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When Magazines Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Have Magazines

by The Cranky Media Guy

Let's see...we've got a Congress that claims to think that there's nothing wrong with taking great, steaming loads of money from people who run businesses that the Congress-weasels are supposed to oversee; we've got schools that turn out citizens so uninformed that not one person wrote to me to let me know that every single "fact" in last week's commentary was incorrect (of course, there's always the possibility that this web site attracts such a high-IQ clientele that you all knew the stuff was bogus and figured out that I was just yanking your collective chain).  We've also got a population the majority of which gets its news from TV, which is the rough equivalent of giving school children the Weekly World News in lieu of science textbooks.

Hmm, how can we make this inspection-failing school bus of a country run even faster toward Oblivion (Population: us)?  Hey, how about if half the magazines on the newsstands were to go out of business in the next year or two?  That's what some people are predicting will happen.  The price of paper is going way up, postal rates are about to increase and wholesalers are trying to cut costs by eliminating magazines that don't sell a high enough percentage of the copies they ship to satisfy them.  Yikes. 

Let's test your ability to predict the future.  Which of these two magazines would you think is more likely to go out of business, under the circumstances I just described: People or Skeptic (a small circulation magazine devoted to debunking claims of the paranormal and the like)? Try another one:  Entertainment Weekly or The Door (a Christian-oriented religious satire mag, believe it or not)?  Are you starting to see the problem here?  These magazines (and thousands like them) may be small, but that doesn't mean that they don't serve a valuable function.  For one thing, they provide information that the Big Boys either can't or don't want to deal with.  Not everything should be watered-down for a mass audience, especially in a "democracy".

I realize that saying half of the magazines currently on sale may go out of business soon might be a wee bit Chicken Little-ish, but with media conglomerates taking over everything that moves, we can't afford to lose any sources of information.  Let's face it: if and when the government starts sending its goons around to round up we noisy dissidents, the only help we'll get from AOL-TimeWarner's print division is articles on "How To Dress In Style For The Gulag On A Budget".   They ain't about to rock the boat.  Hell, along with the damn Feds, they ARE the boat!

Big deal, you're thinking, the print magazines will just move to cyberspace.  Two problems with that.  One: just about nobody is making money on the Web by providing "content".  The only faster way to go broke is having the Spam concession at the Wailing Wall.  Two: the days of the free-wheeling, anything-goes Wild Wild Web seem to be numbered.  The sneaky bastards on Capitol Hill are currently testing the censorship waters.  They're about to pass a bill (cleverly disguised as a rider to a bill that is about something completely different) that will make it illegal to provide information about the manufacture of methamphetamine on your web site.  Not selling it, mind you--just information about how it's made.  I don't like drugs, but once you start censoring information, you're standing on two banana peels at the top of the World's Biggest Slip 'N' Slide leading to a dictatorship. 

Besides, what about the people (like me) who like to read while on the toilet?  Ever try to balance a computer monitor and keyboard on your lap while doing your business?  It's...why, it's impractical, that's what it is!

I don't want to sound like an alarmist (I know, I know, since when?), but I'm starting to worry about the future of print (and literacy) in this country.  I don't want to live in a world in which someone who does the TV Guide crossword puzzle in ink is considered Mensa material.

Well, I, for one, won't go down without a fight.  I'm going to build a bunker in the basement out of my old magazines.  I'm going to hide in it and when the soldiers come, I'll yell, "You'll get my copy of Mother Jones when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers."  Then they'll shoot me through the skull and do exactly that.  But at least I will have said something really funny before I died.




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