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2/21/04


Home______Manufacturing Consent, I: Corporate Theocracies

America will never let it happen. It will never let media giants, huge corporations, control both the production and dissemination of our news and entertainment. It will never do so because such power and control would allow a few, or even one conglomerate to rule the country. It will never let it happen. Right?

It will never do something so wrong because Congress and the Federal Communications Commission protect our interests, yours and mine. Our leaders, from senators and representatives to Michael Powell, will never forget our rights to a free exchange of information, news, and ideas. Right?

Wrong. Things aren't looking good. Wherever people sit on the political spectrum, this is a concern for all.

Viacom-CBS-MTV just showed how wrong we are. It controlled both the content and communication of the sexiest Super Bowl. What a lame excuse for its chairman to say he wasn't prepared for Janet Jackson to expose her nipple. Look at the invasion of prime time with sex, violence, and commercials that occasionally are interrupted by programs. Money talks, and whether he was prepared or not, the tone was already set for Janet's breast.

Let's take a look. Now, if we really get varied and diverse access to news, information, and entertainment, then a quick check of the television channels should reveal it. What do we find during the evening news? The first fifteen minutes provide hard news interspersed with commercials, and this news is almost identical between networks. The rest is pap, to include some "human interest" teaser to keep us watching till program end. Look at entertainment. Tell me that each season they don't get dumber or more sensational, or cruder. A few exceptions exist, but not because the networks feel any public responsibility. The programs somehow pull in enough viewers that sponsors are willing to pay big bucks for spots on the shows.

The truth is, our access to of the news, to include newspapers and television, is owned and controlled by six media conglomerates. The other five are (1) Murdoch-FoxTV-HarperCollins-WeeklyStandard-NewYorkPost-LondonTimes-DirecTV; (2) GE-NBC-Universal-Vivendi; (3) Time-Warner-CNN-AOL; (4) Disney-ABC-ESPN; (5) Comcast. Comcast has just bid to take over Disney and although Disney initially declined the offer, the show isn't over.

These six conglomerates own 94 percent of the media, including news and information we need as citizens. I don't know about you, but those numbers are downright scary to me.

If Comcast does take over Disney, this would bring the total down to five who control our access to information, to include government policy and news. Of course, Rupert Murdoch would probably try to take over, say, Time-Warner-CNN-AOL. Bill Gates wouldn't like standing on the sidelines. Microsoft then might grab a company and the number would be whittled down to three.

But the US government would never allow that. Right? They are concerned for the information we get as citizens. Right?

Wrong. Michael Powell never met a merger he didn't like.

No independent media voice remains in Russia. Senator John McCain has pointed out Putin's control of Russian media and the power Putin is accumulating by stifling dissent. As chairmen of the Commerce Committee, McCain has yet to do anything about Powell, except to whine to him, "Where will it all end?"

Don't kid yourself. The less information you and I get, the less trouble we will make. It's called the manufacture of consent. So long as the fat cats sing off one sheet of music they can insure that we become the chorus.

He who controls the media controls the people. He who controls the people can shape their minds.

We are at a crisis. The role of media in contemporary politics forces us to ask what kind of world and what kind of a society we want to live in. What will happen to that which we had regarded as a democracy?

My conception of democracy is the one my teacher taught me in sixth grade. It is a democratic society in which a free press allows people free and diverse access to information so they can manage their own affairs. She stressed the importance of investigative and analytic journalism. She spoke of the need for dissenting views so that truth and facts could be found in the forum of public opinion. That's rather like the definition I find in the dictionary.

Over the decades an alternative conception has gradually evolved. It is that the public is not the best judge of its own interests and others, the elite of politics and business, are in a better position to decide. The elite manufacture consent to facilitate their wise and beneficent governance. This means that you and I have limited access to information and news unless we dig for it, and even then we may not find it. Of course, our grandfatherly leaders insure that through popular media we know only what they deem to be in our best interests. Read: their best interests.

Only two decades ago 50 firms controlled news and entertainment, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and film. Back then media watchdogs were greatly alarmed that Americans had become the victims of a news monopoly. Where once several newspapers shared turf in a city, the number had dwindled to one or two. Where television stations included independent broadcasters, they were either bought out or forced out. Where radio stations offered populist or dissenting voices, they found their licenses bought by nationwide or regional corporations.

And that brings us to the present time. Think about this. 90 percent of Americans get their news from television.

So what went wrong? Somewhere along the way, the public was gulled into believing that economics is the same as a form of government. They were led to believe that monopolistic capitalism and democracy are identical. In truth, interest groups have far more clout than you or I. Lobbyists for timber, beef, milk, steel, autos, poultry, construction, guns, defense, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, can walk into a politician's office or gain his attention in a capitol corridor while you and I go unheard. Who sponsors the programming we watch? These same industries. Do we see or hear much that is unfavorable to them? Duhhh.

We are in the process of trading our democracy for a corporate theocracy.

Here's a list of stories from the year 2000 that didn't deserve nearly the amount of coverage they received in the mainstream media. These stories were reported as if they were news.
  • Survivor.
  • Elian Gonzalez.
  • The millionaire bride from Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?
  • Britney Spears.
  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
  • Napster.
  • The Ellen Degeneres/Anne Heche break-up.
  • Ricky Martin's sexuality.
  • Brad Pitt's wedding.

    Here's part of Project Censored's list of stories from the same year that went virtually unreported in the mainstream media:
  • The World Bank and multinational corporations seek to privatize water.
  • OSHA fails to protect U.S. workers.
  • U.S. Army psychological operations personnel worked at CNN.
  • Did the U.S. deliberately bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade?
  • U.S. taxpayers underwrite global nuclear power plant sales.
  • International report blames U.S. and others for genocide in Rwanda.
  • Independent study points to dangers of genetically altered foods.
  • Drug companies influence doctors and health organizations to push medications.
  • EPA plans to disburse toxic/radioactive waste into Denver's sewage system.
  • Silicon Valley uses immigrant engineers to keep salaries low.
  • United Nations corporate partnerships: A human rights peril.
  • Cuba leads world in organic farming.
  • The World Trade Organization is an illegal institution.
  • Europe holds companies environmentally responsible despite U.S. opposition.
  • Gerber uses the WTO to suppress laws that promote breast feeding.

    People didn't even have a chance to form an opinion on these issues because they didn't know about them.

    Finally, here is a statement from one of our Founding Fathers: "We must crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to bid defiance to the laws of our country." Thomas Jefferson

    (See The Manufacture of Consent, Part Two, 23 February 2004.)

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