Arts, culture and the free flow of information

Concern No. 14: Arts, culture and the free flow of information

Imperialism in the twenty-first century — with US imperialism as its concentrated expression — has more acutely than ever brazenly controlled the realms of culture, arts and the mass media in lockstep with its desperate drive to perpetuate and preserve Empire for another entire century.

Cultural imperialism

Ever since its inception,modern imperialism in concert with the ruling elites in each country have imposed their dominance in culture through the control of media, the flow of information and institutions of culture and the arts (as the educational and language systems) by means of which they prop up backward, colonial, feudal,individualist, patriarchal, racist and even fascist cultures. This the imperialists did, for one, to win the hearts and minds of the African, Latin American and Asian peoples they subjugated and oppressed.

The imperialists and reactionaries make sure that they control the instruments and institutions ofcultural and artistic production. They suppress cultural initiatives that are liberating and which threaten the status quo.

In the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower after the Cold War, however, the pursuit of imperialist globalization has seen a handful of megamonopolies amass a superconcentration of economic and political power, overwhelmingly dominating print, television, radio, film, digital media and other cultural and artistic media in a manner heretofore unseen in history..

In the arena of culture,arts and the mass media, the following few megamonopolies have emerged the biggest:

  • Time Warner (US$90.7 B in Mar-Apr 2007 market value)
  • Walt Disney Co. (US$72.8B)
  • News Corp. (US$ 56.7 B)
  • Viacom (US$53.9 B)
  • NBC Universal (80% owned by General Electric Co. – US$390.6B)
  • Yahoo (US$ 40.1 B)
  • Microsoft (US$ 306.8 B)
  • Google (US$ 154.6 B)
  • Sony (US$ 76.201 B IN 2007 revenues)

These handful of media hypertitans are in totalitarian control of what and how the world’s multitudes read, watch,and listen. In obscene contrast, hundreds of millions across the world,comprising an overwhelming swath of humanity, are mired in medieval socio-cultural poverty, having yet to see a telephone, as well as learn to read and write.

The media supermonopolies and the neocon bloc

The biggest of these mediamegaliths are part of the powerful neoconservative bloc that most brazenly implemented and benefited from the advancement of imperialist globalization and the global war of terror.

This neocon bloc is at the core of the unbroken bipartisan U.S. consensus to stay the U.S. colonial course in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unimpeded march of unprecedented corporate liberalization, and the promotion of fascism. Currently this bloc finds expression in the Bush clique nowin power in the US.

Neoliberal globalization and culture

This handful of media superconglomerates immensely gained from the prime globalization/World Trade Organization (WTO)agenda of corporate liberalization that broke down anti-cartel and anti-trust impediments.

The immense power accumulated by these media hypermonopolies have led both to the corporatization and homogenization of culture in the world. Unleashed trade liberalization across the world of cultural goods and services overwhelmingly produced by these megacongloms lording over Hollywood, USA—coupled with the implementation of various antinational economic programs and policies aimed against national industrialization—has suffocated nascent film, music, publishing, broadcast, TV and other cultural industries and sectors in the oppressed countries. WTO-dictated agricultural liberalization has likewise devastated indigenous communities and their cultures in these countries, dealing further lethal blows to cultural diversity. Trade liberalization even mortally threatened well-developed cultural industries of industrialized countries outside of the United States .

This devastation of entirecultural sectors hand-in-hand with the emergence of a few media superconglomerates has led to wholesale violation of the economic and intellectual property rights of cultural workers, semi-professionals and professionals. The strike waged by the relatively-well-off members of the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) against these media supergoliaths early this year dramatize the lengths to which the media behemoths push to extreme deprivation the working people giving life to the cultural industries.

The rise of corporate hyperpower in culture, arts and the media has likewise pushed the creative and cultural commons to marginalization, subsuming mankind’s collective heritage tosuperprofit ends. A burning concern along these lines are the multifarious attempts to “privatize” or bring under corporate control the Internet, which remains squarely a public cultural resource under public domain or the cultural commons.

Imperialist deceits

As imperialism mounts aggression, it perpetuates a culture of deception and terror among the world’s peoples.

The media supermonopolies are the main purveyors of imperialist and reactionary standpoints and viewpoints on global issues. They disseminate the propaganda, disinformation and massive deceits of imperialist globalization and the U.S.-led global war of terror.

Through these hypermonopolies’ various outlets that overwhelmingly dominate print, the airwaves, the entertainment media and the Internet, they continue to perpetuate the lies forming the original pretext for Bush’s “war on terrorism”, as well as the needed pretexts to justify an imminent war on Iran; to justify a future invasion and armed intervention in Venezuela and the other Latin American governments assertive of their independence from U.S. imperialism; and to demonize other countries critical of the U.S. neocon agenda, such as China and Russia, along with countries in Asia and Africa aligned with these two countries.

With regard imperialist globalization, these megacongloms perpetuate deceits as denying the obvious bankruptcy of the globalization agenda following the successive bursting of history’s biggest economic bubbles; obscuring the roots of and the culprits behind the massive price speculation of oil, food and water; and obfuscating the real criminal causes behind the current U.S.-driven financial/credit/housing megamess.

With the help of the most reactionary cultural forces in countries across the world, these media superbehemoths insinuate the biggest among these lies even in the fields of religion, computer games, entertainment fare, academic discourse, research and materials for children.

The current blatant recourse to manipulation, disinformation, misinformation and deceit to advance Empire’s agenda is a grotesque enlargement of imperialism’s historical efforts to incorporate media in subversive covert actions specially during the Cold War.These subversive actions were revealed for example during the U.S.congressional and media exposes of ties that bind major U.S. and international media outfits to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the wake of Watergate and the U.S. debacle in Vietnam.

This blatant recourse indicates imperialism’s disdain for and subversion of journalism and its fundamental tenets to “tell it like it is,” to arm the citizenry withinformation and the truth, and to speak truth to power.

Such disdain for truth and journalism finds expression as well in the rising suppression, leading often to murder, of independent journalists, truthseekers, artists and other cultural workers and professionals. That Iraq remains the most dangerous place for journalists is intimately tied to desperate U.S. efforts to cover up its war crimes and profiteering as well as its losing politico-military course in that country.

The US-led global war of terror has also inflicted irreparable and incalculable damage to invaluable cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rising anti-imperialist cultural resistance

Amid such blatant courses of action by US imperialism to control culture, arts and the media, antiimperialist cultural resistance is rising to a hightide. Artists, journalists, writers and cultural workers are fighting US imperialist aggression. Alongside the people’s struggles, a new type of culture with a strong anti-imperialist content is emergent and making itself felt in the world.

The overt prostitution of journalism in the biggest media outfits has brought about the emergence of “blog” journalism, where writers, journalists and cultural workers and professionals have found a space independent from imperialism and the media monopolies to out the truth and have it reach the people.

An “indymedia” movement has risen globally, where people’s organizations have come together via the Internet to report the news that matters which is invariably distorted and suppressed by Big Media.

The quite recent maturation of Internet video technology has also seen the explosive growth of “viral” documentaries and other film shorts exposing and opposing the various crimes,anomalies, and scandals of imperialism’s biggest criminals. Political documentaries have in fact mainstreamed in recent years, reaching millions across the globe previously unexposed to hard-hitting revelations of nefarious imperialist schemes.

The recent successful strikes of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Broadway stagehands highlights rising assertion of mainstream cultural workers and professionals of their basic rights and legitimate demands and the extreme greed and isolation of the biggest media conglomerates. The ongoing negotiations between the congloms on one hand, and the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA on the other, could break out into a similar strike as that waged by the WGA.

Imperialist efforts to marginalize the cultural and creative commons, like the Internet, have been squarely resisted by civil libertarians and Internet advocacy organizations as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The deleterious impact of trade liberalization and imperialist globalization on entire cultural sectors and industries in both the oppressed and industrial countries has led to the emergence of a robust global movement for cultural diversity. Cultural professionals have banded together in national coalitions in many countries, which coalitions have in turn fused into an international federation working to effectively take culture out of the WTO/”free trade” regime. The media congloms failed in their lobby to vote down the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, when the United States and Israel found themselves isolated from the international community in disapproving this countervailing international instrument to the WTO agreements.

In light of all these, the League resolves to mount campaigns to:

  1. Expose and oppose the handful of media supermonopolies that have a totalitarian stranglehold on the flow of information, and on what and how the world’s multitudes read, watch and listen. Campaign against supercartelization in the media/cultural industries,as these are blatant anathema to democracy and freedom.

  2. Demand taking culture out of the WTO/”free trade” regime. Take part in the campaign to approve new international legal instruments aimed at countervailing and delegitimizing the WTO/”free trade” regime. Expose and oppose corporatization and homogenization of culture as a deleterious effect of neoliberal globalization on culture. Promote and popularize artistic productions that counter individualism and consumerism;

  3. Demand the immediate repeal of fascist laws as the USA Patriot Act and Human Security Act in the Philippines that promote a culture of submission, institutionalize fascist censorship and surveillance, and impose impediments to the free flow of information. Expose and defy all attempts to censor the internet by stoking manufactured fears ofan “Internet jihad,” among others.

  4. Seek justice for slain and incarcerated journalists, writers, artists and cultural workers and professionals who pursued and are pursuing the truth, freedom, and democracy. Defend the democratic rights of independent and progressive journalists, writers, artists and cultural workers and professionals everywhere. Expose and condemn the active subversion of journalism by the media supermonopolies and imperialism. Unmask and resist their attempts at deliberate disinformation, misinformation and deceit.

  5. Breach the monopoly on the flow of information by the imperialists and reactionaries. Promote alternative channels of information dissemination independent of monopoly media.Turn into the people’s advantage technological developments in media—such as online videos and the internet—in the production and propagation of cultural materials that deepen commitment to anti-imperialist efforts.

  6. Expose and oppose imperialist exploitation, oppression, discrimination and repression of artists,writers, and cultural and media workers and professionals. Promote their rights and welfare. Engage in campaigns against censorship, deportation, torture and imprisonment of artists and media workers and professionals.

  7. Assert cultural self-determination and defend patrimony, specially of the poor countries. Fight for the politico-economic liberation of the oppressed countries. Press for the implementation of genuine land reform and national industrialization in the oppressed countries as key to developing indigenous and national cultural sectors and industries. Demand reparations for the destruction of cultural heritage sites and artifacts in Iraq , Afghanistan and elsewhere brought about by U.S. and other imperialist wars of aggression. Return all cultural artifacts pillaged and plundered by imperialism and colonialism. Condemn privatization of cultural heritage sites.

  8. Encourage the use of arts and culture as tools in countering imperialist and reactionary propaganda. Advance and promote the flowering of the people’s culture and arts. Promote the progressive and liberative aspects of diverse cultures and ways of life combined with respect for and assertion of the rights of peoples and nations to cultural self-determination. Fight the dominance of imperialist, reactionary and backward culture and arts in every arena where we may encounter them.

  9. Promote cultural cooperation among protest movements, progressive international and multicultural productions and their wide distribution, and link-up with mass movement struggles in less developed countries. Develop collective ownership of media and other means of cultural production and distribution. Promote folk,ethnic and indigenous art and cultural forms to express the visions and aspirations of oppressed peoples. Support independent media and artists groups (to include artist prisoners of conscience) that produce pro-people outputs, by way of patronage of their works and provision of material and skills resources; and

  10. Further invigorate the study of the core lessons and tenets of successful revolutionary,anti-imperialist and anti-fascist mass struggles in history to fortify the content of counterculture and to break the deep-seated rabid anticommunist ideological and political deceits pervasive among the intellectuals ever since the end of the Cold War.

Specifically, we resolve to:

  1. Create spaces such as websites to share creative works—graphics, posters, murals, theatre productions, poetry, songs, slogans,radio spots and list of resources including research and theoretical works — that will be accessible from and linked to the ILPS website;

  2. Collaborate, disseminate and promote anti-imperialist cultural works and promote cultural integrity and diversity;

  3. Hold a two-day international study conference and festival before or during the 4th International Assembly;

  4. Fight for justice and freedom for Professor Jose Maria Sison, P. Govindan Kutty, Abu Mumia-Jamal, Axel Pinpin, Angie Ipong and other persecuted artists, journalists and cultural workers; and

  5. Assist the office of the ILPS Chair in drafting more positions on urgent issues in culture and the arts.

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