It may seem like a funny thing to say but I’m beginning to think it would be nice to escape from politics for a while.
I’m beginning to think the only way to do that involves becoming a hermit and maybe living in an old wine barrel without the internet. As much as I think it’s important for people to be involved in their community — and in a sense that’s always political — I think at some point it can just get to be too much.
So I decided to take a look at some of the other news sites on the internet, ones about things other than the usual suspects, like the alphabet networks and the cable news channels.
Unfortunately, I came to realize that no matter where you go to get some type of information, about technology, television or comic books — political viewpoints are interwoven everywhere.
I decided there’s one big reason for that: disturbingly enormous companies that have a veritable monopoly on the transmission of information.
Even if you think that you have some sense of the vast footprint some of these companies have in terms of what you are told and how you’re entertained, chances are it’s lot bigger than you think.
As an example, take something that you think would be fairly innocuous in terms of political viewpoints like say, superhero movies or science fiction television.
Certainly there’s a couple of examples that are products of their time like Captain America and Superman, who were born out of the personification of a national identity and patriotism around World War II, but for the most part it’s hard to argue that powerful mutants and people who received superpowers from radioactive spider bites are making that much of a political statement. At least that used to be the case.
Now, the majority of these characters have some sort of existential crisis going on in their life that often lead back to thinly veiled actions of Republicans or the Trump administration. Science fiction movies and television have always been pretty dystopian, a future that has everything going great is hard to find very interesting, so usually the future involves some sort of catastrophe.
In the past, nuclear holocaust was about as political as it would get — some sort of comment on man’s violent nature. It also presented an easy explanation for not having to spend too much on sets and having enormous three-headed grasshoppers overrun the planet. I don’t care who you are, that’s entertainment.
Now, the world is usually destroyed by global warming, the ozone hole or some sort of authoritarian eugenics experiment trying to eliminate diversity and turn everyone into some version of Uma Thurman.
Superhero characters, particularly in the comics, almost universally represent some angst or politically correct position. They struggle with their place in society — not just because of their superpowers but usually with more common issues, such as their sexuality, their race or the fact they occasionally turn green and are surrounded by white privilege.
What’s changed is that almost all of the motion picture studios, many of the cable channels and the publications online that talk about them are owned by a very few companies. Take a look at how many forms of entertainment that are owned by NBC Universal or Viacom. Then take a minute and think about who is running Google, Facebook and Yahoo. These characters are the gatekeepers for both giving you information and providing you a roadmap to get the information you’re trying to find.
Remember the days of Teddy Roosevelt, the Sherman Antitrust Act and the breaking up of things like Standard Oil and more recently AT&T, because they controlled too much of the market?
The Federal Communications Commission still has a basket full of rules about how much of a market radio, television and print publications can control, but the internet is a different story. As the Wall Street Journal points out, “… Google drives 89% of internet search; 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook product; … Google and Facebook absorbed 63% of online ad spending last year.”
The leakage of these companies’ politics into what would normally be unrelated forms of entertainment are the bread crumbs that show how pervasive they are in our culture Maybe it’s time we decided how we receive information should be just as competitive as where we buy our gasoline.
Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney. He can be reached at email@example.com. His weekly political talk show airs on KNZZ 1100 AM/92.7 FM on Saturdays at noon.