ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Bill Clinton, US Imperialism and Globalising Corporate Media

Globalising Corporate Media Brendan La Rocque DESPITE indispensable national legal barriers disallowing foreign ownership of television and press concerns, the recent frenzy of speculation concerning Bill Clinton's sex-life has shown that US-based, globalising corporate media is able to spread its tentacles around the world, extending, for example, into the English language media in India. Whether through CNN broadcasts or various press agencies' news wires, extensive daily tabloid-style coverage has been given to this story, with some Indian dailies with national distribution giving it repeated front-page placement. Now certainly any accusations against Clinton for misusing his position of power to harass, intimidate or otherwise abuse any woman should be taken seriously, and should potentially lead to legal prosecution. What is at issue here, though, is the media's handling of the story , and how the manner of this coverage is used to advance an agenda that has nothing to do with either gender justice or some supposed moralising impulse, This latest episode-the Clinton-Lewinsky affair as presented in US corporate-sponsored TV serial programming, has first of all demonstrated that the 'infotainment' industry has been able to reach ever new heights of sophistication in propaganda tech- nique. By now, the circus-like atmosphere created as a matter of course by the US-based media seems rather unremarkable, as the coverage of stories such as that of O J Simpson, Jon Benet-Ramsey, and Princess Diana have made one expect as the unfortunate norm the giddy infotainment approach to news. Such sensationalist coverage' though, indicates a kind of progress towards a more perfect fusion between the provision of traditional information, or 'news' on the one hand, with exciting entertainment on the other that is. the realisation of true infotainment. This was quite apparent in the Clinton-Lewinsky episode. In 10 minutes of television programming, one was able to view, first, Bill Clinton the villain, a cad reportedly having confessed to having had a previous affair with Gennifer Flowers while simultaneously denying the accusations of Monica Lewinsky. Next appeared Bill Clinton portrayed as the heroic defender of the free world, a man taking a principled stand against the stupid but evil Saddam Hussein. In this guise, Clinton was represented as having to use, however reluctantly, the threat of military force against an intransigent Iraqi leader apparently incapable of listening to the voice of reason. Thus, the twin elements in the plot of a typical Hollywood blockbuster movie, sex and violence, were combined in the adventures of an embattled but defiant leader. All of this indicates how the US news media have now, on the surface, become driven by the personal dramas of celebrity figures, and have taken on the structure of weekly television serials or soap-operas. The motivation behind this ongoing attempt to dissolve the remaining distinctions between meaningful news and flashy but hollow entertainment begins to become apparent when one looks at the changing ownership patterns of the mainstream US media. As noted by Robert W McChesney in his important recent booklet Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy (1997), the most significant trend in this regard in the era of globalisation has been the growth of gigantic conglomerates, with holdings in all the important mass media forms, a strong presence in global markets, and, of course, immense profits. Through this process the entire US media establishment has now become dominated by less than two dozen corporate giants, with multinationals like Time Warner, for example, having massive interests in the book, newspaper, radio, movie and television industries (including ownership of CNN), extending worldwide, Under such an ownership regime, the progres- sive emptying of serious and informative content from news serves to disempower the public, to the degree that knowledge is power.

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