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<nettime> Entertainment Nation: The Nation Magazine's culture issue
Paul D. Miller on Sat, 17 Jun 2006 21:02:51 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Entertainment Nation: The Nation Magazine's culture issue

This is a "remix" of an article I have in the current issue of The
Nation Magazine. It goes on newstands today/tomorrow

 Digital Music Revolution 
   by Paul D. Miller
his article can be found on the web at:


Ten years ago, when we first focused national attention on the dangers
of the US media cartel, the situation was already grim, although in
retrospect it may seem better than it really was. In the spring of
1996 Fox News was only a conspiracy (which broke a few months later).
CNN belonged to Turner Broadcasting, which hadn't yet been gobbled by
Time Warner (although it would be just a few months later); Viacom had
not yet bought CBS News (although it would in 1999, before they later
parted ways); and, as the Telecommunications Act had been passed only
months earlier, local radio had not yet largely disappeared from the
United States (although it was obviously vanishing). One could still
somewhat plausibly assert, as many did, that warnings of a major civic
crisis were unfounded, overblown or premature, as there was little
evidence of widespread corporate censorship, and so we were a long way
from the sort of journalistic meltdown that The Nation had predicted.

Thus was the growing threat of media concentration treated much
like global warming, which, back then, was also slighted as a
"controversial" issue ("the experts" being allegedly at odds about
it), and one whose consequences, at their worst, were surely centuries
away--a catastrophic blunder, as the past decade has made entirely
clear to every sane American. Now, as the oceans rise and simmer and
the polar bears go under, only theocratic nuts keep quibbling with
the inconvenient truth of global warming. And now, likewise, few
journalists are quite so willing to defend the Fourth Estate, which
under Bush &amp; Co. has fallen to new depths. Although its history is
far from glorious, the US press has never been as bad as it is now;
and so we rarely hear, from any serious reporters, those blithe claims
that all is well (or no worse than it ever was).

Contrary to the counterclaims in 1996, there was, as The Nation
noted then, copious hard evidence of corporate meddling with the
news, and also, even more important, lots of subtler evidence of
reportorial self-censorship throughout the media cartel. And yet what
stood out as egregious back then seems pretty tame today, now that
the press consistently tunes out or plays down the biggest news,
while hyping trivialities, or, if it covers a disaster, does so
only fleetingly and without "pointing fingers." (New Orleans is now
forgotten.) The press that went hoarse over Monica Lewinsky's dress is
largely silent on the Bush regime's subversion of the Constitution;
its open violation of the laws here and abroad; its global use of
torture; its vast surveillance program(s); its covert propaganda
foreign and domestic; its flagrant cronyism; its suicidal military,
economic and environmental policies; and its careful placement of
the federal establishment into the hands of Christianist extremists.
Whether it's such tawdry fare as Jeffrey Gannon's many overnights
at Bush's house, or graver matters like the Patriot Act, or the
persistent questions about 9/11, or the President's imperial "signing
statements" or--most staggering of all--the ever-growing evidence of
coast-to-coast election fraud by Bush &amp; Co., the press has failed
in its constitutional obligation to keep us well informed about the
doings of our government.

In short, our very lives and liberty are at unprecedented risk because
our press has long since disappeared into "the media"--a mammoth
antidemocratic oligopoly that is far more responsive to its owners,
big shareholders and good buddies in the government than it is to the
rest of us, the people of this country.

Surely other factors too have helped wipe out the news: an
institutional overreliance on official sources; the reportorial star
system, with its corruptive salaries and honoraria, and all those
opportunities to hobnob with important criminals; the propaganda drive
against "the liberal media"; the stupefying influence of TV, which has
dragged much of the print world into its too-speedy orbit; etc. The
fundamental reason for the disappearance of the news, however, is the
media cartel itself. Fixated on the bottom line, it cuts the costs of
real reporting while overplaying cheap crapola; and in its endless
drive for more, it is an ally of the very junta whose high crimes and
misdemeanors it should be exposing to the rest of us. It is past time,
therefore, to go beyond the charting and analysis of media ownership,
to boycotts, strikes and protests of the media cartel itself.

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