Corporate Media Subsumes All, Even the Soul of Bob Dylan
It’s too bad Bob Dylan didn’t die like a decade ago, because then maybe we could remember him for being the folk-strumming poet of a generation that he was. I say was because one can make a good case that, though Bob Dylan is still alive, his integrity is dead. If you think that’s harsh, read Bob Dylan and the Ethics of Market Fascism at Truthout eviscerating the terrible Chrysler commercial featuring Dylan which aired during the Super Bowl. Here’s a snip from the article:
When corporatism manages to buy the soul of an icon, the poet of the American civil rights movement, we are witnessing a clear sign of the market becoming an Ethics in itself. This is the man who, in May of 1963, walked out of “The Ed Sullivan Show” after CBS executives asked him not to sing “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” because it would offend the racist right-wing John Birch Society. Bob Dylan inspired many Americans then. But he must have broken many a liberal and progressive heart with his awfully scripted Chrysler commercial, which is filled with jingoistic lines about American pride and a seriously proto-fascist undertone.
It’s fitting that Dylan killed what little scraps of integrity he had left with a commercial—in terms of mediums, it’s the quintessential vehicle for the ubiquitous consumerism we are all entangled in. And though Dylan is just one symbolic loss on the road to a modern realization of Orwell’s 1984, it feels like a major blow to the once hopeful imagination of the Baby Boomer generation.
Speaking of idealistic Baby Boomers who became willing peddlers of neoliberalism, I was poking around this morning looking for some info on Bill Clinton’s Telecommunication Act and I found this hilarious depiction, which includes gems like this paragraph describing the act’s goals:
The main goal of the Telecommunications Act was to free up the market in the communications industry. President Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, and a majority of the members of Congress supported the Telecommunications Act because it would give members of the public more choices in terms of the telephone services and media they could enjoy at home. This increase in choices would in turn allow Americans to subscribe to various communications services at prices they could afford. Since the Internet had become an important part of many Americans’ lives by this time, federal leaders also wanted to place regulations on it that would protect children from stumbling upon pornographic material. In addition, they hoped to make television more family-friendly by giving parents advanced warnings about the types of content programs might contain.
Choice, competition, lower prices. That is what I call a giant load of bullshit, which should be obvious as Comcast tries to merge with Time-Warner, further exposing the consolidation of our media landscape. In 1983, there were 50 media companies. Now there are just 6, and they are corporate monsters.
So what does this latest merger mean? It could mean Coming Soon: the United States of Comcast (New Republic):
Large companies, even monopolies, are not necessarily contrary to the public interest if they are strictly and intelligently regulated. But in the wake of the 1996 telecommunications act (which idiotically assumed that deregulation would lead to competition) and a pliant Federal Communications Commission, the big telecom companies have progressively avoided regulation. As a result, they are already committing many of the abuses that come with monopoly power, and if the new merger passes muster, will do so with a vengeance.
Monopolies make it more difficult for new entrants to compete. As a result, they allow the larger companies to raise prices without fearing a loss of market share. Since deregulation in 1996, cable prices have risen at about three times the rate of inflation. According to a study from the Free Press, prices for expanded cable service (what most consumers purchase) went up five percent from 2008 top 2013 –almost four times the rate of inflation. Monopolies also allow companies to neglect service to consumers. The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Comcast and Time-Warner the two worst cable and broadband companies.
Monopolies can also have a corrosive effect on related industries. The big cable companies have been able to squeeze cable content providers—even to cut off access to customers, as Time-Warner did with CBS last fall. If they also own content providers, as Comcast does, they can harm rival content providers—as Comcast seems to be doing to Netflix.
Monopolies also slow innovation, because companies have less incentive to replace older equipment. That was a major argument for the breakup of the old AT&T telephone monopoly in 1982. According to a report from the New America Foundation’s, Open Technology Institute, the United States has lagged behind other countries in the price and quality of its broadband service. The American city with the highest quality internet is Chattanooga, Tennessee, which gets its service from a municipally owned provider.
Under the new merger, the new company—let’s call it Xsanity—will be in an even stronger position to raise prices, neglect service to its customers, squeeze content providers, harm rival content providers and slow innovation. If local, state or national officials attempt to police them, the single big company will have even greater clout. Of course, Comcast will promise to keep prices down, enforce net neutrality, and spur innovation. There is reason, however, not to take these promises seriously.
The times they are certainly changing…but not for the better.