Problems of Democracy Under Capitalism

Repost from the old site. I’ve always been opposed to public dishonesty, which is one of my problems with Communist states. They lied about so many things that now even when they tell the truth, people figure that “All Communists lie,” so they are unlikely to be believed even when they are honest. You get a “boy who cried wolf” syndrome. Well, capitalists are pretty much the same. Almost all capitalists will always lie to defend their own interests. That is why whenever a businessman or business interest is quoted in the paper on some controversial issue, they are almost always lying. So it seems that in order to be a businessman in capitalist society, one must lie continuously. There are cultures, such as Arab, Japanese, Thai and Filipino culture, where lying is definitely a state of art. American society proscribes all lying as evil, and your average American will tell you that he never lies. The Japanese mindset, which I subscribe to, is, “Only an idiot never tells a lie.” So there is a time and a place for this sort of thing. But in the sort of issues that we read about in our daily paper – controversial issues where two sides are sparring it out – you really want to figure out what’s going on. If the business side can be counted on to lie in defense of its interests nearly 100 Fox News is a more or less 24 hour lie machine, but most Americans are too stupid to figure this out. American political campaigns are all about money and never-ending lying. I can pretty much sort out the lies from the truth after a while, but it’s quite an effort. I figure most folks either don’t have the brains to do this, or they don’t want to know the truth, or they don’t care, or they don’t have the time. Let me give you an example. It is very hard for schizophrenics to tell hallucinated voices from regular voices. After a while, some of them get to where they can tell the hallucinated voices from the real voices. Well, that’s what it’s like for me to winnow out the truth from the lies in our media. The media doesn’t’ really help you too much. I can figure this stuff out after a while, but it takes a lot of time. Time I figure most folks don’t have. At any rate, elections that are nothing but waterfalls of money and lying are hardly exercises in democracy. Under capitalism, typically the state is simply an arm of the business community. Some more progressive capitalist states (Europe, for instance) have gotten away from that somewhat, but it’s never really easy. Furthermore, nearly the entire media is usually controlled by the top 1 You would think that these things would be obvious to anyone living in a capitalist society, but toss that idea out sometime in a crowd and watch the hostile responses come back. It’s painful to admit that the media one loves so much is hostile and run by one’s class enemies. That hurts, and it makes you feel stupid. You’re reading your enemies’ propaganda, you idiot! That’s the message. People get their backs up. In recent years in the US, the state has become more and more entwined with business interests, and hence has become more and more dishonest, just like the businesses that it is now essentially a part of. That is why the Bush Administration is a never-ending Lie Machine. That is why US administrations increasingly wage war on science – because under capitalism, businesses typically despise science. Science is out to discover the truth, come Hell or high water. To the businessman, truth is whatever helps the bottom line and falsehood is whatever hurts the bottom line. If a businessman has to lie 20,000 times about 20,000 things to protect his bottom line, he will do it and not blink an eye. Then he will get up and start it all over again. Since business sets the dominant cultural hegemony under capitalism, most capitalist societies will tend to be hostile to science. So, living in a capitalist society, one is really swimming in an ocean of lies. Once you enter corporate culture, you need to become a lying sociopath like the corporation itself, or you are fired. The corporation is like an ant hill. Let us call this Lying Ant Hill. If the corporation itself is a sociopathic pathological liar, so must most of its component parts, the humans who make up the corporation. An educated and aware populace is essential for democracy. Yet how is this possible in capitalism, where the elite-controlled media lies nonstop? Where the state itself is a lie factory for wealthy interests? Where business interests can never be counted on to tell the truth? You can be like me and try to get to the bottom of things, but it’s frustrating and time-consuming. Most folks have better things to do. Democracy in most capitalist countries has serious problems. As long as the media is completely controlled by the wealthiest capitalist interests, the truth will be difficult to discover. The state itself can no longer be counted on, as it is captured by business interests and finds itself lying constantly to defend those interests. In short, the classic Marxist argument that capitalist democracy has serious issues has a lot of truth. The way out of the tunnel is to get some of the money out of politics via campaign finance reform. As almost all politicians are completely bribed and corrupted (bought and paid for), this solution is generally a nonstarter. Media democracy is another route out. But it’s difficult due to high startup costs. One solution would be to allow access to more of the radio band to local or pirate radio stations. The ferocity with which the government has attacked pirate radio shows how terrified the US state is of media democracy. The TV band, which is mostly cable now anyway with up to 500 channels, should be in part licensed out to local entities. There should be channels available for all sorts of folks all across the political spectrum. If you’ve got the camera and the studio, do it yourself. But the need to sell ads makes democracy in media under capitalism very difficult. Papers, radio, TV and magazines need to sell ads to survive, and hence necessarily become the mouthpieces of the business and corporate entities that advertise in their media outlets. Progressive presses are usually only possibly via some wealthy benefactor who is willing to eat it on advertising in order to publish a Left or pro-labor paper. This is why public access channels are the only progressive and pro-people spots on the radio band – no ads. They are listener-supported, but listening to their endless fund drives makes you realize how tenuous their existence is. Media democracy via licensing out the cable and radio spectrum to local outfits, however, is almost impossible because the government entities that license the spectrum out are completely controlled by corporate media interests. Hence, our public airwaves, owned by you and me, worth billions of dollars, are given away to our class enemies for pennies on the dollar. The rest of us are then locked out of the band or even arrested if we try to break into the spectrum like the pirate radio guys did. Even if public access is granted, the fact that we have allowed horribly abusive private cable TV monopolies everywhere in the US means that these companies would probably refuse to carry any progressive stations that somehow got on the air. The Internet offered a breath of hope to this dismal state of affairs. The cost of publishing was down to just about zero, or at least nothing but time. The Communist dream (pure Communism, after the withering of the state) where media was so democratized that neighborhood media outlets sprung up everywhere and every man could be a journalist, seemed to be happening before our eyes. The government and the big media are really scared. Progressive voices, anti-corporate voices (like this blog, for instance), could break into the media, and the circulation was limited only by how many readers you could somehow convince to come to the website. Hence we see desperate efforts by the cable and telephone monopolies to create fast lanes on the Internet for big-money payers and slow lanes on the Net for everyone else, like for instance this site. There is one important lesson here: capitalism never really tolerates dissent to its essential elite structures and business interests. They will allow dissent a lot of times, but the Hell if they will give it a voice or allow it any power. Under capitalism, the elites and business interests have to control the media space, necessary to construct the Gramscian cultural hegemony. In the Third World, dissenters against elite and business interests are regularly arrested, beaten, jailed, tortured and murdered. And if the voices get loud enough or strong enough, the capitalists will just launch a coup, overthrow the state, then launch an Argentine or Chilean style wave of terror to permanently shut folks up. If that doesn’t work, they will make the economy scream. That’s “democracy” under capitalism in a nutshell. To put it mildly, it’s got some serious issues.

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