Through the media, the working class is constantly exposed to a significant flow of mind-numbing dribble and mis-information. Important issues of the day are distorted, totally ignored or relegated to the margins of page eleven or broadcast as minor news items on the TV. Sensationalism is used to increase market shares and sell adverts, which thus brings in profits. In this latter regards newspapers can be said not to be a vehicle for telling us what we need to know but rather a means of exposing us to advertisers. The market for a newspaper is advertisers - other business out to make a profit - and the product us! It would be no bold assertion to say that the editor of a daily tabloid is far more interested in the number of advertisers he attracts than the news he reports – though the latter pulls in the former. Thus the never ending hunt by tabloid hacks for the latest sex scandal to feed a readership hungry for insignificant gossip and trivia, a readership consequently bare to hundreds of adverts a day.
It is easy to despair at endless streams of workers leaving their newsagents in the morning clutching the Sun or the Daily Star, knowing the news they will be reading during their lunch break will be that regarding the love life of a soap star, instead of a piece on US foreign policy or the situation in Israel. A recent issue of The Sun carried a full page photograph of David Beckham’s injured foot and readers were asked to put their hand on the foot at 12.00 midday and pray for its speedy recovery because the English football team were so dependent upon it. Reportedly many workers did just that in the belief that a concerted countrywide focus on the injury would miraculously heal it. If things were that easy, they could have printed a photo of the Queen Mum and asked for readers to place their hands on it and pray for her resurrection.
The fact that so many workers are prepared to buy such newspapers each day reveals how big the task facing socialists is. All these workers need a real education they will never receive via the press or TV. The capitalist are wonderfully aware of this - an uneducated working class is hardly going to pose a threat to their interests; the real threat comes from a class conscious majority, hungry for useful information, who don’t give a shit about how many hamsters Freddy Starr eats or how many women Jack-the-lad from Coronation street has bedded.
Everyday, British people are subject to the media for an estimated 4 hours a day, either via newspapers, radio or TV, so it is important for the master class that they can control and manipulate the media for their own ends. Major media corporations in Britain are enjoying a growing monopoly. Just five companies account for 85% of all newspaper sales, with Murdoch’s News Corporation controlling over 60% of newspaper circulation. As well as this it also has vast shares in Twentieth Century Fox, Harper Collins publishers, BskyB and StarTV, which covers most of Asia and the Middle East, numerous newspapers and TV stations in Australia, Stream in Italy and Sky Perfect TV in Japan – giving it access to the minds of almost two-thirds of the global population. AOLTimeWarner – the world’s largest media company – owns CNN, 40% of US cable TV, 50 record labels, countless magazines, as well as being the world’s largest Internet Service Provider.
Needless to say, such media corporations and the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing media mogul, have interests that conflict with those of the workers. Thus it is in their interests that news and important issues we should know about are distorted and kept from us, or presented to us in such a way that we end up with tunnel and distorted vision, unable to make informed decisions or engage in intelligent discussion. Thus, the media is very much a part of the doctrinal system, reinforcing the basic social values that ensures the survival of capitalism – passivity and submissiveness to authority, the virtue of greed and personal gain, lack of concern for others, fear of real or illusory enemies, a suspicion of anything outlandish or threatening to the status quo and national pride etc.
Because people are misinformed, they are oblivious as to the real nature of the system that exploits them. This further makes it easy for the media to confuse the workers by hiding real power from view. The result is – and this is intentional – they blame governments, their allegiance to political parties often switching overnight because of a newspaper’s slanted coverage of certain policies and social conditions. A newspaper like The Sun can make all the difference to a political party’s electoral chances – Hence Tony Blair’s visit to Australia to prostrate himself in front of Rupert Murdoch in 1997, fully aware that the Sun can run post election headlines such as “It was the Sun that won it” (which followed one Tory election victory)” The fact that it is the capitalist system that is seriously faltering, creating problems governments just can’t cope with (because it is the system controlling them, not vice versa) would be too dangerous to print or report.
With the arrival and popularity of the internet and the consequent boom in computer use, opportunities for access to real information are now at an unprecedented high, giving anyone interested a chance to find out for themselves the real story behind news that the media otherwise would have us believe is inconsequential. The ‘information revolution’ has placed a wonderful tool at the disposal of the working class. But a tool is only useful if used correctly. If we fail to use this tool to help us pursue our own class interests, then this ‘revolution’ becomes just so much mind-numbing entertainment the masses will get addicted to and which the ‘powers that be’ will eventually use to steer our thoughts away from the pressing matters of the day. Maybe there is more to Tony Blair’s plans to get a computer in every home by 2005 than we think! Would he really promote computer use if he thought the masses would be accessing informative websites in their spare time?