by Danny Haiphong
Social media, like conventional print and broadcast media, are tools in the hands of the owning class. Consumers of these media are distracted and miseducated with lies, irrelevant nonsense and phony battles between highly paid minstrels like Drake and Meek Mill, both of whom “play for the same corporate team.”
US Imperialism's Corporate Media Circus: Lions, Rap Beefs, and the Psychology of Oppression
by Danny Haiphong
“The corporate media must keep its musical minstrel show as far away from the truth as possible.”
The end of the 20th century and onward was titled the "age of information" due to the mass expansion of the internet. Corporate press and bourgeois reporters described the internet as a tool that would democratize the media and give people of all social positions the same access to important information. What the experts didn't mention was the role the internet would play within the already existing social order of the US imperialist empire. The internet's function, as is the case for any tool that disseminates media, cannot be separated from the social system that controls it. The past few weeks alone have verified the centrality of the internet’s master, the corporate media, in the reproduction of the imperialist system's rule of the rich.
Engagement with the corporate media is a psychological act, and the ruling class knows it. This is why monopoly corporations like Comcast have fought hard to deregulate the internet through the elimination of network neutrality and why these same corporations have historically lobbied to end all regulations of the media under the FCC. A corporately controlled media, ruled by no more than five corporations, has meant that access to the power of information and how that information is disseminated is in the hands of the wealthy few. The ruling class uses the corporate media to spread a psychology of oppression. Psychological conditioning is a key component to the ruling class's efforts to misrepresent and align oppressed people to the racist, capitalist system that dominates much of the planet.
“The internet's function cannot be separated from the social system that controls it.”
The past few weeks have placed a spotlight on various ways the media conducts psychological warfare. Whether one observed it by Twitter, television, or radio, the dominant media stories had very little to do with the lives of the majority of humanity. Cecil the Lion and his brother Jericho became instant household names after being murdered by foreign hunters in Zimbabwe. Rap celebs Drake and Meek Mill found themselves entangled in a twitter war of words that eventually led to back and forth exchanges of diss tracks. Although these developments seem trivial and unimportant to the politically aware and involved, the sheer volume of space each issue received from the corporate media reveals the ruling system's ultimate agenda.
This agenda has two components: social conditioning and miseducation. The former refers to the corporate media's reproduction of the social relations imbedded in white supremacy and capitalism. Corporate rap, as reflected by the Drake and Meek Mill rap "beef,” represents one of the most pervasive forms of this process. In this scenario, no mention was made of how Warner Brothers Records has at one time carried the rights to both Meek Mill and Drake’s music. Warner Music Group, its parent corporation, happens to be one of just a handful of monopolies that control much of the rap industry in the US today. So despite recent tensions between them, Drake and Meek Mill play for the same corporate team. They are paid an exorbitant amount of money to perform a narrative of Black existence that is both apolitical and infatuated with the false promises of Empire. Listeners are expected to emulate their desires, all of which enrich media corporations and stabilize white supremacy.
“Neither Drake nor Meek Mill creates music or culture independently of the corporate hip-hop power structure.”
Meek Mill and Drake are two rappers of many whose corporately controlled lyrics and lifestyles are designed to reproduce the colonial position of Black Americans. Their paychecks are dependent on the successful promulgation of a corporate (white) culture and the destruction of the culture of the oppressed. When Drake and Meek Mill got in a "beef" over the integrity of Drake's lyrics, they should have been immediately questioned on their overall integrity as artists. Neither Drake nor Meek Mill creates music or culture independently of the corporate hip-hop power structure. And in this power structure, profits are the objective and the reproduction of Black people's exploitation is the anchor that supports it.
The latter component of the corporate media's agenda, miseducation, supports the careers of corporate hip-hop entertainers and the industry at large. In order to condition oppressed and exploited people effectively, the corporate media must keep its musical minstrel show as far away from the truth as possible. "News" and political commentary that emanate from the corporate media is no more substantive than the entertainment. Every story is filled with distortion, untruth, and distraction. The Cecil the Lion hysteria is the most recent corporate media distraction masqueraded as a legitimate political headline.
“Profits are the objective and the reproduction of Black people's exploitation is the anchor that supports it.”
Cecil the Lion was ironically murdered by an American-based dentist who had no business in Zimbabwe. Yet the corporate media coverage of the lion's death oozed with sensationalized sympathy that was by no means random. Such a circus act is meant to distract viewers from real, substantive matters that actually affect the everyday lives of struggling people. CNN, Fox News, and corporate “local” news agencies provide additional support for these distractions to thrive. Corporate “news” agencies act as mouthpieces for imperialism’s political and economic agenda. Cecil the Lion's death, while tragic on the surface, represents much more than a gruesome hunting expedition. Its propagation further embeds the psychology of oppression into whomever it touches. Dead lions not only matter more than imperialism’s victims (“collateral damage”), but also create a convenient distraction away from the system that creates war and exploitation of humanity in the first place.
The corporate media is a critical tool in the ruling class's war on the consciousness of oppressed people. The enormous profits gained from the corporate media’s expansion add to its value and creates a direct relationship between the psychology of oppression it promotes and the overarching goal of the power structure. Without the minstrel shows of Drake and Meek Mill and the distractions of Cecil the Lion, the false narratives of the corporate media would not have as much room to avoid popular scrutiny. It would be undoubtedly easier for masses of people to question the torture of Muammar Gaddafi's brother and its link to the US imperialist destruction of Libya and relate Obama's paternalistic words toward Kenya to the US militarization of the continent. The absence of the corporate media's circus show would also leave room for expanded political debate on Obama's actual criminal justice policies rather than his token gestures of recent weeks.
“Corporate ‘news’ agencies act as mouthpieces for imperialism’s political and economic agenda.”
Imperialism needs the corporate media because without it, the ruling class would not have the means to condition and mislead the exploited into acceptance of its rule. This is the ultimate goal of the corporate media’s psychology of oppression. The oppressed must not be allowed to question developments such as the “left” identity of the Democratic Party or the legitimacy of a system that enriches the few at the expense of entire peoples and nations. Oppressed people, especially Black Americans and working class communities, are thus taught to perform their role and digest imperial narratives. An organized left in the US imperialist nation-state must continue to develop independent media that can promote the interests of oppressed people wherever they are. The expansion of a peoples'-centered and led media, in conjunction with a revolutionary movement, is central to neutralizing the impact of the Drakes, Meek Mills, and Cecil the Lions of the corporate media circus.
Danny Haiphong is an organizer for Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST) in Boston. He is also a regular contributor to Black Agenda Report. Danny can be reached at [email protected] and FIST can be reached at [email protected]m