Fox News Seizes Control Over GOP Primary, Still Claims to be Non-Partisan “News” Source

© Josh Sager – July 2015

During the 2016 election cycle, Fox News is trying to simultaneously control the primary process and steer it towards their desired outcome, while still trying to be seen as a “neutral” press observer that has no political biases. While this is nothing new, the 2016 GOP primary promises to bring this hypocrisy to record, undeniable, levels.

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On one hand, Fox claims to be a legitimate news organization that provides “fair and balanced” reporting and analysis. They claim to be non-partisan, completely disconnected from the messaging apparatus or control structure of the Republican Party, and a straight-shooting factual organization.

On the other hand, Fox has taken an active role in not just covering the 2016 GOP primary, but also acting as the gatekeeper for who is allowed to even enter the race. By controlling the 2016 primary debate entry requirements and claiming the power to deny candidates entry into the debates, Fox can essentially destroy a campaign before it gets off the ground. This basically gives them veto power over each primary candidacy and the ability to compel candidates to comply with their demands.

Because they have set an arbitrary 10-person limit on the official GOP debates and plan to select candidates from the truly massive field based upon arbitrary characteristics, they can summarily destroy any campaign that they don’t approve of.

Fox News plans to use national poll numbers to determine the top 10 candidates who will be allowed into the debates—this is flawed for three main reasons:

First, a 10-person limit is absolutely arbitrary, and would virtually cut the 18 candidate field in half. This will necessarily eliminate many viable candidates for no legitimate reason.

Second, national polls so early in the primary process are completely pointless and have absolutely no bearing on seriousness or eventual success. Polling that occurs so early in the race benefits people with high name recognition and people who say extreme things that stir up the base but re completely unrealistic or toxic to moderates (case in point: Trump).

Third, Fox hasn’t even revealed which national polls it will be using, thus it can cherry-pick polls that say what it wants them to while still cloaking their choice in a thin veil of objectivity.

The fact that Fox news can control the GOP debate process and that the GOP “leadership” seems content to let them take control over the party reveal that Fox is not just a TV network, but also the corporate entity at the center of the GOP establishment. They are not just a right-wing opinion or propaganda network, but the true brain of the Republican Party.

Put simply, nobody who is even marginally informed and in possession of functional cognitive faculties can claim that Fox News is anything but right-wing propaganda. Fox has hired an unbelievable number of GOP politicians and presidential candidates as “analysts” and has spewed an endless stream of GOP talking points for decades. Additionally, FOIA requests have revealed a memo that Roger Ailes wrote a for Nixon detailing the blueprint for Fox as the GOP’s news network. In this memo, Ailes detailed plans for a Republican propaganda organization that actively tricked viewers into accepting propaganda as fact by claiming to be straight news—in fact, he literally picked the slogan “fair and balanced” as the tagline for this propaganda mill.

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This is the first paragraph of the Ailes Memo—it goes on to argue that TV is the perfect medium for propaganda because people will believe will produced AV propaganda more than print propaganda.

With its actions during the 2016 GOP primary, Fox News has proven itself to not just to be aligned with the GOP, but actually a part of its internal power structure. In the face of this, we must demand that politicians and media figures stop treating Fox as just another news outlet. They are not neutral, nor are they real news. They are the voice of the GOP establishment and are no more of a news organization than the PR department of the Democratic National Committee.

In addition to destroying the illusion of Fox as a real news source, this situation illustrates a worrying conflict of interest caused by the flood of money in politics. If a Republican wants to improve their poll numbers and have a chance of getting into the debate (or just preserve their spot if they already have one), they must spend massive amounts of money to advertise their candidacy. As the GOP base almost exclusively relies upon Fox News for information, this means that these candidates are forced to buy Fox ad spots if they want to be effective. Fox has an economic incentive to create competition to get into the debate because it increases the value of their advertising and forces candidates to pay Fox in order to get a voice.

Ironically, this situation makes me agree with people like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina, who I would normally spend my time deriding as lunatics. These second-tier candidates for the 2016 GOP primary will almost certainly not make the Fox cut for the debates, thus will never even have a chance to make their positions known to the GOP electorate. They are being excluded from the race by an unelected, for-profit, entity that doesn’t even have the integrity to admit what it is. In response to this exclusion from the debate, these candidates have begun to protest, but to little effect (after all, Fox isn’t composed of elected officials who can be voted out).

While I disagree strongly with what the GOP primary candidate are likely to say, this is a democracy and they should have a reasonable platform to state their opinions. The GOP primary race is currently so large and volatile that it is simply wrong to exclude everybody but the top ten from the process. According to the most recent polling, Donald Trump is absolutely crushing the competition with 24% support among likely GOP voters, while Scott Walker and Jeb Bush are trailing at 13% and 12% respectively. Beyond these three at the top, Huckabee, Rubio, Carson and Paul are standing at between 8% and 6% support, while Cruz, Perry and Christie have between 4% and 3% support. If Fox uses this poll to determine who gets into the debates, they will cut off everybody below Christie, despite the fact that candidates like Kasich, Pataki, and Santorum have support just marginally under Christie and well within the poll margin of error (which is usually between 3% and 6% in either direction).

A fair system for the current GOP primary field would create a platform for ALL candidates who have measurable levels of support and ensure that Fox executives weren’t the ones deciding who Republicans get to vote for. Unfortunately, Fox is unlikely to do this, as the power to control who can even compete for the 2016 GOP nomination in such a weak field, is the power to indebt whoever the eventual nominee is to the Fox leadership.

Exposed: Big Brother Targets Black Lives

Government spying can be an ‘effective way to chill protest movements,’ warns Center for Constutitonal Rights

by: Deirdre Fulton

Participants in Black Lives Matter protests have marked an all-too-common rite of passage for social justice movements in the U.S.—they’ve been systematically spied on by the federal government.

According to exclusive reporting from The Intercept published Friday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been monitoring and collecting data on the two-year-old movement since protests against racism and police brutality erupted inFerguson, Missouri last summer.

“There’s a long history of the federal agencies…seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security.”
—Raven Rakia

The revelations are based on an analysis of hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request. As journalist George Joseph reports, the cache of documents “indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.”

The documents—which Joseph notes “may well represent a small fraction of state surveillance against Black Lives Matter”—show that in some cases, DHS produced minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements in demonstrations and in other cases “planned  surveillance of…seemingly innocuous events, two of which were associated with historically black neighborhoods.”

Joseph writes:

The tracking of domestic protest groups and peaceful gatherings raises questions over whether DHS is chilling the exercise of First Amendment rights, and over whether the department, created in large part to combat terrorism, has allowed its mission to creep beyond the bounds of useful security activities as its annual budget has grown beyond $60 billion.

For its part, DHS told The Intercept in an email that “the DHS National Operations Center statutory authority…is limited to providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture for the federal government, and for state, local, tribal governments as appropriate, in the event of a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster.”

But Baher Azmy, a legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, countered that the concept of “providing situational awareness” is problematic in and of itself.

“What they call situational awareness is Orwellian speak for watching and intimidation,” Azmy told The Intercept. “Over time there’s a serious harm to the associational rights of the protesters and it’s an effective way to chill protest movements. The average person would be less likely to go to a Black Lives Matter protest if the government is monitoring social media, Facebook, and their movements.”

As Raven Rakia, a journalist who investigates state surveillance and policing, pointed out to The Intercept, Friday’s revelations fall into the government’s well-documented pattern of spying on and suppressing black social movements and groups. “There’s a long history of the federal agencies, especially the FBI, seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security,” Rakia said.

However, neither government surveillance nor the overt repression widely reported in the media seems to have deterred the strengthening movement, which will gather for its first ever national convergence this weekend in Cleveland.

Read The Intercept‘s full exposé here.

Source: Exposed: Big Brother Targets Black Lives | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Guess Who Else Is Fundraising for Clinton: Private Prison Lobbyists

‘It is bad for all of us when these multibillion dollar companies use their considerable financial influence to try to pressure lawmakers’

by: Sarah Lazare

In addition to Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is turning to lobbyists for the two biggest private prison companies in the country, Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, to raise money for her 2016 presidential candidacy.

Lee Fang of The Intercept made the discovery after examining Clinton’s list of lobbyists who are bundlers for her presidential bid, released last week. Bundlers are people who raise money for campaigns by organizing and collecting contributions from other donors.

Among those funneling money into Clinton’s campaign are:

  • Richard Sullivan of the firm Capitol Counsel, documented lobbyist for GEO Group.
  • Five employees of lobbying and law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which received $240,000 from CCA last year.
  • “Akin Gump lobbyist and Clinton bundler Brian Popper disclosed that he previously helped CCA defeat efforts to compel private prisons to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests,” noted Fang.

Fang’s reporting comes on the heels of revelations that Clinton’s campaign has also benefited from the largesse of the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street.

Critics say the fresh evidence of Clinton’s ties to lobbyists for the private prison industry raises a host of new concerns.

“The future of both criminal justice reform and immigration are critical for private prison firms,” notes Fang. “The Geo Group, in a disclosure statement for its investors, notes that its business could be ‘adversely affected by changes in existing criminal or immigration laws, crime rates in jurisdictions in which we operate, the relaxation of criminal or immigration enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction, sentencing or deportation practices, and the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws or the loosening of immigration laws.'”

CCA and GEO have spent millions of dollars to press the U.S. government to impose harsher immigration laws that, in turn, spike corporate profits by driving up incarceration levels at their detention centers. Both companies stand accused of egregious human rights abuses at their facilities, from denial of mental and physical health care to inadequate nutrition.

“Private prisons have a long and well-documented history of giving to candidates of all levels and both parties and hiring lobbyists across the spectrum, so it doesn’t surprise me that prisons are trying to get in good with presidential candidates,” Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a Texas-based organization that opposes prison profiteering, toldCommon Dreams.

“We already know that, in the immigration system, private prisons have a huge and outsized influence and they certainly don’t need any more,” Parker added. “It is bad for all of us when these multibillion dollar companies use their considerable financial influence to try to pressure lawmakers.”

Source: Guess Who Else Is Fundraising for Clinton: Private Prison Lobbyists | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community