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JP Sottile writes: "When you wonder why nothing gets done, or why problems only seem to get worse amidst the din of hyperbole and bickering, think of it all as a daily drama. It is a soap opera. And why were they called 'soap operas?' Because those quickly-crafted melodramas were designed to hold your attention just long enough to sell you soap. Dish soap and laundry detergent and hand-repairing cleansers. That's the point of all the drama and tension. It sells soap. And that's the point of the Political-Industrial Complex. All that drama and hyperbole ... it sells soap."

Attack ads have become a staple of the modern political campaign. (photo: handout)
Attack ads have become a staple of the modern political campaign. (photo: handout)



The Political-Industrial Complex

By JP Sottile, Reader Supported News

11 October 11

 

EADLINE: Television advertising in 2012 election could top $3 billion

Voting between the lesser of two evils.

Gridlock. Partisanship. Split-screens filled with the same old faces yelling, name-calling and spin-spin-spinning.

Two wings of the same ruling party and the elusive dream - or unrealistic fantasy - of a "Third Party" that will ... finally ... shake up the system.

The sneering cynicism that comes with the evil of two lessers.

And money. Lotsa money.

You see, we don't really have a democracy or, for those who like to be precise, a functioning democratic republic. And it isn't really governance. Rather, we have a political industry that launders money. Tax dollars pay the salaries of Senators and Representatives and provide for their small armies of staffers. We pay for their "fact-finding" junkets. They also get great healthcare, a gym and security. The political appointees of the Executive Branch do pretty well, too. And, by and large, the same thing happens at the state level.

But that's just the tip of a titanic financial iceberg. The really big money comes from trying to get those pols elected. And re-elected. And re-elected again.

That's where the partisan laundry service really takes the shirts off of all our backs.

Political contributions get cycled through PACs and SuperPACs and lobbying firms and advertising firms and polling firms and law firms. As the money comes into campaigns, it pays for staff and also ends up lining the pockets of all those political professionals who keep the "wheels of progress" turning or, more often, not turning. Frankly, less progress extends the life of issues and the candidates who run on them.

Billions of dollars go through this vast laundry service.

Think of all the money made over the years on both sides of abortion. And gay marriage. And think of all the candidates whose suits would be even emptier if they weren't running on some hyper-contentious issue. Hot issues equal big money. Other issues get ignored. Where is the ad money in ending wars? Or bringing troops home from around the globe? If you want the issue to get into the cycle, you have to put change into the machine. And we ain't talking chump change. Or mythical change. We're talking cold, hard bundles of cash. Millions and millions of it.

That isn't politics. That's a Political-Industrial Complex.

And the news media is, perhaps, the key cog in that grinding machine. The more contentious the election, the more dichotomous the debate and the more heated the rhetoric ... the more enriching the whole process becomes to the seedy squatters currently occupying the Fourth Estate. By generating more heat than light, the news media generates more revenue than facts. How? By filling all those nifty commercial breaks with lucrative political advertising.

You see, the dirty little secret of the broadcasting industry is that they depend upon the political advertising that comes during the two- and four-year election cycles to turn a profit. A big one.

Those predictable windfalls are good for business. Very, very good. Don't expect the media to do anything other than feed that egg-laying goose.

So, highlight the personalities. Knock one down, lift the other one up. Stoke the competition. Forget reporting on facts and turn it into an ongoing soap opera. Draw it out and draw us in. Jabber on about polls. Red versus blue equals green. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

The media loves it. Wants it. Needs it.

And what do we see more and more? The permanent campaign. Forget governing. How many times have you heard some blathering head talk about "campaign mode" or heard some faint voice of sanity lamenting the election starting earlier and earlier with each passing year? The reason is simple - a rising tide lifts all their boats and sculls and yachts and nifty little sloops.

The sorta boats that cruise around Martha's Vineyard or the azure waters of the Caribbean, far away from the iceberg they are crashing us all into.

Media professionals and advertising agencies and consultants all make money off of "us versus them." They all make money off of the status quo. So do the ad buyers and local station executives and owners. And, as national and statewide campaigns become more and more expensive, the cable networks and broadcasting's big four - ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX - all rake in the cash. Your donations are more likely to end up in the pocket of some cigar-chomping chump than in the needy hands of some eager, motivated canvasser.

When you wonder why nothing gets done, or why problems only seem to get worse amidst the din of hyperbole and bickering, think of it all as a daily drama. It is a soap opera. And why were they called "soap operas?" Because those quickly-crafted melodramas were designed to hold your attention just long enough to sell you soap. Dish soap and laundry detergent and hand-repairing cleansers. That's the point of all the drama and tension. It sells soap. And that's the point of the Political-Industrial Complex. All that drama and hyperbole ... it sells soap.

For the media professionals who sell it to us all, it's money in the bank.

Literally.


JP Sottile is a newsroom veteran. His credits include a stint on the Newshour news desk, C-SPAN, Executive Producer for ABC affiliate WJLA in Washington, and a two-time Washington Regional Emmy Award Winner. In addition, JP is a documentary filmmaker.

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Comments   

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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+9 # cadan 2011-10-11 22:55
Thanks JP.

Your writing has the ring of truth, again.

So ---- how do we fire the cast and crew of the soap opera?
 
 
+13 # 666 2011-10-12 06:06
Quoting cadan:
So how do we fire the cast and crew of the soap opera?


1) modify 14th amendment to eliminate "artificial persons" (corporations)

2) remove all money from politics

3) pass Roosevelt's 2nd bill of rights & insure universal health care, education, & basic human rights

4) create real democracy (eg selecting, not electing, house of representatives)

5) tax the rich, heavily

6) tax most financial transactions & separate speculation from banking

7) heavily tax all corporations exporting jobs &/or investments

8) end wars & hobble MIC; invest in soldiers -- give them more pay & benefits, not halliburton etc

9) create green economy for americans

10) pay teachers (not administrators) more than politicians &/or speculative bankers

11) exclude ex-public employees from certain private sector jobs for 10 years
 
 
+7 # Ken Hall 2011-10-11 23:14
In England there are time limits and monetary caps put on political campaigns. Does an interested voter need more than two months to learn about a candidate's stand on the issues? The major media love to be the king makers, turn off your TVs, think for yourselves, and render them irrelevant. (And yes, I know I'm preaching to the choir.)
 
 
+2 # Grouchy 2011-10-12 02:50
Also notice how all this "conflict" parallels two football teams slugging out on the field--IT''S SPORT and nothing much more. Thus it's really no more serious than sport--and the media feeds off that stuff in a grand way too!
 
 
+5 # Nel 2011-10-12 03:17
"You see, the dirty little secret of the broadcasting industry is that they depend upon the political advertising that comes during the two- and four-year election cycles to turn a profit. A big one."
That's the point!!!PROPAGA NDA by the MSM (A la Joseph Goebbels). Who own the MSM own the government, has the power, the $$$$ WE THE PEOPLE SHOULD OCCUPY THE MSM.
 
 
+4 # mwd870 2011-10-12 06:01
Three words: Get Money Out
 
 
0 # kdammen 2011-10-12 08:06
To affect change in the current government requires lobbyists and money. To affect positive change in our system requires taking the money out of the equation. There is no incentive for any private interest to pay politicians to be unaffected by contributions. It's gridlocked. I don't have an answer, but I know the question.
 
 
+1 # gussie 2011-10-12 08:35
Let's have a parliamentary system. It's only
one fixing point and yet it saves precious time.

mm
 
 
+5 # Capn Canard 2011-10-12 08:41
A system that is based on money is unsustainable. We have public airwaves but there is only a false sense of control by the FCC. The problems are easy to fix but money will do all that it can to stop improvements. Money creates the illusion that we have democracy when we have plutocracy.
 
 
+5 # reiverpacific 2011-10-12 10:05
I've been saying this for a long time. Again, when Amy Goodman and David Barsamean are as well-known as Barbara Walters and Brian Williams, we might be getting somewhere (fat chance, innit?!).
Y'see there is true commitment and boots on the ground journalism by the first two (and lifes on the line at times), rather than stuffing between commercials in the case of the latter.
 
 
+2 # reiverpacific 2011-10-12 11:19
Quoting reiverpacific:
I've been saying this for a long time. Again, when Amy Goodman and David Barsamean are as well-known as Barbara Walters and Brian Williams, we might be getting somewhere (fat chance, innit?!).
Y'see there is true commitment and boots on the ground journalism by the first two (and lifes on the line at times), rather than stuffing between commercials in the case of the latter.

Excuse my crappy typing -I meant "Lives" of course!
 

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