propaganda, information control, the corporate media and "manufacturing consent"
There are, as with many things today, a great many misconceptions about the "free press." Generally speaking those that believe what they read and hear via mainstream media are being mislead (to put it lightly), and those that know they are being lied to have little idea as to how the system works. There is no commandant' lurking in the background, no corporate henchman saying print this and print that, no cia man threatening people with mysterious accidents--usually. However there are always exceptions. We are mostly concerned with how things normally work; how the narrative is manipulated on a daily basis.
In the U.S. our media pretty much started out on the wrong foot. All that jive we hear about our founding fathers and free press was really about two competing political parties. Back then the press was little more than a vehicle for propaganda, each party had its own newspapers which served their own interests. No-one ever thought regular people would get in on the act, but eventually they did. When this happened the constitution protected them too, so any law made that restricted the press had to be applied evenly and be judged 'constitutional.' This by the way, is why I'm not a big constitution guy; anybody who entrusts their freedom to a piece of paper that is subject to legal interpretation by the judges and lawyers of the privileged class has been severely mislead--but that's a subject for another time.
So news became a big business, and anybody with the money and time could get in on the act. For the most part the "money and time" restriction kept the papers serving the privileged, not to mention the further back you go meant the poorer and more marginalized and exploited you were; even less was done in the way of protecting poor people from rich people back then. So if you were poor enough to be pissed off, chances are you couldn't articulate it in an intelligent and effective way that people wanted to read about.
The industrial revolution changed everything. Actually I'm glossing over something important, I don't want to mislead anyone--The enlightenment cultural movement of 18th century Europe and the introduction of the printing press in 1440 lent a considerable amount of ammo for everything we've been discussing. So very quickly, pre-18th century discoveries and intellectuals and their thought and discoveries spread via printing press inspiring the enlightenment, the enlightenment brought forth liberalism and ideas about democracy, capitalism (yes, liberals are capitalists,all you anti-capitalists should keep that in mind) etc. etc. the age of reason. However, capitalism brought forth a new (or timeless, depending on how you view it) method of separating the rulers from the ruled, wealth. However, amongst all the rhetoric about freedom and human rights, some people began to take it seriously. OK now, on comes industrial revolution (roughly mid 1700's to late 1800's) and the rise of industrial capitalism.(insert "empire" theme music from star wars)
A great many and diverse people became victims of labor saving devices; so educated people were now mixing it up with folks that had just gone from bad to @#%!. You know how people talk. So all of a sudden people are organizing, co-operating, pooling their money together, collectivizing--and printing their ideas and passing them around. The papers that were owned by wealthy profit seekers ignored these stories, for much the same reasons they do today, they are not going to be the vehicle that spreads ideas like democratic worker collectives, unions, and whatnot.
Not only was all this labor movement stuff upsetting the delicate balance of rich man own poor man, the papers that were owned by honest capitalists just trying to make a buck off another guys labor were suddenly having to compete!! Contrary to popular belief competition is only a good capitalist principle when its poor people competing with other poor people for rich people's scraps. The second rich people have to start competing with poor people it becomes communism or something. Anyway,they don't like it and they weren't going to take it lying down.
This was going on in the U.K. and Europe as well. In the U.K. there was a very strong labor movement that was in many ways fueled by a working class paper that reported on issues that effected the working person. The papers owned by capitalists simply were not bought by the working people because they did not cover labor issues or when they did the didn't cover them favorably or truthfully. Often in social movements when people know that others believe and think like them it adds a measure of solidarity, to know that you are in support of others and others in turn support you. When groups get isolated or feel isolated and are not aware that there are others fighting the same fight as them they often lose momentum and fade--in the U.K. it was believed if they could put the working class papers out of business they could cripple the labor movement in just such a way.
The capitalists went to and worked with the government trying all sorts of things; expensive licensing regulations, taxes,raising prices on equipment--they basically tried to raise the cost of manufacturing and printing but none of it worked. Then someone had the brilliant idea to pay the paper to carry their advertisement. This gave the capitalist's a much needed influx of cash as the worker's paper was kicking their butt in sales, but it also did something else. Once they got enough advertisers they no longer had to cover the cost of manufacturing with the sales of their paper!! This allowed them to sell the paper way under what it cost to make, not only that but they could make it bigger, more glossy and fancy--and still be cheaper than the other paper. Of coarse the advertisers weren't going to do the same for a paper that catered to those that were unionizing (perhaps in their business); and so the workers living on a pitiful wage bought the cheaper, bigger paper without knowing they were killing their own movement in the process.
The ad-based media system spread and to this day most media outlets are trained, they don't need someone looking over their shoulder, they are sensitive to anything that might cause their advertisers to pull out. Now this is only one factor in a very complex system that has a philosophical and theoretical base as well. Walter Lippmann, John Dewey, and a whole host of intellectuals in-between the two had this idea that democracy should be an affair conducted between the educated responsible people, and that the "untamed herd" needed to remain spectators. If any of you have not read any Noam Chomsky yet he's done some great research on that circle of intellectuals and the ideas and influence they had, and continue to have, on modern democracies. Walter Lippmann was the one who coined the term "manufacturing consent" and the idea is that the responsible people must mobilize or manipulate the masses/public opinion to support the interests of the privileged. Actually it gets more complicated, according to real democratic intellectuals most of us just need to follow orders while another section gets manipulated to order us around in the interest of a dominant few. The real idea behind the type of democracy we have (representative) has little to do with people actually representing us, its a way for the elite to share power, nothing more. Direct democracy is what most people think of when they think of democracy and freedom, however direct democracy is basically what anarchism is--but we'll stick to media.
Another aspect is ownership, there have been attempts to monopolize the media to control it even further than the interests of advertisers. J.P. Morgan once charged one of his lawyers to find out how many papers he would have to buy in order to effectively control the media. Several months later he bought some 50 newspapers. This was actually brought up before congress in the early 1900's by senator Calloway who was concerned that J.P. Morgan (already under suspicion for other devious rich guy stuff) was monopolizing the press to control information--because it is that easy--think about this, when the gov. was testing the A-bomb in secret they did some detonations above ground, this of coarse was seen a hundred miles away--all they needed to do was run a story in the paper saying a weapons depo caught fire and blew up. If the paper people say it, nobody questions it unless its a matter of opinion. Anyway, nothing came of the congress thing anyway.
Since i've already done advertising and ownership I might as well get into the E.S. Herman and Noam Chomsky propaganda model. E.S. Herman is a media analyst, Chomsky is a Linguist, professor, and anarchist. They came up with a model to analyze the amount of info control your media goes through. In order to create this model they needed to isolate the factors of control in the media. They arrived at 5 filters that effect our media accuracy. 1. Ownership, size and the profit seeking imperative of the corporations or conglomerates involved create a bias where anything that threatens the profit interests of the owners faces censorship. In the age of transnationals and conglomerates those interests are many and varied, and if maximizing profit means sacrificing objectivity than it stands to reason that those media corporations that survive the "competition" of capitalism must be fundamentally biased. 2. Advertising, we've already covered much of advertising but its important to understand that the customer is not you, you are the product being sold to advertisers, the news is just filler between ads. T.V. polls have been done that found audiences prefer documentaries--or at least would like to see more informative programming; however, its been found that shows that are intellectually stimulating dampen the buying mood. As a matter of fact its been discovered that the more intelligent a person is the more skeptical of advertising they tend to be. So entertainment is geared not only to wetting the consumer appetite but targeting specific demographics as well. They are no longer as concerned with getting everyone to watch tv,as much as the demographic they've found to be susceptible to commercials. 3. Sourcing; this is another important one that will dove tail into the next subject, public relations. Sourcing basically rests on the principle that it simply is not feasible to have a reporter everyplace at once investigating every piece of news. So a symbiotic relationship is formed between news agencies and official channels where "news" often happens. They give the media people news, the media people "report it" to us; its like a subsidy, where news is the currency. Of coarse corp. media doesn't want to screw up their subsidy; this can get their access to privileged events revoked (like press releases) and make them dependent on their own investigations which cost money--and in light of other filters would likely result in news they couldn't release anyway. Public relations was a phrase coined by Edward Bernays to replace the less popular "propaganda," all of our government dept.'s have their own public relations agency's which (public relations) in and of itself has become a huge industry of its own. Its interesting to note that billions of our tax dollars go towards propaganda that ends up in our media. 4. Flak is negative responses to certain media stories. Anyone with enough money can create flak, which once again puts the ball in the court of the rich. Sometimes however; unions, animal rights groups and so on can create flak, but no-where on the level of say, the Global Climate Coalition (sounds like an environmental group huh?) created by Exxon, Texaco, and Ford to attack the credibility of climate scientists. Flak is just another vehicle by which the rich can manage public information and thus adjust public opinion. Another example would be when GMO foods was about to find its way to Oregon voters; after everything I've heard I figured its a no brainer, vote that shit out, ban it, do whatever its evil, right? Monsanto launched a huge flak and public relations campaign to the tune of several million dollars right before voting day and Oregon is still just the same, GMO everywhere and no way know or make a choice. 5. Anti-communist ideology. When Herman and Chomsky came up with this model it was during the cold war although it is still pretty much as true today as it ever was. Capitalism is equated with freedom in the U.S. and anything that challenges that ideology is evil. Tack "communism" onto any regime and it will get bad press, its context will change, the emotive words will get more impassioned, and any negativity associated with the enemy state will get wide circulation. In today's press I would add terrorism to that as well as any sufficient fear pumping ideology. A good example of this would be how leftist groups are routinely called terrorist even though property damage is generally the extent of the crime committed. A few years back some poor kid received 40 years for burning some SUV's. This is how controlling public opinion and fears manifest in the real world (aside from the more obvious wars).
In the aforementioned model and in the book "Manufacturing Consent" by Chomsky and E.S. Herman differences in coverage between client or friendly states and enemy states is also cited. For instance the "genocide" in Kosovo (which according to independent press agencies it was closer to a typical civil war with a comparable body count on both sides) and the barely reported conflict when Indonesia invaded east Timor--one cia official said it was the worst thing since the Holocaust, yet most people were not aware it was happening--many still know nothing about it. Since then there have been plenty of other conflicts and examples. Prior to 9/11 a cia asset sent warnings to the New York Times as well as many other papers concerning the upcoming terror event, as they were fully aware of it, yet nothing was printed, and whats more, when the official story came out claiming they (the gov/cia etc.) had no idea the press agencies had proof to the contrary, yet that lie was supported by our media. Another often cited example is the legitimizing of elections in friendly countries that are clearly fraudulent to independent observers and calling legitimate elections fraudulent when leftist leaning regimes are voted into power.
Edward Bernays and the public relations revolution. When Woodrow Wilson was running for president he ran on the "peace ticket" Peace Without Victory was the motto and the people of the U.S. loved it; they wanted no part in WW1. It was seen as a European conflict and the U.S. wanted to stay out. Wilson had no intention of keeping us out of the war however, and created what came to be called the Creel Commission because of George Creel the newspaper man. Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, was also on this commission which was the first major propaganda agency of its kind, at least in the U.S. They were charged with changing the opinion of the U.S. people about the war. Within six months time or so they had the U.S. people thirsty for German blood. Propaganda about the "Huns" being baby killers and so on was routinely found in the papers.
After WW1 Edward Bernays was so impressed with what they had accomplished he began to find ways to market propaganda. He used Freudian Psychology to help sell products. The idea was that if he could discover what a particular product symbolized to a particular people or connect a product with a powerful symbol that was attractive to people he could effectively lower peoples defenses and make them more susceptible to advertising. It worked brilliantly. His first big client was Lucky Strike cigarettes, they wanted to expand their client base to woman, who at that time weren't smoking as it was socially frowned upon. He decided (in typical Freudian fashion) that cigarettes symbolized penis's to woman--whats more they symbolized the freedom a penis would bring. So he staged an event where young debutantes at a parade in NYC would appear and all light up cigarettes at the same time and call them "torches of freedom"--he got the press involved and it was a success. It couldn't have happened at a more opportune time as the role of the U.S. citizen was about to be changed to that of consumer. All you people that live in European countries are dealing with the same thing to greater or lesser degrees as this phenomenon is inseparable from capitalist representative democracies. Soon government would get a piece of the action along with corporations and businesses that needed image makeovers and the public relations industry was born...
Now all of this Ive been writing about is consistent, systematic behavior carried out within the market relationship of big business and government. It is consistent with and born from ideologies that believe democracies are spectator sports where the many are subject to the few. Where a free economic system puts all the leverage with the wealthy, privileged, elite. Where the masses are considered too irresponsible and stupid to play a significant role in the decision making process. Where the dominant minority does everything it can to make sure people are undereducated, misinformed, and too preoccupied to know the difference or do anything about it. We are told its our fault, its "human nature"--that their wars for their profit is my fault because of my flawed nature. We are told that without them the normally timid people I see on a day to day, people too scared to stick up for themselves half the time, these same people that run from fights most of the time, these people that volunteer, these people that keep the food bank stocked, these people that are sometimes rude, usually nice, these people who are not perfect but far from bad, these same people that defecate on themselves when forced onto the battlefields, these same people that take their own lives after they've been forced to kill, these people --would suddenly fall into insanity and rob, rape, and kill one another if it wasn't for the benevolent responsible rule of the elite, that without their system we'd have chaos.