McChesney’s media structure McNuggets of information

My parents’ definition of media = CBS, NBC, ABC.

My definition of media = Twitter, Hulu, digg.

Definitions and expectations are shifting, leaving the media industry in crisis mode. As online content becomes more popular, traditional outlets are cutting costs—and quality is the innocent casualty. This vicious cycle is driving more and more people to their laptops for custom news and entertainment in hopes of avoiding the over-commercialized, mega-controlled and pretty politicized.

You’re probably thinking, duh, this is nothing new. People have been aware of media bias for all of time.

So why then has nothing changed?

This week, in reading The Political Economy of Media, I came across Robert McChesney’s reasoning for our stalemate.

McChesney gives us three hypotheses why we, as Americans, have failed to restructure or even debate the organization of our media.

He says, “The first hypothesis is that the inability to publicly debate the capitalist basis of the media is a function of the general inability to make fundamental criticism of capitalism itself in U.S. political culture.” In other words, because we’re engrained with a sense of capitalism, we fail to question its power on the media.

The second hypothesis for the lack of debate over the control and structure of the media is that “the corporate media have actively cultivated, with considerable success, the ideology that the status quo is the only rational media structure for a democratic and freedom-loving society.” Has the democratic essence of free speech been controlled because it seems “too American” to say otherwise?

McChesney’s third hypothesis is that the nature of the corporate media itself has perpetuated the lack of legitimate debate. Meaning that the media has been able to control the public perception of the discussion surrounding its control and structure.

Though his ideas may seem a bit extreme, I can find a little truth in each of them. I definitely agree that we’re overdue for an overhaul. Which of these hypotheses seems the most plausible to you? Or would you disagree with McChesney altogether?

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1 Comment

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One response to “McChesney’s media structure McNuggets of information

  1. Keith

    While his first two points are tired Marxists talking points (help! help! we’re being exploited), there is an undeniable truth to the third statement. Significant debate does not exist in the public anymore.

    In popular news media, “debate” is rabid, ad hominem punditry that leaves the audience angered and often misinformed. But it sells, and that’s why MSNBC and FOX are winning the ratings war.

    In academia, debate is taken to the other extreme, where “scholarly discourse” is supposed to be perpetual. The discovery of real objective truth is not as valuable as (and in many ways in opposition to) the act of asking questions. The means become the end.

    What is left is what Richard Weaver calls a stereopticon where objective truth is obscured , devalued, and replaced with cheap entertainment and political correctness (which work more in tangent than one would expect)

    However, McChesney is wrong to attribute this problem to capitalism or even capitalism gone bad. This is a problem found in any political system (even more so in controlled economies that have “evolved” past capitalism) because popular support and power are inexorably linked.

    In a democratic system where the control of power is to be obtained in fair competition it is imperative for citizens to seek facts for themselves. We have to work for it and participatory journalism (may) be a means in encouraging self-motivated education.

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