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May 22, 2003

bedtime for democracy

Posted by Phil on May 22, 2003 7:46 PM

The FCC is likely to take actions soon that will have cultural and political ramifications sweeping enough that even William Safire is worried.

If the media's recent run-up to, rah-rah coverage of, and post-victory departure from the war in Iraq didn't feel "managed" enough for you, the fact that most citizens haven't heard a thing about the FCC's decision--and, trusting our nation's supposedly free media, probably therefore believe it must not be important--ought to prove the point. The corporate owners of the mainstream news media desperately want these restrictions eased on their ability to control more media outlets, so they have kept you essentially in the dark about it. (Also go here for a story on FCC Chairman Michael Powell. More Salon stories--just pay the damn ferryman.)

The rant continues here:

It's funny to think back to the Reagan '80s, when the Dead Kennedys titled an album Bedtime for Democracy, in homage to the Gipper's monkey movie and in disgust for what did then seem like a twilight hour for free thought, given the declared necessity of closing ranks against the Communist menace. Then Reagan's mind drifted over the horizon, the Wall came down, we elected a hippie president, techno-geeks ruled the world, and Nirvana saved spring break! And now the Reagan era looks like a utopia of moderation and restraint compared to the future of grim enslavement to corporate imperatives this president is ensuring.

The open flow of ideas and information critical to a free society has been compromised, since deregulation began under Reagan, by the consolidation of media ownership into the hands of a decreasing number of corporations, which withhold and spin information to further their pursuit of profit, acquisition, tax evasion, and a favorable regulatory environment.

And it has certainly worked: Regulators have never been more favorable to what business wants, which is why the FCC is preparing to make a bad situation worse, further easing anti-monopoly restrictions to allow corporate entities to control even more media outlets, growing ever more powerful, and driving independent voices to the margins.

And don't kid yourselves, bloggers and surfers: These are the margins. As they attempt to win the freedom to horde media power, the moguls will extol the power of the Internet, as if to say, "Aw, don't be scared of us! Those wildcats on the Internet will keep us in line!" A new paradigm exists, they will say. But even if you ignore the fact that corporate ownership is just as pervasive on the net, America will be TV Land for at least another generation, and a million bloggers and websites will never have the power of Rupert Murdoch and his radio doppelganger, Clear Channel, to shape the public agenda.

The media is the forum in which America learns, discusses, and defines who it is and what it will do. The proposed deregulation means that the public consensus--on music, movies, political candidates, and national affairs--will be shaped in corporate boardrooms, not in the town square. If it doesn't suit their agenda, you won't be able to see it, hear it, read it, know it, buy it, or vote for it. You don't have to call that slavery, but you sure can't call it freedom.


Times like these, I hate working for the media. sigh I know the names and faces of guys in Pennsylvania who are drooling over the chance to get even more acquisitive.


Posted by: GreyDuck at May 23, 2003 11:55 PM