Friday, August 08, 2008

Matt Welch takes media reformistas to task for hypocrisy

Matt Welch, in a post at Reason, pinpoints the hypocrisy of the media reformistas movement. Given what Welch documents they are on the record as lamenting—-the faceless corporate control of newspapers, the cost-cutting pressures that come with being a publicly traded newspaper company, the lack of local ownership (and concern with local affairs that comes with it) and, above all, the trend of media companies gobbling up ever more media companies—-they should be applauding the new ownership of the Tribune Co. by its employees and Sam Zell—a mensch with a face.

But, Welch continues, they have dissed Zell as well. That’s because, as I add in a comment to Welsh’s piece, it is increasingly clear that the leaders of the movement have a real agenda that can be gleaned from the writings of Robert McChesney, the academic who mixes their Kool Aide. In his book Rich Media, Poor Democracy McChesney holds that you cannot have a democratic society so long as the media—no matter how many firms—are privately owned, profit-seeking and supported by American commercialism. So long as the choice is from privately run media companies no number of providers is acceptable.

Media reform, McChesney contends, is prevented because the people think there is diversity and that the media “give people what they want.” That’s a far more condescending attitude than even Newton Minow might have pinned on the mass audience. The reformistas, of course, are smart enough to see behind this illusion—-but not the rest of us constituting the great unwashed. How imperious!

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