The monopoly within a monopoly
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 31, 2013
Actually, the title should read “the monopoly within a monopoly within a larger monopoly.” The larger monopoly in question is the State of California, which is politically and culturally liberal, for the most part. The state’s demographic trends, if anything, will increase California’s leftist tilt for the near future. Then there’s the City of San Francisco, a more progressive enclave within the liberal State of California. Even with a moderate Board of Supervisors lead by moderate mayor Ed Lee (who succeeded the moderate Gavin Newsom, who instituted gay marriage), there is a substantial, occasionally obstreperous progressive faction within the Board of Supervisors (Allan Peskin, former Supes Chris Daley and Ross Mirkarimi). Finally, within this progressive enclave of the City of San Francisco is the still more progressive alternative media monopoly of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Examiner, and the Bay Area Reporter.
Put together by Todd Vogt, owner of the San Francisco Newspaper Company, which is part of the much larger 75-title newspaper, Canadian-based Horizon Publications, of which Vogt is the CEO, this local media monopoly is unabashedly progressive. Monopolies frequently are problematic however, even when they are seemingly benign and public serving. Public utility monopolies (like the long ago broken up Bell Telephone System/AT&T, or the current northern Californian PG&E monopolies) are the most egregious examples of entities that are good in concept, not so good in practice. And let’s not get started on private capitalist monopolies. In the current socio-political environment, I prefer government regulation to break up monopolies in order to limit excessive profit taking and foster much needed competition or, barring that, to keep the monopolies honest.*
The Bay Area is no stranger to progressive bickering and in-fighting, if not sectarian conflict and internecine warfare. Witness the never-ending battle surrounding Pacifica’s Berkeley based radio station KPFA. Vogt’s three alt-newspaper monopoly is already showing signs of intra-progressive turmoil. Long time Bay Guardian editor Tim Redmond was ousted, fired, or allowed to resign, depending on who is telling the story. The reasons can be found here, here, here, here and here. Disputes over editorial policy and political endorsements, Redmond’s refusal to cut half of the Guardian’s news staff, and failure to agree on how to increase advertising revenues were some of the key issues. The Guardian attempted to practice a half-hearted transparency by reporting Tim Redmond’s departure in its own pages. Tim provided an extremely brief response on his blog, denying that had resigned, and leaving the reporting to other media. The Bay Guardian had its issues and problems, to be sure, but subsuming this alternative newspaper into Vogt’s alt-monopoly is not the solution. It’s not good news for progressive journalism in the Bay Area.
*In his “Introduction to the American Edition” of The Star Fraction (2001), Ken MacLeod wrote: “Unfortunately, there’s no reason why the Economic Calculation Argument [of von Mises] and the [Marxist] Materialist Conception of History couldn’t both be true. What if capitalism is unstable, and socialism is impossible?” Well, I tend to side with Marx’s argument that capitalism inevitably develops toward crisis driven monopoly, and that the libertarian theory of self-regulating laissez-faire market capitalism is utter bullshit. If the State disappeared today, leaving an unregulated capitalism to fend for itself, capitalism would promptly buy and install its own State tomorrow to protect capitalism’s interests and keep the “free market” reasonably well functioning. Oh, that’s right, that’s what American capitalism has already done. As for State Socialism, the old-style Communism of the Soviet bloc and Red China, that was pretty much a bloody disaster. That leaves decentralized, community owned, worker run libertarian socialism of one or another stripe as the only real, viable alternative…
This entry was posted on August 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm and is filed under California, capitalist monopolies, libertarian socialism, life, Marx, media monopolies, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Guardian, state socialism, Tim Redmond. Tagged: Bay Area Reporter, Karl Marx, Ken MacLeod, KPFA, laissez faire capitalism, libertarian socialism, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Newspaper Company, state socialism, Tim Redmond, Todd Vogt. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.