Digital Disconnect: Robert McChesney on “How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy”
Friday, 12 April 2013 09:05 By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now! | Interview and Video

041213-3Longtime media-reform advocate Robert McChesney looks at how the future of American politics could be largely determined by who controls the Internet in his newest book. Digital Disconnect talks about the difference between the mythology of the Internet, the hope of the Internet, that it would empower people and make democracy triumphant, versus the reality, which is that large corporate monopolies and the government, working together, are taking away the promise of the Internet to suit their interests,” says McChesney, the co-founder of Free Press and the National Conference for Media Reform. His book begins with a simple claim: “The ways capitalism works and does not work determine the role the Internet might play in society.”


AMY GOODMAN: We are on the road in Denver, Colorado, at the first day of the National Conference for Media Reform, where close to 2,000 people have gathered, broadcasting from Denver Open Media. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in a moment we’ll be joined by Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press, the organizers of the National Conference for Media Reform. He is just out with a new book called Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy. The book begins with a simple claim, quote: “The ways capitalism works and does not work determine the role the Internet might play in society.”

Before Bob joins us, I want to play a comment from another media activist who also dedicated much of his life to the Internet and democracy: Aaron Swartz. Aaron committed suicide in January. At the time of his death, he was facing up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted for using computers at MIT to download millions of academic articles provided by the nonprofit research service JSTOR. He was 26 years old. Attorneys for the late Internet freedom activist have filed an ethics complaint over his federal prosecution. His death prompted an outpouring of frustration and anger over his prosecution. On Capitol Hill, Democratic Representative Zoe Lofgren of California introduced a bill dubbed “Aaron’s Law” to modify the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by decriminalizing violations of “terms of service” agreements. This is Aaron Swartz speaking in 2010 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spoke just about JSTOR.

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