BHABANI SHANKAR NAYAK | 25 AUGUST, 2020
The Oligarchs of Mass Media
And the antidote
In early fifteenth-century Europe, news was the political, economic, military and diplomatic messages of the ruling classes. It was the voices of businessmen and political elites circulating within their own networks. There was no mass media.
It was the revolutionary upheavals and democratisation of society during the European nineteenth century that led to the growth of mass media. People used forms of mass media to fight against all forms of exploitation, injustices and inequalities; it also played a momentous role during the struggles against feudalism, colonialism and apartheid.
It is the historic responsibility of professional journalists to report the realities of everyday life and consider fact as sacred. But these principles lie dead and buried within the capitalist main stream.
For many decades now, the sprawling businesses that serve as mass media organisations are only manufacturing consent among people for decisions made by the owners and rulers. They work as an agency of the ruling and non-ruling elites to hide alternatives from the masses. The old world of “yellow journalism” has been expanded and transformed into news and opinions for sale. It spreads fake news, misrepresents everyday realities, twists facts and shapes opinions like a marketing or advertisement industry.
The mainstream media works as a propaganda machine for the people with money and power. Its reporting is precritical and obsequious, and shares the biases of the ruling class. There is limited space for debates and disagreements, or intelligent discussion. The editorial pages and opinion pieces are simply sponsored, in tune with the requirements of neoliberal capitalism and its models of government.
The essence of this affiliated media is to create a domesticated and precritical mass audience, and destroy thoughtful voices that represent ordinary people. The idea is to mass-produce social, cultural and political values that will lead us to accept the owners’ illegitimate authority and power.
It is market monopoly that controls the media today. And these market monopolies are controlled by the oligarchs of mass media. Just six companies (Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, Fox, CBS and Viacom) control almost 90% of media organisations in the USA and other parts of the world.
National Amusements Inc. is a multinational media conglomerate owned by Sumner Redstone and Shari Redstone. These two people manage more than 170 networks, reaching more than 700 million people across 160 countries with the help of a company called Viacom, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. They also finance movies, video games, TV shows, and many other creative industries like music. These companies shape public tastes in culture, consumption and voting behaviour.
The Walt Disney Company, which controls hundreds of media and entertainment outlets, is one of the leading multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate which has played a major role in shaping capitalism with American dreams. It has helped transform desires into needs, with the help of its advertisement and animation industry, promoting a culture of self-gratifying fantasies of individualism. It is also responsible for producing popular cultural stories meant to naturalise and normalise US-led global capitalism.
Warner Media LLC, another of the largest mass media and entertainment conglomerates, has used individuals’ private data for financial gain and played a major role in destroying net neutrality.
Comcast plays a major role in shaping American and world politics. It reportedly has a huge budget for political lobbying and funds many electoral campaigns in the name of universal political action. It traps consumers with its political projects and propaganda. This media corporation is opposed to universal media access.
The News Corporation, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has media and publication outlets in five continents. News Corp. is known to epitomise predatory capitalist media, which destroys media diversity and democracy.
These large media corporations are destroying democratic and liberal values of societies across the planet. In its pursuit of power and profit, the “main stream” has formed alliances with reactionary religious, nationalist, undemocratic, anti-popular, illiberal and fascist forces across the globe, negating every founding principle of mass media.
These businesses and their affiliates promote a culture of “no alternative to capitalism” in politics, economy, society and culture. They hide the economic, social and cultural realities of our everyday lives within capitalism and promote the myth of corporate, capitalist superiority.
Facts are no longer the foundation of journalistic analysis. It all about spreading the propaganda of political elites, of consumerism as the only culture where individuals can realise their free choices.
These media houses are largely responsible for transforming citizens into mere customers in a society driven by profit. They are destroying communities based on solidarity, love, sharing and cooperation, in favour of unabashed hedonistic individualism – as long as it doesn’t threaten the owners’ interests. Mass alienation is the net outcome of the corporate mass media founded in capitalism.
We must detox ourselves from these propaganda machines, and discover and support our own alternatives. It is time to reclaim the founding principles of mass media to record and represent the predicaments of ordinary people.
If we support independent media organisations, create cooperative media organisations of our own, to uphold our voices and represent our interests, and strengthen our imaginations to better support people who are unlike ourselves, we will be able to promote liberal, democratic, secular and scientific values in our communities.
This is only possible when people can control their own stories by establishing people’s media free from corporate control.
In a democracy, the voice of the people is truly the voice of god. Genuine mass media organisations are an effective way to defeat the toxic faith called capitalism. A powerful mass movement may crumble the palaces of media moguls and their empire of profit and lies. A cooperative mass media owned by ordinary people is the best way to uphold the voice of the people.
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