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AOL / Time Warner: Calling the Faithful to Their Knees


Norman Solomon

And

so, early in the year 2000, it came to pass that visions of a seamless media web

enraptured the keepers of pecuniary faith as never before. A grand new

structure, AOL Time Warner, emerged while a few men proclaimed themselves

trustees of a holy endeavor. They told the people about a wondrous New Media

world to come.

Lo,

they explained, changes of celestial magnitude were not far off. A miraculous

future, swiftly approaching, would bring cornucopias of bandwidth and market

share. A pair of prominent clerics named Steve Case and Gerald Levin gained

ascendancy. Under bright lights, how majestic they looked!

And

how they could preach! Announcing unification, they seemed to make the media

world stand still. Reporters and editors gasped. Some were fearful, their smiles

of fascination tight. Others bowed and scraped without hesitation.

In

keeping with the dominant creeds of the era, believers in the divine right of

capital asserted that separation of corporate church and state was an

anachronism. A torch had been passed to a new veneration. Media monarchs would

rule with unabashed fervor, while taking care to help regulate mere governments.

The

power of the new theocracy promised to be unparalleled. On Jan. 2, 2000 — just

one week before the portentous announcement — the chief prelate of Time Warner

alluded to transcendent horizons. Global media "will be and is fast

becoming the predominant business of the 21st century," Levin said on CNN,

"and we’re in a new economic age, and what may happen, assuming that’s

true, is it’s more important than government. It’s more important than

educational institutions and non-profits."

He

went on: "So what’s going to be necessary is that we’re going to need to

have these corporations redefined as instruments of public service because they

have the resources, they have the reach, they have the skill base — and maybe

there’s a new generation coming up that wants to achieve meaning in that context

and have an impact, and that may be a more efficient way to deal with society’s

problems than bureaucratic governments."

The

next sentence from the monied prince underscored the sovereign right of cash:

"It’s going to be forced anyhow because when you have a system that is

instantly available everywhere in the world immediately, then the old-fashioned

regulatory system has to give way."

To

discuss an imposed progression of events as some kind of natural occurrence was

a convenient form of mysticism — long popular among the corporately pious, who

were often eager to wear mantles of royalty and divinity. Tacit beliefs deemed

the accumulation of wealth to be redemptive. Inside many temples, monetary

standards gauged worth.

A

little more than half a century earlier, Aldous Huxley had predicted: "The

most important Manhattan Projects of the future will be vast

government-sponsored enquiries into…the problem of making people love their

servitude." To a lot of ears, that sounded like quite an exaggeration.

"There

is, of course, no reason why the new totalitarianisms should resemble the

old," Huxley foresaw. He observed that "in an age of advanced

technology, inefficiency is the sin against the Holy Ghost. A really efficient

totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political

bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have

to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the

task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda,

newspaper editors and schoolteachers. But their methods are still crude and

unscientific." That was in 1946.

In

2000, there wasn’t much crude about the methods of Steve Case, Gerald Levin and

others at the top of large corporate denominations, heralding joy to the world

via a seamless web of media. Two days after disclosure of plans for unification,

Case assured a national PBS television audience: "Nobody’s going to control

anything." Seated next to him, Levin declared: "This company is going

to operate in the public interest."

Such

pledges, invariably uttered in benevolent tones, were the classic vows of

scamsters claiming to have the most significant gods on their side. In this way

a hallowed duo, Case and Levin, moved ahead to gain more billions for themselves

and maximum profits for some other incredibly wealthy people. By happy

coincidence, they insisted, the media course that would make them richest was

the same one that held the most fulfilling promise for everyone on the planet.

______________

A

transcript with audio of Norman Solomon appearing on a panel on the "NewsHour

With Jim Lehrer," discussing the AOL – Time Warner merger, is posted on the

PBS website at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/

business/jan-june00/aol_01-10.html __________________

Norman

Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book is "The Habits of Highly

Deceptive Media."

 

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