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Cultural imperialism and media propaganda

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by Bill F.
This article draws on several previous Marxism Today articles on this topic, with some minor changes and updating.
Cultural imperialism is the process of social influence by which a nation imposes on other countries its set of beliefs, values, knowledge and behavioural norms as well as its overall style of life. This definition certainly explains the stranglehold that the US has imposed on Australian culture.
Marxists hold that the superstructure of society, the ruling ideology, the political institutions, state apparatus and cultural way of life arise from and reflect the interests of the dominant class in society.
In feudal society, the dominant culture reflected the interests of the land-owning aristocracy. Under colonialism, the dominant culture reflected the interests of the ruling class of the occupying colonial power, such as the British colonial and neo-colonial domination of Australia right up to the Second World War.
Under the current rule of the monopoly capitalist class, the dominant culture reflects the interests of the most powerful and greedy section of the monopoly capitalist class which is closely allied to foreign imperialism.
The ruling class in Australia champions the interests of US imperialism in particular, using a tiny clique of local sell-outs with close connections to the largest and richest foreign corporate monopoly groups and financial institutions. The Business Council of Australia is the most prominent mouthpiece for this class rule by the dissemination of policies and attitudes that assist US imperialism to penetrate all aspects of life in Australia – economic, political, social and cultural. 
As Marx and Engels observed in The German Ideology, “…the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.” 
Critical to the ruling class are the owners and major shareholders of the local mass media, especially concentrated in the Murdoch, Fairfax and Packer companies with their investments in many industries and links to international finance.
A major role (self-appointed) is to use their control of the mass media, i.e. radio, TV, internet, newspapers and magazines, etc, to justify and promote the ‘globalisation’ agenda of the main US and European corporate monopolies. This is done directly through editorials and feature articles and indirectly through biased reports and regurgitated handouts from various government, commercial and political lobby groups.
None of it questions the sacred idols of ‘foreign investment’ and ‘free trade’, the pillars of imperialism. None of it criticises or even questions the right of US imperialism to invade other countries and conduct illegal murder with drones. None of it criticises or questions the “conga line of suckholes” (Latham was on the money there!) knocking on the back door of the US Embassy and spilling their guts to this foreign power.  
Television News
Commercial Television News is a good example of how the outlook of the ruling class is promoted. It is watched by millions of Australians every night and is the only source of information for many people. Unfortunately, it is mainly spin and trivia, the most useful bit being the weather forecast, while commercial advertising takes up more than a third of the time-slot.
Local news content usually means of shots of politicians making brief statements or commenting on another politician’s brief statement. Often, some footballer has belted someone in a nightclub and we get to see it all again in the Sports Report. Then there’s the ‘human interest’ story; the police reporter; the court reporter; the ambulance chaser – snippets of news to titillate, but never anything of depth. Trivia for the masses!
The international news is invariably from the USA; a statement by Obama on a conflict in the Middle East or Africa; the US point of view on the economic crisis in Spain, etc. For variety, sometimes the British BBC gets a run, but puts the same position as the US. This is then referred to as the “international community” and is heartily endorsed by our subservient politicians.
More recently, large segments of the international news have been given over to the detailed ins and outs of the US elections and the situation in Congress, featuring US politicians and commentators. No such detail is ever presented on issues in countries such as New Zealand, Japan or China, which are also important to Australia.
As for reporting the struggles of the working class, the struggles of the people, forget that! When was the last time a strike by workers or a community struggle, was actively supported? It has never happened. Even when there are huge demonstrations in opposition to government policy, interviews with organisers and supporters are inevitably cut short and often the focus was on trivial matters such as blocking the streets!
Not to let the ABC and SBS off the hook – they do the same, but are more sophisticated. For example, the ABC’s Q and A program brings up some of the real issues, but confines them to scoring points for either Labor or Liberal.
Bread and circuses
Beyond this core of calculated propaganda and manipulated information is the broader, more general ideology of capitalism, promoting individual selfishness, consumerism and divisive racism. As Australia has become more and more a satellite of the US economic and political empire, the moral values and ideals of Australian capitalist society have shifted from British parliamentary democracy to the more aggressive pro-imperialist stance demanded by the US.
The invasion of investment capital by American corporations and the increasing influence of the US in Australian political and military circles have been accompanied by a pervasive promotion of the culture, trappings and diversions of American middle class society.
Television, movies and popular music are three powerful vehicles for US cultural imperialism. A glance at the TV guide reveals that the majority of the programmes will be US news, sit-coms and soap operas. These imported programmes promote the lifestyles of the US and swamp Australia’s cultural heritage and destroy its cultural identity. In Australia, Hollywood fills our cinemas and American popular music blares out from TV and radio stations twenty four hours a day.
The “stars” and “heroes” are often self-righteous, aggressive individuals who display neither humility nor humanity. The seemingly harmless and often brainless “sit-com” shows depict the life of the affluent American upper middle class. Their houses are full of consumer gadgets; they wear snappy clothes and hardly seem to work at all. When they do appear, the workers are shown as bit players; servants, uniforms in the background etc., “nobodies” who provide an audience to cheer on the super-heroes. Either that, or as violent, ignorant thugs who have to be controlled or eliminated by the more enlightened middle class. Class divisions are reduced to “winners” and “losers”. There is no place for collective struggle, for cooperative action, for the idea that ordinary people might have courage and wisdom too.
The advertising and fashion industries are geared around this rampant individualism. They use all sorts of clever gimmicks to make working people aspire to the wealth and comfort depicted on American TV. American language and expressions are copied, complete with accents. American sporting events and personalities are heavily featured and the artificial hype is copied by sporting bodies in Australia. There is even a shameless attempt to promote Thanksgiving and Halloween! This cultural conditioning seeks to chain people to the system of imperialist-capitalism.
Australia’s national identity
In spite of this onslaught, there is resistance by wide sections of the people who really enjoy Australian art, literature, film, drama, poetry, music. Surely the aim must be to expel US imperialism from Australia and build a truly democratic Australia, an Australia with its own culture, an Australia where we can sing our own songs and watch our own stories.
We all need to produce and promote an Australian culture that has an anti-imperialist, working class and multicultural content, rather than being narrowly nationalistic; content produced by artists and performers who are closely connected with the Australian people and can express the peoples’ opposition to US imperialism. Any attempts to break through the thought control of the media monopolies should be welcomed and defended from attacks.


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