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Arise Ye Media

by James Lileks

Over at Salon there’s an excerpt from the book Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA. The title, you suspect, comes from John Lennon’s limp hymn to a happy hippie hand-holding utopia. But once socialist control has been gloriously achieved thanks to the tireless work of people who think the “have a penny, take a penny” dish at the café is proof America yearns for the leveling blade of egalitarian revolution, what will the media look like? The author explains.

 “The articles in newspapers and magazines and online will not be filler between ads for teeth whiteners and weight-loss pills. There won’t be TV commercials for Coke, cars, or million-dollar condos.” So the new citizens will have stained teeth and drink Citizen’s Cola, apparently. There will still be cars, but there won’t be ads, because ads flood your rational brain with option-lust and make you buy the car you “think” you “want” as opposed to the one whose assembly line has no robots and pays everyone $463 an hour, whether he’s designing the engine or putting knobs on the radio. (Which, by the way, plays only Workers Stations.)

Since there won’t be ads for these things, they presumably will have been banned by unanimous consent of the unshackled multitudes, or forbidden by the state on behalf of the People’s Will. Doesn’t matter, does it? What counts is releasing the media from the iron fist of corporate control.

Sounds great, but who pays for journalism? Well, the state, of course, because if there’s one historical model for media truth-telling, it’s government press. “Neighborhood associations” will gather the crime news, but you can bet the news will have the right attitude:

Citizen Bernard Johnson was the victim of an unfortunate residue of capitalism’s lingering violence when he was approached by two historically undervalued members of society and instructed at gunpoint to surrender his ration cards. Authorities are looking for anyone connected with the Smith & Wesson Company who made the weapons before the plant was confiscated, razed, and converted into a beet farm. Johnson, who works at the beet farm, expressed full confidence that this year’s quota would still be met. 

If you think this may substitute one bias for another, the author is ready: “Will Autoworkers News and Views on TV have a regular segment devoted to union members’ criticisms? Why not?”

Ta da! People will be free to speak out. Encouraged. It will be anti-social not to: “Social justice committees will be elected by the union membership to look into complaints and to dig up and root out capitalist, racist, and sexist weeds that continue to grow.” Your neighbor complains to the Block Captain about sexist weeds (she overheard you through the thin wall, praising the way your wife looked in her gray jumpsuit) and the results of the trial get posted in the paper. Utopia!

No more Wall Street news, because there will be no Wall Street. But “there will be no shortage of economic news in a socialist society. Some news will still come from local and national governments that set product-distribution quotas or help to negotiate them.”

At this point the good socialist has to stop for a cold shower, because this kind of talk leads to heady images of sturdy peasant women on tractors wearing scarves AND NOTHING ELSE.

Aside from riveting economic reports (“Rivet Production Up 145 Percent; Spontaneous Declarations of Joy Fill Lungs of All”), here’s the author’s suggestion for light ’n’ bright news in the socialist USA: “There could also be reports of school poetry slams, neighborhood art shows, music festivals, rival baseball teams cooking contests [sic], and dance parties.”

Since the author’s connection to reality makes dental floss look like the cable needed to tug the USS Nimitz, he doesn’t realize that the Internet abounds with websites that offer these things for people who care. No, strike that; he’s heard of these “Twitters” and “blogs” and such, and believes they will be a Vital Force in the new socialist media. But if the old days before media concentration were great, and we had three TV networks, how is it bad that we have so many options now, including the dang-near-infinite proliferation of online voices?

Because Fox News exists and people watch it with drool running down their chins, their heads as empty as rotten molars, waiting for Sean Hannity to pour an amalgam into the aching void. Only socialism can help them. Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains. Like at Applebee’s, eating ribs. Something must be done.

The page has a link at the bottom for anyone who wishes to advertise on the site, and it goes to a page that says: “For more information on how we can assist in developing a customized program that will help you meet your marketing needs and objectives, please contact.”

No doubt there’s a flip-flop maker who’s totally cool with nationalizing the footwear industry and wouldn’t do the whole “profit” thing if it weren’t for the way Big Shoe rigged the market, but it’s hard to sustain a website payroll with such clients.

One more precious detail. Imagine is published by HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In other words, a subsidiary of the company that owns Fox News is publishing a book that demands the nationalization of Fox News, and this is supposed to make you think capitalism stifles dissent. You could say it’s an example of capitalists’ selling them the rope with which they will be hanged, but that assumes the buyers can figure out how to tie a hangman’s noose. Let alone their shoes.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at www.lileks.com.

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