Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

The Jehoshua Novels

Please, Please Stop Calling It MSM

Sean-Paul Kelley | San Antonio | May 7

The Agonist – Like most bloggers I have some serious problems with traditional media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, CNN, NBC and Fox News. (Note, they also provide most of the grub we mooching bloggers feed off of and do a lot of excellent work that blogs couldn’t live without.)

My real problem is with the term “mainstream media,” especially as it relates to progressive bloggers.

There’s no question that MSM is meant to be a perjorative, as in many instances it should be. The media has a lot of failures it needs to explain.

I just think there is a better term out there. And in the long run it could go a long way in aiding the Progressive cause.  

More after the jump.

Ellen at Bopnews comments with some great ideas of her own!

novy1.gifUpdate: The Left Coaster disagrees and has a long, thoughtful reply up. Worth a read. I’ll respond in a subsequent post.

We all know the media has serious, dysfunctional institutional biases. These biases are not, per se, conservative or liberal. First and foremost they’re corporate.

I think the label Progressives should use needs to reflect on these biases and emphasize the danger they pose to our democracy. It needs to sum up the problem succintly, not amorphously like the vague and trite “Mainstream Media.” As Al Franken once said, “saying the media has a liberal bias is like saying Al Qaeda has a bias for hummus. It might be true but it’s not the point.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

It’s the corporate interests on Wall Street, the lure of easy money and suckers, not phantasmal liberal biases, that led MSNBC to give Kramer his own godawful show.

Corporate interests prevented ABC from doing an expose on Disney. Corporate interests, afraid of loosing important tax abatements in Flori-duh prevented Disney from releasing Moore’s F-9/11. Corporate interests kept Jack Welch’s outrageous retirement package out of the spotlight for so long.  

And of course corporate biases led to the failure to report adequately on Iraq. In an attempt to outscoop their competitors corporate interests led to shoddy reporting by Judith Miller at the Times. Same for Dan Rather at CBS. It wasn’t liberal bias that led to the Rathergate fiasco. We all knew the outlines of Bush’s draft-dodging. Rather didn’t report anything we didn’t already know. He simple sensationalized what we knew for ratings, i.e. profits. And it was the profit motive which led to all the flag waving, glitzy patriotic newscasts, sotball questions and the general race to the bottom that was the run-up to the Iraq war.

These weren’t liberal biases running amok. It was the profit motive in its most pure, simple and unadulterated form.

There are more examples out there, but these suffice. It’s not the “mainstream” that’s hurting America, as John Stewart would say. There isn’t enough mainstream right now. The center is out. It’s the extremes that rule.

The problem with the media is corporate. So let’s stop calling it the MSM and call it what it is: monopoly media.

Yes, monopoly implies unfair, predatory and often-times dangerous practices. This won’t play well in Peoria, as the saying used to go. And that’s the point. Creating an environment that exposes monopoly media’s weaknesses should be central to the Progressive cause.

In the end, I believe enough usage of the term “monopoly media” might create an environment where the big media monopolies can be broken up.

The media in this country is an industry ruled by economics. Let the market sort it out and restore competition. Break ‘em up. Competition is good and nothing could be better for the health of our republic in the long-term.  

17 comments to Please, Please Stop Calling It MSM

  • Anonymous

    Or simply “corporate media”. Let me roll “monopoly media” around for a bit. Off the top of my head, I think it’s a good construct – especially the implication of “Monopoly media”, where it’s all about “get out of jail free” cards and buying and selling Park Avenue and Boardwalk.

  • Anonymous

    First, let me say I think it is pretty pointless to consider that so importantly but well… I din’t think it is important if w name it that or that, we all know what we are talking about .

    But if you want MHO, what is dangerous in modrn media is not that much the corporatism as the convergence. I don’t know how heavy convergence is in US, but seing how it is here, I guess it can be only worst south of the border.

    By Convergence I mean that the america idol show is plugged in the news show, the american idol plug the  weekly, that will plug te popular serie of the network, in wich they will plug the sports. In th sport games, you will have promotion for the CD, that will slo be used to promote the news show.

    We have a media empire here who pretty much invented convergence. They own hundreds of publication, a journal, a TV station, A cable provider, an Internet cable provider, a phone provider.

    There was a show a la american idol. They used all the tool at their disposal to promote their show, and their other products, by cross promoting each other through their different outlets.

    People start panicking when the new “Idol” from their show made the FP of their Journal. This was too much. Then people got really nervous when his journal editorialist started bitching the state-owned media for investing in shows that were making competition to theirs. It got really dirty when they started blocking the acess to their news website to all user who are not with their internet provider.

    People got fed up. At first, they made a good amount of money, but it did not last. Radio-Canada, the state owned TV, despite having an unilingual english president, managed to counter-attack. The made their own anti-convergence. They started using their tool , like TV, Radio, Internet, with association with the two “Non-Quebecor” newspaper in Mtl , to promote their show, wich are much more intereting that private produced one. No profit gets in the equation there. They started competing time slot by time slot withe the Quebecor behemoth, and made good progress. It helped imporve the quality of new, for example , we get from them. To compete , Quebecor now had to tone done his convergence machine. Consumers made them understand they were not lab rats for media empires.

    So in conclusion, what you need is people who understand the importance of a diversified media, and media who understand the meaning of public service.

    Media needs t ounderstand the privilege they have to have acess to a limited public space. Some artist have to work very hard to get even little public space. The media seems to get it for free. They have no accountability.

    Another thing that helped much here was that part of Quebecor iss owned by our workers fund. It is a littlbe bit like Bush’s private saving accounts, but all in the same fund. It is a complement to our equivalent of your “Social security”. Their role is to capitalize with our money and use it to stimulate and influence the economy. They are followed closely even in Wall street, I’ve heard, because they represent a good chunk of money. That’S why I find funny to see people oppose Bush’plan. Alone, they suck, but combined with SS, it’s a very good tool of empowerment of workers. The public could gain leverage against the media and other big enterprise that they never had before.

    It’s your money they want, they will get it, but at least you will have something to say on what is done with it.

    Media are a public service, and they are part of your people’s common wealth. They must put their duty of public service before profit, even if it means less profit. I think Ted Turner understood that.

  • Anonymous

    Please see my post on the subject, referring to yours and elaborating in my own direction, today on BOPnews.

  • Anonymous

    is that Monopoly Media just does not roll off the tongue. When trying to come up with a name, it has to be easy to say. It needs to be poetic in sound.

    Also, Monopoly Media sounds like a variation of the Monopoly game. You know, like the LOR Monopoly game, Vegas version, LA version etc. etc. etc.

    Corporate Media is a better sounding title. It flows a bit easier off the tongue and does ties corporations with the media.

    Yet, I still can’t get around to using them. It could just be me. I have a thing for titles that have a 2/3 syllable cadence to them. Hence, Mainstream Media’s roll off the tongue.

  • Anonymous

    We could try changing the definition:

    MSM = Mass State Media

  • Anonymous

    I am not married to the term monopoly media and I think Ellen’s post deserves to be read. I’d settle for corporate media, as it does have some punch. But mainstream just doesn’t cut it.

  • Anonymous

    that most people simply wouldn’t get it. It’s a good one but a little too deep.

  • Anonymous

    Republican-Owned Information Disseminators.

    I guess is some cases they’re “dis information disseminators” and that makes them RODDs.

  • Anonymous

    Only 1 1/2 months of angst and gnashing of teeth and people taking things personally since this post

    Was pretty quick, not too bad, I guess. Meme spread seems to take a lot longer than it’s been cracked up to in the things I’ve read. Whine, whine.

    It is just as important to reward and laud individual instances of quality in the news (and to click on them and cite them!) as it is to point out and deconstruct the spin. And it also is just important not to continue to “feed a right-left monstrosity”, in the words of Nick Hoover, apprentice journalist. (Note the citation! :-) ) Bloggers who are interested in improving “the media”, as opposed to becoming political hacks (the latter a noble goal to some, I presume) should not unite via political slant, and should stop attempts at counter-spin, but should unite by quality of presentation of the news.

    Moving on:

    How bout this idea? Could Agonists possibly, possibly lead the blogosphere and move on to the content that “whatever we are calling them today” is offering every day? To debunking and deconstructing any spin that is offered, instead of offering more new better spin, Rush-Limbaugh-of-the-left alpha male preachers to adoring betas. Concerned nerds compile and trade analysis, to help each other figure out what is actually going on, and actually maybe even keep how they vote to themselves? (After all, Mom said it’s not wise to debate politics at the dinner table.)

    And on that issue in parens, perhaps it would be a good idea to once in a while to get the input of more than just one token Republican (citation purposely not given, because perhaps not wanted?) from time to time, and perhaps it is not wise to only allow discussion with the Republican token(s) when one agrees with him/her about what is going on? That that might er, be the “echo chamber” thing?

    P.S. Sarcasm intended.

  • Anonymous

    bought off publishers :)

  • Anonymous

    Actually, just kidding. About Republicans? I doubt it. Maybe, but Republicans willing to see the middle way are certainly not the rage in the Wingersphere. Not my coinage, but certainly apt. I have a few ideas or cards up my sleeve at this point and I will play them in the future. But I am still comfortable being a progressive blogger.

    About your other concerns, perhaps the lesson here for you (and myself) is that I don’t reposond well to frontal assaults. I can’t really think of many people who do. That being said, I do change my mind and I am flexible. A point I tried to convey many times during our recent back and forth on issues of the media.

    And for the record, if another opportunity presents itself like the Brookings Panel or the NPC bash, I promise you I will take up the cudgel used in the past. I will certainly take many of your suggestions into consideration, as I have demonstrated already that I do consider them in good faith. But I think I deserve the same. The fact is that I am going to do things you don’t like from time to time. I may be right, I may be wrong. But that is a lesson for me to learn. Point out my shortcomings all you want, but please keep in mind that the delivery of said pointers is critical.

    I am flexible but I am not into self-flagellation or masochism.

    You know, the bottom line is that it has been almost three years of War in Iraq and Bush hasn’t shown any inclination to consider alternatives. It took me a month and a half. Instead of sarcasm you might give me a little credit.

    I don’t want to feed the right-left monstrousity any more than Nick does. But some things deserve a fight. I am not going to lay back and avoid it. Nick was 100% behind me on the NPC fight. 100% without reservations. Think about that for a moment. Nick and I might (gasp) just might have been right.

    As to this:

    How bout this idea? Could Agonists possibly, possibly lead the blogosphere and move on to the content that “whatever we are calling them today” is offering every day? To debunking and deconstructing any spin that is offered, instead of offering more new better spin, Rush-Limbaugh-of-the-left alpha male preachers to adoring betas. Concerned nerds compile and trade analysis, to help each other figure out what is actually going on, and actually maybe even keep how they vote to themselves? (After all, Mom said it’s not wise to debate politics at the dinner table.)

    I don’t have any problems with this. I’ve always liked the idea. And by installing the Scoop software and continually trying to make it better I think I and every other editor has proven that we want to see this worthy and worthwhile effort proceed.

    But I’m not willing to pretend that I won’t shoot off my mouth on occassion. Because I won’t and I will.

    Ya know?  

  • Anonymous

    “I just think there is a better term out there. And in the long run it could go a long way in aiding the Progressive cause.”

    Isn’t this what got it into trouble in the first place? Not just particularly the Progressive cause but aiding in any cause. What happened to wanting our news media to just report stuff that happens? What is it about any cause they may further, that would guarantee to us they were doing their job without an agenda?

  • Anonymous

    Progressive cause should be to dismantle the media monopolies, not to influnce how or what the media reports per se, simply to create an environment where truthful, fact based reporting becomes economically feasible again. Does that clear it up for you?

  • Anonymous

    The Mono-Media

  • Anonymous

    1. The general segment of the media we are trying to give a title too is lazy, they don’t really want to work all that hard to put out a story.
    2. They are also making every effort not to look like they are rocking the boat.
    3. They believe that what they are doing with the media is for more profit, even if it does just the opposite.

    Now, I am not sure what to do with this, but it seems that these three points should somehow help form our title.

  • Anonymous

    i come back to see whats up in agonistland, since i got reminded of you guys when someone asked the story behind unames at a website im on (agonistalex being mine, to be recognizable to others from here, back in the hundred users online at a time message board days.)

    and i find this.  hey guys…  ISNT THAT WHAT THE AGONIST WAS SUPPOSED TO BE?  a no spin zone, collecting data from multiple sources, taking the media to task when they dont cover an issue, finding out the truth about things, doing a bit of investigating, ect?  well, that, and watching all the cams. (was that tracer fire, or lcd bleed through?  do you hear that?  what was that?  tank, or did one of the journalists in the room fart?)

    anyways, this is fortuitous. ive got a group of friends who are sick of the fluff storys (mj, runaway bride, various ebay sells, ect) taking up so much time on the mainstream media (called mainstream by me because it IS the mainstream of societies source for news.) and is getting a little group together.  looking at registering thisisnotnews. org or com.  putting together a website that rates news providers and storys, debunks the really dumb touchy feely stuff, and pretty much says, this is not news, why are they bothering.   also looking at including contact info for the various outlets, urging people to give a call saying, get that off the air, or, good job, depending.   i was wondering if anyone here would be interested in doing reviews research ect for it when its up and running.  dont want to threadjack, so email me at if youre interest.

    sorry sp, thanks all.

  • Anonymous

    whats the verdict?

Leave a Reply