When we pick up a paper or check the news on television we generally expect to be informed. The media has a responsibility and that responsibility is to inform us of what’s going on. If a dam is in danger of breaking two miles above our town, it is the responsibility of the media to let us know that the danger exists and why it exists. To a certain extent, we put our trust in them. But trusting the mainstream media is not a rational or intelligent choice to make. They have lied by saying things that are not true, by not saying things that are true, and very often through spinning bullshit, which is slightly different than lying. Sometimes bullshit is worse than lies. It’s not that they have done so several times, or even often. It’s that they do it all the time. They are programmed like a virus in software to fuck us up.
They never, by the way, use vulgarities like ‘fuck’. This is not an offhanded comment. It is very relevant. In fact, if you read media where the use of such words is acceptable, they have passed an important litmus test. They obviously don’t pander to the fucked up Christian Right and they don’t pander to the corporate elite who are very careful not to offend those that march in orderly fashion. They are in the business of providing audiences.
The mainstream media is not just a simple money pig. It is much more than that. With the marriage of the corporation to the state complete, it is natural for the corporate media to mouth the interests of both. The mainstream media has become a lackey, a tool of those that want to tell you that the Western world is in deep, deep danger. In a similar vein to Hitler’s fire in the Reichstag, the oil/ arms billionaires that run the White House want us to be terrified. They want a green light to make war in the Middle East and they want a green light to funnel billions of tax dollars into their own pockets through the sale of weapons systems. As a result we see very agitated talking heads that spew drivel ad nauseam about the need for security. It also serves their more sinister designs to build an iron shackled state apparatus where we will learn to live with less freedom and more security. We will learn that extremist views cannot be tolerated and they pose a threat to us all. Welcome to the Matrix.
They obviously serve many other functions besides making money and parroting the wishes of the aristocrats and overlords. They also strive to indoctrinate and shape the rabble into a uniform and docile mass of chauvinism.
Every day people are blown to bits in Iraq and often these events are not even mentioned in the news. When they are mentioned they will be treated rather frivolously. Contrast that with the severity and alarm on the airwaves whenever terrorists attack White or priveliged people. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, a disaster in Asia or Africa or Latin America may be mentioned casually while the misfortune of some rich, White Westerner would be a matter of much concern and excitement. Or they may focus on more ordinary folks like a runaway bride, or a missing teen in Aruba. This follows a pattern of implicit racism and it certainly suggests Brown foreigners are disposable and White Westerners are not. That pattern drives an implicit message into the minds of those that are vulnerable to its reception.
There is no doubt that the corporate media is working overtime to indoctrinate the citizenry, especially in the United States. It is in the United States where this process is magnified and as a result, people outside the USA may be affected to a lesser degree. This is not to slight the citizens of America, it is just that it is Americans that live deepest inside the belly of the beast of American hegemony. The CBC in Canada for example, is noticeably different than mainstream American media.
The crux of the problem is that the media is owned and controlled by that special interest group – the one that’s extra special. They have their own interests and those interests happen to be against the interests of the rest of us. And it is those billionaires that set the tone, the content, and the agenda for the rest of the media. A small-town newspaper does not have the resources to hire investigative journalists and they pick up the main stories from the newswire. Those items are fed by that same special interest group. Here, Chomsky explains who sets the content and the agenda for the mainstream:
“The New York Times and CBS, for example. Well, first of all, they are major, very profitable, corporations. Furthermore, most of them are either linked to, or outright owned by, much bigger corporations, like General Electric, Westinghouse, and so on. They are way up at the top of the power structure of the private economy which is a very tyrannical structure. Corporations are basically tyrannies, hierarchic, controled from above. If you don’t like what they are doing you get out. The major media are just part of that system.”
Chomsky also makes the point that the media has a specific motive and that motive is the audience itself. That is why news stories are very short and their patterns are quite simplistic. Short attention grabbing sound bites or pleasing optics are important. Content is but not in the way it should be. The main thrust of the business is not to inform, the business is about grabbing an audience and people are the product. Chomsky continues:
"Take the New York Times. It’s a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations. In the case of the elite media, it’s big businesses." (Lifted from: http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/z9710-mainstream-media.html)
But there is more to this than selling audiences. You will notice that the media will make certain issues relevant and important. They will spin them out in concert with the party line and with each other, sometimes word for word. For example, the deficit was the big problem when the politicians and the large corporations wanted to cut social programs. Right wing think tanks and agencies like Moody’s of New York suddenly had a lot to say about how societies are governed and how tax money is spent. You will also notice that when tax dollars are spent on weapons systems, the media does not make an issue of the deficit. It is rarely mentioned, if at all. That is because those that control the media are the same people that profit from building weapons systems.
According to Peter Phillips, “The eleven largest or most influential media corporations in the United States are General Electric Company (NBC), Viacom Inc. (cable), The Walt Disney Company (ABC), Time Warner Inc.(CNN), Westinghouse Electric Corporation (CBS), The News Corporation Ltd. (Fox), Gannett Co. Inc., Knight-Ridder Inc., New York Times Co., Washington Post Co., and the Times Mirror Co. These eleven major broadcast and print media corporations now represent a major portion of the news information systems in the United states. For many people their entire source of news and information comes from these eleven corporations."
General Electric is in the business of making battlefield computer systems. Their director, former senator Sam Nunn (who also directs Chevron/Texaco) isn’t likely to promote journalists that research his connections or to report any stories that work against the interests of NBC. He is not likely to be happy about his reporters making anti war statements either.
Recently, media and political elites have been shouting concern about the dangers of extremism. This sounds quite ominous. How does one define extremism? What is extreme in one culture is moderate in another. Attending Mosque every day and praying five times a day would be extreme from a Western point of view while viewing explicit sex movies would be extreme from their point of view. And extremes shift in time as well. From the point of view of 1970, all politicians are now extremely right wing. From the point of view of politicians in the 1930’s, today’s politicians and the population in general would seem bizarre. The point is, when the elites take on enemies like extremists, or 'evil doers', when they can make these subjective judgments, we must watch our backs. This very general term, extremism, casts a wide net. Will the mainstream media cast dispersions on leftists, environmentalists, or any spiritual practice that they subjectively deem extreme? Have the elitist media set out to squash dissent of all kinds using the modern day fire at the Reichstag (9-11) to do it? It really looks as if this process has already begun.
Steve Mizrach points out, “Opinion in our society must be carefully shaped and molded within certain careful boundaries: those who transgress those boundaries are libel to wind up "extremists," "ideologues," "fanatics," or "agitators. Now that dissidents in the U.S. can no longer be labelled 'fellow travellers' of the Moscow-run Commie conspiracy, the task has become more urgent. And how is it that consent, that most valuable of social products, is manufactured?”
Mizrach points out that the following tactics are employed by what we may regard, realistically, as the enemy; that is, the mainstream media. They mould opinion particularly on Sunday talk shows by parading the opinions of sycophants that are the mouthpieces that have been schooled within the hallowed halls of the university of corporate indoctrination.
These are bolstered by spin doctors, or, PR devils. “PR managers, known as "spin doctors" when working in government, are able to carefully craft speeches and advertisements which evoke powerful images in the American psyche, frequently using "power words" such as freedom, fairness, liberty, justice, and peacekeeping for policies which dominate, discriminate, imprison, exploit, and terrorize much of the rest of the world.” (Mizrach)
Mizrach also points out the real purpose of public opinion polls is not so much to measure public opinion as it is to shape it. They also employ academics and think tanks to shape and mould public opinion.
Together, these tools are used against us. They are more threatening an enemy to the citizens of Western nations than an army of bin Ladens. They are used not only to shape public opinion. They are used to lie to us and to indoctrinate the impressionable and the young.
But there remains wild cards; people with influence that are not politically correct. In the past several years we have witnessed the firings and muzzlings of very influential people. Bill Mahar was fired for stating the obvious on a show ironically named, “Politically Incorrect”. He isn’t alone. Phil Donahue and Peter Arnett have been fired for political reasons. This works very directly. Advertisers who are the corporate – or more generally, the business elites, have forced them off the air.
More recently the increasingly fascistic and bold business elites, represented by both the Democrats and Republicans, have de-clawed the relatively liberal Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS). Bill Moyers was called to the mat for his apparent ‘liberal’ bias. The message that has been sent to those with influence is to stay inside the box of what the corporate rulers deem politically correct for American politics. It is worth noticing the contrast between American media and that of any other country in the world. In Canada for instance, liberal is a political stance that people generally consider either middle of the road or maybe somewhat to the right. In Canada, socialism is leftist but curiously in America, socialism has been purged from politics. It’s as if it doesn’t exist.
We cannot underestimate the importance of Indymedia, bloggers, progressive web sites, and all progressive movements that rely on the internet. The internet is a genie let out of a bottle. This fluid and democratic flow of information is the blessing of this uncontrolled machine that sits before you. The corporations do not own or control this medium and here, we are free. And it is from here we face the enemy. From here we will work together to defeat the next rising wave of tyranny.