Monthly Archives: June 2013

How Mainstream is Your Media?

Today’s edition of highlights a piece by Jeff Cohen where he asks would the US media have handled the Snowden Affair any differently, if it were state-controlled? This touches on something I have been thinking about for a while.

Once again, for the umpteenth time, there is a situation where the general public is heavily divided on an issue, and yet the so-called “mainstream media” speaks on it in near-perfect unison. This begs the question, just how mainstream such a media actually is. You would expect a significant portion of a media that was actually mainstream to stick up for Snowden as is the stance of a very large part of the public. Cohen reports one recent poll found 53% of Americans, and 70% of those aged 18-34, held a favorable view of Snowden’s actions.

So if the views of the major media outlets on issues such as the Snowden Affair, do not actually correspond with the views of the mainstream public, what do they correspond to? The answer is that each and every time they correspond with the view of the regime. Whether we are talking issues like the financial bailouts of 2008, which the American public was dead set against, or the Iraq invasion of 2003, on which the public was split right down the middle, the regime could always count on major media to overwhelmingly propagate its views.

That being the case it is clear the term “mainstream media” is in fact a huge misnomer. The proper term for major media in the US is actually “regime media”. True, the major media outlets in the United States are not actually subject to control by state employees in editorial boards and censorship bureaus, but so what? They are subject to the same basic system of incentives and controls just the same. The controls are applied by owners and sponsors of the outlets, who, for either commercial or ideological reasons, for the most part have a strong personal identification with the regime. The end result, is the same, major media services the public, but for the benefit of the regime.

Speaking of the regime media as the “mainstream media” therefore gives it credibility it does not have. Sure thanks to its greater means and state favor its output is more voluminous and has much greater visibility. However, this was also true for example in the Soviet Union. Why would the situation in the US, which has proven a more successful state, be any different? The key point is not visibility, but function. Only the independent media actually attempts to serve its audience, not the regime. Instead of speaking of the “mainstream” and its counterpart the “alternative” media, we should refer to both by their real names, the independent media, and its counterpart the regime media.
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An Arms Race as Long as Life: DPR Korea in Context

DPRK troops
The history of the 20th century usually comes packaged in two parts. The post-war period after the end of the Second World War, and the earlier pre-war period. While the two are easily distinct there are also common threads that run through both of them and conceivably connect them into one whole. One such thread is an arms race dynamic. Most of the 20th century, beginning in the 1930s at the latest, along with our own time in the 21st, conceivably tells a story of a single uninterrupted arms race.

Clearly, the timeframe of the Great War from 1914 to 1918 was a period of militarism and unprecedented global buildup of arms. It saw the rise of economic regimentation and the subordination of economic activity to the immediate needs of the state, as well as of the view that saw the usefulness of production primarily in giving a nation the ability to wage an extended industrial war.

Following the end of the Great War military expenditure fell sharply and receded to levels that did not seem a cause for alarm. However, the experience of the war could not simply be erased. Even as the size of armies was reduced old thinking remained and influential circles continued to think of the economy as another branch of the armed forces. According to this thinking the usefulness of bountiful agricultural and industrial production lay primarily in the fact it granted a nation the ability to raise, feed, equip and maintain a military that was as large and as mechanized as humanly possible. This, the experience of the First World War had shown, was the first prerequisite to avoid national disaster and national humiliation, as had befell Germany, Russia, Turkey and Austria-Hungary.

In this way even after the Great War had ended its shadow continued to loom, as its lessons continued to inform participants and non-participants alike. Japan for example had seen that a major cause of German defeat in the war had been its inability to feed its population from its own agricultural production. For all its industrial might Germany had in fact not been capable of an extended industrial war. Once the British established their maritime blockade and cut off Germany from its imports the populace of the latter had been placed on the path leading to slow starvation.

The Japanese knew that being even less self-sufficient than the Germans, they were even more vulnerable to blockade than had been Germany itself. Being therefore categorically incapable of an extended war in a serious conflagration Japan was no true independent power capable of autonomous action on the world stage. To truly become such it would need to field a large, sophisticated army and navy, but also be able to produce, or extract sufficient quantities of everything it needed, whether it was foodstuffs, ore, oil or machinery, in the confines of its own borders. The quest for military power, was therefore inseparable from the quest for autarky.
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The Euro as a proto-Gold Standard: local insights


1. Better than nothing? 

Modern Europe: where 50 shades of gray make all the difference

Modern Europe: where 50 shades of gray make all the difference

1.1 Few of those interested in economics can afford to show no interest at all in the Euro experiment, undoubtedly the most salient monetary development of the last decade (not of the current one, though), for better or worse. To libertarians, the question of interest is such: was the adoption of the Euro an improvement over the previous situation of a multitude of national fiat currencies, or a regression to a less desirable state of affairs?

1.2 I will try to provide my answer by availing myself of the local perspective of a citizen with, as it were, a first-row seat to the Euroshow. For prior discussions of the Euro on this humble blog, see here and here.

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