It's Time to break up the Media
By Mike Whitney
06/21/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- The media is a fully-integrated part of the state power-structure. In its practical application, it is more valuable than the military. There are definite drawbacks to using force, whereas, propaganda and public relations tend to be less disruptive to the normal flow of business.
The media’s primary objective is to shape public opinion in a way that elicits support for the corporate agenda. Public TV and the internet pose the biggest threats to that process. They both provide divergent sources of information which eschew the business-friendly filtering process. This explains why the Bush administration installed political appointees at PBS. Their job was to sabotage programs like Bill Moyer’s NOW and the weekly documentary series Frontline. Investigative journalism is a danger to private interests, creating the likelihood that the public will focus more attention on the shadowy activities of big business.
The ultimate goal of any privately owned information-system is to assert complete control over the news-cycle so that events can be arranged in a way that serves the needs of business. The public must be prevented from seeing the conjugal relationship between the state and industry. To achieve this, the media must appear to function independently and speak with many different voices when, in fact, it simply reiterates the same message from numerous vantage points. A simple Google search of any headline story will confirm the truth of this. There is no diversity of opinion in mainstream news. It is regimented and uniform.
Commercial media is designed to stimulate desire for consumer goods and to avoid any information that might instigate greater involvement in the political process. This explains why the vast majority of stories are diversionary accounts of weather-related tragedies and abductions of blond-white women rather than substantive coverage of real economic and political events.
The privately-owned media operates in a way that runs counter to the ideal of maintaining an “informed public” in a participatory democracy. It is a top-down model which hands over control of information to a class of corporate gatekeepers whose judgment is overshadowed by their desire to maximize profits.
We cannot expect impartiality from a privately-owned system where the main players have such an obvious stake in the outcome. Nor can such a system “free” in any meaningful sense of the word. In fact, the illusion of a “free press” is without question the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.
How can a “privately-owned” profit-driven, politically-connected industry be a “free press”?
And, why do people continue to expect independent, evenhanded coverage from organizations that have no allegiance to anyone other than their shareholders?
The media has to function within its own rules and parameters; it is structurally limited to “bottom-line” considerations. That makes “unbiased analysis” virtually impossible.
“Taking back the media” is meaningless sloganeering. The real goal is to create as many independent sources of information as possible to counter the ubiquitous “corporate narrative” of the media giants. To large extent, this has been achieved via the internet. The internet is, in many ways, the perfect democratic model for information-distribution. The public is free to seek their information from a wide range of options and, (from what we can deduce) they normally go to sites that provide news that is consistent with their own world view.
Is there a predisposition to news coverage? Do people naturally gravitate to sites which reaffirm their own basic convictions about reality and the world?
It seems so. That is why the media has very deliberately prevented leftists, liberals and progressives from appearing on mainstream programs. There is a cynical belief that if these voices are excluded, then the people who share their views will feel marginalized and powerless. This sense of impotence promotes inaction and further withdrawal from the political process. Ironically, the exclusion of leftist spokespeople has only directed more rage at the establishment-media and deepened the divisions between opposing groups. The corporate autocrats who promote this system of exclusion have no idea of what its costs to society will be, or whether it will eventually trigger widespread social upheaval. Silencing groups of people with whom we disagree, forces them to express themselves in less constructive ways. Censorship paves the way for violence.
The present system is so narrow ideologically that it is destructive to the basic principles on which the country was founded. The media offers no protection for the basic rights laid out in the US Constitution. Rather, it has become the soap-box for fanatical government officials spouting their rationalizations for torture, rendition, aggressive warfare, and spying on American citizens. All of these extreme forms of human rights abuse have been normalized by the commercial media. It demonstrates that there is a concerted effort to soften public’s attitudes towards fundamental moral issues like corruption and war crimes.
While the media has ignored the damage to our constitution and the perils of an all-powerful executive, it has intentionally mitigated the disastrous effects of global warming, nuclear proliferation and global energy depletion (Peak oil). These are issues that require public engagement and mobilization to affect drastically needed change in policy. Instead, the media diverts attention to meaningless drivel like gay marriage, “color-coded” terror alerts, or Jennifer Aniston’s marital problems.
Time and again the media has revealed itself to be the adversary of the public interest and the common good. In its present configuration it is a direct threat to civil liberties, social equity, and world peace. We no longer have the luxury of ignoring this monolithic octopus which has extended its tentacles into every corner of the body politic. The damage it has caused is already far too great.
Dismantling America’s media monopoly should be a central part of any progressive political platform. Democracy is impossible where information can be controlled by a few powerful corporations that shape the narrative to suit their own self-serving objectives. There must be unrestricted access to the facts that we need to make informed decisions about the issues that affect our lives and the future of the country. By increasing funding for independent and public media and by applying strict regulations to the size and influence of the media giants, we can resuscitate the “marketplace of ideas” and create an environment where divergent points of view can flourish. This will ignite greater citizen involvement and fuel the national debate.
Given the tremendous power of the media-giants this seems like an insurmountable task. Regrettably, there are no easy options. If the present system persists, civil liberties will continue to dwindle while the nation lurches from one war to the next. We’re better off steeling ourselves to the job ahead, broadening our base of support, and breaking up this media-monster once and for all.