French Media giant Vivendi, owner of Comcast Cable, and General Electric, owner of NBC, are proposing a merger in which Comcast would take a controlling interest of NBC Universal. This would be further consolidation of the media industry that has already lost the ability objectively report news, becoming an entertainment industry driven by corporate financial goals and consumer advertising.
In addition to giving media giants near monopoly power that undercuts competitive market prices, the proposed deal would be a further conflict of interest between the use of power and the ability of broadcasters to criticize it. This would erode the traditional role of a free press as intended by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Other mega-conflicts of interest include: (a) the conflicts within groups that own insurance, investing, and banking resulting from the removal of former SEC regulations, particularly to make way for the Citibank-Travelers merger in 1999; (b) the conflicts within groups that own health insurance, medical providers, and hospitals that have helped drive up health insurance costs; and (c) conflicts of interest between these consolidated economic sectors and Congress and the government agencies charged with protecting people from abuses in these sectors.
The scandals involving Enron and WorldCom in 2001, the mortgage crisis that led to the banking collapse of 2008 and the TARP bailout, and the health insurance crisis that has been the occasion for federal health care legislation are all symptoms of these high-level conflicts-of-interest. These conflicts have gradually allowed a new elite class of citizens to take control of the United States government and financial institutions to transform average people from “citizens” to “consumers” who feed this new Leviathan in a way analogous to that portrayed in the movie The Matrix, where people are placed in comfortable pods and supplied with dreams while their actual lives are constrained by the iron cage of a “pod” that feeds them and takes their energy.
The proposed media merger, in which economic giants like GE and Vivendi would further control the movie industry would further reduce the likelihood that an allegorical movie like The Matrix would even make it to the big screen. Already movies that challenge the myths promoted by the cultural elites, such as Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, or David Walker’s, I.O.U.S.A. have to use extraordinary means to get a showing in movie theaters and are not aired by major networks or public broadcasting. The proposed consolidation would further limit the chances of such reports about political correctness, unscientific science, and government corruption being mentioned by the consolidated media industry.
The recent exposure of “Climategate” and the failure of the major media networks to cover it serves as proof of this already too-conflict-ridden industry. Reporters are fired if they mention it, President Obama continues to speak of “Global Warming” as a fact without media criticism as though, if he ignores it, it will go away, and former President Al Gore has not been exposed for his role in promoting fraudulent science before the impending Copenhagen Conference designed to further control, tax, and mislead viewers of major media networks.
YouTube videos and internet blogs and newspapers are quickly becoming the legitimate source of knowledge, while the major media consolidation has become considered increasingly irrelevant as a source of genuine information for average citizens. There are programs like 60 minutes that are still able to provide in-depth reports on high-level crime and abuse so long as it doesn’t conflict with the interest of their corporate holding company. For example they didn’t mind exposing Tim Donaghy, an NBA referee that bet on basketball games. De-legitimating the fairness of NBA games could result in loss of NBA viewers, and might harm CBS profits.
But even as independents The Huffington Post, The Washington Times and many other internet sites (or stand-up comedians like Tim Hawkins) hammer away at consolidated corporate and federal power and gain more readers and viewers, consolidated powers attempt more blatant consolidation. From the Republican and Democratic Conventions in the US, to EU treaty in Lisbon and the Copenhagen Climate Convention, those who control power provided orchestrated performances they broadcast to consumers in the name of a public good.
One of the latest power plays by corporate moguls to control government that worries the left wing CounterPunch is ending the ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns. Outlawed since 1907, the Supreme Court, is under threat to cave into demands of both the Republican and Democratic parties that are already controlled by special interests rather than the people. Such corporate/government collusion provides an interesting Leviathan in which both socialists on the left, opposed to private control of big corporations, and limited constitutionalists on the right, opposed to large government, become strange bedfellows.
These developments are all anticipated in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0. They begin with changes to the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court decisions going back as far as the Civil War. Giving corporations “personhood” and other 19th century Supreme Court decisions liberated them from control by the states. Then the 14th, 16th and 17th amendments liberated the federal government from the states, giving it power over individual citizens never envisioned by the founders.
At the end of the book I listed many items for a party platform to solve the problems mentioned above, including further separation of government and corporate powers, outlawing combined legislation, eliminating PACs, repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments, and having states pay the salaries of their congresspeople. Sales taxes on mergers and acquisitions would also deter hostile takeovers and reduce income taxes on citizens. In addition to the strategies outlined in the book, we should also reconsider the method of Supreme Court appointments, although rescinding the 17th Amendment might solve that problem as well.