At the risk of drastically over-simplifying the problem, there are two primary impediments to any project that seeks to manufacture dissent. First, while social movements are dependent upon the circulation of what we might call counter-information — information critical of the status quo — the very structure, institutional interests, and routines of mainstream, corporate media effectively act as blockades to dissenting opinion. Giant, horizontally and vertically integrated media corporations have little reason to give sustained coverage to voices critical of the conditions in which such entities thrive. This is not to say that the media are completely blind to excesses of capitalism, abuses of power by the powerful, routine acts of injustice perpetrated by dominant institutions, and so on. We are all too often exposed to images of horrific oil and chemical spills, sordid tales of corporate fraud and political scandal, for example. However, these sad stories are often individualized, lacking in history and context, and abbreviated into easily digestible sound bite explanations — a drunken oil tanker captain here, a few bad apples there. On systemic issues, the media are, not surprisingly, asleep. For example, media corporations have no interest in challenging the spread of neoliberal economic dogma in any serious way because they benefit from decreased deregulation, reduced corporate taxation, weakened organized labour, and so on. Indeed, in this race to the bottom they have been more like cheerleaders than watchdogs. On the growth of corporate power and simultaneous erosion of democratic processes and institutions, the media have little to say. They also have no interest in presenting a sustained challenge to the environmental damage wrought by consumer capitalism given their commercial function in attracting audiences to sell to advertisers.
Scott Uzelman, “Hard at Work in the Bamboo Garden: Media Activists and Social Movements,” in Autonomous Media: Activating Resistance and Dissent, Andrea Langlois & Frederick Dubois ed. (Montreal: Cumulus Press, 2005), p. 19. 2 years ago