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Monday, 14 March 2005

Ideas that are too far afield

I'll write them here in case I decide I need more padding . . . err discussion.

In Manufacturing Consent Noam Chomsky documents extensively how media in the United States serves power. He demolishes the myth of the liberal media. This persistent myth is also countered quite effectively by David Brock, in his coverage of how fringe right wing ideas got coverage in mainstream media outlets. He also documents how the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal became so biased that they embarrassed the news section of the Journal. News in the United States is controlled by corporate power, which has little interest in actually reporting the news. Journalist Laurie Garrett wrote in her goodbye letter to NewsDay, "All across America news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations - and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions." ( This increased drive for profit hurts news, because the profitability of investigate journalism is low. They go instead for cheap: celebrity stories and often "news" releases produced by corporations or the government. Yesterday's New York Times ran a story detailing how PR firms hired by the federal government produced several "news" stories, which aired as if they were actual news on local news broadcasts across the country. Aside from airing blatant propaganda, media outlets cut costs by replacing journalism with pundits - talking heads which shout talking points at each other, giving the impression of analyzing the news, but in fact doing nothing but trying to advance an agenda with information that is often incorrect.

This shortchanging of news is inherently conservative. Liberals who watched a lot of TV news coverage post 9-11 tended to shift rightward (yadda yadda). Laziness and cheapness in reporting means repeating what official sources say. Official sources are not the voices of the people, but instead the voice of the government and of corporations, whose interests often run directly counter to the interests of the people and whose voices often run directly counter to the truth. With no money spent debunking these lies, and a media culture of serving power, the lies become the reported truth.

Pundits are the most obviously biased and openly right wing media voices of our government policies of prison torture, scapegoating, pro-christianity and conservatism, so they make the easiest targets for protest music. However, in addition to going for what is obvious and easy, leftists must engage all of the "liberal" media and must fight media consolidation.

Garrett commented, alarmedly, that people under 30 are not consuming official news sources. "First of all, all across the news industry there's a recognition that people under 30 are not watching. They're not reading. They don't subscribe to newspapers. They're not watching the evening news, and in many cases, it's hard to pin down exactly how people under 30 in America are getting information. It's a kind of information cocoon in which you’re osmotically absorbing from thousands and thousands of places from the internet, from your friends, from text messaging, from God knows where." ( I suspect that "god knows where" is often music, the blogosphere and from independent media outlets. Dropping out of the toxic, lie-filled mainstream media is a good start, but, like Plato's guy in the allegory of the cave, we must return to the darkness to expose it as fraud.

Not to be elitist or anything . . .


1 comment:

yesyouam said...

Gathering the wits to escape from the burning building of the mass media was pretty easy. I just don't feel like i have that extra bit of determination to drag the others out of the flames. I do my part, I suppose, by occasionally shouting in the window, "Hey, you know you're on fire in there, yeah?" A lot of people are simply apathetic and there's not too much you can do to change that. When I can tell that people are receptive to such ideas, I open up.

I kind of think of it like dieting. If you're aware of your sources of information, that is the first step in controlling your intake. I like to occasionally take inventory of where (and from whom) I get the information that I get. Once the data has made its way inside your head, it's hard to sort out where it came from, so I try to govern that from the top.

1999 was the last year that I saw over 10 hours of TV (for the entire year)! Sometimes I visit relatives and see a little. It always overwhelms me. It's kind of like eating red meat after you haven't for a while. It's-- shocking!