It has become axiomatic throughout time that political forces effects businesses. Mainstream news as well as industry trade media ideally measure and report trends or events that influence for better or worse thousands of individual or larger enterprises.
News is unique in American history, said the document-drama, Shadows of Liberty, because it is the only profession that is specifically named in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. The documentary video The Corporation also spent time focusing on the vital role the press plays in America politically and otherwise.
For good or ill, media to a significant degree will have a significant – indeed, an oversized – power in the 2020 election cycle. While TV newsrooms may spend an extraordinary amount of time on the U.S. Senate trial of the impeachment proceedings of President Donald J. Trump, to a significant extent coverage of all other issues are thereby diminished. Such selections of what makes the news or doesn’t are all a subtle but important part of the role media plays in our society.
Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign bid to become the Democratic nominee is in one sense as historically significant as the campaign of President Trump in the 2016 election cycle. How so? While both candidates Trump and Bloomberg are billionaires, “Mike’s” net worth when his campaign launched is per sources generally estimated at around $53 billion dollars. By contrast, candidate Trump was estimated in more of the $3 to $10 billion dollar range, with the higher figure coming from the Trump camp. Experts say that during the 2016 election cycle, candidate Trump was far less liquid than Bloomberg, who is now said to be ready to spend $1 to $2 billion dollars of his own money to win the nomination and/or otherwise support the defeat of the incumbent 45th president.
So not only has now President Trump earned the nickname “Donald the Disruptor,” but win or lose the Democratic nomination for president, Mike Bloomberg will alone through spending on Democrats could potentially upend or uphold the status quo of the U.S. political landscape. While rival candidates thirst for media coverage, Bloomberg simply pays for it electronically from his ample personal wealth’s war-chest.
Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I and self-described Democratic Socialist) certainly gets a reasonable amount of free media, yet, is periodically critical of it. His tone is not unlike that found in Shadows of Liberty, The Corporation or similar genre documentaries and related research in that regard. Sanders speaks of the sheer concentration of media into a relatively small number of corporate hands. Even those on the political left may in several instances be as much a problem for the Sanders campaign as more right-of-center Fox News, Breitbart or One America News would be.
The New York Times’ much maligned editorial board dual endorsement of Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN-D) and Elizabeth Warren (MA-D) are prime examples of the threat of left-leaning news to the Sanders campaign. Progressive news outlets CNN and MSNBC personalities have at times not so subtly also undermined Sanders.
The point isn’t so much about Senators Sanders, Warren, Klobuchar or others. It is that media role in elections are literally in your face.
When Mike Bloomberg can tell his own ample media resources that he owns to not report on his 2020 campaign, that too tilts the scales against any and all rivals. It all but assures his competition that they can get scrutinized by one of the better funded media outlets – an array of Bloomberg news – while “Mike” himself will get a hall pass.
For those who don’t follow the nuances of reporting as much as MHProNews does, President Trump’s relationship to the media is far more nuanced than his campaign rally applause line of “fake news!” might suggest.
The White House press room sources stories across the left-right media divide, as examples previously published by MHProNews demonstrated. Furthermore, the Trump campaign has their own media resources. President Trump’s tweets can send the mainstream news careening in this or that direction to birth cover or react to a social media launched comment. Trump-Pence Campaign manager Brad Parscale has been lauded for his expertise in digital brilliance. Facebook Vice President Andrew ‘Boz” Bosworth recently said that the Trump campaign won in 2016, not because of Russians, but because they ran the single best marketing campaign of any kind that he’d ever seen. That’s in good measure praise for Parscale and his team’s work, whom the president has often lauded too.
But missing in the background of the above is the fact that mainstream news is not only being consolidated, its bleeding reporters. Local news, which Pew Research says is more trusted than national news, is steadily losings it vigor and independence.
Local papers are in a life or death struggle with Google and Facebook for advertising revenue streams that pay for news. The News Media Alliance – which represents those outlets – is ironically pleading for Congress to temporarily exempt them from antitrust laws, even as federal and state governments probe the tech giants for antitrust violations. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of American media today.
Without healthy local or regional news that is truly independent, news itself is arguably being undermined. That is among the reasons why editorially, MHProNews’ has stressed the importance of antitrust action – not only as it is needed within manufactured housing – but also as the trends of monopolization impacts the broader business and investment landscape.
If news – the free press – is undermined, and voices across the political spectrum say it is, then ponder this. How accurate are the reports and analysis of a business, industry or the political and legal dynamics involved?
Even though the population is growing, The Guardian reported that “Between 2008 and 2017, the number of newsroom jobs in US newspapers dropped by 45%, to 39,000…” Statista said on September 3, 2019 that “According to the most recently available data, there were 1,286 daily newspapers in the United States in 2016. The number of daily newspapers in the U.S. has been on the decline since 1970, when there were 1,748 daily news publications in the country.”
That implies the average newspaper now has only 3 reporters on staff on average. Given a U.S. population of some 329.45 million in August of 2019, per World Population Review, that means that there is one reporter for every 8,447 citizens in the U.S. In fairness to media, how can that possibly result in effective, well informed or balanced news coverage?
With media being increasingly consolidated, how does an industry such as manufactured housing – which is arguably in an artificially generated crisis – get the attention needed to break through on issues that concern independents and millions of consumers? As important as the affordable housing crisis is, it requires a squeaky wheel to get the attention needed.
That outline underscores the statement made by actor Danny Glover said on Shadows of Liberty, “It’s not only a monopoly of wealth; it’s a monopoly of information as well.” One may or may not agree with Glover’s personal politics. But when that stark scenario is carefully considered, it’s a shockingly disturbing but apt point from Glover.
Furthermore, his insight is one echoed by others in journalism and media.
Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway owned BH Media Group said that the firm owns “Today, BH Media owns 30 daily newspapers and their digital sites. The company also has more than 50 weekly publications.”
Longer term industry professionals and investors may recall our research on those media outlets. One would be wrong to think that they are more favorable in their treatment or accurate in terms of their use of terminology with respect to manufactured housing. They are not. Given how Google, Bing, Yahoo or other news searches operate, there is no topic the BH Media group is not able to influence.
Jeff Bezos bought the influential Washington Post. Bill Gates, an ally of Buffett and Berkshire on several levels, long had influence in media. Indeed, if one is among the richest in America or a corporate leader, they can issue a press release knowing it will be well covered. Berkshire Hathaway owns BusinessWire, a press release operation.
Is it any wonder that these moguls often duck the kind of scrutiny that a more independent news media might bring? Given how often news reports influence politics, regulatory or law enforcement, the ripple effects are not to be missed.
Without a truly free press, the thinking of millions on a range of issues is influenced if not controlled. While it is possible that someone can think of an issue absent news or media input, it is far more likely that thinking is subtly manipulated.
This certainly isn’t a recent phenomenon. Controversial Malcom X, in some ways a more radical rival of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said the following.
How This Plays Out In Manufactured Housing
If Buffett or his allies wanted to get something publicized, it is apparent that he is able to do so. With $128 billion in liquid assets, there is no doubt of his ability to finance whatever informational marketing campaign Kevin Clayton at Clayton Homes might desire.
While Buffett publicly says he wants his managers to eschew behavior that might land them on the front page of a newspaper in a negative fashion, how sincere is that statement?
Given that the money trail has been documented that links Buffett donations and influence to operations that sparked the production of John Oliver’s critique errantly dubbed Mobile Homes, how many could fathom that level of cunning?
Once MHProNews and MHLivingNews exposed those links, Clayton and Prosperity Now simply teamed up in a more public fashion.
When the Midwest Manufactured Housing Federation (MMHF) barred MHProNews two years running from attending the event we once successfully promoted for years – bringing it back from its year of cancellation – and they did so without a justification or cause, that’s an arguably unsubtle attack on not only this platform, but also on those who read this platform. It’s apparently brazen way of attempting to tilt the trade media landscape in favor of those who purportedly push the MHI party line.
And who dominates MHI? As a look at their board of directors indicates, it’s the very firms involved in consolidation. Coincidence?
A variety of digital tactics that routinely boil down to money influences Google searches. Bing was launched by Bill Gates’ Microsoft. The political leanings of the leadership of Google and Bing are quite similar. Billionaires own mega-corporations that in turn dominate or influence news and search.
The reasons to skip viewing your favorite streaming or cable programming for a few hours to watch the documentaries below are numerous. But it comes down to this. It’s practical knowledge that you need in order to maximize your odds for success in business or investing. For those who are into policy or advocacy, it is hard to imagine how that could be done properly without having the same grasp of the dynamics as those in business require.
The Corporation video can be viewed below. It was sent in as suggested viewing by a community leader-reader, and has numerous useful insights.
The Monopolization of America can be viewed below. Our report and analysis on that video is linked right after it, viewed through the lens of manufactured housing.
Still that links to our MHProNews report and analysis.
Let’s note for conservative or more libertarian thinkers, the facts presented in Shadows of Liberty pointed to concerns on both sides of the mainstream media divide. While the still shows Fox News, this video takes a stiff look at several left-of-center media outlets too. The point isn’t politics per se, rather, it is to unpack the methods and impact of what is occurring in media.
The Creepy Line focused on big tech and its influence, the teaser for that is posted below. More on the right are raising the alarm on this issue, but it too is attracting bipartisan concerns.
Several of these can be viewed on YouTube or streamed via your cable service.
It isn’t only about you personally being informed or influenced. Your staff, your prospective customers are being influenced too.
The monopolistic trends in manufactured housing have been documented in several of the reports linked below the byline and notices.
MHProNews Bottom Line Takeaways
The presidential election year gives opportunities for those of whatever political persuasion to stir up interest and discussions.
The entire House of Representatives is up for re-election every two years. About 1/3 of the U.S. Senate is up for re-election every two years too. Contacting the offices of those lawmakers on issues impacting manufactured housing only makes sense. You may live in a district where the incumbent is not someone you particularly would prefer. Get engaged anyway. You are their constituent. In our experience, the staff of lawmakers may have a partisan bent, but they are routinely respectful of the issues that are thoughtfully raised from those who may hold the opposite party label.
Sadly, unless you too are a consolidator, don’t automatically depend on your state association, and certainly don’t count on help from MHI. While Mark Weiss, J.D., president and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) broadly defended state associations in his recent interview with MHProNews, our view is perhaps a big more nuanced. In fact, Danny Ghorbani summed it up well.
The Neal Haney led revolt from MHI has been well documented.
But since Haney and his fellow community owner-operators launched the National Association Manufactured Housing Communities (NAMHCO), they hired Thomas Heinemann as their lobbyist. Is it coincidental that NAMHCO has since teamed up with MHI and Prosperity Now on pending legislation that as written could undermine the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000? Doesn’t that alone speak volumes as to the ways that even an intelligently founded trade group can surprisingly pivot in the different direction? Let’s note in passing that MHProNews has opposed the MHI-NAMHCO-Prosperity Now backed bill as written, starting with its title. Could it be modified into something worthwhile? Perhaps. But when the MHIA or the Duty to Serve manufactured home lending by the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac provisions aren’t being properly enforced, where is the logic in going after a new piece of legislation?
Don’t let the Razzle Dazzle fool you. Bear in mind that Razzle Dazzle is a technique that has been used by criminals, as the report linked below details.
Billionaire Nick Hanauer and his Pitchfork Economics is in some measure about pitch fork politics and media.
The fact that the vast majority of manufactured housing trade media don’t cover these issues is reflective of the ‘follow the money’ ties. Other than MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister site, the one defense that has been publicly raised by those others in media could be boiled down to blogger George Allen’s undocumented claim of “conspiracy theories.” Really? As a close look reflects, Allen himself raised these same concerns repeatedly. But that was before he reportedly made a deal with MHI that undermines his credibility on the matter, and arguably sold out his followers.
It is equally wise to note that Allen is listed as a contributing editor of the MHInsider. Given that Allen called for a boycott of this platform, and then typed a list of the only trade media that in his august and untainted hands are to be viewed as acceptable, he ironically points to another possible antitrust claim. Because boycotts can be an antitrust violation. But in fairness, Allen is a mere pawn. Each of these issues trace right back to three letters. MHI. And each of those letters lead to the enterprises that are the consolidators of MHVille.
Those consolidators are often the very firms that stir up the bad news that is harmful to the industry.
Former MHI Chairman Tim Williams said was logical for the industry to do when faced with problematic coverage.
But instead of doing what their chairman deemed wise – which we editorially concurred with – the Arlington, VA based trade association instead postures efforts that their own current or prior members have labeled as ineffective.
The picture that emerges is both simple and complex. But as some media observers have said, and the facts above underscore, it is less likely that mainstream media reporters will have the time to grasp these nuances. That’s not a slam. It’s the reality that big media has pushed out the local media that might break such a story. So while there are periodic nibbles at problems such as the report noted below, these rarely get deep enough in to see the bigger picture. If they see it, they may not want to risk losing ad dollars.
The fact that arguably corrupt or predatory practices so routinely traces back to MHI member firms speaks volumes to thousands of industry professionals that follow this site routinely.
Until such time as the post-production side of the industry organizes effective alternatives to MHI and possibly to compromised state associations too, the prospects for change are found in part by calling on regulatory or law enforcement to do their jobs. That in turn could benefit from elected officials being made aware and encouraged in their oversight roles to do also nudge appointed officials to do their jobs.
- Affordable housing is in crisis.
- The laws needed to cure the crisis are already on the federal and or state law books.
- Enforcement of good existing laws is a key.
- White hats drawing a bright line distinction between themselves and the industry’s black hats are another lynch-pin for making the industry’s return toward its true potential will be thwarted.
The Iowa causes are less than two weeks away. The time to get moving, beginning with a clear understanding of the issues, is rushing upon the remaining independents. It is also essential to point out that there are white hats at MHI, even at compromised state associations and inside so-called black hat companies. The proof is routinely provided in the form of news reports that often result from whistleblower tips, like the one linked below.
It is those tips and insights that are among the factors that have kept us the runaway most read in our industry.
- Few foresaw what was ahead with the so-called new class of homes pushed by Clayton and MHI. But thanks in no small part to informed sources combined with our own experiences, MHProNews provided the warning almost 2 years ago that proved apt, given the decline in manufactured home industry shipments since that program was rolled out.
No one reported the problems that manufactured housing association executives faced when 21st arguably strong armed them, save MHProNews. That report was only possible because some state execs wanted it to be known.
Had we not followed the lead and money trail from GSMOL’s former president, MHProNews and our sister site may not have discovered how certain nonprofits were being purportedly weaponized by Buffett Bucks
Our sources span the industry, political and media divides. Our agenda is simple and transparent.
2020 is an opportunity. We can shine the light, but it will require mutual efforts to upend the slow squeeze that is occurring in manufactured housing.
History reminds us that are numerous opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade by doing what’s right. White hats in MHVille can do so by making a bright line distinction between themselves and the black hats. White hats should also work to correct what’s wrong, because doing so is right, the more profitable way plus we have the laws on our side that can make accomplishing those needed corrections a reality.
There is always more to come, but that’s it for now on this Sunday installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.