[P2P-F] Fwd: [Networkedlabour] Capitalism, Internet, Democracy, Fascism
michel at p2pfoundation.net
Mon Aug 19 23:00:38 CEST 2013
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: peter waterman <peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Aug 19, 2013 at 3:37 PM
Subject: [Networkedlabour] Capitalism, Internet, Democracy, Fascism
To: networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org
Published on *rabble.ca* (http://rabble.ca)
Home <http://rabble.ca/> > Digital revolution: 'Digital Disconnect'
analyzes corporate control of our digital communications future
Digital revolution: 'Digital Disconnect' analyzes corporate control of our
digital communications future Why a broad, progressive movement is needed
to reform our Internet
Greg Macdougall <http://rabble.ca/taxonomy/term/7741> 
| August 1, 2013
Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against
by Robert W. McChesney
(The New Press,
*Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against
 *discusses how politics and the "capitalist*" economic system of the
United States has very much warped the initial vision and potential of a
non-commercial democratic Internet. In it noted scholar and activist Robert
W. McChesney does a good job of illustrating the "banana republic" -- that
is the corporately-controlled -- status of the U.S. state.
Beyond just communication media, McChesney describes how for the overall
society, "what is emerging veers toward a classic definition of fascism:
the state and large corporations working hand in hand to promote corporate
interests, and a state preoccupied with militarism, secrecy, propaganda and
surveillance." And this understanding of U.S. society is very important in
understanding the business of the Internet.
McChesney cites a scene from *The Godfather II* where the gangsters meet to
divide up their control of Cuba and then show their appreciation for how
nice it is to be working in a country "with a friendly government that
knows how to work with 'private enterprise'" -- this, McChesney says, is an
apt analogy showing the true nature of who controls the Internet and the
trend of continuing (and increased) consolidation of this control.
*Digital Disconnect *aims to bring a political economy analysis to our
digital media communication future. Specifically, McChesney describes and
applies a "political economy of communication" (PEC) that "evaluates media
and communication systems by determining how they affect political and
social power in society and whether they are, on balance, forces for or
against democracy and successful self-government."
And he notes that how a society chooses to structure its media system is
"of paramount importance."
Personally, I’ve always liked a quote of McChesney’s: "regardless of what a
progressive group's first issue of importance is, its second issue should
be media and communication, because so long as the media is in corporate
hands, the task of social change will be vastly more difficult, if not
impossible, across the board."
This quote frames the importance of *Digital Disconnect*; it provides a
deep analysis of the contributing factors and potential ways forward in
relation to what has become such a vital element in shaping our societies
and the way the future will develop.
McChesney starts off by describing and examining the different sets of
views -- from the "celebrants" and the "skeptics" -- about the Internet’s
potential and impact upon society. McChesney then adds that a critical
omission was that most of these people did not have a sufficient analysis
of the impact of "capitalism*" and the effect it has had on the development
of the Internet.
And then McChesney gets to the (*) on "capitalism."
The fact that theoretical capitalism, or capitalism by standard definition
or catechism, does not equal the same thing as what we actually have -- or
as he puts it, "really existing capitalism."
The second chapter explores this "really existing" capitalist economic
system that exists in the U.S. and elsewhere, with specific aim of how it
is relevant to the communications analysis that is the rest of the book.
McChesney has developed his thinking through a lengthy career of academic
research, writing 12 other authored or co-authored books and involvement in
media reform advising and advocacy, including being a co-founder and past
president of the Free Press organization.
In *Digital Disconnect*, he states that now, "We are in a position, in some
respects for the first time, to make sense of the Internet experience and
highlight the cutting-edge issues it poses for society." And thus, he
attempts to address some of the "big questions" out there, the main one
being exactly that: to make sense of what is happening with the Internet
One major fact to help make sense of things is that "in short, the Internet
monopolists sit at the commanding heights of U.S. and world capitalism."
This is backed up by the fact that in 2012, 13 of the 30 largest U.S.
corporations were Internet or computer companies.
McChesney illustrates the way that these major corporations have worked and
lobbied with governments to set policy in their own favour, as well as
illuminating how Internet factors work to create monopoly-inducing
One statistic he cites is from
* magazine: in 2001 the top ten websites accounted for 31 per cent of
all page views, 40 per cent in 2006 and about 75 per cent in 2010.
He also breaks down the near-monopolies in different areas: Google controls
nearly 70 per cent of the search-engine market and 97 per cent of mobile
searching; Microsoft Windows accounts for 90 per cent of computer operating
systems; Apple's iTunes has 87 per cent market share of digital music
downloads and 70 per cent of media-player downloads; and Amazon sells
between 70 and 80 per cent of all books and e-books online.
He also writes about what "may be the great Achilles' heel of the Internet
under capitalism: the money comes from surreptitiously violating any known
understanding of privacy."
This is not only true when it comes to surveillance operations by the
government -- which he analyzes in terms of the nature of the relationship
between the government and the major Internet corporations -- but more
broadly as influenced by "targeted-advertising" approaches that reward
sites for collecting as much information on their visitors as possible.
He notes the change from 2003, when digital publishers received almost all
the advertising money spent on their sites, to 2010, where nearly 80 per
cent of the advertising money went instead to the ad networks and data
collectors and managers. Google and Facebook are the two most noted data
In terms of journalism, he gives a list of the fundamental characteristics
of the type of journalism required for a healthy democratic society and
then describes the deepening crisis in journalism -- basically a reduction
in original news gathering and no real difference between almost all
mainstream journalistic thinking and establishment political thinking.
McChesney argues this crisis is not caused by digital communications, but
simply quickened by it. Further analysis leads him to the argument that
there is no for-profit business model that works for the type of journalism
that we need for the public good; instead it must be publicly supported and
Overall, McChesney's conclusion to the digital problems laid out in *Digital
Disconnect* is that a large, broad progressive movement is needed, not one
solely devoted to the Internet or media, but one that does necessarily
challenge the "really existing capitalism" that has so much negative
influence on society’s overall functioning and on people’s individual lives.
McChesney calls on people concerned with the media to broaden their focus
and make joint cause with others working towards social justice, and he
sees this current time as a critical juncture where real substantive
changes are possible.
However, McChesney argues that this broad movement must have Internet and
media issues at its centre: "efforts to reform or replace capitalism but
leave the Internet giants riding high will not reform or replace really
*Digital Disconnect* shows how and why this broad movement is important,
and helps make sense of how we could get this reform to work.
*Greg Macdougall does community organizing, education and media-making
based in Ottawa, unceded Native territory. More of his work on media can be
found at his site EquitableEducation.ca
internet activism <http://rabble.ca/category/tags-issues/internet-activism>
 internet democracy<http://rabble.ca/category/tags-issues/internet-democracy>
 corporate agenda<http://rabble.ca/category/tags-issues/corporate-agenda>
 book reviews <http://rabble.ca/category/tags-issues/book-reviews>
future <http://rabble.ca/category/tags/digital-future>  communication
policies <http://rabble.ca/category/tags/communication-policies> 
*Source URL (retrieved on Aug 19 2013 - 4:35am):*
- *EBook (co-editor), February 2013: World Social Forum: Critical
Explorations http://www.into-ebooks.com/book/world_social_forum/ **
- ***EBook, November 2012: Recovering
*[Now *free *in two download
- *Interface Journal Special (co-editor), November 2012: **For the
Global Emancipation of Labour <http://www.interfacejournal.net/current/>*
- *Blog:** http://www.unionbook.org/profile/peterwaterman. *
- *EBook 2011, Under, Against, Beyond (Compilation 1980s-90s)
- *Paper 2012:** The 2nd Coming of the World Federation of Trade Unions
2012: Marikana, South Africa, The March of the
- *Chapter, 2013. 'Many New Internationalisms!', in Corinne Kumar
We Walk:** The South as New Political Imaginary, Bangalore: Streelekha
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