This Is the Perfect Summary of the Problem With Media Monopolies
"My buddies and me are getting real well known. The bad guys know us and they leave us alone."
TikTok is a wellspring of creativity and critique, which has made it an exciting platform for activists. Similar to how Black Lives Matter and #MeToo got started on Twitter, socialism and anti-capitalist critique have thrived on the video-based platform. TikToker James Rehwald (@jrehwald15) has made one such video that might be the most creative and concise summary of the problem with media monopolies and how they support capitalism and neo-imperialism—all to the tune of the iconic Beach Boys song “I Get Around.”
The video was first posted in November of 2022, but the repost has gone viral, racking up an impressive 2.3 million loops and 464k likes. I find this video particularly interesting for how it manages to get a massive amount of information across in a relatively short time span and keep depressing material engaging. Still, the video being short means that it can’t say everything, so here’s a breakdown of the different media monopolies and ideology pipelines highlighted in the video.
Government as monopoly
U.S.-funded non-governmental organizations, political groups, broadcasters, right-wing think tanks, and PSYOPs all have acted essentially as advertisers for the United States. Their intent is to get foreign forces to act in America’s “best interests”—generally capitalist ones—even if it compromises their own wealth and security. The video especially points out the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy, U.S. Agency for Global Media, Atlantic Council, and United States Agency for International Development, all of which have shady histories of prioritizing American interests over actual aid.
They’ve used these tactics abroad and at home. We’ve seen (and cringed at) the super racist early Cold War propaganda films before, but they hit very differently coming off of WWII when people still wholeheartedly trusted their government. Nowadays, the government depends on Hollywood to do its propaganda for them. PSYOPs were even used on Americans after Vietnam in an attempt to revitalize American “patriotism.”
The U.S. government has also proven a willingness to ignore the principles of democracy in favor of creating dictatorships that serve the U.S. government’s purposes. The U.S. has a whole Wikipedia page of the foreign governments we’ve interfered with, especially assassinations/coups against democratically elected, socialist leaders.
The American military is also the result of a monopoly. 90% of the world’s military bases are U.S. bases in foreign countries, but no other countries have military bases in the U.S. It’s a fear tactic and one that has been very successful.
News as monopoly
Theoretically, the news is meant to be the check and balance for both government and corporations.
In practice, every major newspaper/news network in the country is owned by one of these 15 billionaires and these 6 corporations. This, plus advertiser revenue, means the news has an inherent interest in maintaining the capitalist hierarchy. Even when a reporter or important story manages to break through censors, it can easily get buried. The Panama Papers came and went with little action, while the reporter who broke the story was killed by a car bomb.
It’s not a new phenomenon, either; the School House Rock parody Mediaopoly made fun of the relationship between news and advertisers all the way back in 1998 and remains to be one of the few SNL sketches to be pulled from circulation.
Social media as monopoly
Of course, social media companies are a part of that problem, which the video acknowledges. Social media corporations have turned us and our data into a product for sale, which has allowed targeted advertisers to sway elections or even provoke outright genocide.
Even many ‘independent’ media outlets/influencers are beholden to larger corporations through advertising, monetization, and sponsorships, which has especially helped bigoted influencers and created a pipeline of internet right-wing extremism.
At the same time, this TikTok shows the other side of the coin: social media as a platform for correcting misinformation/propaganda that we have been taught was fact. Social media as a platform for grassroots organizing. Social media as a platform for change.
If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend keeping an eye on the imperialism and neocolonialism tags and/or following James Rehwald for more.
(featured image: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
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