In an age in which messaging has quietly replaced information as the backbone of a corporate media cartel the opportunities for perverting public awareness could just be limitless.
Take the venerable American magazine, The Atlantic, for example.
Yesterday the magazine ran an advertorial for the Church of Scientology on its website. It praised leader David Miscavige and congratulated him for opening 12 new "Ideal" churches in the past year.
The online puffery prompted a lot of anger and outrage. Yet, on The Atlantic's web site the comments seemed oddly supportive of Scientology and Miscavige. They seemed very one-sided.
Then it emerged that reader comments were being moderated by the magazine's marketing department. The guys managing the Scientology account were calling the shots on what comments to let through and which to block. When word of this got out, The Atlantic quickly took down the Scientology puff piece.
The magazine obviously did a real disservice to its readers but it stands as an object lesson to the rot that sets in with a concentrated, corporatized mass media.
As written here before, a corporate media has a limited interest in purveying information because information is generally public domain and cannot be owned. Transforming information into messaging, however, creates a proprietary product that can very much be owned and like any other such product, marketed to specific beneficiaries for lucrative advantage or favours. And, if it's done well, it can be almost impossible for most of the public to discern.