L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 891, September 25, 2016
Everybody Talks About the Weather…
by Eric Oppen
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
For as long as I have been involved with the pro-Second-Amendment movement, gun people have complained about the one-sided nature of news coverage. Any time TV crews go to a gun show to cover it, they will push past any number of articulate, well-spoken people who can put our case to the public, to zero in on the fattest, most inarticulate, camou-clad person they can find, presenting him as a “typical” attendee of the show. They’ll ignore tables full of all sorts of interesting things, such as Native American historical artifacts, antiques, and ordinary, non-threatening-looking guns, to zero in on the one table in the whole hall that’s got World War II Axis memorabilia, so they can scare soccer moms and Boobus Americanus with the strong implication that anybody who cares about his Second Amendment rights is really a slavering neo-Nazi just waiting for “The Day” to put everybody else into camps.
Similarly, newspapers consistently paint guns as evil, and gun- owners are consistently caricatured as witless rubes just itching for the chance to shoot someone; a member of a minority favored by the newsroom culture, for preference, but anybody will do. This is seen in editorial cartoons, opinion pieces, and in their choice of what to report and how to report it. They can slant reportage very badly without ever actually lying, and in cases where they do go too far, they can count on having battalions of lawyers to deal with any lawsuits.
A lot of this can be blamed on “newsroom culture.” For all its nationwide scope, the journalistic profession (broadcast and print alike) is remarkably uniform in some ways, and one of them is the range of opinions that are considered acceptable and “fit to print.” It was not always so. Back before the 1930s, newspapers covered the range of mainstream opinion, and many or most cities above a certain size had several newspapers. While an “urban” outlook was common, this was by no means universal.
However, during the Depression, many if not most journalists were seduced by the siren song of FDR’s New Deal, and the news industry as a whole (there were honorable holdouts, I admit) became some of Roosevelt’s biggest cheerleaders. Any opposition to the New Deal was painted as black reaction by selfish rich people who merely wanted to hold on to their ill-gotten wealth. Then came World War II, during which printing or broadcasting anything smacking of dissent was considered unpatriotic, if not outright treason.
By 1945, the pattern had been set. Even newspapers and radio stations serving a mainly rural audience were on board with the new paradigm, and they had a lock on the mass media. Complaints could be ignored, and stories could be slanted or ignored as needed.
Even with the rise of the Internet, this still holds true of the “mainstream” media. However, there is a chink in their armor, one that we are well-suited to exploit. The media is mainly corporate-owned, and their stocks are traded publicly on the exchanges, just as any other large corporation’s shares are.
In Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky suggested that people who wanted to effect change in corporate policy (mainly hiring more blacks and other minorities) buy shares in those corporations. Every share has a vote, and these votes can be assigned to another person to vote. The stockholder retains ownership, and receives whatever dividends the stock is paying, but his or her “proxy” casts votes at the shareholders’ meeting as directed.
I’ve owned stock myself since I was a tween. My mother bought my brother and me shares in a local bottling company. When we went to a stockholders’ meeting, once people knew that my brother and I were the stockholders, not Mom, we were treated with as much respect as though we’d been adults. There is no age limit on casting votes at a stockholders’ meeting.
I’ve reflected that if libertarians (and conservatives; we both suffer from biassed reporting) merely put some money aside each month and used it to buy shares in the major media conglomerates, we could get them to change their policies in a hurry. The conglomerates themselves are politically neutral, caring only about making money, but they are as bound by the decisions of the shareholders as any other corporation.
If every NRA member bought one share apiece of Gannett, for example, that would be a bloc of five million shares. Shares are trading at this writing at $11.30 apiece, which is well within anybody’s financial range. You have to pay a premium for buying or selling stocks in lots other than a hundred or more at a time, but one hundred shares would go for less than the cost of a fine rifle. Dividends would offset the cost of the stock, particularly if it were retained over a period of years. All they’d need to do is assign the proxy or proxies to someone suitable.
If the stockholders’ meetings were invaded by new people, holding proxies for large blocs of the stock, they would get attention and respect that all the complaining about editorial policy we do in our own press would never get. If the Board of Directors faced being kicked out of their jobs, the word would go out fast to editors, columnists, reporters and cartoonists that a new sheriff was in town. Those who refused to change their ways would soon find themselves out on the street, trying to find work in a slack economy and a slowly- dying industry.
One reason this approach appeals to me is that I’ve heard us libertarians, and conservatives, sneered at repeatedly as heartless capitalists. Well, why not own the slur? Let’s act like the heartless capitalists they say we are, take over ownership (or at least part ownership) of the media that slanders and defames us, and force some changes in editorial policy!
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