by Jonathan Taplin
"The first stage of fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power"
--Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Fascist Dictator of Italy
The decision by the FCC this morning to remove the last restrictions on Big Media to the control of the Public Airwaves is but one more sign that we are entering the Age of Corporatism, a world where the interests of the Fortune 500 and the Bush Administration have merged perfectly. One can observe Assistant Secretary of the Interior Stephen Griles working tirelessly to make sure his former clients in the Coal Industry have unfettered access to Federal Lands for mining (as outlined on "Now with Bill Moyers" last Friday) or you watch Michael Powell make sure that the Broadcasters who paid for his luxurious travel arrangements for the past three years, get unfettered access to the the public airwaves . All of these moves take "The Commons" which is owned by all of us and move it into the hands of a few wealthy companies who pay little or nothing for resources from which they make millions.
When Halliburton and Bechtel make billions out of reconstructing Iraq we all pay for the 200,000 troops that provide their security, but only the dividend coupon clippers who own Halliburton stock get the massive profits coming out of the enterprise. Forty years ago in his farewell speech, President Eisenhower warned:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced corporate power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”
We now face a situation that far surpasses the "misplaced corporate power" that Ike predicted. Spurred on by the excuse of perpetual war, the Arms industry prospers while teachers and policeman are laid off by strapped states. The Corporatists move a Patriot Act II under which if you attend a legal protest sponsored by an organization the government has listed as "terrorist," you may be deported and your citizenship revoked, without trial or recourse. The Corporatists have cut off funding for the crucial agencies that monitor water pollution or enforce Superfund sites.
The reason the FCC decision this morning was so tragic is that an enlightened public that understood that THEIR airwaves and THEIR public lands were being given away for the benefit of the few might ask for redress from their government. But they never hear about these issues. As recently as last week the Pew Center found the 74% of the public was unaware of the FCC's impending decision. But in the rare case when a public figure does speak out, the other part of Mussolini's Corporatism shows it's power. Whether it's the brownshirts at Rockford College, storming the stage while New York Times Reporter Chris Hedges tried to deliver a commencement address slightly critical of our Iraq policy, or it's the Amen Choir of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage and O'Reilly ripping into Tim Robbins, The Dixie Chicks, Tom Daschle, Howard Dean or their target of the day; the military-media-industrial complex will make sure the Corporatist line is triumphant.
There is one silver lining in this cloud. The battle has been joined. We have to believe that the first step to fighting an evil is to name it. We are fighting Corporatism. There is no turning back.
Jonathan Taplin is a television and film producer whose work (including The Last Waltz, To Die For, “The Prize” and “Cadillac Desert”) has been nominated for the Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy Awards. He is a member of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and sits on the advisory board of the Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland. He is a contributor to Bear Flag.org (www.bearflag.org)