I’m a dedicated Capitalist. I work for money. Money pays my mortgages and rent, keeps my fridge full, and house warm in the winter. Obviously, money is important and I want to earn as much of it as I can before I decide I’ve had enough of this “work” thing.
That said, there are times when a company can own so much of one thing that its profiteering interests eliminate enough (or all) competition and they not only set the price I pay but the rules and restriction I and others play by. Depending on the industry this can be a financial pain (like the old Standard Oil monopoly and current Cable monopolies) or it can be downright Orwellian scary (like AT&T). I don’t mind rules and restrictions when I use someone else’s service or property, but when that restriction infringes, even slightly, the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights (especially the First and Second amendments), then my ears perk up, my brow furrows and I get ready for a fight.
What makes this more and more concerning to me (and should be for you as well) is that with consolidated media ownership the bottom line will take precedence over creativity, common sense and, ultimately, freedom. It always does. Remember William Randolph Hearst?
In a classic example of the power of ownership, Hearst responded to illustrator Frederic Remington’s request to return from a Havana that was quiet, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
Instead of war to sell papers, media companies need positive spin and marketing to keep goods and services flowing. Anything that threatens it will be met with a swift (and they hope silent and unseen) sweep under the rug to keep the sparks to minimum.
What sparked this socio-political-economic post of mine today was this very recent event where an individual makes a less than flattering comment, and raises questions about the conduct of, a service provider on one of that service provider’s venues and is censored. Yes, here in America. Watch:
Is it really a big deal? I didn’t see jackbooted thugs rush in and pull a sack over his head and rush him off stage. You bet it’s a big deal! If this sort of activity is forgiven or, just as bad, ignored then it will simply continue. And like all snowballs rolling downhill it would gain momentum and scope until the censorship becomes to big to ignore, but by that time the snowball is too large and has too much speed to be stopped by the people it is rolling over.
To keep it simple and to the point; media ownership limits ensure competition. Competition keeps prices as low as the market will bear. Competition also keeps companies “honest” because if one does something rather nasty they run the risk of having their customers defect to the “other guy”. Without competition there are no market pressures and since it’s all about the bottom line the customer simply becomes a middleman between the company and the money in the wallet. And the truth is money is the best tool for democracy. When you vote with your dollar for some companies and take it away from those companies you don’t like – they change their ways to get their customers back and get their money. That can’t be done in a monopoly or an oligopoly.
This isn’t about George Orwell. It’s not about Hearst. It’s about me and you. Rule of law is needed to keep order and a generally safe society, but when those rules infringe on personal freedom and stifle speech they should be met head on and beaten into submission.
Being lucky enough to have been born in this country I have all the Constitutional freedoms bestowed upon me by our founding fathers at the time of my birth, so as a patriotic U.S. Citizen I don’t take these privileges lightly. It’s why I felt it important to spend five years in the U.S Army as an Airborne Infantryman in service to my country and why I am writing this to keep awareness of this nefarious activity at the forefront of people’s minds. To use the words of Thomas Jefferson:
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.