Travel anywhere worldwide, and whether Nike, MTV, GAP jeans or fast foods with accompanying health disorders, cravings for American products can be satisfied. US product proliferation via globalization is part of a conscious dissemination of Yankee attitudes oft-described as “cultural imperialism.” US corporations, wanting to cash-in on 95% of the world’s consumers overseas, have moved many operations abroad.
Such US domination inevitably hurts local markets too small to compete against our politically inbred industries and financial systems. Even in the 19th century, you may recall, US fiscal and military coercion, dwarfed compared its gluttony today, forced Korea and Japan out of isolationism via “gunboat diplomacy.”
If incessant economic growth serves US corporate interests, externalities (i.e., destructive impacts) are ignored, especially ecological. Commercials like “I’m lovin’ it” (McDonald’s) and “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” (Coca-Cola ‘71) portray US goods consumption as peace-making unifiers transcending ethnic and social divides. In reality consumption of sodas, cheeseburgers and processed foods deforests tropical ecosystems for cattle, sugar and palm oil production while Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle buy rights to limited and depleting drinking water sources.
Similar potentials for harm hold true for CNN and media conglomerates to which, thanks to satellites, 2 billion people in over 200 countries subscribe. According to British sociologist Jeremy Tunstall, unlike other commodities, governments’ importation of news unavoidably spreads bits of politics and national biases as artifacts. When resulting imbalances in outflow and control of information enhance political influences of powerful nations, undesirable homogenizations of needs and desires are created, which lead, potentially, to cultural extinctions. Against that onslaught, Italy’s “slow food movement,” and resuscitations of non-capitalist civic spaces ─ parks and village greens, for instance ─ offer only limited pushback (see Barber’s Jihad vs. McWorld).
While CNN and MSNBC aren’t immune to partisan prejudices, nowhere is media manipulation of audiences more evident than Fox News and radio. Except for local TV and some journalists of national prominence, such as Chris Wallace, Fox’ bevy of high-ratings commentators is conduit for 24/7 disinformation/character assault water torture. Their choreographed repetitiveness has undermined attempts to mitigate climate change, contain the pandemic and reestablish truth, science and fact-based reasoning in American culture. Rabid, mind-numbing insistence that fundamental responsibilities for public health and safety (e.g. mask-wearing and COVID shots) are attacks on “personal freedoms” and communist takeovers is obvious, albeit ludicrous, brainwashing. But Fox isn’t alone in the laundromat.
Several years ago, Free Press published studies finding 91% of weekday-radio talk formats were right-wing echo chambers, byproducts of how the FCC doles out public airwave access. Of 10,506 licensed commercial radio stations, those controlled by group-owners with 3 or more stations in single markets or who broadcast from multiple towns, primarily aired conservative call-in shows. Because racial and ethnic minorities, comprising 1/3 the population, own just 7.7% of commercial stations, and women only 6%, that limits heterogeneity in public expression.
Is Hollywood really as liberal as reputed? A categorical comparison of films since the days of Ramon Navarro and Fatty Arbuckle might surprise you. Bigoted propaganda in D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation resurrected the KKK long before antitheses like The Defiant Ones, Home of the Brave, Gentleman’s Agreement, Crossfire, In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Opposite Frank Capra’s allegorical link between excessive wealth and moral decay in It’s a Wonderful Life there’s Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (1949). As counterpoint to films decrying political corruption, injustice and prison brutality — I Was a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, Cool Hand Luke, The Birdman of Alcatraz, Shawshank Redemption; Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels — there are Dirty Harry and Death Wish sequels glorifying “law & order” police violence and vigilantism. Countless silver screen expressions of Manifest Destiny were antecedent to Little Big Man, Soldier Blue, Dances with Wolves and Cheyenne Autumn.Strategic Air Command and Red Scare cinema of the Forties and Fifties provoked The Bedford Incident, Dr. Strangelove, War Games, Failsafe and Paths of Glory. Where would humanity be without progressive beacons as artistic lighthouses? I shudder to think.
Scott Deshefy is a biologist, ecologist, “film devotee,” and two-time Green Party congressional candidate.