A Crooked Broker Society: The Mainstream Media as Pimps and Panderers

broker society
Reader caution: rant ahead
A while ago I wrote an article about Bill Maher’s proclamation that the job of the media is to make what’s important interesting. The media are now so universally loathed that even lawyers and real estate speculators rate higher in public opinion. You can’t blame us, especially after last week’s disgraceful spectacle. The mainstream media have Maher’s advice exactly backwards: They’re trying to make what’s interesting (to the dumbed-down public, in the most lurid and sleazy sense) important in some way, when it’s not. In that sense they have become, in every sense of the word, nothing more than pimps and panderers.

As the chart above shows, the world’s affluent nations are becoming (and North American nations have already become) Crooked Broker Societies. The rich and powerful no longer get their hands dirty actually doing anything of value. They merely use their money and power to intermediate between desperate vendors and weak, addicted buyers. And as James Surowiecki has pointed out, they’re not ‘honest brokers’ either, balancing the interests of vendor and buyer and mediating for a reasonable fee. They have divided up the brokerage role into two parts: an exploiter role, designed to subjugate and oppress the desperate supplier, and a procurer role, designed to pander to and gouge the weak buyer. The exploiters and procurers then collude (and sometimes merge to play both roles), paying the supplier next to nothing and charging the buyer a huge amount for worthless crap. The chart above shows how these roles siphon wealth from both suppliers and buyers, providing nothing of value in return, in just about every sector of our modern society.

You see this in struggling nations, and in areas like North America’s inner cities, where poverty, desperation and lawlessness are endemic. The fact that this same tawdry oppression of suppliers and gouging of purchasers is now occurring everywhere attests to the dysfunction of our political, social and economic systems, and the growing sense of market anarchy, where any behaviour is justified if it is profitable, and where the ends always justify the means. It is evidence of a culture in the terminal stages of decline and disintegration.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the mainstream ‘information’ media. This should probably not be surprising, when these media are owned by a corporatist oligopoly that measures success by profit, not by the quantity or quality of information it delivers. For the past week we have been subjected to the sorry spectacle of these media fawning over a single deranged man who set them up with the video and audio and the violence they needed to justify lazily and irresponsibly passing this off as somehow newsworthy. They were able to play this up for a week and it cost them essentially nothing. The consequence was to stir up enough hysteria to sell a lot of newspapers and attract enough bored ambulance-chasers to make the entire undertaking enormously profitable.

The conservative politicians and corporatists loved it, too — it took attention away from rampant political and business corruption and incompetence, and allowed fear-mongers to advocate more crime laws, conservatives and preachers to lament the decline of moral values in our society, and propagandists of every stripe to exploit the event for the media circus it was. The message for publicity-hounds was clear: If you’re desperate to get a lot of global publicity in a hurry, make sure to (a) kill a lot of people, (b) do it in an affluent nation, (c) do it in a spectacularly gruesome way, and (d) pre-create and edit your own audio and video for the media so they can’t screw your message up. Whether or not it means anything, or there is any lesson to be learned from it, is irrelevant.

In the meantime, between the propagandists, the media conglomerates and the advertisers, lots of profits were made and lots of political points were scored, and the citizenry was left as dumb as ever. Even more dumbed down, in fact, because of all the events that received little or no coverage while the mainstream media gleefully and rabidly pimped for a suicidal loser, political interest groups exploited the ‘event’ by misinforming the public about its ‘meaning’ (with no challenge whatever from the reporters), and shareholders and advertisers raked in the extra dough the publicity generated.

It was a shameful, disgraceful performance but it’s one we are getting terribly used to from exploiters and procurers in every aspect of our lives. Whether it is the misogyny, sleazy product marketing and violence-promotion of rap videos, or the willful broadcasting of blatant corporatist lies in ‘advertising’, or the abrogation of responsibility for investigative journalism (and the ignoring of citizens’ whistle-blowing and investigation, lest it offend advertisers), or the obsession with the crime blotter while crises facing our world remain ignored because they’re too complex or too expensive to work on, the mainstream ‘information’ media show themselves to be nothing more than pimps and panderers, wasting our time and public bandwidth. Fiddling with sensationalist minutiae while the world burns.

We need to liberate hard-working producers and beleaguered customers from the bullying freeloaders and corporate-welfare bums in the middle two columns of the chart above, fat, lazy, overpaid, greedy, obscenely powerful do-nothing middlemen all of them. Let’s start throwing out the crooked brokers who stand between us and reasonably-priced, socially and environmentally responsible, quality products and services and important, actionable information. Let’s peer-to-peer them all out ofbusiness.


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5 Responses to A Crooked Broker Society: The Mainstream Media as Pimps and Panderers

  1. lavonne says:

    As we used to say in the sixties, Right on!

  2. mattbg says:

    Excellent! I really enjoyed reading this one.I think we’re losing the fortitude to stand up to the decadence that’s going on around us. The older generations have it (they were the first to be marginalized). The boomers have a little bit of it, but the standards are lower. Those that come after the boomers seem to just ignore anything that seems out of place and pretend that it doesn’t exist.I don’t know where this liberation is going to come from. A recession, maybe? A depression? I’ve convinced that it will only be done out of necessity… at the moment, I’m on the fence, leaning toward “FOR”, about whether or not a recession/depression would be a GOOD thing for society at this time.

  3. Jeff Vail says:

    Excellent rant, Dave! I wholeheartedly agree–and I’d add the mortgage brokers and refinance/home equity loan industry right up there at the top of your list. I’m continually amazed at the level to which they will stoop in their advertisements–I actually recorded and paused a Countrywide Financial commercial the other day to see what the ultra-fine print actually said. I was already very suspicious of these ads, but I was shocked–I couldn’t believe how much these firms are exploiting home “owners” who are already in quite a fix thanks to the same…

  4. Candy Minx says:

    Hey Dave, how are you doing? Um, I love the peer to peer…and love it when you make a cool chart like these. Hey why not make a chart on how we can go about doing P2P. I work with a circus in Toronto (zero gravity circus) and a circus offers many examples of P2P…as does street performances…I have done an “advice” service on the street. Jugglers, puppeteers and many other street performers provide primary service with imediate pay (the passing the hat). I’ve sold a couple paintings on eBay…but that is a vast ocean sometimes too challenging for someone who just wants to buy art but is already intimidated by art history. Maybe some of your visitors would be able to find inspiration from a chart of how we can eliminate the middle person from pirmary product to primary consumer?

  5. John Powers says:

    So cool to read Candy Minx: “find inspiration from a chart of how we can eliminate the middle person from primary product to primary consumer?” Very cool idea and the suggestion about P2P is too. The chart may be something you might do; but the greater point is we all need to imagine ways to reconnect as producers and consumers of the products we need.

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