Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Darren Allen - This is the News: A Beginner’s Guide to Democratic Mind Control

This article from Eat the State was posted back in October, but it's good and will be relevant for years to come. By the way, Eat the State is a cool site - anti-authoritarian political opinion, research, and humor - and they are a not-for-profit, so donations gladly accepted.

This is the News: A Beginner’s Guide to Democratic Mind Control

By Darren Allen • on October 22, 2010 1:02 pm

You may have noticed, while reading The Guardian, Le Monde or The New York Times, that no mention is ever made of the fundamental cause of conflict, the origin and nature of history, the best way to experience the centre of the universe while making love, how another person can really be known, what death has in common with asking a girl out, how to be free of worry, what to do if you accidentally find yourself trapped in a prison, school or office, why things don’t go haywire anymore, what the coming world catastrophe has in common with cellular biology, why a beautiful shoe will always be beautiful, how to enhance empathy, why we have placed birth and death in the hands of experts, what trees have in common with improvised theatre, why mystery and irrational generosity are illegal, the secret connection between modern art and corporate wealth-maximising and what all this has in common with formality, play, metaphor, the oldest meaning of the word god, the colour of Tuesday and why we smile when we meet a friend. Finally no mention is ever made of the reason why these, and thousands of other illuminating topics, never find their way into the pages of the news-media; why the reader has to look elsewhere for a beginner’s guide to democratic mind control…

The Propaganda Model

It is impossible to read the truth in the news. Truth, as Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman identified in their 1988 study of media bias, “Manufacturing Consent,” is not edited out of the news directly, through threats and censorship, but indirectly, through systemic filters which unconsciously reward those who can unconsciously censor themselves. In order to reach positions of power and responsibility, successful and established journalists (like members of parliament, head teachers at good schools, and senior managers at wealthy companies) have to either a) serve long apprenticeships, b) succeed at the “best” universities, c) have “connections” or d) be wealthy. Ideally all four.

a) A long apprenticeship (working one’s way up from local papers, through lowly sub-editing positions to the coveted position of journalist) demonstrates that one is a dependable “team player” and shares editorial “values”. The surface P.R. meaning of these terms is that journalists must be “competent and mature writers” (which indeed must, usually, be the case). The unspoken functional meaning, however, is that the journalist must not criticise the system she works for. She must not submit articles on subservience to professional authority, for example, or on media complicity in corporate crime; she must instead confine her copy to a strict (but unspoken) framework of permitted thoughts and approved topics.

b) Success at a world-class university has much the same effect as a long period of apprenticeship, demonstrating an ability to be subservient to specialised and professional power (the teacher), subservient to abstract external authority (the syllabus), and to be able to process large quantities of data without recourse to meaning (truth, beauty, quality, etc – which are seen as “relative” by schools and universities); to internalise, in other words, the idea that truth originates from received theory and a mediated environment, and not from one’s own direct lived experience.

c) Having connections in mass-media demonstrates that one already comes from a family or a circle of intimates which adheres to corporate or postmodern values; and d) having wealth confers useful skills (through an extended expensive education, unpaid internships, etc), a useful arrogance and an establishment-friendly ideological view of the world.

Successful wealthy, well-connected, well-educated journalists who are “team players” and who share company “values”, unconsciously adhere to systemic filters which frame, emphasise, omit and transform facts in order to serve system and self. These system-serving filters ensure that success is only conferred to those journalists who: 1. do not criticise their newspaper or television company; 2. do not criticise the corporations that own the newspaper or fund it through advertising; 3. source their information principally from agents of power and figures of authority (think tanks, government sources, councillors, lawyers, etc); 4. bend to legal, financial or publicity threats, complaints and criticisms from established power; and, 5. who have an ideological belief in “free markets”, “anti-terrorism”, “full employment” “defence” and “democracy”. Individuals or parties within government can be criticised, and the left-liberal press occasionally allows slightly more dissenting voices to criticise corporations, but the entire system and its core values cannot be brought into question.

The Ego Model

Adherence to systemic filters is an unconscious process. Consciously the news reporter believes he is telling the truth, reporting facts and providing a professional service. Unconsciously he is motivated by ego. In other word, the news is first framed, edited and guided by five self-serving psychological filters. Subtler and more fundamental than systemic filters, and largely ignored by dissident news-critics, the “ego model” has a much wider reach, affecting not just straight news reporting, but also comment, analysis, creative output, book reviews and cultural commentary.

Ego here refers to the thinking “I” and the feelings it generates in the body: the mental-emotional self which creates, through memory and expectation, a definite and personal sense of time and space. For young children, many ancient hunter-gatherer societies and neolithic man this self is a soft thing, meaning that it comes and goes as needed, like a tool. When one needs to think or project into the past or future, the ego is there, but for much of the time, it is quiet, leaving a rich and intimate experience of the directly experienced present moment, or context, perceived not as an objective screen viewed by a separate subjective and relative self, but as a vivid and mysterious, yet simple absolute whole to which the self is sensitive, or empathic.

Empathy comes from the Greek for “letting in feeling”. When self “lets in” what is actually happening in the present moment it becomes silent. With the ordinary self silent, experience becomes extraordinary; without (or with a less definite sense of) time and space. The boundary between ‘my self’ and ‘others’ becomes fluid; I find I can share other’s feelings and that I become more sensitive to complex atmospheres and subtle qualities.
Go read the whole article.

No comments: