Dateline: TENNESSEE—American corporate news media baffle viewers by presupposing that all oligarchs are Russian citizens.
“You never hear CNN speak of American oligarchs,” said news media watcher Alonzo Plompus. “For some unknown reason, whenever you hear about oligarchs on cable news, they’re always Russian.”
An oligarchy is a state ruled by only a few people, or by a small minority. Officially, the United States is a democratic republic, not an oligarchy. But Russia under Vladimir Putin likewise holds elections, giving at least the appearance of being democratic.
According to Plompus, viewers of CNN are perplexed by the cable news meme “Russian oligarch,” because they’ve become “familiar with the phoniness of American democracy.”
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, said Plompus, but lost in the Electoral College, and that “college of elites” was “established by the Founders as a bulwark against democracy.”
In 2001, George W. Bush was handed the presidency by the Supreme Court, which ordered Florida to stop its controversial, grossly-dysfunctional vote count.
And a 2014 Princeton study found that because American governmental policies for four decades have demonstrably favoured the wealthy and ignored the majority’s stated interests, and because the richest ten percent therefore has held a virtual veto on public policy, the United States is effectively a plutocracy, which is a type of oligarchy.
“Then there’s the gerrymandering that renders the congressional elections a total charade in numerous states,” said Plompus. “Because of corruption in how redistricting was done to lock in arbitrary advantages after the 2011 census, many Republicans found they could pick their voters rather than the other way around.”
According to the Forbes list of the world’s 500 richest people in 2017, only 28 are Russian citizens. The United States has over 200. The richest Russian is only 46th on the list, whereas 8 of the world’s richest 10 billionaires and 14 of the richest 20 are American.
“But you never hear the phrase ‘American oligarch’ on US cable news,” said Mr. Plompus. “Even the business elites who ruled in the American Gilded Age are called ‘robber barons,’ never ‘oligarchs.’
Mr. Plompus held a contest to brainstorm hypotheses to explain this puzzling news media phenomenon. The winner, whose solution was voted most promising, received a basket of assorted muffins.
One of these hypotheses is that journalists are lazy and so once they devise a meme, they become glued to it because they’re averse to creative thinking. But this hypothesis leaves open the question of how the meme got started.
Another solution is that the word “oligarch” sounds vaguely Russian to the “clueless egomaniacs” who read the news on the corporate news channels, according to the teenager who suggested this explanation. The word “oligarchy” is actually rooted in ancient Greek.
The winning possibility, raised by Delilah Butte, is that the news media believe that all the world’s oligarchs packed up and moved to Russia, “because they like vodka or because Russia is so geographically enormous that it can better fit all their gargantuan possessions.”
Ms. Butte generously shared her muffins with the others who attended the contest.