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Of Course Money Is Speech

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More money = More articulation = More influence

As I read Dollarocracy by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, I cannot help but think about the biases we bring to any topic or any text.

The authors make no bones about their stand on the free flow of money into our political system and the corrosive effects for everyone touching that money. The authors are also clear about how our media is complicit in helping form story arcs and shaping mythic-sounding conflicts that might just serve the media best by training viewers to stay tuned. Fox News has not cornered the marketing on training viewers to panic—it seems to be the purpose of most news shows these days. And why not? Advertisers love those vulnerable audiences and there are fortunes to be made, after all.MoneyOrdersEverything-05282014

I cannot yet agree with the authors that our representatives are simply “bought” by Super PACs and big lobbying firms and corporate interests. I think there are connections between the money they need for reelection and the ways they vote. But I’m not sure it is a one-to-one correspondence. It’s more complicated and nuanced, but common sense tells me that if some set of powerful organizations has contributed millions of dollars to a reelection campaign, the person seeking reelection will vote favorably to the interests of those organizations.

That is the nature of gifts.

That’s why I like OpenSecrets.Org: they try to trace where the money comes from and where it goes. Especially dark money, which is typically hidden for a reason. Because money is not given to political campaigns out of altruism. People buy influence with what seems to be a gift.

Dollarocracy-9781568589534_p0_v1_s260x420-05282014Nichols and McChesney bring a bias to their writing of expecting to see our representatives being bought by corporate interests. I don’t blame them—they’ve written several books on the topic and have seen what they have seen. For myself, I just want to begin to train my eyes to turn from entertainments once in a while to see which of our representatives are being influenced by which Super PAC/lobbying firm/corporation.

We cannot end the flow of money into our political system. But we must become aware of what that money is buying—and what it is costing the citizenry.

Best if we could say out loud to each other where we’ve seen influence purchased.



Image credit: Kirk Livingston. Neon by Patrick Martinez via Public Functionary

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