Socialist Worker

Will the Revolution be Televised? A bias that’s built into the media

John Molyneux argues that the influence of the capitalist media is huge—but not all-powerful

Issue No. 2276

Each year in the UK approximately 235,000 people get married. The vast majority of these weddings will get no media coverage at all.

However, when a certain William Windsor married Kate Middleton on 29 April 2011 it received blanket media coverage.

The disparity reflected the view, held by most of the British establishment, that almost anything the royals do is more important and more interesting than the same things done by the rest of us.

It is a political bias.

It is impossible to produce an unbiased news bulletin, newspaper, magazine, radio programme or whatever because every minute of every hour of every day a more or less infinite number of events occur and they cannot all be reported.

The media is not homogenous. But there is one particular bias that 99 percent of the media in Britain and in the world has in common—it is pro-capitalist.

This is so pervasive, so much the “natural” order of things, that it gets taken for granted.

The overwhelming majority of the media simply assumes that ordinary capitalist business activity is a legitimate, indeed desirable, thing.

It assumes that if business in general is doing well, ie making high profits and expanding production, that is good for the nation and for us all.

Since the media assumes that capitalism is the natural order of things it also assumes that socialism is a strange and outlandish idea. Advocates of socialism very seldom get to appear in the media.

Trade unions are regularly described as “having too much power” and “holding the country to ransom”.

The same is almost never said of employers despite the fact that they manifestly have much more power and wealth than trade unions and can, and do often, hold governments and workers to ransom by threatening to close down factories and move production elsewhere.

The main cause of this pro-capitalist anti-socialist bias is very simple.

The media is overwhelmingly owned and controlled by big corporations.

And where it is publicly owned it is controlled by states which represent the collective interests of capital.

In 1845, before any of the modern mass media had come into existence, Karl Marx wrote in his book The German Ideology, “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, ie the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”

The huge influence of the media today is simply the main contemporary form of this general truth about ruling classes’ ideological dominance.

The struggle against the power and influence of the capitalist media cannot be waged in isolation from a wider struggle to change society.

Central to both is mass action and ultimately mass revolutionary action.

The mass media is very influential, especially when most people are passive, but it is by no means all-powerful. Its influence is at its weakest when there is mass resistance.

Mass struggle is the single most important factor in combating the influence and challenging the power of the media but it is not enough on its own. It needs to be complemented and accompanied by political organisation.

This is an edited extract from John Molyneux’s new book, Will the Revolution be Televised? A Marxist Analysis of the Media.

The book explains why the media is biased and examines the roles that entertainment and advertising play. It also looks at how to combat the corporate media and what media could look like after capitalism.

It is available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop priced £5. Go to www.bookmarksbookshop.co.uk or phone 020 7637 1848.


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