Saturday, December 06, 2014

In the Time of the "Official Truth" There's No Room for Journalism

John Pilger looks at what the Western media offer up as journalism and sees instead propaganda.  He sees the essence of the mainstream media as not information but power.

The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.
The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.
Pilger observes that the collapse of mainstream media, their all too willing surrender to messaging and propaganda in lieu of journalism, has proven to be an extremely deadly affliction.  The American and British pogrom on Iraq is an example.
...had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist.
Even now, despite the millions who took to the streets in protest, most of the public in western countries have little idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed by our governments in Iraq. Even fewer are aware that, in the 12 years before the invasion, the US and British governments set in motion a holocaust by denying the civilian population of Iraq a means to live.
Those are the words of the senior British official responsible for sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s – a medieval siege that caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five, reported Unicef.  The official’s name is Carne Ross. In the Foreign Office in London, he was known as “Mr. Iraq”.  Today, he is a truth-teller of how governments deceive and how journalists willingly spread the deception.  “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he told me, “or we’d freeze them out.”
The handmaidens of suppression have done their job well.  Consider the effects.  In 2013, a ComRes poll found that a majority of the British public believed the casualty toll in Iraq was less than 10,000 – a tiny fraction of the truth. A trail of blood that goes from Iraq to London has been scrubbed almost clean
The most effective propaganda is found not in the Sun or on Fox News – but beneath a liberal halo. When the New York Times published claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, its fake evidence was believed, because it wasn’t Fox News; it was the New York Times.
The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.

Pilger questions whether we're being conditioned for war.  He's not alone.  In August, the leading German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, warned that we're being "mentally mobilized" to accept war with Russia. 
If you wonder,” wrote Robert Parry, “how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.”
Parry, the journalist who revealed Iran-Contra, is one of the few who investigate the central role of the media in this “game of chicken”, as the Russian foreign minister called it. But is it a game? As I write this, the US Congress votes on Resolution 758 which, in a nutshell, says: “Let’s get ready for war with Russia.”
Pilger concludes by apparently calling on journalists to heal themselves, something that strikes me as unimaginable until we first break up the corporate media cartel.
When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”
It’s this kind of silence we journalists need to break. We need to look in the mirror.  We need to call to account an unaccountable media that services power and a psychosis that threatens world war.
In the 18th century, Edmund Burke described the role of the press as a Fourth Estate checking the powerful. Was that ever true? It certainly doesn’t wash any more. What we need is a Fifth Estate: a journalism that monitors, deconstructs and counters propaganda and teaches the young to be agents of people, not power. We need what the Russians called perestroika – an insurrection of subjugated knowledge. I would call it real journalism.
It’s 100 years since the First World War. Reporters then were rewarded and knighted for their silence and collusion. At the height of the slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.”
It’s time they knew.

Canada is in no better position than Britain or the United States.  If anything, our corporate media cartel - Sun Media, PostMedia, Bell, CTV, the G&M - don't even make much of an effort any more to conceal their conservative/corporate alignment.  Their cartel has to be broken up if we're to preserve a democratic Canada for future generations.
As I wrote in July, 2013:
Concentrated, corporate owned media and politics are mutually corrupting because each can, and invariably will, do the other invaluable favours all at the public expense.  For both of them, it's "win-win."  For you, it's all "lose-lose."
You can't have a corporatist state and a democratic state at the same time.  You can't end corporatism when you have a corporatist government operating under the cover of a corporate media cartel.  Can't be done.
Democracy cannot exist without an informed electorate.  To achieve an informed electorate the voting public must have ready access to the broadest range of views and voices: left, right, and everything in between.  The public needs information to empower them to make informed decisions.
The corporate media cartel in service to a corporatist state doesn't sell information.  It peddles messaging, slanted information, groomed information, that is of itself a form of misinformation. 

In December, 2012, I wrote a piece, "Freedom of the Press, Freedom From the Press," that reflected on Canada's media cartel and how it flogs messaging that is tantamount to propaganda, undermining Canadian democracy.
Here's a link to the item dealing with the Handlesblatt article, "Warning from Germany - We Are 'Mentally Mobilizing' for War."
In October, 2013, I posted an item about the role of Canada's media in misleading Canadians, "Our Democratic Deficit Begins in Canadian Newsrooms."
If you don't hear about this ongoing and dire threat to Canadian democracy from Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair, it's no oversight.  They're fine with the status quo.  They're fine with the modern media cartel.  They either see no purpose in dismantling the cartel or they consider it in their personal best interests to allow our media predators to gorge themselves on the Canadian public undisturbed. Whether motivated by personal advantage or cowardice they're not prepared to stand on the side of democracy, Canada and our people and confront the forces of corporatism and the media cartel they wield.  


Owen Gray said...

Those who grant or deny access now call the tune, Mound. And journalists now wait for the peanuts that are thrown their way.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

Mound, why does the corporate media cartel go along with the governments messaging? What's in it for them or what would they lose if they chose to not go along with the government? The reason is not obvious to me and I want to understand it.

The Mound of Sound said...

Owen, it's hard to blame too much of this on the spinelessness of journalists. Their craft has been hard hit, jobs are scarce. Meanwhile we're still pumping out would-be journos from any number of community colleges. In our day, Owen, journos were trained at Ryerson or Carleton.

Pam, it's a symbiotic relationship. Governments quietly backed away instead of intervening to block lucrative deals - concentration of ownership and media cross-ownership - that underlie the media cartel. The political classes and the media giants are all of a clearly neo-liberal bent which is how our media came to be the lap dog of government instead of its watchdog. You might think that the corporate media are the house organ of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers by their horribly slanted (i.e. misleading) coverage of the bitumen pipelines.

When government becomes "hands off" to this accumulation of media power, the big enterprises such as PostMedia make far more money. One of the first steps they take is to pare staff to the bone, firing journos and closing bureaus. It's far cheaper to substitute corporate messaging for actual reportage. We don't realize how much of what we get as news today is delivered to editors in the form of press releases, even commercially-prepared video clips.

Beijing York said...

Back in the late 90s, we (some of us working at Canadian Heritage) were looking at the economic and cultural ramifications of media concentration through what began to be a growing business trend of acquisitions and mergers. Canada trailed behind the US but the effects of downsizing were felt almost immediately in terms of news coverage. Investigative journalism and foreign bureaus became a thing of the past - news became focused on picking up stories from the newswire and repurposing press releases, preferably those of your advertisers. Pages/air time devoted to lifestyle and business content grew by leaps and bounds since advertisers became the source for their content in numerous puff pieces. The economic trend and its ramifications were unfolding faster than anyone in our department cared to admit.

But the sad fact is that there weren't many tools to regulate such a trend. The Canada Investment Act and Fair Competition Act and CRTC were laws and regulations not ready to tackle the realities of globalization and corporate concentration that have become standard issue in the 21st century.

mogs moglio said...

Pam here is a fact sheet about the US media we don't have one [Canadian media fact sheet] to the best of my knowledge but we have the identical media creep:

The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting, BY, that in the 90s you were wrestling with similar concerns to those that occupied us in the 70s. Today those worst case scenarios have become reality. What we don't hear today is any clamour to restore a functioning free press to Canada.

Mogs,thanks for that link. It was very helpful.

Trailblazer said...

Could it be that the decision makers see no hope for the current fianancial system & it's inevitable collapse.
A limited war or wars could be considered, in some eyes, good for the economy & further reductions in political freedoms?

The Mound of Sound said...

Much as it pains me to admit it, Trailblazer, you could be quite right. Democracy, rights of all descriptions, the environment, our economy, global security - they're all in serious and growing peril and that's not being addressed by the very people in whom we collectively entrust the power to deal with such things on our behalf.

The common good has been subordinated, suppressed even as part of the era of neoliberalism. Posterity, as an essential element of policy and planning, has been discounted to the point of irrelevance. Neoliberalism is a genuine "scorched earth" movement that is bad enough for us while, for our grandchildren, it's criminal.

mogs moglio said...

MoS TY for the TY on the link. Look I’ve been around I lived in the ‘Excited States’ when Geo Bush the first was ‘elected’ as “president” what a joke that was. I knew then deep in my gut as John Fogerty and CCR sang “I think we’re in for nasty weather don’t go out tonight…” George the first Bush in power was an imposter he was a CIA all his life. He bragged about strafing Japanese life rafts after their ship sunk during WWII. [War crime] When I watched him after winning the American election I realized the media was complicit in feeding us false information. I used to listen to National Public Radio [NPR] the US equivalent of CBC basically but not exactly. I learned we were weaned on lies and deception and it has not changed under the “Harper Regime” it is getting worse…

Propaganda propaganda propaganda…

I am Canadian and proud of it but hate where Harper is taking us without permission.