Media: Reform Or Remake?

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The recent media reform conference in Memphis drew many who are seeking changes in a media that is sadly lacking.

Participants pointed to the obvious problems with today’s media, from often superficial content to its lack of diverse authenticity. Mainstream media are being used to perpetuate ignorance.

It goes without saying that in a democracy media should operate as another check against the abuse of political power. In America the mainstream media don’t act as deterrent to abuses of power. Two key questions that we in the business of dissemination of information must consider: should we focus on reforming those media corporations who have been corrupted by the money of the status quo or should we invest our time in building our own independent information institutions?    

For some time there have been calls for reformation of media. That reform hasn’t happened. And it hasn’t happened for one very essential reason: the owners of mainstream corporations are deeply “embedded” with the economic elites in this country. Why would they commit suicide by permitting reform?

The example of NBC is easy enough to cite. This media behemoth is owned by General Electric Co. GE not only makes household appliances it also makes war weaponry. So should we be surprised that on NBC there will be no insightful analysis of the military industrial complex?    

To make matters worse, for the last decade or so, media ownership consolidation has gone from bad to worse. Some will argue about all the channels we can get on cable and satellite television services. But, we know that those channels are owned by only a few. So, is it any surprise that for all those channels they talk about that the messages are largely homogenized?    

The media is in need of a makeover. But it may be that just pushing for “reform” isn’t the way to go for we must consider the issue of class within the mainstream. Class stratification in America is an ugly word. Many delude themselves in the fiction that class isn’t a problem in America. It is in fact the main problem. Indeed, racism itself is nothing more than a buffer to maintain the program of divide-and-conquer. It has worked well for the powers that be. Unfortunately, many whites have bought in hook, line and sinker to the myth of white supremacy. In so doing, all are enslaved.      

Because many whites fight ferociously against things like Affirmative Action—which they mistakenly think only helps Blacks. Since the fifties the taxation structure has continued its downward slant to benefit the super-rich. Time and again we have seen news analysis of Affirmative Action. When was the last time you saw any insightful look at the excesses of America’s corporate elite? Could this be because mainstream media players feel more of an affinity for them than for the average person? Lou Dobbs earns millions of dollars while bashing Mexican immigrants---Dobbs salary alone could employ more than 50 people who would still make decent wages. Multiply this a few thousands times: now who are the ones “taking away” jobs.    

Then we have President Bush giving back millions to people who don’t need the money. Meanwhile billions of dollars are hemorrhage into the Iraq debacle where the only U.S. beneficiary so far is Halliburton. Where are the media on this story?

And in New Orleans, thousands who lost everything have been forgotten. How often do you see anything about these Katrina victims in the media? This week while the death of race horse Barbaro made front page on The New York Times, a meeting in New Orleans where Sen. Barack Obama grilled officials on insufficient Katrina aid was buried on page A16.

Dr. King before he was gunned down in Memphis announced that he would organize a poor people’s march on Washington and build a “Rainbow Revolution” across racial lines. That decision along with his fiery speech in April of 1967, at New York City’s Riverside Church denouncing the Vietnam War sealed his fate. He correctly connected the dots between the Vietnam War and economic injustice at home.

Money going to Vietnam could have built schools and hospitals or gone into fighting poverty and hunger. How did mainstream media respond to his eloquent message?

“King’s Error,” blared The New York Times in an editorial ordering Dr. King to stick to talking about civil rights. Information is power. Mainstream media won’t change. They exist for a purpose—to reinforce and uphold the status quo. Those who care about the mental, physical, economic and social welfare of ordinary people must dedicate themselves to building institutions independent of the corrupt mainstream media.    

Benjamin is on The Black Star News’ editorial board

Publisher's Note to readers: Please call The New York Times at (212) 556-1234, ask for the Managing Editor, and ask him if the life of a horse is more important to the plight of Katrina victims.

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