Whilst Donald Trump has claimed he wants to renew the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of America, often known as The American Dream, there is a nightmarish side to this dream, especially in the post-Bush surveillance state which Obama and the Democrats have greatly expanded.
The danger is that a young kid with a big idea can grow up to be a small rich man who thinks he has an automatic right to have a direct line to the government. This is not an especially a new phenomenon. One can look at William Randolph Hearst whose political megalomania was masterfully dissected in the Orson Welles film Citizen Kane. Kane tells an ostensibly fictional tale of a newspaper baron based entirely on Hearst and how his loss of influence over politicians and the public led to a nervous breakdown.
For a further example of such American tycoons who descend into madness, one could look to Howard Hughes whose life Welles explored in his final feature film F For Fake. More recently, one could point to Ted Turner whose CNN still seems to have a direct line to the Democratic Party. Thanks to new media, CNN’s influence over public opinion, thankfully has declined.
My favourite American President, Teddy Roosevelt once said the following of corporate responsibility:
“Our aim is not to do away with corporations; on the contrary, these big aggregations are an inevitable development of modern industrialism. … We are not hostile to them; we are merely determined that they shall be so handled as to subserve the public good. We draw the line against misconduct, not against wealth”.
Roosevelt was a leader who understood that corporations must conduct their business in accordance with the general welfare of the public. Many of his successors have let this standard slip. This has reached a nadir under Barack Obama whose corporatist administration has aligned with ultra-big business, including big media to work against the interests of the people. It is the complete opposite of the standard Teddy Roosevelt set.
If Orson Welles were alive today, I could imagine him having a lot to say about Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg was the university wunderkind who invented Facebook. If only it he had stopped there. Now he chairs neo-liberal initiatives and seems to have a direct line to the Obama White House which he fervently supports.
His latest statement seems to be a sign of the megalomania that many media tyrants succumb to when they can sense they are losing personal influence on a public they once dictated to from their golden palaces. Mark Zuckerberg’s latest mantra reads like something straight out of the yellow Hearst Press. He claims that he is going to use Facebook to clamp down on ‘fake news stories’. Who the hell is he and his company to determine what is and isn’t ‘fake news’. Does this include reports on false flag operations? Does this include breaking news from whistle-blowers? Does it include the undisputed truth from Wikileaks that the liberals deny the existence of?
For incisive wisdom on the subject, I shall refer to the words of a true American hero, Edward Snowden. Snowden said the following of Facebook’s latest attempted censorship drive:
“There is a big controversy happening right now, about this election particularly, regarding Facebook. There is this claim – which hasn’t really been proved, substantiated, but it’s getting pretty popular – that Facebook rigged the election because they showed fake news.
If that was true, if that was possible, and Facebook just put on fake news, and we were persuaded (by it), I think that’s actually very sad indictment of our democracy that our voters could be so easily misled”.
As it was in the age of Roosevelt and Hearst, the biggest threat to democracy is the monopolisation of the media. Snowden agrees that Facebook is a monopoly and that the real danger isn’t ‘fake news’ (a suspiciously undefined term) but instead, it is the monopolisation of social media by Facebook, Twitter and Google.
Snowden lamented the inertia of the American tech sector when it comes to diversifying the marketplace and ending monopolies on information, saying the following:
“There seems to be no alternative to the larger services. Because of this network effect, because the first mover advantage. When you get a Google or a Facebook or Twitter in place, they never seem to leave…The Silicon Valley desire for massive, world-eating services, the scale that takes over not only our country but all others, it’s asking us to accept a status quo where we set aside that competition in favour of scale.
We should be particularly cautious about embracing this and taking this to be the case.
When one service provider makes a bad decision we all suffer for it.
To have one company that has enough power to reshape the way we think, I don’t think I need to describe how dangerous that is”.
It is very dangerous indeed. I call it the media-industrial complex. It poses as much a threat to personal liberty, democracy and the genuine sharing of information as did the trusts which Teddy Roosevelt helped to bust, as well as the military-industrial complex which President Eisenhower warned of upon leaving office. The fact that he helped create the military-industrial complex, is an irony which shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
Rather than working with companies like Facebook to suppress information, the government ought to help break-up Facebook’s monopoly and allow innovation to transpire. This is implicit in the American Dream of which Trump speaks. Yet under the Clintons, Bush and Obama, one is reminded of the words of George Carlin, “The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have to be asleep to believe it”.
It seems that the media-industrial complex will do everything they can to kill the dreams of people power, the marketplace of ideas, free speech and the spreading of unpopular but necessary truths.
Let’s hope someone can wake up.