Distracting the Public
The current U.S. ‘Presidential Reality Show’ playing out throughout the mainstream media with almost 24/7 coverage is nothing more than a distraction. It provides entertainment and the ‘illusion of choice’ in what has become hypocrisy and the corruption of the democratic process. While some people may be pinning their hopes on Donald Trump to clean up the mess that previous administrations have created, it is worth noting that Obama was also touted as a saviour. Obama offered hope, integrity, and the promise of real change for the U.S. Under Obama’s administration he carried out over 1,063 documented examples, of lying, lawbreaking, corruption, cronyism, hypocrisy, and waste. Some of these included: military intervention in Libya without Congressional approval, giving a no-bid contract to Halliburton cronies (just like Bush did), creating an administration full of lobbyists (after promising he wouldn’t have any), breaking his promise to close Guantanamo Bay, supporting the $700 billion TARP corporate-welfare bailout just like Bush, and supporting Bush’s unconstitutional Patriot Act, to name just a few. (1)
While the masses enjoy the political circus created by the media, corporations are revelling in the hoopla and going about their business of seducing observers into a media induced coma, thus blindsiding citizens to the real issues of the day. While Donald Trump may appear to be upsetting the status quo, it will be hard for any serious change to occur as long as the concentration of power is controlled by the elite. Let’s not forget Donald is part of that elite, having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, despite his claims he was a self-made man. As control concentrates with these ruling oligopolies, the message of community, society, political discussion, civic values, and any organized dissent is marginalized.
Propaganda, Omission, and Corporate Interests
“As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.”
– Gore Vidal
While the distraction of the masses occurs at one end of the spectrum, at the other end propaganda continues to bamboozle the unsuspecting citizenry. Apart from the inability to disseminate large volumes of information, the main difficulty in distinguishing propaganda from other types of biases is in its subjectivity. For one party the information communicated may be seen as educational, yet for the other party it may be seen as propaganda. Propaganda is about presenting facts and information selectively so that the message elicits an emotional response.
It is important for the news media to be seen as advertiser-friendly. Any negative news slant, especially in regard to the economy, environment, or foreign policy, may upset potential advertisers and limit revenue streams. Mass killings, terrorism, race hate, and police violence, on the other hand, are welcomed by the mainstream press. These keep people in an endless state of fear, and ensure they keep consuming news. So we see soft stories and sensationalism serving as a means of attracting readers and viewers, while more subtle and meaningful stories are avoided for risk of scaring away potential advertisers. Business interests and potential advertisers such as industrial agriculture and the automotive, pharmaceutical, and travel industries are therefore protected from potential bad news stories that may spook or upset advertisers.
“People who own the society, the merchants and manufacturers, they are the architects of government policy and they design it in their own interest of course no matter how grievous the effect is on others. The point of corporate propaganda and the educational system is to instill these beliefs and it works pretty well.”
– Adam Smith
While the U.S. government, with the help of the mainstream (corporate) media, is reporting that the American economy is in good shape, other non-mainstream analysts suggest otherwise. John Williams, an economic consultant who runs the website Shadow Statistics, examines the data many mainstream media outlets fail to update or question. Take the ‘official unemployment’ rate in the United States, as outlined by Unemployment USA. It is promoted to the public at around 4.9%, yet Williams argues that “the numbers are a matter of definition. If you interviewed those who are unemployed you would get a much higher rate than what the government puts out as its definition.” (2)
Williams points out that back in 1994 discouraged workers were counted. If you hadn’t looked for work in the last two years but you were still ready and able to take a job the government counted you. It doesn’t now. Williams estimates that if the calculation was the same or similar to what it was back in 1994, the unemployment rate would be more in line with 23%.
Divide and Conquer
“After you’ve had somebody say to you for the thousandth time, ‘How come we never hear about these issues in the media,’ you start to realize that the media itself is an issue.”
– Svend Robinson
Instead of informative and intelligent conversation, the mainstream news media have become an agenda-driven mouthpiece for creating isolation, separation, and obedience. One of the primary reasons the elite have garnered dominance is their commitment to psychological operations that divide-and-conquer the public. As David DeGraw from Dissident Voice puts it:
In manufactured public opinion, Obama represented a far left swing in US politics, and Bush represented a far right swing, and these two supposed polar opposites also had a Congress overwhelmingly run by members of their own party. Did we get drastically different policies? In what matters most, in both cases, the results were the same: more money and power for the Economic Elite and the continued decline of the US middle class. This fact is now undeniable.
Yes, there are definite differences in their rhetoric and on some social issues, but this is the key to the psychological operations, to the divide-and-conquer strategy that they use so effectively. (3)
While the rhetoric on issues such as religion, gay marriage, abortion, race, terrorism, immigration, and gender play out, other fundamental issues such as social inequality, environmental degradation, and systemic political and corporate corruption, as well as the invasion of foreign countries to secure resources, go largely unchallenged.
So How to Avoid Being Manipulated?
Noam Chomsky sums it up nicely in this quote,
“I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions… Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a sceptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself.”
He is the author of Rethink…Your world, Your future.
Excerpts from Rethink…Your world, Your future.