January 19, 2004
Each of us live in two different worlds. The world as it actually is and
the world as we imagine it to be.
Because of those differences problems continually occur. It is as if you were to drive to a destination with a road map that did not accurately depict your proposed route. The greater the differences between the real world and the imagined 'road map' world the more troubles you could expect.
Yet, each of us has confidence in our imagined worlds. We rely on what we believe is the real map but it is a flawed road map. Even if we are aware that it is not the real world, not knowing of a better representation, we fall back on our road map.
How and why are there discrepancies between these two worlds?
Every individual and every organization from the smallest social club to the largest nation state has interests that they continuously pursue. Various tactics are employed to achieve the desired objectives -- tactics that will gain sympathy and support. The most frequent and most successful tactic is a distortion of reality, more simply stated, "lying."
If the source of a lie is considered reliable and there are no other reliable sources for discerning the truth it is quite likely that it will gain credibility among a vast portion of its intended target group.
Our experience determines who amongst friends, neighbors and fellow workers is credible enough to inform us of local news and gossip.
Greater wariness should be applied to the monopolistic major media. It uses its inordinate power and influence to promote the interests of the other members of their elite fraternity -- the major corporate advertisers and the government. One provides its main source of income, the other the legislation and regulation that can benefit or harm it.
The media uses its listeners, viewers and readers as a commodity to be marketed to its advertisers. It structures its products, primarily the news, to the satisfaction of the government and big business. The listeners, viewers, and readers end up being fed lies until the truth can no longer be suppressed.
Lowry Mays, the CEO of Clear Channel Communications (the largest radio network in the U.S.), told Fortune Magazine, "We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers' products."
The Communications Act of 1934 declared that "the airwaves belong to the people." It is said that to obtain and maintain a broadcasting license a station is required to operate in the public interest -- just one more pabulum meant to satisfy an anesthetized public...
Over the years the media has shilled for its benefactors over and over and over again. And the public has bought it -- and buys it -- again, again, and then again. Here are just a few of the scams. (In parentheses are alternate sources that were ringing the warning bells.)
The dangerous consequences of smoking have been known for decades, but with the substantial revenues generated by cigarette advertising, the media remained recklessly silent for many years. (Between 1941 and 1949, maverick journalist George Seldes published over 30 articles on these dangers in his In Fact newsletter. He disclosed that since 1938, when a Johns Hopkins study alerted the public, the media suppressed the story, all the while accumulating millions in annual advertising receipts.)
Pharmaceutical companies market drugs knowing full well that a few of them are not only ineffective but deadly harmful to the patients. False claims become necessary to insure profits. Over one hundred thousand deaths a year are due to side effects caused by FDA approved drugs taken exactly as prescribed. Yet, because of the power of the pharmaceutical industry, these figures do not show up in the frequently published lists of statistics. (The Journal of the American Medical Association dated April 15, 1998, Vol. 279 No 15, analyses numerous studies that reveal these distressing statistics.)
Enron and similar corporate scandals were a direct consequence of the aggressively promoted and acclaimed deregulation legislation. The media prominently displayed the lying statements of officers and directors of the companies, their accountants, lawyers, market analysts, commentators, pundits, etc. Most occupied fiduciary positions that were supposed to protect the numerous groups (consumers, creditors, stockholders, employees) that relied upon their professional analysis.
These financial shenanigans are nothing less than a modified replay of the 1980s' Savings and Loan Scandal; another deregulation scam, which Ronald Reagan, as he was signing it into law, called "the most important legislation for financial institutions in 50 years." It sure had a colossal financial impact!
While no death, but a suicide or two, could be directly attributed to these financial collapses, all the defrauded individuals and the taxpayers have suffered combined losses in the trillions. (A typical media failure to ferret out the real story, that of the California energy crisis is amply documented in "Deregulation Blackout," Extra!, June 2001.)
The recent Mad Cow disclosure is another instance of the complicity of industry, media, and government. The evidence of the dangers lurking in American meat was effectively suppressed by the media, and the government silenced the critics by enacting 'food disparagement' legislation. ("Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?," published in 1997, disclosed all the grisly details.)
Further illustrations could be cited for education, the environment, the economy, etc. All would show a strange collaboration in most instances between the benefited industry and their subservient friends in government and the media.
These scandals would have been prevented if long standing laws had not been vitiated by deregulation. They might have been less damaging if the appropriate government agencies enforced the remnants that remained. But then, why should we expect a government bought by the corporate elite to bite the hands of its benefactors?
Undoubtedly the most outrageous stories (although there are so many, that this is just a subjective opinion) are the unconscionable activities of government, such as wars, abusive police powers and clandestine assistance of foreign tyrants. The distortions and cover-ups of these activities by the media affect not only the lives and well-being of Americans but peoples all over the world.
The Bush administration has embarked on a series of inexpiable wars that were commenced using patently fraudulent reasons. How disgracefully the media mishandled its responsibility was revealed by a survey conducted by the University of Maryland. Three questions relating to the war in Iraq were asked: Was there a connection between Iraq and 9/11? Were weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq? And did world opinion favor the entry of the U.S. into war? The results depended on one's major news source. Only 20 percent of FOX viewers got all three right, the poorest of the lot. The best, a not very impressive 77 percent, was for NPR/PBS. Others in the survey were: CBS 30%; ABC 39%; NBC 45%; CNN 45%; and print sources 53%.
Accordingly the road maps that are guiding the public lead them to unanticipated destinations or dead ends. Invariably the media informs the public with the very manufactured 'news' that the administration hands them. They hardly engage in any independent investigation of that trash. This is what the government, to achieve its objectives, wants the public to believe.
If each person is surprised and disappointed by what has transpired in America's war they should be aware that their perception of the real world has been overlaid with a distorted media picture. Could things materialize as expected? Obviously not. If you have a lousy map you'll get lousy results!
An informed citizenry is a necessity for a well-grounded democracy. The media must restore a competitive, honest and reliable ethic to its mission. Then some of those unfortunate distortions in that plethora of road maps, which each individual relies on, will be eliminated and US citizens will get a more authentic picture of the real world.
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).
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