Wednesday, December 31, 2014

news censorship and the Koch brothers

This post was contributed by Rene Gonzalez from this fall's undergrad social stratification class. This post was later cross-posted to The Sociological Cinema.

While watching an episode of the HBO series, The Newsroom, I was impressed by a scene which effectively captured how people in high-ranking institutional positions may exercise their incredibly great power (the display video is limited to a lead-in joke, see the whole scene here). The clip illustrates how raw power serving vested interests can affect what is communicated to the masses as news. In this case, the owner of the media corporation (Leona played by Jane Fonda) is demanding that news division president, Charlie (Sam Waterston), straighten out the lead anchor, Will (played by Jeff Daniels), because of Will's efforts to report how big business has taken over the Tea Party. She specifically threatens to fire Will if he continues to follow the story.

Art often imitates life, and notice that Leona references the Koch brothers in her tirade, and indeed they were targets of Will in this episode and another during 2012 (see this Wall Street Journal piece for criticism of the show's "Koch-kicking," and this AFL-CIO story for an opposite take). Also see how life imitates art as evident in this article detailing the Koch brothers' efforts to censor public television programming. (Plans to produce a full-length documentary, Citizen Corp, which in part critically examined their political activities, were scrapped after the brothers threatened to withhold major funding from PBS. Nevertheless, the filmmakers were still able to raise enough money to complete the film, and then distribute it as Citizen Koch through theaters.)

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