How Big is Big? The Issue of Mammoth Proportions

Supersized Media: Part Four (from

TO DATE, Independent Media owns 18 titles in the Western Cape’s newsprint sector alone. This does not include vast media holdings worldwide, over 120 newspapers in 12 countries, a considerable online presence, and supersized media holdings in and around South Africa. More recently the group’s entry into the lucrative tabloid market with the Daily Voice has meant a break with local tradition. The previously staid, often progressive “English Press” is now delivering scare stories about penis enlargement, lesbian orgies and an extremely well-endowed page 3 girl. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as international tabloid journalism is concerned, so why all the fuss?

The Cape Times, one of South Africa’s “negotiators of consent”, was founded by F Y St Leger in 1876 to counter the gossip and scandal which he believed to be “the literature of the gutter”. More so, the paper achieved a remarkable reputation for being outspoken and independent of the influence of billionaires like Cecil John Rhodes. St Leger would be turning in his grave, to see money and influence-peddling the big order of the day — (Indeed, the demands made by the new mammoth media cartels of latter-day capitalism represent chiefly the interests of todays empire-builders — the Cecil John Rhodes’ of the 21st century )

In relating criticism of the English Press, including the Cape Times, Communications Historian, Gordon Jackson in his “Breaking Story”, a 1993 review of the South African press, says: “because of their ownership and consequent ideological bias, the English press are riddled with shortcomings….the main charge being that they present a biased and distorted view of reality that reflects only a highly selective and inadequite view of South African Society.”

It is by and large, the failure to present reality, in anything other than highly selective terms — terms which favour a few exceptional billionaires and not ordinary people — that helps to construct a pernicious super-power maelstrom. However difficult, the only solution is to limit media ownership and the subsequent creation of cartels, by disentangling the hydra-headed beast that seemingly gives society the appearance of a “consensual discourse”. One might also refer to Gramsci’s “hegemonic principle”, and the debate about consent which Noam Chomsky points out is actually “manufactured” and in some instances, “fabricated” by media into the appearance of rational discourse.

It is precisely Independent Media with its concommitent Anglo-American New World Order that drives attempts to globalise and forces us all to accept the supersized status quo. In fact writers like Howard Barrell, P Eric Louw and the Tomasellis generally criticise this uniformity and conformism:

In comparing the English and Afrikaans papers, Louw argued: “Both are owned and largely staffed by elements of the same ruling elite. Both clearly paint a picture of the world that reflects the interest of various … “class fractions”. Hence both 1) justify the status quo…and 2) both serve to exclude alternative perspectives (that is to say perspectives fundementally at odds with those held by the ruling class.)

The Tomaselli’s reiterate: “The popular press views those who transgress or threaten dominant social norms (like drug users, criminals, soccer hooligans, homosexuals, political extremists and so on) as ‘outsiders’. By casting such groups in the role of folk devils the media serve to strengthen our degree of commitment to ideas of normal behaviour, and to create a climate of opinion that supports the operations of society’s sanctioning agency.”

In this role as a “sanctioning agency” the Independent Group’s shortcomings become apparant, for without the manufacture of consent by transnational media corporations there would be no sanction for war, no proclamation of terror, no awareness of a master-plan for the elimination of civil liberties, human rights and so forth that all form part of the “Bush-Blair-O’Reilly” agenda.

South Africa’s supposed “free press” then, is thus one which continues to disbar journalists and writers on the basis of the colour of their skin, their religious beliefs, political views, cultural affiliations, sexual orientation and so on. The reason for this is the subsuming of local interests under the interests of a new conformity that has as its basis, the creation of a single global media cartel. In the struggle for freedom, the press have become their own worst enemy, arguing for what is essentially the opposite of diversity — a monocultural one-size-fits-all mega-media that is no freedom at all.


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