|Fighting This Is Where It Begins|
America has been caught in this feverish delusion for three decades since Reagan ushered in his Age of Ruin. During this time America grew prosperous, notionally at least. Great wealth accrued to the rich. America's workers became the most productive on earth. Yet, for America's once vaunted Middle Class, increases in productivity and prosperity yielded wage stagnation. Across the U.S. families saw both parents employed, often taking multiple jobs, just to make ends meet. And, when that failed as it often did, they turned to the opiate of easy credit.
The Age of Ruin, like all radical movements, fostered its own mythology. This included "supply side economics" and the "trickle down theory" combined under the apt moniker of "Voodoo Economics." Americans, who once protested "no taxation without representation" were led to believe in representation without taxation as the shiny path to the future. In the United States, wealth came to be equated with virtue (Lapham), constantly growing affluence the measure of liberty itself (Bacevich). Throughout the country, at the federal, state, municipal, corporate and personal level, mounting debt became the instrument to buy easy time, to postpone harsh reality. Notional wealth, debt-based, became the gruel of the working classes as real wealth flowed steadily upward to the richest of the rich.
Like an addict who loses his job and takes to living in back alleys, America shifted from being a robust production economy into a brittle consumption economy fueled by its ability to borrow against America's good credit of the past. The Middle Class were able to replicate their past prosperity by supplementing their paycheques with money borrowed against notional, vast increases in the value of their homes. They were so in thrall to these feverish delusions as to actually believe that the value of their homes could never decline, would always increase, would forever ensure their comfort and security. It takes an awful lot of conditioning to come to the point where a person is willing to believe such things.
Just who conditioned the American people to embrace this lunacy? The resolution lies in asking the question Cui Bono? Who benefits from this crime? Follow the money, follow the power. It's a trail that leads to the barons of America's financialized economy, its corporatized media and a complicit government harnessed to their service. This unholy marriage of corporate, media and government power is the very formula Benito Mussolini described as modern fascism. It is fascism and it's existence is indisputable and evidenced daily in the constant disconnect between the country's top public servants, its Congress, and the public interest they are sworn but refuse to uphold.
Yet in this maelstrom lies the key to its dismemberment and the restoration of progressive democracy. That begins with dismantling the corporate media, breaking down the cartel just as US progressives did to the railway barons through social, political and economic reforms. The media as the fourth estate is vital to a functioning democracy but only when it is free to be the watchdog of government, not its lapdog. The media only serves the public when it is free to present the broadest range of views necessary to support an informed electorate. These purposes are defeated by two evils - concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership - both of which are well entrenched today.
Yes we need news networks. Yes we need newspaper chains. But we need many news networks, not few. We need many newspaper chains, not few. We need networks and chains that speak for the right and the progressive right, for the centre and the left of centre and the left. Allow the public to become exposed to different points of view and discover that at least most of them will be anchored in truth - honest but different. Allow the public to become informed for that is the best way to make good their empowerment.
As we need many networks and chains we need many journalists and columnists. The coporate media through concentration of ownership and cross-ownership is best served with fewer journalists. Across America and Canada, newsrooms have been pared to the bone. Fewer job opportunities means less freedom for outspoken voices. It means more compliant reportage. Yet, at the same time, it imbues the compliant voices with even greater power and usefulness to those with power to dispense. We have seen this in Canada with journalists transformed into panderers and subsequently rewarded with high political office. Power corrupts and it is as relentless in its corruptive power with advantaged journalists as with politicians.
So, surely, the first step in reinstating progressivism lies in dismantling the media cartels that serve us so poorly, imposing divestiture and establishing safeguards to prevent a corporate resurgence. This is a power that lies within the hands of our political leadership yet which of them is championing the cause? Harper? You could hardly expect that from the main benefactor of the carefully sculpted status quo. How about Ignatieff? I've not heard it from him either but, then again, he is not exactly given to progressivism in any meaningful sense. But Layton, surely him, no? Not really. The fact is that they're all sufficiently comfortable with or intimidated by the media cartel to call for its reformation.
It is probably unfair and unduly optimistic to expect the opening salvo for progressive restoration to come from these people. Not one of them could muster the integrity and courage necessary for such a challenging and potentially dangerous step. Not one of them is capable of putting the welfare of the Canadian people ahead of his personal political ambitions. These are, after all, the Petro-Pols of Parliament Hill, a fairly good measure of what can be expected of them.
If anyone is going to salvage progressive democracy, it's going to be you. You will have to do it just as I have done here and elsewhere - by writing about it, by talking about it, by insistently demanding it. It won't happen quickly so don't burden yourself with unrealistic expectations. It will take time and constant pressure. Don't be discouraged. Already you can see, even feel the inertia being overcome. More and more people are beginning to discuss the scourge of corporatism spreading through our societies, infecting our institutions. They're speaking out and they're being heard. Join them, if only because it's the only way we're going to even the political keel.
Reinstating a free and responsive press is the key to undoing the chokehold corporatism has on our democracy. We deserve better but we won't get it until we insist on it.