F*** the corporate media

This entry starts with a wee story. I once took part in an election hustings with the local MP (re-standing) and the other candidates and organised by Churches Together of South Tyneside. There was a fair sized audience and they asked a lot of questions. I was the only one to give a full and considered answer to every single question. Several times the local MP and the other candidates refused to answer, or reiterated the statements made by the previous speaker. Some of the answers I gave were so opposed to the spiel imparted by the other mainstream candidates that the audience literally gasped in belief – you could see the shock on their faces. When I openly criticised the arguments of my opponents, and the chair of the meeting asked if they wanted to reply, they declined to comment.

At the end of the evening - each speaker being asked to present their case to the audience, which they did from their seated position - I got up and walked to the front of the platform. I told them I’m making no promises, that I could do nothing for them that they were not capable of doing for themselves if they decided to organise, that they asked the wrong questions, and how they had hypocritically, as good Christians (these were South Tyneside’s god-bothering elite), found my humane line, that promoted global equality and an end to waste and want and war, offensive. My parting shot was to inform the congregation that there was more truth in one page of the Communist Manifesto than in the whole Bible.

The press were there that night and whilst this was a newsworthy event – hustings here being exceptionally rare not one word of it was published in the local press , in spite of the fact that I had also imparted info about myself they could easily have sensationalised; for instance telling the audience, while answering questions about the decriminalisation of cannabis (with my opponents were dead against) that I smoked it, along with many friends, and that it was not the devil narcotic its enemies claimed it to be. Not one word appeared in the local paper about that event!

And if there is one thing I’ve learned about talking to the media, and I have done countless times over the years, as an active socialist and a community campaigner, it is that they don’t really give a shit for what you want to say, for what you want them to say. Invariably, you will give them a decent interview, imparting some first class info, only to find that the info they have gleaned in that interview, rather than forming the basis of a brilliant piece, is defused, so to speak, the juicy stuff ignored and the piece filled with utter trivia and insignificance that will hold the reader’s interest as much as a piece on a kid whose Christmas present bicycle has been stolen.

There’s been times I’ve sent journalists in the local press first class news items, following up items they have had published in their respective papers, giving them first hand accounts, real facts, corrections to untruths they had previously published, stories that days earlier they would have bent over backwards for, and written in a style far surpassing anything that paper produces, and they’ve totally ignored, not even acknowledged. Not one journalist has ever replied and not one paper has used that info

And it’s been like that a while now with my articles to the local paper’s letters pages. You send in a first class analysis of some current event – containing more truth than you will find in that paper in a week – and it’s either rejected or totally edited, defused! I once sent in a 500 word article attacking the democratic process in Britain and all they published was the second last paragraph and made the writer of the piece appear an imbecile. In the run up to the invasion if Iraq, I bombarded the local press with letters on a daily basis, screaming my indignation, exposing the hypocrisy and the real reasons behind the coming bloodbath. Only one letter got through, and that was heavily edited, defused!

Newspapers, or rather those who own them, simply hate the truth. This is because these people are members of the capitalist class, with interests to defend, so their editor’s remit, if he he/she values his/her job, is to sit on anything that might arouse the indignation of the readership, anything that might rouse them to activity, anything that might wake them from that media-induced coma. And why? Capitalism depends for its survival on the mass production of zombies, created by the media and the state’s official brainwashing mechanisms (ie., schools, colleges, family, religion).

Let’s step back in time. William Howard Russell was the Times correspondent who sensationally exposed the Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) as the wholly hopeless bloody blunder that it was. As a reward, he and his editor, John Delane, were accused of treason.

John Swinton, a then famous New York journalist, was at a bash held in his name by leaders of his craft - this was sometime in the late 1880s When someone proposed a toast to the independent press, Swinton said:

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

Whilst Swinton’s statement is true enough, it does not go far enough. Check-mate could have been delivered by a lengthy statement on just why the corporate media – or rather the ‘independent press’ in this case – needs to suppress the truth.

Exactly 120 years later, John Pilger would comments in a lecture given here how, on March 16, 1968, the day of the infamous My Lai massacre (when US troops slaughtered almost 500 mainly women, old men and children in cold blood) there were 649 reporters in Vietnam. Not one of them reported it.

Pilger further comments how during the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the BBC was right alongside Tony Blair in promoting the arguments for that bloody offensive. This was an issue that aroused the general public every bit as much as your died-in-the wool activists. Despite the many hundreds of meetings, rallies and demonstrations across the country, including a march on London by an estimated 2 million – the biggest protest march in British history – only 2% of the BBC’s coverage of the coming conflict covered the anti-war movement!

Pilger, again, does not go far enough. We get closer to the truth in a quote from Memoirs of a Media Maverick, by Boyce Richardson , a journalist for decades in New Zealand and Canada and with an 8 year stint in the UK as the Montreal Star's foreign:

"...in my view the so called objectivity of journalists is really just a set up to disguise the fact, well known to them in their hearts, that they can only work within the limits established by their bosses.

“None of this prevents journalists from bleating ad infinitum about the need to present all sides of an issue and to maintain the objectivity to ensure they can do that. I have always found such arguments particularly offensive. No one gets into a position of authority in a capitalist newspaper who does not accept the basic premise that its central purpose - apart from making money - is to propagate the values of capitalism...."

Chomsky takes the argument a step further in the video above when he says:

“Its long been understood for hundreds of years, that unless people are controlled they are going to challenge power. They will not simply willingly accept subordination, domination, hunger and so on. It is therefore important for those in control of decision making, who monopolise wealth…to keep the population from their throats…That can either be done by force… or control of opinion – there is no other method…”

The safest option is control of public onion. 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. There are literally terns of thousands of independent websites out there, as well as blogsites exposing the lies, the deceit, the fraud that goes on every day. 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 ‘information 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 was 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, websites that might expose the truth, which might reveal the true nature of the beast?

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