>It really is misleading to blame the big bad corporations. You should read
>Upton Sinclair's *Brass Check*, written a century ago, not about big
>corporations but about the individual and independent newspapaper owners
>who some people are so nostalgic for. Those independent publishers were
>every bit as nasty as any of the big media congomerates today. The publisher
>of the News Palladium in my home town of Benton Harbor Michigan used
>to publish lies every bit as vicious as any now published in the Wall St.
>Journal or any of the big conglomerates today.
You're absolutely correct in parsing motives for businessmen, no matter
what size they happen to be. But let's take an interesting case, I've been
In the National Writers Union, we've been sympathetic to the small locally
owned book stores against the corporate entities. Local people in Santa
Cruz did everything they could to keep a Borders from coming in downtown.
The owner of the locally-owned BookShop Santa Cruz has been on the city
council, donates money to the community, etc., and the chains targeted him
because he's the head of the Independent Booksellers Assoc.(IBA) that
brought lawsuits (and won them) against the chainsfor cutting monopolistic
pricing deals with large publishers. When the IBA brought suit, the NWU
supported the suit on the basis that there should be a level playing field,
i.e. chains should pay the same for books as do IBA bookstores. The court
found in IBA's favor but it's too late for many bookstores put out of
business by the pricing policies of the chains.
While I find supporting local merchants against the chains is only
supporting a little capitalist against a big capitalist (or imperialist as
the case usually is), I'm nevertheless sympathetic to local efforts to
retain the character of downtown Santa Cruz and not have it overrun by
large corporate chain stores that look the same across the country. But as
a writer, I have deeper concerns.
The chains have eliminated two thirds of the independent bookstores so that
many praise Borders and Barnes and Noble as their "local" bookstore.
Writers, on the other hand, find that it's much more difficult to promote
their books to these large corporate chains with offices in NYC or other
large cities and which exist solely to move "product." Stores want to make
money and by controlling many branches of the media, from radio stations to
TV stations and newspapers and magazines and bookstores, they can fluff a
book to create blockbusters, thus increasing their profit. The result for
the public is harder to find books, regardless of this glowing reports
about the Internet and desktop publishing allowing more books to be
published, and a narrowing of choices for readers.
The same can be said in many other areas of life. My mother, for example,
supported Wal-Mart because the small local stores charged too much, but now
she's sorry because there's only Wal-Mart and it's boring, has few quality
goods and offers little advice or service.
What's progressive in one era maybe reactionary in another and viceaversa.
Today it may be progressive to support local capitalist against the
multi-national conglomerates that are becoming more powerful than
governments and certainly manipulate them.
best, Don Monkerud
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