democratic media please - real democracy requires the end of the for-profit media/advertising system

a batalha article

published

wrote a thing for portuguese anarchist journal a batalha.

here’s some pictures and the (poorly edited) english text:

Revolutionary Reform of Global Media Systems

The richest 1% of the population now owns more than 50% of the world’s wealth, and they are projected to own 2/3rds by 2030. The global ultra rich (the 1%, the capitalists, the “global elite”, the exploitative class, our lizard overlords, whatever you want to call them) effectively control our governments — the best democracies that exist worldwide today are more accurately described as capitalist-controlled democracies. The 1% restrain and misdirect our politics by many methods, but a key to their ongoing power is their domination of our media system through what I call the for-profit media-advertising system

We now face many urgent and inter-related global problems that our capitalist overlords have no  interest in addressing: climate change; perpetual growth economics; escalating social inequality within and between nations; economic slavery; international tax avoidance; oppression of indigenous and other marginalised groups: over-exploitation of resources, offshoring of the proceeds of corruption, ecocide, the list goes on. These issues are all practically absent from the mainstream political agenda, or people are struggling to force them in. They are absent because, generally speaking, those who control our mainstream political discussion (our for-profit media companies and their for-profit advertising sponsors = the 1%) only stand to lose profits from the advance of justice, democracy and environmental respect.

Democracy, and the equality of political power it demands in its ideal form, means the end of the systemic exploitation, the end of capitalism. Our for-profit overlords are all too aware of this, and they are active opponents of advances toward ideal democracy which will undermine their illegitimate power. It does not make any kind of sense to have the enemies of democracy, the 1%, controlling the public discussion of our supposed democracies. We have a corporate media-advertising machine that is deliberately degrading our public political consciousness, while grinding us into hopelessness, and we have put up with this outrageous situation for far too long.

Our media is an institution that is vital to democracy — just like the judiciary, the public service, and the parliament itself, it is vital that these institutions are publically-funded and watched closely for any form of corruption. The media system in a democracy is the central node of democratic institutions: it connects all institutions together with the public, and holds everything to account. There is no doubt that the parliament, the judiciary and the public service should be publicly funded, and it would be an outrage to suggest they be run for profit and funded by for-profit advertising. We need to have these same standards for our media system. Democracy seems to me like a chain made of its institutions — only as strong as its weakest link — and for modern democracy, our media system is reducing our democracies to depressing and deadly farce.

Not only can we afford a publicly funded media, we cannot afford to not have one any longer. We pay for the for-profit media-system we have now, through the advertising that is factored into the cost of our goods and services, and, more generally,  through the fact that all corporate profits are fleeced from our community anyway. The tragedy is that what we pay for is a media system that is turned against our interests, and leads our democracies toward greater inequality and injustice. At present, corporate advertising is a tax-deductible business expense, so our corporate media is already partially government-funded because of the huge corporate tax-breaks that are handed out as hundreds of billions of dollars a year are spent on advertising. The amount of money we would save by having a media system that was in the public interest instead of the corporate interest would be very difficult, if not impossible, to put a figure on — but I can conservatively say that it is at least 10 times the amount a broad, robust and global public media system could ever cost.

The psychological damage of for-profit advertising is well documented and obvious to any sensitive and thoughtful observer. The financial waste and social damage of such an “industry” is enough to rationalise its abolition on its own. But as for-profit advertising funds the for-profit media companies, there is a double incentive to push for its abolition: we will be freed of the psychological assault of advertising; and we will cut the main source of funding for the for-profit media companies that actively constrain our democracy. This would clear the way and necessitate the simultaneous establishment of a much more democratic media system: one funded by the people, that is truly for the people, and sworn to a democratic mandate.

Of course, such huge changes to our media system will not be easy to achieve. If we’re to seriously address any of our global problems, at their root cause, it will take nothing less than a democratic takeover of our capitalist-controlled democracies around the world, and this clearly needs to happen as soon as possible. This global democratic uprising will require mass mobilisations and civil disobedience on an unprecedented scale. This is both possible and completely necessary, to deal with climate change immediately, and to force our democracies to live up to their name, so that we can work through the rest of our long list of problems. Only as this movement builds momentum will it be possible to demand the complete abolition of the for-profit media-advertising system — but I firmly believe that this demand: abolish the for-profit media-advertising system and replace it with a democratic media system, should be a central demand of the global justice movement going forward. Again, this will require enormous and simultaneous global pressure to achieve, and will meet immense resistance, but is necessary for real progress toward a just and democratic world with a survivable environment. Achieving this demand, while being hugely practically significant, would be a spiritual victory as well — it would demonstrate to people that we truly hold the power, remove the legitimate reasons for political cynicism, and bring reality and real political possibility to public political discussion in a truly inspirational way. It would shift the balance of power in politics away from capital, and could usher in a next age of global democratic development: one in which the franchise is finally truly universalised.

I decided a long time ago that the state of the world demands a life of civil disobedience for everyone that can or must do it. I could not focus on a particular symptom of global capitalism without addressing the core of our crisis in democracy that allows capitalism to run roughshod over everything. This is why I chose to act against the for-profit media-advertising system, and I have been painting over for-profit advertising in Melbourne, Australia as a political protest for over a decade. My open civil disobedience tactics bring me into constant conflict with the law, and have seen me jailed 7 times. It is also why I have joined a new global organisation called Subvertisiers International (SI). While not all members of SI necessarily support my demand that we aim for the overthrow of the entire capitalist media system, it is an organisation with a great vision that seeks to popularise civil disobedience that challenges for-profit advertising in public spaces, raising many important questions. Since 2017, SI has had 3 global weeks of action, from the 19th to the 25th of march each year, and it has seen mobilisations around the world, building solidarity between previously isolated activists, and hopefully, helping to popularise the practice and the ideas behind it.

Alternative newspapers like A BATALHA are fantastic and hugely important, however we cannot allow the truth of our global situation, and reasonable political discussion about that truth, to be forever pushed to the margins. If we are going to change the world, these things have to take center stage, and for that to happen, the stage must be cleared of corporate bullshit. 

You can learn more about and follow my protest here: www.democraticmediaplease.net

And find out more about Subvertisers International here: www.subvertisers-international.net