Monday, January 24, 2011

Corporatism Watch

Corporatism, more accurately described as corporate statism, has taken hold in the United States.  It is inherently anti-democratic, concentrating power in the control of a political-economic elite.   21st century corporatism seems to be evolving differently than its predecessors in that it seeks to organize society not for the general welfare and betterment of society but to entrench the advantage of the privileged.

Keith Olbermann's abrupt consignment into obscurity has some of us mystified.  AlterNet suggests if you want to know what happened to Olbermann, you should ask GE, General Electric, the corporate owner of MSNBC.   It contends that KO was just too progressive for the corporatist media:

Now, with Olbermann’s permanent departure on Friday, the remainder of MSNBC’s liberal evening line-up, which also includes Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Donnell (who will fill Olbermann’s 8 p.m. slot), must face the reality that any sustained friction with management could mean the bum’s rush for them, too.

The liberal hosts also must remember that MSNBC experimented with liberal-oriented programming only after all other programming strategies, including trying to out-Fox Fox, had failed – and only after it became clear that President George W. Bush’s popularity was slipping.

Media corporatism, of the variety now comfortably blanketing Canada's news outlets, is a vehicle of corporatist statism.   Media, concentrated in the hands of but a few interests, is in a position to benefit in many ways by placing itself at the service of compatible political interests.  There are subsidies to be had, regulations to be rewritten or scrapped entirely, all for promoting a partisan point of view to an often unwary public.   The political beneficiary of this kindness need dispense nothing but the public interest in an independent, vibrant mass media.

What is beginning to happen in Canada is old hat in the US.  Corporatist statism there has advanced by leaps and bounds ahead of its Canadian adherents.   The forces of corporatism there not only have their "bought and paid for" Congress in their service but also the Supreme Court itself.  The Citizens United decision in which the US Supreme Court invested corporations with political rights, ignoring the fact that corporate personality is a simple legal fiction, was the hallmark of the judicial branch's conversion to corporatist statism.  Last week the progressive state of Vermont moved a resolution to reverse this decision, hoping it will lead to a groundswell of anti-corporatist outrage elsewhere, but we'll have a good wait before we see if that defies the odds to succeed.

Corporatist statism was manifest in the Bush/Cheney years.   Imagine a government waging two, enormously expensive wars on money borrowed from foreign lenders also enacting tax cuts for the rich likewise funded by money borrowed from foreign lenders.  It suffered a blow with the election of Obama and the Democratic capture of both houses of Congress but, aided by the corporatist media, the Republicans were quick to retake the House.

America stands as a warning of the perils of media corporatism and what it holds for Canada.    We witnessed the sharp turn to the right in the Globe & Mail when it fell to Bell Globemedia.  We saw the rise and fall of the blatantly partisan CanWest.  Sun Media needs no elaboration.   Now, in the West, we have the emergence of the new media monolith, Shaw Communications.

From a lowly cable TV company, Shaw has rapidly branched out into a regional, internet service provider and a telephone service provider.   Recently it acquired the broadcast interests of CanWest, that now adds to its corporate structure the elements of broadcaster and TV content provider.  It appears Shaw next intends to get into the cellular phone business.   Have we unleashed a potential monster?   Is this expansion truly in the public interest?

This is the very sort of problem I once would have expected the Liberal Party to address.   I keep waiting to hear today's Liberals speak out on the entrenchment of concentration of media ownership and media cross ownership in Canada.   I wait forlornly for Liberal advocacy for the restoration of independent, robust and vibrant media in Canada.   Yet all I hear is silence.


bondwooley said...

Here's a young girl who understands the impact of Citizens United as well as the Koch brothers:

The Mound of Sound said...

Hey Lester, Hey Charlie! Thanks for the link. That led me to check out your site and your other clips on YouTube. I liked them so much I pilfered one to add to this post.

Great stuff. Keep up the fine work.

oryx said...

Oh, Mound Of Sound... your nostalgia for the good ol' Liberals is rather touching, but kind of like one of those false childhood memories, you know, like the one where you could swear that the slip covers in the sitting room were a lovely cotton chintz, but family photos reveal that they were in fact a cheap, big cabbage rose brushed nylon.

The Liberals, after all, were the party who gutted the CBC, back in the 1990s, the only remotely neutral reporting we had.

On a less sarcastic note, I wholeheartedly agree with your position on the media today; I just think it's a waste of time t look to the Liberals to restore ANYTHING like a free press-regardless of leadership. Nobody with any kind of true democratic spirit will ever get anywhere in that party. They are as cravenly tied to the corporate world as the Conservatives.