A recent post on Jeff Nyugen’s blog Deconstructing Myths inspired me to write about an issue that I’ve been contemplating for a while. Jeff wrote about a reporter, Claire O’Brien, who covered the murder trial of a Mexican immigrant being denied justice. She showed compassion for this man – who acted in self-defense – and, after refusing to reveal the sources of her investigation, was fired and shunned by the industry in which she had not only been a part of, but had excelled in. I will leave Claire’s extraordinary story to Claire herself to tell in a post on Jeff’s blog.
The following is my perspective on the dangers of the corporate-manipulated media which hold dogmatic adherence to the dominant ideology above the safety and well-being of the majority of the population. This is extremely violent. Many people will disagree with that last statement. Though, if they give deep thought to the potential implications of such an insidious grip by a select few who care about nothing other than financial gain on the minds of a populace, they might see the truth in it.
Many people consider a truthful media without constraints crucial to the flourishing of a democratic state. Some people have called a free press the nervous system of a democracy. Some believe that to have a civilized society necessitates a public media forum in which the needs of a society can be openly discussed without being restrained by external pressures. Well, the United States of Corporations is neither truthful, democratic nor civilized and sometimes it seems as if the only “ideas” that are openly exchanged are threats, accusations and fear mongering. This must change. The consolidation of media ownership by corporations from the days of Ronald Reagan Inc. to the Bill Clinton-supported Telecommunications Act of 1996 has led to a transformation that should cause even the most deeply indoctrinated big brother apologist to break into a cold sweat.
There was a time when a good portion of U.S. media was honest and hard working. There were many actual journalists (as opposed to paid hacks) who took pride in digging truth out of the dark corners and dank underbellies of industry and government that made journalism a worthwhile endeavor to pursue. Sadly, the present incarnation of mainstream media has been sculpted by corporate executives who want obedient employees taking orders like good soldiers. It has become a sociopathic partner in crime and corruption unseen since the robber baron days of Randolph Hearst in the late 19th century.
We all know that control of information has long helped the dominant group of
leaders rulers in societies to manipulate public opinion and create illusions that keep the masses under a spell. The illusions vary depending on the time and place, but they are always intended to keep the powerless majority under the thumb of a powerful minority.
In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church controlled the flow of information in Europe and literally told people the Earth was flat. Unchecked, self-serving manipulation kept European society far behind that of the Middle East and other parts of the world where knowledge flourished. It led to millions of Europeans dying from preventable deaths. There are many examples throughout human history that could be mentioned, but this essay is about modern day censorship – specifically as it relates to the current manipulation of humankind that is leading to egregious violations of human rights and oppression so insidious that many people are completely unaware of how deeply they’ve been conditioned to accept it.
When the administration of Ronald Reagan Inc. took over the White House in 1981, corporate sponsors decided that “we the people” had made far too many gains in human rights. They knew that the absolute control they desired depended upon rebuilding the propaganda apparatus that had been weakened by the activism of the 1960s and 1970s. A plan of societal control which included widespread deregulation and a massive barrage of conditioning on social issues was put into effect that still has consequences for the well-being of the nation – and of the entire planet. And success of this plan depended heavily on deregulation of media ownership to obtain and maintain control of the flow of information to manufacture support for ideas which would resonate with personal desires as opposed to ideas rooted in the good of “we the people.” This plan successfully destroyed the ability of much of the working class to think creatively. Everyone knows that a diversity of opinion in media is a sure way of curtailing ignorance so if enough people understood precisely what was being done, absolute control would be impossible.
Now, censorship isn’t quite as simple as many people believe. There is more than one way of censoring news. We’ve all heard about reporters complaining of articles being edited in a way that changed or diluted the point they were trying to make, but the corporate suits who’ve taken over the media are more varied in their attack on the well-documented (yet often ignored) first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Hiring obedient employees, firing creative thinkers for vague reasons (often through false accusations), disingenuously prioritizing issues through corporate-sponsored editorials, giving differing amounts of time to specific matters without regard to their importance to society and many other subtle – and not so subtle – techniques of dubious veracity are also frequently employed by those in the upper echelon of media corporations.
Rupert Murdoch has constructed a media empire of immense wealth doing precisely this. While Newscorp is probably the most obvious example of corporate media creatively twisting facts and fabricating partial truths on an aggressive scale to render the populace incapable of making intelligent decisions, it is certainly not alone. True, they did bring an obscenely exuberant style to character assassination and trash journalism in an undeniably dysfunctional presentation of what was previously known as “the news”. However, every corporate media outlet in the country eventually joined the self-indulgent party of mudslinging which has come to be considered normal in media. This has been accomplished on a level that would make Josef Goebbels proud.
Racism, sexism, religious intolerance, homophobia, xenophobia, self-destructive ignorance (specifically of easily proved facts) – you name it, certain people in corporate media constantly push it to the limit. Even before the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine and enthusiastic deregulation by Reagan Inc. and the surreptitious giveaway by the Clinton administration to the telecommunications industry of the peoples’ airwaves, mainstream media indulged in twisting information to fit the agendas of various corporate entities. It is now on steroids.
Though it seems obvious to anyone who pays attention, people need to finally say “enough is enough” and to say it loudly. We need to insist that journalism be brought back to being a community service instead of an industry that works to increase profits and societal control by power hungry manipulators.
We need media that serves the community, not severs it.
Bringing back solid regulation of media ownership and giving enforcement powers to an FCC staffed without corporate backing would take significant power out of the hands of corporate predators who feed on fear, ignorance, anger and desperation. Diversity of opinion would be a natural result of this. We need to refuse to put up with being looked at with pathetic derision by the rest of the world. Who can actually watch FOX, CNN and other corporate liars spew rants of insane ramblings without being embarrassed? How can we expect to be taken seriously when our most “successful” media is farcical enough to seem like dark cartoons of dysfunctional buffoonery?
It’s long past the time to stand up and speak out. People need to contact their local television networks, radio stations and internet news outlets to complain about the disingenuous way we’re being conditioned to accept views which correspond to the desires of wealthy business executives instead of the needs of the people. We need to demand coverage of issues that are important to US. We need to demand a modicum of competence in a field so critical to continuing to evolve as a species – so critical to simply being human. This dissemination of propaganda that keeps us divided and clawing at each others throats hurts everyone. It’s suicide. It’s time to undo the damage that has systematically brought us not only to a place of fear-ridden obedience, hate and ignorance, but also to the brink of extinction.
Noam Chomsky once wrote: “Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.”
Imagination – or creative thinking – is one of the most precious resources the human race possesses. Anything that can take away from that most human of qualities is violently oppressive and unacceptable to civilization. We must not allow this insidious assassination of freedom to continue.