Way back in the days of Teddy Roosevelt,***** that hero to the Republicans, it was commonly understood in this country that when a few people gain control of most of an industry -- steel, telecommunications, railroads -- and acquire a "monopoly" ownership, they always use that in a way that harms society.
First, they underprice and use other unfair business practices to destroy their competition, then swoop in and buy them up for cents on the dollar to gain even more ownership and control. Second, once there is no real competition, they can raise their prices to reap grossly excessive returns. Third, with the wealth they accumulate, they can control the media and propaganda in this country to convince the public that the mega-business is working for them. And fourth, they pay bribes to politicians to buy their votes or, if a politician is not for sale, they fund massive campaigns to get that politician thrown out of office and replaced with someone willing to take the money and betray the public.
Teddy Roosevelt got the nickname of "Trustbuster," because while he was President of the U.S. he set out to break up these enormous conglomerates that were quickly turning the U.S. into a kingdom with a few rulers instead of the democracy it was intended to be.
The modern day Republicans, on the other hand, are all whores. They love the system of monopoly ownership because they receive such enormous kick-backs and bribes from the business owners. They are joined by way too many Democrats who sell out the public for a dollar, betray the people, and learn to lie like a Republican.
From the time that Bush stole the election in 2000, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (whose job it is to break up monopolies) was Going Out Of Business. As a result, monopoly is now once again common and democracy has suffered. (See, International Herald Tribune article: During 8 years in power, the Bush Justice Department has brought exactly one lawsuit against a business for anti-competitive activities -- Bush Justice Department policies make it impossible for anyone to pursue anti-trust claims: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/09/09/business/antitrust.php ).
Ask, for example, why your community signs long-term exclusive agreements giving one TV cable company the exclusive right to provide cable TV in your community. Monopoly power. The cable companies tell the local community that here's the offer, we will not provide any cable in your city if we have to compete with other cable companies. So the cost of cable TV has gone from its modest beginnings of maybe $20/month to now well over $100 in many communities. There is no competition and their contracts say they can charge whatever they can get away with. Plus the $3.50 "rental" charge hidden at the bottom of your bill for the "lease" of the TV remote. Do you know what that adds up to when you charge it to an entire nation? It adds up to companies that can buy the politicians and run the entire country without any regard to the citizens.
Of course it isn't just the cable TV industry in media that is a monopoly. The media itself is owned and controlled by fewer people and companies. Start with Rupert Murdoch, a neocon right-winger, despicable human being who sells trash, gossip and deceit to the public to dumb-down America and keep the citizens from ever realizing that this scum from down-under has taken over our media. TV, radio, newspapers, too many of them bear the filthy stamp of Rupert Murdoch and Fox.
Of course Fox News does not report news. It is a propaganda arm of the Republican party. There have been many former Fox News employees who report that Roger Ailes, head of Fox News, would receive instructions from the Bush white house every morning telling him what the white house wanted Fox News to "report" to the public that day, what phrases to use. "Mushroom Cloud?" From the time the white house decided to tell the public that Iraq had nuclear weapons set to be launched against this country, a complete lie, not only every person in the Republican Party but also every person at Fox News used the term "Mushroom Cloud" in every sentence. "Smoking gun?" Same thing. In the few days since Obama and the Democrats won the last election, I've heard dozens of these Republican robots use the phrase: "Rigid left-wing ideology." By which they mean that most Democrats believe that all our nation's children are deserving of a home, food, medical care, and a good safe school. We're so "rigid" like that.
We used to have laws in this country to prevent media consolidation and mis-use. Those laws have been weakened if not eliminated by the Bush Regime. For example, it used to be true that if someone owned a TV station in a city, they could not also own a newspaper. The idea is that the citizens should receive news and analysis from many different sources. If only one person, or one business, "owns" all the TV, radio, and newspapers, then they can simply tell the public lies, cover up the truth, destroy the ability of the public to learn what's really going on. Just like Fox News does. Of course Murdoch is not alone in his consolidation of media ownership. He's just the most vile example.
One of the issues for Obama will be to reinstate strict limits on media ownership. Another would be to shut down TV stations like Fox News that are mis-using the public airways. They're not reporting news -- they're just selling Republican lies. They've even got Karl Rove working there. I rest my case.
Another effect of consolidation of ownership is that the owners themselves turn out such complete garbage. Look at the film industry and the people who run it. They are garbage and they turn out garbage. Of course they're rich so they can get away with it. Intelligent scripts with good acting are almost unhead of in "the" movie industry. Instead we have 14 year old semi-nude girls with enormous breast implants "flirting" with 60-year-old pot-bellied disgusting-but-rich men (like the guys who own the movie industry), car crashes, swearing, screaming, demeaning language and behavior, lots of guns to teach kids that guns are cool, lots of violence, lots of bling.
The same is true of the few rich people who have monopoly control of popular music. We even saw Donald Trump, the master of tacky, send a group of MBAs into a studio to write and produce their own song, which he then tried to sell. These people despise talent. They have none, and earn money by doing quick-sells of garbage to the public. They need to destroy talent because if the public gets a taste of it, they won't buy what these people are selling.
One of the responses to the total destruction of journalism, movies, TV, and popular music has been what is called the "Indy" movement: Indy Journalism, Indy Music, Indy Movies, Indy TV. Largely due to the amazing courage and commitment of Robert Redford who walked away from the safe role of a studio big-money movie star and director and committed many of his most productive years to the creation of a formal support system for independent film. "Independents," working apart from those who control the field. Usually working on low budgets and barely getting by, but often producing wonderful results.
IFC is starting a new show tonight about the media -- a series of documentaries. Don't know if they'll be any good, but I applaud them for the effort. IFC is also home to Z Rock, an original series that premiered this year that represents the best of the movement: hysterical. Great writing, acting, the whole package. And of course Sundance continues to excel.
Whatever happened to the idea that independence was desirable? That's what we need. If we had a series of independent smaller businesses working on the transportation issues we face, instead of the small people all having been crushed by Big Auto, I guarantee we would not be seeing the level of disintegration in the auto industry in this country. It's the same thing: a few rich powerful men set out to destroy their competition, gain a monopoly, grossly overcharge the public for tacky inferior products, bribe Congress, loot their own businesses, then sit back and wait for the money to roll in.
The car companies have conspired to force every American to buy a car and to stop mass transit from ever becoming a public priority. Now they want a bailout? I'd ask them to pay back every penny their executives have made in the past 40 years while they starved R&D and sold big trucks for quick cash, then ask Congress to pay back all the bribes they've taken, then kick everyone out of management and let someone else get in and develop mass transit that will work. (See Huffington Post article re GM Murdered U.S. Mass Transit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harvey-wasserman/gm-must-re-make-the-mass_b_144154.html ).
The IFC Media Project (From their website)
"This new IFC original series, produced by Meghan O'Hara (FAHRENHEIT 911 and SICKO) and Nick McKinney (The Daily Show and Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days"), reveals the truth behind the news. The thought-provoking series examines the current state of investigative journalism and how it affects our perceptions of the world around us. The first episode tackles the third rail of American journalism – the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
The six-part series launches Tuesday, November 18th @ 8:00 PM ET on IFC."
NOTE: I'm no fan of hunters. Teddy Roosevelt was a hunter. The story has it that he went on a hunting trip and had no luck -- had not managed to kill any animals that day. So some of his aides trapped a bear, roped it, clubbed it almost to death, tied it to a tree, then brought Teddy over so he could shoot it, which he declined to do on the grounds it was not "sportsmanlike." I'd say hunting will be a real sport when the bears get guns and men have to run for their lives to avoid being murdered for no reason at all. Anyway, the story made the rounds and inspired a toy-maker to make a small stuffed toy bear to sell to the public, which he named the "Teddy Bear."