Monday, August 8, 2016

The Only Escape from the Corporate State Is for Us to Become Our Own Media: Khadi-the-Cord

Corporate media's job is to deceive and distract the population. Whether you're watching a dramatic series, a sporting event, a news program, or an advertisement, corporate television has the hypnotic effect of making you accept whatever is on the screen as a substitute for reality.

We need programming that reflects reality the way it is rather than the way a handful of corporate sponsors want us to see it.

For a model of a practical solution to such a quandary, we should turn to Mohandes K. Gandhi.

Everyone knows that Gandhi helped Indians use non-violence to address the lingering problems of colonialism. Those who have heard Gandhi's speeches or read his quotations know that he was also a gifted rhetorician capable of shining a spotlight on injustice.

But too many people have forgotten the practical component of Gandhi's plan for resisting colonialism: khadi (the reliance on homespun clothing).

It's not enough for us to recognize that neoliberalism is just as repugnant as colonialism.

It's not enough for us to applaud the rhetoric of those who expose the injustice of our political system and the hypocrisy of our political leaders.

We need to do something practical in our daily lives that will make a difference in the way we see and interact with the world. For Gandhi's supporters, the most practical form of resistance was to make their own homespun clothing so as not to support a British textile industry that exploited them both as producers of fabric and as consumers of clothing made from that fabric. For us, the most practical form of resistance should be to make our own media so as not to support the corporate entities that are misinforming us and misdirecting our energies with news coverage that is as vacuous as it is constant.

If you watch corporate media, you will (whether you like it or not) participate in sprawling debates about Barack Obama's legacy. There will be plenty of approaches to take, plenty of points and counterpoints to consider. But the one position you won't be presented with is that the more obvious it becomes that American police officers oppress communities of color, the more urgently our first black president promotes the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Obama the neoliberal isn't concerned about his legacy. He certainly isn't concerned about the people of this country. He's concerned about doing the bidding of his donors as effectively as possible before leaving office. If that means putting in an appearance in Dallas to let the police know that he will do everything possible to protect them from citizens (while doing virtually nothing to reassure citizens that he will protect them from police), then he can and does get away with such nonsense only because the corporate media knows how to frame the coverage he receives.

There are no reasons to think Hillary Clinton the neoliberal will be any better--and abundant reasons to conclude that she will be much worse. But corporate media won't let viewers go anywhere near those reasons. Instead, our neoliberal pundits will focus on Donald Trump's thin skin as a problem that might get the U.S. into unnecessary military conflicts (which it might), but they will never consider the ways in which the DNC's hysterical accusations against Russia are likely to serve as a pretext for open war in Syria and the Ukraine.

The next time corporate media tries to make you feel angry about symbolically charged (but practically meaningless) topics such as Obamas's "legacy" or flag burning or restroom access, please try to remember the second verse of the Talking Heads' "Found a Job":
We've heard this little scene, we've heard it many times.
People fighting over little things and wasting precious time.
They might be better off ... I think ... the way it seems to me.
Making up their own shows, which might be better than TV.
Cutting the cord doesn't just have immediate financial consequences on some our most despicable corporate oppressors (such as Time Warner and Comcast). It also has a liberating effect on people who would otherwise spend their lives inside the echo chambers of Fox News and MSNBC.

The Indians who took Gandhi's advice on khadi didn't just deny revenue to the textile industry that exploited them financially; they also asserted their humanity, their agency, and their collective will. They essentially found a way to unionize against an insidious economic force.

Progressives in America must take a similar approach. We must unionize against the corporate media's insistence on distorting reality in such a way as to make us believe that politics-as-usual is acceptable even though we all know that politics-as-usual is killing us.

Maybe you'll donate the money you save on your cable TV bill to the Green Party or to causes such as Brand New Congress. Maybe you'll donate it to the brave progressives on YouTube that rely on contributions from viewers to create new content. Maybe you'll use it to buy the equipment necessary to make your own scripted dramas (as David Byrne's Judy did when she decided that it was better to spend time in "her bedroom inventing situations" instead of watching the garbage on TV in the living room).

There are lots of practical things that progressives can do with the money they will save by cutting the cord, just as there were lots of practical things Indians could do with the money they saved by making their own clothes.

But the first step is to realize that as long as we continue to allow corporate media to use pretty scenery and good-looking pundits to distract us from the ugly reality we live in (featuring toxic food, endless war, and a planetary meltdown), we will self-destruct before we ever break out of this self-destructive cycle.

So please: khadi-the-cord.

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