The myth of an international culture

Western deception, distraction & domination

One of the great deceptions of our times is the notion of "internationalisation" of ideas, markets and movements.

It has become fashionable to evoke terms like "globalisation" or "internationalisation" to justify attacks on any or all forms of solidarity, community, and/or social values.

Under the guise of "internationalism", Europe and the US have become dominant exporters of cultural forms most conducive to depoliticising and trivialising everyday existence.

The images of individual mobility, the "self-make person", the emphasis on "self-centred existence" (mass produced and distributed by the US mass media instruments in dominating the Third World.

Neo-liberalism continues to thrive not because it solves problems, but because it serves the interest of the wealthy and powerful and resonates among some sectors of the impoverished self-employed who crowd the streets of the Third World.

The North Americanisation of Third World cultures takes place with the blessing and support of the nation ruling classes because it contributes to stabilise their rule.


The new cultural forms — the private over the public, the individual over social, the sensation and violent over everyday struggles and social realities — all contribute to inculcating precisely the egocentric values that undermine collective action.

The culture of images, of transitory experiences, of sexual conquest, works against reflection, commitment and shared feelings of affection and solidarity.

The North Americanisation of culture means focusing popular attention on celebrities, personalities and private gossip — not on social depth, economic substance and the human condition.

Cultural imperialism distracts from power relation and erodes collective forms of social action.

The media culture that glorifies the "provisional" reflects the rootlessness of US capitalism — its power to hire and fire, to move capital without regard for communities.

The myth of "freedom of mobility" reflects the incapacity of people to establish and consolidate community roots in the face of the shifting demands of capital.

North American culture glorifies transient, impersonal relations as "freedom" when in fact these conditions reflect the anomie and bureaucratic subordination of a mass of individuals to the power of corporate capital.

North Americanisation involves a wholesale assault on traditions of solidarity in the name of modernity, attacks on class loyalties in the name of individualism, the debasement of democracy through massive media campaigns focusing on personalities.

Fashioning fantasies

The new cultural tyranny is rooted in the omnipresent repetitive singular discourse of the market, of a homogenised culture of consumption, of a debased electroal system.

The new media tranny stands alongside the hierarchical state and economic institutions that reach from the board rooms of the international banks to the villages in the Andes.

The secret of the success of North American culture penetration of the Third World is its capacity to fashion fantasies to escape from misery, that the very system of economic and military domination generates.

The essential ingredients of the new cultural imperialism is the fusion of commercialism-sexuality-conservation each presented as idealised expressions of private needs, of individual self-realisation.

To some Third World people immersed in everyday dead-end jobs, struggles for everyday survival, in the midst of squalor and degradation, the fantasies of North American media, like the evangelist, portray "something better", a hope in a future better life — or at least the vicarious pleasure of watching others enjoying it.

Mass media — converting critical public into passive mass

THE mass media is one of the principal sources of wealth and power for US capital as it extends its communication networks throughout the world.

An increasing percentage of the richest North Americans derive their wealth from the mass media.

Among the 400 wealthiest Americans the percentage deriving their wealth from the mass media increased from 9.5% in 1982 to 18% in 1989. Today almost one out of five of the richest North Americans derive their wealth from the mass media.

Cultural capitalism has displaced manufacturing as a source of wealth and influence in the US.

The mass media have become an integral part of the US system of global political and social control, as well as a major source of super profits.

As the levels of exploitation, inequality and poverty increase in the Third World, Western-controlled mass communications operate to convert a critical public into a passive mass.

Western media celebrities and mass entertainment have become important ingredients in deflecting potential political unrest.

The Reagan presidency highlighted the centrality of media manipulation through highly visible but politically reactionary entertainers, a phenomenon which has spread to Latin America and Asia.

There is a direct relation between the increase in the number of television sets in Latin America, the decline of income and the decrease in mass struggle.

In Latin America between 1980 and 1990, the number of television sets per inhabitant increased 40%, while the real average income declined 40%, and a host of neo-liberal political candidates heavily dependent on television images won the presidency.

The increasing penetration of the mass media among the poor, the growing investments and profits by US corporations in the sale of cultural commodities and the saturation of mass audiences with messages that provide the poor with vicarious experiences of individual consumption and adventure defines the current challenge of cultural colonialism.

US media messages are alienating to Third World people in a double sense.

They create illusions of "international" and "cross class" bonds.

Through television images a false intimacy and an imaginary link is established between the successful subjects of the media and the impoverished spectators in the "barrios".

These linkages provide a channel through which the discourse of individual solutions for private problems is propagated.

The message is clear. The victims are blamed for their own poverty, success depends on individual efforts.

Major TV satellites, US and European mass media outlets in Latin America avoid any critique of the politico-economic origins and consequences of the new cultural imperialism that has temporarily disoriented and immobilised millions of impoverished Latin Americans.