hamsters | 17.10.2002 21:43
THE VESTED INTEREST Issue 3 - 2002
FREE? EVERYDAY - EVERY WEEK - EVERY YEAR
MEDIA MOGUL ATE MY HAMSTER... or why the media sucks!
INSIDE - WEAPONS OF MASS DISTRACTION - IT‘S WAR! - PICTURES
We all know that the media is full of trivia and
celebrity frivolity but wouldn’t it be better if it
were really keeping us informed, and not simply
using sensationalism to increase market-share
and sell advertising.
Without a free flow of information and ideas, how
can we be expected to make informed decisions
about issues that directly effect our lives and the
lives of others?
Every day, people in this country
spend an average of four hours,
reading, watching, or listening to
‘the media’ - be it TV or radio,
newspapers or magazines, films
or videos, books or billboards.
Through the media we are
subjected to a continuous flow of
hogwash and misinformation.
Real issues are ignored or
scorned while we get populist
entertainment dressed up as a true
and accurate reflection of the way
Are important issues neglected
simply because they might be
boring or difficult to understand,
or is it because we might feel
inspired to act? If information is
power, then perhaps the media
prefers us to be powerless.
Could the daily diet of soaps and
celebrity haircuts be intended to
distract us from reality, leaving us
disempowered and unable to
think for ourselves?
“It is easier
and less costly to
change the way
about reality than
to change reality”
It’s easy to see for yourself how
the media misrepresent reality.
People involved in an event are
often surprised at how it is later
portrayed in the media. They
wonder if they were at a different
event and question how the
reporters could have got things
so wrong. Sometimes the facts
may be correct but are given a
misleading spin and often focus
on some minor point or on
personality rather than the issues.
More often the facts are simply
ignored as being inconvenient
but avoidable obstacles to
furthering the publication’s
Everyone knows the expression
'don't believe everything you
read in the papers’ yet clearly
the media is able to influence
our perceptions. Advertising
works even though we know it’s
trying to sell us something.
Public relations is often more
subtle and harder to recognise.
"The best PR is invisible," say
industry insiders. To manage the
news in favour of their clients,
PR firms specialise in setting up
phoney citizens groups and
scientific ‘experts’ who spin out
contrived research and junk
“Whether the issue is health, consumer safety, environmental preservation or democracy and world peace, citizens today find themselves confronted by a bewildering array of hired propagandists paid to convince the public that junk food is nutritious, pollution is harmless, and that what’s good for big business and big government is good for the rest of us.” Center for Media & Democracy
In this country, the government
doesn’t have direct control of the
media but that doesn’t mean that
there is no ‘state’ control. Before
the introduction of the current
system of government, society was
controlled by the church and the
monarchy. Now the corporations
hold the power. They exert
influence over governments and
control much of the media. In ways
both subtle and blatant, the state
still shapes the models of reality
presented to us by the media.
Royal soap is interesting. Really?
Acres of space are devoted to these
throwbacks... even we are doing it!
Politics is politicians and elections.
The media focuses on the petty
dramas and personalities of party
politics. It rarely bothers to hide
the governments failure to act in
the best interest of ordinary people.
We are meant to think that there is
no choice but another election. But
democracy is not about scrawling
an 'X' on a scrap of paper every
five years. No wonder so many
people are disenfranchised from
this ‘democratic’ process. Real
politics is about how all of us
choose to live and act everyday.
The experts will fix it. Be it crime,
poverty, homelessness, pollution or
whatever, we are told that the
government, scientists or private
companies are finding a solution.
Clearly with ‘experts’ on the case,
we don’t have to think too much
about it or do anything. But can we
really leave it all to them? Do they
have our best interests at heart?
Who created these problems?
The problems are caused by ....
teenagers, parents, single mums,
teachers, people on benefits,
unions, immigrants, asylum
seekers etc. Such scapegoating
diverts attention from the real
issues and the real causes and
creates division. United we stand...
Ordinary people count. Its not
what ‘experts’, politicians or
celebrities do or say that counts
(even if makes the headlines). It’s
what we think and do, in our
everyday lives, our workplaces and
communities. We, the majority,
through our own action or inaction
create our own realities and can
either leave things as they are now,
or work to make things better.
Resistance is everywhere. There
are alternatives to the dominant
economic and political system but
they remain invisible through the
mass media. Even when the media
is forced to recognise the serious
problems caused by capitalism,
they ignore or try to discredit those
trying to create a society based on
co-operation not greed and profit.
S E X
The ‘love lives’ of the rich and
famous are one of the mainstays of
the mass media. It’s easy to
understand why we are attracted to
such imagery and why sex is used
to sell just about everything. It is
less obvious why violence should
be so attractive and yet the media
can’t get enough of it.
The news media use ‘violence’ to
create more sensational stories
than reality provides. They focus
on conflict, often exaggerating it
to suit their purpose. If there was
no violence, they may invent it or
not report the event at all.
While smashing the windows of
multinational companies becomes
acts of mindless violence, riot
police charging in with batons,
shields, and CS gas are simply
said to have controlled the crowd.
Even people pulling up a trial of
GM crops are said to have ‘spoiled
an otherwise peaceful protest’
thereby equating property damage
Carefully selected words can
conjure up images that help to
shape the reader’s opinion. For
example the authorities version of
events can be presented as fact
while words like ‘claimed’ and
‘alleged’ are used to cast doubt on
other peoples accounts. Groups
can be discredited with labels such
as ‘rent-a-mob’, ‘anarchists’,
‘extremists’ or worse...
You may have noticed how the
word terrorism has become so
prevalent in recent years. Is there
more terrorism? What exactly
does the word mean anyway?
With blatant double standards, the
state applies the word to virtually
any act of aggression or political
dissent of which they don’t
approve. But isn’t one persons
terrorist anothers freedom fighter?
Was Nelson Mandela a terrorist?
Just what is ‘eco-terrorism’?
Terrorism is an emotive word
invoking fear and anger. It’s use in
oversimplistic propaganda helps
justify new police powers, the
erosion of civil liberties, and
extreme acts of violence by the state.
War sends the media into a frenzy.
Roll out the computer generated
maps, foreign correspondents,
political commentators, defence
experts etc. They love it. Different
people saying the same thing -mostly
nothing but speculation.
The media assists the politicians
with their propaganda - ‘defence
of democracy’ or ‘humanitarian
necessity’. Dissent is vilified as
unpatriotic, played down or
ignored. Nothing must challenge
the hypocrisy and the
manufactured illusion of public
support and consent.
“the first casualty of war is the truth”
George W Bush
MAKING A KILLING
Of course it’s not just the media
that loves war - politicians also
enjoy the opportunities provided.
Draconian laws are passed in the
name of national interest and
security and unpopular news can
be buried under all the media
hype and speculation. Thatcher
saved her career by launching a
war on Argentina, Clinton
escaped his sex scandal by
blitzing Iraq, and Bush took his
approval rating from 20% to 90%
by bombing Afghanistan and
commiting the entire ‘free world’
to an endless ‘war on terror’.
There’s also plenty of money to
be made. Increased ‘defence’
budgets provide the arm’s trade
with a profitable killing, and the
spoils of war go to the
multinationals in the form of
lucative new markets, cheap
labour, oil reserves and other tax
free resources to plunder.
On the Playing Field
The major media corporations
have a growing monopoly. In the
UK just five companies own at
least 85% of newspaper sales.
Murdoch’s News International
controls over two thirds of the
newspaper circulation, including
The Times, The Sunday Times,
The Sun and the News of the
World. On top of this they also
have a controlling interest in
Twentieth Century Fox, publishers
Harper Collins, satellite BSkyB
and StarTV which covers most of
Asia and the Middle East
(potentially reaching two thirds of
the world's population).
The world's largest media
company, AOLTimeWarner, owns
the 24-hour cable news channel
CNN, 40% of US cable TV, 50
record labels, the magazines
Time, Life, Money and People, as
well as being the worlds largest
Internet Service Provider.
These huge corporations and rich
individuals have values at odds
with the rest of us. Their vested
interest in almost every major
issue results in them offering a
very narrow view of the world.
Self censorship is common as the
proprietors and advertisers
converns are considered more
important than a duty to the truth.
The corporate media doesn’t exist
for our benefit, its aim is to
perpetuate power and profits.
“There is no such thing as a free press,
you know it and I know it...
The business of a journalist is to destroy
the truth, to lie outright, to pervert,
to vilify, fall at the feet of mammon,
and sell himself for his daily bread.
We are tools, vessels of rich men behind
the scenes, we are jumping jacks.
They pull the strings - we dance.”
John Swainton - editor of the New York Times
on the day of his retirement.
THINGS CAN BE DIFFERENT
The Internet, photocopying, and
low cost computer and video
equipment have made it easier than
ever for everyone to publish their
own thoughts and experiences.
This information ‘revolution’
creates opportunities for us all to
peer beyond the government
propaganda, showbiz hype and
consumer bullshit. Now we can
all examine for ourselves many
of the issues trivialised or
ignored by the mainstream. But
while we may become better
informed, if we fail to act on
what we learn, this ‘revolution’
will be little more than yet more
entertainment for passive
spectators. Words mean nothing
This leaflet is obviously just a brief glance at complex issues (oh the irony). You don’t need to look far to
find examples to prove that the corporate media is
inherently useless. There are plenty of books and papers
published on the subject. However (as always) the best
way to know something is to experience it for yourself -compare your personal experiences with coverage
in the mainstream media. Question everything & ACT !
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