Krugman: "Channels of Influence"

in General Discussion edited January 2014
In today's New York Times, columnist Paul Krugman writes in Channels of Influence about Clear Channel communications and their connections both to George W. Bush and to their role in organizing pro-war rallies.

Text from the article:


Channels of Influence


By and large, recent pro-war rallies haven't drawn nearly as many people as antiwar rallies, but they have certainly been vehement. One of the most striking took place after Natalie Maines, lead singer for the Dixie Chicks, criticized President Bush: a crowd gathered in Louisiana to watch a 33,000-pound tractor smash a collection of Dixie Chicks CD's, tapes and other paraphernalia. To those familiar with 20th-century European history it seemed eerily reminiscent of. . . . But as Sinclair Lewis said, it can't happen here.

Who has been organizing those pro-war rallies? The answer, it turns out, is that they are being promoted by key players in the radio industry ? with close links to the Bush administration.

The CD-smashing rally was organized by KRMD, part of Cumulus Media, a radio chain that has banned the Dixie Chicks from its playlists. Most of the pro-war demonstrations around the country have, however, been organized by stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, a behemoth based in San Antonio that controls more than 1,200 stations and increasingly dominates the airwaves.

The company claims that the demonstrations, which go under the name Rally for America, reflect the initiative of individual stations. But this is unlikely: according to Eric Boehlert, who has written revelatory articles about Clear Channel in Salon, the company is notorious ? and widely hated ? for its iron-fisted centralized control.

Until now, complaints about Clear Channel have focused on its business practices. Critics say it uses its power to squeeze recording companies and artists and contributes to the growing blandness of broadcast music. But now the company appears to be using its clout to help one side in a political dispute that deeply divides the nation.

Why would a media company insert itself into politics this way? It could, of course, simply be a matter of personal conviction on the part of management. But there are also good reasons for Clear Channel ? which became a giant only in the last few years, after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed many restrictions on media ownership ? to curry favor with the ruling party. On one side, Clear Channel is feeling some heat: it is being sued over allegations that it threatens to curtail the airplay of artists who don't tour with its concert division, and there are even some politicians who want to roll back the deregulation that made the company's growth possible. On the other side, the Federal Communications Commission is considering further deregulation that would allow Clear Channel to expand even further, particularly into television.

Or perhaps the quid pro quo is more narrowly focused. Experienced Bushologists let out a collective "Aha!" when Clear Channel was revealed to be behind the pro-war rallies, because the company's top management has a history with George W. Bush. The vice chairman of Clear Channel is Tom Hicks, whose name may be familiar to readers of this column. When Mr. Bush was governor of Texas, Mr. Hicks was chairman of the University of Texas Investment Management Company, called Utimco, and Clear Channel's chairman, Lowry Mays, was on its board. Under Mr. Hicks, Utimco placed much of the university's endowment under the management of companies with strong Republican Party or Bush family ties. In 1998 Mr. Hicks purchased the Texas Rangers in a deal that made Mr. Bush a multimillionaire.

There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear, but a good guess is that we're now seeing the next stage in the evolution of a new American oligarchy. As Jonathan Chait has written in The New Republic, in the Bush administration "government and business have melded into one big `us.' " On almost every aspect of domestic policy, business interests rule: "Scores of midlevel appointees . . . now oversee industries for which they once worked." We should have realized that this is a two-way street: if politicians are busy doing favors for businesses that support them, why shouldn't we expect businesses to reciprocate by doing favors for those politicians ? by, for example, organizing "grass roots" rallies on their behalf?

What makes it all possible, of course, is the absence of effective watchdogs. In the Clinton years the merest hint of impropriety quickly blew up into a huge scandal; these days, the scandalmongers are more likely to go after journalists who raise questions. Anyway, don't you know there's a war on? __

I enjoyed the reference to "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield with "There's something happening here/ What it is ain't exactly clear." But, it's disgusting to think that Clear Channel has effectively banned Dixie Chicks songs from all 1200 of its similarly programmed radio stations. What an evil powerful behemoth that needs to be dismantled at once.

Tim Jones of the Chicago Tribune comments similarly on the media giant's role in assembling pro-war rallies in Media Giant's Rally Sponsorship Raises Questions

There are relevant questions here. What do you think?


  • Reply 1 of 9

    I enjoyed the reference to "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield with "There's something happening here/ What it is ain't exactly clear." But, it's disgusting to think that Clear Channel has banned Dixie Chicks songs from all 1200 of its similarly programmed radio stations. What an evil powerful behemoth that needs to be dismantled at once.

    What do you think?

    Well,while it is a company it is their decision. I dont listen to much Radio Anyways(except for howard stern). if ya dont like it,change the channel.

    People can boyccott whoever they want, some boycott the US, some Germany, some France, some the Dutch, and others the dixit chicks.. to each there own. \
  • Reply 2 of 9
    Does Shawnpatrickwhatever send everyone a private message that doesnt agree with him an email not to post a response to his message.. he posts about dismanteling an evil empire, I tell em, change the channel, so he PM's me to tell me not to respond to his posts if it isn't substantial. yeah.. I have seen your other posts in messages.. this entire subject in the scheme of things isn't substantial.. and people pick on Ibookfellowship??

  • Reply 3 of 9
    The General. Please don't hijack the thread. You had good comments. If you disagree with me, shoot me a PM.


  • Reply 4 of 9
    artman @_@artman @_@ Posts: 2,546member
    Jesus Christ. Go PM your Mom.

    Overall, I agree with what all this is about. But it's been going on for years. Its called propaganda.

    Put on a Dead Kennedys or Fugazi CD and play it loud. Let yourself be heard.

  • Reply 5 of 9
    This is a new issue, relatively speaking. The Telecommications Act of 1996 allowed Clear Channel Communications to grow from just a handful of radio stations to more than 1200. I think it's interesting to find out that Clear Channel is behind most of the pro-war rallies and that it has ties to the Bush administration.
  • Reply 6 of 9
    bungebunge Posts: 7,329member

    Originally posted by ShawnPatrickJoyce

    I think it's interesting to find out that Clear Channel is behind most of the pro-war rallies and that it has ties to the Bush administration.

    Interesting? And I'm being vilified in another thread for suggesting our country is leaning Fascist....
  • Reply 7 of 9
    trumptmantrumptman Posts: 16,464member
    I live in Los Angeles, and although we have about 5 ClearChannel stations out here, they have absolutely nothing in common. Your postings sound like a huge exercise in illogical gap jumping to create a conspiracy theory.

    However suppose you were right... wouldn't it still require plenty of likeminded people to attend these rallies? If the people didn't agree the fact that the Dixie Chicks shouldn't be bad mouthing their president, then they couldn't really have clout could they.

    Now again the point of this would be.....what again? Someone plans a rally, lots of likeminded people who happen to agree with what the rally is about show up. This is wrong because.....

    You can rant all you want about this and that is your choice. I certainly don't consider it any worse than MTV "Rocking the Vote" and pushing nothing but liberal issues and liberal politicians. If you don't think MTV has a little say about who sells some records then you are.... as they say.... under the influence.

    Here is a nice little press release from their site.


    Rock the Vote and Lenny Kravitz today announced a new song by Kravitz called "We Want Peace," which is available exclusively at Rock the Vote's website,

    The song, which says, "There won't be peace if we don't try" is an urgent call from Kravitz for America to be a peaceful leader in the world. Kravitz wrote the song and performed it with Kazem Al Sahir, Iraq?s #1 pop music artist, who is better known as Iraq?s Diplomatic Ambassador to the world and hailed as a true legend of Arabic Music. In addition, the song features Palestinian musician Simon Shaheen on the 'oud and violins and Lebanese artist Jamey Haddad?s on djembe and tambourines.

    Rock the Vote praised Kravitz for speaking his mind about the importance of peace and issued a call to action for young people to work for peace and defend free expression. Noting that artists, actors, activists, journalists and the world?s people have come under attack for their views on the war, Rock the Vote re-affirmed its commitment to supporting those who have the courage to speak out-- and to mobilizing young people to shape the future of our world. Rock the Vote's website, where the song will be released, also urges visitors to register to vote and to join the Rock the Vote Community Street Teams, which will be organizing "free expression" events and rallies in dozens of cities across the country in the coming weeks.

    "I came to Rock the Vote because of its strong stance with young people as defenders of free expression," said Lenny Kravitz. "This song for me is about more than Iraq: It is about our role as people in the world and that we all should cherish freedom and peace."

    Jehmu Greene, Rock the Vote's executive director, said "Lenny Kravitz is a true patriot, and Rock the Vote is proud to support his artistic expression. We are here to rally young people to their sacred duty as patriotic Americans to speak out and participate in our democracy. To all the young people who might feel intimidated in the present political environment, pay attention to what Lenny Kravitz is doing. He is leading in this difficult time and so can you."

    According to Ms. Greene, "Rock the Vote supports the young men and women in our military whose lives are now at risk. We hope the war will come to a swift conclusion with minimum loss of human life and that we can move on to build a better future for the Iraqi people. The millions of young people who hear this song should take Kravitz' message to heart and stand up for what they believe. As Lenny Kravitz says, 'we're at the crossroads,' and we need to defend democracy right now here at home."


    Rock the Vote is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and empowering young people to change their world. Over the past decade, Rock the Vote has registered over three million new young voters and called on young people to recognize their role in creating significant political and social change.

    I could go on. I could mention how MTVnews refers to people to organizations that oppose the war like..


    * Not In Our Name

    * International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism)

    * United for Peace


    * National Youth and Student Peace Coalition

    Here is their nice list of where you can go to show you support the war...

    * Army

    * Navy

    * Marines

    * Air Force

    I do wish I were joking about this....but I suppose MTV is just part of some evil liberal conspiracy. BTW ask any young person if they know who MTV is and then ask if they know who ClearChannel is and see which gets a bigger response. So please Shawn, I want to see you being non-hypocritical and condemning these liberal organizations as well. They go much further than what you even claim with Clear Channel. They are selecting an artist and promoting his single exclusively. They are recruiting people for their street action teams, they are doing it all. Please show your true colors now... try to justify it.

  • Reply 8 of 9
    chweave1chweave1 Posts: 164member
    Whether or not people attended the rallies really isn't the issue. I have a feeling that their opinions were already formed and would have attended any rally that any Bush supporter organized. The most pressing issue here, in my opinion, is the conduct of the radio corporation and its practices in getting people to join their touring company or whatever it is called. If they are using the rallies to gain favor with the Bush administration, I could think of better ways.

    Was the author of this article trying to equate the smashing of Dixie Chicks CDs to the burning of the books in Nazi Germany? If so, that is absurd. The government was not sponsering the destruction, and secondly, its not like the Dixie Chicks music is enlightened philosophy that goes against the policies and views of the Bush administration, its crappy country music.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    trick falltrick fall Posts: 1,271member

    You can rant all you want about this and that is your choice. I certainly don't consider it any worse than MTV "Rocking the Vote" and pushing nothing but liberal issues and liberal politicians.

    The problem isn't necessarily left or right, it's too much media in too few hands. Viacom is the beneficiary of the same deregulatory eviornment.
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