Robert McChesseny: Media Theorist

A brief biography
Robert McChesney is a research professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. McChesney has written several book including: Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the control of U.S. Broadcasting, Corporate Media and the Threat to the Democracy, with Edward Herman The Global Media: The new Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism, and with John Nicholas It’s the Media, Stupid, Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media. His most recent book Rich Media Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times has won multiple awards.

Many authors and scholars have contributed their thoughts through book and articles about the changing American media, but none have been so passionate or committed as Robert McChesney. According to the Association of College and Research Librarians “Robert W. McChesney, considered by many to be America’s leading media historian, has written an impeccably researched, provocative, and entertaining book that expands on his Rich Media, Poor Democracy (1999)âÂ?¦McChesney renders a compelling history of the federal government’s subsidy of the media, including the passage of favorable or sympathetic legislation, from the early years of our Republic to the current popular uprising against the hegemony of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). It is the latter story (covered in the final chapter) that dramatically builds from the corrupt Telecommunications Act of 1996 to the unwritten conclusion that is our future…” Through several of his book McChesney has been able to thoughtfully and factually expose the down falls of ever commercializing media in a way that is understandable to the American public. McChesney also appeared in the documentary “Orwell Rolls in his Grave” written and directed by Robert Pappas. In this film McChesney was given the opportunity to discuss the “illusion of choice” something he passionately has written about in several of his books.

An Analysis of Work
After reading selections from Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times I wanted to read more about what McChesney had to say about the Media so I turned to two of his other popular books It’s the Media, Stupid and Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle against Corporate Media. While I came across many reoccurring themes in several of McChessney’s books one that stuck me the most was about journalisms examination of corporate America. In his book It’s the Media, Stupid he said “The closer a story gets to examining corporate power the less reliable our corporate media system is as a source of information that is useful to the citizens of a democracy.” (McChesney,22) This seemed reminiscent to me of something in the time of muckrakers, where journalist got into the trenches of an issue to expose the truth, except today that is virtually impossible because as McChesney examined in an incident with the Chiquita Banana company, once the truth was even close to being exposed the journalist was forced to retract the story and issue an apology. This type of journalism is in no way helpful to a democracy, especially a democracy like ours that relies on the media to get all its information. But instead of getting unbiased information on important issues the media which has become conglomerated and a profit hungry cooperate machine is trying to distract our focus with infotainment and non crucial stories so we won’t catch on to their unethical practices.

Respected theorist Noam Chomsky wrote a foreword in McChesney and Nichols’s book Our Media Not theirs: the Democratic Struggle against Corporate Media and brought up an interesting take on McChesney’s work on politics saying “On most issues citizens could not identify the stands of the candidates, not because they are stupid or not trying,, but because of conscious effort to direct voter attention away from issues to “qualities”âÂ?¦McChesney and Nichols provide much evidence that we may be in the “early stages of a serious social movement” for which democratization of the media will be a central focus of discussion, activism, and reconstruction” (22) The country better hope that Chomsky is right because if our media stays on its current path our democracy is doomed. Thanks to theorist like Chomsky, McChesney, and Nichols our country is slowly gaining awareness of biased and unethical practices of the media, and their deception of the American public. A reconstruction of our media is necessary if we want to experience any kind of true democracy in our country.

In an additional foreword Barbara Enrenreich said “the media are as inescapable and ubiquitous presences in our lives as the environment…imagine the kind of media that a democratic society deserves. Media that brings us a wealth of diverse opinions and entertainment options; media that are held responsible for providing us with the information we need to function as informed citizens.” (11) Enrenreich furthers points that many other theorists have made throughout the past few years. Diversity an essential component to a healthy media systems seems to be missing in the United States. Even our entertainment lacks diversity, on any given prime time week night a viewers options are at best limited to reality television or cookie cutter sitcoms. There is an utter lack of informative or cognitively developed programming available to the American public.

My analysis of McChesney
McCheseny said “Once media is made a bona fide political issue, as soon as it is “in play,” the forces favoring media reform will prevailâÂ?¦That is why media giants work so incessantly to ensure that media issues never see the light of day” (79). In my opinion McChesney is absolutely correct, and I think that deconstruction of media giants is where the reconstruction of our media needs to begin. As citizens we have no idea how much of our government is controlled and manipulated by the media. It is mind boggling to think that the idea of democracy that we hold in such esteem has become so twisted under media exploitation.

Many people would argue that McChesney ties the media and politics too closely, because by definition they are separate institutions. But I would argue quite the opposite. No other institutions throughout history have had such a close working relationship than the media and the government, except we had the equation backward all this time. It is not the government who controls the media like we would all like to believe, it is the media who control the government. And in order to have a true democracy that needs to stop.

In my opinion part of the reason why McChesney has been so successful in conveying his theories is because he is not intimidated by the powers in the media industry, and he has a true passion and investment in spreading the message of medias conglomeration deterioration of our democracy. Without theorist and authors like McChesney America may never catch on to the idea that our media is corrupting our democracy, and therefore may never have had a chance to change it.

Works Cited
1.) McChesney,Robert & Nichols, John. Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media. Seven Stories Press, New York. 2000.

2.) McChesney, Robert & Nichols, John. It’s the Media Stupid. Seven Stories Press, New York,2000.

3.) Chomsky, Noam. Foreword in Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media. New York.

4.) Enrenreich, Barbara. Foreword in Our Media Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media. New York.

5.) The Association of College and Research Librarians. http://www.ala.org/ACRLTemplate.cfm?Section=acrl&Template=/TaggedPage/TaggedPageDisplay.cfm&TPLID=15&ContentID=7768. Chicago, 2006.

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