The rise of commercialism is an artifact of the growth of corporate power. It began as partof a political and ideological response by corporations to wage pressures, rising social expenditures, and the successes of the environmental and consumer movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Corporations fostered the anti-tax movement and support for corporate welfare, which helped create funding crises in state and local governments and schools, and made them more willing to carry commercial advertising. They promoted "free market" ideology, privatization and consumerism, while denigrating the public sphere. Inthe late 1970s, Mobil Oil began its decades-long advertising on the New York Times op-ed page, one example of a larger corporate effort to reverse a precipitous decline in public approval of corporations. They also became adept at manipulating the campaign finance system, and weaknesses in the federal bribery statute, to procure influence in governments at all levels.
(The text of the entire article can be found at epsl.asu.edu/ceru/Articles/CERU-0504-122-OWI.pdf
As I envision this process, it was but another step from the amoral corporate assault described here on government and the public sphere as a rival for power to the ruthless takeover of that government sphere to make it, as much as possible, a mere extension and tool of corporate interests. This, of course, is one of the defining characteristics of fascism.
I have written here --e.g. in "The Concept of Evil" (www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=91)-- that this regime is an expression of evil forces that have coalesced together in the past generation in America. The others have been an imperialist, world-dominating impulse and a kind of religiosity that specializes in black-and-white, conflict-oriented ways of thinking, and that tends to be pervaded by hypocrisy. Of these, I believe the corporatist current to be the strongest, and the religious to be the weakest, used by the others for the votes, but mostly just given lip service as part of a con job.
At times, I have added the corruption of the media as an element of this picture, with organizations like Rupert Murdock's Fox News being among the worst of the lot. But analytically, I believe the story of the mainstream media is really just a crucial element in the corporatist strain, fitting prominently into the picture quickly sketched in the above passage by Ruskin and Schor.