By Ernest A. Canning on 5/11/2015, 6:35am PT  

When Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders recently entered the race for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination, we explained how the corporate U.S. media was certain to "set out to marginalize candidates who pose a threat to corporate wealth and power."

Now, a venerable media watchdog organization has documented how, as predicted, both America's "Paper of Record," The New York Times and the nation's most widely watched Sunday public affairs program, NBC's Meet the Press, wasted little time in fulfilling that prediction.

As we recently wrote (and discussed some days later during an appearance on The BradCast), Sanders' principle opponent in the upcoming primary election is not Hillary Clinton. It is, in fact, what Noam Chomsky describes as the "democracy deficit" --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives. Chomsky attributes the "democracy deficit" to the manner in which "elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people."

In our article, we pointed to two examples in which the corporate-owned media, sans any discussion of where Sanders or Clinton stood on vital issues, had immediately set out to marginalize the Sanders candidacy by either describing it as a "long shot," or dismissing it altogether with headlines such as the Washington Post's: "Bernie Sanders isn’t going to be president. That's not the point." The practice of simultaneously anointing a corporate friendly candidate as a "front runner" while dismissing those who challenge the status quo is designed to become a self-achieving prophesy at the polls by discouraging citizens from backing a media-dubbed "long shot."

The respected media watchdog organization, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), has now begun to document instances in which The New York Times and Chuck Todd, host of NBC's Meet the Press, applied a second, tried and true media method to both evade issues and marginalize candidates who threaten the interests of "the substantial people." The strategy appears to entail "manipulation by omission" --- a method in which the MSM aspires to mold public opinion by simply pretending that a disfavored candidate and his/her issue-laden campaign doesn't even exist...

'Manipulation by omission' statistics

In her book, The Exception to the Rulers, Amy Goodman provides a poignant example of how, over the years, FAIR has utilized statistics to demonstrate the manner in which the corporate-owned, mainstream media deploys the "manipulation by omission" method to influence public opinion.

FAIR, Goodman tells us, "did a study of the 'experts' who appeared on-camera during the critical week before and week after February 5, 2003 --- the day Secretary of State Colin Powell made his case to the UN Security Council for invading Iraq" --- a speech so chocked full of falsehoods that Powell, himself, would later describe it as a "blot" that will forever tarnish his reputation.

That particular FAIR statistical study provides a classic example of the "democracy deficit." As Goodman points out, the analysis covered a period of "time when 61% of Americans supported more time for diplomacy and inspection" before launching a military invasion. That same two-week period immediately preceded a worldwide anti-war protest on February 15, 2003, which, as documented by Wikipedia, has been described by researchers as the "largest protest event in human history." Yet, during that same critical period, only three of the 393 Iraq "experts" who appeared on the evening news shows on CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS "were affiliated with anti-war activism."

The disparity permitted the Bush regime's false narrative --- that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD); that these WMD posed an imminent threat to the U.S.; and that war was the only option available to address that threat --- to go virtually unchallenged on our ostensibly "public" airwaves.

(The corporate-owned media in the United States, of course, did a great deal more than manipulate public opinion by simply excluding anti-war activists from its "news" programs. As observed by Paul Krugman, when interviewed by Danny Schechter during the filming of the documentary Weapons of Mass Deception, if "you ask why do the Europeans see things so differently, well, one answer is...they don't have...'Countdown Iraq,' 'SHOWDOWN IRAQ,' 'Target Iraq' on their screens nonstop.")

'He who must not be named'

NBC's Meet the Press is the "longest-running program in American television history." Comcast, which owns 51% of NBCUniversal, boasts that Meet the Press "is America's most-watched and No. 1 Sunday morning public affairs broadcast," a program that, on one occasion, secured a record audience of more than seven million people for a single broadcast.

In an "Action Alert," entitled "For Meet the Press, Bernie Sanders Is He Who Must Not Be Named," FAIR skewered NBC's Chuck Todd for ignoring the Sanders' candidacy on the very week it was formally announced. At the time of the May 3, 2015 Meet the Press broadcast, Sanders, along with Hillary Clinton, was one of only two major candidates to have formally announced their intention to run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In light of the fact that the broadcast occurred only days after Sanders announced his candidacy during a C-SPAN televised news conference on April 30, one would think that announcement warranted attention on "America's most-watched" Sunday morning "news/public affairs broadcast." Yet, Todd, who interviewed former Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, somehow managed to omit Sanders' name from that week's broadcast. Indeed, Todd failed to so much as make an oblique reference to the Vermont independent's historic announcement that he would become the nation's first major self-described democratic socialist to run in a Democratic Party Presidential Primary. Those "omissions" came during a "news" broadcast in which Todd not only repeatedly brought up Hillary Clinton but also discussed a bevy of Republican candidates.

The May 3 Meet the Press broadcast examined breaking new events that week in Baltimore as well as in the 2016 election contest. Thus, it is understandable that Todd would interview O'Malley, who is not only a former governor but a former mayor of Baltimore, not to mention a potential Democratic 2016 candidate himself. At the outset, however, Todd said he'd invited Boehner to discuss "Baltimore, healthcare reform and [only] the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination."

It is unclear why Todd failed to mention "healthcare reform" during the O'Malley interview segment of the show --- especially since, during the period that O'Malley served as governor, Maryland looked at measures that Al Jazeera interpreted as a potential precursor to a single-payer universal healthcare system. What is clear is that both Bernie Sanders and single-payer healthcare were excluded as topics of conversation throughout the full one-hour broadcast.

During that Sunday's show, O’Malley, addressing the malaise and unrest confronting Baltimore in the wake of the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, told Todd that, because of "the structural problems that we have in our economy, the way we ship jobs and profits abroad, the way we fail to invest in our infrastructure and fail to invest in American cities, we are creating the conditions" that lead to such unrest.

While Todd opined that it "sounds like you [O'Malley] want to make it central to any campaign," he never bothered to ask the logical question as to how O’Malley’s position on those issues differed from those advanced by either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

'Elite Consensus' and the TPP

In addition to illustrating the "democracy deficit," the May 3 Meet the Press broadcast also provided a classic example of what Chomsky describes as the "elite consensus," the degree to which there is near unanimity amongst the ruling elites and corporate-owned media whenever "fundamental class interests are at stake." Such near unanimity occurs with so-called "free trade pacts."

To suggest, for instance, that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "free trade" agreement is "controversial" would be a classic case of understatement. Many, including this site, have opined that the TPP, as currently known to be drafted, represents nothing less than a "corporate global coup" in which democratic accountability and the very sovereignty of these United States would be supplanted by a privately-controlled, all encompassing, corporate, global "investor state."

The subject of the TPP came up during the May 3 Meet the Press, but only when Todd inquired of Boehner as to whether Hillary Clinton would join with President Obama in pushing to have the TPP rammed through Congress on the "fast track"

It comes as no surprise that Todd did not ask O'Malley's opinion about the TPP or "fast track." Like Sanders, O'Malley has, according to the National Catholic Reporter, vigorously and publicly "voiced his opposition to both the trade deal and to 'fast track' authority."

'Facts are stubborn things'

Todd swiftly dismissed criticism from FAIR, describing their analysis as a "false narrative" that was arbitrarily created by a "media site" that "cherry-picked facts." Todd said that he had Sanders on his "show talking up October." Todd also noted that Meet the Press had included coverage of the Sanders' announcement on its website.

If there was a shortfall in FAIR's initial "Action Alert" on the topic, it arises not because it was "arbitrary" but because FAIR failed to follow the statistical model it applied to the run-up to the war in Iraq when it examined a much larger sample of network broadcasts. Where, in that earlier example, FAIR examined a bevy of media broadcasts on four major networks over a span of two weeks, FAIR's "Sanders is he who must not be named" piece was derived from a single broadcast.

Fortunately, Todd's dismissal of FAIR's critique lead them to broaden the scope of its analysis. As a result, they presented a far more damning case against NBC in a subsequent, May 5 "Activism Update."

Bernie Sanders is the only avowed "Democratic Socialist" serving in the United States Congress. Defeating both Democrats and Republicans, he served as Vermont's only member of the House of Representatives for 16 years (1990-2006). Sanders has now served in the United States Senate for more than nine years (2006 to the present). As acknowledged by Todd himself (see video below), in all those years, Meet the Press never saw fit to have Sanders appear on "America's most watched...Sunday morning public affairs program" until September 14, 2014 when Sanders was interviewed about his "possible" run for the Presidency. (One month earlier than the October date initially cited by Todd in response to FAIR.)

That 2014 interview took place not only prior to Sanders' decision on whether he would run, but also whether he would run as a Democrat. There have been major changes in the political landscape since Sanders was interviewed. Democrats lost their majority in the Senate and, in light of the effort to now move the TPP through a Republican-controlled Congress on the "fast track," the only thing that appears to now stand in the way of a global, oligarchic abyss is the Harry Reid-led, Senate Democratic Caucus opposition to "fast track" authority.

Yet, as detailed by FAIR's Activism Update last week, the name of one of the TPP's most outspoken opponents, Bernie Sanders, "hasn't been uttered on the show since" his Sept. 14, 2014 appearance. By contrast, Hillary Clinton was "mentioned" on 16 of 17 Meet the Press 2015 broadcasts.

During that same period, Republican candidate mentions included "Jeb Bush (13 shows), Scott Walker (12), Chris Christie (11), Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee (10 each)." Others, include Ted Cruz (8), "Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum (mentioned on 6 shows apiece), Bobby Jindal (5), John Kasich, Ben Carson and Rick Perry (4 each)...Carly Fiorina (3); Sarah Palin, John Bolton and Mike Pence (2 each); and Jim Gilmore, George Pataki and Peter King (1 each)."

FAIR concedes that Sanders was mentioned on the Meet the Press website, but observes that the website reaches only a "small fraction" of the show's roughly 4 million viewer audience on television. Moreover, in its website offering, the segment is titled, in bold letters: "LONG ODDS FOR BERNIE."

Sanders left off New York Times poll

To be fair, and to add insult to injury, NBC isn't the only one to give short shrift to Sanders' candidacy. FAIR's Jim Naureckas thought it a good idea that The New York Times released a new 5/5/15 Presidential poll. After all, he observed, "there haven't been any major national polls released on the Democratic race since Sen. Bernie Sanders officially entered the race."

But then, Naureckas noticed something odd. The poll contained a lengthy list of options on the Republican side of the ledger, but the only name to appear on the Democratic side was "Hillary Rodham Clinton." It was "as though," Naureckas observed, "Clinton were running unopposed for the Democratic nomination."

Perhaps, in the minds of a capitalist media, a Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders is Lord Voldemort and, therefore, "he who must not be named."

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Video of Bernie Sanders' Sept. 14, 2014 appearance on Meet the Press follows...

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam Vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @cann4ing.

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