• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home The Feuilleton of MilSan and MikWag The Brass Check Updated: American Journalism à la Rupert (Murdoch)

The Brass Check Updated: American Journalism à la Rupert (Murdoch)

I sent a comment to Mr. Herbert of The NY Times today that the mind-numbing chatter that he ascribes to the political class derives, in fact, from his journalistic class.

I can never tell why the Times on occasion fails to transmit my comments to its authors.  What could possibly be offensive about my observation that Fox News is a perpetrator of disinformation and personal attacks that in no way differ from those documented by the Pulitzer prize winning Mr. Upton Sinclair in his extraordinary 1920 book The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism?

Mr. Sinclair, in this self-published book, documented how corporations took control of newspapers, magazines, and even the AP wire service, and how their conduct was as criminal as that of the meat packers of Chicago, who Sinclair also exposed in his also extraordinary 1906 book The Jungle.  Then, like now, the media was manufacturing a product, falsely labelled "100% Truth," but which, upon laboratory analysis, comprised inert filler, lies and disinformation.  A product produced by and for the corporate owners -- oil companies, coal companies, meat packers, copper miners, banks, brokers -- just like today.

Sinclair called The Brass Check the most dangerous book he had ever written.

"Zooks!" you say, "I find it hard to believe that today our news product could possibly be contaminated.  It's preposterous!"  "Well then," I say, "show me the series of stories in the NY Times that pursues to closure any of the recent scandals.  Where is the Watergate-like reporting about the betrayal of Valerie Plume?  Where in the NY Times do I find the continuing story of the Koch brothers or sustained coverage of the round-the-clock effort by corporations and rich people to maintain their tax-favored status and deny healthcare coverage to 50,000,000 Americans?"

And that's the NY Times!

"Or show me," I continue, "a single major paper whose journalists came out in support of the rights of Keith Olbermann?   And tell me that CBS did not prohibit its entire staff from attending Jon Stewart's rally for sanity"

The Jungle was so revolting that the Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, which created the Food and Drug Administration--as a result of which we now have decent food.  The Brass Check had no such effect on the news.  The difference is understandable, of course.  The non-meat-packing capitalists and the congressmen were hopping mad at the meat packing-capitalists for feeding them adulterated crap.  But the non-media capitalists were and are perfectly happy about the contamination of the news.

The Brass Check is one of six books in Sinclair's "Dead Hand" series on American institutions.  The others are: The Profits of Religion, The Goose Step (on higher education), The Goslings (elementary and high school education), Mammonar (literature, art and music), and Money Writes!

Incidentally, Mr. Sinclair's journalism was impeccable.  He spent six weeks working in a meat packing plant (aka slaughterhouse) before writing The Jungle.  He spent 20 years as a journalist before writing The Brass Check.  He was labelled a "muckraker" by the capitalist press for his exposes.  But he wrote the truth, and the truth was that there was alot of muck to rake back then, just like today.


"A muckraker is, primarily, a reporter or writer who investigates and publishes truthful reports involving a host of social issues, broadly including crime and corruption and often involving elected officials, political leaders and influential members of business and industry. The term is closely associated with a number of important writers who emerged in the 1890s through the 1930s, a period roughly concurrent with the Progressive Era in the United States.

These writers focused on a wide range of issues including the monopoly of Standard Oil; cattle processing and meat packing; patent medicines; child labor; and wages, labor, and working conditions in industry and agriculture. In a number of instances, the revelations of muckraking journalists led to public outcry, governmental and legal investigations, and, in some cases, legislation was enacted to address the issues the writers' identified, such as harmful social conditions; pollution; food and product safety standards; sexual harassment; unfair labor practices; fraud; and other matters. The work of the muckrakers in the early years, and those today, span a wide array of legal, social, ethical and public policy concerns." (from Wiki)


I only have one quibble with the inestimable Mr. Upton Sinclair, and it isn't with his book but rather with his own assessment of it:  The Brass Check isn't dangerous, it's healthy!  It's an antidote for the societal poison belching from the chimneys of Fox News.  If you have a visceral reaction to news à la Rupert, it will settle your tummy.

Here's my real message:  The Brass Check is a must-read for all citizens.  It should replace Ethan Frome or whatever other useless drivel our besotted secondary school educators are inflicting upon the goslings these days.

My second message:  Where are the muckrakers when you need them?  Fox News is in need of a rake over.


You can read The Brass Check online (N.B. it is a scanned copy in which the words on the margins are sometimes partly truncated): The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism

Or get a copy from Amazon:  The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism