By Mike Wysocki
Pittsburgh Current Columnist
Our corporate overlords have as much influence in our media as they do in politics. And if the corporate media doesn’t like your politics, then you will probably find yourself out of a job unless you fall in line.
It’s not a new trend; remember when the President said the Media was the enemy of the people? And like all trends in this country, it eventually comes around to Pittsburgh. It’s an if-you-don’t-like-who-I-like-then-I-don’t-like-you kinda vibe. It’s been pretty bad lately. Last week, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired Rob Rogers, one of the smartest, most -respected political cartoonists in the country. And a month ago, the City Paper fired the publisher of this very company; in both instances, because someone else didn’t like what they were saying.
Having been on terrestrial corporate radio for ten years, I have witnessed the tight grip that companies have over what we can and cannot say. For example, if I want to say that Wal-Mart sucks (come on, we all know they do) and even if I can back that up with reports and investigations, I can’t talk about that with my listeners. Why? Because, even if the chain isn’t a sponsor of the show today, one day it could be. So that basically means, we can’t talk about anybody. We can’t talk about one current or future advertiser when they mess up because it might cost us some money somewhere down an imaginary line.
I remember on one show, our entire crew almost got fired after a co-host asked, “The good kind of salad dressing or the kind you get at Giant Eagle?” This seemingly forgettable and innocuous statement drew unrestrained outrage toward us immediately after the show. The manager told us we’d be lucky if we have a job tomorrow because Giant Eagle was a sponsor. Luckily for us Giant Eagle didn’t overreact to a joke, but lots of companies would have. The fascist stranglehold on what can be said over the airwaves and in print endangers the pursuit of the truth. The need for a free press is vital.
This is just one of the reasons that I am thrilled to be joining the staff of the Pittsburgh Current. Here, we have the freedom to speak the truth without fear of outside influence controlling the message. I’m not naïve, I know that free speech has consequences and it’s a risk we all take. But today reporters, columnists and cartoonists can’t even get their message out to the public and that makes for an even more dangerous threat to our freedom of speech. That’s why, the Pittsburgh Current answers only to the readers. So, now that this publication is brought to you by, well, you, please allow me to talk a bit more about the Evil Empire that is Wal-Mart. Why? Because, finally I can.
The country’s largest retail store has left a trail of shuttered family businesses like corpses across the landscape. It’s impossible for a small-town storeowner to compete with a company whose goods are all manufactured by children’s hands making even smaller wages. The company’s operational practices overseas have been called “exploitive.” http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/31/news/companies/walmart-gap-hm-garment-workers-asia/index.html
The thing is, employees back home aren’t treated much better. Sure every retailer uses security cameras, but at Wal-Mart the cameras weren’t just there to catch shoplifters. Numerous reports over the past 10 years from Human Rights Watch, Mother Jones and Bloomberg, indicate that the cameras are used as just one technique to keep their employees in check in case they get any fancy ideas about forming a union.
And on the off chance that one of its stores does unionize, Wal-Mart has been known to shut stores down rather than pay employees a decent wage or provide decent benefits. Meanwhile four of the richest Americans are from the Walton Family; a combined wealth of more than $170 billion. They didn’t even have to pull up their bootstraps to get it; they probably paid people to pull up their bootstraps for them. Look, I know my meager boycott of the retail giant has done little to affect their empire, but, man, I hate them so much.
On the plus side, though, this entire column would have probably gotten me fired if I read it over the air or had written it at the other place I used to write. We are living in a time where any criticism of Corporate America or the great-and-powerful 45 can cost you your job.
Well, unless you work here. Thanks for supporting truly independent media.