got it right, Matt. AOL-Time-Warner – AOLTiWa – will be worth
more than the annual output of Russia. (By the time Putin
is through, considerably more.) But the issue is not
money. What has happened is that the dinosaurish AOL – the
biggest, most obnoxious and restrictive of the self-enclosed
cyber-universes created early on in the computer age, has
now positioned itself to choke off the competition. And make
no mistake about it: that is clearly what the collective corporate
mind of AOLTiWa envisions.
CLOSER LOOK BEHIND THE HEADLINES
wait a minute – aren’t we getting a little paranoid
here? I mean, are we going to be subjected to yet another
"anti-corporate" anti-capitalist diatribe by some leftist
loser whining because his fatuous self-important opinions
aren’t aired on This Week and featured on the front
page of Time? C’mon, guys, give me just a little
more credit than that. Drudge is not exactly a whiny leftist,
and he sees the danger, too. Let’s take a closer look at what’s
happening . . .
at stake is who is going to be ordering a rewrite –
and of what. Politics, culture, the evolving World
Spirit – everything is up for grabs in the emerging global
order. Do I need to remind regular – or even casual
visitors to this site of the tremendous power of the media
to shape as well as report events?
LESSON OF KOSOVO
Serb friends well remember how the NATO-crats humbled the
truth as well as a proud people. As CNN ran the same video
of the same Kosovar refugees in an endless loop, Christiane
Amanpour’s pretentious voice intoned a narrative of lies.
In a kind of two-part harmony with her husband, State Department
spokesman James Rubin, she justified and celebrated a dirty
little war as a noble "humanitarian" crusade. Print journalists
and elite opinion-makers acted as a kind of Greek chorus,
reinforcing and elaborating the central theme of NATO as the
champion of justice.
CNN-IZATION OF THE MEDIA
this merger portends is the CNN-ization of the news media,
including the so-called "new media." The globalist vision
of Time’s founder, Henry Luce, the quintessential internationalist,
providing the "content," is empowered not only by AOL’s technology
but also by its political connections. Bill Kristol and other
neoconservative foreign policy analysts just talk about
the West establishing a "benevolent global hegemony," but
Steve Case and Gerald Levin are really doing it.
OF THE PHOENIX
The whole point of the merger is to give AOL access to the
high-speed cables owned by Time-Warner’s cable television
system: through that highly regulated and costly grid, dominated
by local franchises. These franchises, or monopolies, are
frankly and openly awarded on the basis of political pull:
taking advantage of the infrastructure created by the old
television technology, AOLTiWa has grandiose plans to feed
"content" into every American home. In preparation for the
day when Internet accessibility is truly ubiquitous, and not
confined to the hi-tech cognoscenti, AOLTiWa is preparing
to take the cultural and ideological reins, and take us
the next five years," declared Steve Case, the 41-year-old
AOL Chairman and CEO, in
a 1998 speech to journalists, "I believe the future of
this medium will be determined more by policy choices than
by technology choices." This is the voice of the would-be
monopolist. Just as the Rockefellers and Morgans before him,
Case does not hesitate to use political pull as just another
weapon in the entrepreneurial wars. No fan of laissez faire,
it was Case who practically led the lynch mob as it screamed
for the blood of Bill Gates. It was AOL that conspired with
Netscape and Sun Microsystems to break the nonexistent Microsoft
"monopoly" and cripple a rising threat to their hegemony.
AOL met with the government to clear its own merger plans
with government prosecutors and "trustbusters," while egging
on the Justice Department jihad against Bill Gates.
So much for the myth of the Silicon Valley "libertarians"
who dominate the computer industry. The guy is like one of
the villains in an Ayn Rand novel come to life – a truly appalling
case of life imitating art.
up-and-coming robber baron went on to instruct the assembled
journalists on how "important" it will be "to establish ground
rules for how to position the Internet in the political process."
And what about these "ground rules" – who will make them?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but somehow I have the sneaking suspicion
that Case and his Washington cronies – skilled as they are
in the 21st century art of "positioning" – will
play a key role in all this. This prospect should fill you
with fear and loathing.. For Case’s vision is as dystopian
as the AOL cyber-community he created a restrictive,
self-enclosed almost hermetically sealed environment, heavily
policed by censors. In this latest mega-merger of media giants,
we are getting a glimpse of the future of the Internet – and
it isn’t pretty.
GREAT "DANGER" OF DEMAGOGUES ON THE INTERNET
to Case, "there are some legitimate concerns about the impact
of the Internet on politics." To begin with, those bad politicians
might get their hands on it, and even engage in such nefarious
practices as "fundraising." We can’t have fundraisers going
to the American people, and taking in millions in $20 donations
– where would that leave the fat cats but with a diminished
capacity to influence the political process? But that’s not
all. There’s also the great danger of "demagoguery, creating
false rumors to disrupt elections, or circulating unattributed
negative information about opponents."
wouldn’t want to "disrupt" elections, now would we? If we
permit the flow of "negative" information, the carefully previewed
and thoroughly vetted candidates of the Establishment might
get derailed someone outside the elites might even
make it to the White House. I shudder at the very thought
ABOLITION OF "HATE SPEECH"
for "demagoguery" – we all know there are no demagogues on
the left, just as there are no "extremists" on that side of
the political spectrum. And who could disagree that "unattributed
negative information" is a kind of Hate Speech? It’s "negative,"
isn’t it? In the ideal world of the most powerful media mogul
on earth, Pat Buchanan’s famous oration at the 1992 Republican
National Convention would have gone unheard and unremarked
on – a state of affairs fervently desired by our totalitarian
TRUE AND FALSE
"creating false rumors" such as the rumor that the
US government lied about the casualties in Kosovo that supposed
sparked NATO intervention – is something that the Proper Authorities
could not control last time around. As we subsequently found
out, the "false rumors" long denied by NATO turned out to
be truer even than we at Antiwar.com imagined. The total number
of all casualties in the Kosovo war has come down to less
than 7,000, counting both Serbs and Kosovars. Antiwar.com
proudly broadcast the "false rumors" that the alleged "genocide"
was a fake – and prouder still that we stood by our story
until the truth of it was uncovered. The NATO spinmeisters
did everything in their power to control the flow of information,
and shape public perceptions of this, the first "humanitarian"
act of conquest in history. They succeeded to a large extent,
but not completely – the Internet has so far been uncontrolled
and uncontrollable. Naturally, this cannot be allowed to go
on. Case and his cohorts will see to that.
CASE FOR PESSIMISM
most common complaint about the Internet is lack of speed:
most people do not have access to cable modems, and cannot
access the kind of complex images that Case & Co. dream
of beaming directly onto your computer screen. Movies, news,
opinion, and entertainment of all kinds – prepackaged, pre-approved,
and properly sanitized – and all delivered directly to your
hard drive. How? By making high-speed computer transmissions
practical and commonplace via cable as opposed to phone line
transmissions. When that kind of speed becomes the standard,
then the Drudge Report
and the tiny little startup media companies and news organizations
– all potential rival producers of content – will be eliminated.
For this content must pass through cables, and the ground
cannot be broken for these without the approval of politicians,
federal, state, and local. The gatekeepers are still with
us, in the form of federal, state, and local regulators. And
this is the key to understanding the emerging Media Trust,
taking shape before our eyes in the preliminary form of AOLTiWa
– and Matt Drudge’s well-justified pessimism about the future
of the Internet.
IN THE CRIB
you really believe that just anyone can start digging up the
ground and laying down cable? Go out and try it. Forced to
deal with state-privileged monopolies, content providers will
pay dearly for access to the high-speed information highway
– if they can afford it at all. The evolving New Media
made up of independent news providers and alternative, decentralized
nodes of opinion-making will be stopped dead in its
tracks: the technology that catapulted them to the cutting
edge will have reached a bottleneck through which they cannot
pass. Far from symbolizing the triumph of the New Media, the
AOL-Time Warner merger marks the victory of the Old Media
over its nascent competitors. Drudge mourns this as "the death
of the new media," and, if so, the obituary headline should
read: "Strangled in the Crib."
DYSTOPIAN WORLD OF AOL
world Case and his corporate minions are preparing for us
is reflected and prefigured in the artificial cyber-universe
he created, the self-referential and highly controlled AOL
system, with its network of chat rooms, posting boards, email,
and instant messaging. The AOL world is relentlessly policed
by guardians of political correctness who would have shut
John Rocker up before he even opened his mouth. During the
Clinton impeachment crisis, chat rooms were tirelessly patrolled
by AOL censors, who immediately gagged anyone for even the
slightest criticism of the President’s Caligulan excesses.
This was one of the reasons for the birth of FreeRepublic.com,
the famous conservative posting board and online community:
founder Jim Robinson and friends chafed mightily under the
strict rules imposed by AOL’s Clintonian commissars. In any
case, the insufferability of the AOL Thought Police is legendary,
and you can follow the
links yourself for plenty
of horror stories.
would just point out that the movement to impose "hate speech"
laws in this country, similar to the "speech codes" that exist
on our college campuses, is making great strides against the
First Amendment – and the creation of an incipient Media Trust
for the age of the Internet is a giant step in that direction.
This way, we don’t even need to pass official legislation,
and it never comes up for a vote: we simply use the "private
sector" to define and enforce political correctness – by creating
a media monopoly that exists because of government intervention
in the economy.
REGULATORY LEGACY OF THE TV ERA
no mistake: this is not the product of laissez-faire capitalism,
or a truly free market. We may be in the age of the Internet,
said to be inherently libertarian, but we still have with
us the legacy of the television era: a highly regulated economic
environment, in which the government doled out access to the
airwaves while holding them as a "public trust." The development
of cable technology broke the monopoly of the networks – and
established yet another monopolistic system, or at least a
series of local and regional monopolies. The infrastructure
set up by these highly regulated and politically-driven markets
is the material and technological basis of the evolving Media
Trust, and in this sense the AOLTiWa merger is a harbinger
of the future. The immediate future may not be One Big Media
Company perhaps there will be two or three global conglomerates
but in the realm of newsgathering and opinion-making
the effect will be virtually the same.
END OF CYBER-HISTORY?
apparent demise of the Internet’s original vision of radical
decentralization does not mean the end of alternative venues,
but only their increased marginalization. Any "content" produced
outside of the Big Three, or the Two Majors, will be relegated
to the sidelines, or else quickly absorbed into the "mainstream."
It’s the end of history, online as well as off, the endpoint
in the evolution of the Internet. From now on, the Media Trust
will not only record history but also
rewrite it, erase it, and recreate it at will.
IN THE HENHOUSE
then, is that it? What can anybody do about it? Asking
government regulators to come in and repair what they have
damaged, right a wrong they made possible, is just
asking for more of the same. No one can predict what turn
technology will take, least of all me. It could be that those
precious cables will soon be rotting in the ground, abandoned
for some wireless cable-less innovation, and the bottleneck
will soon be broken. An upsurge of popular outrage at the
plans of the monopolists could break up the cable monopolies
and establish a free market cable delivery system more efficiently
and productively. The great danger is that the government
will be called in to "fix" the problem – by the very foxes
that have had their eyes on the hen house all along. That
is the story of "reform" and "trust-busting," from the era
of Teddy Roosevelt to the present day.
SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION
seems that nothing short of a social and political revolution
will dislodge the elites in government and the media as cultural
gatekeepers and arbiters of political correctness. As to whether
or not such a revolution is on the horizon – that’s another
column. For now, let us conclude that the much-vaunted role
of technology as a way to automatically and effortlessly achieve
liberty by rendering government irrelevant was a myth that
deserved debunking. I never believed it. It looks like we
are learning, the hard way, that elites never give up their
power voluntarily, and never leave quietly.