By Johan Galtung
Society is tri-partite: State, Capital, and People with their associations, the Civil Society. There is hard-won and applaudable freedom of expression for People, directed at the State and its feudal predecessors, Clergy and Aristocracy. But how about Capital?
Consider this. Somebody can pay for access to the media – papers, radio, TV – with total freedom of expression of strong views, filling pages and hours of reading space and listening-viewing time; one way. Uncontradicted, nobody writing or voicing contrary views, sowing doubts, coming up with data to the contrary, values, theories against. One-way flow of expression, and not merely a flow of bla-bla words but to induce behavior, even changing behavior; aimed at getting inside readers-listeners-viewers, capturing their spirit to issue new commands to their bodies. Could a tyrant dictator ask for more?
And yet this is what publicity, advertising are all about. Not a word against. Nobody invited to write, tell, show, “I bought that product, it shrank at the first wash and was discolored”; “I bought it and it did not hold water”. Or, also: I really liked it, try one!
In politics, views, ideas, opinion are put forward for debates contesting them; or dialogues developing them further. In business, views about the sellers’ products are also put forward, prominently, in very public spaces, although neither for debate nor dialogue, but to convert the reader etc. into a buyer. Clergy and aristocrats in pre-revolution France would have loved access to “modern” media to convert people into believers and serfs, uncontested with taboos against talking back at them, treating them as sacred, as being holy.
Ever more media space and time are sold to Capital (and much of the rest is used to critique State for standing in the way of Capital) State vs Capital, left vs. right politics is more relevant than ever. State censorship pales in comparison; State and People are losing.
Stand up for freedom of expression: demand no advertising-publicity without space and time for other views. And you know what?
Capital might even learn something from critical debate instead of shooting propaganda missives into empty space; and might even develop better products from constructive dialogues with buyers as subjects, not objects to be manipulated like by a Hitler, a Stalin, media amateurs in comparison who nevertheless compensated by adding bullets to words if necessary, like the USA when US business is challenged.
Item: Peter Oborne, a senior writer at the Daily Telegraph, resigned recently after accusing the owners, the Barclay Brothers, of suppressing reports about the HSBC scandal out of fear of losing advertising revenue. Freedom of expression?
Item: TPP–Trans Pacific Partnership. “The TPP was negotiated behind closed doors by government bureaucrats and more than 600 corporate lobbyists. It threatens everything you care about: democracy, jobs, the environment, and the Internet.” (“Wetlands Preserve Collective”). Text of agreement? Unknown, even to US legislators. Investigative journalism by major media–Fox, ABC, NBC, CNN? None. Rumors have it that Big Agriculture, like Monsanto, plays a major role to market genetically modified products affecting us all, seeing to it that there will be no freedom to express GMO.
If US business profits fall short of what they expect, they can sue the governments of the TPP members for not having removed free market obstacles, behind closed doors, judges and proceedings unknown. Except the sentence. There is no reciprocity as USA cannot be sued. Freedom of expression in public space? Not even for courts.
Turning these unknown texts into law will be accorded “fast track” service in the US Congress; Obama will be ramming it through. Freedom of expression in public space? Not even for Congress.
Freedom of expression in the USA? Forget about it.
I do not know how often Charlie Hebdo makes caricatures aimed at publicity for lousy, toxic commercial products; or capital moguls exploiting workers and cheating buyers. I am not Charlie Hebdo. Je suis humain.
Yet caricatures related to religion smack of 18th century France, Enlightenment, free thinkers defying clergy and believers, paving the way for Bourgeoisie-Capital-Business, pushing aside Clergy values and Aristocracy force in favor of buying and selling without limits. With free speech about their products for them only, protected by law. Whoever challenges a product must be prepared to provide evidence whereas sellers can praise it without presenting any (occasionally they do).
Charlie Hebdo seems rooted in 18th century France, reliving the great revolution and its values, not in 21st century marked and marred by the problems first Napoleon, and then Capital, brought them into.
What about the victims of having their deepest beliefs challenged? And not only challenged, but hurt, insulted, wounded, by caricatures? And not only wounded but stabbed in the heart, spiritual killing? For the true believer this is what it is; for somebody sketching, drawing, it is freedom of expression. Believers are no longer sacred, protected by taboos – today the taboos are generously handed out to Capital – really existing, factually operating Capital – not to those shadows on the walls of Plato’s caves called political debate.
Rudolf Steiner comes to mind, his Dreigliederung, tri-partite society: State-Law, Capital, and Culture. They are at their best when independent of each other. State should not interfere with the market, Capital not with politics, neither with Culture. Just look at how Capital changes such important parts of Culture as sports, arts and science, transforming them into products for buying, selling and investing, demanding of universities to serve Capital, not Truth.
Let us use whatever freedom of expression we have left to throw off the yoke of perverted Capital, now invading all parts of society.
First published at TMS – Transcend Media Service here.