katie, me, nicole and meredith (you can learn more about meredith a few posts down)
This is what happens when four people try to live in a one-bedroom apartment in the sweltering North Carolina heat and then one of them goes hat shopping in Maine--you know, that common situation
In other media news, help me get a free iPod! It will only take four (4) of you, my precious friends, signing up for an offer (and then cancelling it, of course) to get me this much-needed, nifty gadget.
After creating your own username/password, you can sign in and choose from one of the remaining offers on my list. Of course, they will try to suck you in by offering you a free iPod contingent on getting 4 of your friends to sign up, but just ignore that silly pyramid-scam ploy!
*This company is legit. So is my need of an iPod.
I recently viewed Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (2004), a documentary showcasing both Mr. Murdoch's ridiculous amount of media assets and Fox News Channel's "conservative" take on the news. The film raised many questions in my mind. I wasn't so much bothered by the smothering of examples of Fox's biased news coverage: a collage of Bill O'Reilly "shut-ups," the anchor Brit Hume counting down the days until "Our President is Reelected," or the constant flashing of the "America's News Channel" graphic. To each his own, I say. Nay, I was more taken aback by the exorbitant expanse that is News Corporation itself. Being a student of the media, I have been thinking lately (!) about the modern concept of a free press.
AOL Time Warner is currently the world’s biggest entertainment and media company, with revenues of almost $32 Billion, but this is not a unique situation. Currently 25 companies own 50 percent of the U.S. media. That number is most likely to decrease in this new century, with the possibility of being reduced to a dozen or fewer. In light of this glaring fact and my recent arousal d'documentarre, I would argue that the gradual concentration of media ownership by a continually decreasing number of companies poses a threat to the ideal of a free press, and thus to our democracy itself.
What exactly is the ideal of a free press and is it crucial to democracy?
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that “Congress shall make no law....abridging the freedom of the press…” One need not look any further than the fact that this right was included in the first amendment of the Constitution to realize its importance.
Indeed, while all of our constitutional freedoms are precious, this amendment's assurance of free speech and a free press, and practicing the freedoms thereof, are fundamental building blocks of a democracy.
The men who ratified the Bill of Rights in 1791 realized that placing these liberties outside of the reach of governmental restriction was crucial to ensuring a legitimate and free society. Only through a free press can there exist a “marketplace of ideas,” the product of which is the education of the citizenry—a fundamental principle in democracy.
If the guarantee of a free press is a “building block” of democracy, then what can be construed as being a threat to that guarantee?
There are two possible threats. The obvious one would be government intrusion, i.e., censorship or governmental ownership of the media. But the trickier and less obvious is a possible corporate monopoly. This is no stranger to the American free-market economy. We have seen industries such as oil, agriculture, railroads and telephone services be monopolized through mergers or other business deals. The Supreme Court has recognized these conglomerations as threats to the very system that let them become monopolies in the first place. In his opinion for the majority in the case Standard Oil Co. v. U.S., then-Chief Justice White stated that the monopoly undermines the idea of a free marketplace:
"We think no disinterested mind can survey the period in question without being irresistibly driven to the conclusion that…an intent and purpose to exclude others was frequently manifested by acts and dealings wholly inconsistent with the theory that they were made with the single conception of advancing the development of business power by usual methods, but which, on the contrary, necessarily involved the intent to drive others from the field and to exclude them from their right to trade, and thus accomplish the mastery which was the end in view." (221 U.S. 1, 1911)
Thus it has been asserted by our own Supreme Court that a free marketplace is fundamental to our society. And that marketplace should not be limited to its purely economic definition, but also be extended to the more abstract concept of the marketplace of ideas—a marketplace with equal importance. Once that is taken hostage by monopolization, our democracy is in jeopardy.
The concentration of media ownership is a reality.
It is a fact that practically nine companies control the world’s media: GE, AT&T/Liberty Media, AOL Time Warner, Disney, News Corp., Sony, Seagram, Bertelsmann and Viacom. This concentration is not limited to broadcast. Of the 1,500-or-so daily newspapers in the country, 99 percent are the only daily in their cities. As FCC Chairman Michael Powell has pointed out, “Nobody can intellectually defend the proposition that the marketplace has not changed dramatically.”
How are these concepts related?
Finally, after noting that free speech begets free media, and that free media is key to a democratic society, and furthermore, that there is a concentration of media ownership, then if the marketplace of ideas is fundamental to a democracy, the concentration of media ownership undermines democracy. A bold claim? Yes. Ridiculous? No.
“Obviously, today there are some similarities between the role of a press constricted by an authoritarian government and that of a press constrained by a profit-driven corporation. In both cases, content and participation are narrowly constructed, albeit more by thought-manipulation than by daily brutality. Regardless, such systems both serve the ends of those who control. Corporate authoritarianism is no more appealing than any other form of tyranny.” (Where Has the Free Press Gone? Article by Mercedes De Uriate)
The current situation should make people worry. How are we to make informed decisions if the potential for being informed is threatened by who owns the media we consume? This is not paranoia; there are specific examples of media ownership conflicting with news content.
In 1987, the then-president of NBC News, Larry Grossman, was told by GE boss Jack Welch not to use the phrase “Black Monday” to describe the year’s stock market crash on NBC News. He said it was depressing the value of GE stock.
In 1990 NBC’s Today expressed interest to Todd Putnam, editor of National Boycott News, that it wanted to do a story on boycotts. Amy Rosenberg of NBC Today asked Putnam for the “biggest boycott going on right now.” Putnam did the research and told Today that the biggest boycott was actually against GE light bulbs. Unsurprisingly, Rosenberg scrapped the idea.
A more recent example: On 9/11 terrorists used airplanes built by GE to crash into buildings partially owned/operated by GE, the events of which were then covered by a network news channel owned by GE.
But it is not just NBC. Small examples add up, too: In 1998, ABC News decided not to do a story on pedophiles who worked at the Magic Kindom Park. Both ABC and Magic Kindom Park are owned by Disney.
Something is wrong with this picture. When companies who own the media become so large that they own numerous other good and services, there is a pervasive conflict of interest. Once the conflict of interest becomes so great that the media’s parent corporations decide not to report stories then information is withheld from the public. This continuing concentration of media ownership in a decreasing amount of parent companies, whose ownership includes, but is not limited to, media and various other industries, is a threat to a free press and thus democracy as a whole.
I'll go ahead and let James Madison finish it up for me:
“A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce, or a Tragedy, or perhaps both.”
This being said, I am not proposing that everyone become another NPR, or that we implement a more British-like system (which is publically funded through an annual fee incurred by the citizens, but which is still kept separate from government). Rather, I mean to point out a pretty obvious flaw in our current system and would like to see more restrictions. Simply, prohibiting one from owning too much stuff! Is it really that difficult?
Well happy pre-mature birthday to me!
Bored with talking about myself (I know!), today I am kicking off a series (or at least posting on or around the person's birthday) titled "Cheers to _______!" This toast can be used when you are drinking and don't have anything to toast, in which case you might want to start seeing someone about that. In any case, most of my posts from here on out will be dedicated to my dear friends, in no particular order. These are the people who have helped shape the colloidal mass that you refer to as Emilie. Of course, this series might appear as a way to simply rattle off a bunch of inside jokes with people you don't know, but I don't really give a crap. Plus, you'll have your turn and you'll like it.
On that note I present to you Meredith Miten Andews. She also goes by Merry or Mer Bear, usually the latter being against her will.
Merry came into this world singing. At the time it just sounded like a baby screaming, but this was later identified as musical talent. And boy was it! From church ensembles to the lead role in our high school musical to the a capella group at Kenyon College, she has delighted the world's ears for over two decades now. (Meredith is available for parties, weddings and Bar--only Bar--Mitzvahs.)
These talents were recently showcased in "Harrisburg Idol"--a lame, local version of the beloved TV show. Merry reluctantly agreed to such a ridiculous melee as a birthday gift to her mom. Her mom then revealed a psychotic side Merry had never, ever seen before. I mean, this psychotic side was completely unheard of prior to the "Harrisburg Idol" competition. This wasn't uncalled for given the fact that ever since she came into this world, all her parents have wanted was for this fragile china doll of a daughter to be rich and famous. They almost got their wish as Meredith finished in the top 12 of more than 300 participants. You can read more about it at our laudable daily, The Sentinel:
-First round article: http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2005/01/14/news/news03.txt
-Second round article: http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2005/01/17/news/news07.txt
In the days since not becoming rich and famous, Merry has developed a horrible crack-cocaine habit and won't come out to play. She has vowed to move to New York City and sing pop songs on rooftops, at the same time hopefully moving up to just regular cocaine.
Even so, I appreciate what Merry has contributed to my life: sarcasm, TiVo and more laughter than I could ever need in my time on His earth. We have lived at the beach together and at other places not together (like now, when I live in DC and she lives in Carlisle). We've eaten a lot of food, drank a lot of alcohol, and one time she threw up the former on my bedroom floor after having too much of the latter. Another time she made me cry by telling me she wasn't my chauffeur. Later we laughed when we realized that yes, she was my chauffeur after all. Merry is also severely allergic to everything on the planet and therefore will never have a pet. On this note, Cheers to Meredith!
As I follow the adventures (mishaps) of our wide-eyed hero, I am thinking to myself, "what a dumbass!" (I mean, how could you lose eighty treasure-laden sheep, carrying the wealth of El Dorado, to a lying Dutchman?!?)
Yet at the same time, I feel like I'm reading about myself. Of course I'm talking more in the naive sort of way. I wouldn't have lost the sheep. But I definitely relate to the sincere and unjaded nature of Candide's personality.
Por hemplay, in one scene Candide is visiting the Italian senator Pococurante's palace and admiring his impressive collection of literary classics. Candide reads off the titles with enthusiasm--he was taught all about them by his dear professor--and asks what the senator thinks of each book.
About Homer, the senator has this to say:
" '...the continual repetition of battles, which are all alike--those gods, who are always busy achieving nothing--that Helen, who is the cause of war yet scarcely plays a part in the whole performance--that interminable and ineffectual siege--I have found them all insufferably tedious...' "Regarding Virgil:
" '..nothing could be more flat and disagreeable..' "
" '...I was disgusted...' "
" '...I concluded that I know as much as he...' "
" 'Who? Oh, that barbarian...that slovenly imitator of the Greeks?...' "
And so on and so forth.
He dryly sums it up:
" 'Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable.' "
"Candide, who had been brought up never to form an opinion on his own, was astonished at all this."
At the current time, I am not unlike our young optimist. I'm supposed to revere these Books and Men of verbal veneration. I guess that's what I'm doing with this very blog, huh Voltaire?
But what I'm hoping is that as I read more of these esteemed tomes, I, too, will think some of them suck.
Until then, Ciao!
-Should I be bringing a PowerPoint presentation with me? I have some very good charts and graphs which lay out my qualifications.
-When the inquistadors laugh at inside jokes, should I laugh along? If I do, I'll look weird. If I don't, also weird.
-When answering a question, should I do a round of eye contact like a 3rd-grade teacher, or just speak to the question-bearer and give the others that "ya know?" glance of recognition?
I probably should just stick with being myself. Afterall, that's what all the employment gurus say. But how to convince a clique of boring yuppies that I'm one of them?
Hold on, let me get this fax...
Land ho! (ftop)
Tif me, and I've returned from a nonexiftence of odd jobf and variouf geographief (ftop)
...decided to tofs anchor in thefe feaf of poft-grad uncertainty and create me own "blogfpot" (ftop)
...So no matter where I go, or where you don't, I'll alwayf be here and fo will you. (go)
*This message and subsequent commencement of this blog was inspired by many things which may or may not include:
my friends, 826 Valencia SF CA, my second grade teacher (Mrs. Flohr), lil kim, R. Dahl, my boring job which provides me with a nice computer, rwmonty (calm down), this shirt I'm wearing and anything else that thinks it has a right to exist. Because it does.