Jul 12

Empire and the Criminalization of the Media: The Fourth Estate is Bankrupt

by William Bowles

From the middle of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth imperialism was the dominant national ideology, transcending class and party divisions. Britain was saturated in the ethos and attitudes of empire. They infused plays and books and, later, films. They informed school textbooks. They inspired paintings, prints and engravings. They filled newspapers and magazines. They figured in advertisements and packaging. The impact was arguably greater than that of any previous dominant ideology because its pre-eminence coincided with the rise of the mass market and the mass media. — ‘Imperialism and juvenile literature’ edited By Jeffrey Richards. Manchester University Press, 1989

So what’s changed? Not much really. Today of course, the ideology of imperial expansion now masks itself as ‘humanitarian intervention’ or ‘democracy-building’.

Our Victorian ancestors were less coy about colonizing, claiming to be on a ‘civilizing mission’. But ‘civilizing’ the Libyans, the Iraqis or the Afghans would be a step too far in these allegedly politically correct times but it’s the same thing by another name.

Yet the abyssmal failings of Western ‘democracy’ are all around us. We have governments that regardless that an ‘opposition’ exists are effectively one-party states and have been ever since the early years of the 20th century. From 1945 to 2009 it was a Tory/Labour ‘coalition’ and now we’re back to the pre-WWI war Tory/Liberal version. It makes little difference that every five years we vote for one or the other. Successive governments are an intrinsic part of an ossified and corrupt state self-‘regulated’ for generations?and it still is?the expenses scandals and now the News of the World/News Corp fiasco notwithstanding.

The ever-expanding scale of the criminal enterprise that is Murdoch’s News Corp, reveals the awful truth about capitalism’s version of democracy; namely that it only works for those in power and for those with power. For a single corporation to have direct access and control at the very heart of government smacks of the days of William Randolph Hearst, made famous by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane, where rich and powerful individuals are able to determine the fate of a nation.


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