Salon.com link baits. It’s the only thing they have left. Having become almost as irrelevant as Charles Johnson and his Little Green Footballs blog post-implosion, they now try to get people to click over to them by trying to outrage people. So, while I would normally encourage people to click through to the original article and read the words for yourself to see that I am not in fact lying about the contents of an article, I am going to caution against it this time.
We need to stop enabling them.
That said, this is an article in need of a thorough fisking.
So, let’s start at the beginning.
Imagine a world without the New York Times, Fox News, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and countless other tools used by the 1 percent to rule and fool.
In a socialist society run by and for the working people it represents, the mega-monopolies like Walmart (sic), Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, and the corporations that run the tightly controlled “mainstream media” will be a thing of the past.
This is an excerpt from a book called Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. You can see the problem already. This man is arguing from false premises. Namely that corporations are trying to “rule and fool” the people and that the government would not. I guess this man never looked at Pravda.
“It would be foolish to expect objective reporting: not because journalists are bad people, but because of the economic structure of the organizations they work for,” Arundhati Roy wrote in 2011. “In fact, what is surprising is that despite all this, occasionally there is some very good reporting. But overall we have silence, or a completely distorted picture.”
Online news sources also rely on ads for their profits even more than their print-media cousins. So do the search engines and portal sites through which people gain access to them, such as Google and Yahoo!. But it’s online media that have the potential for wider than ever public participation and exchange of views.
I have to disagree completely. The advertisers look at how many people are buying or watching or consuming your media in some manner, and advertise with that basis. You want to drive up ad revenue? Increase the quality of your reporting. Because we live in a free market system, with the news media operating in that same market-based environment, we are able to decide for ourselves which news sources we consume.
If you really don’t like how Fox News is reporting the news, stop watching. You have that option. And because you have that option, more voices are heard and the range of opinions being heard increases. This is democratization of the media.
A democratic, accessible-to-all media will move to center stage in a socialist USA. In some ways this democratization of the media is already happening on the Internet. But the government’s ability to spy on and even turn off the Internet belies any real democracy. In a socialist democracy, working people will control the political process, the way in which they make a living, and collectively and individually, they will influence mass culture. The Internet will be a powerful and democratizing tool in this effort.
And there it is, there is the problem with your idea. When you try to make something owned by everyone, it is ALWAYS ultimately owned by the State. And yet, you’re argument against the increasing democratization of the internet is that the State can shut it off. That exact same thing is true of the media. When the state owns the media – as it will under your idea for a “socialist democracy” if the media is to remain as we understand it – the media toes the government line. Every time.
Yet the media business, for those who now own and run it, is more than just a money-making operation. The owners also promote their political agenda. Through selecting and disseminating news—or presenting propaganda like “the recession is over” or “drones almost always hit their targets”—the media moguls push the public to support that agenda, from their political candidates to their wars. In capitalist societies, what’s reported as “news” is selected, organized, and presented by an army of self-important publishers, editors, and writers who—if they want to keep their jobs—follow their corporate employers’ political line. And what’s not reported is often just as telling. In 2012, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted that less than one percent of news stories in eight major outlets covered poverty.
Your right, media companies often do create and disseminate propaganda. But that is true of all sides. And, as in the conflict based trial system our judiciary is based on, the truth is discovered in that dialogue. And you are right, under the current system editors and publishers do choose the stories they think will draw the largest number of consumers to their service.
But a socialized – that is, nationalized – system will ALWAYS do the exact same thing. Only, instead of having rival media sources countering their bias and propaganda, there will only be the State. Preaching the “Truth of the Day”. With no countering voices. It wasn’t until the arrival of rival forces in the UK that the BBC began to allow other voices on the radio. One of the greatest threats to the North Korean state is the smuggling in of external news sources either through cross-border radio or through USB drives. And you want to make us MORE like North Korea?
Do you know why the media doesn’t report much on poverty? It’s because the government has made it worst. Before the war on poverty was declared, the number of Americans living in poverty was going down. Since the declaration of that war, the numbers have stabilized. While there are minor fluctuations due to the business cycle – a necessary aspect of the economy to clear away dead weight – the number of Americans living in poverty has flatlined. Makes one wonder if the government isn’t acting to keep people in poverty as tools for political gain.
Most of us could probably manage to struggle through life without Coca-Cola and Colgate, but who, then, will pay for the news? Who will pay the salaries of reporters, camera people, technicians, announcers, maintenance staff, online journalists, professional bloggers, and videographers?
In a socialist society a portion of the media would be reserved for news disseminated by the democratically elected governing bodies, that is, working people elected by and for working people.
But state ownership is not the only way media can represent the interests of working people, to speak with or through their voices. In most cases, the media would be owned and operated by working-class organizations—labor unions, neighborhood associations, and cultural centers.
Actually, without the corporations buying ads to sell their products, the media wouldn’t be able to survive. The physical infrastructure is expensive. Servers, Cameras, Editing Software, and the people with the skills needed to run these services are expensive. They require the ones who wish to disseminate the media to be willing to spend the funds necessary to do so. And thus, it wouldn’t be the State filing occasional propaganda, it would JUST be the State dictating to us our media.
So news (and views) in a socialist society will be brought to you by a plethora of noncommercial sponsors. The government media will report on and discuss, for example, the major government plans for production, how to improve education, and more. But other media—newspapers, TV and radio stations, and Web sites sponsored by workers’ organizations, cultural organizations, youth groups, sports teams, and neighborhood groups will report on issues specific to their interests.
And these groups WON’T push their own agenda? I hate to break it to you, but the unions, cultural organizations, etc. already DO have news services. And they already use them for propaganda. Its a natural aspect of running a media service. The State, however, will be the only ones capable of the reach of organizations like ABC, NBC, FOX News Channel, MSNBC, etc. And thus, there will only be the State. Dictating to us our thoughts. With approved voices in the background parroting the government line. Because there will no longer be a media willing or able to both challenge the government and reach the majority of the population.
Union dues today pay for the publication, including staff salaries, of many union newspapers. In a socialist society, where money is allocated based on assessed social need and not on projected profits, government will subsidize many salaries in social, economic, political, and educational areas. (Even under capitalism, the government funds public schools, although usually in a distorted manner through which schools in wealthier areas get the most money.) So salaries at the media operations of smaller unions will most likely be covered by government subsidies.
When you distribute resources according to need, do you know what you get? It’s not pleasant. People begin faking their needs. They make out their struggles to be worst than they really are. They do whatever they can to earn more money. And because that money is coming from their neighbor’s pockets, those neighbors begin spying on them. There is no better way to turn people against each other than to make them dependent on their neighbors naivety to maintain a high standard of living.
But what about bias? Can a newspaper or TV news program run by the autoworkers’ union, for example, provide critical reports about that union’s problems and weaknesses? When workers on one section of an auto assembly line feel that the line is moving too fast for safety—perhaps it has already caused some minor injuries, and they believe a major accident is inevitable—while union officials are publicly boasting about their plant’s speed and “socialist efficiency,” will the union’s TV program invite the complaining workers on the air to discuss their issues? Indeed, will “Autoworkers News and Views” on TV have a regular segment devoted to union members’ criticisms?
Why not? Who better to discuss and debate problems inside a union than the members who live with and often suffer from those problems? If unions or neighborhood councils are truly trying to make things better for their members, what more effective tools than media outlets to spur such improvements?
But the main difference between news media under socialism and the news media we know today will be what gets covered.
Wow, you really are naive. Go read up on Pravda’s role in suppressing political dissent in the Soviet Union. Go watch that old short “Make Mine Freedom”. When the government is in charge of the media – as it always must be – only the State Line gets reported, and anything which counters it are suppressed ruthlessly.
Instead of who makes profit—and how much profit—from the sale of GM trucks, socialist media will cover who makes those trucks. They would also talk to the people who drive those trucks, to evaluate their safety features and propose new ones.
Imagine the news media with no Wall Street business reports, no stock-market prices—the socialist economy will no longer be controlled by Wall Street businesses. Indeed, there will be no big businesses on Wall (or any other) Street, and no stock market. News media will no longer report on the president’s golf game or the first lady’s new dress, or propagandize for war, or lie about and cover up scandals.
Without profits there is waste. This is a natural law. Without feedback on what one is doing wrong – in the form of lost profits – one will keep doing that wrong thing and thus waste resources. Remember Gordon Gecko’s speech at the end of Wall Street about how “Greed is Good”? Perhaps you should go back and re-watch that scene. Strawman had a point.
And your naive claim that the media will report on scandals? Again, Pravda. Hell, it was the internet which broke the People’s Daily monopoly on the media of China and revealed the truth of what had happened in Tiananmen Square. Just as a heads up, the Chinese government still claims it never happened.
To be sure, there will be no shortage of economic news in a socialist society. Some news will still come from local and national governments that set product-distribution quotas or help to negotiate them, sponsor trade and international exchange with other countries, and—if the world is still partly controlled by capitalist powers—organize defense against economic (as well as cultural, and possibly military) assaults. But most news reports in socialist media will come from working people themselves.
You are right, there will be no shortage of economic news. And it will all be first proclamations of how much surplus there is – much like in North Korea – and then scapegoating various traitors once the surplus fails to appear in the shelves – as in Venezuela.
Discussions, debates, even battles will continue, and social justice committees will be elected by the union membership to look into complaints and to dig up and root out capitalist, racist, and sexist weeds that continue to grow.
Social justice committees in each workplace and community will have no shortage of complaints to consider—and the media will have no shortage of stories to investigate.
They tried that in both Russia and China. It was a disaster. Each and every time, the committees quickly turned into witch hunts. In France, a similar idea eventually led to the Reign of Terror. In North Korea, similar committees are established every time a new man comes to power. The current guy fed his uncle to starving dogs because the man was insufficiently pure of ideology. And you want to unleash this on the United States? What is wrong with you?
Online media will continue to play its vital role. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs strengthen discussion and debate and ensure that all readers have a voice in the societal dialogue.
Moreover, working people, students of all ages, and retired people, all can and will also launch their own reports and discussions, only adding to the sense of participatory democracy.
Online media is ALREADY bringing about the democratization of the media. It won’t if you try to socialize the media. See for example the Chinese government and their approved Facebook and Twitter services. Both of them are highly censored, and trying to write about forbidden topics will get the post banned and the author in trouble with the law. And because the State controls the media, they get to determine who knows about it.
Your Utopian ideal – which is exactly that impossible to achieve – will do what it always does if tried. Kill millions.