Wednesday, March 6, 2013

“A provocative and far-reaching account of how capitalism has shaped the Internet in the United States. . . . a valuable addition to the literature on the digital age.” —Kirkus Reviews


Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the digital world.

McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect, McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems and massive indirect subsidies and other policies have made the internet a place of numbing commercialism. A handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners a 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world’s computers. Capitalism’s colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism and made the Internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance and a disturbingly antidemocratic force.

In Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney offers a groundbreaking critique of the Internet, urging us to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.

Lynn says:
"Long-time commentator on media and journalism, Robert McChesney, documents how the ever-growing generously funded lobbies (ex: Google spent 5 milliion lobbying in Washington in the first 3 months of 2012 compared to that amt. for the entirety of 2011) by increasingly monopolistic military/industrial/digital sectors are working in tandem to mold the internet into a profit generating tool.  Through meticulous research the author makes abundantly clear how corporate entities have a vested interest in relegating ordinary citizens to a position of ignorance, servitude and powerlessness over whatever media and economic manipulations thereby ensue.

That the US ranks behind 18 and more other nations in indices (p.210) like press freedom, democracy and public funding for media rankles the author and should give any concerned citizen pause.  McChesney will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming National Conference for Media Reform here in Denver this April.  He writes with an urgency that is remarkably calm- even entertaining,  in the face of so much data backing what would suggest that 'what is emerging veers toward a classic definition of fascism: the state and large corporations working hand in hand to promote corporate interests, and a state preoccupied with militarism, secrecy, propaganda and surveillance.' (p.171)

McChesney's genius is in making so accessible such an information-dense look at the interplay of the worlds of digital technology and 'really existing' capitalism.  He uses that qualifier, "really existing"  frequently to distinguish how economists have historically defined capitalism and how the market behaves when widely believed to have the assumed, somehow magical, ability to correct its own wrongs.  His tacit plea with his readership is to go beyond mere lip-service to the internet's (as well as capitalism's) democratizing potential that its celebrants have enthused about since its inception and engage in the public discourse and hard work of turning that potential into reality." 

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