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Wed Apr 3, 2013, 06:21 PM

Bob McChesney: How Capitalism Conquered the Internet.....And how we can take it back

from In These Times:

How Capitalism Conquered the Internet
And how we can take it back.

BY Robert McChesney

In 1787, as the Constitution was being drafted in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson was ensconced in Paris as this young, undefined nation’s minister to France. From afar he corresponded on the matter of what was required for successful democratic governance. The formation of a free press was a central concern. Jefferson wrote:

The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.

For Jefferson, having the right to speak without government censorship is a necessary but insufficient condition for a free press and therefore democracy, which also demands that there be a literate public, a viable press system and easy access to this press by the people.

But why, exactly, was this such an obsession to Jefferson? In the same letter, he praised Native American societies for being largely classless and happy, and he criticizes European societies—like the France he was witnessing firsthand on the eve of its revolution—in no uncertain terms for being their opposite. Jefferson described the central role of the press in stark class terms when he described its role in preventing exploitation and domination of the poor by the rich:

Among (European societies), under pretence of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.

In short, the press has the obligation to undermine the natural tendency of propertied classes to dominate politics, open the doors to corruption, reduce the masses to powerlessness and eventually terminate self-government. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/14708/how_capitalism_conquered_the_internet/

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