Chances are, you have never heard of democratizing the media.
One revolution deserves another.
The revolution of 2008-2009, which changed the American political system into a full-fledged oligarchy, was neither unprecedented nor unheralded; Aristotle wrote about it 2000 years ago. (See post of October 24, 2011, "The Great American Illusion")
That Second American Revolution created nothing new. However, it made manifest things that had been latent. Today, they are generating new questions, demanding new answers.
Revolutions go to the roots. The private media´s roots are as widespread as they are shallow...
George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm, indefatigable foe of Big Brother and of government censorship, came to a startling conclusion:
The most dangerous censor is not governmental.
Orwell wrote the
“chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of…any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves [my emphasis]…"
The so-called free press – so called because it is not democratic, viz., it is the property of oligarchs – censors more articles and books in 2 weeks than all the governments in the world censor in 20 years. Among the censored works: anything supporting the discussion Orwell sought.
2 weeks/20 years... I know, I know, you think I am over the top, exaggerating. You grew up hearing the same nonsense I did: only official, governmental censorship exists.
First, I speak from hard experience as a columnist with the El Paso Times and numerous other newspapers. My articles were subjected to three types of censorship: (1) The articles simply were not published. (2) Editors actually put in things I did not write. (3) Editors took out paragraphs and sentences, significantly altering the meaning of what I had written. So much for unofficial censorship.
As for official censorship, no government employee anywhere ever told me I could not write something. By the way, I have been in some tough places, e.g., Panama under Noriega, Chile under Pinochet.
But don´t take my word for it.
Listen to the chief of the editorial staffs of the New York Times and the New York Sun.
Over a century ago, John Swinton was the preeminent journalist of his day. One night in 1880, he addressed unofficial censorship -- the elephant in the room.
What Swinton said was short and not very sweet. He
"was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:
There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.
There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.
The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?
We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."
Makes you wonder… what is it, exactly, the so-called free press – the rich men behind the scenes – so desperately do not want you to see?
This blog gave one hard, specific case (see "How to Steal An Election and Not Get Caught -- Unitl Now" in the latter part of the May 17, 2012 post). I wrote it a few days after the 2000 election. No major daily in America would publish the article – not even as a letter to the editor. It reveals how George Bush may have stolen the 2000 election in Florida, hence the presidency, via a technique known as The Long Count.
To combat such veiled censorship by media owners, we pick up where Orwell left off:
Intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.
As we shall see, the missing discussion of intellectual cowardice, i.e., of censorship by media owners, is arriving with seven league boots. Its enemies, however, are regrouping, rearming, strengthening their defenses. As for who they are...
This blog has a political position the mainstream media and universities prohibit. To wit: the American political system instituted in 1789 by Madison, Hamilton and other Founding Fathers was not a democracy but rather a политей or "polity," i.e., an oligarchy/democracy hybrid tending toward democracy and moderated by a large middle class. In 2008-2009, the Bush-Obama giveaway of billions of public dollars to the American mega-wealthy replaced the polity with an oligarchy. (See post of October 24, 2011: "The Great American Illusion")
The unabashed, unabridged reign of the oligarchy today is why the discussion Orwell called for is not possible in the United States. We must and will look elsewhere.
First, though, we will phrase Orwell´s concern in the form of a new question:
What can be done to control the media owners´ unofficial censorship so as to strengthen democracy -- not weaken it? That is to say: how can the media be democratized?
UnAmerican! Swintonian tools and vassals, I hear your plaintive cry. I regret to inform you but there is a 100% American precedent that media tycoons are not entitled to 100% libertinage in what they purvey to the public. That precedent is public affairs broadcasting. The federal government requires it of all TV and radio stations.
The Federal Communications Commission oversees public broadcasting. The FCC´s summary:
"In exchange for obtaining a valuable license to operate a broadcast station using the public airwaves, each radio and television licensee is required by law to operate its station in the ´public interest, convenience and necessity.´ This means that it must air programming that is responsive to the needs and problems of its local community of license.
To do so, each station licensee must affirmatively identify those needs and problems and then specifically treat those local matters that it deems to be significant in the news, public affairs, political and other programming that it airs... we expect station licensees to be aware of the important problems and issues facing their local communities and to foster public understanding by presenting programming that relates to those local issues...however, broadcasters – not the FCC or any other government agency – are responsible for selecting the material that they air. By operation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and because the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from censoring broadcast matter, our role in overseeing program content is very limited."
Over 90% of public programming in America is a hoax. Controlled by an oligarchy, how could it be otherwise? Public affairs broadcasts are consigned to graveyard slots when almost nobody is tuned in. Even more importantly, the owners of TV and radio stations are allowed to define public interest.
To repeat, the new American political system is making manifest many things which had been latent. One is giving rise to a second new question:
The FCC only regulates TV and radio stations. Why not require public interest, convenience and necessity of book publishers, magazines, newspapers? Why should they be exempt from public responsibility?
What it comes down to:
For the first time, censorship by all private media owners is being challenged -- but not in the United States. The front line of the battleground is Latin America, particularly Mexico.
* * *
I spent three years in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, and Guanajuato. I invite anybody who says Mexico has a “free” and “uncensored,” “democratic” media “open” to “all citizens” to take a lie detector test. (Local seismologists should be alerted in advance in order to account for the surge in their Richter scales). Unofficial, veiled censorship in Mexico has reached such an absurd, unsustainable level that -- like the Soviet Union´s economic system in the 1980s -- it is wobbling, bending, stumbling under its own weight.
Last month, Mexican students in massive numbers took to the streets to protest the private media. The demonstrations were sparked by the presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI, the corrupt political party that ruled Mexico 1929-2000. Nieto spoke at the Universidad Iberoamericana. The students were dissatisfied with his answers to their questions; an uproar ensued. In an attempt at damage control, PRI officials claimed the protestors were not “real” students -- whereupon 131 Ibero students created an Internet video in which they gave their names and showed their credentials. Thus began the YoSoy132 (“I am 132”) movement roiling Mexico this very moment.
One major change has already been produced. Peña Nieto, who was leading Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the polls by 14%, in a few weeks saw his lead evaporate to 4%.* The election is July 1, two weeks away. The PRI of course is trying to connect the students to Obrador; however, the students deny any political affiliation. What they are clamoring for is “el manejo de la información de manera honesta” (the management of information in an honest manner) and a “pueblo informado y no manipulado” (an informed, not a manipulated, public). In short, they are demanding the democratization of the media.
Another development has yet to appear in Mexico, though, and it will prove to be decisive. A researcher, Raúl Trejo Delarbre, warned that the protests could turn into a “momentary catharsis,” and that the “distinctive nature of the movement could easily degenerate into triviality if the protesting students are unable to give form to their demands.” The students must realize that “opening up the media is not achieved simply by marching in the streets or by giving an interview.”
Demands for democratizing the media are spreading throughout Mexico and are moving into other Latin American nations. So, what specific, concrete forms can consolidate the demands? How can they be institutionalized?
I. Established international organizations. Forget the Organization of American States and its Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Both are United States-owned and operated enterprises. Rubber duckies of the oligarchy: squeeze them and warm water spurts out.
There is a second problem. For every success you show me of the OAS since its founding in 1948, I will show you 10 failures. (For starters, why must the OAS be stuck in Washington, D.C.? The headquarters should be rotated among its members so that all can benefit from its multimillion-dollar budget).
Fortunately, there are international organizations which are alternatives to the OAS:
1. UNASUR (Unión de Naciones Suramericanas) at the request of one of its members, Ecuador, soon will take up the issue of unofficial censorship and other antidemocratic practices of the private media.
2. CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) is preparing to create a commission to “supplement” the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States. The new commission will be proposed in December meetings. Among its concerns: censorship by and for private media owners.
3. Last but not least, ALBA (Alianaza Bolivariana por los Pueblos de Nuestra América) is also considering creating its own commission on human rights, with an emphasis on freedom of expression blocked by private media owners.
II. National organizations. As the case of the FCC and its public broadcasting requirement showed, old forms are not up to the new task of democratizing the media.
Councils would be created to which authors could formally complain about their articles, videos, etc., which the media turned down. The media would then be required to send the censored material to the appropriate council, which would select works it deems to be in the public interest, convenience or necessity. If the selections are too numerous to be practical for public diffusion, a pool would be formed from which a final random selection would be made. The media would then be legally compelled to publish or air the works they had previously censored.
To plug up the weasel holes of graveyard hours, printing articles in microscopic text crammed among tire ads in the back of the back pages, etc., the final placement of council-selected works would be determined by a random draw.
Obviously, there are many issues to be decided -- which is exactly the point. The membership of the councils, how they are chosen and how long their members serve, the criteria by which they define public interest, the schedule for publishing or broadcasting censored works: all would form the discussion Orwell called for.
The hour for challenging veiled censorship by media tycoons is here. As a result of the 2008-9 revolution of the United States political system, a major restriction on human rights that had been hidden is now being exposed to the full light of day. The cause of that exposure: now in uncontested control, the oligarchy is overplaying its hand.
Mexican students, UNASUR, CELAC, ALBA, Ecuador, and all others fighting censorship by media tycoons: you have the opportunity to lead the world. Your efforts will determine if democratization of the media is a new reality or a new myth.
*NOTE made June 28. Widely published poll results are showing Nieto has gone back up to 40%, with 24% for Obrador. It is also being widely published that the election-night reporting in Mexico will have live, real-time counting of the votes in order to have "absolute transparency." BEWARE!!! The technique known as The Long Count for stealing elections, a variation of which the PRI practiced in 1988, has absolutely NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with real-time counting of votes; we are looking at two ships passing in the night. Long Count thieves are laughing in their Tecates preparadas.
 Helena Lozano Galarza, “El Despertar Universitario”, Newsweek en Español, 3 de junio y 10 de junio, 2012, p. 17. My translation.
 Ibid. My translation.