Richard Salant (former President of CBS News)
In today's political climate, America has been reduced to just one party. Oh sure, the various branches of the party go by different names and they appear to be adversaries. But in reality, the Democrats and the Republicans are indeed the "twiddle dee and twiddle dumb" of the same party. Many political pundits have dubbed the D's and the R's as the two wings of the Washington Party. I find myself concurring with that assessment.
The two wings of the Washington party are having a televised party on Sunday night on KPHO, Channel five, and Richard Mack is not invited. The R's and the D's have left the L's out of the party (i.e., debate). Why? The answers may surprise you.
"With the election less than a month away, it's important that voters know the issues," said Steven D. Hammel, CBS (KPHO, Channel 5) Vice President and General Manager. "I'm pleased that CBS 5 is doing its part to help our viewers get to know both the candidates and the issues so they can make an informed decision." Who is Hammel kidding? Jim Pederson, Jon Kyl and Richard Mack are the three candidates on the ballot for the United States Senate seat from Arizona. How is KPHO performing a public service when one third of the candidates are excluded from the debate? How can KPHO consider what it is doing to be informing the public when the only anti-war candidate is censored in a manner which violates the protocols of American democracy and its debating process? When I interviewed Steven Hammel, on Friday morning, he defended his complicity in this censorship by stating that "If the Senatorial debate were not to be held without an audience and if Richard Mack were allowed to participate, Kyl and Pederson would refuse to participate and we would be watching the debate on another station". What a sad and weak excuse used to defend this brand of yellow journalism!
Subsequently, I called the Kyl camp, identified myself as an editorialist for freedomsphoenix.com, and spoke to one of the many Kyl faithful and asked this gatekeeper why Jon Kyl was afraid of Richard Mack and was having him excluded from the KPHO debates on Sunday night? The gatekeeper responded by saying "Oh, I don't think the Senator is afraid of Mr. Mack and he would probably welcome a debate with him. It must have been Channel five's decision to exclude Mr. Mack". I promptly read Hammel's statement to the gatekeeper and I was quickly told that if I left my number somebody would call me back. Four messages later, nobody from Kyl's office has bothered to call me back. I also called Pederson's camp, four times, and left a question, via voicemail, asking why Mr. Pederson would have capitulated to Kyl's demands to exclude Mack from the debate. I am still waiting for a return call.
Truth has become something to be auctioned off to the highest bidder; integrity is for sale. In the commercial marketplace of political ideas, something becomes true if you can get people to believe it through any means possible. Channel five, the Phoenix CBS affiliate, has become the most recent standard bearer of this philosophy.
Censorship of public information is not new in the history of the world, but historical dictatorships lacked the present digital multimedia and far-reaching distribution technology which has the unprecedented power to propagandize the public. This new media cartel exercises a more complex and subtle kind of control and politicians like Jon Kyl is one of the media's master manipulators.
The domination of corporate money in public politics, which has also subverted so many public servants and our nation's public policies, also prevents Americans from becoming well-informed. Most media proprietors show little or no evidence in their programming of any sense of obligation to treat the American audience as citizens of a democracy in which all viewpoints should be heard. The PBS affiliates in Tucson and Phoenix are exceptions to this rule as they refused to sponsor a debate which did not contain all of the candidates. The PBS sponsored debates for the Secretary of State and the office of Governor, rightfully consisted of all three candidates. Yet, KPHO and Steven Hammel obviously don't understand that they are charged with the fiduciary duty to inform the public with as little of journalistic bias as possible. The decision by Hammel and company to exclude Richard Mack from the debate reeks of media censorship.
Why should you care if Richard Mack is left out of the debate? In order to answer this question, one must consider the historical implications of a free press. For example, if the entire media, in the early 1900's, practiced the media ethics of KPHO and its Vice-President and Program Director, Steven Hammel, there never would have been the likes of progressive reformers Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Bob Lafollette and Upton Sinclair. Without a free and independent press, American citizens would still be eating and dying from tainted meat, our children would be working in sweat shops for pennies on the hour and pregnant women would be working 16 hour days and summarily fired as they neared their delivery date. It was the media which led the charge of the Progressive Movement against the abuses of corporate America in the early 20th Century. The American media used to be the watch dogs of society and its governing institutions. Today, the media has increasingly become the lap dog for the Jon Kyl's and their corporate masters. With only six corporations owning nearly 100% of the vast media empire, should we be surprised? Centralization of power of always leads to a selfish, self-serving abuse of power. The same holds true in government and in the media. Mr. Hammel and KPHO stand as the local example of this demise in media ethics in America.
When I caught up to Richard Mack on Friday night, he stated that "Pederson was in favor of having me in the debates mostly because he believed that my candidacy took votes away from Jon Kyl". Then why did Pederson do an about face and agree to Kyl's terms for the debate which included the exclusion of Richard Mack? According to the polls, Kyl leads Pederson by six points. At this late date, the quickest and perhaps, the only way which Pederson can make up the deficit is by having a series of debates which would be witnessed by a large number of voters. Make no mistake about it; Pederson would love to have Mack in the debate. But if Pederson's only way of getting Kyl on camera is to agree to exclude Richard Mack, then so be it. And let's give credit where credit is due. Kyl is now free to face-off; one on one, with just Pederson and any debating ties belongs to the incumbent. Can you imagine how Kyl would look to the voting public if his two opponents were to simultaneously expose his flawed special interest voting record? As a basketball coach, I teach my guards how to stay out of the corners and to avoid double teams. Obviously Mr. Kyl has been well-coached!
Hammel survives because of his ability to procure the almighty advertising dollar for KPHO. Corporate interests politically flourish because of their control of the Jon Kyl's. And Jon Kyl could not politically survive if the Richard Mack's were to get their message heard by the masses. Without the corporate servant, Jon Kyl,securely tucked into the Senate, Corporate American would suffer. Subsequently, Steven Hammel and KPHO rushes to the corporate rescue.
Mack's message is powerful and could serve to wakeup large numbers of ignorant voters if the message were to be heard on the public airwaves. Therefore, corporate advertisers and their corporate political servants (e.g., Jon Kyl) have a vested interest in not letting you hear Richard Mack's message. And just what is Mack's message? For starters, let's start with Kyl's private meetings, with Mack, and his subsequent pleas to Mack in which Kyl begged Mack to not run for Arizona's Senate seat. Kyl knows that Mack is a man to be reckoned with. After all, it was Mack who took on President Bill Clinton and the federal bureaucracy, and won at the Supreme Court, over the unconstitutional Brady bill. In short, Jon Kyl is afraid of Richard Mack. In a public debate forum, that fear would readily be transmitted to the viewing public and could spell disaster to the incumbents' hope for re-election.
According to Mack, "Kyl is a liar" as Kyl has previously made pledges to Mack and his affiliated organizations with regard to gun control legislation only to reverse himself a few short days later with his vote on the Senate floor. Mack also asserts that in addition to his corporate servitude, that Kyl is "a socialist" who never fails to assert his voting power on behalf of the special interests.
Kyl is so afraid of Mack's candidacy that he called on his minions, Arizona Congressmen J. D. Hayworth and Jeff Flake, to further convince Mack to not run for the Senate seat. Both Hayworth and Flake both expressed the view to Mack that if he were to run, he would take away votes from Kyl. By the way, my sources tell me that Hayworth's campaign may face possible federal scrutiny as his practices may contain some legal and ethical irregularities as Hayworth is apparently practicing his own version of the "Friends and Family Plan" by hiring his wife, at taxpayer expense, to the tune of $140,000 per year. Of course Hayworth's alleged transgressions are no less egregious than Jon Kyl's sponsoring of a $6.5 billion tax break for Exxon Mobil while the good Senator was an Exxon stockholder. Since these three "jolly good fellows" were unable to convince Mack to not run, Mack's message had to be censored and Steven Hammel and KPHO is all too happy to oblige.
Richard Mack has less than a $1,000 in his campaign coffers. He has virtually no constituency base, no campaign signs on the State's roads and he has no campaign manager. What could Jon Kyl possibly be afraid of, the truth?
I am disappointed that Jim Pederson did not stand his ground and insist on a fair and honest debate which respects the tenets of American democracy. Pederson's capitulation speaks volumes about his ethics as well. At one time, I was considering voting for Jim Pederson because I viewed Jon Kyl's politics as being so very dangerous to America. However, I knew in my heart that Richard Mack was the better man and would be the better public servant if only given the opportunity. But I was afraid that I would be throwing away my vote if I voted for Mack. Now, I have come to the conclusion that if I voted for either member of the Washington Party, I am indeed throwing away my vote. Therefore, I am proud to support and endorse the candidacy of Richard Mack for the United States Senate.
An unbiased media must function in the light of day and embrace a set of journalistic ethics which embraces the highest levels of integrity. Sadly, our politics have slipped back to the levels of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall and the media outlets like KPHO is leading the charge. I would urge all who are reading this editorial to take the time and contact one advertising sponsor of KPHO and inform them that you cannot buy their product because the station in which they are supporting, intentionally subverts the democratic process and practices blatant censorship. Speak to this station in the language that they most understand.