Our Degenerating Media [Part 1]
Unfettered capitalism and globalization could give "rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness." ~ Pope Benedict XVI, speaking of capitalism and Marxism in Latin America
"The mainstream corporate America supports and enriches the worst of the worst." ~ Laura Ingraham, talk show host, speaking of corporate sponsorship of rap music
"With adequate profit capital is very bold... 300% and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged." ~ Karl Marx, speaking of his anti-capitalist conspiracy theory
Was it Adam Smith's invisible hand that choked human spirit in so many American movies, shows, and music videos, replacing it with filth? Is capitalism to blame for the depravity of mainstream corporate media? Is the excess of freedom causing creative elites to promote gratuitous sex, violence, and sociopathic behavior? In short, is the supply of media degeneracy a response to the demands of the media market?
If your answer is "yes" then you must also believe that America is "awash with degenerate perverts" who spend their lives rolling in filth, and that "the greedy corporate media" is responding to this by making "idiotic shows designed to dissolute drug addicts fixated on sex, violence, and depravity."
In the vanished world of Soviet propaganda this was a core dogma; something all good Soviets were required to believe or face excommunication and the Gulag. Today ten out of ten Middle Eastern dictators and firebrand Muslim clerics will also tell you that freedom and democracy result in chaos, immorality, and a media filled with unrestrained debauchery; so if you don't want your little Fatima to start acting like Paris Hilton, prepare to fight the infidels and defend your freedom from their filth!
"Freedom and democracy result in chaos, immorality,
and a media filled with unrestrained debauchery."
If you were a tyrant of a socialist or Islamofascist persuasion, that's exactly what you'd be saying to divert your people's anger, foster anti-American sentiment, and keep your citizenry on a leash. But if you are the "conservative radio talk show host Michael Savage," what's your rationale for blaming America's problems on corporate greed?
A month or so ago Mr. Savage went on a trademarked tirade blaming Don Imus's antics on the "greed of the corporate media" that was guilty of both hiring Imus and firing Imus. The penchant for "immoral profiteering" on the part of CBS and MSNBC, he said, had prompted these media giants to employ the insulting shock jock in order to line their pockets at the expense of public decency. Therefore, claimed Mr. Savage, it's the greedy corporations that must take the heat - not the shock jock who was only following orders.
Mr. Savage might reflect that the least greedy media institution in the world is Air America Radio which has never shown a cent of profit.
Though it was set up as a capitalist venture, money was never the issue for Air America: its prime reason for existence was the spreading of anti-capitalist ideas . In the words of its own host Randy Rhodes, when times got tough, she was happy to work without monetary compensation, as every good anti-corporatist leftist should. Perhaps Mr. Savage would like to take the seat vacated by Al Franken and help them fight corporate greed as part of the collective? That would come with a hefty pay cut, but should give him a chance to prove to the world that Michael Savage is not in the business of talk radio because he likes to get paid.
The Progressive Protection Racket
"Corporate," "Greed," and "Profiteering" are fighting words commonly used by the Left to bludgeon the usual villains: Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Firearms, and everything else that's Big and profiting from the sales of a product that somehow harms individual consumers and the society at large. (A notable exception here is Big Government).
"Corporations will pay top dollar to get off your hit list."
Once you've convinced your listeners that there is a corporate conspiracy against the consumers, you've initiated them into the biggest conspiracy theory of all time - the Marxist concept of "class struggle." Now you're just one small step away from exposing "the immorality at the core of the capitalist system" and presenting "Socialism as the only moral alternative." It is a very effective way to win converts to the cause of "progress" from among the well-meaning public. As an added bonus, corporations will pay top dollar to get off your hit list - a scheme known in other circles as protection racket.
There are many ways a corporation can appease the "progressive protection racket." Often it's called "giving back to the community," which sounds like returning stolen goods to the crime. As a result of this element, the more one "gives back to the community," the heavier the aura of shame and guilt on the one side - and the bigger the sense of entitlement on the other. For example:
Businesses also donate directly to "progressive" charities and campaigns. If it's not cash it's food, free space, free advertisement, free product placement, or free product itself. The Big Media usually "gives back" their product - news, opinions, commentary, and shows politically correct viewpoints that validate "progressive" beliefs. It's also a common practice to hire "progressive" anchors, reporters, producers, and editors. This has been going on for such a long time that a friendly takeover of the media by Leftist activists is now almost complete.
Have you ever wondered why it's often impossible to distinguish a mainstream media institution that's supposedly in the business of making profit, from an activist "non-profit" group that's in the business of propaganda and re-education of the masses? While this change may stimulate some audiences, most Americans respond to it by turning off their TVs. Over the past decade the entire corporate media product has become a big turnoff, forcing people to avoid movie theaters and cancel newspaper subscriptions.
"You've lost that lovin' feeling....
'Cause baby, something in you is dying."
As the Righteous Brothers sang, "You've lost that lovin' feeling.... 'Cause baby, something in you is dying." Now, if capitalist forces were at play here as before, the mainstream media would sound the alarm and try to realign itself with the markets to get that lovin' feeling back. Instead, it stubbornly stands its ground and continues to lose money. Where's the corporate greed when you need it? It's gone, gone, gone, as the song goes. Wooooooh. It has been replaced by an anti-capitalist ideology. Every time that happens anywhere in the world, the result is an inferior product.
Yet the profit requirement remains. And the precarious balancing of profit with ideology results in the duplicitous media model we see today. On the one hand it's the endless procession of lame "progressive" clich√©s; on the other hand, it's the appeal to the baser instincts - a poor replacement for that lovin' feeling - but still a way to attract audiences to otherwise emasculated content.
As a visual analogy, imagine an art gallery repaint Brueghel's gloomy "Blind Leading the Blind", undressing the characters to their private parts in order to make it more interesting to the visitors. That's the gist of the media humbuggery; it's repulsive both ethically and aesthetically.
If rock and roll seemed like "sinful music" to some of the older types in its heyday, what would they call today's rap lyrics?
["Quit your old-fashioned nagging, pop! You can't stop progress; you'll only make a fool out of yourself."]
Seems like a reasonable formula for all ages, doesn't it? Except that it also implies that there are no absolute moral values or criteria in art or public decency. When the only absolute is "progress," everything else becomes relative. If we accept this in our personal lives, ten years from now we might well be singing obscene raps to our children before bedtime but still cringing at the newest crop of mainstream culture. By then it would probably become so "progressive," it would make Eminem blush like a pansy. It is a process without the possibility of an end.
After rock and roll had valiantly won the battle for acceptance and the formula was already in place, rap music crashed the party. It didn't have to fight any old battles; it simply pushed elderly rock music with its veiled innuendos away from the microphone and filled the airwaves with the open depravity of the drug-infested welfare ghetto. This time, a universal acceptance of the "old-fashioned pop can't stop progress" formula gave the Big Media a license to open the gutter wide and mainstream any marginal content under the category of "progress," or what Laura Ingraham describes as "mainstreaming of pornographic lyrics, misogynistic, sexist, racist, defamatory, derogatory words." Whatever happened to the innocence of the hippy ballads?
Oleg Atbashian - writer and graphic artist from Ukraine, currently lives in New York. Creator of ThePeoplesCube.com, a satirical website where he writes under the name of Red Square. He has previously written for Pajamas Media, The Gospel of John & Yoko: The Origins of Mad Morality, Bowling for Virginia Tech and Boris Yeltsin: Lessons for America.