Monday, December 19, 2016

Hedges on Fake News - Why Don't We Just Stop Swallowing?

For years I've been calling for a democratic restoration in Canada. We're still a democracy but we dare not take that for granted, not when liberal democracy is on the run in so many other countries, including the United States.

The path to democratic restoration in my argument begins with the dismantling of the corporate media cartel. Let's revisit the Davey and Kent Commission reports and again realize how media concentration endangers democracy.

Corporate media distributes not information but messaging, information corrupted with spin. There's a kernel of truth to it, just enough to carry the weight of a thick layer of opinion and, when that opinion emerges from a handful of boardrooms, it becomes predictably slanted.

The Fourth Estate is supposed to represent the public interest but, once captured and consolidated by corporate interests, that changes. The media go from being the watchdog of government and become, instead, the lap dog of government. There's a powerful quid pro quo to this. For example, consider how Stephen Harper exempted PostMedia from the law governing foreign ownership and how PostMedia repaid the favour in various ways but especially in the full front page splash endorsing Harper featured in every PostMedia paper as Canadians went to the polls last October.

Before that there was the example of the prospect of a coalition government forged by Dion and Layton. Harper called it unconstitutional, a constitutional coup d'etat, even though that was precisely how his then pal, John Howard, became prime minister in Australia. Our corporate media cartel knew and ought to have known that Harper was lying through his teeth but they instead perpetuated Harper's tall tale in their pages.

There's a mutual corruption that takes place between government and a corporatized mass media. It's pretty pronounced in the States but we've seen enough of it up here too.

Here's Hedges' take:

The media landscape in America is dominated by “fake news.” It has been for decades. This fake news does not emanate from the Kremlin. It is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry that is skillfully designed and managed by public relations agencies, publicists and communications departments on behalf of individuals, government and corporations to manipulate public opinion. ...The public is so awash in these lies, delivered 24 hours a day through electronic devices and print, that viewers and readers can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction.

Donald Trump and the racist-conspiracy theorists, generals and billionaires around him inherited and exploited this condition, just as they have inherited and will exploit the destruction of civil liberties and collapse of democratic institutions. Trump did not create this political, moral and intellectual vacuum. It created him. It created a world where fact is interchangeable with opinion, where celebrities have huge megaphones simply because they are celebrities, where information must be entertaining and where we can all believe what we want to believe regardless of truth. A demagogue like Trump is what you get when you turn culture and the press into burlesque.

Journalists long ago gave up trying to describe an objective world or give a voice to ordinary men and women. They became conditioned to cater to corporate demands...

The corporations that own media outlets, unlike the old newspaper empires, view news as simply another revenue stream. Revenue streams compete inside a corporation. When the news division does not make what is seen as enough profit, the ax comes down. Content is irrelevant...

...Only about 15 percent of any newspaper is devoted to news. If you were to remove from that 15 percent the content provided by the public relations industry inside and outside government, news falls to single digits.

Reality is consciously deformed to easily digestible sound bites and narratives. Those involved in public relations, political campaigns and government stay relentlessly on message. They do not deviate from the simple sound bite or cliché they are instructed to repeat. It is a species of continuous baby talk. And it dominates the news and talk shows on the airwaves.

...Trump is adept at communicating through image, sound bites and spectacle. Fake news, which already dominates print and television reporting, will define the media under his administration. Those who call out the mendacity of fake news will be vilified and banished. The corporate state created this monstrous propaganda machine and bequeathed it to Trump. He will use it.
The Fourth Estate used to serve as the eyes and ears of the public. They spoke truth to power and deservedly held themselves out as the vox populi. Today the corporate media cartel serves to blind and deafen the public and the tongue in which they communicate is that of the powerful.


Anonymous said...

"Trump did not create this political, moral and intellectual vacuum. It created him."
And some folks are still staunch defenders of the said "vacuum" movement which was trounced by Trump. Horror vacui. Nothing can be emptier than a vacuum.

The Mound of Sound said...

After all you've seen since the election - his tweets, his business shenanigans, the motley crew he's chosen for his cabinet, on what level can you say that he "trounced" the vacuum described here? As the Gullibillies will soon find out the only thing Trump intends to trounce will be them, his supporters. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Toby said...

Mound, the election was rigged; it was a Hobson's choice. One way or the other the result would be much more of the same neo-liberal plunder. Blame? There's lots of that to go around starting with Saint Reagan.

Those in power have been putting out disinformation for a very long time. The British were very good at it in WWII and, under the circumstances, I don't blame them for that but the war ended 66 years ago. For all I can tell, the Americans are still fighting all of their previous wars and still telling themselves the same lies. The McCarthy Red Scare, the Cold War, all a crock, all fake news and utterly unhelpful.

Unknown said...

Everything has a life span Mound. I sense the corporate/ military elite are coming to an end. I don't mean that this elite will be finished. I mean the neoliberal power they have imposed on the world for years is in its final phase. I sense that they will go full force in grabbing what's left of the worlds wealth.

With Trump as President we can expect a full fascist police state. Dissent will be doubled down on and full violence against the dissenters will ensue. Laws will be created to stop rebellion and protests. The global elite will go for it. Full control of the earths bounty, supported by the US/NAtO military.

People will be openly monitored and accused of new crimes like economic terrorism. The global Neoliberal elite will pull out all the stops to take full control of any country they choose to plunder, with the help of the US/NATO military of course.

Israel will pursue and acquire most of what is left of Palestinian land and will also destroy most of what's left of the Palestinians.

I realize I'm speculating of course, but with Trump now President of The American Empire, the Leonard Cohens song, "The Future" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

@ Pamela..

Everything has a life span Mound. I sense the corporate/ military elite are coming to an end..

Sadly they are only just starting; we have seen nothing as yet.

Listening to USA right wing radio; Rush Limbaugh , not totally satisfied with a Republican win ; goes for the throat of the opposition on a daily basis and calls for the annihilation of the opposition.

Trump is a political neophyte who's 'advisors' will take him down the path of ruin but not before irreparable damage has been done.

In our life; somethings just don't seem to add up, call it gut feeling or maybe just wishful thinking!
For years I have not understood the 'United' when discussing the United States!
At my three score years and ten( gulp) I can never remember the U--SA at peace with itself.
I think , like the USSR, the USA is too big a country to govern and will like the USSR dissolve into smaller factions that have more in common locally than nationally.