A Week of Truthiness and Media


Posted by Tracy Rosenberg on
Huffington Post  August 18 2010

Ever had one of those weeks where the distance between what was said and what was done stretches way out into the blue yonder? In my job as director of Media Alliance, many things pass my desk that generate moments of disbelief, but the 1st week of August was truly remarkable.

On Monday, I got a tip about Bloomberg News, the business-oriented polling, news and analysis outfit. Their website at Bloomberg.com states “In 1981 Bloomberg started out with one core belief: that bringing transparency to capital markets through access to information could increase capital flows, produce economic growth and jobs, and significantly reduce the cost of doing business.”

So far, so good. I share their core belief that bringing transparency to capital markets can only be a good thing. So what market is Bloomberg News bringing transparency to this week? You guessed it: oil-drilling.

Specifically, the temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed by the Obama administration after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Bloomberg reported, somewhat stunningly to those of us who think we know the pulse of current opinion, “Americans in 73% Majority Oppose Deepwater Drilling Ban.” The first line of the story read “Most Americans oppose President Barack Obama’s ban on deepwater oil drilling in response to BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill.”

That’s quite a headline. 73% of Americans rarely agree on anything, much less trivializing environmental catastrophe. What was the original poll data that generated this startling fact?

Here it is: Do you think this spill proves offshore drilling is just too dangerous and should be banned in U.S waters or was this a freak accident and offshore drilling can be made safer and should not be banned?

So the only choice for any poll respondent who thought the Gulf disaster was more than a “freak accident” was to advocate banning all offshore drilling forever in US waters. Talk about a limited set of options.

The stated subject of the poll; a temporary ban on only deepwater drilling until industry demonstrates improved safety procedures. What does the poll question have to do with the subject of the poll?

Absolutely nothing.

Then along came Wednesday. On Wednesday, word leaked out that Google, the glorious leader of the Open Internet Coalition, had inked a secret deal with Verizon Corporation to exempt wireless internet from any pending net neutrality regulations and while they were at it, prioritize Google-owned content on Verizon’s wireless and wire line networks.

What this means is the foremost corporate champion of an open Internet did a 180 degree about-face about where we’re headed in the future. Regulations are apparently okay for people still plugged into walls, but mobile users will play by corporate rules or more to the point, by no rules at all.

Public interest groups had been chafing for over a month at the FCC decision to open private negotiations with industry on the contentious net neutrality issue. Who was at the table to represent consumers in these talks? Just Google?

More sanguine elements of the public interest community took heart at Google’s stalwart history of not being evil (at least outside of China) and their vociferous leadership of the pro-net neutrality industry cohort group, The Open Internet Coalition.

Yet somehow, despite the seeming clarity of the English words – “open” and “Internet”- the Googlezon deal was announced. Shortly afterwards, the industry-only talks collapsed due to the upsetness of AT&T and Skype at being left out of the big corporate sell-out deal.

Less sanguine elements of the public interest community sang a sad refrain of “remember, corporations are not your friends.” Again.

Finally it was Friday, On Friday, I came across a local “Save KPFA” benefit that evening in my hometown. I was interested because I am on the board of the Berkeley community radio station (the first of its kind in the country). How wonderful someone was having a benefit for KPFA in this horrible economy. Reading further, the event turned out not to be a benefit for KPFA the radio station, but a benefit for a group called Save KPFA.

Now I have some experience with groups called Save KPFA, Take Back KPFA, Save Pacifica and so on. I have police records (3 of them) from the widely-publicized Pacifica democratization struggle of a decade ago.

What was this new Save KPFA? Must we save it again?

It is the nature of aging that first, we fight the power, and then we become the power. I could accept that some raging firebrand twenty-somethings were picking up a call-to-arms and demanding something better from progressive media than they were getting.

But much to my surprise, Save KPFA turned out to be a bunch of folks in their sixties and seventies (and maybe eighties, too). Their call to arms? The cause to donate my money? More professionalism and more hierarchical structure. Run the famously radical radio station like a proper corporation and get rid of all this community empowerment mumbo-jumbo.

Fight the power, indeed.

I guess if you can’t beat the Googlezon, the only thing left is to impersonate the Googlezon.

Here’s hoping for a week to come that is a bit less reminiscent of Comedy Central.

Tracy Rosenberg is a current member of the KPFA and Pacifica National Boards. She is running for re-election this year on the Independents for Community Radio slate. www.voteindyradio.org.