Democracy, as it was established during the early creation of the United States, was limited in participation to a specific minority group: rich, white men. Today the U.S. boasts proudly of our democracy expanded through time with civil rights and women's liberation movements, and has even claimed a leading role as its global purveyor and protector. The problem is with less than 50 percent eligible voter turnout, our democracy is suffering from a lack of major public participation. The truth is the practice of our democracy is actually a minority of the population herding every few years to choose between the candidates of two main political parties who - face it - are pre-selected by the true beneficiaries of this contest: wealthy corporate and political power holders. However, thanks to certain existing factors which cause the majority of the population to accept this power structure, we are encouraged to repeat the mantra of content: "What do we have to complain about?"
If we truly live in the greatest nation in the world, there is no better evidence than our special right of access to abundant goods and services. In fact, while consisting of 6 percent of the world's population, we consume nearly 30 percent of the resources. But Americans enjoy basking in this privileged right to practically free mass-consumption and, if you enjoy this freedom, you can thank our superior military.
At $401.3 billion, our "defense" consumes roughly 50 percent of our tax base and is bigger than the next 20 largest nations' military budgets combined. Instead of using this force to ensure worldwide human rights, in its short and most recent history - using the front of liberty, freedom and democracy - the U.S. has both supported and toppled foreign leaders and violently displaced people from their land for the sake of power and major corporations' desire for ultimate control of the production and distribution of the resources to profit from as we eagerly consume them.
If there were reason for concern, however, wouldn't our media have made us aware of these active injustices? Is it not a major role of our news media to investigate and report fairly and accurately crimes against humanity regardless of their origin? As much as we would like to believe this, who would really be surprised to learn that the corporate and political financers/controllers of the government are basically the same as those of mainstream media? Just as government policies can be expected to represent only the interests of their supporters (i.e. contributors, lobbyists, even personal relations), so media can be expected to investigate and report only as deep as their sponsors (owners, underwriters, etc.) allow. Corporate media encourages not only uninhibited consumption (as much as you can afford or put on credit), but also pride and consent if not at least apathy for corporate-political policy. Of course we believe this system actually benefits society - it's called "public relations campaigning."
Although corporate media would have us believe that this financial relationship is necessary for the overall existence of news/information services, the truth is that there are several outstanding programs that exist with much accreditation and popularity which receive no corporate funding whatsoever, relying, in fact, entirely on public support. In Juneau, "Free Speech Radio News" is broadcast every weekday at 5:30 p.m. on KBJZ and alternative radio airs one hour per week Sundays at 10 a.m. on KTOO. Other print and Internet independent news sources are available to those who seek them out. Considering the constant barrage of corporate media dominating our streams of information, there is a valid argument for more direct access to independent news/information services.
"Democracy Now!" is a daily two-hour, corporate-independent news program which is aired on public stations across the nation, including in Anchorage and Fairbanks. I urge you to visit democracynow.org and decide for yourself if this could be the kind of news programming you would support on our public broadcasting stations and, if so, contact them and let them know as much.
Democracy requires us to make choices which can best happen if we are aware of all that is available to us and awareness demands access to a variety of information sources. Demanding more public news programming is a small but powerful action, and in the end having better awareness of the truth will encourage more people - perhaps - to participate in democracy simply by giving us more reasons to vote. Then, someday, it will be possible to have a people-powered democracy.
Zack Travis is a Douglas resident who has initiated a campaign and petition drive advocating local broadcasts of "Democracy Now!"
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