Bernie Sanders Again Chides Disney, With Some Similarities to Trump's Attacks
Bernie Sanders' campaign sent out an email to supporters on Wednesday bashing the "corporate media" as prone to covering "politics as entertainment."
That certainly isn't the same complaint that President Trump, the former star of "Celebrity Apprentice," has with the media. And in his email, Sanders made a point of saying that Trump's frequent attacks on the news media as the "enemy of the people" was an "outrageous remark" which "has the purpose of undermining American democracy."
Where Sanders and Trump share similarities are in some of their specific attacks. This week, Sanders suggested that there was a connection between his criticism of Amazon and negative coverage he's gotten in The Washington Post, which Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns independently of the tech giant. Trump frequently makes the same linkage, to the point where he refers to the Post as the "AmazonWashingtonPost," and has even suggested that there Bezos should be subject to antitrust scrutiny.
Sanders later walked back his remark, but in his email he also had other specific criticisms that mirror some of those made by Trump. Sanders once again targeted The Walt Disney Co. for paying its workers low wages at its theme parks despite making huge profits. He also made mention of the company using "guest worker programs to fire Americans and replace them with lower wage foreign workers."
That is a reference to a controversy from 2015, and at the time, Trump seized upon the layoff during his campaign as he railed against what he saw as abuses in the immigration system. Disney argued that many of the workers, based in Florida, found new jobs, but the layoffs drew enough attention that it was a featured topic at a presidential debate in March, 2016, just before the Florida Republican primary.
That's not to say that Sanders and Trump agree on much more than that.
In his letter, Sanders bemoaned media consolidation, even mentioning the recently announced CBS-Viacom merger as an example of how conglomerates have gotten so big that they "control the vast majority of what we see, hear, and read."
Trump, too, has said that there was a problem with the concentration of the media, but he's been selective in his specifics. He opposed the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, a combination that included his much-hated CNN, but he signaled his support of Disney's acquisition of much of 21st Century Fox, then the owner of his much-loved Fox News.
There's also a difference in the nature of Sanders' and Trumps' gripes about the media. Sanders rails against reporters covering the polls and "gossip" on the campaign trail and ignoring the "major crises facing our communities." By contrast, Trump thrives on polls and gossip, but complains that his coverage has been unfair and he hasn't gotten the credit he deserves.
Sanders' complete letter:
Let's discuss an issue that gets far too little attention — for obvious reasons.
In our campaign we are taking on Wall Street, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the fossil fuel companies, the military industrial complex, the prison industrial complex and the 1 percent. In other words, we are taking on the corporate elite and the billionaire class who exercise enormous power over the economic and political life of the country.
It is no shock to me that the big networks and news organizations, which are owned and controlled by a handful of large corporations, either barely discuss our campaign or write us off when they do.
When we trail in a poll, it gets endless coverage.
When a poll is great for us, it barely gets a mention.
When someone out-raises us in fundraising, it’s non-stop news.
When we have the most donations by far, of any other candidate, here comes the coverage about who has the most “crossover donors,” whatever that means.
We’ve said from the start that we will have to take on virtually the entire media establishment in this campaign, and so far that has proven to be true.
Ok. Fine. We are ready.
But even more important than much of the corporate media’s dislike of our campaign is the fact that much of the coverage in this country portrays politics as entertainment, and largely ignores the major crises facing our communities.
In fact, what I have learned from experience is that, as a general rule of thumb, the more important the issue is to large numbers of working people, the less interesting it is to the corporate media.
Sadly, for the corporate media, the real issues facing the American people — poverty, the decline of the middle class, income and wealth inequality, trade, health care, climate change, education etc. — are fairly irrelevant.
And sadly, when they do cover issues like Medicare for All, it is almost always about the polling or if the issue makes someone more or less electable. Very rarely is there discussion about why we spend twice as much per capita as other industrialized nations for worse outcomes while the health care industry made $100 billion in profits last year.
Or if the conversation does happen with any depth, it is almost always framed in conservative terms and talking points — or the ostensibly Democratic viewpoint shared by moderates from the party.
The discussion is very rarely about what it will do for people’s lives or why 30,000 people a year die in America because they can’t afford to go to a doctor when they should.
And what we have to ask ourselves is why.
Why is it that the corporate media sees politics as entertainment and largely ignores the major crises facing our country and how candidates are addressing those crises?
And the answer lies, in fact, with something that is very rarely discussed, and certainly not in the media: and that is that the corporate media is owned by a small number of large media conglomerates.
In 1983 the largest fifty corporations controlled 90 percent of the media. That’s a high level of concentration.
Today, as a result of massive mergers and takeovers, only a few large corporations like Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Fox, Disney, Viacom, and CBS control the vast majority of what we see, hear, and read. And there is news that Viacom and CBS want to merge next.
This is outrageous, and a real threat to our democracy.
Because in case you haven’t heard, these corporations have an agenda that serves their bottom line.
Take, for example, Disney:
Disney, the owner of ABC, makes its products in Chinese factories where workers are paid only a few dollars per day under "nightmare conditions." And in the United States, they have utilized guest worker programs to fire Americans and replace them with lower wage foreign workers.
Further, despite making huge profits, many of the people at their parks make low wages.
I was proud to have worked with employees at Disneyland to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, but more has got to be done.
Now I could be wrong, but I don’t expect that you will see programming tonight on ABC discussing the plight of low-wage workers here in the United States or, for that matter, in China.
But if you do watch TV tonight, check out how many ads come from drug companies, insurance companies, the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street, and the rest of corporate America. They even ran ads targeting Medicare for All during the CNN presidential debate.
These powerful corporations also have an agenda, and you can be sure it isn’t our agenda.
Now, Donald Trump thinks that media in America is the “Enemy of the people.”
To me, that is an outrageous remark from a president which has the purpose of undermining American democracy.
Because the truth is, a knowledgeable and informed electorate is essential to a working democracy, and the work of journalists in this country and abroad is absolutely critical to our communities and to maintaining a free society.
So it is my sincere hope that the coverage of this campaign generally, and our campaign specifically, changes in the weeks and months ahead.
It is my sincere hope that we can spend more time talking in-depth about the issues facing the working people of this country and less time covering the latest scandal or political gossip.
It is my sincere hope that we have a more serious discussion about the real pain working people, the elderly, the sick, and the poor are facing.
These are not people with well-paid lobbyists who know how to manipulate the system. These are people who struggle every single day but are almost always ignored by the government.
You follow the news more closely than most, so before I sign-off on this letter, I want to hear from you:
Thank you for sounding off and making your voice heard.
Photo: Nick Solari