Capitalist takeover of democracy

Anecdote One:

Came across at Kwang-suk sunbae’s blog the following message from Dorothy Kidd.

From: Dorothy Kidd []

Dear friends:

Lee Myung-bak’s New Right government in S. Korea is taking disturbing steps to limit freedom of expression, shut down independent media, and defund media, arts, and cultural organizations across the country. The latest blow is an attack on public media center MediAct, which has played a key part in the democratization of Korea’s media system since the end of the dictatorship, trained thousands of people in media production, and developed many successful media policy proposals to open up Korea’s mediascape to diverse voices.

Please take action now to express international support for MediAct.

[…] (Full text here.)

Dorothy Kidd
Associate Professor
Department of Media Studies
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton St.
San Francisco

First Noam Chomsky and the late Howard Zinn (and 171 others signing a petition against the Korean government on the Human Rights day last December) and now Dorothy Kidd. I can’t imagine how pathetic we must have looked lately – rolling backwards and backwards in ‘democratic consolidation’.

Anecdote Two:

There’s a Korean Website called DDanzi. It’s a political satire site. You could picture something like the Onion. Quite different stylistically, but they both seem to take similar directions.

Initially setting out to mock the largest conservative daily Chosun Ilbo in 1998, DDanzi has developed into an online news outlet with a liberal perspective, employing an extremely informal – and often deliberately vulgar – language. Having said that, it has been dormant for the past few years, as it was financially struggling. Now it is in full swing. Fuller than ever. Not that it has eventually come up with a viable business model or anything but that people behind it are activists at heart and the current political climate of the country has waken them up, so to say.

Their comeback is marked by two projects among a few others. One is the DDanzi Idiot Award for those who have *stupidly* stood up against the power-holders and got crushed. The other is the We-Will-Pay-Your-Fines scheme. How this scheme works is that the entire profit they make by selling T-shirts and mouse pads on their Website is given to those who got fined for having participated in the candlelight demonstrations against American beef imports in 2008.

My focus today is on the latter. Some of you might not find it impressive, as selling goodies with political logos for fundraising is the oldest story in the book. I believe the significance lies, again, in the context in which this is happening. To illustrate, quoted below is a passage from one of their recent articles (about full body scanners coming to Korean airports).

As you all know, I have been bombarding our dear president and the government with harsh criticisms. All this time, I was pretending that they wouldn’t be bothered with what a “nobody” like me says, but frankly, I guess I had this nagging feeling deep down within myself. If they wanted, teaching a “nobody” a lesson would be a piece of cake, wouldn’t it?

Moreover, I might just manage if things got physical (I might even look cool!), but like in the case of the Candlelight protests [in 2008], if they fined me instead, say, a few thousand pounds, it certainly would be a strain for me, who is as broke as the unemployed, but I would be too embarrassed to say so to anyone.

Of course, I would never ever choose the earlier physically violent forms of oppression over fines or any other penalties, and I understand the writer didn’t mean that literally either. The point I am trying to make here is this.

Back to Anecdote One:

What I find particularly demoralising in Dorothy Kidd’s message is the word “defund”. The Korean government insists that it is an unfair exaggeration to call what they are doing political oppression, as it is admittedly not the most obvious kind. But threatening people financially and making people feel embarrassed about their financial (in)capacity? That’s just …. cheap. Perhaps this is my Confucian self speaking, but to me, it is a disgrace.

You call it a capitalist democracy? I would call it a capitalist takeover of democracy.

3 thoughts on “Capitalist takeover of democracy

  1. I’m not sure I entirely follow what is happening but from what you describe such tactics are similar to those that have been used here in the US and in the UK under conservative administrations. Do you see any linkage with your work on Nosamo?


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