Posts Tagged ‘mainstream media’

The manufacture of consent… is a revolution in the practice of democracy – Walter Lippman, “Public Opinion”, 1921.

Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent argues about mass media in America and their relation to culture, society and the existing power structure.

[Background]: Hegemony refers to predominance or the preponderant influence of one state over another. A ruling or elite class dominates at the level of ideas, thus undermining any consciousness of change.According to Antonio Gramsci;
hegemony accounts for why people are willing to find a niche in existing society rather than rebel in the manner predicted by Karl Marx.In America, these constraints are inherited in the following:

  1. from social structure, and
  2. in governmental organisation

— and together they discourage alternative strategies of action. In effect, people participate in their own domination. Media provide the information.]The video shows Chomsky’s guiding belief to be that a decent society should maximize human need for creative work — not treat people as cogs in a machine so that the power elite can maintain control, continue private ownership of public resources and increase profits — all the while managing media content (while preserving the myth of a free press).This deprives a community of what Walter Lippmann called;

“the means to detect lies.”

(Recall Postman’s quote in “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Chapter 7).Real democracy, he believes, would be one in which people participate in the political decision-making and in related economic decisions.

Chomsky asserts that America has a system of indoctrination (including a system of propaganda imposed largely by media).

He believes that the hope lies with ordinary people and in the understanding that all changes in history have come because people build a foundation for change at the grassroots level.

Ordinary people are very capable of understanding the world, yet must work TOGETHER to get beyond the imposed information and strive to act in accordance with their own decent interests and develop independent minds. (Omnia Sunt Communia?)

Concision — Noam Chomsky’s concept describing how mainstream media content is structured so that it forces those with dissenting voices to limit scope of answers to brief thoughts and soundbites that fit easily between two TV ads

Regarding Thought Control in a Democratic Society

Chomsky makes these points:

  1. Propaganda is to democracy, what violence is to a dictatorship.
  2. Ordinary people have remarkable creativity.
  3. People have a fundamental need for creative work, which is not being met in systems where people are like cogs in a machine or, machine coding of a microprocessor.
  4. What would make more sense as a way to govern is a form of rationalist-libertarian socialism — not one that increasingly functions without public input. Chomsky advocates a system where a community and its members run things in a democratic fashion and whose people do not function as some sort of wage slaves.
  5. People need to be able to detect forms of authority and coercion and challenge those that are not legitimate.
  6. The major form of authority that needs challenging is the system of private control over public resources.
  7. The First Amendment means that democracy requires free access to ideas and opinions.
  8. Democracy in America is not functioning in an ideal sense but more in the sense that Lippmann noted in Public Opinion (where a specialised class of about 20 percent of the people — but who are also a target of propaganda — manages democratic functioning) and, in effect, are under control of a power elite, who more or less own the institutions. The masses of people (80 percent) are marginalised, diverted and controlled by what he calls Necessary Illusions.
  9. “Manufacturing consent” is related to the understanding that indoctrination is the essence of propaganda.
    In a “democratic” society indoctrination occurs when the techniques of control of a propaganda model are imposed — which means imposing “Necessary Illusions“.

    Chomsky’s “Propaganda Model” says;
    American media have “filters” — ownership, advertising, news makers, news shapers — which together emphasise institutional memory, limited debate and media content emphasising the interests of those in control.

Chomsky used a CASE STUDY of how American media covered two foreign atrocities, Cambodia and East Timor, to illustrate the propaganda model at work — mainstream media (New York Times was the example used) showed bias in favour of the status quo and power elites and did not covered both atrocities in the same manner, by paying extensive attention to the one (Cambodia 1975-79) and ignoring the other (East Timor 1975-79).

If media were not an instrument of propaganda, they would have covered each equally.When media news coverage of issues is biased in favour of the status quo, these are the results:

  1. ownership of media is held by major corporations with interests and goals similar to power elite elements of society
  2. people with different views, “dissenting voices,” are not heard much
  3. the breadth of debate is limited
  4. the official stance and institutional memory prevail and become history
  5. people’s interest and attention are often diverted away from issues about which they could become concerned

These attributes come to limit a society in part because mainstream mass media play their part by imposing what Chomsky calls Necessary Illusions, which make certain the masses of the populace won’t become curious and involved in the political process and will continue submitting to the “civil rule” of the power elite (maintaining the status quo) — thus,
the masses (80%) are marginalised and diverted while the political class (20% who vote and participate in democracy) are indoctrinated into the status quo.
This system is not a conspiracy but is a HEGEMONIC system of sorts, working with propaganda, wherein people do not get all the important information that may arouse that curiosity and prompt them to get involved and create changes.

Chomsky’s concept of NECESSARY ILLUSIONS is linked to power elites dominating how life happens, with part of the population — about 20% who make up the political class and are expected to participate as cultural managers in a limited fashion — are indoctrinated, and most people — the other 80% of the population — are marginalized, diverted from political awareness and participation in self-governing, and reduced to apathy so they don’t vote or take charge. Media are a tool of society’s power elites and owned and controlled by them and are used to impose those iIllusions that are Necessary to keep people diverted from the political process.
[David Hume asserted hundreds of years ago that the power always rests with the people but that they don’t act because they are oppressed or manipulated]

Thus, indoctrination of the political class and diversion of the masses make up the essence of the democracy practiced in the U.S. (Chomsky notes also that there is no correlation between the internal freedoms in a society and violent external behavior — and that all governments are ruthless to the extent that they are powerful.)

Major media (New York Times, Washington Post, TV networks, AP) shape our perception of the world by serving as Agenda Setters, Chomsky says.

Media allow some dissenting voices but marginalize them via constraints such as CONCISION, Chomsky’s concept saying in mainstream media content, ideas must be stated briefly so it can fill up the TV content between commercials or fit in the print media newshole). Thus, dissenting views are mostly disallowed because they take longer to explain and need more complete evidence.

Chomsky asserts that in order to break free, citizens must take two actions:

  1. They must seek out information from ALTERNATIVE MEDIA (media outside the mainstream and usually having a particular point of view)

  2. they must move toward change by becoming engaged in community action — because people can use their ordinary intelligence to make changes in their lives and communities. Grassroots movements begin there.

People can organize to begin grass roots momentum to bring about wider change — but Chomsky says people must realize soon that the world is not an infinite resource and an infinite garbage can. In these ways, people can fight society’s tendency to isolate them from collective action and activism.

Chomsky says it is “profoundly contemptuous of democracy” when the American political system has stage-managed elections and uses manipulation such as testing phrases to determine their likely effect on audiences.

Chomsky argues that people need to work to develop independent minds — maybe in part by forming COMMUNITY action groups with others with parallel interests and values, not in isolation, which is where the present system tends to keep people.

Chomsky says the present conventional MYTH is that individual material gain is praiseworthy. Instead, people must concern themselves with COMMUNITY INTERESTS [which now suggests the global community] — and that may mean a spiritual transformation to help people to conceive of themselves differently.

Chomsky argues that America and the world are in deep trouble and that
2 POSSIBILITIES EXIST regarding America’s future and the future for a global community held hostage:
1. The general population will take control of its own destiny
2. Or — there will be no destiny to control.

_______________

In Chomsky’s words concluding “Manufacturing Consent”:
“The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided [as they have been until now]. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are … essential to survival.””The driving force of modern industrialized civilization has been individual material gain. It has long been understood that a society based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, [and] is an infinite garbage can.

“At this stage of history, one of two things is possible: Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others, or alternativ ely there will be no destiny to control.

“As long as some specialized class is in position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interest it serves. But, the conditions of survival and justice require rational, special planning in the interest of the community of the whole (and by now that means the global community).

“The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely to impose NECESSARY ILLUSIONS to manipulate and deceive [whom THEY believe are] the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. “The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may be essential to survival.”


So, Chomsky says, all states are violent to the extent they are powerful and that there is little correlation between internal “freedoms” in a society and violent external behaviour.The modern American industrial civilisation and the media system (which suggests a propaganda model) work because people don’t have the time to work and carry out the research to get the information necessary to create change.
But, the information is present.Chomsky says, he does not have the answers but we should consider moving toward some sort of libertarian-socialist democracy in which our economic institutions would be run by the people. He suggests this as an anarcho-syndicalist model. In this way, we would end private control over public resources – which are finite.To achieve change AND OVERCOME THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PROPAGANDA MODEL, Chomsky says, we need to rely in part on activism and alternative media.We must develop means of intellectual self-defense.
We must develop independent minds.
We need to review a wide range of press (or do so in conjunction with others), including alternative media — and work at the community level in organisations that may have different focuses but that have similar values.
We must become human participants in our social and political system and work to make a difference.Given full information, ordinary people acting on their best impulse can govern themselves.


Note: Chomsky’s ideas that touch on solutions such as alternative media sources, collective action, media literacy, and use of the intellect have similarity to solutions offered by Media Education Foundation videos.

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This report in today’s Guardian positions the intriguing question; What makes mass murder newsworthy from one place but not from another?

16 people were slaughtered in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and received around the clock coverage for three days on some outlets, over 2000 people were slaughtered by Islamic Extremists Boko Haram in Baga region of Nigeria. But this slaughter received almost no airtime in Western MSM mainstream media.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/12/-sp-boko-haram-attacks-nigeria-baga-ignored-media?CMP=fb_gu

 

PLEASE NOTE: the following link contains graphic image of those slaughtered in Baga Nigeria, it is a humanitarian disaster that has not been acknowledged even by the serving Nigerian Premier, it is being ignored!

Power To The People

When we heard about John McDonnell’s People’s Parliament initiative, we knew we wanted to be involved. And anyone can get involved. The idea is to open up the Houses of Parliament to the people. As John sometimes says on introducing a session: everyone’s invited, except the fascists…

Illustration of John McDonnell holding anti-fascist placard

The People’s Parliament – by John McDonnell MP

We have experienced the most serious economic crisis of the capitalist system since the great crash of 1929 and yet mainstream politics has sunk to a philistine level of political debate, best characterised by the recent spoof B film party political broadcast made by the Labour Party and the succession of UKIP candidates spouting racist, homophobic bile.

How could we have let our politics become so degraded?

Three centuries ago the Enlightenment led us to believe that the exercise of reason would lead to a linear progression of how we understand the world and the society we live in. Many were convinced that this intellectual evolution would inform the political decisions taken on how best to organise our society.

Still within this tradition, Marx then introduced us to the dialectical process of history and thought.

  • Thesis and antithesis would lead to a progressive synthesis.

In our recent period, far from securing progress we seem to have gone back into the darkness. Popular political discussion, as witnessed in our mainstream media outlets, is a pretty bleak, barren wasteland. Newspapers print the sensationalist lies determined by their oligarch owners. The liberal Guardian very rarely strays beyond its acceptable establishment comfort zone.

What masquerades as political debate on radio and television on programmes such as Any Questions and Question Time is largely a parade of posturing political hacks with barely a cigarette paper between the politics of the supposed political opponents who appear on the shows.

This intellectual vacuum has led to a situation best depicted by Stan Jameson in which for most it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.
Politics doesn’t have to be like this and we can’t let this continue. We have a responsibility to promote a real political discussion and debate about the lives we lead, the society we live in and the alternatives there are.

It is these sentiments that led me to launch the idea of the People’s Parliament.
Back in the 1980s I was elected as a GLC (Greater London Council) councillor and became Ken Livingstone’s deputy. Despite all the rhetoric about the Labour GLC being a golden age of radicalism, the reality is that initially the GLC controlling Labour group was fairly traditional social democratic.

Physically opening up County Hall as a building to a wide ranging array of groups and individuals, who were campaigning or promoting ideas to be implemented by the GLC, radicalised the Livingstone administration.

County Hall buzzed, with its meeting rooms packed with activists thrashing out their ideas on how to transform the lives of Londoners. Everything from fares policy to LGBT rights and securing the capital’s creative and manufacturing sectors was up for grabs.
This open democratic engagement created the radical GLC that is still remembered for its exciting creativity. It implemented policies that were seen as extreme at the time but have subsequently been accepted as mainstream common sense.

Just like County Hall, Parliament has a supply of halls and meeting rooms specifically designed for discussion and debate. The building is paid for and owned by the people and so I thought why not open up the building to the people and encourage anyone who has an idea to discuss, a policy to promote or an argument to be heard, to come along and use the building’s meeting rooms to democratic effect.

You never know, by inviting MPs and Lords to these discussions and debates might even infect some of the debates taking place in the main Commons Chamber.

From January, a group of us have organised a series of meetings in Parliament’s committee rooms, discussing a vast range of issues suggested by people who have heard about this initiative. The only bar so far is that fascists are not invited.

The mainstream media has largely ignored us but that is par for the course, and with social media we don’t really need them. The occasional plug in the Guardian doesn’t do any harm, but if we rely on this country’s press to stimulate a creative political debate we will wait forever.

Running with two sessions a week, the meetings have been packed. Having been around for quite a while I can usually recognise most of the faces in radical political meetings.

Not with the People’s Parliament.

The meetings are packing in people, especially young people, activists and campaigners who have a genuine interest in engaging with the issue being discussed and are looking for change.

The discussion of ideas and theory is important but is only really effective if it informs our political practice.

Hence the concept of praxis, the combination of theory and practice, underlines the People’s Parliament sessions.

So far the discussions have addressed questions of what sort of democracy we need, who is watching whom in our surveillance society, and what is really needed to tackle our environmental crisis.

Specialists and expert practitioners have wanted to explain what is happening in their fields of activity. Lawyers have come along to expose the undermining of access to justice, tax experts have joined us to reveal the continuing scale of tax avoidance and evasion, and housing groups have explained the grotesque failures of housing policy that have led to our worst housing crisis since the second world war.
People have brought along some of their ideas for solutions to problems. Citizens income to overcome poverty, how to reclaim the media by confronting its ownership by the rich and powerful, and constructing a sustainable economy by rejecting concepts of all-consuming growth.

Campaigners have come to seek support for their struggles. This has included campaigns against the latest wave of racism, the fight to end the Coalition’s privatisation plans to finally kill off the NHS, and the campaign to hold back legislation criminalising sex workers.

People have posed and tried to answer questions that have troubled us all. The radical publishing house Zero Books went to the heart of our search by addressing the question that underlies a large part of the People’s Parliament initiative:

how has capitalism got away with the financial crisis and why is politics scared of political ideas?

The next stage of the People’s Parliament discussions is looking at;

how we learn from the resistance to the capitalist crisis so far, to enable us to move beyond capitalism.

Each of our sessions have been introduced by experts and campaigners within their particular policy area but the discussion is dominated by the participants who turn up. Most of the debates have led to agreements on further action.

A thread running through the sequence of the People’s Parliament sessions has been that words are not enough.

The elite who still dine at the Ritz, shop at Fortnum and Masons and who populate the company boards in the City of London will remain content whilst our talk remains only talk.

They will only be fearful when our talk moves on to action and they know that our direct action only becomes effective when it is armed with an understanding of our society and its potential alternatives.

The People’s Parliament attempts to make its contribution to arming that resistance. Come along.

John McDonnell is the MP for Hayes and Harlington, and the last communist in Parliament.

Jul-Aug 2014 - Pages 18 & 19