“Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.” — Michael Parenti.
In his book, Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media, well-known and well-regarded leftist scholar and cultural critic Michael Parenti offers this paraphrase of the above statement that had been seen in print beginning in the early 20th Century (if not before). It is an effective soundbite, and remained contextually accurate (to a degree) for most of the 20th Century, its “contextuality” predicated on my qualification that in a free market there is no barrier to anyone owning their own press. However, the prohibitive logistics of printing and distributing any written publication to a mass audience being expensive and difficult to achieve at scale in order to influence the public, he has a valid point about pragmatic barriers to entry.
Well, writing in the mid-1980s, he had a valid point.
If the proliferation of blogging, social media, and self-publishing in the 21st Century has produced anything of value–any useful signals amidst all of the noise–it has lowered that barrier of entry to practically nil, thereby democratizing printing and distribution of “speech” in all of its forms and in a variety of media and formats in a way that is unprecedented and transformational. If it’s true, in the views of A.J. Liebling, Parenti, and others that “freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one,” then in a very real and pragmatic sense it is now very inexpensive for anyone–and especially Karl Marx’s proletariat–to own the means of production in this particular arena. The free market once again achieves a result prized in the abstract and at least paid lip service by socialists everywhere.
Nearly anyone can produce and distribute content on the internet these days, and nearly everyone seems to. Issues of quality aside–and that is an important ramification of this achievement–everyone is potentially a writer, a journalist, a photographer who can quickly and easily distribute their productions to a global audience…at least to citizens in any developed (and often not-so-developed) country whose government allows such communication to flow freely. Even oppressive governments and those with great power have to work harder to control the free flow of information, and they know their days are numbered.
Another positive consequence of this new and disruptive opportunity provided by technology and the free-market: excuses blaming the establishment fall even more hollow and flat. If your work is good, you can easily get it “out there” if you put the effort into it and, perhaps more importantly, are driven to find a market, an audience, and have the courage to be judged by potential readers (customers) and hear what they’re telling you when they either buy or don’t buy what you’re selling.
This new online marketplace is also why PunchRiot can so easily and simply exist, why so many writers and artists who in the past would have faced a difficult if not impossible road to achieve publication and distribution before the World Wide Web went life. The information superhighway is not paved in gold, however. When everyone can publish and distribute anything, that’s exactly what we get: anything and everything. Which is another reason PunchRiot exists.
Our goal here is to meet the needs of our readers by showcasing smart, entertaining, and thought-provoking writing and art in the Punch Riot Magazine and promoting related, supporting content with the website.
Simply put, we want the 20 minutes or so you spend reading an issue of our literary mag to be the one of the most entertaining and refreshing 20 minutes of your day.