Tag Archives: AOL

A Democratic, Grassroots Media Requires Media Analysis: Mediated Communication, Media Literacy, Missing Links:

PREFACE

This humble correspondent has just had the opportunity to make a Power-Point presentation to a hundred or so ‘progressive’ senior citizens.  The topic, Understanding the Origins of the Internet, and the questions that it engendered, led to a recognition that folks generally might benefit from some orientation in thinking about the problems and prospects of creating a democratic media from the ground up.

“How can we ferret out what is true and accurate?” 

“How can we overrule such powerful institutions as the Supreme Court?” 

“If both parties offer nothing but doom and gloom for us, what are we supposed to do?”

These were a few of the questions posed by audience members.

The words of Thomas Jefferson resonate two hundred years later in response to these inquiries.

”I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Even old James Madison, whose Federalist Paper Number Ten envisioned the two-party system as a way of keeping majority-rule at bay, proffers inspiring thoughts in this regard.  ”A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

The deduction to which these ideas logically lead is that we have no choice but to educate ourselves nor any choice but to follow up our learning with action that is ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people.’  Paulo Freire sums up, generally, the tasks at hand.  “Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men transform the world.”

He goes on:

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it.  Once named, the world, in its turn, reappears to the namers as a different problem that requires of them a new naming.  Men are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection.

The ‘words and work and action-reflection’ that common citizens need is not happening.  One reason for this is that even the most ‘progressive’ mediated communication is failing to engage people in such a way as to impart actual knowledge, which is only possible to obtain through historical, political-economic, and social assessments that begin at the beginning, deal with paradox-and-complexity, and follow the money.

The natural result of such real, ‘popular education’ can only be radical, meaningful critiques that in turn facilitate something like a ‘revolt of the commons.’  This essay begins a process of examining the failings of so-called ‘liberal media.’  A year-and-a-half ago, a purported champion of people’s reporting joined forces with one of the largest and most reactionary media powerhouses.  A correct comprehension of this merger has yet to emerge, even after more than eighteen months.  As this humble correspondent’s grandmother was wont to say, “It’s never too late: where there’s life there’s hope.”

INTRODUCTION

In this first of a multi-part series—today’s intro, a final component many weeks hence, plus at least four or five segments in between that examine the ‘meat-and-potatoes’ of the Huff-Po/AOL conjunction–giving credit where credit is due is a good way to start.  Arianna Huffington‘s How to Overthrow the Government  performs a valuable service for anybody who both believes in popular empowerment and has an inkling that the rule-of-the-rich has gone too far.  The book offers at least a modicum of clear and apt guidance to those who would foment or fuel an uprising from below.

The likes of this humble correspondent would vociferously suggest that ‘the book doesn’t go nearly far enough.’  Less charitable, and equally historically and socio-economically aware, critics have argued that, analytically and conceptually, the volume is at best irritatingly cautious and generally vapid.  Nevertheless, the work offers some useful advice to those who want to return socially democratic political action to the grassroots.  At least it conceives of public engagement as a necessary predecessor of political change.

That said, last year’s merger of Huffington Post and America Online is an entirely different kettle of fish.  Many honestly and erstwhile ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ commentators celebrated this joining, or at least, gave it a ‘wait-and-see’ nod.

The only certain thing is that the writers and participants who built Huffington Post won’t see a slender cent from among the thirty billion pennies, or billion and a half pennies in stock, that changed hands in that bargain.  Several already wealthy people, whose political and ‘strategic’ leadership had, for better or worse, guided the site, have, on the other hand made out like proverbial bandits.

The idea that this $315 million wedding, much to the benefit of Ms. Huffington’s coffers, might also represent ‘progress’ or be in the best interest of the ‘left’ arguably has much more to say about the deficiencies that attend the language of political description in the United States than it does with any rationally defensible consideration about promoting the needs of common people.  The notion that this is in the popular interest also speaks volumes about the lack of class leadership among working people, who prove willing all too often to rely on the likes of a rich globe-trotting fashion moll with the opportunistic instincts of a coyote.

‘Liberals’ also cozy up to hyper-imperialists such as Hilary Clinton, or so some would say; ‘progressives‘ commonly make common cause with Barack-the-Magnificent, whose wars will soon eclipse those of his predecessor; the ‘left’ is a hodgepodge collection of folks who a lot of times are trying to avoid the label that is at least honestly descriptive, that of socialist, or social-democrat.

This humble correspondent considers himself ‘progressive,’ and he’ll only squirm and grit his teeth at the nearly meaningless moniker of ‘leftist.’  However, he is avowedly and unabashedly socialistic in his approach and his analytical proclivities.  He has no problem noticing an obvious fact: without some sort of struggle for social and economic democracy, the worlds working people face further devastation and possible annihilation.

And in this vein, the marriage of the modern defense and imperial establishment, in the form of America Online, with a fetishized, paltry, petty-bourgeois liberalism, in the form of Huffington Post, accomplishes a perfect union from the perspective of ‘free-market’, ‘free-enterprise’ fraud-mongers.  As such, the following prediction makes sense: it will continue to turn out as it already has—at best a lukewarm hodgepodge.  Thus, for working people, for those who care about more than political labels and actually worry about substance, it will be at best a disastrous misallocation of allegiance and resources.

One way or another, the lack of class leadership, and the explicit embrace of both imperial ideation and bourgeois marketing and markets, will mean at best ‘friendly’ misleadership for the average people of the planet, who are suffering one body-blow after another to any hope that a ‘middle-class’ life will be even a credible fantasy.  One would have to acknowledge, at least as a possibility, that the time for a media of the people, by the people, and for the people is long overdue.

Such an admission ought then to portend a serious effort in such a direction.  Whether folks are, even now, ready to admit the obvious–‘But mommy, the king has nothing on!!’–and whether, even now, such an acknowledgment will yield the radical, populist upsurge that recognition ought to call forth, remains to be seen.

For this humble correspondent, the remainder of the present introduction merely contextualizes, all too quickly, the historical and conceptual undergirding of the media marriage that transpired at the start of 2011.  A four-piece unit on AOL’s background follows over the next few weeks, more or less.  Then, a three-chapter unit appears about Arianna Huffington and her love-child at Huff-Po.  A long single take on the merger itself will appear at that juncture, to complete the substantive units of this series.  Finally, a conclusion will then show up that, in the light of the insights and ideation of the intervening reporting and analysis, returns to some of the issues raised in today’s introductory paragraphs

BACKGROUND SYNOPSIS: the News-Media-Context From Which this ‘New-Media’-Deal Devolved

People who fancy themselves media-literate, or even who believe that following the news is important, have a duty to understand how in the world the media that we take for granted has transmogrified to become the apparent digital phantasmagoria that it is today.  This is neither the time nor the place to go into copious detail.  On the other hand, readers may rest assured that more detail will be forthcoming.

For now, this humble correspondent proposes that people consider one simple fact: media springs from the rich dirt of politics like magic mushrooms pop up from cow dung.  Ever since the creation of the secret, and sacred, codes that underlay the first written forms, publication has been a battlefield; the priestly and royal control–extended imperiously–always met a challenge from below, in the form of vernacular articulations of one sort or another.

Need one consider such arcane interpretations of such facts as Derrida’s “The Mystical Foundations of Authority?”  Or perhaps a more straightforward recollection, that law–the legitimation of force in favor of some stated ‘State,’ heretofore unheard of without social class divisions–is nothing without the capacity to record and annotate it, would serve as a ‘wake-up call’ about media’s social reality.  No matter what, from the ‘dawn of history,’ or text, as it were, the connection between writing and rule is unbreakable.

In any event, much more recently, since Gutenberg, for instance, every communication medium’s technological development and social deployment has entailed this combative dialectic.  The Bible may have been Johann’s first big project, but not too long afterward, the press itself helped Martin Luther affix his challenge to various posting places.

 

‘Martyrs-of-the-book’ died at fiery stakes, fueled in part by the materials that they created.  The English crown disallowed all but ‘licensed’ printers in similar fashion as the F.C.C. only permits safely-establishment and oligopolistic voices to have their portion of the broadcast spectrum today.  And even though the eviscerated First Amendment still exists, as a text, the quip is more apt than ever: “freedom of the press only applies if you own one.”

In essence, this all describes a pattern that has, quite plausibly, come to stand for a central trait of capitalist evolution.  Put most simply, “ruling classes today ‘manage’ people through a combination of ‘public-relations,’ propaganda, distraction, and repression.”

A more nuanced statement of this point is possible.  It might look something like this: “Key struggles over meaning, knowledge, and power all intersect with and emanate from controlling, first, the technologies and labor that compile recorded speech, and, second, the media for presenting those now extremely varied recordings; advantages in this contest, almost universally in the form of successful–or replicable–networks and paradigms that reach expanding ‘publics,’ serve to influence, and often to determine, social, political, and economic outcomes.

For all of its frequent flaws of glaring bourgeois bias, Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications offers pupils of these matters a relatively elegant empirical bedrock for supporting the above conclusion.  From the concomitant downfall of strict censorship and the censorious Stuarts; to the simultaneous libertine upsurge of colonial textuality—newsy, pugilistic, and both globally and locally aware; to the persistent rebellion that pamphleteering and ‘correspondence societies’ helped to launch and sustain; to the dialectically intertwined manifestation of knowledge, distribution, and publication forms that have seesawed their way through American history, this characterization of mediation seems, at least, reasonable.

The nearly universal initiation, co-optation, or capture of news-and-publishing outlets by the rising bourgeoisie took many forms.  However, this humble correspondent would insist that folks apprehend the undeniable veracity of the proposition that we have not come to today’s seemingly unstoppable effusion of hyper-monopoly in any other fashion than step-by-step, following original inclinations to their logical and predictable ends.

This is corroborated whether one adopts a biographical approach–from Horace Greely’s faux-Horatio-Alger-garnering of capitalist backing, to Hearst’s gold-mining, and gold-digging, parentage, and beyond, to the Luces, the Paleys and so forth and so on–to ascertaining information networks, or whether one prefers to examine the way that business and regulatory structures favor particular organization forms over others, or whether one chooses different, more intellectual and ideational formulations.  The history of media in America is, practically speaking–‘Citizen-Kane’ gossipy details notwithstanding, indistinguishable from the history of capitalism in America.

Advertising and marketing and propaganda together confirm thisPower-politics and the specifics of character assassination and the sway of secrecy demonstrate this.  The opportunistic inclusion or exclusion of access to ‘legitimate’ or ‘unacceptable’ publics combine with criminal and civil media law again and again to prove this.

Forthcoming investigation will delve more deeply into the political-economic and historical background that underpins the current media conundrums that afflict citizens.  The point of both this explication and what is to come is simple: in the realm of AOL’s conjunction with Huff-Po, such a conceptual, historical, and political-economic framework is critical to any understanding that is richer and deeper than either a ‘follow-the-yellow-brick-road’ optimism or a ‘lions-and-tigers-and-bears’ sense of panic.

 

SOME FINAL WORDS: The Only Media-Coup That Can Promote Democracy

The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” could easily serve as an anthem for the present pass.  It’s threatening lilt and gutsy force match the sensibilities of the current moment as well as anything outside the realm of rap.

“Please don’t dominate the rap, Jack, if you’ve got nothing new to say.

If you’ll please stomp back up the track, this train’s got to run today. …

I don’t know but I been told,

It’s hard to run with the weight of gold.

On the other hand, I done heard it said,

It’s just as hard with the weight of lead.

Who can deny, who can deny, it’s not just a change in style.

One step’s done, and another’s begun.

And I wonder how many miles. …

You can’t overlook the lack, Jack, of any other highway to ride.

It’s got no signs or dividing lines, and very few rules to guide

Now I don’t know but I’ve been told,

If the horse don’t pull, you got to carry that load.

Now, I don’t know whose back’s that strong.

Maybe find out before too long.

One way or another, one way or another, one way or another

This darkness got to give.

One way or another, one way or another, one way or another,

This darkness got to give”

            One way of responding to such energy is to flee in terror.  Another approach, however, is to recognize that, in times of “one way or another,” “Which Side Are You On?” and so forth, coalition is a necessary response to the inevitability of schism and polarization.

But before anything akin to coalition can even become a faint possibility, people need to wake up.  They need to turn off the TV’s that poison them with fear and loathing and fill their minds with misinformation or nonsense and their hearts with envy or despondency.  Like the denizens of ‘Dead Prez,’ they need to admit that we’ve been “telling lies to our children” and begin to correct them and atone for them.

One way or another, the only salvation for a popular democracy is a media that actually remains under popular control.  And that will never happen at Huffington Post, at Nation of Change, at Op-Ed News, or at most other ‘left-media’ outlets as currently constituted.

This humble correspondent has long promulgated the idea that People’s Information Networks might serve as a conceptual model for actual progress in relation to gaining grassroots power in the information sphere.  While future articles will further explore this idea, a few pointers now are apt to mention.

In this vein, this humble correspondent ends with some simple suggestions.  Let’s get together and call for a People’s Media Congress.  A People Power Congress shouldn’t be far behind.  People Power Seminars need to begin as soon as readers finish this sentence.

What are all of these things, exactly?  Well, let’s start talking about it. A grassroots, participatory, community-based uprising has to be better than what’s happening now.

As a Congressional candidate and acquaintance of this humble correspondent has stated the matter, “The time has come to take a stand.”  Oblivion beckons otherwise.

Readers might want to stay tuned and remember the words of Bette Davis.  “Fasten your seat-belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

 

Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART FOUR

In the previous three sections, readers will have considered, in Part One, an overall overview of the very idea of memorializing 9/11; the point there was that we cannot commemorate unless we understand.

Part Two, in investigating the 1945 Peace Treaty with Japan, proffered a ‘book-end’ for the period of time that 9/11 arguably closed; this assessment both cast an appraising eye back in time and recounted events that followed in the aftermath of WWII’s denouement, which effectively inaugurated the period that ranged to at least September 10, 2001.

Part Three contained two sections: the first utilized events in Santiago, Chile as a focal point for grappling with the second half of the period between 1945 and 2001, a time in which the contradictions and paradoxes of corporate, imperial imprimatur became increasingly difficult to manage, though the plutocrats did try; the second gave a lightning tour of the parameters of post-9/11 existence, a glum and grim decade that will surely appear like ‘the good old days’ unless working people manage to throw off corporate rule and bring something akin to participatory democracy to pass.

Today’s final piece of this little puzzle provides readers with conclusions to ponder and the nerdy reflections of this humble correspondent about what is most important in this material.  Paulo Freire, whose Pedagogy of the Oppressed ought to be universally mandatory reading, has contended that becoming fully human requires a dialogic nexus.  Whenever readers are ready would be a good time to start.

CONCLUSIONS–Rationale for Continuity, Inevitability of Karma, & Transformative Possibility

The upshot of this analysis ought to operate essentially as a no-brainer.  ‘What is going on?’  The USA is continuing on a path that has always been one aspect of its tendencies, from the theft of North America and the enslavement of Africans through the wholesale slaughter of civilians on every continent save Australia and Antarctica.  This, put simply, is the pathway of imperial imprimatur, dressed up as ‘development’ and assistance and ‘freedom.’

‘Why did 9/11 happen?’  The comeuppance of ‘what goes around comes around’ had to take place.  Sowing the wind cannot but reap the whirlwind; this humble correspondent’s wife, whose grandfather died in a hail of Pinochet-inspired bullets, understands this much more deeply than do most hyper-privileged ‘middle-class’ Americans.  But obviously, even the fantasy of this ‘middle-class’s’ existence is on the wane.

‘Why has the aftermath of 9/11 made the world even less secure and more prone to mass collective suicide?’  The fundamental contradictions of SOP political economy, the vicious suppression of democracy while purporting to support majority rule, and misguided and mistaken consciousness all portend ill.  Only the last of these, a grappling with consciousness, can yield the possibility of transformation however.

Such conclusions are obvious to anyone who can stand the storm of condemnation that attends speaking truth to power.  In the midst of imperial arrogance, truly, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

One might anticipate that, at least occasionally, intimations of such thinking would wend their way into the primary mediated expressions upon which most residents of the planet rely.  Not only has this been rarer than hen’s teeth, but the opposite is also manifestly the case: corporate views are practically universal in one form or another, from laudatory reporting on ‘tea-party’ fatuousness to superficial boosterism in regard to ‘Obama’s job initiative,’ from fetishistic accounts of individuated ‘art’ at Burning Man’s petty bourgeois celebration of nihilism to the latest Hollywood gossip, and on and on and on and on and on, apparently ad infinitum, world without end.

At the very least, one might hope that, confronted with crisis after crisis, with every indication that all the accepted nostrums are crashing and burning, organized contingents of citizens would begin to network with each other to contend for power.  Instead, through a combination of hypocrisy, bigotry, laziness, and willful ignorance, folks in the United States seem inclined to ‘worship false gods’ and rely on greedy, venal ‘leadership’ to rescue them from looming crises on every front.

One need not, thankfully, hope for a Western Hemisphere ‘Congress of Soviets’ to set things right.  On the contrary, homegrown models are readily available.  The Economic Bill of Rights is solid thinking for a transition in the direction of social justice and actual democracy.  Tens of thousands of individual initiatives to achieve justice and empower communities occur every day.  These have appeared in SERMCAP’s work and elsewhere that this humble correspondent has published.

As well, this humble correspondent is one of the many scattered grassroots thinkers who want to light a pathway toward something akin to sustainability and human flowering.  A “New Ten Commandments” is a recent example.  From number one, “The Golden Rule Reigns supreme,” to number four, “All Who Work Are Equal,” to number ten, “All Else Is Negotiable,” it represents a common-sensical, class conscious morality and ethics that might underlie democracy.

The epilogue to this hortatory set of ten rules serves as well as anything to close this brief section.  “The central task of the social reformer, or ‘progressive,’ as the first decades of the twenty-first century unfold, is to form relationships that are durable and pointed enough to begin, on the one hand, to dismantle the Imperial-Financial-Military-Prison-Pharaceutical-Industrial Complex, the various arms of which–the ‘War on Drugs, Homeland Security, Xenophobia-Incorporated, Operation Iraqi Liberation and similar exercises in military mass murder and social control, and so on and so forth–effect the enervation of the working class, both in terms of consciousness and in terms of action, and, on the other hand, to work to reconstitute the social and productive forces in that ‘Complex’–now turned to exploitation and repression and inanity–so that they can start to express humanity’s innate creative capacity to construct a human existence.”

As this series has hammered home, such a capacity to reform and resuscitate has to start with analysis and continue with conversation.  This humble correspondent is having his say herein.  He’d love to hear from folks.

AFTERWARD–The Dialogic Necessity of Exchanges That Deal with Ideology and Consciousness

W.E.B. Du Bois, genius that he was, estimated that “the great problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”  Perhaps the grand dilemma of the twenty-first century is the conundrum of false consciousness.

In saying this, as the final paragraphs of a series on ‘Understanding 9/11’ spin-out, this humble correspondent is remonstrating that we must either demonstrate a willingness to talk about all of these things together, holding fast to the standards of evidence and intellectual honesty of any debate that hopes to learn and teach something, or we face a more or less rapid decline as a species.  At the least, no ‘good life,’ as in an evolution of humans to include conscious agents who shape their lives and the world, can transpire if we refuse the mental labor that this series extols and proffers.

The title of one of William Appleman Williams volumes neatly summarizes the ideation and ideology of citizens of the United States in this regard, at least since the 1940’s.  The Great Evasion remains a timely manual for what Americans choose to ignore.  Survivors of the storm that is breaking upon us now may well recall the phrase and nod ruefully.

Williams was writing of the wisdom that Karl Marx evinced; he subtitled this slender volume, “an essay on the contemporary relevance of Karl Marx and on the wisdom of admitting the heretic into the dialogue about America’s future.”  Others who have followed the traditions of that thinking include, of course, this humble correspondent.  As well, readers not afraid of engaging the real, and its sexy cousin, the possible, may want to consult innumerable additional intellectuals.  Three will serve to close our interlude here.

**Jurgen Habermas has for decades sought the joining of art, science, and morality.  The conjunction depends, in the current context of rampant compartmentalization, on the only glue that can cause these things to stick together: honest and respectful conversation.

Against the opportunistic thugs of ‘neoconservatism’ and ‘neoliberalism,’ not to mention the hypocritical bourgeoisie who worship at the ‘cult of the expert,’ Habermas defends the modernist prospect: to comprehend reality, to work with others to shape that reality, to transform consciousness and reality in league with others so as to have a positive impact on the world.  He offers sage ideas to readers willing to listen.

“(W)ith the decisive confinement of science, morality, and art to autonomous spheres separated from the life-world and administered by experts,” precisely the protocols in place in all establishment government agencies and most Non-Governmental Organization granting agencies, “what remains from the project of cultural modernity”–learning so as to rescue ourselves from perdition–“is only what we would have if we were to give up the project of modernity altogether.”  And ‘to give up altogether’ is to invite, and to deserve, the long darkness that looms.

**Paulo Freire is another proponent and practitioner of mutual dialog in the service of empowerment and transformation.  In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, cited above, he sticks to the contention that only through mutual dialog is full humanity accessible.  He thus rejects the one-way manipulation of advertising, foreswears the ‘bank-deposit’ pretension of U.S. pedagogy, and overturns any reliance on the ‘cult of expertise’ that capital uses to hide its sins and justify its excesses.  Basically, in this view, we desperately need listening sessions in which the working class gets its chance to speak.

As one commentator summarized, “Freire’s life and work as an educator is optimistic in spite of poverty, imprisonment, and exile.  He is a world leader in the struggle for the liberation of the poorest of the poor: the marginalized classes who constitute the “cultures of silence” in many lands.  On a planet where more than half the people go hungry every day because nations are incapable of feeding all their citizens, where we cannot yet agree that every human being has a right to eat and to be housed, Paulo Freire toils to help men and women overcome their sense of powerlessness to act in their own behalf.”

**David Graeber is brilliant American anthropologist, teaching in Ireland, who reveals indelible connections among morality, money, debt, and governments, connections that ‘free-market’ flacks would have us believe are ‘theoretically’ unnecessary.  Ranging incisively through historical and anthropological evidence, he proves his negative case–that the ‘free market’ is a fraud–decisively, and makes a good start on supporting his positive point, that humans have long cycles defined by alternating uptake of commodity and debt monetary relationships.

Perhaps more in tune with the specific undertaking of this series, he has also written Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams.  Therein, he insists on multidisciplinary analytical tools as the essential accompaniment of addressing the multiple, intersecting crises that our planet full of cousins faces.

Such nerdy fellows as these, and the multitudes of other men and women who refuse to compartmentalize and insist on wide-ranging analysis and honest political economy, can contribute to the capability to discuss the world intelligently.  But ultimately, much larger groups of folks are going to have to jump into the game, if we’re to have a prayer to rescue something for our progeny.  That, above all else, is the lesson of 9/11: Learn and Participate, or die.

Truly, the working people of all the Earth must find a basis for unity–winning a world and losing our chains simultaneously.  Otherwise, we will merit nothing less than the carnage that is already happening and will, more or less steadily, worsen during this period of darkness that could portend a new dawn or might preface a long and possibly endless night for the lucky fuckers here who are busy pissing away our birthright–consciousness and reason–out of a perverse combination of greed and fear and wanton self-righteous indulgence in infantile narcissism.

Understanding 9/11 & Acting on That Insight/PART THREE

In two previous installments, this humble correspondent has provided, first of all, an overall contextualization of how to think about this tenth anniversary.  Secondly, an oh-so-rudimentary–and yet lengthy and too-involved for many readers–examination has appeared here of the inception of the epoch that 9/11arguaby  brought to an end.  The previous post ranged back-and-forth from that sixty-six year old anniversary.

As was the case in Part Two, this humble correspondent’s lens chooses not to home-in on what members of the British general-staff first labeled the ‘Mid-East’.  That John Foster Dulles, not yet head of the State Department, and his brother, Allen Dulles, not yet head of the CIA were crucial to the popularization of the term in the U.S., is useful info.  But such bon mots, and the analysis which flows from them, are not present here.  This does not stem from lack of capacity to tell that part of the tale, nor from a belief that such narrative is unimportant.

Others, however, have covered that ground, as has this humble correspondent in a different context.  In fact, reviewing ‘leftist’ and ‘progressive’ attempts to tell the tale of 9/11, the focus is often more or less exclusively on Israel, Saudi Arabia, and so forth.  This direly imperils the attempt to know what is happening in relation to 9/11; the American empire spans the globe, and ‘changing Mid-East policy,’ reducing our ‘greed for oil,’ and other laudable reforms are no more enough to forestall future carnage than cutting out a lung cancer is an adequate response to a tumorous invasion that has metastasized to brain and liver and bones.

Thus, today, readers will encounter another pair of summations.  The first investigates, again with lightning speed, a significant ‘bump-in-the-road’ that followed by a few decades the ‘ides-of-September’ beginning of our age.  Miraculously enough, this occurrence also took place on September eleventh, though the vast majority of Americans are as ignorant of this dual conjunction of late Summer tragedy as they are of the Federalist Papers, the history of World War One, or any other matter, no matter how crucially relevant to their lives, that is unlikely to be popular in People Magazine, Facebook, or the sports and fashion newscape.

The second element of today’s posting confronts readers with the here-and-now.  As noted in Part One, Earth’s sojourners are headed toward dock at a definable bend of the river, a passage that does not have a pretty ending.  This portion of the series looks at those ends, dealing with plausible, arguably likely, results that will become increasingly inevitable in the lee of 9/11–which, in turn, represents the unfolding of a new chapter in world history–results that might manifest very differently were engaged and capacitated groups of citizens to show up to contend for power.

BODY #2–Adjusting to Contrariety and Contraction, Trying to Finance Miracles on the Installment Plan, Falling Back on the Old Standard–‘Divide & Conquer’

As noted on Sunday, USA elites’ expectations of an extended reign went smoothly enough for a quarter century.  As the Vietnamese intervention unraveled, however, at a cost of plus-or-minus a million butchered Asians, challenges to unilateral imposition of United States proclivities cropped up on every continent.

As one might expect in looking into any complicated phenomenon, this ‘falling-apart’ of one way of doing business had many components.  One could pick and choose among dozens of eventualities, or more, that help to explicate how things worked out as they did, why certain choices seemed attractive or even inevitable.  For purposes of this series, the focus falls on events in the Western hemisphere early in September, 1973.

Imperial Impunity in a State of Denial


Rebellions in Central America had long been heating up, regardless of the self-congratulation that typified U.S. agents’ beliefs about ‘successes’ in undercover operations–murder and mayhem, incorporated–in Guatemala and elsewhere over the years.  At the same time, further South, Chile had evinced the temerity to elect a socialist, Salvador Allende, who preached that he needn’t overthrow capitalism since he had won an election that allowed him to establish a constitutional socialist agenda.

Financiers and industrialists found the idea nauseating that, not only could a daring and savvy revolutionary fighter, such as Fidel Castro, once in a while win a bout with the mightiest nation on earth, but that elections themselves–which were so firmly under control stateside–might soon produce similar effects as had emanated from armed conflict.  In the course of 1973, these upper-crust malcontents made common cause with the higher strata of Chile’s military, which felt similar discontent at the developing radicalism of Chilean society.

In the event, roughly twenty-eight years after the conclusion of the slaughter of WWII, which in turn left the U.S. master of the whole world, the boards of directors and top bureaucrats of government secretariats–who, by the way, were almost to a man(or an occasional woman)exactly the same people–had little choice, in their view of the priorities in play, but to unleash a brutal unhinging of Salvador Allende and his companeras y companeros.   Senor Allende and many others faced summary execution on that day, 9/11/1973.

This gruesome torture and homicidal mania ultimately killed in excess of ten thousand, possibly many more, solidifying the idea in popular thinking  of the ‘desaparicidos,’ those who have simply vanished from the world.  Alberto Bolano, the masterful Chilean novelist and poet, writes about them, pushed from planes, taken on terminal jaunts into deserts and jungles, bundled up and trundled away to eliminate messy evidence of murder.  Thus, the ‘masters-of-the-universe’ in charge of America began a new chapter with thuggish killing many times greater than what took place a decade ago in New York and Washington.

The same sort of scenario, though stretched over more years, happened in relation to Iran–which rid itself of Reza Pahlavi, the storied psycho whom Dulles and Dulles and BP put into place in Persia in ’54–ten years in the aftermath of Chile’s descent into the inferno.  This Southwest Asia imbroglio involved an equally obvious criminal conspiracy, in which President-elect Ronald Reagan–the ‘gipper’ himself–played a formative, “October Surprise,” role.

The Iran-Contra chicanery, a vile and vicious hoax that supplied drug-financed ordnance for the decimation of tens of thousands of Nicaraguans who had demonstrated the insolence of seeking a democracy to replace U.S. corporate henchmen and killers like Anastasio Somoza, involved the highest levels of multiple executive departments of the U.S. Government.  A few, like Oliver North, were convicted of felonies–though North’s ‘sentence’ was “a fine, community service, and probation, and some spent time in prison, though they now reap thousands per appearance on a lecture circuit that celebrates criminal conspiracy in the name of anti-communism.

The invasion of Panama continued this trend, albeit in a slightly different vein.  The removal of Manuel Noriega from power occurred after he threatened to unleash torrents of information about the hypocrisy, venality, and misrepresentation that underpinned both the War on Drugs and our relations with Latin America generally, without doubt clouded now by “corruptions of memory”.

While imperial servants thus throttled one monster of our own making, whose vision in some ways paralleled that of another favorite Frankenstein–Saddam Hussein–U.S. money and policy, funneled as usual through the CIA, gave birth to the slimy upper-class cabal that would inflict the poison of 9/11 twenty-two years later.  Of course, anyone who looks into the matter discerns the facts, yet Americans remain almost utterly ignorant: Osama Bin Laden was a highly-paid contract employee of the U.S., to spread depredation and death against Russia.

“Charlie Wilson’s War” is farcically evil in many of its conveyances, at the same time that the film does ‘spin’ a tale that makes self-serving selections of reality a part of the narrative.  Bin Laden was ‘our guy’ before he was the ‘bad guy.’  For his multi-billion dollar wages, this scion of a Bush-connected oil family saw fit to plot attacks on the house of the ‘hand that fed him.’

This quick accounting deserves a much deeper attention and a complete unveiling of the as-yet ‘classified’ materials that continue to hide big sections of what actually makes up our past.  And many other cases remain to tell, so soon as citizens insist on the real story of their lives.  Finding new ways to practice death-worship and new techniques for perfecting theft and corruption, however, could not forestall the economic wreckage of the 1970’s, which is another characteristic of the new phase of things, for which Salvador Allende and countless others paid with their lives.

Falling Profits, Rising Debts, Declining Fortunes, Increasing Joblessness, Oh My!

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting States, naturally, was in significant part a creature of corporate capital and imperial convenience, in which ‘developing countries’ like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia get far more credit for ‘independence’ than is their due.  Its oil-shock and the fiscal precipice that loomed ahead of what Americans received due encouragement to blame OPEC for, both followed from and furthered a deconstruction of many elements of the famed, and critically important  Bretton Woods agreements, among them Nixon’s ending of the gold standard.

This linking of economic decline and energy politics and massive deficit-spending has proved an unshakeable connection.  M. King Hubbert, ‘Mr. Peak Oil’ himself, early on saw this, although very few commentators, this humble correspondent excepted, note that he ended his life a devoted proponent of solar-energy and other legitimately renewable technologies.

The imposition of nuclear energy–and the continued budgeting of nuclear megadeath–thus has also shown up as a never-to-end aspect of this new age, never mind popular opposition, the potential for the end of human life on Earth as a result, and the unbearable expense of atomic technologies.  Anti-nuclear activists simply cannot explain such ‘nonsense’, since they eschew analyzing the historical and political-economic underpinnings of what they deplore; in similar fashion, they also fail to connect such matters with 9/11, preferring insularity and a narrow focus, no matter how impotent.

In the past forty years, every new ‘creation of wealth,’ about which stock-brokers and other financial accessories of a flailing capitalism crow constantly– the second half of the Reagan reign, under Bill Clinton until the dot.com implosion, and so on–has ineluctably caused a bursting bubble more nauseating and horrifying than the last one.  ‘Tea-Partiers’ and other reactionaries, Ron Paul included, importune about debt and ‘fiat currency’ and the evils of the Federal Reserve, completely missing that their parties and policies and leadership in the past has been at least equally as responsible as any Democrat has been for all such developments.

Capital’s travails extend to every single sector of the economy, from the most stolid to the most ‘innovative’.  Citizens intuit such contradictions and misrepresentation that are everywhere apparent.  Yet they have yet to develop their own capacity, as the working Americans who create all the wealth of the nation, to insist that a worker-friendly policy come to the fore.

As Pete Seeger and millions of adherents have intoned, in Ralph Chaplin’s International Workers of the World song of class solidarity, “It is we who plowed the prairies, built the cities where they trade, Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid.  Now we stand outcast and starving ‘mid the wonders we have made, But the union makes us strong.” In place of ‘solidarity forever,’ however, an initial chipping away at the rights of workers and the poor became an avalanche of crushing blows to workers’ perquisite.  The social effects of such developments were, of course, quite predictable.

Unraveling the Social Safety Net and Promoting Internecine Uproar

The War on Drugs is arguably the most successful criminal fraud  in history.  Quite logically, its initiation was exactly congruent both with the open decimation of popular politics in Chile and elsewhere and with the crashing of the vaunted ‘free market’ into repeated implosions of despondency, debt, and decline.

Additionally , the creation of a ‘black market’ that overwhelmingly victimized Blacks  and other poor and minority folks paralleled one case after another of attacking and beginning to dismantle FDR’s ‘New Deal’ policies.  Of course, some of them, for example labor’s right to organize, had already received death sentences, during the prior decades, in the form of ‘right-to-work’ amendments and so forth.

Liberal unemployment benefits and easily obtainable workmen’s compensation became increasingly dicey for many workers in many states.  America, more and more, began to resemble a debtor’s prison .

Moreover, welfare programs came under unparalleled attacks during each of the three Presidencies preceding 9/11.  In many ways, Bill Clinton’s handling of ‘welfare reform’ ended up being the most draconian.

These varied assaults on the viability of working class life–what many folks wrongheadedly and erroneously label ‘middle-class’ existence, which had remained a sine qua non of U.S. politics for four decades after the bruising battles of the 1930’s had occurred–picked up steam and began to eviscerate political support for the socially vulnerable.  At the same time, regulatory responses to structural problems of corporate profiteering–environmental agencies, ‘fairness’ laws of all types for ‘consumers,’ and ‘equal opportunity’ approaches to built-in inequality, became the norm.  Title VI, Title IX, and so forth helped to fuel an inescapable swamp of growing resentment between men and women, White and Black, immigrant and ‘native.’

Despite this threefold ruling-class response to the crises of the 1970’s, however, a return to Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’ or Ike’s ‘good old days’ never transpired.  Instead, as one crisis made way for a new inflationary miracle, each sickening pop of each new bubble led to precipices that apparently verged on unfathomable abysses.  And the people, rather than regularly and compliantly either shutting up or turning on each other, looked like they might find a basis for unity in a new sort of politics –spirituality, technology, and plain old class consciousness played a role here.

As the second millennium of the ‘current era’ came to a close, prospects had rarely appeared bleaker for the captain’s of capital and their cohorts in the manipulation of mass consciousness.  Of course, then the ‘unimaginable’ came to pass, just like in a movie of ‘evildoer terrorists’ who dared to assault the nicest folks on the planet.

Thus, a new groove seemed accessible to big business and its minions–the ‘homeland security’ spigot, a never-ending ‘war-on-terror,’ a blacklist flexible enough to encompass almost anybody who argued.  Those who refuse to recognize these actualities will have only themselves to blame if sufficient numbers survive to the new ‘dark ages’ that could easily loom ahead.  In many ways, such an imposed brutality might resemble Chile in the late 1970’s.

BODY #3–Revealing the iron Fist Inside the Velvet Glove, Preparing for a Dark Eternity

Interestingly enough, twenty-eight years to the day following one of history’s most-ignored mass-murders–carnage in the ‘Southern Cone’, American and United jets purportedly brought down the Twin Towers.  This heart-stopping drama, paradoxically and yet irresistibly, laid the basis for a reassertion of the most nakedly imperialistic elements of U.S. rule.

One can “deal in conspiracy facts,” in the vein of a Michael Ruppert.  His Crossing the Rubicon makes a prosecutor’s case for the notion that everything that transpired ten years ago was the result of a careful and well-thought out criminal enterprise.  ‘Malice aforethought’ is everywhere, in this view.

Or one can merely note how conveniently the prod–of planes that flew into buildings–“fit to a ‘t'” the needs and plans  of a ruling plutocracy steeped in blood and convinced of its own righteous omnipotence.  And people shouted their demands that the government respond to the victimization of Americans with a policy of retributive vengeance.  Either way, the track that ran on after 9/11 followed perfectly the course that the imperialists had long advocated.

Never mind that millions upon millions also protested the drive toward a ‘war without end.’  Corporate media, corporate government, and corporate enterprise blithely turned a mostly blind eye toward all who complained that ‘justice’ ought not to include serial killing of millions of innocents in the name of Americans who would never profit from the process like the capitalists who had designed and sought to implement such a program from the 1970’s on.  The components of this programmatic state-terror are starkly easy to view.

**National Security States and the Termination of ‘Freedom’**

The so-called Patriot Act just stands out as the easiest-to-see example of fascism in America resplendent.  ‘Homeland Security,’ the war on immigrants, and more have become a part of the log-rolling, money-making operations that defenestrate all pretense of ‘liberal’ bourgeois democracy.

**Instant Access to the National Treasury for Militarists, and Their Imprisonment-and-Pharmaceutical-Pacification Allies, and a Disenfranchisement of all Other Constituencies**

Operation Iraqi Liberation(O.I.L.)was too transparent even for an administration as filled with apparent morons as was that of Yale’s stupidest-ever graduate.  However, as the ‘hope’ that Barack-the-Magnificent embodied has proven to be the facade that thinkers such as this humble correspondent promised, anyone who cares to contemplate the matter can see that this dual process–everything for the ‘merchants of death,’ penury for everybody else–has continued and promises to be the sine qua non for many years to come, but for the rise of America’s ‘missing’ working class.

**Endless War and Guaranteed Bad Guys**

The ‘fall’ of communism, even as Hugo and Evo and Lula and Daniel joined Fidel in this hemisphere, and the Chinese showed themselves more astute as bourgeois producers than perhaps they had ever been as ‘Red’ levelers, necessitated a new locus of ‘evil.’  That Osama was ‘our creature’ from the get-go mattered not at all.  That the Iraqis were at odds with the Bin Laden racket was immaterial.  The ‘fix was in,’ and only a populist uprising that seemed like a worse wager than a drunken lotto-pick could turn the tide.

That this long-odds potential is real fits with many facts.  For the most part, though, all of these eventualities stand alone, alienated and isolated from each other.

Post-9/11/2001, Augusto Pinochet, another American darling mass-murderer, finally faced justice at the behest of Spain, which had undergone its own bout of bloodletting–For Whom the Bell Tolls anyone?–in a furious civil war that had at its heart the fascistic notion that pursuit of social democracy deserved a death-sentence.  Pinochet died before he had to confront a final accounting for the crimes that he committed as an accessory to the USA’s empire of blood.

Many Chileans do not remember 9/11 as do a likely majority of U.S. citizens.  One difference between the two groups is that the Chileanas and Chileanos are cognizant of what went down in 2001.  Would that we could say that even a significant fraction of North Americans were similarly aware about the ‘terrorist’ shit-storm, which the United States of America unleashed on thousands upon untold thousands of innocents, for the ‘crime’ of believing in social democracy.

Hundreds of cases like these exist.  Innumerable thousands of such stories go without adequate mediation.  Literally billions of residents of our lovely planet would be on the right side of a choice, were the dialog and democratic process to make such a choice in place.

The list of hopeful signs, separate and generally unconnected, is practically infinite.   Uniting them, in a mass movement for democracy and social justice, is the missing ingredient.  But that’s like saying when we have the butter and eggs and sugar and fixings to create the sweetest feed ever, flour is the missing ingredient for a cake.

Can we stand up, as in the song?  “They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn, But without our brain and muscle, not a single wheel can turn.  We can break their haughty power, gain our freedom when we learn That the union makes us strong.”

An organized solidarity, based on thorough and persistent analyses of the realities of this Earth, beckons citizen-workers to save their own lives, the futures of their children, and the possibility of a human community.  Truly, we have only to lose the chains of false consciousness that our ‘superiors’ yank with such legerdemain in enslaving us.

Faux Popular Democracy in Capitalism’s Mediation of Merger Mania Part 2

Or, Why AOL Is, Apparently, Perfect for Huff-Po and, Decidedly, Horrible for Majority Rule

UNIT TWO: What in the World Is AOL Anyway?

Chapter One–The Scientific, Technical, and Social Roots of Online America

ENIAC Computer by public domain


America Online

Today’s text introduces Unit Two of this five part series.   This initial chapter leads on to three sibling sections that will, in as thorough and incisive a fashion as this humble correspondent can manage in a relatively short space, explicate what constitutes the corporate entity that has ‘branded’ itself AOL and considers itself the epitome of America in its online guise.

Where we left off, media was mushrooming up from the cow paddies of routine politics.   How exactly did America Online, as of now not yet done with its third decade, emanate from the historical and political economic background of modern times?   The purpose of this quite lengthy section is to manage a tale-of-the-tape that offers an intelligible, and relatively complete, response to this inquiry.

Like so much of what citizens now consider this virtual age, the roots of AOL lie in the way that the conflagrations of the 1940’s responded to the deflationary death spiral of the 1930’s.   In 1945, at the dawn of a new epoch that shined with a nuclear glow, as the Cold War heated up, and nearly everyone still breathing wondered where to bury a hundred million or so corpses and how to avoid the next tally from being higher still, the captains of capital looked forward to an unstoppable ‘thousand-year-reich’ of commodities and markets that only lasted a “glorious thirty” years, with everything antithetical hidden behind ‘iron curtains’ of one sort or another.

These leading lights of the ruling class foresaw an age of ubiquitous convergence.   Communication and computation and observation would yield, in every sector of the economy, times when markets would work as their proponents had always promised, even as they continued to seek the institutional succor of government instead.   This new age would not eschew governance so much as it would make the public sphere subservient to corporate, which is to say commercial and imperial, mastery.

ANTEDILUVIAN BEGINNINGS ON THE ‘ENDLESS FRONTIER’

The observer might not easily see the connection between AOL and   a project named the ‘Manhattan Engineering District,’ but Vannevar Bush joins the two like a rivet connects discrete plates on an aircraft carrier.   Not only did this MIT wizard unite the industrial and financial powers-that-be behind publicly-funded science, but he also insisted on the durability of this formula after the war.   In the event, he also succeeded in promulgating institutionalized funding and management models that followed corporate guidelines and priorities.

Vannevar Bush by public domain


In essence, Bush is the technical and intellectual father of the Military Industrial Complex.   His Science: the Endless Frontier links markets and profits and prosperity and power-politics and empire and innovation as a set of relationships that nations sunder at their peril.

What is more, he both, on the one hand, very precisely conceived of the world wide web and many of its technical attributes as an aspect of this industrial militarization of politics and, on the other hand, proffered a guidebook–almost a recipe–for their initiation and growth.   In “As We May Think,” also written just after WWII ended, Bush envisions personal computing, Wikipedia, hands-free 24/7 virtual connectivity, and a swirling constant interchange that many feel is still a possibility if the World Wide Web survives a corporate takeover.

Moreover, this meme still resonates powerfully.   The term, ‘meme,’ is itself something like Bush’s name for his concept.

Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library.   It needs a name, and to coin one at random, ‘memex’ will do.   A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

No wonder entire symposia keep flowering that orbit around Bush’s now long-ago article in Atlantic Magazine .

Equally applicable as connective tissue between such trendy(or declasse, as the case may be) eventualities as today’s AOL and the inception of the war machine is the fashion in which Bush’s ideas have become almost biblical in their expression of the current canon.   The American empire, American well-being, the very essence of the American way, in such thinking, are inseparable from the uninterrupted perpetuation of an ever expanding plethora of the hot new way, an endless frontier of endless frontiers.

Needless to say, whether one appreciates the artfulness with which its principals have undertaken the task, America Online–with former Secretary of Defense and general corporate booster Alexander Haig leading the charge to invest–has depicted itself as the quick-and-easy path to such innovativeness.   When that way of conceiving things began to seem positively fuddy-duddy, AOL, driven by the relentless necessity of monetizing something , cast around for ways of reinventing itself as ‘trendier-than-thou.’

That such an evolution, in a society under the sway of finance and industrial monopoly, inherently revolves around opportunistic cash-outs and market wedges, not to mention a tendency to sweep up the competition and the newest confabulation simultaneously, should come as no surprise.   Indeed, all manner of analysis recognizes such ineluctable expressions of capital’s conceptualization of virtuality.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington very recently confirmed this contemporary relevance of dear Uncle Vannevar.   In a brief essay entitled, “An Endless Frontier Postponed,” the author warns that a lack of consciousness about the union of academia, capital, and government makes possible an ideological commitment to sundering this troika, which in this SOP POV threatens any hope of continuing political-economic predominance by the United States.

And indeed, this is now one popular trope.   A much less common thread is that the collective financing and support for the internet means that it should actually operate according to common goals, and under democratic guidance.   This is what Michael Zweig means when he suggests that “being charitable to the poor” means far less that “arranging that they have power, one obvious element of which is media potency.   Whatever the unfolding of this dialectic, that the taxes of working people funded the creation and evolution of the World-Wide-Web is incontrovertible fact.

MA-&-PA KETTLE FINANCE THE INFRASTRUCTURE AND SUPERSTRUCTURE AND PROTOCOLS OF THE WORLD-WIDE-WEB

Multiple intersecting timelines play key parts in the manifestation of virtual life that so characterizes the present pass that many people can no longer conceive an ‘unwired’ existence.   Computers, military and academic laboratories, telecommunications, printing and publishing all have an arc of expansion that, as one, has yielded the montage of interfaces and devices and distracted human beings who meander over the earth today, both actually and electronically, both as flesh-and-blood and as avatars.

The recognition of this interrelated interdependence is critical to any rational understanding of a phenomenon such as AOL, or its swallowing of Arianna Huffington’s self-styled bastion of progressivism.   Neither could have been more than a foggy, opiated pipe-dream but for the work performed on the public dime, as it were.   NASA, the nuclear-weapons-lab complexes, major research universities, and the corporate vanguard, without exception either were direct chain-of-command elements of the State, or, in any event, they would have withered and blown-away without government dollars.

US Army Missile Squadron by public domain


Thus, MIT researchers came up with the first video game while doing missile and other military research; Bell labs invented push-button telecommunication techniques in part as a result of decades of walkie-talkie military deals; the Advanced Research Project Agency(ARPA) was a Department of Defense response to Sputnik–soon yielding the first generation WWW through ARPANet; under the purview of government contracts, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange(ASCII) grew out of Bell labs and American National Standards Institute efforts–and still underlies the basic coding on which AOL, et al. depend to this day.

Almost without exception, the nodes and methods of the web, of being an American online, as it were, only happened because tax-dollars financed them.   Even in such ‘venture-capital’-worshipping materials as Piero Scaruffi’s A History of Silicon Valley , again and and again and again, over and over, “almost without exception,” the hand of the government appears as central to this amazing transformation toward virtuality that typifies life today.

Immediately prior to the assumption of an institutional form more or less recognizable as the direct predecessor of America Online, additional important developments took place on the nascent internet, as of 1972 controlled by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency .   The first e-mail, for instance, sallied forth in 1971 as a result of one investigator’s efforts that sought to make military research communication more efficient.   Though it did not modulate in chipper tones, “You’ve got mail!,” that cheery quip emanated from State-funded efforts.

Shortly thereafter, big improvements in FORTRAN, the machine language developed for military and scientific purposes, happened, followed shortly by Bell Lab’s first issuing of the much more intuitive C-programming language .   Soon afterward, Xerox’s DOD-funded Palo Alto Research Center, on its way to inventing “the office of the future,” created the Ethernet, many standards of which continue in force to the present moment.

Throughout the mid 1970’s, with the formation of Apple Computer and Microsoft and more, many of AOL’s predecessors availed themselves of the possibilities for private gain from public investment, even as the general economy reeled from one stagflationary whipping post to another. In 1978, the first Bulletin Board System came into being; the BBS model was important in various early attempts to cash-in on what social support for computing and networks had created, not to mention underpinning AOL’s ultimate success.

As with the rest, these BBS outgrowths trace their roots back to public inputs.   File serving, downloading, the very protocols that allow a network to engage and remain operational, are the result of socialized inputs and relationships.

Due to its prominent role, the history of TCP is impossible to describe without going back to the early days of the protocol suite as a whole.   In the early 1970s, what we know of today as the global Internet was a small research internetwork called the ARPAnet, named for the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA or ARPA).   This network used a technology called the Network Control Protocol (NCP) to allow hosts to connect to each other. …Due to limitations in the NCP, development began on a new protocol that would be better suited to a growing internetwork. … called the Internet Transmission Control Program (TCP).   Like its predecessor NCP, TCP was responsible for basically everything that was needed to allow applications to run on an internetwork.

In other words, America Online did not emerge randomly.   Nor did it occur as a result of individuals, rugged or colorful or otherwise, working separately and ‘individually.’   Nor was it in any way a primary result of ‘natural’ bourgeois inventiveness.

On the contrary, the growth stemmed from fields prepared by social stewards, using common treasure.   The concrete components uniformly resulted from or depended on government-financed research.   Every single stop on the ultimate information highway was only possible because of collective efforts that invoked federal financing.

John Hopkins’ Stuart Leslie, in his article, “The Biggest ‘Angel’ of Them All: the Military in the Making of Silicon Valley,” makes this argument dispositively.   The ‘marketplace’ is no freer than a Soviet Five Year Plan, or, at the least, it is ‘freer’ in a different way; moreover, we might imagine other ways to ‘free’ things up.

This can lead to some interesting conclusions.   They are factual, no more a ‘matter of opinion’ than the determination that United States Treasury dollars are necessary to run the Department of Defense.

Here’s one such deduction.   Not only would the astounding wealth ‘created’ by the ‘free-market’-touting boosters at AOL have been inconceivable without social backing of the most extensive sort, but also, the smaller but still substantial sums that now line Arianna Huffington’s purses are only available for her accountants to count because of the taxes of everyday Americans, such as the bloggers on the site who will never make a dime from the deal.

Faux Popular Democracy in Capitalism’s Mediation of Merger Mania

Or, Why AOL Is a Perfect Huff-Po Partner That Is Horrible for Majority Rule

In this first of a five unit series—intro and conclusion plus three body parts–giving credit where credit is due is a good way to start.  Arianna Huffington’s How to Overthrow the Government performs a valuable service for anybody who both believes in popular empowerment and has an inkling that the rule-of-the-rich has gone too far.  The book offers at least a modicum of clear and apt guidance to those who would foment or fuel an uprising from below.

The likes of this humble correspondent would vociferously suggest that ‘the book doesn’t go nearly far enough.’  Less charitable, and equally historically and socio-economically aware, critics have argued that, analytically and conceptually, the volume is at best irritatingly cautious and generally vapid.  Nevertheless, the work offers some useful advice to those who want to return socially democratic political action to the grassroots.  At least it conceives of public engagement as a necessary predecessor of political change.

That said, the just-announced merger of Huffington Post and America Online is an entirely different kettle of fish.  Many honestly and erstwhile ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist’ commentators are celebrating this joining, or at least, giving it a ‘wait-and-see’ nod.

The only certain thing is that the writers and participants who have built Huffington Post won’t see a slender cent from among the thirty billion pennies, or billion and a half pennies in stock, that change hands in this bargain.  Several already wealthy people, whose political and ‘strategic’ leadership have, for better or worse, guided the site, will, on the other hand make out like proverbial bandits.

The idea that this $315 million conjunction, much to the benefit of Ms. Huffington’s coffers, might also represent ‘progress’ or be in the best interest of the ‘left’ arguably has much more to say about the deficiencies that attend the language of political description in the United States than it does with any rationally defensible consideration about promoting the needs of common people.  The notion that this is in the popular interest also speaks volumes about the lack of class leadership among working people, who prove willing all too often to rely on the likes of a rich globe-trotting fashion moll with the opportunistic instincts of a coyote.

‘Liberals’ also cozy up to hyper-imperialists such as Hilary Clinton, or so some would say; ‘progressives’ commonly make common cause with Barack-the-Magnificent, whose wars will soon eclipse those of his predecessor; the ‘left’ is a hodgepodge collection of folks who a lot of times are trying to avoid the label that is at least honestly descriptive, that of socialist, or social-democrat.

This humble correspondent considers himself ‘progressive,’ and he’ll only squirm and grit his teeth at the nearly meaningless moniker of ‘leftist.’  However, he is avowedly and unabashedly socialistic in his approach and his analytical proclivities.  He has no problem noticing an obvious fact: without some sort of struggle for social and economic democracy, the worlds working people face further devastation and possible annihilation.

And in this vein, the marriage of the modern defense and imperial establishment, in the form of America Online, with a fetishized, paltry, petty-bourgeois liberalism, in the form of Huffington Post, accomplishes a perfect union from the perspective of ‘free-market’, ‘free-enterprise’ fraud-mongers. As such, the following prediction makes sense: it will turn out to be a disaster for working people, for those who care about more than political labels and actually worry about substance.

One way or another, the lack of class leadership, and the explicit embrace of both imperial ideation and bourgeois marketing and markets, will mean at best ‘friendly’ misleadership for the average people of the planet who are suffering one body-blow after another to any hope that a ‘middle-class’ life will be even a credible fantasy.  One would have to acknowledge, at least as a possibility, that the time for a media of the people, by the people, and for the people is long overdue.

Such an admission ought then to portend a serious effort in such a direction.  Whether folks are, even now, ready to admit the obvious–‘But mommy, the king has nothing on!!–and whether, even now, such an acknowledgment will yield the radical, populist upsurge that recognition ought to call forth, remains to be seen.

For this humble correspondent, the remainder of the present introduction merely contextualizes, all too quickly, the historical and conceptual nature of the media marriage that has just transpired.  A four-piece unit on AOL’s background follows over the next few weeks, more or less.  Then, a three-chapter unit appears about Arianna Huffington and her love-child at Huff-Po.  A long single take on the merger itself will appear at that juncture, to complete the third substantive unit of this five-part series.  Finally, a conclusion will show up that, in the light of the insights and ideation of the intervening reporting and analysis, returns to some of the issues raised in today’s introductory paragraphs

A Far-Too-Brief Background Precis of the News Media Context From Which this ‘New Media’ Deal Has Devolved

People who fancy themselves media-literate, or even who believe that following the news is important, have a duty to understand how in the world the media that we take for granted has transmogrified to become the apparent digital phantasmagoria that it is today.  This is neither the time nor the place to go into copious detail.  On the other hand, readers may rest assured that more detail will be forthcoming.

For now, this humble correspondent proposes that people consider one simple fact: media springs from the rich dirt of politics like magic mushrooms pop up from cow dung.  Ever since the creation of the secret, and sacred, codes that underlay the first written forms, publication has been a battlefield; the priestly and royal control–extended imperiously–always met a challenge from below, in the form of vernacular articulations of one sort or another.

Need one consider such arcane interpretations of such facts as Derrida‘s “The Mystical Foundations of Authority?”  Or perhaps a more straightforward recollection, that law–the legitimation of force in favor of some stated ‘State,’ heretofore unheard of without social class divisions–is nothing without the capacity to record and annotate it, would serve as a ‘wake-up call’ about media’s social reality.  No matter what, from the ‘dawn of history,’ or text, as it were, the connection between writing and rule is unbreakable.

In any event, much more recently, since Gutenberg, for instance, every communication medium’s technological development and social deployment has entailed this combative dialectic.  The Bible may have been Johann’s first big project, but not too long afterward, the press itself helped Martin Luther affix his challenge to various posting places.

Thus, a pattern emerged that has, quite plausibly, come to stand for a central trait of capitalist evolution.  Put most simply, defining struggles over meaning, knowledge, and power all intersected with and emanated from the powers of technology and labor that inhered in the conglomeration of recorded speech and the media for presenting it; advantages in this contest, almost universally in the form of successful–or replicable–networks and paradigms that reached expanding ‘publics,’ served to influence, and often to determine, social, political, and economic outcomes.

For all of its frequent flaws of glaring bourgeois bias, Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications offers pupils of these matters a relatively elegant empirical bedrock for supporting the above conclusion.  From the concomitant downfall of strict censorship and the censorious Stuarts, to the simultaneous libertine upsurge of colonial textuality–newsy and both globally and locally aware–and a persistent rebellion, to the dialectically intertwined manifestation of knowledge, distribution, and publication forms that have seesawed their way through American history, this characterization of mediation seems, at least, reasonable.

The nearly universal initiation, co-optation, or capture of news-and-publishing outlets by the rising bourgeoisie took many forms.  However, this humble correspondent would insist that folks apprehend the undeniable veracity of the proposition that we have not come to today’s seemingly unstoppable effusion of hyper-monopoly in any other fashion than step-by-step, following original inclinations to their logical and predictable ends.

This is corroborated whether one adopts a biographical approach–from Horace Greely’s faux-Horatio-Alger-garnering of capitalist backing, to Hearst’s gold-mining, and gold-digging, parentage, and beyond, to the Luces, the Paleys and so forth and so on–to ascertaining information networks, or whether one prefers to examine the way that business and regulatory structures favor particular organization forms over others, or whether one chooses different, more intellectual and ideational formulations.  The history of media in America is, practically speaking–‘Citizen-Kane’ gossipy details notwithstanding, indistinguishable from the history of capitalism in America.

Advertising and marketing and propaganda together confirm this.  Power-politics and the specifics of character assassination and the sway of secrecy demonstrate this.  The opportunistic inclusion or exclusion of access to ‘legitimate’ or ‘unacceptable’ publics combine with criminal and civil media law again and again to prove this.

Forthcoming investigation will delve more deeply into the political economic and historical background that underpins the current media conundrums that afflict citizens.  The point of both this explication and what is to come is simple: in the realm of AOL’s conjunction with Huff-Po, such a conceptual, historical, and political-economic framework is critical to any understanding that is richer and deeper than either a ‘follow-the-yellow-brick-road’ optimism or a ‘lions-and-tigers-and-bears’ sense of panic.

Readers might want to stay tuned and remember the words of Betty Davis.  “Fasten your seat-belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”