I’m just a sheet metal worker, but today I got to listen to an hour-long discussion of Cervantes’ Don Quixote while at work. It was preceded by an hour long discussion on the refugee crisis in Europe. When I say discussion, I mean a respectful, thoughtful discussion of ideas rather than a couple of guys hurling abuse at each other.
I Shouldn’t have to tell you it was on public radio, it’s sort of a given. I have heard a thousand other such instances of elevated hour-long discussions on issues ranging from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme to the accomplishments of John Quincy Adams. And what did I hear on commercial radio when I turned the dial? Well, commercials, mainly. An astounding string of them. In fact I hit three in a row.
To make a similar comparison, I flipped through the channels on TV tonight to see what was playing. Not on the normal channels but on the elevated ones that some cable salesman once tried to impress me with. I thought I might have to fudge the schedule a little just to make it seem more extreme, but such exaggeration was unnecessary. Here is the list of actual programs on the channels I deemed most highbrow:
History Channel—American Pickers
Arts & Entertainment—Duck Dynasty
American Movie Classics (Note the word “Classics”)—Gone In 60 Seconds w/Nicholas Cage
The Learning Channel—My Big Fat Fabulous Life
Let’s face it, corporate media is a cesspool.
It wasn’t always that way, though. Check out this interview from 1958, it’s an example of what television was once capable of producing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alasBxZsb40 . You can also find Erich Fromm on 60 minutes, and Phil Donahue interviewing Ayn Rand. On a daytime talk show!
You see, back then the corporate model had competition. They were afraid if they didn’t provide for the citizenry that the citizenry might choose some other kind of model to provide not only their news and entertainment but their other needs as well. The U.S.S.R. still existed and there was a battle for the hearts and minds of humanity.
But now there is no longer any competition and corporate media has grown fat, lazy, arrogant and stupid. It throws an entire day of the same reality program on a channel the way a farmer would throw slop in a trough for the consumption of pigs. Even Public Radio is far more dependent on corporate underwriters than it should be.
It seems that a lack of competition has made corporations soft. Competition has always been the redeeming feature of capitalism, the check upon the greed that drives it. Knowing someone can come along and do your job better makes a guy or a corporation work harder and act smarter. But the idea that competition between corporations will do the job is demonstrably false (keep in mind the examples I gave you were from those channels that were most likely to supply adult programming).
Perhaps capitalism itself needs honest competition from another form of production, another way of providing for the needs and wants of society. Maybe corporations need to face a real threat to their existence before they can show what they’re capable of. It’s time to start thinking outside of the box. Viewers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but Honey Boo Boo.