News ID: 319665
Published: 0326 GMT January 25, 2022

Interests of giant media conglomerates, imperialist states interlocked

Interests of giant media conglomerates, imperialist states interlocked

IRAN DAILY: In regards to military imperialism, you observe that the US military-industrial complex has been neoliberalized. However, one may argue that it’s a bit far-fetched because the US military is still by far a state-run enterprise that, despite “the rise of private armies” to whom some more menial functions of the army are outsourced, is not left to free market forces. How do you respond to that?

EFE CAN GÜRCAN*: One thing to keep in mind here is that neoliberalism is and has always been a state-driven phenomenon where structural adjustment principles are used, not just to render the developing countries vulnerable to Western capitalism, but also to consolidate state power in imperialist metropoles. An empowered state apparatus enables Western capitalism to increase its capacity to deploy strong policy instruments to manipulate the markets, impose the neoliberal principles on the developing world, and restrict the competition in the markets for sales, raw materials, cheap labor, and capital investments. Indeed, military interventions assume a particular importance in this respect. A strategic priority of imperialist interventionism is to prevent the emergence of potential rivals (e.g. China, Russia, and Iran) that would challenge US global hegemony. Therefore, it is no coincidence that the US Department of Defense has become the world’s single largest employer and the US is a country with the world’s largest military expenditure by far.

The other side of the same coin is the unprecedented rise of private military contractors in the post-Cold War era, with US imperialism dominating the global market. This is due, not only to the restructuring of the US military after the Cold War, but also the growing popularity of neoliberal principles such as subcontracting and the requirements of irregular warfare to dismantle the potential US rivals from within. There are many instances in which the number of private military contractors surpass regular troops operating in hostile environments. Speaking of irregular warfare, I should emphasize that asymmetric threats can only be countered with a holistic approach that also includes asymmetric defense. The recent rise of private military contractors in Eurasia is in large part attributable to the threat of US private military contractors in the region.

Since at least three decades ago, many Iranian minds came up with various conceptions such as “cultural incursion” and “cultural surprise attack” to describe the increasing presence of Western (most notably, American) cultural ideas and symbols in our social settings. To what extent do you think a war discourse might be warranted in explaining cultural imperialism?

What I understand by “cultural imperialism” has a close resemblance to the “cultural incursion” hypothesis. In ‘Imperialism after the Neoliberal Turn’, I examine the basic institutional structures underlying the phenomenon of cultural imperialism by reference to two structural dynamics: “media-industrial complex” and “nonprofit-corporate complex”.

The media-industrial complex describes the interlocking of interests between giant media conglomerates and imperialist states. In the present day, the markets for the production of media content, media platforms, and media infrastructures are mostly dominated by US media and information and communication technology (ICT) conglomerates. It is also important to keep in mind that the US market currently accounts for almost half of the global audiovisual trade. Indeed, the Third and Fourth Industrial Revolutions have greatly contributed to the growth and globalization of media empires (and ICT conglomerates). These developments have considerably expanded the ability of Western media empires, not only to stigmatize the so-called “rogue states” and justify military interventions, but also to colonize the hearts and minds of those living in the developing world, manipulate their tastes and consumption patterns, and control their political agenda. Therefore, it would be safe to conclude that Western media empires have become the building blocks of today’s capitalist-imperialist system.

Similar to how the media-industrial complex weaponizes media and ICT, the media-industrial complex is an underlying institutional structure of imperialism that weaponizes civil society. US assistance disbursed through various channels such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Foundations, and the Fulbright Program serve to coopt, not only journalists and scholars, but also civil society groups in line with imperialist interests. Overall, I can say that the nonprofit-corporate complex is characterized by a close interlocking of monopoly and imperialist interests, which explains the global influence of philanthrocapitalism such as the Rockefeller, Ford, and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations. As far as the nonprofit-corporate complex is concerned, it is equally difficult to ignore the role of Western-supported non-governmental organizations in “color revolutions”.


*Efe Can Gürcan is associate professor of international relations at İstinye University, Istanbul. He is the author of ‘Imperialism after the Neoliberal Turn’ published by Routledge in 2021.


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