Welcome Robert W. McChesney (University of Illinois) (Open Democracy), John Nichols (The Nation) (Twitter), and Host Richard J. Eskow (HuffingtonPost) (Truthout) (Senior Fellow, Campaign For America’s Future)

Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America

Corruption: Impairment of integrity, virtue, or moral principle: depravity … a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct.  -Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

The word “corruption” does not appear in the title or subtitle of the latest book by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, which is called Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America. But the word resonates on every page. American democracy has been profoundly corrupted by the – usually legal – infusion of billions of dollars into the political process, and this jeremiad against corruption comes at a critical historical moment.

Nichols and McChesney wisely interweave the degeneration of independent American media with the growing dominance of big-money interests in political campaign, noting that “The moneyed interests are confident, even in the face of temporary setbacks, that they will be able to continue in their initiative because they are well served by the rapid decline in the news media as a checking and balancing force on our politics.”

This is a vital connection that too often goes unrecognized in discussions of money in politics. The concept of an “informed electorate” has become a truism in American politics, but it’s no cliché. Information is the lifeblood of democracy, and the authors have wisely recognized that the loss of an independent, truth-seeking media is half of our political problem.

There’s a reason why revolutionaries always seized the broadcasting stations first in an uprising.

Dollarocracy tells the story of the Fourth Estate’s decline over the last several decades, as big-money interests acquired press outlets while politicians took steps to weaken government requirements for accuracy and fairness in journalism. That laid the groundwork for the creation of Fox News which, as Eric Boehlert says in a trenchant quote, “altered the game by unchaining itself from the moral groundings of U.S. journalism.”

The story of media decline is interwoven with the growing influence of large donors on the political process, including some important data:

The 2012 election cost $10 billion.

That’s twice the cost of the 2008 election.

It’s ten times what was spent a generation ago.

Despite the massive generic unpopularity of Congress, 90 percent of Congressional districts have been gerrymandered to be “safe seats” for the incumbents.

Small donors are a small part of the campaign finance system.

The authors remind us that the exclusion of third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson from Presidential debates, despite the fact that both clearly qualified for them under most reasonable measures, helped ensure that the 2012 political debate was limited to relatively innocuous differences of opinion between the two major party candidates. (That’s when they did differ: As Barack Obama said in one such debate, “I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position.”)

Nichols and McChesney offer a clear set of possible solutions for this crisis of democracy which include publicly-funded elections, free airtime for candidates, transparency in advertising, and a repeal of the artificial “corporate personhood” doctrine granting “rights” to corporations.

The idea that money is destroying democracy seems to be obvious on its face, so it’s tempting to assume that a book on the topic would be an exercise in stating the obvious. Far from it: Dollarocracy is engaging and enlightening, regularly providing the reader with new information while reorganizing what she or he may know in helpful ways.

If we have any quarrel with the authors, it’s a minor one: They say in the preface that “This is a radical book in the best sense of the term,” reminding us of Martin Luther King Jr’s words: “When you are right you cannot be too radical.”

But while we are great fans of the best kinds of American radicalism, polling suggests that the views in Dollarocracy are squarely in the American mainstream. A Gallup poll conducted last month found that half of those polled supported publicly funded elections, while a “vast majority supports limiting campaign spending and contributions.”

Nichols and McChesney have performed a valuable public service in writing Dollarocracy. They’ve also produced an eminently readable book.

About the authors:

John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written The Nation’s Online Beat since 1999 is their Washington DC correspondent contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times, he is also the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers and he is a frequent guest on radio and television programs as a commentator on politics and media issues. Nichols lives in Madison, WI and Washington DC.

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the author or editor of sixteen books. He is the President and co-founder of Free Press, a national media reform organization. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Champaign, Illinois.

 

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

82 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Robert W. McChesney, John Nichols, Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America”

BevW July 13th, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Bob, John, RJ, Welcome back to the Lake.

RJ Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

For our new readers/commenters:

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RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Thank you for inviting me, Bev. And thank you, Bob and John, for joining us today.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Honored to be on with the great RJ Eskow, whose writing on banking, credit-card abuses and corporate wrongdoing informs so much of our writing — and so much of our understanding of how the money power operates.

dakine01 July 13th, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Robert, John, and RJ and welcome back to FDL this afternoon

Robert and/or John, I have not had an opportunity to read the book so forgive me if you address this in there but given the ingrained special interests of the TradMed and politicians both in maintaining the status quo, how do we overcome their inertia and bring journalism back to doing actual reporting rather than subservience to the dollar?

We always hear the politicians crying about how they hate having to spend all their time fund raising but it sure seems they are not willing to take the steps to change things

RevBev July 13th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Fascinating and important book; I am really looking forward to the discussion. Thanks for being here.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:02 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 3

Well, thank you, sir, and likewise! I have a question as well:

People are well aware, at least in general terms, that money is corrupting our democracy. You guys certainly had a strong sense of the problem going into this project. What did you learn in writing this book that surprised you the most?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

There is little hope to be found in the courts or the Capitol in Washington. If we want real reform, we must build a new progressive movement – every bit as bold, as aggressive and as inspired as the progressive movement of a century ago.
This is not an unreasonable goal: The movement to overturn Citizens United had been formally endorsed by 16 states and 500 communities. There’s genuine public excitement about and support for reform.
Unfortunately it is not reported by traditional media. So reformers must become more engaged with and supportive of new and alternative media. We must all become serious media reformers… And serious political reformers. We cannot delink the two.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Have you found anyone using effective strategies to press the mainstream media to cover this story more honestly and thoroughly?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:10 pm

It is far worse than we imagined. Two years of digging into the political process, with an eye toward understanding and identifying the role of the money power.

In a democracy, the vote matters most; it defines not just the winners of elections but the range of debate. In a Dollarocracy, the money power takes over that definitional role. We can still vote, but we choose from a range of options favored by wealthy elites and corporations — not from the best ideas, the best approaches or the best candidates.

In a Dollarocracy, there is no level playing field. Everyone has a right to speak. But some speech is supercharged — so much so that it can shout down other speech. That’s not a democratic discourse. That’s a politics and a governance where the balance is invariably tipped in favor of the elites.

BevW July 13th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Has the US ever faced such a difficult political challenge before and overcome it? Such as having the wealthy controlling the political / government processes?

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I’m fascinated by the media’s role in all of this. Mainstream journalists and editors, I think you’ll agree, aren’t bad people. I don’t think they think of themselves as corrupt. They’re not taking cash directly for the “right” kind of stories.

How do they justify their lack of coverage of this issue to themselves, as far as you can tell? Have you interviewed any of them?

RevBev July 13th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I really liked the history about PBS and those struggles. Do you see any improvement there as part of a larger reform or something that could be a separate piece?

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Hi Bev, John, RJ and everyone: Sorry for the late check-in

dakine01 July 13th, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 9

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Clicking on “Reply” will pre-fill the comment number and commenter being replied to and makes it easier for folks to follow the conversation.

Note: some browsers do not like to let the Reply function correctly if pressed after a hard page refresh and before the page completes loading

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:16 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 8

It is a real challenge to get media engaged with covering reform.

One challenge is that broadcast media makes a lot of money under the current system. Local TV stations are living large on all those negative ads, so they don’t recognize a crisis.

People do get it, however. Support for major reform crosses lines of party and ideology.

I think that what we need to do it to get the road – take these issues to the people. Bob and I have been blown away by the level of popular sentiment that’s afoot. We need to stir it up: hold public events, report them through the media that it available, use social media. It is working but we have to turn up the volume ourselves. Old media won’t do it.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Welcome, Bob. Glad to have you. Jump right in as soon as you’re ready.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I’ll repeat my earlier question to get Bob’s thoughts, too: What, if anything, surprised you the most in researching and writing this book?

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:22 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 11

RJ–

I suspect John is taking a whack at this as well.

The short answer to this terrific question is that journalists tend to internalize the code for coverage, despite its being so lame when one stands back and views it from afar. A journalist who questioned the horserace coverage and the obsession with how effectively campaigns manipulate people would probably be a fish out of water.

But there are several great reporters who do tremendous reporting. Nick Confessore of the NY Times is magnificent. These reported do give a sense of what great reporting looks like. And we draw liberally from them in our book.

But the overriding problem now is the sheer collapse in the amount of election reporting, the dubious quality notwithstanding. Most races get no coverage whatsoever or so little as to be insignificant. This dramatically increases the imortance of the political advertising.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:23 pm
In response to BevW @ 10

The US has faced many moments like this. The Gilded Age comes to mind. The money power has always been around and it has often been overwhelming. In the past, there was an understanding of the need to address big challenges w/big reforms — including constitutional amendments. The progressive era produced 3 — women voting, elected Senate, progressive taxation.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Thanks, John. Here’s another question, when you’re ready: How important do you think the 1996 Telecommunications Act was to this downward slide in coverage and public awareness?

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:24 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 20

Needless to say, the question’s open to both of you.

dakine01 July 13th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I still wind up comparing the reporting I see these days to Hunter Thompson during the ’72 elections (and most come up woefully short)

Peterr July 13th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Welcome, Robert, John, and RJ.

In the highlighted data presented in the post, it was the last one that caught my eye: “Small donors are a small part of the campaign finance system.”

While small donors might produce a minor amount of the overall money that goes into running a campaign, that’s not the reason why campaigns court them. In the end, on election day, a candidate needs one more vote than the next guy, and if you convinced someone to send you $25 back in June, you’ve got a pretty good shot at getting them to followup on that gift by showing up to vote in November. If you got them to send you $25 in June and another $50 in August, the odds of them showing up probably go up significantly. And if you got them to send you $25 in June, $50 in August, and $25 more on top of that in September, they’ll probably not only show up to vote themselves but drag their friends to the polls as well.

Working to build a network of small donors is not about fundraising as much as about GOTV.

Your thoughts?

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Bob, this internalization process you describe among reporters is truly fascinating. It’s made me wonder, only half-facetiously, if there is a kind of deprogramming service that might be offered. And your point about the collapse of coverage, leaving only advertising to convey information, is well taken.

What’s the solution: Mandated election coverage? Seems that won’t fly. Banning campaign ads? Getting closer, but still tough. What are your thoughts?

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:31 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 17

I learned so much writing this book it is hard to pin down one or two or threethings. Probably the shamelessness and cynicism of the Roberts Court and the corporate media that make billions by running these ads. I am a skeptic and I had no illusions about Roberts or corporate media, but still it was astounding to see how fundamentally hostile to fairness they are.

It was also striking to see the laws simply are not enforced that could actually eliminate some of the worst abuses. For example, all those “third party” SuperPAC ads that are not officially connected to campaigns are supposed to be treated by commercial broadcasters the =same way they are legally required to treat commercial ads: the stations are required to be satisfied that the ads are honest and not fraudulent or they are not supposed to run them. But no commercial station ever stopped running these bogus ads—even when their own news departments exposed the ads as fraudulent—and the FCC made no effort whatsoever to enforce the law.

Finally, I was surprised at how well the Obama campaign and soon all candidates have brought the Internet into the money and media election complex. The NSA has nothing on Obama and the politicians when it comes to building up massive dossiers on individuals. Obama knew everything about individual voters and was able to craft messages to them. This is a scary future, especially when the dark money boys turn their attention to this area.

The Internet has been turned on its head from its initial promise. It will not solve the problem of lame elections and political corruption; it may make matters worse, much worse, barring dramatic reform.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:34 pm

This is a striking and important comment: “Obama knew everything about individual voters and was able to craft messages to them. This is a scary future, especially when the dark money boys turn their attention to this area.”

Even more important: “The Internet has been turned on its head from its initial promise. It will not solve the problem of lame elections and political corruption; it may make matters worse, much worse, barring dramatic reform.”

What sort of reform do you envision?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:34 pm
In response to Peterr @ 23

It is definitely true that small-donor fund raising is used not just for $ but for mobilization.
But the mistake is to think that small donors can begin to rival the across-the-board influence of big donors.
Big donors are, as we show on the book, covering their bases at the local, state and federal electoral levels. And they are winning more often than they are losing.
Traditional strategies for small-donor fund raising and mobilization just can’t keep up.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:38 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 24

The solution to non-existent campaign coverage? We have to recognize that journalism is a public good. The market cannot provide it in sufficient quality or quantity. That is why the USA had massive postal and printing subsidies for newspapers through he 19th century. The rise of advertising—which provided 50-100 percent of news media revenues—gave the illusion that the market could support journalism, and indeed great fortunes were made.

But advertising has flown the coop and in the digital realm of smart advertising none of the money now bankrolls editorial content. So commercial journalism is dying and will continue to die.

We need enlightened public subsidies to generate an independent, uncensored and competitive nonprofit and noncommercial news media system. We write about that at length in our earlier work.

Bluetoe2 July 13th, 2013 at 2:39 pm

If the U.S. still exists in 75-100 years it just may have those recommendations in place. A Balkanization of what was once the U.S., however, is more likely.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:39 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 26

I would add with regard to the data mining issue that this is becoming a huge part of the fund-raising equation. Campaigns and parties data mine with an eye toward getting every penny they can out of donors for big-profile national races. Unfortunately, this steers donations away from state and local races. It may be true that state and local candidates will catch up it the power of data mining in combination with the fear factor will more often than not push the nationalization of our politics. What this means is that the big money will be more and more powerful in local races.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

“We need enlightened public subsidies to generate an independent, uncensored and competitive nonprofit and noncommercial news media system. We write about that at length in our earlier work.”

I know you’ve dealt with these issues before, and in many ways I see “Dollarocracy” as a continuation of your past work on the media. Many people have been impressed with the thoroughness of the Guardian’s NSA coverage, and that has led them to discover that the Guardian is funded by a trust and isn’t driven by profits.

Any thoughts for encouraging more ventures of this kind in the US? Any example of good working models or potential models – ProPublica? Nation Institute? etc etc?

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:44 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 26

This is a difficult question to answer, because the Internet will not be solved on its own but as part of very broad reforms. For John and me this means a number fo constitutional amendments, starting with the right to vote.

But the immediate requirement for the Internet is that we need to institute privacy protection online that is rock solid. We have to minimize and make more difficult the ability of candidates to present individual messages to voters that are entirely unaccountable. Right now we are entering a world in which candidates can craft messages that have nothing to do with their actual positions but say exactly what individual voters will be most likely to respond to, by combing through the dossier for each person.

And having actual credible journalism and actual credible debates with candidates from all parties would help a great deal too.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:47 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 24

All the reforms you mention are tough. But all of them are in place in countries where The Economists Democracy Index say that civic life is more robust. We should be borrowing ideas that work. Many countries set basic standards to assure that elections are covered. Many countries bar or strictly limit campaign ads. We review the global landscape in the book. It’s interesting and inspiring. Like Jefferson, we believe the US can learn from the rest of the world — just as we can and should seek to inspire.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Fascinating. This is an aspect of Internet campaigning I hadn’t fully considered before. I’ve written a fair amount about the public and private misuse of Big Data, but hadn’t focused on this issue before. Thanks for opening my eyes.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 31

The Guardian is a wonderful news medium. It is a nonprofit organization run by the Scott Family Trust. Were it owned by the usual hedge fund crowd it is almost certain that it would not be at all like what it is.

The Guardian is a massive success online in terms of traffic, quality, awards. Yet The Guardian management acknowledges that the paper still has no idea how to break even and maintain it current level of reporting in the digital realm. It relies on the print edition for much of its revenues. When that goes they have no alternative.

This should give us all pause. If The Guardian can’t do it, who can?

Hence the need for public subsides and enlightened policies.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 2:49 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 33

Which US organizations are doing the best work in these aspects of democratic reform? Or do we need to push for new ones?

Peterr July 13th, 2013 at 2:51 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 27

I wasn’t suggesting that small donors could make up for large donor influence. Instead I was trying to say that it doesn’t make sense to me to think about small donors as a part of the fundraising efforts at all.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 2:53 pm
In response to Bluetoe2 @ 29

Balkanization? Who knows, perhaps. It is awfully hard to predict five or ten years from now , let alone 100.

Look at the world of 1913 and see how radically different it was form today. I suspect the change from now to 2113 will be much much greater than the change from 1913 to 2013. Our job is to do what we can to see that the change is for the better and serves democratic and humane values.

RevBev July 13th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

That reminds me of your portrait of LBJ and PBS. Do you see anyone pushing for any such enlightened policies?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 2:57 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 36

A lot of groups are doing great work at the local and state levels. They are key drivers. At the national level, Free Speech for People, Move to Amend, Common Cause, Public Citizen, PFAW and others are in the Citizens United issue. On media reform, we’re proud of the work of Free Press, with which Bob and I have long been associated.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:01 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 36

RJ—You ask fantastic questions.

There are lots of groups working on these issues and I hesitate to start naming names because then I forget someone and piss people off needlessly.

The group that John and I co-founded with Josh Silver, Free Press, is taking up a lot of the work on the media side. People interested in this work should check FP out.

Our basic argument is that we need to think big. The corruption of the political system that has grown in an unimpeded manner for the past three plus decades has had disastrous effects on all our institutions and our culture. Stagnation, Inequality, surveillance, have increased by leaps and bounds. The future is awfully grim for anyone in their 20s, or younger. We need a broad movement that sees itself as radically democratizing the nation and all its institutions. Only that type of tidal wave has the ability to win lasting victories.

We are not pessimists. We believe the American people are more progressive today than in our lifetimes, if not ever. That is why the Dollarcrats are obsessed with letting billionaires and corporations buy elections on one hand and allowing state governments to suppress the vote on the other hand. They know Dollarocracy could never prevail in a fair election with 60 or more percent of the population voting. They have to rig the system,

We have the numbers on our side. Now we need to organize. We need organized peo0pel to defeat organized money.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Thanks! Great answer! I was worried I might be inadvertently setting this trap when I asked the question: “I hesitate to start naming names because then I forget someone and piss people off needlessly.”

It must feel a little like accepting an Oscar.

I strongly agree with you about the current progressivity of the American electorate. And I love your goal of thinking truly big.

That’s what you must have meant when you described the book in the preface as “radical in the best sense of the term” – not “radical” as in outside the mainstream of current public opinion, but “radical” as in providing the truly transformative kind of change the public wants and needs.

Am I getting close?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:07 pm
In response to Peterr @ 37

I tend to share your view, though some campaigns have devoloped small-donor bases that can keep them in the game. U
Unfortunately, as you understand, this gets harder as big donors get more aggressive. We were really struck in preparing the book by the rapid rate at which local and state races are being transformed by big money. This is especially true in judicial contests.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:09 pm
In response to RevBev @ 39

Thanks, Bev, for the kind words. John and I are proud of the original research we did on public broadcasting’s origins in the 1960s in the USA. We came up with a lot of material that have never been published before.

The moment to implement an Amercian BBC was lost then,m I regret to say. The corporate media inmteretss have total control over the political process and politicians in both parties are scared to death to suggest any policy that might antagonize them.

This touches on another point we make in the book (an is original research no one has done before): In the 1990s there was a groundswell of support for campaign finance reform. McCain, Feingold, Clinton and a lot of bignames said it had to be done. FCC head William Kennard decided to make requiring the commercial broadcasters to give free airtime to candidates a major policy objects during the second term on the Clinton presidency. He travelled the country and got wildly enthusiastic support for the idea, from across the political spectrum.

In DC, however, the response was ice cold. Kennard was finally pulled aside by some political heavyweights who informed him that if he continued with the campaign it would end his career and jeopardize the FCC budget. He backed down. Since then, no member of the FCC or Congress has made any serious attempt at reform. The corruption of the system is palpable.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:11 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 42

Indeed, you get it.

By the way, I apologize for all my typos. I am a lousy typist, a hunt and pecker.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

“Kennard was finally pulled aside by some political heavyweights who informed him that if he continued with the campaign it would end his career and jeopardize the FCC budget. He backed down. Since then, no member of the FCC or Congress has made any serious attempt at reform. The corruption of the system is palpable.”

I recognize there’s probably some source confidentiality involved, so ignore this question if necessary. I won’t ask who, but: Republican? Democrat? Both?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:12 pm
In response to RevBev @ 39

Free Press is highly engaged on these issues, as are many other media reform groups.

In the Senate, Bernie Sanders had been a true champion. Sherrod Brown is superb, as well. In the House, Donna Edwards and Louise Slaughter are terrific.

We do need to get campaign finance reformers thinking more about the media-reform equation. They cannot be separated.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 47

Are you referring to “Free Press” and the “Free Press Action Fund,” which can be found here?

http://www.freepress.net/

PeasantParty July 13th, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Welcome to all of you, and my apologies for coming in late.

I know we are all searching for a way to bring Democracy back, and most of us know it is not going to happen the way we wish. I’ve been reading and searching alternatives for a long time. I really think we as the little people of this country are going to have to follow the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence ourselves. I mean that in the best way. I think we are going to have to stop giving our money to the banks, or use alternate currencies. I also feel that being a different kind of consumer will make the biggest difference.

RevBev July 13th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 47

Thanks. That’s very helpful. Im only about 1/2 way through the book;) Do the efforts you describe look mostly promising, even if very difficult?

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:20 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 20

Does, ‘Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America,’address this question of the impact of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 at all?

[NOTE: lurved you both in 'Orwell rolls In His Grave.']

PeasantParty July 13th, 2013 at 3:24 pm

In your book do you discuss the Consent of the Governed? I am finding the secret laws and secret courts and something so far out of bounds that no real American can even consider consent. How can we be bound by secret laws?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 49

There is no one response that will work. But I do hold to the view that constitutional amendments will be needed. Jefferson and Madisin argued for regular updating of the American experiment to respond to changing times. I think they were right.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:27 pm

The Telecom Act played a negative role because it greatly loosened ownership rules for the number of radio stations a single company could own. (This rule for radio ownership was snuck into the law, was written by corporate lobbyists, and was never reviewed in nay serious manner by Congress. Most members had little or no idea it was in the bill when they voted for in in 1996.) This led to a wave of consolidation between 1996-2000 and the effective elimination of radio as a local news medium in the United States. Radio should be our greatest local medium because the costs are so low for producer and receiver. It became centralized and regimented.

Otherwise the 96 Act did not have a lot to do with Dollarocracy. Often times, the 96 Act is used as a catch-all for the pro-corporate policies of the period, which leads to some confusion.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:31 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 53

I would add that since the Civil War there have been four great reform periods in US history: reconstruction, the progressive era, the New Deal, and the 1960s-early 70s. In each of the four reform periods there were multiple constitutional amendments passed, amendments that were thought to be impossible until shortly before they passed.

If we are going to have the caliber fo reforms necessary to take this country away from the Dollarcrats, history suggests it will likely be accompanied by several constitutional amendments. And thanks to the Roberts Court, that is not even optional if we are serious about a democratic America.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

In ‘Dollarocracy’ you allude to the fact that Sheldon Adelson’s a highly visible mega-donor, but that there are many others who prefer to remain in the shadows. Any names for us, or are current laws allowing them to successfully remain in the shadows?

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:33 pm
In response to RevBev @ 50

Very good question. Writing the book actually made us more optimistic. The activism across the country is inspired — and inspiring, especially on overturning Citizens Unired. People get it. Unfortunately, this activism is SO poorly covered in the major media. That’s part of why we did the book – and why we will do a very ambitious national tour in the fall.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:37 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 57

John writes: “Writing the book actually made us more optimistic. The activism across the country is inspired — and inspiring, especially on overturning Citizens United. People get it.”

That’s great to hear. I’m not sure I have a question, but it’s great to hear.

PeasantParty July 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 57

That is excellent news!

People really understand they are not being represented. They just need to know they are not alone in feeling the way they do. Men and Women both have been mentally and physically buckled by loss of jobs and hope.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 58

I DO have a question: Since you’re finding such a groundswell of support, especially against Citizens United, any thoughts on how to unify it into a movement?

(I have a hidden agenda behind this question, which you can either address or ignore: That this movement, independent of party establishments, could unify around this issue and continue to grow from there. “You may say I’m a dreamer …”)

BevW July 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 57

That’s part of why we did the book – and why we will do a very ambitious national tour in the fall.

Will your schedule be available for people to check to see for when you will be in their part of the country?

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm

thank you. in your perspective[s], will the prometheus radio project be of help to further reform and take the country away from the Dollarcrats? http://www.prometheusradio.org/

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:42 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 56

We pay a lot of attention in the book to the DeVos family of Michigan — Amway heirs who are huge donors on behalf of school vouchers. We also look at the ambitious Koch Brothers. But the real powerhouses are often hedge-fund managers who give quietly. They don’t want headlines. They just want to define the debate.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:43 pm
In response to RJ Eskow @ 56

John can probably give a better answer here than I can.

One of the stories of 2012 and the new post-Citizens United World was that most of the donations gravitated toward the shadowy dark money third party groups that were unaffiliated with campaigns. These Groups, run by the likes of Karl Rove, used a series of gimmicks to launder money that would have impressed the Medellin drug cartel. That is the wave of the future.

Who are these guys? The usual suspects: oil and drug companies, polluters,banks, hedge fund gazillionaires. People who have a lot to gain by owning the government and little to gain by having their role in the election widely known. Hot dogs like Sheldon Adelson are the exceptions.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:44 pm
In response to cherwell @ 62

Yes. Huge fan of LPFM.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:44 pm
In response to cherwell @ 62

We are hugely enthusiastic about Prometheus. They do great, great grassroots media work, great advocacy and are essential to the broad campaign for media reform!

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:45 pm
In response to BevW @ 61

Yes, we will. I will probably do a mailing to my list with the tour schedule in late August. If anyone reading this wants to be added to my list, just email me at rwmcchesney@gmail.com

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:48 pm
In response to BevW @ 61

Yes! There’s a great website: http://www.dollarocracy-book.com/

It will have the schedule and lots more.

Also, keep an eye on The Nation’s site: http://www.thenation.com

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:48 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 66

merci! we are, too. NOTE: “there may be room for as many as FIVE new community radio station(s) in Atlanta but we will need a special waiver of the FCC rules.” hope we are on yoru book tour.

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:49 pm

There’s widespread public support for overriding Citizens United. How about publicly-financed elections? What kind of reaction are you seeing to that idea?

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

thanks!!! for those who may have had to also look up the meaning of LPFM: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LPFM

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:51 pm
In response to cherwell @ 69

Are you in Atlanta?

BevW July 13th, 2013 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the last few minutes of this great Book Salon discussion,

Bob, John, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book, and the corruption of the media by money and politics.

Richard, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Bob’s website (Univ Illinois) (Open Democracy) (Free Press) and book(s)

John’s website (The Nation) (Free Press) (Twitter) and book(s)

Richard’s website (Senior Fellow, Campaign for America’s Future) (TruthOut) (HuffingtonPost)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Christopher S. Parker & Matt Barreto / Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America; Hosted by Anthony DiMaggio

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

RJ Eskow July 13th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Thank you, Bev, for inviting me to host this terrific event. I found it, like the book itself, both informative and inspiring. For that I must thank John Nichols and Robert McChesney for writing a terrific book and for joining us here today.

Robert W. McChesney July 13th, 2013 at 3:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 73

Thank you all!

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

yeppers, the beloved community. thanks for this gift of your time today. i sent you an email.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:55 pm

We don’t have an Atlanta visit scheduled as yet. We are in New England, NYC, Philly, DC, Charlotteville, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, LA, SF, Seattle, Portland and more.

First stop: Madison July 24!

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

thank YOU, bev.

John Nichols July 13th, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thanks everyone. See you on the tour!

cherwell July 13th, 2013 at 3:59 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 77

thanks. will alert Artivists in those cities. also, a stellar presentation by mr. nichols: http://www.mediastewards.org/john-nichols-dollarocracy-how-the-money-and-media-election-complex-is-destroying-america/

RevBev July 13th, 2013 at 4:11 pm
In response to John Nichols @ 77

Get to Austin; there is a great book forum at Book People; usually well-attended.

Elliott July 13th, 2013 at 4:39 pm

This was a wonderful – and important discussion, thank you all.

And best of luck in your book tour – sell many often everywhere.

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