Salon is at it again, spewing out their extreme progressive sentiments. This time, they’ve gone as far as suggesting we nationalize the media. The most recent article is somewhere between painful and laughable to read. But hey, it’s all in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, right? This one reads like, “let’s tear down the long-established institutions of America, disregard our traditions, and replace them with a well-proven system” a la the French Revolution. But they were probably high during high school history so don’t hold it against them.
I wonder if the editors of Salon had a straight face when they chose to publish an excerpt from a book about turning America into a socialist country – either way they did it. The excerpt, entitled “Let’s nationalize Fox News: Imagining a very different media” by Fred Jerome, outlines how socializing America’s media would better facilitate our democratic principles.
Read it for yourself here. After a while the article starts to sound like it was taken from the pages of 1984 or a flashback to the honorable system the Soviets had in place prior to the fall of communist Russia. But if you’re into that kinky stuff, you’ll like this article.
You know who else nationalized their media? The numerous tyrannical administrations throughout history that committed crimes against humanity. They propelled their crimes through the propaganda that their state-owned media networks spewed out. But we already knew progressives are historically illiterate.
It is important to note that my purpose is not to argue against socialism in the commencing sentences, but keep in mind, as Thomas Sowell once said, “Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.”
Like everything else socialist or progressive, when you can’t beat them, legislate against them. Pull the successful down, to your (Salon’s) level. When you can’t compete with Fox News, promote legislation that is in your favor. This isn’t about democracy – it’s about Salon trying to propel themselves ahead, or catch up to, the media outlets they can’t compete with. Or they’re still doing those drugs.
“Imagine a world without the New York Times, Fox News, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and countless other tools used by the 1 percent to rule and fool. In a socialist society run by and for the working people it represents, the mega-monopolies like Walmart, Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, and the corporations that run the tightly controlled “mainstream media” will be a thing of the past,” Jerome writes.
Yes, the media market is an oligopoly in the sense that a handful of corporations control the market. But those corporations also employ literally millions of people. So what would a socialist world look like? Try mass unemployment (much more severe than we have ever seen) fueling poverty and induced by a highly centralized government which would eventually usurp their powers and victimize the people they claim to protect.
Despite such concentration in the media business, America still has one of the freest and most diverse media markets in the world. Ranging from Fox News on the right to MSNBC on the left and everyone in between. Not to mention the Internet – and literally the millions of news sites and independent blogs on the web (some credible, some not).
After stating, “it’s online media that have the potential for wider than ever public participation and exchange of views” Jerome says, “A democratic, accessible-to-all media will move to center stage in a socialist USA.” I don’t know if Mr. Jerome is too old for the Internet, but any Google search will prove that our online media is already democratic, facilitating a very diverse exchange of views that anyone with Internet access has at their fingertips. Although Jerome does go on to acknowledge that the media is already being democratized on the Internet, he believes Democratic Socialism is necessary to control the media and influence culture.
America has always valued free speech and freedom of the press. In such a system, media biases, media credibility, and just plain crappy journalism are unavoidable. In the case of media biases, they should be brought to light (also by way of journalism). But when legislation is required to address media bias, the government becomes tyrannical and is thus restricting free (although biased) speech. Same goes for media credibility or the practice of honest reporting. As for crappy journalism (like the junk Salon often spews) we must simply tolerate it – while still being critical of their work.
However, Mr. Jerome does have a legitimate grievance with advertisements: “in a society that has erased corporate control, the articles in newspapers and magazines and online will not be filler between ads for teeth whiteners and weight-loss pills. There won’t be TV commercials for Coke, cars, or million-dollar condos. There will be no private corporations to create and sponsor the news.”
I think most would agree that advertisements are annoying and at times inconvenient but they are a lesser evil than government owned media. In Jerome’s socialist America, instead of corporations employing millions, the government would employ everyone (of course).
Without advertisements, “In a socialist society, where money is allocated based on assessed social need and not on projected profits, government will subsidize many salaries in social, economic, political, and educational areas” according to Jerome. Instead, funding for the media would be similar to how unions today “pay for the publication, including staff salaries, of many union newspapers.” But eliminating corporations is both impractical and utopian.
Jerome fails to acknowledge that all those promotional ads help to fuel consumption in our economy. An economy that does not consume also has no use to produce. And no production means no jobs. In short, taking ads out of media would just be killing jobs. But in a socialist economy, someone else will foot the bill, right?
A viable solution to the obnoxious advertisements problem would be to make the media more like any other good or service, make people pay for the news even more so than they already do. Charge readers or viewers for the news, this way the news would not have to be subsidized by advertisements. This would also encourage journalistic quality since people would only pay for what they want to see or read, still allowing the free market to work its course and avoid both advertisements and Jerome’s nationalized media. But even this type of media would be quite pragmatic and require too-significant reforms.
As the article progresses it becomes even more absurd; Jerome continues to assume a majority of Americans will be union members in his “Socialist America.” These unions would also form “social justice committees” that will “dig up and root out capitalist, racist, and sexist weeds that continue to grow.”
Jerome’s response to media bias and what the media covers is to “democratize” it by allowing the news to “come from working people themselves.” This way the news given would be more relevant to the everyday working class people. Jerome’s concern for the democratization of the media is heartfelt and legitimate, but he thoroughly underscores the fact that the Internet is already heavily democratized, exemplified in the millions of independent news sites and blogs.
In an interesting twist towards the end of his article, Jerome notes that the injustices of past American capitalism should be thoroughly featured in ‘“never forget” stories…describing battles waged previously during life under capitalism: tent cities for homeless families, “stop-and-frisk” police policies that singled out young black and Latino men, and the experience of unemployment and long-term joblessness. But “Never Forget” would also feature stories about fighting capitalist oppression through strikes and marches and heroes of past struggles.
Ironically, this description Jerome gives fits the image of what I would imagine a socialist America would look like. Jerome also fails to see the incompetency of government-run systems; need I mention the Obamacare roll-out?
A media “for the people” and without advertisements sounds all nice and peachy when Jerome claims such reforms in the name of “democracy.” But, as eerily as our society has been falling to the left, when you add “socialist” to democracy, people retreat in fear. In short, I have enough faith in our society that we will not go to the extremes of “democratic socialism,” not enough people are that delusional to make socialism truly democratic in our highly pluralistic society.
Luckily for Americans, democratic socialism is primarily prevalent in academia. And good thing academia does not accurately reflect real, practical America. Remember, according to Sowell, only an intellectual could be so blind to the failed record of socialism.
All in all, Jerome’s vision of a nationalized media based on a socialist America is absurd and utopian – a bad fantasy. It’s neither practical nor would it be successful; such drastic reforms would never be accepted without extreme government coercion. I would imagine the rest of the book from which Jerome’s article was taken would contain much of the same nonsense. But if there is one thing Jerome’s article proves, or reinforces, it is that there is no other political system known to man that is more envious than socialism masked.
Derek Draplin | University of Michigan | @DDraps24