Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Shooting the messenger is not merely a literary metaphor for punishing the bearer of bad news. Lately it seems to be the way that those in power, whether it be in public or private organizations, literally eliminate anyone with the temerity to expose wrongs.
Just a few of the most recent victims of the fight against transparency are Elizabeth Warren, Theresa Edwards, June Clarkson and Cenk Uygar.
A few weeks ago, as predicted here, President Obama bowed to growing political pressure from Congress and Wall Street opposed to any oversight of our banking system that might avoid further financial disasters.
Obama’s decision to bypass Elizabeth Warren as his choice to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) received little media attention, despite the fact that attorney Warren is a nationally recognized bankruptcy expert who has spent the better part of the past year setting up the CFPB.
As she envisioned it, this would be an independent bureau, committed to exposing the kinds of fine print legal gibberish in financial products that so often confounds the average consumer.
Instead of supporting her, just four days before the Bureau was set to officially launch, Obama named former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the new director. The irony in all this is that the same opponents of Warren are committed to delaying Corday’s appointment. In a signed letter, 44 Republican Senators have promised to oppose the nomination of anyone unless they can emasculate the role by creating a five member commission.
Clearly, they didn’t like Warren’s message, i.e. that the banking industry still needs to be regulated. They foiled even the most minimalist attempt at some oversight to protect the consumer.
This “shoot the messenger” tactic to avoid transparency in our government is not just practiced at the Federal level. It is widespread at the state level of government as well. The most recent example is in Florida. After former Assistant Attorneys General Theresa Edwards’ and June Clarkson’s investigation of the state’s so-called “foreclosure mills,” revealed evidence of legal malpractice implicating banks and loan servicers, their boss state Attorney General Pam Bondi summarily fired them.
Actually, according to their statements, in a May meeting with their supervisor, they were told to give up their jobs voluntarily or be dismissed. The official version is not so different except that Bondi now claims these foreclosure fraud investigators were poor workers, not withstanding the fact that both Edwards and Clarkson have received high marks in recent evaluations. Consumer groups hailed the work of the two.
These efforts to disqualify the message by shooting the messenger mirrors the Warren experience.
At least the media is there to champion transparency, to shine light on those issues politicians would prefer left unexposed. Right? Well, maybe not.
Two weeks ago, MSNBC commentator Cenk Uygar was given the choice to take a higher paid weekend spot instead of his 6PM highly rated weekday show. According to Uygar, he was told that he didn’t play ball with “the Club,” referring to insider Washington.
To his credit, Uygar chose to leave the organization rather than compromise his principles.
“Are we [the mainstream media] going to be honest with our audience?” said Uygar. “Or are we going to trade information and truth we’re supposed to be gathering for access?,” was how Uygur summed up the debate for Olbermann. “Now that I’ve been inside that machine, it turns out that we were totally right about our outside perception of it. They are obsessed with access.”
Where conservative Larry Kudlow at CNBC can participate in and promote the pro-corporate Club for Growth without consequence, Olbermann ‘s less palatable message to his GE bosses cost him his job.
More and more, giant media corporations control the national conversation- from the Right and the Left, making it harder and harder for “outsiders” like Uygar or Keith Olbermann to help the general public understand important economic and political issues beyond single-syllable sound bytes. Uncomfortable with any challenge from these messengers, they choose to metaphorically “shoot them”.
Bottom line: At a time when oversight and transparency in government and business is more critical than ever, we, the people, are losing their champions in every sphere, federal, state and media, because those in power do not want us to hear those speaking truth.