Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

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Why Do the Major Media Hate Patrick J. Buchanan?

Even before maverick populist Pat Buchanan broke with the Republican establishment over the issues of free trade, immigration and foreign policy, the major media in America has smeared him as an "isolationist," a "protectionist" and worse. Here are the facts ...

Back in the early 1970s, Buchanan was cognizant of the power of the major media to make or break political candidates. Thus, as a speech writer for then-Vice President Spiro Agnew, he drafted a speech which the vice president delivered in Des Moines on Nov. 13, 1969.

In that speech Agnew warned of the unchecked power of the media monopoly. Upon delivering the speech, the vice president was promptly dubbed a dangerous extremist and the press began a sustained attack on the vice president that only ended when he left office.

What follows is the abbreviated text of then-Vice President Agnew's speech (actually written by Buchanan) criticizing the power of the television networks. The warnings by Agnew (Buchanan) are more timely today than ever before, particularly in light of a growing monopoly over the control of the American media.

No medium has a more profound influence [than television news] over public opinion. Nowhere in our system are there fewer checks on vast power. So, nowhere should there be more conscientious responsibility exercised than by the news media ... The purpose [here] is to focus your attention on this little group of men who ... wield a free hand in selecting, presenting and interpreting the great issues of our nation.

First, let us define that power. At least 40 million Americans each night, it is estimated, watch the network news ... For millions of Americans the networks are the sole source of national and world news.

How is this network news determined? A small group of men, numbering perhaps no more than a dozen "anchormen," commentators and executive producers, settle upon the 20 minutes or so of film and commentary that is to reach the public. This selection is made from the 90 to 180 minutes that may be available. Their powers of choice are broad. They decide what 40 to 50 million Americans will learn of the day's events in the nation and the world.

We cannot measure this power and influence by traditional democratic standards for these men can create national issues overnight.

• They can make or break -- by their coverage and commentary -- a moratorium on the war.

• They can elevate men from local obscurity to national prominence within a week.

• They can reward some politicians with national exposure and ignore others.

• For millions of Americans, the network reporter who covers a continuing issue ... becomes in effect, the presiding judge in a national trial by jury ...

A raised eyebrow, an inflection of the voice, a caustic remark dropped in the middle of a broadcast can raise doubts in a million minds about the veracity of a public official ... The power of the networks ... represents a concentration of power over American public opinion unknown in history.

What do Americans know of the men who wield this power? Of the men who produce and direct the network news the nation knows practically nothing. Of the commentators, most Americans know little, other than that they reflect an urbane and assured presence, seemingly well informed on every important matter.

We do know that, to a man, these commentators and producers live and work in the geographic and intellectual confines of Washington, D.C or New York City -- the latter of which [liberal columnist] James Reston terms the "most unrepresentative community in the entire United States."

We can deduce that these men thus read the same newspapers, and draw their political and social views from the same sources. Worse, they talk constantly to one another, thereby providing artificial reinforcement to their shared viewpoints ...

The American people would rightly not tolerate this kind of concentration of power in government. Is it not fair and relevant to question its concentration in the hands of a tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men, elected by no one, and enjoying a monopoly sanctioned and licensed by government?

The views of this fraternity do not represent the views of America ... As with other American institutions, perhaps it is time that the networks were made more responsive to the views of the nation and more responsible to the people they serve ...

The upshot of all this controversy is that a narrow and distorted picture of America often emerges from the televised news. A single dramatic piece of the mosaic becomes, in the minds of millions, the whole picture ...

Perhaps the place to start looking for a credibility gap is not in the offices of the government in Washington, but in the studios of the networks in New York ... We would never trust such power over public opinion in the hands of an elected government -- it is time we questioned it in the hands of a small and unelected elite.