Is there a media monopoly? When I was a sophomore in college, a professor told the class that 10 people owned approximately 90% of the news outlets in America. This was the ‘90s, before the full expansion of the internet to current levels. It is not the point of this article to test that claim. It is merely the object of this article to build upon the implications of that claim.
Anecdotally, the claim seems plausible if not likely. When I was growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the news reports were all of a common footing. We were expected to trust the anchor on one of the Big 3 broadcast channels, but they all seemed to say the same thing. There was no controversy in reporting. There was just what Peter Jennings told us, and what Peter Jennings told us was to be accepted as the fact and the truth. The New York Times even had a slogan of “All the news that’s fit to print.” If the New York Times editors didn’t care about the story, or if they wanted to suppress the story, then it was expected that the elites should be followed and the peons shouldn’t care about anything other than what they were fed.
Much has changed since then. This very platform is an example of that, but there are many others. That scares the shit out of the elites and their followers. Without advocating for any alternative media sources, it seems appropriate to put forth an example. Of course, the advent of alternative media that would report on and discuss things that the elites didn’t want us to know about started with the radio legend Rush Limbaugh. I cannot say that he was fearless. I can say that he never let any fear seep into his broadcasts. From there, the next powerhouse to come to the fore was Fox News.
In both cases, the elites tried as they could to shut them down. Rush even garnered the ire of the President of the United States at the time, Bill Clinton. Fox has been disparaged by no less than Barack Obama. But that is to be expected. That is not the real threat so long as it is whining with no teeth. The greater threat is those who disparage anything reported by alternative news networks as false or automatically discredited because it wasn’t reported by CNN or the New York Times.
There is a lot of talk about “threats to democracy” right now. There is a solid argument that America has never been very democratic before, and that it is more democratic now than ever before. I say this acknowledging that we are not a democracy but a Representative Republic. Nevertheless, we have democratic elements and institutions as a part of our framework. The primary reason that I postulate that there is a solid argument that we are more democratic than ever before is because we have more public speech now than ever before. For decades, the “Big 3” news channels in conjunction with the New York Times not only got to decide what knowledge the People would have, but they also got to put their own spin on it. Is it a coincidence that the House and the Senate were under Democratic control from the 1950s until the 1990s when the legacy media lost their monopoly? Think about that.
The advent of diversity of opinion in the public discourse has made America more democratic, almost by definition. What is “democracy” when you only have one set of ideas to consider? In that case, it is bandwagoning. Either you accept what everyone “knows” or you are a blacksheep or a pariah. Even during those times, there were many blacksheep and pariahs who may have not known the truth, but knew that the story being spun was a lie. They would accept nothing and acknowledge their ignorance before they would accept a blatant and obvious lie spread by the Big 3 and the print media.
Times have changed, though. The internet and forums such as this one allow for facts and ideas to get exposure in spite of the attempts to suppress, censor, and control the conversation. It is precisely sites such as this, built upon the shoulders of Rush Limbaugh and on the tails of Fox News and others, that makes America more democratic than ever before. We the People have contrasting ideas to consider and vote upon. This idea that a diversity of opinions in a democracy is a threat to democracy is the threat to democracy.
And yet, we are not a democracy. We are a Representative Republic built upon a Federalist system. So on their own talking points they are wrong, and also on the foundations of fundamental facts they are even more wrong.
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