There seems to have been a spate of merger announcements of late, and each seems to be a ‘big’ grabbing up a ‘not-quite-so-big’. That, of course, is the way it works; I cannot recall a merger where the opposite took place.
The latest,but likely not the last, involves AT&T acquiring Time Warner. I was surprised to see that Time Warner owns HBO, CNN, TNT and obviously, the Warner Bros. studio. This is an agglomeration that will likely spur even more acquisitions and fewer and fewer entities not joined at the hip. This will be a mass communications behemoth.
I was born and raised at a time where the local merchants were what I knew as ‘commerce’, and where the big city as I knew it was a place with something in the range of 35,000 people residing in it. In the past seven decades, there has been a continual race to be the biggest this or the largest that. For a long time, that seemed innocent enough. The local clothier was acquired by the larger men’s store in the next city or the grocer sold out to the growing grocery chain.
The simple answer to the title question is this: No; ‘bigger’ is not always better. For a long time, ‘bigger’ didn’t seem quite so onerous. Now, I find myself being concerned about the day when there will be only one of something since it has gobbled up all the others through acquisition or simply driving them from the marketplace by economically forcing them to close their doors.
This latest announcement involves something more concerning than a clothing store chain. This growing mass communications monolith could become a significant controller of what we are given to consume as news, and as entertainment. It could become a tool of government through regulation, and that tool could be used by people who were in it for themselves, and not for us consumers of the products and services. Maybe this is not currently possible with the Internet, but the new AT&T/TimeWarner has tentacles that might just be able to effect control over a lot of our sources of information. It may be able to control much of what we consume as information and entertainment.
We currently have a President who took great delight in changing our country by Executive Orders. Congress and the Supremes be damned. “Stop me if you can.” This seemed the operative terms from the Oval office. Do we think this display is going to not occur again with a new President? We’re fools if we believe that. The three “equal” branches are not equal if one branch decides to simply ignore the other two, especially if we the people permit that to happen. We tacitly gave the President more power than our Constitution had intended by allowing him to do these things without the intervention of the other branches, at least so far.
With fewer and fewer commercial organizations controlling more and more of our daily lives, and with these mega-corporations becoming ‘political power’ king-makers, we might be amazed at what changes could be wrought. That could never happen you say?
Our naivete could be the very tool that makes that happen. Mass communications is a powerful ‘weapon’ if it is intended for use in that manner. Walls have been crumbled by mass communication and the resulting power of the people. Similarly, mass communication has been the driving force behind the confiscation of freedom. We, as a country, have been favored in that freedom has always been the motivator. Might it not be possible for something that looks like freedom to prove to have been used to deny us that very thing, maybe gradually, incrementally; but is that not a possibility?
The old adage of the frog in the pot of water that was heated ever so slowly might have usefulness in our new world.
This conjecture simply reaffirms the importance of the election that will be upon us in the blink of an eye. We need to be as sure as we can be of the underlying motives of the candidates. Are they trustworthy? Do they believe in our freedom? Can we look to their past and see the proof of their convictions? Or, are they hungry for the power they see in victory? Have they managed to make a lot of money being public servants? Does that square with them being in this for us?
In our world today, everything is inter-related. Even when it seems too remote, too separated to be related, it can be by extrapolation.
Bigger is not always better!