Professor, author and provocateur Robert McChesney presented his book “Dollarocracy” at the Ritter Hall Annex on Sept 17. Open to all members of the Temple community, the lecture brought to light “how the money and media complex is destroying America,” according to McChesney and co-author John Nichols.
Nichols was asked to present this concept at Capitol Hill and was unable to attend the lecture. David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communication, welcomed his old colleague McChesney to the university.
“I was sitting at a table of graduate students at a seminar,” Boardman said. “My attention was immediately drawn to this tall guy with hair down to his shoulders, eyes that were practically frightening in intensity and a biting wit that put everyone else in the room to shame. When I caught up with McChesney a few years later, he had less hair, but even more fire. He had become an esteemed writer and one of the nation’s premier thinkers in the field of media and communications.”
McChesney was well-met by audience members, who laughed at sarcastic comments, which was perhaps the “fire” Boardman had noted.
“Look at democracy at its most basic definition, meaning governed by the people,” McChesney said. “‘Dollarocracy’ means being governed by money.”
In the lecture, McChesney discussed how politics reflect the interests of the richest in the country. A major point of the lecture was based on the concept of “zombie ideas.” McChesney said these are ideas that are constantly pushed by the rich even though most Americans vote against them. He also mentioned how the media has influenced the election circuit.
In fact, he said there is no value in journalism, except for political leverage.
“Commercial journalism that can be supported by advertisement is disintegrating before our eyes on almost a yearly basis,” McChesney said. “What does that mean for elections? No one will be covering those stories.”
As a result, McChesney said political coverage will be presented to Americans through negative campaign advertisements and personalized emails. Though he presents this as a negative trait in society, his lecture was not entirely pessimistic.
“There is hope,” he said. “My optimism comes from the fact that most citizens are dissatisfied with the system. The only reason why ‘Dollarocracy’ exists, why the election system is so perverted, is because these guys can’t win at these elections where voter turnout is low. If we want things to change, we have to have this discussion. We have to have a broader discussion, even when we don’t think the American people are ready to discuss things like this. Don’t think that it’s hopeless, because we have all the power.”
Student attendees said they enjoyed the lecture and considered McChesney’s experience to be admirable.
“I think it was an absolute honor having Robert McChesney, the leading mind in political economics, come to Temple,” one student said. “We’re lucky that there’s a scholar out there who is able to translate high theory into something that people can understand and make a part of their daily lives.”
Brian Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org