Journalism or Government Propaganda? The Revolving Door

Fourth Estate? Or wholly-owned subsidiary of the Entertainment-Government Complex?

Remember the public image of crusading journalists uncovering malfeasance and bringing down the mighty? Our narratives about reporters include Woodward and Bernstein uncovering the Watergate scandal and helping to bring down Nixon. Why do today’s journalists shy away from investigating anything that might reflect badly on the Party of Government?

Journalism is a declining occupational category, with newspapers and magazines gutted by loss of advertising revenue and low-paid or unpaid scribblers on the Internet undercutting the market for news and opinion writing. Here’s the BLS statistics on job prospects for the profession:

Quick Facts: Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts
2015 Median Pay $37,720 per year
$18.13 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 54,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -9% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -4,800

$37K is a poverty-level salary in Manhattan or DC. With employment shrinking, many new graduates in media and journalism programs are forced to work at Starbucks or take those low-paid Internet clickbait writing jobs.

As a result, journalism can become just a springboard to work in government PR, which in turn gives entry to high-paying lobbying or TV personality positions. Occupations that become very low-paying tend to be of interest only to those who already have wealthy family backing and can afford to give up current pay for future status and influence — as seen in publishing. And the revolving door allows a few lucky partisan journalists to move into government PR, then cash in afterwards. The recent trend to marriage links and occupational crossover between Silicon Valley, East Coast media, and the White House staff is a warning sign of the merging of executive branch, administrative state, and media interests, weakening media’s ability to report truthfully on issues.

One recent example:

The Obamaworld-social media industry mind meld continues: White House strategic communications adviser Rachel Racusen is leaving to join Snapchat as director of communications, based in New York City.

Racusen, who has done two separate stints in the White House communications office (working at MSNBC in between), finished up work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. on Tuesday and will start her new job Sept. 19. Over the past year, Racusen has focused on projects aimed at capturing the president’s legacy, from the economy to the environment. Before first joining the White House staff in May 2013, Racusen served as director of public affairs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for two years and as deputy national communications director for Obama’s reelection campaign….

Racusen joins a long line of Obama veterans who have found jobs in the tech sector after serving in the government, from former press secretary Jay Carney (Amazon) to former senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer (GoFundMe). And Snapchat is a popular White House presence already: Michelle Obama joined the platform in June, about a month after she and the president welcomed Snapchat chief executive Evan Spiegal and with his now-fiancee, Miranda Kerr, to the Nordic state dinner.

The relationships and mixing between government and media are getting too tangled to follow:

  • ABC News President Ben Sherwood, who is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama.
  • His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist.
  • CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • White House press secretary Jay Carney’s wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC.
  • NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel’s office in April.
  • The Post‘s Justice Department reporter, Sari Horwitz, is married to William B. Schultz, the general counsel of the Department of Human Services.
  • [VP] [The President’s current Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications and] Biden’s [former] communications director, Shailagh Murray (a former Post congressional reporter), is married to Neil King, one of the Wall Street Journal‘s top political reporters.

George Stephanopoulos blazed the trail from campaign staffer for Mike Dukakis to White House press secretary to high-paid anchor on ABC. Lesser staffers have to settle for high-paid positions at Google and Facebook and the like, where their connections help bond the Party of Government and Silicon Valley social media closer — the big Internet powers know they could be hurt by regulation, and promoting progressive ideas and repressing contrary points of view can keep their businesses safe from the scrutiny of antitrust and regulatory agencies.

Sylvia Burwell is another Dukakis staffer who cashed in:

While still in college, she served as an intern for West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall, as governor’s aide to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, and worked on the Dukakis/Bentsen campaign… She later worked on the Clinton/Gore campaign.

She was an Associate at McKinsey & Company from 1990 through 1992. On the night in July of 1993 when Deputy White House counsel Vince Foster committed suicide in a Virginia park, Burwell searched Foster’s office garbage for documents wanted by the Clintons before the police investigation commenced. Burwell was questioned during the Whitewater investigations regarding the purpose of her search of Foster’s garbage and the fate of the documents she discovered. She served as Staff Director for the National Economic Council from 1993 to 1995. She was Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin from 1995 to 1997. Mathews served as Deputy Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 1998, along with future Center for American Progress founder John Podesta. In 1998, Bowles left and Podesta was elevated to chief of staff, and Burwell moved to the OMB to serve as Jack Lew’s deputy director from 1998 to 2001…

On March 3, 2013, President Obama nominated Burwell to head the White House Office of Management and Budget…. In October 2013, during the United States federal government shutdown of 2013, Burwell sent the email initiating the process that closed national parks, visitors’ centers and even the “panda-cam” at the National Zoo. “Agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” Burwell wrote in a memo to heads of executive departments and agencies. She ordered the action because there was no “clear indication” that Congress would strike an agreement on a continuing resolution before the end of the day Tuesday. “We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations,” Burwell said in a statement.

Burwell was confirmed as Department of HHS secretary on June 5, 2014.

And today CNN is running her opinion piece on Obamacare’s success and bright future without explicitly noting she’s in charge of the agency running Obamacare.

CNN is owned by Time-Warner, a communications company extensively regulated by the FCC, an obsolete but still powerful agency whose commissioners are appointed by the President and control broadcast and cable TV. ABC is owned by Disney, which also owns ESPN and also depends on cable monopolies for its outsized profits. MSNBC and NBC are notoriously close to the current administration, and they are owned by Comcast, who… are you seeing the pattern?

Marilyn Tavenner started a nurse, then rose to chief executive of a hospital owned by HCA (Hospital Corporation of America, profit-making megachain), rising in the corporation before resigning to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Resources in the Cabinet of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine [now Hillary Clinton’s VP candidate.] She was in charge of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services which was responsible for the horrendously botched rollout of Obamacare and its Healthcare.Gov website.

She resigned January of 2015, and by July had been appointed President and CEO of AHIP, the health insurance industry organization and lobbying group.

These incestuous and corrupt linkages mean government regulatory authority is gradually undermining journalist’s independence, nurturing a shared worldview — a hothouse bubble — making nonpartisan reporting difficult. Most journalists are progressive-leaning Democrats, though some are still trying hard to be evenhanded. But the bubble in which they live and hobnob socially with White House staffers and other apparatchiks and lobbyists in DC and NYC makes it very hard for them to see their own biases and report fairly, when they know breaking news “difficult” for the socially-approved candidate will hurt them socially or result in a decline in their access to government sources. It’s easy to make it as a reporter or opinion writer by rewriting press releases and forwarding talking points given to you by friendly insiders — and time-consuming and often fruitless to follow independent leads to do investigative reporting revealing government malfeasance. It makes people you know and like look bad. It might help a candidate you can’t stand! …

The uniquely awful choice between Clinton and Trump is driving journalists to new lows in partisan reporting. The New York Times discussed the problem:

If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.

But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don’t, what should take their place?

Covering Mr. Trump as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate is more than just a shock to the journalistic system. It threatens to throw the advantage to his news conference-averse opponent, Hillary Clinton, who should draw plenty more tough-minded coverage herself. She proved that again last week with her assertion on “Fox News Sunday” that James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had declared her to be truthful in her answers about her decision to use a private email server for official State Department business — a grossly misleading interpretation of an F.B.I. report that pointed up various falsehoods in her public explanations.

And, most broadly, it upsets balance, that idealistic form of journalism with a capital “J” we’ve been trained to always strive for.

This week’s episode of Hillary’s ongoing medical issues had her exiting the 9-11 memorial ceremony early. Captured only by amateur video because the press corps was prevented from following her, the talking points issued by her people went from allergies, to fainting in the (80-degree) heat, then finally (after the video became public) to the claim that she had been diagnosed days earlier with pneumonia, but kept on with her relentless schedule against doctor’s orders until she was overcome.

Partisan apologists immediately sent up flak memes to cover up the revelation that all previous talking points had been lies:

A 68-year-old woman, with pneumonia, still kept a schedule that most of us wouldn’t make it through, flying here and there, holding multiple events and briefings a day.

That’s not weak. That’s actually strong and tough as hell.

One wag responded:

If you spin a story faster than lightspeed, does it go back in time and rescue the candidate from that deep trench she fell into?

The New Yorker rushed out a cartoon lampooning the coverup:

Hillary Clinton's coverup -- Schwartz, The New Yorker

Hillary Clinton’s coverup — Schwartz, The New Yorker

Others pointed out how much US journalism is starting to look like banana republic propaganda:

Our Leader is Strong Like Ox! -- Anarchyball

Our Leader is Strong Like Ox! — Anarchyball

Ooh, harsh. But fair. We look at people like the Kirchners in Argentina and wonder how they can get voted in despite their obvious corruption. Today many stories in US politics are broken by the British press, who aren’t as constrained by the access favor-trading that has “respectable” news organizations self-censoring and identifying with the power structure they are supposedly a check on.

What’s next? If Trump wins, will Milo Yiannopoulos be appointed White House press secretary? I have to admit he’d be highly entertaining. Would he then go on to anchor the new Trump News Network’s Sunday politics show?


If Trump wins, would it be wrong for him to work to dismantle the protected oligopoly cable networks now have, lowering prices for content and getting his own network the advantages Time-Warner, Disney, and Comcast now enjoy? What will all the partisan journalists do when their platforms begin to shrink?

The risks of a Trump presidency are enormous, but Hillary Clinton’s claim that half of his supporters are “deplorables,” meaning people who are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it,” sounds very much like the character assassination progressives apply to anyone who disagrees with them about — anything. Internet memes immediately began to appear mocking her comment:

Les Deplorables -- via Christopher Buckley, source unknown

Les Deplorables — via Christopher Buckley, source unknown

What is the solution to the revolving door of influence and media corruption? One proposal is Glenn Reynolds’ “Revolving Door Tax.” It would also be a good idea for Congress to explicitly prohibit use of tax dollars to do executive branch PR — vast sums are spent to generate pro-government propaganda, contributing to spread of biased information. Progressive claims that such expenditures are necessary to prepare the population to accept programs like the ACA show exactly why they shouldn’t be allowed. The corrupt feedback loop allowing voters to be brainwashed to accept political-class programming needs to be stopped. The regulation of cable TV and high-speed Internet that prevents competition for their local monopolies also needs to end; the extra $50-100 per month paid by hundreds of millions of households is being plowed into acquisition of content providers, and the tiny fraction of their monopoly profits these companies plow back into supporting politicians and PR people is damaging our politics. The similar corrupt feedback loops in banking and finance, healthcare and insurance, energy policy, education — really everywhere government controls a major economic sector — are subjects of other posts.


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Death by HR: Biased HR Degree Programs Create Biased HR Bureaucracies
Death by HR: Pink Collar Ghettos, Publishing and HR
Death by HR: Who Staffs HR Departments? Mostly Women…
Death by HR: The Great Enrichment to the Great Slackening
Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends
Gaming and Science Fiction: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again


  1. Nice work Jeb.

    Thanks for linking my blog. I noticed that you have it linked twice, the first one is to “” which is a junk account. For some reason can’t remove it off wordpress. Correct one is the second link to “”.

    Posted this link to heartiste today so you may see some traffic from that.

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