by Danny Haiphong
WITH EDITORIAL COMMENT BY PATRICE GREANVILLE
“The corporate media must keep its musical minstrel show as far away from the truth as possible.”
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he 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.
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]anny Haiphong, a writer we respect and therefore frequently republish, regrettably seems to share in this post the same speciesist bias we observe among many white leftists (I’m speaking here of the Marxian left, although the “liberal left” is not much better), a viewpoint which, by definition privileges human affairs and problems above anything else, in fact reflecting 19th century Marxian and [Western] humanist vistas making “man the measure of all things.” Haiphong states:
“…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.”
Personally, as an independent Marxist, I am not sure that such a narrow position can hold water in the 21st century, a time of self-evident acute—likely terminal— global crisis characterized by the obliteration of planetary support systems at a fast clip, precisely as a result of endorsing an amoral industrial system built on the notion that exploitation by humans, in all directions, toward fellow humans, non-humans, and “inanimate nature” itself, requires no urgent rethinking. Many on the left, and Haiphong probably too, believe the problem is merely with the abominable values and dynamics of capitalism, a cancerous system based on generalized selfishness, but the actual problem runs deeper. Capitalism only exacerbates it.
READ THE REST OF THIS EDITORIAL COMMENT BELOW. CLICK ON THE BAR.
[learn_more] [dropcap]M[/dropcap]any on the left, and Haiphong probably too, believe the problem is merely with the abominable values and dynamics of capitalism, a cancerous system based on generalized selfishness, but the actual problem runs deeper. Capitalism only exacerbates it. In this context, Haiphong, while correctly calling the killing of Cecil the lion a murder, decries nonetheless the “irrelevant nonsense” surrounding his demise, despite the obvious fact that this animal’s murder did not concern solely “one” or “two” animals, but a whole class of crimes committed by humans for millennia, with complete impunity, and conveniently ratified by religious doctrines of “dominionism”.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s most of us are aware these crimes continue to this day, and have been transformed into a gigantic, ruthless, and hydra-like, profitable industry whose re-examination at the societal level is long overdue. In that sense, therefore, media attention to Cecil’s fate was a good thing for everyone, and that means humanity as a whole, since our species, no matter how often we may want to forget, or even deny it, is inextricably embedded in the web of life. The same cannot be said for the media’s over-attention to the petty squabbles of rappers, or the latest idiocy from the lips of our preternaturally corrupt politicians. That is indeed a complete waste of precious media time.
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ut there’s more to this supposedly “frivolous” over-attention by the normally deceitful corporate media on Cecil the Lion, or the innumerable comments and passionate expressions of outrage we have seen on social media. This animal’s murder is also rooted and easily traceable to an old tradition of white-led exploitation, pandemic poverty and desperation, not to mention widespread political corruption left in place and still enforced by white colonialists and their allies throughout the African continent. In that sense, again, attention to Cecil’s case is not itself a sin, but merely the fact that the coverage was largely superficial, leaving untouched Africa’s horrendous underlying social and political conditions that make such occurrences possible if not inevitable with alarming frequency (we’re also witnessing the extinction of elephants, rhinos and other great species as we write these lines due to direct human activity, long with massive global die-offs resulting from climate change).
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]heres also something else. Such degree of media attention is new, and represents not just another trick in the media’s almost endless arsenal of lies and distractions, but a breakthrough in the way major media report on human atrocities toward nature—especially living nature. While the media noise about the internal conflicts of rappers or any other celebrity, whatever their niche or color, is indeed, as previously stated, irrelevant, stupid, and ultimately criminal given the conditions of crisis we face at this point, Haiphong and other leftists or identity politics supporters who denounce any attention to animal issues as a waste of media resources, many taking umbrage at the thought that such prioritization implicitly equates them with “animals” is not only wrong but invidious and politically misguided. It is a mindless transposition of the old nonsense about different layers of the poor and disenfranchised fighting over crumbs from the table of the rich and powerful instead of fighting the real oppressor—upstairs. Further, over-fixation on identity politics of any kind —no matter how deeply the issues are perceived at the personal level—is a betrayal of true revolutionary focus, since wedge issues, from feminism, gay politics, or even race—should never be allowed to trump class, the chief category that pushes back against all systemically-enforced evils. It is no accident that the Democratic party, the plutocracy’s chief instrument for faux-progressivism, has been a welcoming home for the struggles of bourgeois feminists, gays, and blacks for generations (the latter to this day receiving only promises and empty rhetoric, since eliminating racism would really entail a revolutionary shift in American society.)
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he claim that in a world as problem-riddled as ours we should always prioritize “human struggles” is inherently untenable. Considering the sheer grotesque dimension of systemic crimes, just cleaning up injustices against Black people—or other oppressed humans in general—could necessitate dedicating all of humanity’s attention and media time to such struggle alone, till the end of time, while atrocities derived from capitalism in other areas, especially those concerning the capitalist/industrialism’s assault on nature and animals would go unheeded and postponed indefinitely.
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ut when the entire planet’s ecosystems are finished and nothing stirs on the face of the earth—neither birds nor mammals of any kind —not even many insects we take for granted, what will we have? Nothing but billions of disenfranchised humans drifting from crisis zone to crisis zone, in many cases running away from anthropogenic natural disasters that could have been prevented, or at least rendered manageable through serious administration of political pressure. Thus, taken to its logical conclusion, the argument we must concentrate on “human issues” before we turn our attention to “non-human” issues—an illusory category— is a recipe for planetary catastrophe and massive injustice. As previously stated, to wait to do something until all human problems are eradicated is a virtual impossibility given the gravity of the challenges facing us, and an automatic death and lifetime slavery sentence on countless creatures unfortunate enough to share this planet with our species, a breed that has no peer in the art of brutal tyrannization.
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]adly, one would hope that victims of institutionalized oppression —among all human constituencies—would show the most sympathy toward animal struggles and not the opposite. Non-human animals are not something peripheral to the web of life we all inhabit—something, incidentally, most Africans recognize in their culture even if we do not. They are an integral biological and moral component of our referent universe, fully consistent with the notion that true justice is always indivisible, and that species preferentialism is not supportable due to its inherent immorality. Too many people involved in social justice struggles forget that compassion, while not organically linked to justice itself, is often one of its most effective causative factors. And compassion, too, when deeply felt, is an indivisible quality. There are no easy answers to the dilemma posed by Haiphong and his colleagues. Personally I believe activists should learn to pick their battles carefully and, following Mao’s legendary advice, learn to “walk on two legs” at once. It’s tough, but opponents of injustice can do no less. —Patrice Greanville[/learn_more]
ARTICLE BY DANNY HAIPHONG CONTINUES HERE
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.”[dropcap]M[/dropcap]eek 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 firstname.lastname@example.org  and FIST can be reached at email@example.com 
“…in the new exuberant aggressiveness of world capitalism we see what communists and their allies held at bay.” – Richard Levins (Source: The Proletarian Center)
FACT TO REMEMBER:
IF THE WESTERN MEDIA HAD ITS PRIORITIES IN ORDER AND ACTUALLY INFORMED, EDUCATED AND UPLIFTED THE MASSES INSTEAD OF SHILLING FOR A GLOBAL EMPIRE OF ENDLESS WARS, OUTRAGEOUS ECONOMIC INEQUALITY, AND DEEPENING DEVASTATION OF NATURE AND THE ANIMAL WORLD, HORRORS LIKE THESE WOULD HAVE BEEN ELIMINATED MANY YEARS, PERHAPS DECADES AGO. EVERY SINGLE DAY SOCIAL BACKWARDNESS COLLECTS ITS OWN INNUMERABLE VICTIMS.
And remember: All captions and pullquotes are furnished by the editors, NOT the author(s).