Too Big to Fail
by Georgia Jones
That's what they said about the banks and financial institutions: They are too big to fail.
Now, with the oil spill in the Gulf and the possibility that government failure to monitor safety regulations or to set those regulations high enough for one of the five most profitable (too big to fail) companies in the world, BP… Well, don't get me started on that.
Too big to fail for some entities (I say entities because I don't mean people even if the Supreme Court declares that they are)—too big to fail is not a conundrum of regulation and social science, it is a goal, an absolute goal that ultimately and sooner than you think will lead to absolute power. At the heart of this serious attack on the notion of equal opportunity and democracy is the too big to fail media.
We talk about the media all the time, most often about how the media is failing us. Right wing voters live within the cozy world of same-thinking that influences what passes for news in places like Fox News. It is a world full of coded hate-speak and xenophobia, but intolerance of this distorted world view is growing. A realization that this kind of media failure can only go on for a limited time before it is completely discredited, even in the minds of its followers, was demonstrated by the reaction of advertisers to comments by Glenn Beck who called President Obama a "racist" and those not listening to his program, the progressives, a "cancer". When this comment was originally made, many advertisers—eventually numbering over 200—asked that their ads be removed from the Glenn Beck time frame, though not from Fox News. Now Apple has stepped up to the underlying issue of opinion based news and removed all of its advertising from the Fox News Channel.
It is worthwhile to acknowledge a corporation that is doing something we approve so you can join a "Thank You" letter campaign to Apple at Care2Causes
Those who are looking for balanced reporting are beginning to understand that there is really no such thing, and the best we can hope for is a wide diversity of reporting. Yet, diversity in reporting is the last thing the media itself is looking for.
If you believe that media is doing a good job for democracy; that would be: providing useful information upon which we can all make informed decisions—if you think media is doing a good job you might want to visit and sign up for MediaFail.
Media itself, on the other hand, thinks it is doing a terrific job, as measured by the amount of money it makes. Another measure of this self-opinion might be inferred from the recent attempt to further consolidate our already limited media diversity by allowing regional monopolies in market areas. This attempt made it past the FCC, the majority of whose members felt it was a good and natural choice to have fewer voices providing fewer points of view to potential voters. As some of these people seem to have missed in history or civics class: The original shapers of the Constitution worried that the only way to form a true democracy was through education and the flow of information, and that without these democracy would fail to become a viable form of government. Both of those things seem to be on the chopping block these days.
In spite of notable complacency brought on by reliance on Internet information, there was a significant public outcry over the FCC decision and Senate hearings sent the FCC Commissioners back to the decision stage from where they emerged with a different view, at least as it related to the consolidation of newspapers, radio and television.
A hero of the people in this struggle was Commissioner Michael Cobb, whom many of you many have heard on "Bill Moyer's Journal" and elsewhere. He took the surprising step of going town to town to see what Americans think of the information they are getting now and what they felt about the proposed changes. The broadcast airways (and that includes ones where the Internet exists) belong to the American people.
Today Congress and the Commissioners are considering another way to advantage corporations over people and controlled information over democracy. The term has been floating around the Internet for years now: Net Neutrality. In essence it means that mega media providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T should control access to or the content, through the means of fee structures, provided on the Internet. The key to this is to reclassify the Internet as a "telecommunication service", which means that it can be owned by a corporation and doled out to the highest bidder. As it stands now, the Internet is an "information provider" and access is constitutionally protected, which is to say that as free speech it can't be owned or controlled by a corporate bottom-line.
This is not a new battle. But it is one that is heating up. Media public relations firms have recently begun campaigns to neutralize public opposition to the position of members of Congress who favor the scheme, and just happen to have taken large donations from the principals involved. Their attack ads are framed as protection for consumers from an overly aggressive FCC. The FCC, unlike most corporate behavior is regulated, transparent, and intended to be in the interests of the American people. We may need to keep track of its choices, but we do have the authority to push it toward our side of the equation. It might have been possible for the average Internet user to remain aloof from the debate for the past fifteen years, but no more.
Recent government assertions that put Internet access on a similar par to diplomacy in international negotiation, as a human right, have not led to practical solutions to the upgrade goals set by the US government for our own Internet, unless the freedom of the Internet is sacrificed to the financial and political control—Does anyone really believe in a neutral media?—of these media giants. The bottom line is that sites like this, where we have always cared about ideas instead of profit, will not be able to exist when the world of the Internet is run as a for profit business by a few. In fact, the world as we knew it is rapidly slipping away under those same conditions, but right now, if we take a stand, we can still save the Internet and the democratic idea of freedom of thought.
Keep in touch, sign petitions, and be informed. I suggest the FreePress.net. It costs nothing to be informed, but it takes money to fund efforts at change, so consider donating as well.