A note from the Editor…


Like many other people, my reaction to AT&T’s plan to acquire Time Warner wasn’t exactly shock. Certainly I view the concentration of media and the media infrastructure into fewer and fewer hands as a negative trend. Of course. It’s just that the media oligopoly seems so… normal.
It’s a shame. We need the media to play its watchdog role now more than ever, but when media is treated as just another commodity, that’s the last thing we’re going to get.
The media is a lot like food. A participatory and democratic society needs healthy media to properly function, much like our bodies need healthy food to properly function. In the same way that giant fast food corporations are allowed to exploit our cravings for sugar, fat and salt, giant media corporations are also allowed to take advantage of our basic desire to be entertained rather than be informed. To understand why this is, look no further than the profit motive.
In most developed nations, I could point to education or health care as examples of certain spheres of life where we understand the importance of blocking the commodification of vital social services. But of course, this is America and we pretty much allow the same things in those areas as well. Because, let’s be real, this is a society run along the lines of what’s good for business first and foremost.
It’s hard to see that improving anytime soon, either.
Many of us are aware of these problems, but our political system doesn’t really offer a clear way out. The pendulum has swung heavily toward the side of monied interests and now appears to be stuck.
The Democrats say that they will work to undo the horrifyingly regressive Citizens United decision that allowed corporations to have even more influence over our elections than they already did, which was substantial. We’ll see.
The Republicans have gone so far off the deep end that it would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly serious. Banal as it has become, I still manage to be shocked that one of the two major parties in the most powerful and globally influential country on earth is composed of people who deny the empirical fact that climate change is real. John Kasich was the only contender for the Republican Party nomination to accept that fact, but his position is almost worse — that it’s real, but we needn’t take any meaningful steps to stop it.
Then you have our deeply problematic foreign policy, one of the issues that, according to the polls, Americans care about the least. It’s also astonishingly bipartisan. Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen. The five countries in which we are currently directly killing people or funding our authoritarian allies — cough, Saudi Arabia, cough — to do the gory work by proxy. And here again we can see the uncaring, amoral, anti-human influence of big business. Weapons are just another commodity and war just another marketing opportunity. Weapons and war are job creators in every state of this nation.
It’s not as though this is all the result of some giant conspiracy, either. This is the end result of the much lauded “rational self-interest,” upon which our economic system is ideologically based. The problem lies in the fact that, when taken as a whole, the sum expression of our aggregated rational self-interests is structurally irrational.
In the first half of the 1900s, people like John Maynard Keynes tried to save this system from itself by involving the government. It helped for a time, particularly after the Great Depression, but it wasn’t long before the hubris of big business expressed itself once again in political life. All barriers to profit can and will be superseded, even those that ensure the long-term sustainability of the system itself.
Despite the bleakness of the situation I have described here, I am not without hope and neither should you be. Consciousness about these problems is out there and spreading, despite our not being able to do much about them. While I don’t think it’s healthy to put millennials on a pedestal and expect them to change everything, I do believe there is a great deal of potential within our generation.
For what it’s worth, my advice to you is simply to stay informed, to think critically about our world and the old ways of approaching things, to not take for granted that other people can or will bring about change. If you value things like freedom and democracy — and not the flat advertising slogan meanings of those words, but the real deal — then don’t be afraid to insist that our society lives up to the principles it professes.