Friday, August 29, 2008

Comcast Meets Cornel West

Comcast has a monopoly on Internet bandwidth. Without any serious competition, the company can do much as it pleases. Cornel West? Well, I saved the best for last.

Comcast announced that Internet access will be capped at 250 GB/month starting October 1st.

"Customers who top 250 GB in a month twice in a six-month time-frame could have service terminated for a year."

Although the cap is relatively high by standards today, this move sets a precedent that other ISPs will follow. As streaming audio and video technology expands, Comcast sees a threat to its cable TV service.

Rather than build capacity to provide the Internet services people want, Comcast is moving toward ever-higher Internet access charges. This, fundamentally, is the problem when private corporations are given near-monopolies in a market segment. Comcast is a veritable monopoly telling customers what customers will not do. If cable TV and Internet were nationalized, access to information would be democratized with an emphasis not on the "bad" customers, but on how can TV and Internet service be improved to meet the desires of the American citizens.

The news today is exemplary of the continuing corruption of the American lifeways. Citizens are repeatedly reminded by monopolistic corporations that everything the corporation does is a gift to the citizens for which we pay dearly. We should be grateful we have any Internet access. We should be grateful to pay $50/month. We should think about those "bad" people using up too much of the Internet.

Our culture is turned upside down by the corporate worldview. Money and power concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of the super-rich push concepts of self-loathing and fear upon the citizenry. What we get is an effective propaganda campaign to dissipate the self-respect of the people. We're all consumers, only. We are condemned to a tiny box of passive consumption: told what to want, what to buy, what is good social behavior and what is not.

I ascribe to the shocking notion that what you, or I want, matters, and by corollary, what Comcast or any other corporation wants, doesn't matter. I don't give a damn what Comcast wants, or asserts. I want to know what I think and what I want. When I get around to it, I want to know what you, the individual, thinks also. When I know myself well enough to know what I want, then you and I can have a meaningful, productive dialogue. You and I can make decisions regarding our shared wants, and shared priorities. To know what you want, you must first give yourself the respect, and the time, to think your own quiet thoughts. This is a radical, revolutionary concept in American culture.

I don't know how to do this, without turning off the TV, the radio, the telephone, the iPod, and yes--the computer.

If democracy has any meaning, I suggest that this is a fair definition. Democracy was a wildly radical idea in the late 1700's, and it remains a wild, radical idea today. What is called democracy today is a dog and pony show held by the people who own this country. You get to pick the president---after they have sorted the short list. Much like asking a slave, Do you want to work in the cotton field, or the kitchen? Your choice.

When Comcast tells us we can limit our downloads, or else have our Internet access terminated, they are exercising illegitimate authority--but you would not know this from reading any "news." The background assumptions of the media includes an expectation that we have been so deeply indoctrinated in the modern cultural belief system that we function at an autonomic level as if corporations rule the world, and naturally, they tell us all what we can, and cannot do. If you don't accept that premise, then you're un-American. That's a scam. That's propaganda. That's culture.

It is my assertion that human culture itself is propaganda. No more; no less. Every cultural system is loaded with assertions inculcated at a deep, unconscious level, which are a mix of the transmission of the historical patterns of behavior (status quo, "we've always done it this way," and "honor the founding fathers," effectively, memes), and more recent intentional machinations of the elite. Each of us is confronted--as adults, as individuals--with sorting out what we like of the cultural heritage package, and and what we want to throw out. Likewise, we are confronted with sorting out the real messages emanating from the rich and powerful. Maybe, just maybe, you and I don't want to do, what they tell us to do. What posses a challenge in the modern world is that every cultural conveyance of information---is owned by the rich, and operated (not surprisingly) to promote the rich getting richer.

Understanding that TV--all of it--every silly sitcom as well as every commercial--is corporate propaganda is an empowering revelation. To discover the self, in the modern technological world, is a radical and shocking undertaking.

Every era of human cultural existence, at least since the agricultural revolution, poses an identical dilemma within differing historical contexts: what is the role of power, who has it, who does not, and is centralized power legitimate?

What passes for news is pure corporate propaganda. The U.S. could have free high-speed Internet access to all, which it should have. No, we will be told in the corporate media to stay in our little corporate cubicles, in our corporate towers, and wonder if the guy in the next cubicle is using too much of Comcast's Internet.

Access to the Internet in the richest nation on the planet should be provided free to everyone. EVERYONE---FREE....what a concept.

The right to access to information has always been tightly controlled by the cultural elites. Want to go to UC Berkeley or Stanford just because you want to learn? Want access to the Internet? Pay up, buddy! Crack open that wallet. Let's see some greenbacks. Effectively, the poor get screwed and the middle class is put in it's proper place as passive paying consumers. The principle reason the rich tolerate the middle class is because the middle class pays the bills to make the rich, rich. The poor do not exist, or worse, they are demonized as failures or indolent. If you can't find a job, and if you are not working 60 hours each week, then you don't deserve to have access to Comcast's Internet. The world according to Comcast is divided between Dial-up Dummies, and those respectable citizens--the Comcast Cognoscenti.

In a society that claims democracy as a guiding principle, controlling access to information is tryannical. A BIG corporation, owned and controlled by a SMALL group of very rich people, own access to the Internet. Today, they told us that some of us are BAD people, and we should be indignant about our BAD neighbors. Don't ask any questions. Don't ask why is Comcast determining who is bad, and who is not bad.

This worldview promulgated by the elite is an internalized belief system presenting corporations as acceptable, valuable, honorable institutions in a democracy. They aren't. Corporations are the new slavery. Someday, in some distant future, corporations will not exist. Consciousness always grows, always expands inexorably. People will come to experience "the corporation" as we have experienced other forms of slavery. That moment in distant history will witness the people ending the tyranny of the workplace, and the tyranny of the marketplace, and the tyranny of the home.

Today, Comcast came into our homes to tell us that some of us are bad. The corporate news media regurgitated this worldview. Do you believe it? Are some of us bad for using too much of Comcast's Internet?

Who owns information, and who controls access to information is a crucial matter for any aspiring democracy to determine. I can't think of a more important question, unless, perhaps, defining free speech, but what matter is free speech if we have nothing substantive to discuss? We have all the free speech one could possibly imagine--as long as it's not a question related to substantively questioning who owns this country, and why do we allow them to own it? CNN is on 24 hours a day, 7 days each week, but you will never hear anyone on CNN asking this quesion. Why not? Because the people who own CNN don't want you to ask this question.

The people who own access to the Internet, and own the news media, don't want you to think much about anything. The very question of who controls access to information is not allowed. We are not permitted to think outside the narrow range of "approved" thoughts. How many times were you asked what you want today? How many times are we told that something is not "politically feasible" like free health care for all, or free Internet access for all? First, you are not permitted to think it, and if you do, it's not "politically feasible" therefore, forget it.

This is the cynical strategy embraced by the Democrats. They have abandoned the fight for the people. Be reasonable, they say. Don't think "politically infeasible" thoughts. Don't fight for anything. Don't hold any principles. Everything is morally relative to what Comcast, or any other corporation, tells us is "acceptable" thinking. In fact, it's un-American to think. That sums it up. Why is anyone surprised that the college SAT scores continue to plummet, as recently reported in the mainstream media? Come on! Be a team player! Get with the times! Dumb it down! Smile! Be happy! Go shopping!

I am terrified by the Obama campaign. Absolutely terrified. He's presented to us as progress in American politics. Is he? Was Margaret Thatcher a resounding cultural achievement in the United Kingdom? Obama is a right-wing candidate who just happens to be black. Some black people, such as Cornel West we will never see as the Democratic nominee for president. Why not? Go read up on Cornel West, for whom I have enormous respect. Everyone should know Cornel West. Obama? We can readily dismiss as a product of corporate advertising: all show and no go. West for President. Where do I sign up?

Obama is the Democratic candidate because Obama's policies appeal to the people who own this country, people like those who run Comcast. Obama is a Comcast kinda guy--a Comcast Cognoscenti.

Is that it? We are told to choose between the neo-fascist McCain and the right-wing Obama. That's it? Is that all there is to American politics? That's all the owners of this country allow.

I'd catch the next plane to Norway, except I don't want to freeze my ass off every winter. Come to think of it, maybe global warming isn't such a bad idea after all...

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