Can You Imagine the Media in a Communist USA?
About one week ago, the left-wing webzine Salon published an article by one Fred Jerome titled “Let’s Nationalize Fox News.” Jerome’s article, it turns out, is excerpted from a new book published by HarperCollins, Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. It is important for what it reveals about the old communist mentality, still alive in Jerome’s mind.
The Salon site does not provide any information about the author. The book says only that he is a journalist and author of a few books, who was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the '60s.
So it’s left to me to provide a more accurate appraisal of Mr. Jerome. As readers of my memoir might recall, I knew Freddy Jerome as one of the leaders of the NYC young communist movement during my high school years. I recalled the last time I had contact with him. When I was in the city during vacation while in college, Freddy met me to discuss putting together a trip to Cuba. He demanded that I first join the new Marxist-Leninist group he was forming. When I refused, he turned and said, as he went on his way, “I have nothing to do with enemies of the working class.”
Fred Jerome came from major communist stock. He was the son of the late cultural commissar of the CPUSA, V.J. Jerome, the man most well-known for trying to keep the Hollywood Reds in line. Fred Jerome broke with the CPUSA in the '60s, and was one of the founders of the Maoist "Progressive Labor Party." If ever the cliché “like father, like son” rings true, it is the case with Fred Jerome. In this brief excerpt, Jerome reveals how news organizations would function in a “socialist” America -- except, it is indistinguishable from how they actually functioned in the old Soviet Union, or how they function in communist Cuba today.
Indeed, Jerome’s article could be taken as a model for the old Soviet Pravda [truth] or Izvestia. We all know the old joke, “There's no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia." That was an old Russians saying, a response to the masthead which actually said, “Proletarians of the world, unite.” After reading Jerome’s prescriptions for the press, one could put that on the masthead of his would-be newspaper before it is even written.
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.
If you ever read one of those old commie papers -- and I hope you never had the opportunity -- it sounds most familiar. When Russians quipped that the media never gave them news, that is precisely what they were referring to. Yet Jerome, so obviously mired in what he thinks were the golden years of the USSR that coincided with his own youth, actually wants their concept of “news” to be a model for his dream of an American communist utopia. I refuse to engage in the charade of Jerome’s use of the word “socialism,” since his use of the term is the old Leninist one of socialism as the first phase on the road to communism.
Jerome thinks all those people’s organizations will have their own media, fully funded by the socialist government, because “money is allocated based on assessed social need and not on projected profits.” In Jerome’s mind, once government gives these groups money for their own newspapers, radio stations, and TV outlets, there never would be any pressure from those in control of what in effect would be a party-state government to demand only one role from these outlets: to reinforce the planned economic and political development instituted by the state’s planners. As Jerome writes, local and national governments “set production-distribution quotas.” What if a worker quickly learns he is being forced to work without sufficient remuneration at a breakneck pace? I think deep down, Jerome knows the answer: the state will force him to fulfill the quota, or else.
As in his beloved old “socialist” countries of yesteryear, any independence or real exposure would quickly be condemned as counterrevolutionary pessimism, and those held responsible would find their papers or stations closed down, and the perpetrators arrested. Venezuela, anyone, or Cuba? Or China, where a dissident paper has recently been shut down? These are countries singled out as “progressive” by many of the other writers appearing in the same anthology.
Later, Jerome writes how union theater groups would be subsidized as they ran productions of Threepenny Opera, Waiting for Lefty, and West Side Story. What if a theater group decided to produce, let us say, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged? Since that would never occur to Freddy Jerome, let me pretend we lived in his communist state, and someone indeed made just that suggestion. What would Comrade Jerome say, as he was sent by the party-state apparatus to lay down the line -- as his father did in the '40s -- to the wayward comrades? I posit he would tell them something like the following: “Comrades, someone in your theater troupe is guilty of ‘false consciousness.’ The other comrades must demand quick re-education, and confession through public apologies and pleas for forgiveness.” If that is not coming, the wayward comrade would fully understand what was next: public trial and a nice term in the new American gulag.
Finally, Jerome begins his article writing that “the major US media are run by and for big business, or ...are themselves big businesses.” He continues to say that,
it is a grand total of six mega-corporations—Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, and Comcast” that run the entire American media. And of course, these evil corporate conglomerates are simply “tools used by the 1 percent to rule and fool.
So, it must come as a surprise to Comrade Jerome to see that the book in which his essay appears is published by HarperCollins, a firm which, as Wikipedia tells us, is owned by -- you guessed it -- none other than Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, the very first conglomerate he lists as his example of corporate malfeasance! It does seem that where those evil corporate capitalists see a market through which to make some money for the bottom line, they’ll even fill the need by printing a communist book. It’s quite simple. Their owners add up those who participate in anarchist street action, the Occupy movement, and the membership of various sect groups, and see that they can make more than it costs to publish the volume.
Yes, I know Jerome’s response. It would be that attributed to his hero Lenin: "The capitalists will sell us the rope we’ll use to hang them with.”
For the rest of us, reading Jerome’s prescriptions of how wonderful news media would be in his communist utopia gives us grounds for fear. Perhaps the Murdoch folks will have the last laugh after all: Perhaps they fully understand that once one reads the bromides of Fred Jerome, that in itself provides good medicine for doing all possible to prevent the success of those working on behalf of Fred Jerome’s political agenda.