Friday, April 21, 2023

Capitalism's Dominion

I've seen a lot of news reports explaining why even though the Dominion law suit was settled out of court, we in the public should still see this as a victory.

I just want to say this is bunk.

The problem here is one of reductionism, by which I mean taking a hard problem that's hard to think about and reducing it to some other proxy problem that appears to represent the original problem so that the problem is easier to think about. This is a common and sometimes defensible practice, but one must always double-check when solutions start to arise in the proxy space that the original problem is being solved.

Just as an example, we hear proposals to address carbon in the atmosphere by taxation. This is because people think that taxation will create economic pressure to spend in ways that will fix the problem. But if you look at how the rich do their taxes, they mostly do not in fact spend in ways taxation is trying to make them. Rather, they invest in accountants who find loopholes, or they invest in regulatory capture to create loopholes. And then they smugly claim they did their part on the original problem, when they didn't.

Too often in recent years, media has gotten to the place where we have serious societal problems for which they have on-hand experts they can call in when something happens. When something happens for the first time, sometimes it's good to call in an expert to hear how they think about it. But finding a way to understand technical detail is not always a substitute for good journalism. If one becomes too practiced at calling up an expert on speed dial, one stops asking the question "What really happened?" and "What does the public need to know?"

Because here's the thing: What the Dominion settlement really exposes is the stranglehold capitalism exerts on society by insisting on reducing civil disputes to money. While clearly Dominion suffered enumerable economic harm, just as clearly the real damage was non-monetary, to our democracy, our society, and civilization. And none of the news outlets are saying that. They're so focused on how we have experts in law that they aren't focused on the question of whether our system of law is serving us at all in this case. It simply is not. It may serve Dominion. They may take home quite a payday. But that is not why this was a big story. And the big media places have lost this point.

We as a society have no standing to sue. We hoped in vain this would proxy for us, yielding results as non-monetary as the damage. Of course that was fantasy. But it explains the crushing sadness many of us feel. Pundits too practiced with procedural expertise keep missing this.

We as a public are sad, but this sadness is not a failure to understand process, so stop trying to tell us what a historic win this is. The public understands acutely that even a historic win is not helping them. This was not a success for society no matter what career policy wonks say. Ordinary folk know.

What we as a society need is a recognition that there is both process due and none to be had. We need to be allowed to express our pain. That pain needs to be acknowledged. If you want to call in experts, call in grief counsellors or experts in how to change government because from where we sit, the problem is that only the rich can change government, and that's why we are in collective pain.

Not only will it be busines as usual for Fox, but they will write off a big piece of their payment as a tax deduction (meaning the public will pay for some of this), and the rest will be passed along as costs to subscribers (which means viewers will pay more). Some will tell us that increased costs to viewers will hurt Fox and that this will ultimately do well. But meanwhile they will go on lying and issuing propaganda in exactly the way they did, and the real, non-monetary damages will continue to mount without recourse.