Back in early August, an investigative piece by a relatively unknown indy journalist, Robbie Jaeger, appeared on the website Medium. He took an innovative approach to looking into concerns that the Democratic political establishment, including the corporate media, had it in for one particular presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard. To verify these concerns, Robbie took a side door and dug into the workings of powerful talent agencies who rep major media figures and politicians, as well as entertainment celebrities. What he found, using only public information, was eye-opening. Readers agreed. The excellently written and researched piece went viral. During the rest of August and into this month, Robbie has continued to publish great investigative work on Medium. Fantastic stuff. But what confused me was this: Why was this great work not appearing in choice indy media publications? At Ghion Journal, we’re in a position to rectify that discrepancy, so below is Robbie’s inaugural piece on Ghion, something he completed back in August, and is worth your full attention. Look for more investigative work by Robbie to appear here on The Ghion Journal in the coming weeks and months.
Stephen Boni, Editor
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Let’s talk about influence. 26 million people — that’s how many call Comcast their internet service provider. 22 million people get their cable from them. The largest media conglomerate in the world has spent the better part of 60 years monopolizing the information and entertainment spheres, amassing a ludicrous amount of capital that they have used to buy their way to the top of the industry food chain. AT&T Broadband, Dreamworks Animation, Vox, European mega-outlet Sky, and of course , NBC Universal. They all fall under the Comcast umbrella. Between NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC, its estimated viewership adds up to about 9 million people (80% of which comes from the flagship channel). Their influence is only outmatched by the scope of their operational control.
Their presence is everywhere — especially politics. Comcast injects about $20 million into our electoral process every cycle, consistently placing in the top 10 in lobbying. A traditionally liberal institution, their executives have never been shy about throwing their money behind the candidates they support; and given the sheer magnitude of the company’s scope, it has become increasingly difficult to discern how much separation — if any — they have from the Democratic party.
They have effectively become the mouthpiece for the Establishment “Left”, speaking to tens of millions of people every day, all the while covertly infiltrating the country’s political framework. Their fingerprints can be found on every vehicle of public influence across the spectrum — including the 2020 presidential election. They have their favorites, and they’re not only going to try to make them your favorites as well, but also make you think it was all your idea to begin with. In fact, they’ve already started.
The morning of April 24, 2019, Joe Biden launched his Presidential campaign. That afternoon, he was at the home of Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President — David Cohen. Cohen, a major player in D.C. circles as well as being a retired lobbyist, hosted a fundraiser for the former Vice President to kick off his bid for the nation’s highest office. While not completely unexpected, it sent up immediate red flags; as it should. David Cohen himself, a very influential figure with a history of raising funds for Obama, made a $2,800 donation to Biden the day before. The day after the fundraiser, NBC Universal announced that their Senior Communications Director — T.J. Ducklo — would join the Biden campaign as his National Press Secretary.
So, in effect, NBC — and by extension Comcast — essentially had a man on the inside; a connection between the campaign and the largest media empire in the world. It’s a concerning link to those of us who are wary of the consequences brought on by the intersection of media and party politics. How do we know what’s truth and what’s spin? When news organizations put themselves in the position where their interests are perceived to be conflicted, everyone loses.
The conflicts certainly don’t end there — Comcast Chief Communications Officer D’Arcy Rudnay, CFO Michael Cavanaugh, Executive/Attorney Lillie Charisse, VPs Bret Perkins and Michelle Singer, SVP of Government Affairs Mark Reilly, SVP of Analytics Marc Sirota, SVP Kathryn Zachem, and Senior Strategist Joseph Waz have all donated $1,000 to $2,800 to the Biden campaign. Comcast’s subsidiaries are getting in on the action, too. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation (which Comcast acquired in 2016) and one of the investors in The Young Turks, has donated $2,800 to Biden; and NBC Universal’s SVP/Chief Security Officer Tom McCarthy maxed out his contribution limit to the former Vice President, as to be expected — he was in charge of Biden’s Secret Service detail.
The question we should be asking is: should we be asking questions? Yes. Yes we should.
Joe Biden isn’t the only 2020 candidate that the upper echelon of Comcast, and NBC in particular, are investing in. There has also been a strong showing of financial support for California senator Kamala Harris. At the time of writing, Comcast executives and employees have donated over $40,000 to Harris’ campaign. Notable donations include Universal Studios Hollywood President and COO Karen Irwin, NBC Universal Vice Chairman Ronald Meyer, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke, and Chairman of NBC Universal Film and Entertainment Jeff Shell — most of whom made maximum donations.
Jeffrey Katzenberg has also given his seal of approval, at least in the financial sense. There is a an article detailing a loose, yet fascinating, theory pertaining to the dynamics of the Biden-Harris showdown at the June debates; and it raises some more than valid questions. Biden and Harris did get the most speaking time at those events, not to mention the positive coverage of Harris afterwards and the droves of pundits rushing to excuse Biden’s sloppy showing. While that theory may veer into lanes of conspiracy, one thing is clear: NBC executives have made publicly undisclosed and arguably unethical donations, and therefore financial investments in the candidates they feel will advance the plutocratic agenda. These are the candidates they feel safe with.
The question remains: How can one be realistically objective when covering and critiquing a subject they have so much time and money invested in? Where is the line? Is there a line?
There’s also a legitimate feeling that it’s becoming nigh impossible to distinguish where NBC ends and the DNC begins.
While Comcast is indeed the epitome of everything that is wrong (not to mention dangerous) about corporate media, they also blur the lines between what is and is not propaganda. NBC has its hands in every cookie jar across the socio-political landscape. Everything from PACs to polls all fall within their reach. Speaking of polls — that leads us to Geoff Garin, President of Hart Research Associates. Hart Research (founded by Peter Hart, long time political consulting heavyweight and donor) conducts the NBC/Wall St. Journal polls, with Garin contributing to the network regularly.
The problem is, Garin hasn’t exactly been a neutral observer over the years. He served as chief campaign strategist for Hillary Clinton in ’08, and while Hart Research was conducting polls in the 2016 primary, not only was he donating to Clinton, according emails released by Wikileaks, he was advising her on a book deal. Garin has also worked for or with Priorities USA, Correct The Record, and Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action PAC.
That’s not the only potential conflict interest that NBC and the DNC have had regarding the polls: In 2016, NBC hired TargetSmart; the big data firm that also managed a large bulk of the DNC voter database, to assist Hart Research in the NBC/WSJ polling and data analysis process. TargetSmart released statements asserting that there was no foul play, and the move went mostly unnoticed; a minute detail lost in the bombast of what was the most polarizing election in recent memory.
Again, while the question could be asked about the ethics of the situation or whether these polls could be manipulated or weaponized, the question that should be posed is: “Do the conditions exist?” The most frustrating component of the manipulation our corporate media doles out is the fact that our populace has facilitated the environment necessary for them to do so.
The moral of the story is this: the media does have its darlings, and the connections between the press and the parties are becoming increasingly symbiotic. Corporate media, at its highest levels, is going to back the best candidates for them. The difference between them and us is the influence factor. Point being: They’re going to do their best to not only convince you they are also the best candidates for you, but also make you think you felt that way organically.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent in this day and age that the media not only has a bias, but a full-blown agenda. Comcast, for all the millions it has spent, all the institutions it has infiltrated, and all the massive outreach it has done, is a perfect example of why it’s hard to trust the people who disseminate the most important information to the public.
These ties do bind. We need to be aware of these things to really understand anything else. Information is the most important commodity known to human kind, and it is to our detriment that the truth is monetized, monopolized, and “held for further release”. Corporate media is just that; but it isn’t all about ratings and advertising revenue. It’s also about the ability to sustain that wealth and influence. That means having the proper politicians and lobbyists in place, just like Big Pharma, the NRA, and so on. They are fundamentally the same as these industries.
Unlike the rest, however, big media has a scope of influence that extends over tens of millions of people every day. This can only be fought with the knowledge that the barrier between media conglomerates such as Comcast and our democratic institutions are arbitrary at best.
The truth will set you free; but it’s probably going to cost you.
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