Not long ago, I and some others started a new Facebook group, "Populist Revolt & Lounge." The idea was to create a hang-out where progressives, liberals, lefties (even radical lefties like yours truly) could go to hash out the issues of the day, exchange info on those issues and otherwise shoot the breeze about whatever else may be on their minds without a lot of heavy-handed interference from those who ran the place. Not long ago, Facebook introduced a system that allowed those in the group to add subject-tags to their posts and the group has taken advantage of this. With all of that as premise, here's something I wrote for the group this evening and decided to archive it here:
Since I began making use of Facebook's new tagging system, "corruption" has been the top topic here on Populist Revolt & Lounge. That isn't really surprising--corruption is, after all, the sort of thing that provokes populist revolts--but I've been conducing a little non-scientific experiment while perusing the latest news headlines: I put "corruption" into Google News. As of this writing, here, in order, are the top 10 headlines this returns:
"Cloud of corruption hangs over Bulgaria as it takes up EU presidency"
"Corruption Is Mexico's Original Sin"
"Two Saudi princes released from detention in anti-corruption probe"
"ED must walk the talk on corruption"
"Peru's president and rival face questions in corruption case"
"Romania's ruling party wants to soften corruption rules"
"How corruption brought Nigeria to her knees at Christmas"
"Vietnam party chief praises fight against corruption"
"Judge suspends 5 Honduran lawmakers accused of corruption"
"Howard Dean: Republicans will be 'nailed with corruption' for GOP tax bill"
Though government in the U.S. is demonstrably corrupt--almost impenetrable behind the piled up layers of money, bribery and graft at every level--you have to go all the way down to the 10th result to find a single example of the press using that word "corruption" in connection with anything in the United States. Even that 10th one is just a partisan charge of corruption leveled by a prominent Democrat as covered by Salon. The 11th returns to form with a headline regarding South Africa ("2017 an important year in the struggle against corruption"). Much of the corporate press is comfortable covering corruption in foreign lands and comfortable calling that corruption by its proper name but when it covers corruption in the U.S. government--which isn't very often--it rarely uses that word.
I've spent some time here promoting the recent work of David Sirota's team at the International Business Times regarding what became known as the "Corker Kickback." Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker was opposed to the Republican tax bill then ended up voting for it after a provision was inserted that financially benefited him. The only thing extraordinary about this was that significant elements of the corporate press picked up the story. The tax bill was little more than a pay-off to Republican donors but even after at least one prominent Repub legislators had all but admitted this in public, there's very little coverage of it and no sustained effort to scandalize the behavior. The "Corker Kickback" only ever made a dent because it could have affected the ultimate fate of the bill. Sirota recently wrote about how surprised the relevant legislators seemed when they were questioned about this. Whereas in a functioning liberal democracy such questions would be a matter of daily routine, American legislators are utterly unaccustomed to any such questions. They let the lobbyists for this-or-that big contributor to their political campaigns write whatever legislation they intend to introduce next and no one ever seriously calls them on it.
None of this is exactly a revelation but it helps underscore the extent to which U.S. institutions normalize corruption and this is a particularly damning thing to say about news media, who are supposed to act as the watchdog against this sort of thing. It also points to one of the central failings of political progressives: they've utterly failed to make the case for the extent to which everything in American politics tracks back to this corruption. Polls show the public are with the progressives on the matter of money in politics--people correctly realize that politicians do the bidding of their donors and deplore it--but ask the public to rank what they see as the most important political issues and "money in politics" ends up in single-digit obscurity somewhere in the "other" category. Correcting that should be the major immediate focus of progressives.