Customer Reviews: Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle against Corporate Media (Open Media Series)
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on December 3, 2002
'Our Media Not Theirs' is one of two or three books that convinced me that the gulf between conservatives and liberals in the United States is relatively small while the one between powerful corporations and the majority of American citizens is enormous. In this refreshing, intelligent, and down-to-earth book, McChesney and Nichols provide an astute analysis of increasing corporate media consolidation and its harmful impact on life and democracy in America. As this trend continues, according to McChesney and Nichols, media content is increasingly geared toward profit and provides no significant analysis or factual reporting. As a result, Americans are left with massive advertising whose requirements not only displace news content but actually begin to shape it. The news, according to McChesney, and Nichols is evolving into a massive infomercial--a trend that is deeply opposed by Americans on all ends of the political spectrum.
McChesney and Nichols dispel many commonly held myths of the American media including the notion that it merely 'gives the people what they want'. The authors demonstrate that media content is not determined by popular demand but by corporate and advertising requirements. Many well documented surveys, hearings, and town meetings indicate that Americans of all political stripes hunger for a real media, for one that provides objective reporting of facts, meaningful analysis, and an examination of different points of view.
The authors also explain the puzzling myth of the media's liberal bias. Conservative zealots such as Rush Limbaugh and Anne Cultur often accuse the media of excessive and, in their opinion, offensive liberal views, while many liberals view the media as the propaganda wing of the political and economic elite. McChesney and Nichols trace the myth of media liberal bias back to the Reagan era when any questioning of the president's character or competence was immediately labeled a liberal bias. But when it comes to the most significant stories of the past two years (The dysfunctional 2000 presidential election, government and corporate corruption resulting in the collapse of major companies such as Enron, and the causes of 9/11 and the resulting 'War on Terrorism') the media refuses to provide meaningful, fact-based, and analytical coverage of events. This is especially evident in the case of Enron and similar companies, in which the media simply categorized the phenomenon as a bad business problem and ignored its massive implications of political corruption. In the case of 9/11, the media desisted from any meaningful analysis of the facts and instead produced paean after paean for President Bush.
Does the media deliver any meaningful content to anyone at all? McChesney and Nichols argue that, sure, they provide round the clock business coverage for a tiny minority of bankers, traders, and corporate executives. But when it comes to operating a free press that provides a variety of coverage that is essential to any functioning democracy, the media doesn't deliver. Most media legislation such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is performed behind closed doors and almost always results in increasing consolidation.
This book would be pretty depressing if it were only a critical analysis of the corporate media, but fortunately there is more to it than that. McChesney and Nichols chronicle both the dissatisfaction that Americans of all political persuasions feel toward the media and the burgeoning movement for media reform. In asking concerned readers to get involved with media reform, the authors compare this situation with reform movements of the past to illustrate that it is difficult but by no means impossible. At the end of the book the authors produce a very practical list of required events for media reform and of things that the average person can do. They point out a significant number of existing media watchdog and reform groups and urge them to pool their efforts in the coming months. Personal involvement in media reform can, according to the authors, stem the tide of increasing corporate media consolidation, diminished reporting and analysis, and of the ever increasing intrusion of commercials and advertising in every facet of American life.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants more out of televised and printed news than massive commercials and meaningless coverage of events. Excluding the political and economic elite, I suspect that as much as conservatives and liberals disagree with each other, both would rather see their difference reported and examined by the media in a meaningful fashion instead of in a superficial, branded one. The title of this book, 'Our Media Not Theirs' in no way refers to political distinctions such as liberal and conservative. Instead, it refers to the fact that the media should reflect the needs of the majority of Americans, not its ever-shrinking handful of corporate owners. When this happens, America will truly have a free press instead of the current institution that masquerades as one.
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on January 2, 2003
This concise book deals with the deplorable state of the news media in the United States. Whereas the propaganda system wants us to believe that the media is pluralistic and open to opposing points of view, the reality is that the media is heavily tilted towards espousing corporate interests that are at odds with the interests of the general population. The result is that democracy is greatly weakened because a functioning democracy depends on an informed public to make decisions. This current state of affairs stems from the simple fact that the media is owned by wealthy individuals and corporations who only allow us to hear and see what is in their interests. In addition to exposing the corruption of the media, if you will, this book gives some guidlines as to how citizens can make the media more responsive to our needs.
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on June 11, 2003
The key issue today is media reform.
An aggressive and adversarial press is crucial to our democracy.
Much of the apathy and disappointment that people express with the state of the world is due in no small part to the media. In my opinion, Americans have always been somewhat self-absorbed and apathetic. Also, there is really no such thing as "objective" journalism. Never was, and unlikely there ever will be. Everyone has their own biases and assumptions, especially journalists. What's different today is that media consolidation has reduced the number of competing voices to a very small, advertiser-focused group of companies, who are trying to deliver news as cheaply as possible. That.s why you know more about J. Lo than about, say, the fact that the US is giving no longer giving any aid to Afghanistan -- after eviscerating their government and decimating the country. There's just no profit in telling Americans the real news, or so it seems.
What's the usual problem with "lefty" type books, especially those written by academics? They usually spend an inordinate amount of time trying to prove their thesis correct, and by the time they have beaten you over the head with facts and statistics, they peter out on any suggestions for solutions, and the reader is left feeling helpless, angry and more depressed than when they started reading. That's a recipe for the marginalization of progressives, especially during these conservative times.
McChesney and Nichols don't fall into that trap with this book, however. They do indeed beat you over the head with the statistics and facts, but they make concrete suggestions and point to real models of success in the world today.
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on March 1, 2003
If you think we can't change what's wrong with media, read this book. McChesney and Nichols explain the crisis of monopoly media, offer great examples of what people are doing around the world, and then show what we can (what he have to) do in the U.S. This is the best "news" I've read in a long time.
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on April 25, 2005
This is a must-read for campaign reformers. The authors have demonstrated well that there is absolutely no business entity that our trusted congressmen cannot penetrate and control, and the most important to them has been our national media. While other corporations have just given campaign cash in return for taxpayer assets, sometimes even policies affecting national security, politicians have sealed the deal with media cash PLUS the ability to control their lifeline to the voting public. Not only do they get Big Media cash with this deal, they get a media that is not very likely to report on the daily corruption by them or their party. Sure, the Tom DeLay campaign's $500,000 payments to his wife and daughter will get reported (how can they cover that up?), but the meat of our corrupt moneyed political system will sit on the shelf. Why? Because Big Media is now a major player in the political system.

With the blessing of congress (in return for cash), big media conglomerates have been able to acquire most of the local broadcasters and press with a hands-off policy by the FTC, and there are no longer checks and balances. Our free press is now free only to those who control it.
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on April 28, 2003
... George Harrison has warned us all about the media with his very last album - BRAINWASHED. Jerry Mander warned us years ago when he wrote: FOUR ARGUMENTS FOR THE ELIMINATION OF TELEVISION. Now, Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols are warning us yet again with OUR MEDIA, NOT THEIRS. ... Read this book if you're angry enough about the media in general to begin to DO something about it, because this book does not stop at complaining about what is bad about the media; it offers us all multiple solutions to how we can actually confront the situation and create viable alternatives to this BEAST that is devouring everything in its path like a rabid Godzilla on steroids!
... This is SERIOUS business! Look what they write on pages 91 and 92: "As in the United States, a striking and important consequence of the global commercial media market has been the attack on journalism, and the reduction in its capacity to serve as the basis for an informed, participating citizenry. Let us be clear here: We are not blaming the global media system for all the flaws in journalism. Establishing a media system that fosters a freewheeling, independent, wide-ranging, and vibrant journalism and political culture is no easy matter, though it is something that all democratic societies should aspire to develop. National press systems prior to - and in conjunction with - the global commercial system were and are sometimes adequate at this job, but many were failures. Frequently, the media have been owned by wealthy individuals or firms that have clearly censored journalism to support their usually reactionary politics, as is the case in Turkey today. Both public and commercial broadcasters in many nations have often been handmaidens of the dominant political parties and interests. In places like Mexico, Peru, and Brazil the dominant commercial broadcasters have tended to be in bed with the dominant pro-business political parties, and to use their media power aggressively and shamelessly to maintain the favored parties in power. Editors and reporters from dissident media who courageously bucked the system and reported on those in power have often found themselves arrested or on the receiving end of a beating or a gunshot. These practices continue today across the world." ... Not very NICE!
... But there is hope! Read on, from pages 123 and 124: "Yet as important as this work is, there are inherent limits to what can be done with independent media, even with access to the Internet. Too often, the alternative media remain on the margins, seemingly confirming that commercial media conglomerates have become so massive because they "give the people what they want." The problem with this disconnect is that it suggests that corporate media have mastered the marketplace on the basis of their wit and wisdom. In fact, as we noted earlier, our media system is not the legitimate result of free market competition. It is the result of relentless lobbying from big-business interests that have won explicit government policies and subsidies permitting them to scrap public-interest obligations and increase commercialization and conglomeration. It is untenable to accept such massive subsidies for the wealthy, and to content ourselves with the "freedom" to forge alternatives that only occupy the margins. How , then, can we force a change in the media systems that dominate the discourse and misinform the debate? By organizing the media democracy movement to make a great leap forward."
... As Jesus said, resisting evil is not the way. Focusing on fighting fire with fire merely draws you into entangled engagement with illusory duality and conflict. We must IGNORE THEM TO DEATH! We must create a critical mass as a viable alternative that totally ECLIPSES the beast that has dominated our path to the pursuit of happiness, a fulfilling life, and true liberty. Only this way, can we find our way out of this mess - by all joining together, in spite of the powers that be, in order to build a new media that does not merely entertain or misinform but one which truly educates and enlightens our whole society and culture. ... YOWZA! - The Aeolian Kid
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on April 28, 2004
We will discover how we the people can take back the airwaves but this book makes you realize you better open your eyes, realize & respond to the truth. This is but one of the struggles of these days as we stand to guard the last of the forests so families have trees to breathe. Our Media, our earth, peace; this is our reality. VOTE.
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on November 28, 2014
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