Mediated Democracy: Following Italy’s Example  

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Norman Solomon’s Column

 

Now that Italy’s voters have given the job of prime minister to media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, others may wish to follow his example on this side of the Atlantic. Later in the decade, we could see something like this:

MODERATOR: “Welcome to a nationally televised debate between the leading contenders for the presidency of the United States. We begin tonight with brief statements from each candidate.”

RUPERT MURDOCH: “First, I’d like to thank six courageous Supreme Court justices — Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Hatch, Starr and Sheindlin. Their decision tells my critics, ‘You’re full of baloney!’ Being a naturalized U.S. citizen shouldn’t stop me from becoming president. My dedication to the free market transcends any narrow constitutional fixations. A few years ago, my Fox TV network pioneered the terrific populist program ‘Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?’ Now, I ask the American people, ‘Who wants to elect this billionaire?'”

BARRY DILLER: “I may not be quite as rich as Mr. Murdoch, but I created the entire industry of home shopping channels. Thus, I am best qualified to enact across-the-board reform measures for ‘e-government.’ When you see a candidate you like on television, if you have enough cash or credit, you should be able to call in and make a purchase on the spot.”

STEVE CASE: “As the man who built America Online, I know what’s truly possible in this multimedia era. And I propose to digitize — with great efficiencies and savings — the most essential government functions, such as locking some people up. As president, my message to criminals would be simple and direct: ‘You’ve got jail!'”

STEVE FORBES: “I’m not impressed. Mr. Case may be running AOL Time Warner, but he’s hardly a worthy successor to Henry Luce. The real message from the liberal media to the criminal element is, ‘You’ve got bail!’ And I’m also not impressed by the tiny tax-cut proposals of my opponents. Out here in the real world, where I own Forbes magazine, our futures are measured by profit margins. Let’s cut to the chase: The only tax bill worthy of America is zero.”

MODERATOR: “Thank you, Mr. Forbes.”

FORBES: “And another thing. As CEO of the USA, I won’t be content until we’ve demolished every last remnant of socialism in this country, from public works and public libraries to public schools and public squares. I say, let freedom ring. If people want to read a book or sit on a park bench, they can damn well pay for it first.”

SUMNER REDSTONE: “Let’s not be reactionary, Steve. Ever heard of public-private partnerships? Some technologies need help from the taxpayer until they become sufficiently mature for optimum use in the media marketplace. For instance, my record of running Viacom proves that I know how to make the most out of the latest digital advances. How else do you suppose one of our subsidiaries, Paramount, made a $70 million profit from the feature movie ‘Beavis and Butt-Head Do America’?”

MODERATOR: “Thank you. As I’m sure each candidate can appreciate, airtime doesn’t grow on trees — so, we only have a couple of minutes left. The networks were promised that we’d keep this short.”

MURDOCH: “The motto of my campaign is, ‘I’ll report, you’ll decide.’ I understand the need for clear communication with customers, and I would give the same solicitous treatment to all citizens. Whether it’s News Corp. or America Corp., I’m at your service.”

DILLER: “My resume already includes being in charge of USA Networks Inc., and I’ve generated big profits for investors. Allow me to do the same for taxpayers. I got millions of people to keep watching productions like ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’ Surely I can do a superb job of selling America to America.”

REDSTONE: “Well, at Viacom, one of our divisions just happens to be the biggest advertising company on the planet. No one knows how to sell better than I do. And I’m ready to serve the greatest client ever — Uncle Sam.”

FORBES: “I defer to no one in patriotic reverence for the entrepreneurial spirit that enabled me to inherit so much from my father. I can convey to this nation that the future is wealth.”

CASE: “Right now, too many of our fellow citizens don’t have a ISP dot to click on. Yet we’ve realized that the future is in cyberspace. Let me take all of us there. Support the vision of America Anywhere. It’s easy and it’s fun. No wonder America is number one!”

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