Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Well, well, well! Looks like the pro-war rallies were textbook astroturfing!

The CD-smashing rally was organized by KRMD, part of Cumulus Media, a radio chain that has banned the Dixie Chicks from its playlists. Most of the pro-war demonstrations around the country have, however, been organized by stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, a behemoth based in San Antonio that controls more than 1,200 stations and increasingly dominates the airwaves.

The company claims that the demonstrations, which go under the name Rally for America, reflect the initiative of individual stations. But this is unlikely: according to Eric Boehlert, who has written revelatory articles about Clear Channel in Salon, the company is notorious — and widely hated — for its iron-fisted centralized control
Not overly surprising. In fact, it explains an awful lot. There have been numerous questions asked about how Clear Channel seems to privilege conservative commentators when it comes to syndication, despite the success in local markets of more liberal radio personalities. The questions appear to be answered: Clear Channel is currying the favor of The Movement.

...There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear, but a good guess is that we're now seeing the next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy. As Jonathan Chait has written in The New Republic, in the Bush administration "government and business have melded into one big `us.' " On almost every aspect of domestic policy, business interests rule: "Scores of midlevel appointees . . . now oversee industries for which they once worked." We should have realized that this is a two-way street: if politicians are busy doing favors for businesses that support them, why shouldn't we expect businesses to reciprocate by doing favors for those politicians — by, for example, organizing "grass roots" rallies on their behalf?

What makes it all possible, of course, is the absence of effective watchdogs. In the Clinton years the merest hint of impropriety quickly blew up into a huge scandal; these days, the scandalmongers are more likely to go after journalists who raise questions. Anyway, don't you know there's a war on?
I imagine that Krugman knows exactly what's going on, because the spectacle of tight connections between large corporations and a party-in-government with dubious respect for democratic processes isn't exactly a new thing. He's just afraid to say it. Me, I'm just afraid to even think it.

By the way, props for the (oblique) reference with that last line. Anybody else get it?

One thing, though: when all is said and done, people are going to be pointing fingers, and nobody is better at the CYA game than the military. They will know who to blame, and it'll be the same people that are supposed to take the blame: their civilian masters. The difference, of course, is that if Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle et al go down, the whole Movement might crash down with 'em. Leaving Lott twisting in the wind is one thing, but Cheney?

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