several lines of text may be required to determine who ultimatelyrnbegat which subsidiary.rnThis does not mean that legislatures need only concernrnthemselves with regulating the content and control of news andrnON’crtlv political media, while thcv can be left uncheckedrnin such harmless and nonpolitical areas as video games, music,rnor sport. W’hen a single conglomerate like Disney dominatesrnsuch a vast section of popular culture, it is able to dictate somernof the basic assumptions of everyday life and social relationships.rnThis point was illustrated by Time-Warner’s postmergerrndecision to slough off a music subsidiary that had earned politicalrnobloquy by producing the more extreme “gangsta rap”rngroups. Though one may smpathize with this decision andrncondemn the “music” in question for its violence and misogyn-,rnit is possible to argue that rappers are urban poets expressingrn(however crudely) an authentic vision of urban America.rnWhichever stance one takes, it is repugnant to see an aspect ofrnculture regulated solely by a corporate desire to avoid offendingrnRepublican politicians who suddenly decide to reinforce theirrnrightist credentials. Couldn’t the company have made a decisionrnon the grounds that it appeared right to them, rather thanrnbowing to politico-commercial expediency?rnIf the instance of rap seems dubious, we might also considerrnthe homogenization of attitudes in other potcntialK’ delicaternareas. A filmmaker or film producer might wish for artistic reasonsrnto depict a story in which (for example) a woman falls inrnlove with a man who has raped or beaten her, or a man becomesrnhomosexual because he has been abused by a pedophile,rnor a career is destroyed through the workings of affirmative action,rnor Israeli settlers maltreat and exploit Palestinian Arabs, orrnany one of 1,000 other instances of political incorrectness.rnMaybe the director wants an ending that is unhappy, unsettling,rnor merely confused. Any one of these circumstancesrnmight arguably produce a film far more complex and interestingrnthan most of the pabulum available on the screens of tele-rnision or the Multiplex, but the power of corporate concernsrnmakes it virtually impossible that such risky ventures wouldrnever be produced. Apart from natural corporate timidity aboutrncultural matters, conglomerates are sensitive about offendingrnany interest group that might inoke a boycott, or mobilizernfriendly legislators to penalize the corporate parents of anrnoffending production company. Why strike at a company thatrnproduces rap music or commits thoughtcrime in matters likernrape or homosexuality, when one can deny its corporate ally arndefense contract or a license to build a power plant? And if thernchoice is phrased in these terms, any sane executive will sacrificernthe culturally daring for the orthodox, bland, and boring.rnCorporate giganticism promotes cultural spinclcssncss andrn(however unconsciously) propagates the social norms of particularrninterest groups. This enforces political orthodox}^ just asrnclearly as if the news programs allotted only favorable coveragernto one party or candidate. Worse, the globalization of mediarncorporations means that consumers in one country no longerrnhave the option of viewing cultural experimentation in anotherrnsociety with different norms and laws. France, Itah, Japan,rnand Russia arc also watching the latest treasure from Stallone orrnWhoopi Coldberg, and so, probably, are the residents of Chinarnand Mali. Domestic producers in these other nations have thernoption of cither withering or adapting until they can pander tornglobal markets.rnThe construction boom on the “information superiiighway”rnma make this an odd moment to be worried about issues likernmonopoly and homogeneity: Has it ever been easier for a grouprnor individual to disseminate views worldwide, with the minimumrnof censorship? While the electronic frontier still has arncertain Wild West quality, it is very much open to questionrnhow long this freedom will survive both the regulatory endeavorsrnof politicians and commercial pressures from the handful ofrngiant networks like America Online and CompuServe thatrnchannel the vast majority of traffic. The only good feature in allrnthis might be that the American party system has never been asrnvulnerable to the manipulation of media barons as its Europeanrncounterparts, which serve far more united societies andrncompact ruling elites. For all the cultural damage they canrnwreak, they are rarely kingmakers. American democracy survivedrnWilliam Randolph Hearst, and it might outlast MichaelrnEisner and even Ted Turner. crnElEscoriall598rnby Gloria WbelanrnLittle pleasure for Philliprnin the long week’s march,rngout makes a penancernof the miles once swallowedrnin a single day’s hard ride.rnAlong the dusty road the sullenrnhomage of the village womenrnreminds him that he sentrntheir sons to die in France.rnThe granite armsrnof the grey giant hunchedrnabove the rocky knollrnembrace him. Immuredrnin his room beside the altarrnhe sees the consecration,rnwhite doves beating wingsrnagainst the flinty wallrnsome fall wounded, some soarrnabove the Cuardarrama mountainsrnthat mark Spain like a headstone.rnFEBRUARY 1996/15rnrnrn