On its main page earlier today, MSNBC showed a picture of something called ‘bacon beer’ along with a storyline about various gourmet beers. Right next to that story is equally pithy coverage of an unfolding event that really should have higher billing than bacon and beer combined.
What is this thing more sacred than bacon or beer you ask? It is participatory democracy, though the media would really like to refocus your attention on the beer, and oh-by-the-way, did you see the recently released footage of the British royal family, circa 1984, or the story about the little girl who swam with sharks?
I’m watching the media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement with growing interest, especially over the last few days. A large part of the protest movement is directed towards shining a light on corporate influence in the media— what information gets dispersed, and how well or not well it is dispersed— so the reaction of the mass media to these charges is telling.
Judging by the second-page type coverage of #Occupy Wall Street, it would appear news sources are not keen on acknowledging the validity of protester’s concerns, especially as it effects their own pocketbooks by way of advertising dollars.
Yes, news organizations are businesses. That’s part of the problem– they aren’t here for building a well-informed citizenry. They’re here for building profits. This profit-only motive is a flaw in the system and one that must be addressed. News sources must be held accountable not as businesses, but as sources of information, and this public accountability must take place sooner rather than later. A society is only as free and as vibrant as its sources of information.
In this vein, we acknowledge media is the currency of our millenial generation. We trade up or down and move our lives not according to food for the body, but according to food for the mind. Yet our quest for mind-food has become self-serving rather than for greater good.
While we like to think of the quest for knowledge and information as a higher calling, if not properly balanced, our mental and spiritual hungers become an obsession, a void that cannot be filled. And while our physical bodies are fueled on food that has been hyper-processed and modified to the point of having little of its original nutrition, so to are our minds filled with information that has been processed to the point of no longer having much content. We want to consume our information like our food– sweet, fried, fast.
We think we’ve moved up the chain with burgers and information at our finger-tips, yet we’ve fallen in terms of being in touch with what goes on around us. Whether it’s the genetically altered crops making up the hamburger bun or conflict minerals from the Congo in our cell batteries, we are less— not more— connected. We have so much information at our fingertips, yet know or understand comparatively little about the larger effects of our consumption patterns, or the sources of our material and informational goods.
In fact, more information has become less information, or rather, the integrity of that information has been compromised in such a way to lead us to believe we are doing ok. Drink more bacon beer and let the politicians handle that icky stuff about the Congo and conflict minerals in your technology.
Media sources would like you to read about sharks attacks and bacon beer, not get silly ideas about the increasing gap between lower and upper class, or hear about like-minded citizens marching against the destruction of the middle class.
They would like you to keep consuming your bacon beer while earning a smaller percent of company profits, and paying taxes to shoulder their risky business endeavors that turn the economy topsy-turvy, all while bringing them larger profits.
They would also like to keep this whole little protest thing low-key, because if people start getting ideas that they’re not alone with their frustrations, good heavens, can you imagine the chaos? Best to stick to your bacon beer and let the politicians and business people run things, right?
That’s not what our founders had in mind, nor any government founded on democratic principles. Quite clearly, it was We the People, not We the Corporations. The framers intended for an informed and active citizenry, and one of the ways this was to come about was via a press that served the people, not private interests.
At the moment, I cannot think of an institution more reflective of our general lack of concern for each other, our communities, and the environment as what is embodied on Wall Street. It is true large banks are far from the only factor, and the problems are much more complex than that. Still, this culture of greed, a hyper-capitalistic society that celebrates ruthlessness and profit at the expense of almost all while so few profit– is clearly not sustainable long-term.
Because these resources, human and natural, expire. And when resources start running short, rather than coming together, we live in a time where it has become acceptable, encouraged even, to turn on one another. This financial and social cannabalism, glorified by Wall Street and large corporations, made more dubious by the witholding of information via media control, is what makes the situation unteneable. How can the average citizen make his or her way, let alone get ahead, in such an environment of hostility and blindness?
So, to Wall Street and the media outlets who make their profits by processing their content according to advertising dollars, we want to read news, not propaganda. We want to see a rising middle class, that they might take and reinvest into their communities, rather than giving corporate share holders more cars and vacations.
We don’t want to take more than our share or do less than our part, but maybe we could let Wall Street take some responsibility. If they want to keep their bacon, they need to mop up their share of the grease.