The struggle of media workers is connected to the struggle of all workers against capitalism. Through mass struggle, workers can fight back and win. Many media workers are unionised, for example, with the powerful Communications Workers of America.
Just as all of human society will be transformed under socialism, so too will the media. Released from the domination of capital, the media will no longer be the preserve of mediocrity, trash culture, and crass consumerism. Without the need to sell human attention spans in commodity form in exchange for advertising dollars, the media will see a flourishing of the arts, entertainment, and genuinely revolutionary journalism as a part of workers’ democracy.
Under the current system of so-called “professional” and “objective journalism,” an inherent bias for the capitalist system exists. When a reporter is taught to be “objective,” what she or he is being taught is to look beyond the subject. This is different from being “impartial,” if that were even possible. The appeal to objectivity, that is, to reality that exists outside subjectivity, is in fact simply a subordination to the hegemony of the bourgeois worldview. Journalism does not exist in a vacuum. Unless journalists adopt the Marxist analysis of class struggle as a revolutionary praxis, they will present the capitalist view by default.
Some would argue that “socialist” forms of media already exist in such institutions as PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] and NPR [National Public Radio] in the United States. Yet, there is a huge difference between these state and public forms and genuinely socialised media. Not only are these media outlets beholden to capitalist ideology under the thumb of “objectivity,” they are completely undemocratic institutions modeled after corporate America. Both NPR and PBS depend heavily on contributions from the same corporations that are the customers of commercial media. Increasingly, “commercial-free” public programming is “sponsored” by “non-commercial” corporate endowments.
Under socialism, a democratic regime would replace the dictatorship of capital in media production. Myriad points of view would be openly expressed and not hidden under the pretense of false “impartiality.” We would have truly “public” media, with access to the media means of production (studios, cameras, printing presses, transmitters, etc.) allocated democratically, based on the amount of support a certain viewpoint has in society. Freed from the profit motive and with public ownership over the media infrastructure, there would be a more varied, fluid, and broad flow of information, reporting, and journalism. Ideas and viewpoints would sink or swim based on whether or not people actually support them, instead of having an unelected, undemocratic minority determining what it is “the public wants.”
Today, viewpoints representing a tiny minority get the majority of the print and airtime. In addition, the newsroom would be run democratically, with supervisors and editors subject to election and recall by working journalists. Liberated from the constraints of capitalism, journalists could truly realise the axiom of their profession and “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
The current factory forms that cage journalism will wither away along with the state as humanity progresses under socialism. As specialisation becomes a relic of the past, all of humanity will be able to serve the noble functions of journalism. All who wish to do so will be able to participate in the artistic merits of entertainment production, storytelling, reporting, etc.
One could argue that social media already does this to some degree; but who owns these companies? Websites such as Facebook are already large corporations that operate in the same way as the mass media in selling our attention as commodity. Twitter chose to block certain Occupy Wall Street material and #hashtags. This is why we insist on public ownership of the media under democratic workers’ control.
You cannot rationally plan what you do not control, and you cannot control what you do not own. As long as these outlets are privately owned, they have the “right” to do whatever they and their financial backers please. Furthermore, these “social” media outlets are hardly social in how they are produced. The media produced by these forms are singular and isolated. People sitting at home on a computer or checking in with a smartphone are hardly in a position to challenge capitalism where the real power of the workers to change society lies: the point of production. Only under the higher stage of communism, in which society is organised on the basis of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” can social media truly have a leveling effect.
Alternative media outlets are important in that they are often expressions of the class interests of the proletariat. The publications of the Workers International League and the International Marxist Tendency, to give an example, consistently put forward a perspective for the liberation of humanity from the wretched rule of capital. Yet, the alternative media is just that, an alternative to the current mass media which is a tool of the capitalist class. In and of themselves, these small alternatives cannot supplant or “get around” the mass media. We cannot be content to merely challenge the mass media through social or alternative platforms. We must aim to take the media into democratic public ownership, to be used to defend the interests of the majority.
Under socialism, the media would be run democratically, under the control of media workers and the trade unions. We should therefore not write off media workers and working journalists as “reactionaries” due to what they are currently producing. Nothing is immutable. By the same token, media workers and journalists must struggle with their class brothers and sisters to liberate their professions and humanity from the domination of capital. Their future is tied inexorably to the rest of their class, just as the future of human progress is inexorably tied to the world socialist revolution.