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Media: Find a new dead horse

18 Dec

If you hang out long enough with lefties, eventually someone will repeat an old saw as if it were a new blade: The Evils of Media Consolidation. This memetic concept has spawned a whole cottage industry of conspiracy theorist-journalists, infographics and vitriolic discussions, both off and online.

Self-styled investigative journalists write their pieces about media consolidation as if they were the first to discover – horror of horrors – that an entire industry is run by only a handful of corporate giants. They are, of course, telling us this tale for the VERY FIRST TIME, and we should all be shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you! not to mention appalled, that we’re being spoon-fed drivel that turns our minds into oatmeal by Evil Men in Grey Flannel Suits. They lurk in the shadows, forcing Sarah Palin news upon the unsuspecting populace, and using man-bites-dog-stories to cover up What’s Really Happening.

If only media and news were the ONLY industries run this way. You better believe that every industry that reaches any point of maturation will consolidate. Central management allows for reduced operating costs – and it’s join or die for most companies, media or not.

Let’s make a cool infographic like this that shows how
class mobility is a lie your parents told you.

So OK. We get it. The media is owned by a very small number of corporations, and the variation we think we’re getting with six gazilion channels and 7 trillion newspapers and 800 bajillion news blogs isn’t actually that varied. But it’s time to stop blaming corporate consolidation (at least, stop blaming it solely) for the  monochromatic messages. Culture itself, not just corporate ownership, plays a pretty big part in media influence.

Think about it: We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of information workers, here – all with their own backgrounds and worldviews – work for tiny tiny subsidiaries and focus on itsy bitsy niche topic areas and interest groups. Not every single reporter is hell-bent on serving his or her corporate overlords, peddling the Faux News message and pulling the wool over the eyes of Joe America. At least not any more than your average every day Joe is hell-bent on achieving those same goals by parroting Faux News talking points, or mindlessly perpetuating the patriarchy.

Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model says that the internalization of the biases and values of corporate owners of the media leads to self-censorship by journalists, but that’s not the whole truth. It’s not just reporters and editors submitting to the wills of their corporate overlords – it’s all of us. We have all, to some degree, internalized the values of corporate owners – whether we work for the media or not. Journalists fall prey to systemic and cognitive biases no more and no less than your average accountant, pro athlete or sous chef.

Yes, corporate consolidation is a problem (as it is in many other industries). But so is our culture – the one that’s built several gajilion support structures to ensure the propagation of a ruling class and dominant culture. Media is just one column supporting a monolithic superstructure that includes patriarchy, capitalism, nuclear families, the legal system, class hierarchies, office jobs and deep-fried Oreos.

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