Corporations: Revenue from advertising. "Positive" coverage that steers conventional wisdom and public opinion in favor of policies and attitudes that benefit Corporations.
The primary motivation of managers and decisionmakers who work in the Corporate Media is to keep their jobs and advance their careers.
They will not risk upsetting the advertisers, the stockholders, and the Corporations that write their paychecks. Not to mention the personal network of super-rich individuals (AKA the Cocktail Weenie Circuit) who are instrumental to their career advancement.
Therefore Corporate Media players have institutional reasons for giving play to Right-Wing and Republican talking points. Both parties are pro-corporate, but the GOP is unabashedly so, and has delivered much better results for Corporations and Super-Rich individuals.
Corporations' benefit to political parties: Campaign contributions, which in any other country would be called bribes (see Abramoff, Jack). Ironically, politicians are forced to raise ridiculous amounts of money from corporations so they can buy advertising time on the media outlets the corporations themselves own.
Additionally, Corporations promise jobs for constituents, for which politicians also have to compete for. The competition is in the form of a race to the bottom in terms of environmental and labor regulations, and tax breaks eventually paid for by the constituents.
Political Parties' benefit to Corporations:As discussed above, "easing" of regulations designed to protect citizens which saves the Corporate bottom line a lot of dough.
Tax breaks for both Corporations and the Super-Rich individuals who run them that ultimately have to be made up by the rest of US taxpayers.
There are many other methods of transferring Public Wealth to Private Interests. Government contracts to corporations are just one of them.
The return on investment for Campaign Bribes is huge: the Corporations throw a couple hundred thousand dollars to a candidate and in return they get millions in lower costs and new income.
So, according to this theoretical tinker-toy model, decision Makers and Talking Heads in the Corporate Media have ideological and institutional motivations to accept Right Wing spin fed to them by the GOP and Right-Wing bloggers. Conversely, those same motivations cause them to resist facts and reasoned opinion offered by the Democrats and Progressive bloggers.
Which is a bummer, because Corporate Media controls, for the most part, the Public's and the Beltway's perception of reality and of even of Public Opinion.
Control of perception is political power. Voters make decisions about which policies (and politicians) to support based on the information they receive about what is happening in the world beyond their immediate environment. While alternative sources of information exist, the majority of people get their view of reality through Corporate Media.
2. Beltway Conventional Wisdom and Public Opinion.
From Peter Daou's first Triangle essay:
It might be easier to approach the question by setting a more specific, and admittedly somewhat arbitrary, definition of political influence: the capacity to alter or create conventional wisdom. And a working definition of â€œconventional wisdomâ€ is a widely held belief on which most people act. Finally, by â€œpeopleâ€ I mean all Americans, regardless of ideology or political participation.
I would make a more subtle distinction between Beltway Conventional Wisdom (BCW) and Public Opinion (PO).
- Often the BCW and the PO are very different. For example on issues like withdrawing the troops from Iraq or Universal Healthcare. See Ivins, Molly.
- The nature of BCW makes it dishonest and self-serving. If a politician has no intention of doing anything about an issue, they can encourage the Corporate Media to create the Conventional Wisdom that the issue is not a big deal or that there's nothing that can be done about it.
- As illustrated in a previous colorful chart, BCW and PO audiences are very distinct populations and are reached through different media vehicles with different, targeted messages.
So, while changing Beltway Conventional Wisdom would be conducive to the progressive cause, it could be a lost cause.
No matter how well reasoned and fact-based a progressive talking point might be, a politician (even a Democrat) will have ideological and institutional motivations to reject it, and the Corporate Media will have the same motivations to ignore it and marginalize it.
To put it another way, sometimes I feel like the Progressive Blogosphere believes there will come a day when the Democratic Party and Corporate Media Whores will smack their collective foreheads and proclaim:
"Now I get it! Bloggers' facts and reasoning on this issue are unassailable. Thank you for showing me the light. Let me implement/propagate this Progressive talking point right away."
Politicians do what is politically necessary, no more and no less. To believe that they act primarily out of moral principle or intellectual conviction is, IMNSHO, naive, especially in this day and age. Also naive, IMNSHO, is to think that politicians can be swayed to take risky actions by a persuasive message alone.
Basically, Beltway Dems and the Corporate Media don't get it because they don't want to get it.
I may be way off on this. Maybe the BCW has such a hold on the brains of our elected representatives that they have no choice but to do what the BCW tells them. Maybe the Corporate Media has no choice but to repeat the BCW it has created.
3. What can Progressive Bloggers do, then, if anything?
The progressive movement appears to be on it's own, both institutionally and ideologically.
But instead of a fringe group of lefty internet geeks, think of it as a Popular Progressive Movement. By the People and for the People.
The ultimate goal is to get our elected representatives to enact progressive policies that will make a real, positive difference in people's lives.
The way to get there is to change Public Opinion because we still (more or less) live in a Democracy.
Politicians' ultimate goal is to get re-elected. If Public Opinion is overwhelmingly (some people cannot be convinced) in favor of a Policy, Politicians are eventually forced to adopt it.
However, since Politicians repeatedly ignore Public Opinion, Progressive voters have to make it clear that this is not acceptable and that they will not vote for Politicians who do not represent them.
The tipping point comes when it is demonstrated to a Politician that supporting Progressive Policy will be more condusive to their re-election chances than Policy bought by Corporate Campaign Contributions.
I think I read something on dKos about Lieberman "totally freaking out" about a potential progressive challenger?
According to the tinkertoys above, Progressive Bloggers still have an intact connection to Public Opinion. Their influence is small, but it's growing.
And the establishment feels threatened. How else to explain the mass-smear campaign (by Corporate Media and GOP politicians) to paint Progressive Bloggers as ignorant, foulmouthed, subhuman troglodytes? I think these attempts will only bring more attention to the blogosphere.
I do believe that efforts to break through to Corporate Media and Beltway Dem Insiders are worthwile, if possibly sisyphean (sp?). The effectiveness of these efforts, rather than persuading the elites, might be more in that they bring the Public's attention to the dialogue.
And it's not just about the blogs. It's a Popular Progressive Movement, and any means of reaching the Public with the Progressive message is all good: Air America Radio, films and documentaries like Michael "Osama" Moore's, freewayblogging, word of mouth...
Of course, the chart is colorful but entirely theoretical. It's based on my observations during the past 2-3 years of blog-addiction. Or maybe I am a Kabbalist. Take me back, Madonna!