[SPORK] Ars piece on the Manufacturing of Grassroots

Tom tomwhore@slack.net
Wed, 26 Mar 2003 13:28:11 -0500 (EST)

from www.arstechnica.com
(this is something I almost posted about lasst week after seeing the "pro
troops" rally here in Portland OR, but ars sums it up nicely)
Media consolidation and the manufacture of grass-roots movement
Posted 3/25/2003 - 6:02PM, by Ken "Caesar" Fisher

This is going to be a touchy topic, but what are Tuesdays for? Whether for
or against this current war, I suspect that many people would be alarmed
at any indication that large media giants are purposefully taking sides on
political issues and actively silencing the other side, or worse yet,
attempting to curry disfavor against alternative views. Yet, that is
exactly what Clear Channel, the massive US radio giant, and a handful of
other radio companies are doing. Not only are they taking sides, but they
are actively promoting their own rallies throughout the US. I respectfully
submit that this represents a blurring of the lines between media and
politics that could have disastrous effects, if unchecked and
unrecognized. Take a moment, and forget about your own stance on the war:
is this the kind of thing you want to see more of in the future, once this
war is done and over with?

Everyone knows that certain media outlets are 'right' (FoxNews) while
others are 'left' (NYT). But that's just it: there's different sources,
and anyone who follows the media closely knows where these outlets stand,
and where to find certain kinds of political views and the like. But what
does it mean when dozens of supposedly grass-roots rallies are possibly
being coordinated at the top of a media chain, by a company that is
currently hoping that the FCC will further deregulate the radio waves in
the hopes of taking even more market share than they have already? Just
for reference[1],

"Clear Channel is by far the largest owner of radio stations in the
nation. The company owned only 43 in 1995, but when Congress removed many of the
ownership limits in 1996, Clear Channel was quickly on the highway to
radio dominance. The company owns and operates 1,233 radio stations
(including six in Chicago) and claims 100 million listeners. Clear Channel
generated about 20 percent of the radio industry's $16 billion in 2001

I've waited until now to mention the political orientation of these
rallies in the hopes of conveying the notion that this issue is larger
than just a for or against the war agenda. As it turns out, Clear Channel
looks to be behind a number of pro-war rallies[2]. The company has denied
that such rallies were orchestrated from the top, but cynics point towards
Clear Channel Vice Chairman Tom Hicks, the man who made Bush a
multimillionaire by buying the Texas Rangers, and suggest impropriety. To
be sure, we all know that bias is present in the media. Indeed, we here at
Ars tend to embrace bias, so long as it's reflexive, and acknowledges the
existence of other views. (I would further add that bias is a natural,
inescapable state of affairs that can never be done away with, even if it
can be scrutinized with ever-increasing reflexivity.) Whether or not Clear
Channel is really behind such a move, I cannot be certain. But it does
afford yet another opportunity to think about the increasing dangers of
oligarchy, and the need for a critical awareness of the function of the
media in society.

[1] http://www.chicagotribune.com/templates/misc/printstory.jsp?slug=chi-0303190157mar19&section=/printstory
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/25/opinion/25KRUG.html?ex=1049259600&en=add70e6474219211&ei=5062&partner=GOOGLE