FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Commodifying Dissent: Media, the Arts and the Hope in Cooperatives

by

shutterstock_180341411

In the latest onslaught of apocalyptic news updates: The European Union is in crisis after the BREXIT vote, endless wars continue to ravage Africa and the Middle East causing millions of refugees to flee for their lives, ISIS strikes again, this time slaughtering over one hundred and fifty innocent Iraqis in Baghdad, and man-made climate change is wreaking havoc, fueling the third major mass extinction of species on Earth.

Meanwhile, back in the halls of empire the theatrics of the electoral process, together with the usual seasonal sports spectacles are mesmerizing and distracting the vast majority of the American public from the pressing issues threatening society. Despair and hatred mar our streets, nightclubs, schools, churches and movie theaters. Greed has overtaken empathy and a few powerful individuals have squashed the collective. Whole communities have been ravaged by neoliberal agendas that imprison and impoverish, all in the name of the almighty greenback.

But it is just another day at the office for the 1%. They own the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government. As Chris Hedges frequently stresses: “We’ve undergone a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion. And it’s over. We’ve lost, and they’ve won.”

The vast majority of media sources, the watchdogs meant to protect democracy and the people’s interests at all costs, have succumbed to the rule of profit, aka “ratings”. They have become de facto propaganda outlets meant to manufacture consent and sell us on the faux virtues of consumerism and the American dream.

The corporate-owned mainstream media has been complicit on many levels. It is business as usual when a major outlet like MSNBC casually interrupts US Congresswoman Jane Harman speaking about NSA mass surveillance to feature the “breaking news” of teen pop star Justin Bieber’s DUI arrest. News networks carry on for hours with mind-numbing repetition about Donald Trump’s racist and misogynist antics, while all but completely ignoring a massive sit-in led by Democracy Spring, a movement that champions an end to the corruption of big money in our politics. Pundits whose job is to cry wolf endlessly discuss ISIS and the “threat of radical Islam”, but thorough analyses of the continued crimes of capitalism and imperialism are taboo, not to mention any productive discussions about systemic alternatives.

In this climate of corrupted news outlets, media that are independent of corporate funding are crucial in providing the people accurate information about systems of power and control.

But historically, the media has not been the only watchdog for the people and against powerful interest groups. Artists and other creatives have often used their works to voice progressive ideals that rebel against widely held conceptions of gender, race and class. As such, artists have been among the first voices of dissent to be targeted by totalitarian and fascist regimes. In the American capitalist culture, artists fall prey to a system that monetizes and commodifies all walks of life, including health care and education. Many artists willfully sell out, becoming court jesters who contribute their art to the needs of empire, i.e. as propaganda. Now studied as a degree at schools for higher education, the bulk of arts have become part of an “art market” – a multi-billion dollar industry that is more about a lifestyle and an investment, than it is about progressive messages or a passion for a new and interesting aesthetic. In the current cynical era when replicas sell for $100,000, there is little room for political art that expresses genuine and independent notions that challenge systemic conventions.

There are exceptions. Some artists refuse to corrupt themselves and their art by adhering to the whims of the “art market”. Notably, since the late sixties, there has been a movement of graffiti and street artists who have claimed public space from private owners. Born in the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City (arguably) and now a global phenomenon, graffiti and street art often empower disenfranchised communities by serving as a voice of dissent, and providing free, uncensored messages regardless of commercial constraints.

The pathology behind the hijacking of media and the arts by the lords of capital runs deeper than the mere criminality of the 1%. It lies at the roots of one of the fundamental American values- individualism, where the achievements of the lone genius are sanctified, and those of the collective are ignored or even vilified. Individualism divides and conquers, providing the promise of immense spoils for victors, while always blaming failure on individual inadequacies, not systemic ones.

The cult of individualism has been so deeply ingrained in the American psyche that it has degenerated the biological human affinity to empathize rather than disregard, collaborate rather than dominate and has stifled the desire to give without the expectation of immediate return. Individualism has made cooperation a waste of time. But the fact of the matter is that humans have evolved as a social species and naturally yearn for and need connection, affirmation, love and stimulation to survive, thrive and create.

The crises humanity faces leave no choice but to decommodify dissent, abandon notions of individuality at the expense of others, topple hierarchies, and unite around democratic cooperatives that promote community, democracy and solidarity. Returning ownership of dissent to the public is a crucial step towards revolutionizing the workspace, en route toward a truly free and just democratic society.

More articles by:

Yoav Litvin is a Doctor of Psychology/ Behavioral Neuroscience.  

November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail