Guest Post by: Julie Posh, Aspiring Advertiser & Designer
The view of the modern media landscape is bleak from the vantage point of Dollarocracy. With chapters on professional journalism’s decline and death, authors John Nichols and Robert McChesney detail how big corporations and the political machine are destroying the once vital role the media played in American democracy.
And the digital future doesn’t look much brighter from their perspective. Nichols and McChesney caution that the Internet could easily go the way of television. Despite initial hopes, TV became a definitional rather than a democratic media. As the authors state, “The people who do the defining are, more often than not, the people with the best political connections and the most money.”
But I think they miss an important distinction: television was never truly democratic. Dollarocracy repeats the words of critic Clive Barnes on TV: “It is the first truly democratic culture, the first culture available to everyone and entirely governed by what the people want.” But a democracy is not created simply by “what the people want.” It is created and sustained through action — what the people do and what they say.
In this way, the Internet is more democratic than television ever was. Citizens have the ability to not only engage on a deeper level with existing content but also to create their own. Corporations and big spenders certainly have influence online, but the Internet is a unique medium in that it is overwhelmingly created by individual citizens.
I would argue that while political spending has drastically changed media (as evidenced throughout the book), the advent of the Internet has changed it even more. And I believe it has the potential to continue making changes, even against the tide of dollarocracy.
Through the Internet, my own personal political and social views have been challenged and changed time and again. I have been deeply affected by digital media, and I in turn have contributed and spread my own views and beliefs. This impact didn’t come from the big online news outlets; it came from other individuals — through blogs, online communities and social networks. That is the lifeblood of the Internet. I am a citizen, and my voice has an impact here.
Dollarocracy was a thought provoking, insightful, upsetting and ultimately inspiring read. It introduced me to the extent of a problem I had barely considered before, and while the outlined state of American politics was often incredibly frustrating to read, I still have hope for the future.
The authors cautioned those that believe the Internet to be “too vast, too uncontrollable, too ripe with opportunity for discourse and dissent to be conquered” that digital media may also fall prey to the dollarcrats. That it may become just another “vast wasteland.” But I have faith in the power of the Internet and the citizens who create it. America may no longer be a true democracy, but the Internet is. And through that democracy, change can come.