Prof. Robert McChesney on the Need for Media Reform, and Capitalism’s Corruption of the Internet

by Peter B. Collins on May 15, 2013

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Prof. Robert W. McChesney, media reform activist and author, talks about his new book, Digital Disconnect, offering a critical analysis of the commercialized internet and today’s media.McChesney is the Gutsgell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a co-founder of the media reform group, Free Press.  The full title of his new book is Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy.

McChesney offers a critical view of internet “celebrants” who preach an outdated vision of the web, and notes that the web is controlled by a handful of monopolists and duopolists and that corporations and the government are able to monitor all of our communications to collect data and enable the expanded police state and creeping fascism.

We open with a discussion about President Obama’s nomination of Tom wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission.  We refer to an excellent analysis of Wheeler by B. Blake Levitt at Counterpunch, which lists 12 reasons why the Senate should reject Wheeler.  McChesney refers to Obama’s nomination as “an extended middle finger” to the media reform movement that largely supported him in 2008.  McChesney talks about the recent Free Press conference in Denver, and the need to re-tool reform strategies.

He defines his concept of Political Economy of Communication (PEC), and how it applies to the expanded corporate control of the internet, including the “walled garden” that is Facebook.  We talk about “cookies” and the detailed data collected on our web usage that is used to target ads and content at us.

There is much more in the interview, including Dean Baker’s idea for public subsidy of journalism through the “citizenship news voucher”.

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