This note is prompted by Tbilisi’s comment regarding the quality of world media on the Japanese crisis, wherein he ranks American corporate media at the bottom. We agree with that grade. The exercise prompted thinking about how we got to where we are and the role of American media in that journey.
Future sociologists studying the American twilight will have a trove of crises to illustrate how America embraced corporate enrichment and governmental incompetence. The result is unaccountable wealth and anger slinking into cynicism. Four immediate examples are: (a) the Japanese catastrophes of March 2011; (b) the BP Gulf spill; (c) the Financial Collapse 2008-2009; and (d) Katrina. All show how America developed passivity to disaster and corporatism.
Katrina happened here. Not some far off tourist spot. And in the clutch, Americans turned their backs on their own for partisan reasons or profit.
Squalor, death and privation – some continuing today – are shrugged off. A major disaster became fodder for meme warfare, much of it covertly racist. No one doubts that a city filled with blonde Republicans would have received different aid. Bush arguably paid a price for his incompetence in the 2006 elections. Significantly, Americans didn’t seem to care enough to re-focus attention on the actual disaster area.
FEMA, toxic mobile homes, contractor abuses — all down the memory hole. Iraq fostered some cynicism. Katrina was JP-5 fuel. Public acceptance and expectation of governmental incompetence took root.
Wall Street’s successful swindle of American (and international) tax payers segues nicely from Katrina. Low confidence in government meant that insider corporate experts were celebrated. Conflicts of interest were a feature, not a bug.
Wall Street still socializes risk through public guarantees and privatizes rewards. Record bonuses or stock dividends are doled out (the Fed just approved Jamie Dimon’s $6 million stock grants). Meanwhile, how many Americans pay attention to the ongoing and staggering mortgage and foreclosure fraud? The Obama Administration isn’t.
The twin structures of corporatism and crisis became clear. Government lacked the will or ability to master detail and assume control. Corporate representatives and experts were required to ‘fix’ matters because of their contacts. Obvious conflicts of interests were shrugged off. Initial public furor lacked meaningful outlet. No one went to jail. No one paid a price. No one cares.
BP followed this script. Obama again proved as incompetent as Bush. BP controlled all the information. No one from the federal government effectively seized control. BP made one strategic mistake — it made public a real time video feed of a gushing well. Without that video it likely could have skated. Once the well was closed (and no longer compelling video) the spill quickly became yesterday’s news. Conflicts of interest? Noted but not acted on. Money changed hands. No one went to jail. The Obama Administration just approved a new deep water drilling application.
One way to view Japan’s current crises is as a mirror for American projection. More than the U.S. Japan is corporatist state with a fading but still discernible, semi-fedual superstructure. (Today’s keiretsu are a re-embodiment of pre-1945 zaibatsu, etc).
Per earlier posts below, American media largely ignores immediate humanitarian needs. This is par for the course. Attention instead is fixed on corporate control of nuclear information with a subservient government. American media increasingly is portraying this exposed corporatist arrangement as intolerable. To support this narrative complete credulity is granted to American nuclear regulators in D.C. opining on opaque facts in Japan. Forgotten is decades of American regulatory capture.
Japan can thus be seen as a mirror projection of the American domestic situation. It’s easier to articulate on a foreign tapestry. Would the past few years been different if American media became self-aware of its role in perpetuating the corporatist crisis model –cynically portraying vital issues in the transient coinage of who’s up, who’s down? More importantly, could corporate media as noted by Tbilisi even dare to act so?
We’ve already seen two wars, global financial collapse, loss of an American city, environmental catastrophe. Nothing changes. One struggles to imagine what could serve as a wake up call for melting down into corporatism.