We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, June 2, 2017

A revolutionary model - part 2b

by Ron Horn

The primary commitment by all people involved in the project must be the production of accurate information and analyses to the general public. Such information must serve our vital need to understand issues that are not only directly confronting us and our families in our daily lives, but larger issues of national and international scope which have very indirect but often profound effects on our lives. The following proposal is aimed to serve that precise purpose. Note that the proposal is based on the assumption that the world wide web and the internet still exists in a form that facilitates the communication of both mundane matters and important news and ideas, and is easily accessed by all. If we can't protect the open web and internet from decisively favoring websites of media corporations, then I fear all is lost.

Many activists have now learned that the main purpose of mainstream media corporations exist to serve only to serve the interests of the Empire's transnational capitalist ruling class. These interests are directly imposing economic disasters on our lives within our borders, and threatening a nightmarish nuclear conflagration abroad. Their media corporations serve the ruling class by distorting news and information about economic and political events both within our nation and abroad, most dangerously with fake news about their foreign military and subversive activities across the world. The sole purpose of their media are to frame events so that the general public are compliant with, if not supportive of, their activities. Participants must engage in this project with the utmost dedication in spite of knowing that this directly interferes with the agenda of the ruling class to keep the general public ignorant of their real activities.

A critical first step to realizing this project would be that the existing small alternative news and analysis services (existing mostly on the web) must decide to share their resources to build this project with the clear understanding that the new organization would be adopting a bottom-up authority structure. People involved in this information project must understand the overwhelming importance of collaborating rather than competing over turf that they might control. (Such individualist thinking belongs to capitalist rule, not to rule by and for all of the people.) They also will need to understand this new bottom-up arrangement and the accountability structure of the different players in this new organization, and how it relates to the growing number of activist supporters in the general public. 

But first, let us look at the familiar arrangement of media corporations: the powerless 95% who currently reside at the bottom as consumers of information, the 4.9% that I estimate consist of variously skilled workers of the upper-middle class and middle class who serve the managers appointed by the ruling capitalist class. Finally the capitalist ruling class (owners of the media) who are approximately .1% of the population exercise control over their media enterprises like any other enterprise--to make money, but much more importantly, to impose their views and values on, and to manage the consent/dissent of, the general population.

The business model for media corporations is based mostly on economic support by the general business community directly through selling ads for their products and services, and indirectly by posting information and editorials that support the interests of the existing capitalist class; whereas subscriptions by the general public often only sustain the cost of printing. Hence, mainstream media's obligation is primarily to serve the interests of the general business community, and most of all, to support the interests of major capitalists in banking and large owners of shares in major corporations (the ruling capitalist class).

For a variety of very good reasons I propose that we construct the organization of this new media service by reversing our perspective from the traditional one (top-down arrangement of authority) to the new bottom-up arrangement. After we adopt this perspective, it follows that we need to identify the new components of the media service in order to be clear as to how it functions. Because this is so new and radically different from what we are accustomed to, many people will have a hard time imagining this. But I argue that there is, indeed, no alternative if we are serious about living in peace and protecting our Mother Earth that sustains all living things.

So who would be the "bottom" (that is, those holding ultimate power) of this new bottom-up management system? It seems obvious to me that we, the people, must support this new enterprise if it is going to overcome the many obstacles that the ruling class will pose for it. We can do this in a variety of ways: through funding, volunteer activities, and other forms of support. Conceptually speaking, we must regard ourselves as a critically important part of the organization--because we realistically must be. However, the concrete power structure would be something like the following.

The foundation (or bottom) of this potentially revolutionary media movement would be local media committees consisting of mostly lay community activists and supporters, and these local media committees would have the authority to hire and fire the journalists in the local media organization. These local media organizations would, in turn, exercise responsibility and authority over media organizations that covered news, information, and opinion regarding international matters. This is only a rough sketch that would qualify as one implementation of the principles of bottom-up authority. There are many other creative ways we could imagine.

Because the capitalist class would obviously be hostile to this new media organization, it is imperative that journalists would have to be very actively supported by us. In addition to funding and volunteering, community activists could organize "support circles" who would actively and publicly support journalists supplemented by others around the world who like their work. These people would be listed on the organization's website as their supporters. Other methods that public members could use to support them would be the provision of board and room when they travel to the communities of their supporters, etc.

This radically new model may run into practical realities of dealing with legal authorities of the ruling capitalist class. The model is totally contrary to capitalist organizations and thus the arrangement might have difficulties being enforced by capitalist legal institutions if challenged in their courts. However, it must be understood that any profoundly revolutionary model would encounter similar problems. We would simply have to find a way to work around this potential problem. And in any case, we would be faced with a multitude of problems from the ruling capitalist class once the new media enterprise becomes operational. (I will be discussing these issues in Part 3.)

(Next in Part 3, Problems and Possibilities)