GlobalNet21: Recreating Our Futures Message Board › Meetings, Interviews, Articles & Social Action Reports › The Media Monopoly (I/II): Written by Julian Gibson, GlobalNet21 reporter
This is the first of an article in two installments. The second part, discussing Corporate Journalism, will follow shortly.
“The press is a hired agent of a monied system, set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where the interests are concerned.” – Henry Adams
By: Julian Gibson, GlobalNet21 reporter & columnist.
Newsflash: The Media is Everywhere. From endless adverts filled with beautiful airbrushed people, making us feel unworthy enough to buy products we neither want nor need, to stories of recessions & Cameron’s ‘Big Society’, to the latest immigrant, paedophile celebrity botox scandal. The steady diet of demonization and idolization fed to us by the mass media can leave us feeling bombarded and bamboozled. Many people follow ‘the news’, but few give any thought as to who is pulling the strings behind the information we are given. Most intelligent people know that The Sun, The Daily Mail and their ilk are little more than an insult to trees. But all too often the public takes it for granted that the more respected media outlets, such as The BBC, The Guardian or The Times are reliable and objective sources of information. The very presence of a ‘gutter press’ often gives a veneer of respectability and a self-serving illusion of superiority to those who ingest the more ‘highbrow’ media. When in reality, the same business interests that control and shape the tabloid press also control much of the liberal media, government policy and public relations and entertainment and advertising.
Although the corporations and financial institutions that run the show are profoundly undemocratic, totalitarian power structures, we don’t live in a totalitarian society. Those in power can’t just use violence anymore. So control of the public must be maintained by distraction and deception. Manipulation of thought is necessary in any society where there is an element of democracy: The freer a society is, the more important it is to resort to methods of indoctrination. The art of influencing opinion has a long history, dating back to the days of ancient Greece. Today it is a highly sophisticated, multi-billion dollar industry, with its roots in the early 20th century.
The Birth of the Mass Media
The modern public relations industry arose in the United States during World War I. In 1916 the US population was extremely pacifistic, and saw no reason why they should become involved in a European war. The administration of president Woodrow Wilson set up a propaganda operation called the Creel Commission, headed by Edward Bernays, the father of modern PR. Using stories of evil Huns tearing the arms off Belgian babies, they succeeded, within six months, in turning a peaceful nation into a hysterical, war-mongering population who wanted to destroy everything German. Sourkraut became ‘Liberty Cabbage’. Bernays commented on this success, “if you can use propaganda for war, you can certainly use it for peace.”
Persuasion works best when it’s invisible, Bernays argued, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.” He called this scientific technique of opinion molding the “Engineering of Consent.” Bernays taught US corporations how to make people want things they didn’t need, by using advertising to link their products to people’s unconscious desires. Walter Lipmann, an influential political commentator and public intellectual, extended this philosophy. He believed the population was fundamentally irrational and decided a new rational elite would be needed to control what he called “the bewildered herd”, using psychological techniques to control the minds of the masses. He called this process “The Manufacture of Consent.” Lipmann’s and Bernays’ idea was that if you could keep stimulating the irrational self, to keep the mass distracted and ‘bewildered’, then those in power could continue doing what they wanted to without interference. This was the beginning of the psychology of persuasion, and the birth of modern consumer society. It was exported to Britain and Europe, and today has come to dominate the Western world. There are two targets for the “Manufacture of Consent.” One is the professional class – a relatively educated twenty percent of politicians, journalists, managers, professors and so on. As they are expected to play some role in decision-making, their consent is vital, so they must be deeply indoctrinated. Then there’s the other eighty percent of the population, their role is to follow orders, not to think or participate. The role of the media is to divert this group’s attention with tabloid gossip, celebrity trivia, sports and so on. Thus, ordinary people tend to have a much healthier skepticism of those in power than those closer to power, or aspiring to join their ranks.
Today, the public relations industry Bernays birthed is enormous, and largely unknown to the general public. Giants like Hill & Knowlton and Burston-Marstellar are paid vast sums of money by governments and corporations to shape and reign in public opinion. Techniques range from manipulating science to misinform the public on issues like climate change, to infiltrating grassroots political organizations. These same companies that sell us toothpaste and cars, also sell us elections and wars. In the run up to the 1991 invasion of Iraq, the public were unenthusiastic about invading a country they’d barely heard of. Then televisions were filled with images of a Kuwaiti girl, Nayirah, giving a tearful testimony of Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators and leaving them on the floor to die. The story of babies torn from incubators was repeated over and over again. Within months a US and European public, who previously were largely unaware of the existence of Saddam Hussein, were now baying for his blood. What viewers didn’t know was that Nayirah’s testimony was not filmed by a television news crew. Nayirah was in fact the daughter of Saud al-Sabah, Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, she had never seen any babies in incubators. The PR firm Hill & Knowlton was paid $10.8 million dollars by Citizens for a Free Kuwait to coach Nayirah in her acting lessons, and create and distribute the video news release (VNR) (side note: such ‘news’ releases make up a third of all news releases in the United States) during the second invasion of Iraq, because France refused to support the illegal invasion, in the US French fries became ‘Freedom Fries’. When important information is consigned to the memory hole, it seems history is doomed to repeat itself.
This is the first of a two part article on ‘The Media Monopoly’.
The second article, focusing around Corporate Journalism, will follow shortly.
To read more GlobalNet21 articles http://21st-centuryne...
Edited by Christina Wiltshire on Aug 11, 2010 8:17 PM