Saturday, April 28, 2007

Speech Suppression, Corporate Monopoly Style

The Postal Regulatory Commission is in the process of setting new periodicals mailing rates that threaten to put many small publications with limited resources out of business.

The new rates will impose a life-threatening strain on political publications of both the left and right, such as The Progressive, In These Times, and The National Review. These are the kinds of political advocacy magazines that target niche readerships and carry limited, inexpensive advertising.

At the same time, the new rates will favor mass-circulation, advertising-heavy magazines such as People and TV Guide.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is adopting the new rate plan at the behest of corporate giant Time-Warner, which is now engaged in a naked attempt to drive smaller competition out of the market and establish a monopoly on information in the U.S., as well as extending its overseas influence.

This was the most important story of the week of April 15-21, but it was buried by the electronic media's monotonic coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre.

End Run Around the First Amendment

A necessary periodicals postal rate hike has been coming for a long time. But earlier this year, the regulatory commission rejected a proposal from its own U.S. Postal Service which would have imposed an across-the-board rates raise of 11 percent plus change for everybody.

That plan was in keeping with the 215-year history of egalitarian postal rates in this country, envisioned by Madison and Jefferson as a means to promote democracy by encouraging the free flow of information and opinion, even unpopular information and opinion.

But the political appointees of the Bush regime now occupying the Postal Regulatory Commission chose instead to secretly adopt the scheme put forward by Time-Warner, according to University of Illinois professor Robert McChesney, quoted at the conservative website World Net Daily:

"Postal policy converted the free press clause in the First Amendment from an abstract principle into a living breathing reality for Americans. And it has served that role throughout our history.

"What the Post Office now proposes goes directly against 215 years of postal policy. Under the plan, smaller periodicals will be hit with a much larger increase than big magazines– as much as 30 percent. Some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10 percent."

What the Postal Regulatory Commission has done, McChesney goes on to explain, is to adopt a rate schedule, secretly, in the dead of night, with no congressional supervision or oversight, giving the best prices to the biggest publishers, allowing them to lock in their market position, eliminate all smaller competition, and cement their monopoly over the information sector.

The new rates will go into effect on July 15 of this year unless this juggernaut is stopped. And it needs to be.

Monopoly Capitalism in One Country, and the Suppression of Speech

The Time-Warner plan is a perfect example of speech suppression and thought control in a sophisticated and seemingly "free and open" society such as the United States. In April of this year, Noam Chomsky wrote of this sort of speech suppression and mind control: "In crude and brutal societies, the Party Line is publicly proclaimed and must be obeyed - or else. What you actually believe is your own business and of far less concern. In societies where the state has lost the capacity to control by force, the Party Line is simply presupposed; then, vigorous debate is encouraged within the limits imposed by unstated doctrinal orthodoxy. The cruder of the two systems leads, naturally enough, to disbelief; the sophisticated variant gives an impression of openness and freedom, and so far more effectively serves to instill the Party Line. It becomes beyond question, beyond thought itself, like the air we breathe."

It would be "crude and brutal" indeed to simply arrest the publishers and editors of left-wing and right-wing publications and throw them in jail. But the sophisticated technique of hitting them in the wallet, thus eliminating them from marketplace of ideas and leaving room for nothing but conventional thought, is the perfectly tailored technique of our friendly, eminently reasonable, back-slapping and smiling version of the thought police.

This isn't speech suppression, they'll tell you, it's just how the market works. And "the market," as we all know, is a non-ideological, perfectly objective force, which just coincidentally works to eliminate all but the most timid and conventional forms of speech and thought.

Why It's Not Going to Work

In 1520 the Vatican rounded up all the copies of Luther's "95 Theses" they could find and burned them in St. Peter's Square. They thought they had eliminated the heretical threat.

Too bad for them. The printing press had already been invented, and despite the Cardinals' best efforts, the new technology rendered their feeble attempt at old-fashioned speech and thought suppression impotent.

In a similar fashion, even if this disastrous postal rate change goes into effect in July and many smaller publications are put out of business, they won't stop publishing. Largely thanks to Time-Warner itself, the internet has already been invented, and all the publications that would suffer under this blatant instance of speech suppression by the corporate oligarchy and its bribed lackeys and sycophants in the regulatory agencies will simply continue publishing on the net, and deriving what advertising revenue they can from that source.

But there's no reason why it should go into effect. Visit today. Sign the letter and e-mail it to your congressperson, to the Postal Board of Governors, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and the Postmaster General. Make noise, raise hell, and don't take "no" for an answer.

It's your country. Take it back.

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