“How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy”

The National Conference for Media Reform just closed the first day of its events.  Out of money, time, and energy, I, unfortunately, could not attend so I have especially appreciated the conversations Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman are broadcasting at DemocracyNow.org where they talk with Robert McChesney on his new book, Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy (with links to the first chapter on the website). The discussion opens with words from the media activist, Aaron Swartz, who tragically ended his own life this January after being demonized and surveilled after essentially e-liberating academic scholarship.

McChesney describes google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple as both monopolies and empires that have changed the internet at the levels of access, use, and application with no real separation from a national security state.  Along with Gonzalez, McChesney advocates for a political-economy of the media, going so far as to call AT&T, Verizon, comcast/cable a cartel that has essentially privatized the internet.  I tend to agree and wonder how and why we, as writing teachers, would ever frame technology in our classrooms and with students outside of these kinds of conversations.

The best take-away from the conference seems to be that communities and groups ARE taking the media into their own hands. And while the conference sounds like it is very hands-on, it is also minds-on, something that doesn’t always happen when we turn college writing classrooms into tech labs and demos.  Writing in the 21st century has to be about more than new tools and technologies. First and foremost, we need to talk about exactly what this conference seems to be reaching for: a cultural revolution.  This, to me, seems like exactly what black radical traditions have always been about anyway… we have never NOT been in need of cultural revolution.