Anyone who's concerned about the development of human consciousness towards the betterment of society and human civilization as a whole must also be concerned with how the corporate media systematically undermine the conditions for the possibility of this development. Known as the fourth estate, the institutions of the media have a special role in the formation of collective consciousness, acting as a kind of hardware (or brain) to the software (or ideas and values) of culture. It should therefore be understood that how the media goes, so goes the nation and the world. And with the consolidation of the media over the last several decades into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations, it should be no surprise that wealth consolidation has also gone into proportionately fewer hands.
It would seem then that whoever controls the collective neurons (media outlets) also controls not only the collective imagination, but the collective feet, hands, and back as well. Indeed, it's my assertion that the production, distribution, and appropriation of collective wealth and power is all done in and through the media (the collective brain). So how then has the media recently stood up to the test of furthering the development of human beings?
The media model of Fox News has been especially important and influential in recent times, and it's the general trend within corporate-media as a whole. As infotainment and right-wing fuel for cultural warfare in order to maximize profits by appealing to the lowest common denominator of the visceral instincts, Fox News is a prime example of how corporate media has seriously distorted, impeded, and degraded public discourse in what is now a mostly electronic media environment. This point is particularly important, since within an electronically mediated society, democratic deliberation is largely played out in and through public opinion that is created and shaped by sound bites, visual manipulation, and dubious facts. This has helped to blur the distinction between truth and falsehood, hyper-glamorized and flattened our aesthetics, made a mockery of consensual participation, and eliminated discussions of justice altogether that aren't punitive or that don't promote the incarceration of 'problematic' populations. Within this kind of degraded and underdeveloped context the prospects for an informed and functional democracy look pretty dim. Again, the quality of culture and society is limited by the form and content of the media.
Although it's sometimes argued that social media provides a counter-influence to some of the aforementioned aspects of the decline of modern civilization, it is by no means apparent that the negative influence and effects of television and talk radio on the discourse of the public sphere has been overcome by the networks of p2p interaction and information exchange. Social media operate largely on the basis of self-selected niches and disembodied communication, and are by no means the antidote to a truth deficit, psychological depthlessness, communal alienation, or social exploitation. Change we can believe in ultimately must come from embodied face to face interaction between living, breathing human beings who have gotten up from sitting behind their screens and on their couches. As anyone who has contentedly surfed the net or dallied on Facebook or Twitter all day long knows, these activities can be addictive, and they are no substitute for tactile conversation and marching down the streets with others shoulder to shoulder.
Meanwhile, inventions of the modern enlightenment such as the role of the public intellectual as the voice of reason and the profession of journalism as the investigative instrument of the people have been hollowed out and decimated by the business model of maximizing corporate profits. The role of the public intellectual and journalism had once been to hold the powers that be accountable for their actions, and thus to act as a crucial mediator and shaper of democratic institutions. The success of Fox News as an unabashed corporate mouth piece for cultural conservatives and the economic and military elite has only put pressure on other media organizations to follow suit and join the backlash against the progressive changes of the counter-culture revolution by veering the nation and the world further to the right. Consequently, collective consciousness has taken a turn away from democracy and toward the ideas and values of a global ruling-elite whose interests are primarily in neoliberal economic and political institutions of privatized tyranny and surveillance that have no role for either critical intellectuals or investigative journalists (much less civil protesters or organized labor) in their vision of society.
If you think for a moment of the operating system of society as the grid of media images and signs that spin our daily reality in a way fit for the material interests of the corporate classes, then what you have is a real life Matrix that creates and governs our collective reality as a manufactured delusion, albeit one with very real consequences. Add to this the ruthless and efficient surveillance and killing machine of the military-police-security-state, and what you get is a Terminator meets the Matrix movie pitch, except this one is the real thing, and each of us is acting and staring in it everyday.
So what can you do to fight the power and become the hero of this sci-fi horror flick we're all a part of? First of all, I suggest you make use of tactile face to face interactions by educating friends and family about specific instances of media manipulation and corporate-military and/or ruling-class bias when they happen, which requires your own awakening and vigilance to begin with by paying attention to what alternative media sources (e.g., truthdig, truthout, counterpunch, altnet) are saying. Secondly, write letters to the editor, to your local political representative, and to the appropriate government regulatory agencies demanding media accountability and responsibility to the public interest. And perhaps most effective of all would be to get prominent and respected figures like religious leaders, celebrities, and intellectuals to put their money where their mouths are and actively and publicly stand up for the development of collective consciousness by critically demanding that better media programming and responsibility be built into the institutional and legal structure of society.
As we navigate our way in and out of the corporate matrix, fleeing and dodging the bullets of our oppressors who uphold the authority of the powers that be, each of us must make a choice between living a comfortable life within the delusional world of the matrix and making peace with our termination as human beings, or challenging, resisting, and fighting for what is true, beautiful, good, and just. To choose life as a human being is to choose struggle against the forces that distort, impede, and degrade the development our collective existence, and there's no better place to begin the struggle for our collective development than with the media.