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MSNBC President Phil Griffin micromanages pro-Israel "coverage," fires only Palestinian contributor, Rula Jebreal

Top-down pressure:

[Rula Jebreal] said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had protested the network’s slanted coverage repeatedly in private conversations with producers. “I told them we have a serious issue here,” she explained. “But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship.”

With her criticism of her employer’s editorial line, she has become the latest casualty of the pro-Israel pressure. “I have been told to my face that I wasn’t invited on to shows because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal remarked. “I didn’t believe it at the time. Now I believe it.”

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal’s account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors’ social media accounts and engaging in a “witch hunt” against anyone who strays from the official line.

“Loyalties are now being openly questioned,” the producer commented.

Oh? Loyalty to whom? Or what?

Jebreal is the author of Miral, a memoir about her coming of age in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Her former partner, Jewish-American filmmaker and artist Julian Schnabel, adapted the book into full length film. A widely published journalist and former news presenter in Italy, Jebreal was a vocal supporter of the now-extinct peace process and a harsh critic of Islamist groups including Hamas. Her termination leaves NBC without any Palestinian contributors.

Good for Chris Hayes for interviewing Jebreal afterwards -- though it would be better if she had a job -- but where's Rachel on this?

* * *

Reminds me of when NBC gave Phil Donahue the axe because he opposed the Iraq war -- even though he had great ratings. You'd think that meant the NBC 'zeks were more incentivized by ideology or war fever than the corporate bottom line, but maybe not, or maybe so, but not in the way we usually think about these issues.

Consider the following proposition from yesterday (original). We'll give it a label: (1).

"The Dow is a measure of political control not economic health." (1)

Now, let's assume that proposition (1) is true. Put yourself in an executive's shoes; say, Phil Griffin's[2]. Your compensation scheme incentivizes you by the stock price ("the Dow"[3]). Whether in your gut, from conversations on the 19th hole, or because a really senior executive or even a political figure took you aside and explained the facts of life, you understand proposition (1) very well. We can put your understanding in the form a corollary, giving it the label (2):

Using the Dow as an executive compensation metric incentivizes for political control as the executive class understands it. (2)

Looked at in the light of corollary (2), you can see that firing Donahue is a no-brainer for the NBC executives of that time. The executive compensation formula must trump ratings and profit, even if you assume the executive is acting as a good faith fiduciary; what could indicate loss of "political control" more than a popular, even beloved, talk show host, with an audience of millions, coming out against a war the political class had decided on and already "catapulted the propaganda" for? Using proposition (1) and corollary (2), we don't have to look for nefarious motives or plots in the executive suites, at least not the usual ones. All we have to do is follow the money. The same logic applies with Phil Griffin and with Rula Jebreal. Twelve years since the Iraq war, and literally nothing has changed. I guess the powers that be didn't lose hard enough. Next time, perhaps.

NOTE [1] Restated by the author as "The market measures the global overclass’s belief in their own grip on power." I'm not sure which is the more effective. Maybe around the water cooler the one I used; less cognitive dissonance, since everybody knows that at some level the Dow is a fake, hence a proxy for something other than what it purports to measure, but what? What indeed. Note that if we model the overclass acting in the interest of all its members, we've solved any collective action problems. We see this behavior within factions and dynasties in the political class; on the right, it's called "wingnut welfare." Another phrase for "having solved the collective action problem" is "class consciousness" (at least at scale).

NOTE [2] I didn't know they made latex socks!

NOTE [3] I believe this is called "maximizing shareholder value." Not exactly "the Dow" but surely aligned to it, and the bigger your company, the more so. MSNBC is (owned by NBCUniversal (owned 51% by Comcast and 49% by GE, which have 2013 revenues of $64.7 billion and $146 billion respectively))).

NOTE Cf. Randolph Bourne on similar social dynamics before World War I, noting especially Bourne's formulation "the classes which consider themselves significant."

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