Media including blogs, newspapers and talkback radio, which present different viewpoints on news when compared to the mainstream media. The perspectives they provide are often free from the liberal bias that is present in the Mainstream Media, the term references media that is not in the pocket of mainstream liberal media. Alternative media tends to be conservative like Rush Limbaugh, libertarian like Alex Jones, and/or Christian like The Christian Post, though in rare cases some liberal alternative media outlets exist such as The Young Turks. The conservative website Drudge Report is one of the longest running alternative news aggregates online, but starting leaning liberal after Donald Trump was elected.1
A sizable majority of American adults say—when polled—that social media organizations “censor” political viewpoints:
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in June finds that roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults say it is very (37%) or somewhat (36%) likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable. Just 25% believe this is not likely the case.
At this point, of course, it’s hard to see how this is even debatable. While “censor” is perhaps not the most accurate term to use here—given the word’s connotations of state intervention—it is apparent that social media firms, at the very least, limit discussion and the reach of certain political viewpoints by banning certain users. These firms also openly admit to biasing readers against certain content through the use of “fact checkers.” Anecdotal evidence also strongly suggests that these social media firms also engage in tactics like “shadow banning,” which hides certain posts and content from certain users.
This is no haphazard or “neutral” bias, either. It is clear that the user bans and “fact checking” warnings against certain posts are designed to fall most often on groups that could be described as “conservative,” or “libertarian,” or which advocate in favor of Donald Trump and his allies.
As far as media companies go, this is just par for the course. What is perhaps so unusual in this case is that so many self-identified conservatives and libertarians seem surprised that things turned out this way.
This may be due to the fact that many continue to believe the false notion that social media companies are a sort of “public utility.” The social media companies themselves promote this myth and like to give the impression that they are open forums facilitating open communication. In reality, the firms are essentially just media companies like CNN, NBC, or the New York Times. Like ordinary media companies they modify and promote content to reflect the firm’s preferences. This is clear every time a social media company intervenes to modify “trending topics” lists, or remove content altogether. Consequently, the only meaningful difference between standard media companies and social media companies is that social media firms don’t produce their own content like ABC News or the Washington Post do. Rather, social media companies have convinced their users to produce all the content. The social media companies then reap the rewards in terms of selling personal information to advertisers and curating user-produced content to suit the companies’ own vision and needs.
Ultimately, the lesson to be learned here is that anyone who holds opinions outside a center-left or far left narrative should expect about as much “fairness” from social media firms as one might expect from CNN or NBC News. In other words, we should expect social media firms to ignore and marginalize the very same opinions and groups that have been ignored and marginalized by established media companies for decades.
This also means that organizations, writers, and publishers of these verboten opinions must do what they’ve always done: create their own publications and find effective methods of disseminating their content outside the control of establishment gatekeepers.
A Brief History of Media Bias
More seasoned observers of media behavior, of course, aren’t surprised or shocked when they hear that social media companies have taken steps to constrain the parameters of acceptable debate or silence certain voices.
The establishment media, its reporters, and its editors have viewed this kind of “censorship” as both necessary and laudable since at least the early twentieth century. It was at that time that American progressives began to make headway with the idea that journalists should act as gatekeepers of truth and that “the press” should determine for itself what it was that people ought to be allowed to read and know.
As I noted last year, this idea was promoted especially forcefully in Walter Lippmann’s 1922 book Public Opinion. Lippmann contended that ordinary people are incapable of reading about events from diverse sources and making up their own minds. Rather, it was necessary for experts to provide only “controlled reporting and objective analysis.”
But how is this “objective analysis” to be achieved? The answer, according to Lippman, lies in making journalism more scientific, and in making facts “fixed, objectified, measured, [and] named.”
Thus was born the idea of the “objective” journalist who was above bias and who communicated to the public the only truth. Naturally, this implies that all “untrue” narratives must therefore be silenced.
In reality, of course, the journalists and editors themselves, like all human beings, brought with them their own biases and partisan sympathies. As the twentieth century progressed, journalism schools at colleges and universities cemented certain biases among those who went to work for major media companies. By midcentury, changes in the technological and media landscape narrowed the number of media outlets and the public became increasingly dependent on fewer and fewer editors and journalists at a shrinking number of companies. As Bruce Thornton has explained at the Hoover Institution:
The second development that increased the malign partisan influence of the media in the postwar period was the rise of television and the decline in the number of newspapers. With that, there were fewer and fewer information sources from which readers could chose, giving the three television networks and the big metropolitan papers, especially the New York Times, inordinate unchallenged power over public information. At the same time, those seeking alternative points of view had fewer and fewer daily papers, while the ones that remained were dependent on a few news services such as the Associated Press, which represents one point of view. To speak in Madisonian terms, one media faction had now expanded to the point that it crowded out and marginalized alternative points of view.
Creating Alternatives to the Establishment Media
This transformation did not go unnoticed. By the 1940s, it was increasingly clear that a distinction had arisen between the “establishment” media and what would come to be known as “alternative media.” As Moira Weigel noted in her review of Claire Potter’s book on alternative media, Political Junkies:
Potter does not define precisely what she means by “alternative media.” But the term really only makes sense in opposition to the “mainstream” or mass media that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century, in the form of national newspapers and magazines, Hollywood film studios, and radio and television stations. These outlets grew up with new standards for objective reporting and new federal agencies and laws that forbade broadcasters from engaging in open partisanship. In 1927, Congress passed the Radio Act, requiring broadcasters to give political candidates equal opportunities to present their views. In 1949, the expanded Federal Communications Commission (created partly in response to the popularity of the antisemitic radio star Father Coughlin) established the “Fairness Doctrine,” requiring broadcasters of all kinds to provide multiple points of view on controversial issues. As more Americans tuned in, a carefully regulated Cold War media pushed them toward what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. famously named “the vital center.”
Although the new regulatory regime was allegedly devoted to “fairness,” more adroit observers understood that fairness was really just whatever the major media companies defined as “mainstream” while everything else came to be defined as beyond the pale of civilized discussion.
Naturally, many conservative groups opposed to the “center”—which in the mid-twentieth century really meant a center-left bent reflecting the views of midcentury university professors and other “experts” like Schlesinger himself—understood that the new fairness excluded their ideas.
The idea of “fair and balanced” partisan media has its roots in the 1940s and 1950s. Human Events, the right-wing newsweekly founded in 1944, was dedicated to publishing the “facts” other outlets overlooked.
This “alternative media” included other publications, many of which came out of the “Old Right,” such as the inimitable Frank Chodorov’s publication analysis, founded in 1944. Chodorov described it as “an individualistic publication—the only one of its kind in America,” and he would go on to edit another new alternative magazine called The Freeman, founded in 1954.
Rightist organizations like these, however, were not the only ones in the alternative media landscape. Weigel notes that independent journalists on the left were also objecting to the mainstream view being promoted by major outlets like the New York Times. Specifically, the work of left-wing journalist Izzy Stone became influential through his acolyte Seymour Hersh:
Hersh first encountered Stone’s work in 1964. At the time, Hersh was working at the Associated Press; by 1966, he and Stone had become friends. Hersh would later recall that Stone helped him recognize how the mainstream media marginalized journalists who dared to embarrass the government, and strengthened his conviction that the public had a right to information that both the media and government were trying to keep from them.
These organizations became all the more solidified in this belief when it became apparent that the federal government was willing to explicitly use the “fairness doctrine” to silent dissenters. Paul Matzko recounts how, “Conservative radio broadcasting surged in the early 1960s as a result of the rise of non-network, independent radio stations that were cash-strapped and willing to air people whose politics were too radical for network radio.”
These independent radio broadcasters criticized the Kennedy administration on a wide variety of topics from trade to foreign policy.
The administration took notice, and
The administration’s plan for dealing with these conservative irritants involved, among other measures, using the regulatory power granted to the executive branch to intimidate their donors and hosts. First, a special campaign of targeted Internal Revenue Service audits challenging their tax-exempt status stemmed the flow of donations to the offending broadcasters. Then, the selective application of the Federal Communication Commission’s Fairness Doctrine pressured station owners into dropping conservative programming altogether. All of this was coordinated from the Oval Office and the Attorney General’s office, part of it even caught on tape.
By the late 1960s, it was clear who was in charge of media: a small number of major media outlets backed up by the federal government. It was these players who would decide what was “fair,” what was “the center,” and what was acceptable political debate.
Naturally, this wasn’t done through any explicit announcements. Rather, the media used tactics such as what political scientists call “agenda setting,” “framing” and “priming” to set the terms of acceptable debate. These tactics involve the media emphasizing certain events over others, creating standards by which events ought to be judged, and simplifying issues by presenting only a small number of opposing viewpoints. This naturally has the effect of limiting which viewpoints end up being perceived by the public as “normal.” Viewpoints outside those presented as mainstream then strike the viewer or reader as “extreme.” Moreover, as the media picks and chooses which events to cover, some events and persons gain prominence in the national discussion while others fade into the background. This is an easy way to manipulate how the public views which facts are relevant and which are not.
The effect of all this is that many ideologies, persons, and facts are “censored” simply as a result of being ignored or excluded by media stories in broadcasts and printed texts.
The Rise of the Internet
In spite of all this, many independent media organizations continued to make inroads into the establishment media domain through radio broadcasts. This was especially true of conservative and right-wing broadcasts, which became immensely popular during the 1990s and early 2000s and influenced the media landscape considerably. The most successful of these was likely The Rush Limbaugh Show, although there were many imitators such as Michael Medved, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage.
So lucrative had this conservative “alternative” become that Fox News, which began broadcasts in 1996, attempted to capitalize on the notion of presenting “unbiased” news that would depart from the bias of organizations like CNN and NBC News. “We Report, You Decide” became the tagline, and many followers of conservative talk radio tuned in to hear the allegedly unbiased version of broadcast television news.
The landscape changed again as internet websites became increasingly influential. The Drudge Report, which began as an email newsletter in 1995 and went online in 1997, attracted an enormous readership after it became a source for information on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which the establishment media had initially refused to carry.
By 1999, numerous editors, webmasters, and organizations—ones generally ignored by the establishment media—were founding their own websites and producing their own content. Sites like LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com, and mises.org—among countless others—were gaining access to a far larger audience than had ever been available in the days of mailed newsletters. Meanwhile, more established publications like National Review moved much of their content online, capturing a much larger audience than had ever been possible in the days of magazines sent only to paid subscribers.
The Rise of Social Media
During this period, it is understandable that many followers of alternative media began to believe that it would finally become possible to compete with the old establishment media on its own terms.
After all, for the first time, any organization could inexpensively purchase a domain name, start a website, and make the organization’s materials and opinions accessible to the general public. In most cases, these websites were free to readers. This represented quite a departure from the days of newsletters, monthly magazines, and newspapers that were costly to produce and which reached audiences sometimes numbering only hundreds of people.
Now, the same points of view once hidden in obscure newsletters could be read by anyone, and could be linked from other websites. These articles could easily be quoted, reproduced, and even promoted through online ads and through established mailing lists.
Being an alternative news source suddenly got a whole lot easier, even if an organization still had to engage in the hard work of building an audience.
By the early 2000s, however, it was clear that the establishment media wasn’t about to disappear. In fact, many large national news organizations increased in power. This occurred because the proliferation of free online news sources and classified ads decimated revenue for smaller newspapers and news organizations. Midsized and small newspapers began to shrink or disappear entirely. And the relative power of the Washington Post and the New York Times increased. Moreover, old TV-viewing habits were difficult to change, and TV broadcasting continued to dominate the news cycle, even if commentary and alternative points of view could easily be found online for free.
Although the internet had made it far easier to deliver other viewpoints to readers, these readers still had to go out of their way to actually visit and read these sites. For many, it remained easier to just turn on the television and consume whatever information appeared on the screen before them.
With the rise of smartphones and social media, however, it looked like even small organizations might be able to place themselves in front of readers with even less effort. All that was necessary was for social media users to “like” your organization and then the reader would receive updates in news feeds as new information came online. It looked like the alternative media would be able to use social media to engage the reader every time he or she casually scrolled through the “news feed” on his/her desktop or smartphone.
By 2016, however, it was clear it wasn’t going to be so simple as all that. By then it was increasingly evident that social media companies were using their software to control what the readers saw in their news feeds beyond the readers’ use of the Like button. Moreover, accusations continued to mount that companies like Facebook and Twitter were curating the content within their listed “trending” topics and within the newsfeeds to emphasize certain stories while hiding other points of view.
Not surprisingly, the billionaires, editors, and curators at social media firms—many of whom worked within corporate cultures extremely similar to those found at establishment media firms—were interested in presenting a controlled news stream to readers. Social media firms continue to pretend to be “platforms,” but they are, in fact, media companies that edit and control what the public can see.
This, of course, was to be expected. There was never any reason to assume that the content managers meeting in offices at Facebook would be any more unbiased than the reporters in a newsroom at the Washington Post. These gatekeepers had their own set of biases and were more than happy to use their power to favor their preferred ideological bent.
The alternative media—and its readers—had made the mistake of thinking social media was an unbiased and objective player. It wasn’t. And it isn’t.
The Game Is Unchanged
Far from changing the game fundamentally, social media has actually helped to continue a trend that was already accelerating during the mid-twentieth century. It has helped to further centralize gatekeeping power over the media narrative in the hands of a relatively small number of people.
Moreover, social media has simply added its weight to the overall monolith of establishment media, which—while in decline—is anything but irrelevant. Indeed, traditional media like television likely remain more influential than social media. Although young Americans are watching less and less TV, the over-40 population, which votes more often than younger cohorts, still receives a very large amount of its news from organizations like CNN and Fox News. TV news may be for “old people,” but the fact remains that the voter turnout for the over-60 cohort is about double that of the 18–29 age group. Meanwhile, nearly 50 percent of Americans 65 and older still get their news from traditional TV. Fifty-eight percent of the over-65 group “often” get news from cable TV. Televised news is also relatively more central in the media habits of nonwhites and women.
We could contrast this with Twitter, which the establishment media often treats as if it were a representative slice of America. Yet surveys suggest only 22 percent of Americans use Twitter at all, and the overwhelming number of posts on Twitter are produced by only 10 percent of users. Twitter is primarily the domain of people who have graduate degrees, are white, and are left-of-center in their politics.
It could be that Twitter may be the news source of the future, but for now, people who actually vote get far more of their news from TV or other sources.
In any case, it should be clear that the game of providing alternative and dissenting viewpoints hasn’t actually changed much with the rise of social media. Any journalist, commentator, or organization that wishes to provide “alternative” views and critiques must fight to draw readers away from the dominant media companies, which enjoy all the advantages of deep pockets and support from university professors, government bureaucrats, and the wealthy.
In social media—as in the established old media—editors, curators, and managers work to promote their own self-described “mainstream” views while excluding as “extreme” the views of everyone else. This is the status quo we’ve long been facing, and it doesn’t look to be changing any time soon.
How the Left Censors Alternative Media
The 2016 election was the first in which the mainstream media lost its monopoly over political media coverage in the United States. The increasingly vigorous alternative media, whose reporting standards are superior to the networks and the cable news behemoths, is where more and more voters are getting their information.
Trump’s skillful courting of the conservative media, like The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, WND.com, and InfoWars, made Trump the first presidential candidate to reach these disaffected and highly motivated Americans effectively. At the same time, Trump’s relentless attacks on the media as “unfair” and “dishonest” came right out of the Nixon playbook, where both Nixon and Trump exploited the resentment of the biased media, so hated by their supporters.
Trump’s willingness to challenge openly the media outlets that went after him kept them somewhat honest in their coverage of his campaign but the relentless cable news networks’ attacks on him were unlike anything I have seen in the nine presidential campaigns in which I worked. The media dropped all pretext of objectivity. Their motives and tactics were naked. Most of this would largely backfire. American voters finally became hip to the fact that the media and the political establishment work hand-in-glove to conceal many facts from the American people. The voters no longer believe the mainstream media.2
On February 17, 2017, President Trump tweeted: “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” The list he mentioned was abbreviated, of course, and could have included many additional genuine enemies of freedom among the so-called elite media. The outrage that followed from the Fake News organizations the president lambasted was as hypocritical and hollow as it was predictable. En masse, they attempted to misrepresent Trump’s attack, which was directed at them specifically, as an attack on the First Amendment and journalism in general.
Federal and state government officials, together with their cronies in the major media and tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Microsoft, have ganged up to crush the upstart alternative media that are challenging (and have already surpassed, by some important metrics) the MSM Fake News monopoly that has protected and projected the globalist agenda for decades. Breitbart News, the Drudge Report, InfoWars, Natural News, and dozens of other Internet-based news providers have recently been banned/censored by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies.
A famous example in fiction is George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the main character works as a civil servant in the department responsible for altering or destroying historical information which the government wishes to keep secret. The rationale behind political censorship is that the political party in power can protect itself from revolution if the public is kept uninformed.
We’re watching the evolution of Newspeak right before our very eyes as the Internet strives to silence any voices that oppose their carefully crafted stories of how guns are bad, there are 291 genders, and anyone who isn’t a liberal is an evil Nazi racist. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Newspeak,” it’s from George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984.
There are hundreds of examples of Facebook censoring alternative news with investigative journalists exposing the lies of mainstream (fake news) media as well as conservative media. Facebook pays low-wage foreign workers to delete certain content based upon a censorship list. In March 2014, Facebook began censoring pro-gun speech on its social media site in partnership with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who hates self-defense and the Second Amendment. After Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action pressured Facebook to censor gun-themed fan pages, the company finally agreed to do so on both its namesake site and its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram. Facebook enacted this censorship through various policy changes which effectively treats gun-related content no different than pornography, such as restricting users under 18 from seeing the official Facebook pages of their neighborhood gun shops. In July 2013, evangelical Christian and actor Kirk Cameron alerted his 650,000-plus Facebook fans that the links to his latest film, Unstoppable, had been blocked by Facebook, which went on to label the links as “abusive” and “unsafe.”Only a couple months after Facebook threatened to shut down “Chicks on the Right” for what the conservative fan page’s administrators said were posts critical of the Obama administration (Facebook later apologized), a few other Facebook accounts were visited by the so-called “Facebook police” for what some users think are politically charged reasons.
Twitter has also become increasingly stringent on policing content, censoring search results and deeming certain tweets “low quality,” a completely subjective definition. Numerous prominent conservatives have been banned by Twitter in recent months (example). This is all part of the effort to segregate Internet content into social media ghettos and then censor that content, as Matt Drudge warned about during his 2015 appearance on the Alex Jones Show.
Fast forward to 2018 and several of the biggest “conservative/libertarian” figures on the Net—Alex Jones, Dennis Prager, Stefan Molyneux, among others—were banned/censored by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies. These social media corporations are fulfilling desperate pleas from major news outlets, who have been losing audience, in massive chunks, to the alternative media. The deep state controlled newspapers and TV news networks came to the end of their rope and had no solutions to their problem—so the dinosaur media went to Google, Facebook, and others, and said, HELP US. Meaning: Censor our competition. (source)
Tim Pool warned then of an increasing concentration of control among technology companies over the parameters of permissible speech and expression: “It worries me that there’s going to be some kind of big authority, be it the government or a collection of large tech companies that share similar views that determine some people are just not smart enough to speak… It is a concern to me when political discourse can be shaped by these massive near-monopolies.” He was right!
On one level, understanding censorship is that simple. But then you have to ask yourself this question: Why would Google, Facebook, and other social media giants bend to the needs of mainstream news outlets? These social media operations are richer and bigger than mainstream news. They could easily have said: “No, we like open forums and a wide variety of opinion, and we think people should be able to deal with ideas they don’t like. We stand for an open society, and we vigorously defend the 1st Amendment.” (source)
But they didn’t say that. Instead, they’re enacting bans and censorship. Why? The obvious answer staring us in the face is: Google and Facebook and YouTube, for example, the largest social media corporations, are not “free companies.” They’ve been in bed with the intelligence community for a long time, and they favor wall to wall surveillance of the population. They favor the “liberal” version of a policed State, where correct opinions are let in the door and incorrect opinions are shut down (source)… even over the almighty dollar! These companies lost billions by censoring conservatives, but they ALL did it and did it in unison because they are controlled by hidden evil forces whose priority is a new world order tyranny.
Wikipedia also censors as made evident by two trusted Wikipedia officials who were exposed running businesses that covertly edited Wikipedia for PR clients. Interests for Sony, the CIA, the Vatican, Barack Obama and John McCain all reportedly have been caught secretly editing their own Wikipedia pages to their advantage.
Silicon Valley has repeatedly proclaimed that Wikipedia is the best way to deal with “fake news” on their platforms. Just as Big Tech suppressed prominent conservative media following President Donald Trump’s election, they joined mainstream media in censoring New York Post revelations regarding alleged Biden family corruption, and Wikipedia’s community of editors has done the same by slowly purging conservative outlets from use as sources.5
In 2016, Facebook was forced to admit that it was manually gaming its ‘trending’ section algorithm to stifle conservative topics. Facebook suspended 30,000 accounts in France a mere ten days before its national election in 2017, in censorship of supporters of the right-wing, eurosceptic Marine Le Pen who is anti-establishment in France. Another example of how Facebook censors is the case of Jason Fyk.
Even before being subjected to that deceitful onslaught, the American public had already passed verdict on the MSM and found it disreputable. A Rasmussen poll in 2013 found that only six percent of Americans considered the major media to be “very trustworthy.” Millions of Americans have abandoned the establishment corporate media and now get their news elsewhere. Many fled to Fox News, which at least puts up a semi-credible façade of being politically/socially/morally conservative, even while, in the main, presenting the globalist line from a “Republican” perspective. However, they saw an exodus following their participation in the Election coup when they assisted in trying to oust President Trump by calling AZ before any other news outlet and before it was even close to being decided, and then refusing to cover any evidence of election fraud.
In Germany, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in 2015, adopted the “code of conduct” implemented by Angela Merkel’s regime to squash the widespread opposition to her disastrous refugee program. It includes a pledge to delete “hate speech” from their websites within 24 hours. “Posts critical of Chancellor Merkel’s migrant policies, for example, can be categorized as ‘Islamophobia,’” notes the Gatestone Institute, a human-rights group, “and are often found to violate ‘Community Standards,’ while incitement to actual violence and the murder of Jews and Israelis by Palestinian Arabs is generally considered as conforming to Facebook’s ‘Community Standards.’”
In his interview with the far-left online publication Vox, Mark Zuckerberg explained Facebook’s then new system of favoring “broadly trusted” news sources, via a mechanism designed to favor established outlets and crush new media. Facebook introduced its system in January 2018, and the results were immediately apparent. Facebook traffic to establishment outlets including CNN and NBC soared upwards, while traffic to conservative outlets fell. Facebook engagement (likes, shares, and comments) also fell across multiple new media outlets, including those on the right and the left. Facebook engagement on President Trump’s posts fell by 45 per cent.
By making editorial judgments about what counts as “quality” news, Facebook shifted from a neutral platform to a publisher with an editorial opinion. As Sen. Ted Cruz explained to representatives of the tech giants in January, this undermines the case for continued legal immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts online platforms from legal liability for content posted by their users.4
Facebook employed a similar tactic for fighting “fake news” in 2017 with the help of partisan fact-checkers such as Snopes, ABC, Politifact, and FactCheck.org. The initiative saw certain news stories and Facebook posts marked with a “disputed” tag. This initiative was recently canceled after it was found to be ineffective.
Today, as in all times of crisis, to be a Patriot, to take a stand for Truth, is dangerous business. To host a news website or blog that challenges the ruling powers, entrenched corruption, and the forces of darkness is a perilous thing. We are beginning to see just how perilous.
The multi-billion dollar Ford Foundation’s historic relationship to the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] is rarely mentioned on Pacifica’s DEMOCRACY NOW! / Deep Dish TV show, on FAIR’s COUNTERSPIN show, on the WORKING ASSETS RADIO show, on The Nation Institute’s RADIO NATION show, on David Barsamian’s ALTERNATIVE RADIO show or in the pages of PROGRESSIVE, MOTHER JONES and Z magazine. One reason may be because the Ford Foundation and other Establishment foundations subsidize the Establishment Left’s alternative media gatekeepers / censors.
PACIFICA / DEMOCRACY NOW / DEEP DISH TV
Take Pacifica / DEMOCRACY NOW!, an alternative radio network with annual revenues of $10 million in 2000, whose National Program Director was paid $63,000 in that year. In the early 1950s–when the CIA was using the Ford Foundation to help fund a non-communist “parallel left” as a liberal Establishment alternative to an independent, anti-Establishment revolutionary left–the Pacifica Foundation was given a $150,000 grant in 1951 by the Ford Foundation’s Fund for Education. According to James Ledbetter’s book Made Possible By…, “the Fund’s first chief was Alexander Fraser, the president of the Shell Oil Company.”
Besides subsidizing the Pacifica Foundation in the early 1950s, the Ford Foundation also spent a lot of money subsidizing many other noncommercial radio or television stations in the United States. According to Ledbetter’s Made Possible By…, between 1951 and 1976, the Ford Foundation “spent nearly $300 million on noncommercial radio and television.”
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pacifica relied primarily on listener-sponsor contributions to fund the operations of its radio stations. And in the early 1970s, Pacifica also began to accept funds from the U.S. Establishment’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting [CPB], according to Rogue State author William Blum–who worked as a KPFA staffperson in the early 1970s. But in the early 1990s, some Pacifica administrators decided to again seek grants from the Ford Foundation and other Establishment foundations. As former Pacifica Development Director Dick Bunce wrote in the appendix to the “A Strategy for National Programming” document which was prepared for the Pacifica National Board in September 1992, entitled “Appendix Foundation Grantseeking National Programming Assumptions for Foundation Fundraising”:
The national foundation grantseeking arena has changed enough in recent years to make activity in this arena potentially worthwhile–for organizations prepared to be players and partners in the same field as NPR, APR, maybe some others…The foundation funding of interest is in gifts of $100,000 or more a year, for several years…Three of America’s six largest foundations (Ford, MacArthur, Pew) have begun to fund public broadcasting, public radio in particular, and evidently intend to continue doing so. Pacifica requested meetings with each of these foundations earlier this year and was treated seriously enough in subsequent meetings to give us some hope of securing funding possibly from all three. A `Report Sheet’ on this work is included in Appendix 3.
Beyond these three foundations there are no others among the country’s 100 largest which have made substantial grants to public broadcasting. So the second tier of foundation prospects look substantially different from the first tier requiring more work on our part to open doors, establish `standing’ and find a workable `fit.’
There are nonetheless a number of interesting prospects–in some cases only because of particular people who are currently involved, or because of formal criteria which we could try to fit. The second tier list includes several from the top 100–Rockefeller, Irvine, Surdna, George Gund–Nathan Cummings–and a number of smaller foundations, but still capable of 6 figure grants: Aaron Diamond, Revson, Rockefeller Family & Associates, New World, Winston Foundation for World Peace.
Once we drop to the $35,000 to $75,000 grant range, the list enlarges, but these take as long to cultivate as the bigger ones, so it makes sense to start from the top.
Foundation fundraising at this level has extraordinary payoffs–but it takes senior staff time, not `grantwriting’ but in communicating. It is therefore expensive, and not successfully done as an afterthought to everything else in the day. It also requires `venture capital visits’ to the foundations to open doors and conversations that lead to partnerships.
In initiating three top level contacts in April, May and June, and attempting to capitalize on the opportunities apparent to us, we have already been stretched beyond our capacity to really interface effectively with these funders–although admittedly much of the problem to date has been due to the fact that we don’t yet have a clear business plan for national programming.
Foundation grantmaking will most likely proceed as short-term funding. Funders will want to `fund projects, not operations.’ We should presume that we can succeed in raising serious money to launch or establish new programs, etc. but not to sustain them beyond start-up. The standard of self-sufficiency will be required for many proposals we submit, and our own planning will be most successful if we relate to this funding source accordingly.
Short-Run Strategies for Developing a Foundation Grantseeking Program
Seek Development Committee leadership in planning for Foundation grantseeking.
Pursue 3 `anchor’ grants to acquire funding beginning in FY’93 from the Big 3 foundations we’ve already begun to work with.
Long-Range Strategies for Developing a Foundation Grantseeking Program
Initiate an informal `feasibility inquiry’ of foundation support for Pacifica’s objectives by requesting visits with the dozen top prospects to shape proposals and establish relationships…
Foundation Grants Summary: Late this spring we began our first efforts in national foundation grantseeking on behalf of national programming. We have a good chance of securing six figure grants in the coming fiscal year from any or all of the 3 foundations we’re working with, but our approach is still dependent upon our own organizational progress toward a business plan that we are committed to following through on.
The second tier of foundation prospects is more challenging, and will require increased staff resoucres, a modest feasability inquiry and active planning with the Board Development Committee.
By 1995, billionaire speculator George Soros’ Open Society Institute had given the Pacifica Foundation a $40,000 grant. And in 1996, the Carnegie Corporation of New York gave Pacifica a $25,000 grant to launch its DEMOCRACY NOW! show.
In 1997 came a $13,000 grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund to Pacifica to provide support for DEMOCRACY NOW!.
And in 1998 came a $25,000 grant to Pacifica from the Public Welfare Foundation “to report on hate crimes and related issues as part of its `DEMOCRACY NOW!” public-affairs radio program and an additional $10,000 grant to support DEMOCRACY NOW! from the J.M. Kaplan Fund.
In 1998 and 1999, two grants, totalling $22,500, were also given to Pacifica by the Boehm Foundation, to support its DEMOCRACY NOW! show.
In early 2002, an additional Ford Foundation grant of $75,000 was given to Deep Dish TV “for the television news series, DEMOCRACY NOW!, to continue incorporating the aftermath of the September 11th attack into future broadcasts.” Besides being presently subsidized by the Ford Foundation to air Pacifica’s DEMOCRACY NOW! show, Deep Dish TV, with an annual income of $158,000 in 2000, was also subsidized by the MacArthur Foundation in the 1990s. Between 1993 and 1998, $190,000 in grants were given to Deep Dish TV by the MacArthur Foundation.
And one of the members of Deep Dish TV’s board of directors in recent years has apparently been a WBAI staff person named Mario Murillo.
Another Ford Foundation grant of $200,000 was given in April 2002 to the Astraea Foundation, whose former board finance committee chairperson, Leslie Cagan, is presently the chairperson of Pacifica’s national board. Three other grants have been given to the Astraea Foundation by the Ford Foundation since 2000: two grants, totalling $75,000, in 2000; and a $200,000 grant in 2001 “for general support and subgrants to community-based organizations addressing social, political and economic justice, especially those focused on lesbians and other sexual minorities.”
The former finance committee chairperson of the Ford Foundation-sponsored Astraea Foundation recently signed a $2 million “golden handshake / sweetheart contract” with the Ford Foundation-sponsored, soon-to-be-privatized DEMOCRACY NOW! producer [Amy Goodman] (who has apparently been receiving a $90,000/year salary from Pacifica in recent years for her alternative journalism work).3