If John Sinclair’s essay were a 1980s pop rock hit, it would be We Didn’t Start the Fire, an expansive, rapid fire summary of recent decades interspersed with brief attempts to articulate his own message. Sinclair, of course, relies more on academic arguments than catchy choruses, and where Billy Joel argued in 1989 that Cold War animosity was merely a continuation of a longstanding global order, Sinclair argues nearly two decades later that globalization in general and media globalization in particular are powerful trends influencing nation-states’ cultural, social and economic norms and redefining the role and identity of the nation-state.
How does the media fit in? Advertising and entertainment media have helped spread the products of global corporations around the world. Sinclair acknowledges that media have increased the export of news, products and values from powerful, wealthy countries, but he notes several flaws in theories of “cultural imperialism,” including the assumption that the presence of these items would automatically undermine and replace existing values in the importing countries. He also notes that media has enabled diaspora communities to stay in touch with their homelands, reducing the pressure to assimilate to new environments.
Sinclair seems to agree with Karim and Waisbord that globalization has resulted in transnational blurring of media production, ownership, content, distribution and audience, as well as greater cultural diversity within “national” populations. Modern information and communication technologies have enabled individuals, groups, businesses and governments to transcend time and space and to connect to global networks, Sinclair says. At the same time, nations have lost some of their cultural, economic and political autonomy to increasingly powerful international organizations.
In short--if you’ll forgive another retro song reference--for states that want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony (or at least to maintain existing international harmony and cooperation) buying the world a Coke and hoping everybody drinks it is going to be less effective than promoting “social and cultural pluralism within the population” and working with globalizing institutions and corporations to promote the common good.
If you're curious, Hanson's song would be Virtuosity, and I'm still trying to find something good for Appadurai that suggests the struggle to balance globalization's homogenizing and heterogenizing influences, but the only think I could think of was Paula Abdul's Opposites Attract, which didn't really seem to cut it. I'll open the floor to further suggestions...