If a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be.~ Thomas Jefferson
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.~ Mark Twain
Where do you get your news? Increasingly I find myself seeking out alternative sources of news, that is, independent news. I am deeply concerned that a small group of very large corporations own most of the media in the U.S. (See the chart below.) I am certainly not against all corporations, or even the idea of corporations, and I am not against the idea or the fact that most news outlets are companies with bottom lines. But in practice, corporations, especially large corporations, do not want democracy in the same way that the average person thinks of democracy.
Chart from the Media Reform Center.
Democracy is messy, unpredictable, works from the ground-up, is slow in making decisions, includes everyone, and is uplifting to both the individual and the masses. Democracy also challenges capitalism because capitalism seeks that all problems be solved by the market and the inherent selfishness of the individual. Ideally democracy requires compromise and some level of caring for others. Corporations want to reduce that messiness in order to maximize profits and makes them more predictable. Democracy wants to keep that messiness in order to foment the exchange of ideas.
The “corporate flag” by Adbusters.
Corporations are, by definition and design, expressions of capitalism. Thus, if democracy gets in the way, or even threatens the forward march of capitalism, then corporations will usually choose capitalism over democracy. That, at least partially, explains the constant collusion between big business and government. But a thriving democratic government takes active and informed citizens. If only a handful of corporations own all the media how does that affect the news citizens receive? Do we get the full picture? Do we have the facts we need to be committed to democracy and make informed decisions?
We all know the world we live in today is saturated with an overwhelming amount of information and entertainment, and that much of it is just garbage. And we know this includes the mainstream news. We live in an age of gross media mediocrity. Mainstream news tends, regardless of its name or origin, tends toward homogeneity rather than true diversity. But there are still many good alternative news choices, if one makes a little effort to find them.
Recently the National Conference for Media Reform highlighted some of those good choices. There is a groundswell of independent media in this country. Much of it is driven by its opposition to the War in Iraq and the never ending War on Terror.* It is also driven by the Internet. One of the key moments of that conference was the speech given by Bill Moyers.
Moyers speech is truly wonderful and worth taking the time to view.
Adbusters was there too. Here they interview several individuals, like Robert Greenwald and Amy Goodman, who are playing important roles in the independent media movement:
Independent media is not a guarantee of democracy or of quality news. But it does offer a better chance for building a foundation for good debate and informed choices. Of course the individual still has to take responsibility for sorting through it all. But that process is, in itself, informative.
I truly believe the future of this country, and of the world, politically, socially, and economically hinges more on the future of independent media and its relationship to democracy than just about anything else, along with love, human sin, and the hand of God of course. I should say that when I refer to the future of this country and the world I have in view a future where democracy and peace can thrive, and where ordinary people play a greater part in shaping this world and creating flourishing lives. It is not a complicated vision.
I have recently discovered the links page at the Independent Media Center. This looks like a decent place to start looking for alternative un-embedded sources of news and opinion. Feel free to suggest alternative news sources you enjoy.
I have just added this clip which takes a look at the new Newseum, or news museum, and highlights some of the same concerns I mention above:
*One of the ironies of alternative news is that by being animated by the ideals of a democratic society such news begins to look and feel radical and even “left wing” regardless of the issues. Democracy should not, in my opinion, be a radical idea in a free society, but it often seems that it is.