Cenk Uygur has often provided a desperately needed antidote to the lies of mainstream media, but his own limitations —and those inherent in a commercial medium—may eventually flatten his promise.
While at MSNBC Cenk gave WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a non-hostile platform to explain his positions. For that alone, the interview remains memorable and illuminating on all parties concerned. [See MSNBC's Cenk Uygur interviews Julian Assange (VIDEO) ]
PLEASE ALSO SEE THE ADDENDUM AT BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE
Cenk’s ability to speak truth to power may have been further compromised by his embrace of regular television. A founder of The Young Turks (TYT), a very successful progressive Internet news and political commentary program distributed via live web stream and YouTube. The Young Turks is reputed to be the first Internet TV news show and the world’s largest online news show. Video of the show is streamed daily on their website and available as a podcast. While I have not watched the TYT often enough to establish whether the web-borne edition is (or was) more outspoken than the new-fangled mainstream TV edition, I remain dubious that Cenk will be able to comfortably transfer any type of radicalism to his new venue.
The reasons are well known to leftist communicators. For one, no advertiser-supported corporate medium, no matter what its marketing promos proclaim, is above or outside the tacit parameters (and poisoning) of capitalistic thinking. They all bear the original sin. This obviously narrows the kind of free expression and topicality one might expect from a genuine media champion. Current TV, a fledgling cable channel, is a media company led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt, both prominent Democrats. Also, Comcast —a very reactionary outfit—owns a ten percent stake of Current’s parent company, Current Media LLC. That alone should set off some alarms.
In fairness, Al Gore’s political persona has undergone something of an “ascetic/enviromental crusader” makeover, underscored by what some have interpreted as a low-key renunciation (and denunciation) of conventional politics. This may bode well for those who want to expose the more corrupt aspects of the current set up, but his backing so far seems amorphous.
Indeed, Gore and Cenk may share a commonality and that is that they both appear to be people in transition. Gore’s commitment, visibility, connections and media access have definitely put the topic of climate change and massive species extinction on the front-burner of public policy (where it remains royally ignored by the powers that be, starting with the disgraceful betrayals and foot-dragging of the Obama administration), but his thinking is obviously still very much that of an establishmentarian. This, and Joel Hyatt’s even more conventional business-oriented thinking, and his own budding political ambition, can only cripple a would-be radical’s style. Which Cenk apparently isn’t, at least not yet, despite, as I signaled earlier, Cenk’s evolving political persona toward what I hope will be a welcome awakening.
Still, on the hopeful side, whatever the limitations of Gore’s message (his famous documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is notoriously weak in the solutions it offers, chiefly non-systemic superficialities like switching to more efficient bulbs, hybrids, etc.), he has done valuable work alerting the world to the impending ecocide and he may have some inclination to permit a wider range of opinions on Current TV. Olbermann’s tenure at Current has shown some promising signs, especially his frequent featuring of OWS spokespeople, and he has occasionally sharply criticized Obama, but, as Uygur himself has done, this is often cancelled by overt or implicit (however reluctant) endorsement of the Lesser Evil on presidential elections.
• While opposing the Afghan/Iraq wars, Cenk—probably a victim of the subtler propaganda enveloping this cynical neocolonialist grab— supported Obama on Libya and he still says so unrepentantly.
• He thinks Howard Dean—as clear a Democratic party apparatchik and DLC operative as any— is a man who promises real change. This despite the fact that Dean, himself a physician, did not even support universal healthcare in his own state, Vermont, and remains prominent as an ubiquitous Democrat apologist.
• Cenk remains a captive of Lesser Evilism, arguing that bad as the Democrats may be, they’re substantively better than the Republicans, “a fully-owned subsidiary of corporate America and the plutocracy.”
Perhaps Cenk (along with other left-liberals like Dylan Ratigan, Rachel Maddow, and Olbermann) represents at this point the outer boundary of what we can expect capitalist-dominated media to deliver in terms of covering the ills of the system. However, as tensions mount, and events turn to more dramatic forms of confrontation between the plutocracy and the “99%”, including many more instances of clear and indisputable Democrat betrayal, these television hosts will be increasingly put in an impossible situation forcing them to choose between their careers and their conscience—indeed, the classical bourgeois journalist’s dilemma.
Choosing for the latter, of course, may condemn them to swift oblivion, but then again, the OWS phenomenon points to a revival of creativity among those who wish to resist the global imperium, and in those trenches, which should eventually include most of humanity, there will always be room for people committed to creating truly democratic communications.
PATRICE GREANVILLE is The Greanville Post‘s editor in chief.
Current TV’s Cenk Uygur: Ronald Reagan Would Be a ‘Huge Liberal’ Now
Cenk Uygur promises a stepped-up version of “The Young Turks” when it debuts on Current TV Monday.
Mon, Dec 5 2011 | Cenk Uygur interviewed by Reuters
The former MSNBC host told TheWrap that he planned to make use of the new platform for the online show with panel discussions and guests. He said that the show will easily stand out from other cable news shows populated with “plastic robot anchors.”
“We’ll be much more irreverent, in your face and genuine,” he promised.
Uygur discussed his plans for the show, which candidate he’ll vote for 2012 and the future of the Occupy movement in his interview with TheWrap.
How will this show differ from “The Young Turks” people see online?
First of all, we’ve got a production that will be really stepped up – the graphics, the intros — even being able to talk to everyone on the set. I am also looking forward to the panel conversation at the bottom of the hour — bringing in the smartest progressives from across the country, and sometimes non-progressives to have a great conversation and an honest conversation. Bringing in guests was hard, technically, on the online show.
Yet you’ve dubbed “The Young Turks” the largest online news program in the world. How does the Current platform compare to that?
Every platform brings a new and different audience as well. It’s fantastic to have those two platforms working in tandem. We are knee-deep in figuring out synergies and how we can work together. We might do an online poll that we introduce to the TV audience. We might use comments from either format. I aim to have genuine interaction with the audience and use both platforms to drive that audience.
So are the cable news networks your competition? And, if so, how do you make Current distinct?
I don’t think anybody will be confused as to whether we’re different from the rest of cable news. That’s easy. Look, unfortunately for the rest of cable news there are a lot of plastic robot anchors out there who regurgitate what producers put in the prompter. I don’t even have a prompter; the show is unscripted. We’ll be much more irreverent, in your face and genuine.
Right now you’ve got the GOP primary and Occupy Wall Street. What are you most excited to talk about?
The GOP primary race is a lot of fun because there are a bunch of goofballs over there and they provide a ton of entertainment, but I’m probably more excited by the progressive policy points we’re looking at.
People often talk about OWS but don’t give it the right context. It drives me crazy when Fox and other cable outlets play along – “No one knows what they are doing out there. Why don’t they get a job?” They know exactly what they’re asking for.
They are tired of institutional corruption.
As winter sets in and various protesters are shut down, do you see the movement dying out or do you think it will come back stronger in the spring as the protesters are claiming?
The occupy movement is not about a couple of tents in L.A. or Zuccotti Park. It’s about the majority of the country that are sick of their politicians not representing them, giving every unfair advantage to the richest people in the country. As great a job as they have done to bring the issue to the forefront of the conversation, it’s not just about guys in a park but who they represent. They represent the majority of Americans that say, “Enough is enough, how do we get democracy back?”
Like the Occupy protesters, you’ve been very critical of Barack Obama. Would you vote for another candidate in 2012?
Well if by someone else you mean a Republican the answer to that is a, “Hell, no.” They are all cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Would there be an independent I’d consider? I guess. I think a third party run is generally a very bad idea. It gives the other side an advantage, but I’m open to anything because of the incredible frustration that the Democrats never do anything progressive.
Now you used to be a moderate Republican, no? How do you explain that shift?
It’s not a drastic shift at all. I was a liberal Republican from New Jersey. No such beast exists anymore. It wasn’t that I changed. I changed almost none of my positions. The Republican party has changed where they went from liberal Republicans to despising them. What does it mean to be a liberal Republican? To be liberal on social issues, which I am, and fiscally conservative, which I am.
The Republican party isn’t. They haven’t been fiscally conservative since Dwight Eisenhower.
Even Ronald Reagan would be a huge liberal right now. He would be kicked out of the Democratic party for being too liberal. He negotiated with Iran and sold weapons to terrorists. Obama would be scared out of his mind to have any position remotely as progressive as Ronald Reagan. The Democratic party is far to the right of Ronald Reagan.
So if the Republican party has shifted so far to the right, and the Democrats have shifted to adjust, doesn’t that mean the populace has as well?
Those changes are not at all reflective of what the population believes. In nearly every single poll, the country is massively progressive. Cut social security under any circumstances? Eighty-four percent say no. Cost of living? The public option tested in the 70s. In some polls the majority of Republicans were in favor. Should we tax the rich, the top one percent more? Should we get out of the wars? A huge majority is in favor.
So if the country is massively progressive, why is this not showing up in the political results?
We’ve lost our democracy. Votes don’t matter any more. Ninety-seven percent of people who had more money in elections won. Politicians work for the guys who sign their checks. The fact that the rest of media doesn’t cover it as an absolute fact makes a mockery of rest of the media. It’s basically the only issue that matters. It’s why we’ve had this dramatic shift to the right of Washington.
© Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved.
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