Magazine article The Nation

Massed Media

Magazine article The Nation

Massed Media

Article excerpt

One of the better scares of the 1950s came from Don Siegel's idiosyncratically edgy thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers, made on the cheap for Allied Artists. That's the movie in which society is taken over by blandly totalitarian pod people. In 1956, of course, the pods were thought to be communists. But when Time Warner C.E.O. Gerald Levin and Turner Broadcasting's Ted Turner announced their merger, creating the world's largest media conglomerate, their language left little doubt in whose pantries those pods have been growing for the past forty years. "We share a common vision of the future, and we will pursue that future through a shared strategy," intoned Levin; Turner echoed, "We share a common vision for the future, and working together we will make that vision a reality."

That blending and blanding of language suggests something about the impact of that common vision on our culture--the corporate-driven degradation of whet Americana read' view and listen to. The new conglomeratest need to, in Levin's words, "maximize the value of our assets and distributions systems . . . in an increasingly competitive global marketplace" necessarily means seeking least-common-denominator entertainment.

It is hardly false nostalgia to note that culture barons of an earlier era were often driven by a crudely imagined civic responsibility. William Paley of CBS, no prince, nonetheless sought to insulate his network news division from overt political conflicts of interest. CNN's Turner sees nothing amiss with corporate donations to Bob Packwood's legal defense fund, while his new partner John Malone of cable giant TCI uses his clout to promote the conservative programs Damn Right end Race for the Presidency. …

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