Celebrants and skeptics alike have produced valuable analyses of the Internet’s effect on us and our world, oscillating between utopian bliss and dystopian hell. But according to Robert W. McChesney, arguments on both sides fail to address the relationship between economic power and the digital world.
McChesney’s award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy skewered the assumption that a society drenched in commercial information is a democratic one. In Digital Disconnect, McChesney returns to this provocative thesis in light of the advances of the digital age. He argues that the sharp decline in the enforcement of antitrust violations, the increase in patents on digital technology and proprietary systems and massive indirect subsidies and other policies have made the internet a place of numbing commercialism. A handful of monopolies now dominate the political economy, from Google, which garners a 97 percent share of the mobile search market, to Microsoft, whose operating system is used by over 90 percent of the world’s computers. Capitalism’s colonization of the Internet has spurred the collapse of credible journalism and made the Internet an unparalleled apparatus for government and corporate surveillance and a disturbingly antidemocratic force.
In Digital Disconnect, Robert McChesney offers a groundbreaking critique of the Internet, urging us to reclaim the democratizing potential of the digital revolution while we still can.
Robert W. McChesney is 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. In 2002 he co-founded, with Dan Schiller, the Illinois Initiative on Global Information and Communication Policy. McChesney also hosts the Media Matters weekly radio program every Sunday afternoon on WILL-AM radio.
He has written or edited eight books, including the award-winning Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935 (Oxford University Press, 1993), Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy (Seven Stories Press, 1997), and, with Edward S. Herman, The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism (Cassell, 1997). McChesney’s most recent books are multiple award-winning Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times ( New Press, 2000) and, with John Nichols, Our Media, Not Theirs: The Democratic Struggle Against Corporate Media (Seven Stories Press, 2002). He is presently at work on his ninth and tenth books: with John Bellamy Foster, The Big Picture: Understanding Media and Society Through Political Economy; and with Ben Scott, Freedom of the Press is for Those Who Own One: Radical Democratic Criticism of U.S. Journalism from the Progressive Era to the Present. McChesney co-edits the History of Communication Series for the University of Illinois Press, serves on the editorial boards of several journals. In 2001 he was appointed co-editor (along with John Bellamy Foster) of Monthly Review, the independent socialist magazine founded by Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman in 1949.