The Media after the Revolution

While Andrew Cuomo has been busy inviting right wing extremists (i.e. those who are pro-life, opposed to gay marriage and support the 2nd Amendment) to leave his fair state of New York so as not, one assumes, to befuddle the politically correct citizenry with Tea Party sedition, I for one have always felt that an occasional stroll out onto the left wing to hobnob with the real loonies can be an edifying, even fun (if tiresome) experience. If you are not fortunate enough to be invited in person to a liberal Lexington Sunday brunch gathering, complete with New York Times and NPR, you might have to make due with publications like Mother Jones or The Nation or The Huffington Post or, perhaps the best of all, Salon. And if you happened to flip through this week’s edition of Salon (kind of like “flipping through” Proust, I grant you) you might have run across this (forgive me if there are kids reading this) progressive wet dream of an article entitled: “Let’s nationalize Fox News: Imagining a very different media”  by (the illustrious?) Fred Jerome.

In this essay, excerpted from the newly released “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA,” Mr. Jerome takes us on a tour of the capitalist media and its inherent evils of profit and advertisement, and gives us a detailed re-imagining of what the media will be like when capitalism is defeated and utopia is declared.

In fact, the first problem with Mr. Jerome’s fantasy is that it is too detailed. As anyone who has spent an hour conversing with a crazy person can tell you, the most immediate thing about psychosis is how thoroughly exhausting it can be. Like a village with endless windy paths or a murder mystery with twisted clues that all turn back in on themselves, craziness can run you ragged.

But here’s the general idea.

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.

So you know immediately that we are pretty far out onto the left wing because the NYT and CNN get lumped in with Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

In a socialist society run by and for the working people it represents, the mega-monopolies like Walmart, Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, and the corporations that run the tightly controlled “mainstream media” will be a thing of the past.

(Interesting by the way that while Walmart has a market capitalization of $250B and Exxon-Mobil is worth a whopping $430B, Halliburton is puny by comparison at $46B. But they belong nevertheless to the Socialist Hall of Shame thanks, I suppose, to Dick Cheney).

Anyway, Mr. Jerome informs us that newspapers and online media exist to sell capitalist products through advertisements and that the “news” is just a collection of stories vetted by the lackey publishers, editors and writers used to fill the “holes” in the advertisements. Jerome brings in the Big Gun, Arundhati Roy to make the point: “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…”

Jerome continues:

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.

Probably you are thinking: “someone wrote this recently??? This sounds like some Marxist crap from the 1930’s.” (the “drones” gives it away though).

Mr. Jerome’s charge, however, is not to indict the existing capitalist media. It is not even to describe how many bodies get piled up to overturn it. Rather, his job is to describe what will replace it.

But what will the media be like in a socialist USA? There is no blueprint, but in a society that has erased corporate control, the articles in newspapers and magazines and online will not be filler between ads for teeth whiteners and weight-loss pills. There won’t be TV commercials for Coke, cars, or million-dollar condos. There will be no private corporations to create and sponsor the news.

At this point on our stroll you will notice that the fuselage of the plane has disappeared from sight.

Turns out that in the media of a socialist US, the government will write a bunch of the stories describing, for example,  “plans for production”  (I didn’t make this up). And other “working-class organizations-labor unions, neighborhood associations, and cultural centers” would pick up the rest of the slack left when the bloodsucking, bootjack, octopus capitalist pigs were vanquished (I did make that up).

The cost of producing newspapers, TV shows, internet media etc. would of course have to be considered in the absence of advertising revenue. Jerome suggests that “add-ons to union dues” could help fill this particular gap, and the rest could be filled by government subsidies.

But what would the news be in this worker’s paradise? Where is the drama? Where is the comedy of life? Will there still be human interest stories or blizzards or football games? Will Snooki and Lady Gaga be gone too?

Luckily Mr. Gerome saves us with some examples of the inspirational, riveting tales that will fill our daily online newspaper of tomorrow. Here is one possible news-story:

At an air-conditioner factory in Brooklyn, a man and a woman on the assembly line recently both lost a finger in an accident in the grid-cutting operation. When the workers first tried using safety gloves to protect their hands, they were so bulky that it was almost impossible to operate the machinery effectively. They came up with a thinner glove, which was better for working but not strong enough to prevent blades from slicing through. Finally, with help from their machinists union local, several plant workers developed, tested, and installed a new electric-eye “hand shield” that automatically shuts down the line before any injury can occur. This might well be a national news story, especially if there was controversy over whether the new device shut down the line unnecessarily and thereby impaired production.

The reader is left gaping with a thirst to know more! Who are the man and woman? (are they interviewed?) Can you tell us more about the frustration (maybe it can be made comical!) of the employees trying to use the thick, clumsy gloves? Who were these worker heroes who learned of the tragedy and developed the brilliant “hand shield?” Did they get a People’s Medal?

Inquiring minds! Inquiring minds!

At this stage we are so far out to the left that Twilight Zone style Gremlins are dropping down onto the wing and eating away at it.

But seriously, what can we possibly learn way out here in LaLa Land?

I think it is this. What you learn from the extreme Socialists is that the liberal project always presupposes a controlling force that suppresses, for example, anyone from writing their own stories, making their own product or selling that product through the evil of advertisement. The structure of Utopia is static…and godawful boring. And it will require an iron hand to rule…something we have seen before.

But even in casual, Latte liberalism, the assumption of an implicit force is always there. Common Core, Obamacare, the minimum wage, compact flourescent light bulbs: something has to thwart what people actually want and replace it with what they should want. And most often liberals themselves imagine that force will be unnecessary – that people will genetically follow the red flag.

That’s all really. I hope the point was worth the trip into the Loony Bin!

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