Solidarity is for Suckers: The right-wing media war on the common good

Solidarity is for Suckers: The right-wing media war on the common good

“The American Labor Movement has consistently demonstrated its devotion to the public interest. It is, and has been, good for all America.” — John F. Kennedy

 “Whatever their faults, unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in the history of this country.” — Bruce Springsteen

The union loss in UAWVW vote in Chattanooga last week is a wake up call to the power of the right-wing media echo chamber to warp public discourse towards their narrow agenda.

You could fill many volumes with specific instances of smears, distortions and false narratives woven by right-wing media spin-meisters over the past decades many of which, echoed by the broader media, have tainted the public attitude and understanding toward unions and the labor movement.

But even when it is not specifically attacking unions and union workers, the right-wing media monolith’s constant war of divisive wedge issues and derision of the common good works to create a toxic cultural atmosphere that undermines the union message and movement.

The building of union strength is only possible when there is an understanding of solidarity. 


Solidarity is defined as: fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, unity or agreement of feeling or action, esp. among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.

It is through this balance of motivated individual interest and connection to community and cooperation that the labor movement creates a needed counterbalance to the forces of organized avarice.

The message coming from the noxious noise of the right-wing media is that solidarity is for suckers.

What do they offer in its stead? Impossible dreams of personal material acquisition and comic book delusions of phony “individual freedom,” amounting to gun hoarding and bunker building.

“You’re on your own, Jack, and you are worthless before God and man if you can’t compete in an ever more ruthless “free-market” system. Its zero sum out there, my friend. You can’t trust anyone, ‘cause they’re only in it for themselves just like you. Keep your head down and keep tuning in every day. I’m the only one who understands your anger and frustration…because I help concoct your anger and frustration out of your fears and by keeping you blind to other possibilities.”

Why are they so committed to destroying unions? 

It should be clear by now that a major elements of the right-wing movement are ideological zealots who have true contempt for working people and adhere to an almost worship of Ayn Randian notions of wealth and corporate power. Just look at recent extremist efforts to use a government shut down as extortion to stop health care reform and their absolute resistance to extending unemployment insurance to desperate families.

And its also that unions work. They work to put a check on corporate overreach and they are effective in elections, especially in putting “boots-on-the-ground” to counter the influx of secret money into the “airwar” of negative ads.

Finally, and most crucially, unions are living breathing, real world proof that human life isn’t a zero sum, social Darwinian nightmare. That everyone does better when everyone does better and people can take it into their power to build a better more decent society by, to borrow from FDR, taking up cooperation where competition fails. 

Dude, Where’s My Union

Dude, Where’s My Union

UAW Drive Succumbs to Right-Wing Media Blitz

Last week the United Auto Workers union came up short in the election to decide on wether they would represent workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN.

Had they won the workers would have been the first unionized VW employees in the United States and an important inroad for the union movement would have been forged in the South.

Back in September, Volkswagen had issued a letter pledging not to oppose the union effort and CEO Frank Fischer asserted the company, “…is committed to neutrality and calls upon all third parties to honor the principle of neutrality.”

Often companies bitterly fight attempts by workers to seek union protections, so VW’s attitude of acceptance generated optimism that the way was cleared for a historic result for labor in Chattanooga.

However, the final count showed out of 1338 eligible voters, 626 cast votes in favor and 712 against with 147 not participating.

What went wrong?

There has been much attention on the threats issued by Sen Corker and state GOP politicians that a ‘yes’ vote for the union would mean a cut off of state subsidies to VW and cause a steering of new jobs away from the state, a claim strongly denied by the company itself.

Not as much focus has been given to the media amplification machine that was ginned up in the weeks before the vote to poison public opinion against unionization at VW in Chattanooga.

This artificial “echo chamber” played on the decades long smear, demonization and scapegoating of unions by right-wing media voices. 

RWM vs. Labor Media

Documents reveal that Chattanooga was turned into a microcosm of what the right-wing media machine has worked to create in the culture overall; a closed circuit of misleading and biased misinformation, along with emotionalized false narratives to short-circuit rational deliberation. 

Last week we talked about “Astro-turfing,” the propaganda-driven efforts of big money shadow groups to manipulate opinion and emotion toward their agenda.

After all, when your proposals are all about serving the very few at the economic top no matter what that means to everyone else, you need a massive effort to convince (deceive) people to join your cause.

And indeed, Grover Norquist of the far-right Americans for Tax Reform produced just such a campaign in Tenn by channeling funding to an Orwellianly named front group: Center for Worker Freedom.

It was understood that with the company not opposing, there would need to be an intense outside push to defeat the union.

Norquist, working with an outside anti-union paid “consultant, generated numerous anti-UAW news hits which were pushed into local and national media.

A dozen billboards in the city displayed messages including “United Obama Workers” to inject partisan politics and race into the atmosphere.

But none of this had to be conjured out of thin air. 

The point is there is already in existence an intense right-wing media infrastructure from pervasive local and national talk radio to Fox “News” to so-called “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato.

This amounts to a nonstop, union-busting propaganda campaign beamed into cars and homes 24 hours a day every day of the year for decades now.

All Norquist and associates had to do was hyper-activate this machine for the specifics of the VW fight.

Like the larger right-wing media movement, they used rhetoric and propaganda to cynically manipulate public sentiment for purely financial and ideological goals, with no regard for truth or the consequences of their divisive, scorched-earth tactics.

Just think alone of the capability to have Senator Corker’s false, fear mongering message repeated by accommodating mass media, until it saturated the local debate with mind numbing anxiety.

Psychologists warn of the “Illusion of Truth” created when a message is absorbed over and over, especially when triggering emotional vulnerability like fear or anxiety.

As we do the post-mortem and analysis of the union loss in TN, lets be sure to look the ponderous pachyderm of pervasive propaganda squarely in the eye.

Zombie Notions Want to Eat Your Brains

Zombie Notions Want to Eat Your Brains

On our recent radio segments, we’ve been talking about Toxic Town Halls, the right-wing media misinformation bubble, and how the crack pots who spew vitriol at these venues are not only not challenged by Tea Party members of Congress but are affirmed and encouraged in their insanity.

Last August, Representative Martha Roby of Montgomery Alabama held an event for Tea Partiers to sound off in what was really a conspiracy theory echo chamber that she endorsed and participated in.

It was the usual recitation of hoax scandals that have been destroyed by the light of real-world scrutiny but inside the RWM bubble they are shielded from this light and live on as zombie notionsThank God for Fox News

Zombies of legend are dead bodies brought back to a shambling shell of life by dark magic. The zombie notions still circulating in these town halls are reanimated by the dark magic of media, money and propaganda. Both kinds of zombies want to eat your brains.

What is sold as “grassroots” citizens’ uprising is in reality “Astro Turfing,” funded by big money corporate shadow groups and heavily promoted by media like Fox and round the clock right-wing talk radio.

As organizers and advocates on health care reform, we have witnessed this phenomena first hand.

Last August, The Heritage Foundation, an extreme right organization headed by former Tea Party Senator Jim DeMint, staged a national “Defund Obamacare” tour in a doomed effort to press Congress to refuse funding to the Affordable Care Act by shutting down the government.

In that it was nothing but a replay of debunked smear and misinformation the tour could have been called “Gullible’s Travels.” Even Politifact, which tends to contort itself to give rightward misinformation the benefit of the doubt, went out of its way to call out the blatant dishonesty of the tour. 

And yet when we attended the event staged in Pittsburgh the room was packed with people raring to hear yet another round of such nonsense.

Like the recent town hall in Oklahoma, those in attendance weren’t there just to talk about health care policy, they were itching to express their irrational hatred. This woman caught on tape casually bemoans the lost era of “assassins” in America.

Once the program began a small group of us infiltrators were ready with small signs, the word “LIE “ written on sheets of paper, which we silently held up each time a bright line falsity was spoken from the stage. We felt it was our responsibility to provide real time fact-checking as a public service, given the unlikelihood that Jim DeMint’s pants would actually burst into flames as they certainly should have.

It only took a few minutes and much mendacity for the private security guards to escort us toward the doors as attendees booed at us and a few hissed, “Communists” as we exited.

The Heritage Foundation received $500,000 in 2012 from a Koch Brothers funded front group, Freedom Partners. Koch funding is a many tendriled beast which animates a host of organizations which join in with RWM to amplify misinformation, distortion and inflammatory false narratives on health care, energy, education and many other issues.

This onslaught of fantasy has a very real impact on real world policy as we saw when the Tea Party in Congress did manage to force a government shut down to try and extort its demands. 

When you talk about “Astro-turf” and the manufacturing of outrage, many folks caught up in this furor will push back saying: “My outrage is REAL, its not manufactured!” But it isn’t that they’re faking or not really feeling what they feel, it’s that they are victims of a strategy to deceive and mobilize through emotional manipulation. The whole point is to whip-up raw emotions that will cause people to react outside of reason.

In an ABC report describing a 2009 Congressional event that was disrupted by angry Tea Partiers, one woman in attendance summed it up by saying what she heard was an echo of what is preached everyday on Fox and talk radio…” If it’s not manufactured, they’re brainwashed.”

In truth, it’s both.

Roundup: A big week for right-wing media crazy talk

Roundup: A big week for right-wing media crazy talk

RWM roundup: It’s been a big, crazy week in media crazy talk.

Reality-based viewers were left to starve as Bill O’Reilly shoveled chunks of red meat to the Fox “News” base during the Super Bowl pre-game interview with President Obama.

It was all hoax and conspiracy all the time as O’Reilly interrupted the President dozens of times, beating the dead horses of IRS and Benghazi while completely ignoring pressing issues of jobs, minimum wage and unemployment insurance extension.

It was as if he were speaking from an alternate bizzarro dimension… perhaps from a twisted wormhole reality created by a right-wing cable channel and amplified by hundreds if not thousands of talk radio voices across America. I expected Rod Serling to walk onto the set at any moment.

Twilight Zone

For his part, President Obama refused to let the exchange be sucked into O’Reilly’s netherworld of conspiracy and pushed back against Fox’s fantasy-based broadcast model saying, “These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.” 

Meanwhile in Oklahoma, Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R) held a town hall event to get  some feed back from his constituents. What he got was a face full of “Obama derangement” flamer insanity.

One woman called for the execution of the President as an “enemy combatant.” Another more moderately, wants impeachment. She doesn’t elaborate for what crime. Because MuslimKenyanMarxist, I guess.

If you assume the Congressman pushed back against or attempted to tamp down this ugliness, you’d be way wrong. 180 degrees wrong in fact, because he jumped right in the crazy pot with them declaring the “lawlessness” of the President.

Its almost like him and his unhinged, crack pot constituents and Bill O’Reilly are all trapped together in a bubble of festering madness and malicious misinformation that’s been designed for some radical political agenda! Could it be?

Of course its not just Fox that’s guilty of perpetuating unreality. In this digital era of “report first and ask questions later” just about every outlet is jumping on the misinform America bandwagon.

This week the CBO released numbers on the Affordable Care Act’s effect on the economy and the media immediately set its hair on fire sensationalizing the stats.

Almost everybody got it wrong. 

The stats described a positive aspect of the ACA in that folks who are working jobs just to hang on to health care would be free to opt out and start their own businesses or take better care of their families. This would also free up jobs which are in short supply for other seekers.

Instead the media overwhelmingly misreported that the CBO was talking about a loss of jobs to the economy not an opting out of workers.

Chuck “It’s-not-my-job-to-fact-check” Todd predictably lodged this totally wrong report: “CBO essentially reaffirms GOP talking points on health care. Says it will cost jobs…”

This is another glaring case in point of why we fight for journalistic standards of truth and accuracy over sensationalism and report-it-first mania.

One more example is WTAE in Pittsburgh’s “Obamacare” hit piece from last week. Sign the petition here to call for a correction of this bogus and biased reporting.

Charlene signed and commented:

This is important to me because if you present yourself as a news program, then you should present the news–not someone’s opinion. When people want to be told what to think, they listen to Fox “News” or Rush Limbaugh. I expect better from WTAE. If you continue to sensationalize the news, I will stop watching.

#FakingNews: Local PGH station stands by fraudulent “Obamacare” coverage

#FakingNews: Local PGH station stands by fraudulent “Obamacare” coverage

There has been a rash of Obamacare “horror stories” making headlines across the country that, when exposed to a little scrutiny, are revealed to be completely bogus.

It started when Sean Hannity trotted out three couples with easily debunkable claims, then there was the case of a reporter in Texas who was punked by Tea Partisans and last week, in Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ Republican SOTU response the distressing tale of “Bette” from Spokane was touted who turned out to be not at all in the predicament that was claimed.

Now local Pittsburgh station WTAE has jumped on the bandwagon with a story that ran last Wednesday, Jan. 29th.

Anchor Wendy Bell reported from Simonetta’s Collision Repair Center where insurance broker Charles Moore delivered “devastating” news to the owner and assembled employees: “Obamacare” was making their health care costs explode.

The piece had all the bells and whistles, including dramatic graphics to highlight the numbers presented by the broker creating an impression of indisputable validity.

The cameras rolled as Ms. Bell asked one employee how she would afford her health care… “I don’t know,” she said seeming on the verge of tears.

Another employee said, “They call it the affordable health plan, there’s nothing affordable about it.”

Quite the powerful story. And its gotten plenty of exposure, especially in the right-wing media circuit. Republican members of Congress have shared it extensively on social media and used it to reinforce their anti-Obamacare talking points.

The problem is, despite the sensationalized graphics the story is void of crucial facts and information.

First, the story leaves out the fact that small business with fewer than 50 full-time employees — the Simonetta’s have 7 — are not required to offer insurance under Obamacare. If the “best” their broker could find was this plan employees are so unhappy with, they could decide to stop offering coverage — and give employees the chance to go into the Health Insurance Marketplace individually, giving them access to income-based premium credits and help lowering their out-of-pocket expenses.

Second, there is no mention of the small business tax credit (available since 2010!) in Obamacare that could save the Simonetta’s thousands of dollars. To qualify, a business has to have fewer than 25 FT employees, making less than $50,000, where the employer contributes at least 50% to workers’ health coverage and use the new Small Business Marketplace.

Third, there’s no way for viewers to know whether the numbers given by the broker are “the best” he could do, but there’s every reason to think not. A quick search on Healthcare.Gov’s window-shopping tool for business owners reveals a number of plans that are much better than the plan presented by the broker and WTAE as the Simonetta’s only option.

Broker Blog on Pre-Existing Conditions

If you assumed that WTAE verified the broker’s numbers, you would be wrong. WTAE simply broadcast Mr. Moore’s damning numbers uncritically and presented them as solid fact. 

These numbers seem very dubious to many and not enough information is provided in the story for viewers to perform a proper analysis. The report does not reference this lack of detail or question the broker on this point.

It turns out that there is also plenty of reason to be concerned about the source of these numbers. Mr. Charles Moore is presented in the report to be an unbiased professional.

In reality he is an outspoken far-right ideologue who publicly opposes the ACA.

One example is this blog where he opposes preexisting condition protections including for children.

Broker on WTAE Opposes Protections for Kids

Justin Antoniotti, news director at WTAE said the station is willing to run another story from a “different perspective.” But this only perpetuates the “he-said/she-said” reporting style that is the root of the problem, i.e. that facts and accuracy are sacrificed to emotional, contentious and ratings-driven coverage.

We have stressed to him and other WTAE news staff, including Wendy Bell, the importance of following up on the Simonetta’s story to clarify for their viewers that:

  1. The numbers used were the broker’s alone and were not verified by any journalistic due diligence or checking
  2. The broker is an extreme and public ideological opponent of the health care law and
  3. Due to critical factual omissions, viewers were left with an overall misrepresentation of the law and its impact.

The station has received numerous responses from members of the public who have expressed their concerns about this story. So far WTAE has not agreed to run any sort of follow up to address the issues in their reporting.

Tell WTAE that it is not enough to run another story without acknowledging the glaring problems in the Simonetta story. 


You can contact WTAE publicly, on their Twitter feedemail their news department here or call them at 412-244-4444 to demand accountability.

We all understand the importance of contacting our politicians when they fail to represent our interests and the public good.

We also must demand accountability from news outlets when they are guilty of media malpractice to demand that they not shred journalistic standards in a rush to sell out to sensationalism. 


[Meet the Obama-hating Tea Partisan who WTAE presented as a neutral, credible source on Obamacare]:


Broker is a Birther

Fox Spins the Pope, Shields Ultra-Rich Crazy Talk

Fox Spins the Pope, Shields Ultra-Rich Crazy Talk

Adam Shaw writing for declares that Pope Francis has opened a “War on Aspiration” by calling out the excesses of capitalism and the resulting human suffering. 

The Pope has challenged the idea that trickle-down economics works to create a shared economic prosperity and called into question values that are focused inordinately on money and markets over people.

According to Mr. Shaw’s fevered account, the casualties of this crusade are regular Joes like him struggling to put food on the family table.

Shaw, by misrepresenting his words, creates a straw Pope and a false narrative which helps divert from the power and verity of Pope Francis’ message.


Is it conceivable that Pope Francis is “waging a war” on our most earnest, personal hopes and dreams? Or, with an honest look at his meaning, is he calling out guys like these:

Billionaire investor and TV personality, Kevin O’leary responded to a recent Oxfam study which reported that the world’s 85 richest people have equal wealth to the 3.5 billion poorest, this way: “it’s fantastic.”

“It inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the 1% and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top,'” … “This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this?”… “It’s a celebratory stat, I’m very excited about it… wonderful to see it happen.”

The President of Freedom Industries, on the night that began an ongoing, catastrophic chemical spill in WV waters, dodged several press questions and then tried to walk away from further inquiry on the effects of the spill on the people of the state saying, “it’s been an extremely long day…” Since then it’s been revealed that Freedom failed to disclose a second chemical that was spilled at the same time into the Elk River.

Thomas Perkins is a venture capitalist who recently wrote in the pages of the WSJ that the “progressive war on the 1%” is comparable to Nazis Germany’s campaign against the Jews. In a follow up interview he said he should not have referred specifically to “Kristallnacht,” but stood by his message over all. He also talked about his watch which he said could buy a “six pack of Rolexes.”

It takes an almost super human feat of make believe and denial to pretend that Pope Francis is in any way talking about the needs of average people for economic security and to work toward their dreams, while simultaneously blocking out the obvious disregard, greed and off-the-rails public proclamations of the ultra-rich.

But that’s why they call it the Fox Bubble.