When I was a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my family moved into a modest ranch house in the suburbs with a fairly big back yard. This wasn’t farm country or rural land or anything like that. We’re talking stereotypical suburban America.
The previous home owners, who I never met but dearly love to this day, had planted a variety of fruit trees in the back yard. I distinctly recall the joy of walking off the back porch in the summer time for years and being able to eat fresh plums, pears, cherries, and apples – all in my own yard.
I also recall how we’d walk up the street to a thick patch of wild, overgrown bushes and pick buckets and buckets of fresh, delicious blueberries.
Today, that thick patch of bushes is yet another American mini-strip mall, I live on the crowded, overdeveloped grid that is modern suburbia and a tiny pint of organic blueberries at Whole Foods costs me $5.
And I can’t help feeling that something fundamental in my life, something that by right should be available to the vast majority of Americans and is not – the ability to walk a few yards from our living rooms and pick a fresh apple off a tree – has been taken away and sold back to us as product.
This same feeling overwhelms me whenever I wade into the 24-hour news cycle.
Free Press Lost
Liberty Nation’s Laura Valkovic, in her astute media criticism article “Trump and Media Frenemy War Heats Up,” includes a vitally important quote by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professor Robert McChesney on the First Amendment and Americans’ right to a free press. McChesney says:
“It [the First Amendment] was meant originally as a social right. We have a right to a free press, we have a right to free speech, not just for ourselves but for the entire society. So I have the right to a free press not so that I can make a newspaper but also I can consume a vibrant free press and that’s the principle involved….”
As with my suburban blueberries, this social right has been taken away and sold back to us as product.
The quoted remarks come from a 2003 video featuring McChesney that is a compelling watch because it was made at the time giant media corporations were solidifying their grip on our media.
While AOL Time Warner may no longer be around as a monolithic entity, McChesney’s remarks on media consolidation are even more in evidence today:
Professor Robert McChesney
“One of the striking figures that explains media concentration is the rise of what we call media conglomeration, where media companies like AOL Time Warner have put together these far-flung empires of book divisions, with merchandising, with music divisions, with sports teams, in addition to film studios, magazines and television interests.”
McChesney describes how these multi-branched outlets use cross-promotion, cross-production and cross-advertising to push product, with news media being just one spoke in the corporate profit-making platform.
“The corporations that now own our news media who have increasingly brought them into their massive empires realize that giving journalists the autonomy to make professional decisions is bad business,” he says.
“It’s much better business to hold your news division to a fierce accounting, to make it generate the same sort of profit as your movie division, as your TV division, as your music division. And that means basically fewer resources, less investigative work, less controversial work, more puff pieces. More trivia, more entertainment, more celebrity coverage. And that’s exactly what we’ve got.”
The danger of having our news being used as just one more vehicle of corporate interest is best illustrated, according to McChesney, by the unceasing cheerleading Big Media has performed for globalist free trade over the past 20+ years – years coinciding precisely with the rise of these consolidated media monsters.
“These corporations themselves – Viacom, News Corporation, Disney, AOL Time Warner, Sony – are the main beneficiaries of these global trade deals,” McChesney says. “They’re the industries that are best poised to profit by being able to travel the world, hiring cheap labor, selling their products.”
All for the Corporation
A ripe example of this corporate self-interest presented as news is ABC News’s seemingly typical mainstream media support for illegal aliens.
Here’s a recent ABCNews.com “Fact Check Friday” article. Four of the five points concern President Trump’s efforts to combat illegal immigration:
“This was not intended to be a weekly segment. But since ABC News started its FACT CHECK FRIDAY four weeks ago, the mistruths, falsehoods and misleading statements from President Trump and his administration seem to be only increasing in frequency.”
And here is a classic display of McChesney’s “celebrity coverage” “puff pieces” that just so happens to further a pro-illegal alien narrative:
“Kevin Costner on undocumented children being separated from parents at border: ‘I’m not recognizing America'”
ABC News is owned by Disney, who in May, could be seen gloating over successfully fighting off lawsuits filed against it for laying off 250 American IT workers – but not before making them train their Indian replacements, who were brought in to the country on government H-1B visas.Sara Blackwell
“We have lost,” attorney for the canned workers Sara Blackwell said, the Orlando Sentinel reports. “Unfortunately, we lost because it’s legal.”
“As we have said all along, these lawsuits were completely baseless,” a Disney spokeswoman happily cooed about the dropped lawsuit.
You see how it works?
To take the food metaphor even further, what has happened to our freedom of the press is pretty much the same thing that has happened to our agricultural system.
Tom Philpott wrote about the “lasting legacy” of former Nixon administration Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz, who pushed for the growth of industrial farming in the 1970s:
“While farmers scrambled to ‘get big or get out,’ Butz’s beloved agribusiness giants cheered. Regaled with mountains of cut-rate corn, Archer Daniels Midland used its political muscle to rig up lucrative markets for high-fructose syrup and ethanol. In Iowa, bin-busting harvests gave rise to an explosion of massive concentrated-animal feedlot operations (CAFOs). An increasingly consolidated meat industry learned to transform cheap grain into cheap — but highly profitable — burgers, chops, and chicken nuggets.”
Notice the same mutli-pronged business approach by the consolidated food powers – government subsidies for cheap corn and soy are literally how corporations use our taxpayer dollars to give themselves low-cost ingredients for the unhealthy food products they sell to us at a nice profit for themselves.
The Washington Examiner reports:
“Despite the prevalence of obesity, the federal government continues to spend a significant amount of money making unhealthy foods cheaper. A 2013 report from U.S. PIRG revealed that the government has spent $19.2 billion on junk food ingredients derived from corn and soy since 1995.”
The USDA reports there were 6.8 million farms in the United States. Today there are 2.05 million.
The same reduction in outlets and the same rise of multi-pronged industrial-scale behemoths can be seen in American media over the years. While newspapers are on the decline today, they were the dominant news platform in the era before television news.
An article at newspaperownership.com by Bruce Kyse and Allegra Jordan reports:
“In 1953, 1,300 of the 1,785 daily newspapers in the U.S. were family-owned and
-operated. The owners lived in or nearby the community served by the newspaper, and the newspaper’s success was tied, directly and indirectly, to the well-being of the community.”
Fewer farmers producing an overwhelming volume of cheap crops leads at the end of the industrial pipeline to Americans eating nutrient-depleted heavily processed food laden with filler.
Fewer media outlets producing a nonstop barrage of trivial noise leads at the end of the industrial pipeline to American minds absorbing dumbed-down heavily regimented “information” and “entertainment” completely lacking in substance.
Big Ag has helped spur an obesity crisis in America with its cheap high fructose corn syrup. And Big Media has given Americans another toxic junk food to consume. It’s known as the 24-hour news cycle.