Disclaimer: The Young Turks is a client of the PR agency for which I work. So I’m writing here about a client. They have neither asked me to do so nor are they paying me to do so. What follows is my honest—if unrepentant—personal opinion.
I’ve been working with and around media for more than two decades. Some things have changed dramatically, while others have not. One of the most spectacular —and saddest—changes we’ve seen is the move from a mostly independent press (obliged only to advertisers) to one that is beholden to Large Corporate Entities. I can count on one hand the number of American daily newspapers that are not owned by a holding company.
At the same time, the interwebs have given us access to new voices. To many brilliant—as well as some shockingly stupid—people.
Likewise, America’s political parties have become amalgamated. We call it a two-party system, but really, when you strip away the rhetoric, we’re down to just one party. One coin with two sides, if you will. Just as “populist” has been co-opted by The Right and is now somehow a bad word, likewise “democrat” no longer necessarily refers to someone who is what is now more accurately termed “progressive.”
Corporate Media is not nearly as free here in the good old U-S-of-A as we’d like to think it is. There are some valid reasons for this, and thousands of people and their families are supported by this infrastructure. But the vast majority of reasons speak to laziness. To our human proclivity to be told what to do and think, and to question little, if anything.
Enter Cenk Uygur.
Cenk hosts an online TV show called The Young Turks. TYT, as it’s affectionately known, is incredibly popular—more than 500 million (yes, that’s half a billion) views on YouTube and counting. Cenk is smart, eloquent…and not afraid to speak his mind. Oh, and he’s a progressive (who, as a matter of interest, used to be a Republican, not unlike yours truly).
Several months ago, MSNBC put Cenk on air. To summarize, here’s what happened:
Cenk got good ratings, which are supposed to be what network executives care about. But Cenk also pointed out that the current administration has, in some specific ways, let down the progressives who put them in power. So Cenk was told—by the head of MSNBC, no less—that “people in Washington” were concerned and that he needed to tone it down. Which he did not. So they offered him a reduced role, oddly, for more money. Which he turned down.
Because he is that rarest of creatures, a man of principle.
Why does this story matter? Because it is confirmation of what those of us who work around and consume media—regardless of your political leanings—have always suspected, that the flow of information and which voices are heard via Mainstream Corporate American Media is…influenced. The fact that the aforementioned head of MSNBC has commented on this story only confirms for me that events unfolded exactly as Cenk has explained them.
And what can we do about it? I hope that this story reaches many people, and that it galvanizes those who are inclined to value independent news sources and voices, including those beyond American shores. That demand for this type of information grows. That people look for factual reporting, rather than sensationalist naval-gazing.