One luxury of being fabulously wealthy is that you can throw your weight around and distort reality. You can sometimes bend it to conform to your own agenda.
This morning I heard a disturbing report on NPR that detailed the efforts of Sheldon Adelson, who made his billions in the casino bidness, to throw his weight around by launching “a free newspaper in Israel in 2007” that “has close ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The result of the American billionaire’s efforts is that other Hebrew newspapers, including ones not in the pockets of Adelson and Netanyahu, are struggling, since they cannot compete with a business willing to give its product away, charge advertisers much less than market rates, and thus operate at a considerable loss.
Adelson’s newspaper venture, called Israel Hayom, is obviously designed to quiet any opposition to right-wing thinking and, more important as a war with Iran looms in America’s future, right-wing actions.
Here’s how McClatchy reported on the issue:
The economic crisis that’s hit the newspaper industry in the United States and elsewhere is threatening some of Israel’s most influential publications and could soon leave the country with virtually no liberal-leaning printed newspapers…
Publishers say that competition with the Internet, as in the rest of the world, is one reason for their decline. But they say a far bigger influence has been the cost of competing with Israel Hayom, a free-distribution newspaper that American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson founded five years ago.
In Israel, the right-wing paper is known as “Bibi Press,” for its “often-fawning articles about Netanyahu.” The free paper is hurting all newspapers, not just left-leaning ones. The McClatchy article ends this way:
Popular Israeli columnist Ben Caspit wrote Friday in Maariv that outside forces were driving Israeli media outlets out of business.
“An enormous power, uncontrollable and unstoppable, arrives from outside and destroys the local forces one after another, like in a futuristic film. The local forces are us: Maariv, Haaretz, Channel 10, Globes, afterwards it’s Channel 2’s turn and in the end also Yediot Ahronot. No one of these has enough power to even tickle Sheldon Adelson,” he wrote.
“I think not so long from now we will all understand that we are in one boat. That they are taking over our country. That this is a war. . . . We need to unite and to explain to Bibi, so that he’ll understand, that he must not continue with this campaign to make democracy extinct.”
Sheizaf noted that during Romney’s visit to Israel this year, he violated the longstanding practice of not criticizing a sitting American administration while abroad. And he did so not in a left-leaning newspaper that interviewed him, but in Adelson’s rag.
For the record, the bloated billionaire is also throwing his bloatedness around here in other ways, notably:
Mr. Adelson has already contributed more money to defeat Mr. Obama than anyone: over $50 million has gone to the 2012 campaign, including $10 million to a “super PAC” backing Mr. Romney and $10 million to Crossroads GPS, which has run millions of dollars of advertisements against Mr. Obama.
Adelson has pledged to spend $100 million or more, and it remains to be seen whether he can buy enough votes for Mitt Romney to win and thereby represent the billionaire’s interests and help with his agenda. But we have seen enough already to make us realize that in an important way the election in November is about more than Obama and Romney.
It’s about whether rich folks can continue to openly get away with distorting reality.
It’s about whether the wealthy can bend the electorate’s will enough to keep advancing the exclusive interests of the moneyed class.
It is about whether Americans will continue to allow fat-cat bully-billionaires like Sheldon Adelson to push them around.