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Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times Paperback – November 1, 2000

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Anyone who claims to care about the interaction between media and democracy can't not read McChesney's latest. -- Victor Navasky

I found it...the most valuable of three good books [about the media] because he takes the beast directly by the throat... -- Molly Ivins

If Thomas Paine were around, he would have written this book. If Paul Revere was here, he would spread the word. -- Bill Moyers

Those who want to know about the relationship of media and democracy must read this book. -- Neil Postman

[A] rich and penetrating study advances considerably his pioneering work. . . . [A] very significant contribution. -- Noam Chomsky

About the Author

Robert W. McChesney is the Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of some two dozen books on media and political economy, including Digital Disconnect, Communication Revolution, and the award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy; a co-author, with John Nichols, of Tragedy and Farce; and a co-editor, with Ben Scott, of Our Unfree Press, and, with Victor Pickard, of Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights (all published by The New Press). McChesney and Nichols are also the co-authors of the award-winning Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America. McChesney’s work has been translated into thirty-one languages. He lives in Champaign, Illinois, and Madison, Wisconsin.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565846346
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565846340
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,466,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was enlightening. After reading this book you will probably be shocked at the power of just a few media firms and find it scary how easy it is for just a few companies to have major impacts on culture and society. McChesney also fairly effectively argues that this is linked to the decline in political participation.
While I really liked the content of this book and the ease of reading, the arguments are redundant, where the same points are mentioned over and over again. It was like McChesney did not write an outline or organize his ideas before writing this book, but instead just wrote the thoughts as they popped into his head no matter how jumbled they were. Other than that, the book is great, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an open mind and willingness to listen to someone critique our present "democratic" system and "neoliberalism".
Structure: From intro to conclusion, the book is 319 pages long (though the arguments probably could have been made easily with half the pages). It is divided into two parts (politics and history) with 3 chapters in each part (with a chapter in each section having a global focus):
Section 1-Politics
Chapter 1: U.S. Media at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century
Chapter 2: The Media System Goes Global
Chapter 3: Will the Internet Set Us Free?
Section 2-History
Chapter 4: Educators and the Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935
Chapter 5: Public Broadcasting: Past, Present, and Future?
Chapter 6: The New Theology of the First Amendment: Class Privilege over Democracy
Note: There is a monthly review written by McChesney (Volume 52, Number 10 March 2001 Global Media, Neoliberalism, and Imperialism) that basically summarizes most of the points made in this book.
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Format: Paperback
I am a graduate student researching the political structure (or political economy) of the media, and have found the works of Robert McChesney to be very influential for my studies. Here he analyzes how the corporate control of the modern media affects American democracy, and his insights into these areas are both illuminating and shockingly obvious, with a real knack for bringing out common sense enlightenment in understanding the nonsensical behavior and structure of the media. McChesney strongly argues that the media is the one industry most closely connected to the democratic health of the nation, because a democracy functions best when the citizens are well informed. Thus public, and not private, control of the media is a necessity. However, the corporate media system, dominated by well-connected elite mega-conglomerates, is actually the type of hyper-commercial oligopoly that is structurally unable (and unwilling) to give the masses true democratic choices and knowledge. McChesney's theories into how this has damaged the political health of the American people are obvious and depressing.
McChesney is also an outstanding political scientist, as he competently analyzes all sides of communications politics, from America's long-standing democratic traditions to our current ruinous domination by neoliberalism (economics) and neoconservatism (politics). One of this book's most fascinating chapters analyzes the highly troublesome hijacking of the First Amendment by the media conglomerates. Note that this particular book was published in 1999, so the chapter on the possibilities of the internet for democratic communications has become outdated (though McChesney's cynical attitude toward those possibilities has sadly become true).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
McChesney writes an important book about the decline of the quality of our media as it becomes more concentrated in fewer hands and discusses the implications of this concentration for democracy. A book that is relevant today as when it was first published.
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Format: Paperback
McChesney introduces us to laissez faire's New Theology of the First Amendment which since the 1970s has gone against most of the great political philosophers starting with John Stuart Mill: the wealthy have the right to purchase elections, advertisers have the right to operate without regulation, and further, commercial entities are to have the same First Amendment rights as citizens. In other words the role of capital is increasingly off limits to political debate and government regulation. Regarding public service broadcastings increasing marginalization and defunding by the conservatives McChesney asks: "...what type of society will dominate in the United States and globally for the coming generation? Will it be one in which the market and profits are sacrosanct, off-limits to informed political debate? One in which the notion of citizen will be replaced by that of consumer and where we will have a society effectively based on one dollar, one vote rather than one person, one vote? Will we have a society where people are regarded primiarlily as fodder for corporate irresponsibility or will we have a society where citizens have the right to actually determine whatever economic and media systems they regard as best?"
If reading McChesney, the premier historian of the U.S. media, doesn't convince you as to how utterly complicit the media is in the depoliticization and commoditization of American life, and how overdetermined that outcome has become in light of the penetration of the marketplace into every corner of the media, then perhaps you work for the FCC or you or one of the giant media conglomerates (down to 7 at last count who control more than half of the media worldwide).
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