Monday, October 22, 2012

Alternative Media is an Absolute Necessity!!

By now most people that have been paying close attention to the traditional media and made some attempt to look at other sources know that the traditional media is controlled by corporate interests and they’re financed by commercials that create a strong bias not to expose the corruption of those that advertise with them. Many people already realize that the corporate media has consolidated into a small number of corporations that control the vast majority of traditional media that can get their points of view across to the vast majority of the public while few if any other organizations have this opportunity.

However the insidious thing about propaganda is that if it isn’t repeated over and over again people often forget it; and even if some of us don’t forget it there are still plenty of people that don’t think about it and become complacent and for them it is too easy to begin to go along with the program as the corporations want them to. In fact for most people they’ve been doing this all their lives and accepting the truth as presented to them by the corporate media. On top of that most people continue voting for the two parties that dominate the system without considering others that are much more likely to represent their interests. The corporate media has been using their control of the press to restrict the choices the vast majority of us choose from when we vote for higher office and they rarely if ever even try to do a good job covering any given issue.

To put it bluntly the corporate media is hardly even pretending that they don’t sell the news and allow their financiers to heavily influence their coverage.

In most cases the primary objective of the corporate media isn’t to inform the public, although they still make occasional claims that it is; it is to sell products and maximize profits for the advertisers and the corporate media. It wouldn’t take much to come up with a long list of subjects and how they don’t even come close to covering them properly. And in many cases the impact of the corrupt coverage can be and perhaps already is devastating to the majority of the public.

Then once more people recognized how incompetent the corporate media is it would also be important to ensure that they know where to find alternative media outlets (extensive list included) and determine how to sort through the good ones from the bad ones by starting with and understanding the basics on any given subject. And on top of that more people have to become accustomed to seeking out these media outlets at least until the traditional media is reformed by a sincere grass roots effort, assuming it ever is.

One of the clearest examples of how the corporate media may be distorting the coverage of an important subject may be the environment. Anyone that watches the corporate media long enough will see an enormous amount of public relation commercials for the energy companies presenting them as good for the economy and indicating that they’re becoming much more protective of the environment thanks to new technology. Many people that don’t think things through may come to the conclusion that the oil companies are the biggest protectors of the environment. Anyone that does think things through might quickly realize that if they spent all the money they currently use for all this advertising on actual protection of the environment instead of telling us how much good they’re doing then they would be much more environmentally friendly. Once people realize that it won’t take much research to find out that practically everything they try to tell us on their public relation advertisements are distortions if not outright lies. Furthermore it won’t take much to find out just how much damage is being done to the environment around the world that the corporate media isn’t telling the public about.

Clearly, whether it’s the enormous amount of advertising dollars they receive from the energy companies; the fact that they may have many of the same stock holders on the boards of the media and the energy companies or for some other reason the corporate media isn’t doing more than a token amount of coverage on the enormous amount of damage being done to the environment. Even the more liberal stations like MSNBC aren’t covering it nearly as well as they could and should and the damage is already enormous for a large percentage of the population of the planet, including many that are already dying because of the damage.

The coverage of war hasn’t been any better. They could have easily exposed the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and widely reported it to the public before the war but instead they did the opposite, reporting all the Bush administrations lies about Saddam Hussein without checking any facts even though many of them could have been easily disproved. In fact this is typical of the reasons that have been used to go to war. If you go back through history and review them after the fact then it will be clear that we have rarely if ever gone to war based on accurate facts and they could have been exposed, in most if not all cases by the traditional press before the fact but instead they provide the propaganda to enable the government to get the support of the public when it goes to war. With Vietnam it was a false gulf of Tonkin incident along with an enormous amount of other activities that were exposed in the Pentagon papers; in both Iran and Iraq as well as many other wars we have supported the tyrants that we wound up fighting or we have supported the tyrants that were overthrown by new regimes that had much more support from the local population.

This clearly means that contrary to the propaganda about America being the great defender of democracy they may be the greatest threat to democracy. At least that is the way many people in the countries that we’re influencing think of it.

The press does little or nothing to address the social aspects surrounding violent crime including efforts to report on the root causes of violence and domestic abuse that often starts at an early age with abuse in the home and escalates from there. There is an enormous amount of research done in a variety of methods to indicate that people who are abused at an early age are much more likely to become violent later in life either as a bully, an abusive husband, or participant in violent crime including mass murder and serial killing.

Instead of reporting on these root causes in a manner that could inform the public about how crime could be dramatically reduced they report it in a manner that is designed to increase ratings and make appeals to emotions, encouraging people to be more concerned with what they call “justice” or punishment instead of finding out how to solve these problems in the most effective way possible. This often leads them to present crime as something that is viewed on TV for entertainment purposes rather than problems that should be solved.

This is also done with war; both of these subjects is often used to increase ratings and enable them to sell more advertising time; which means that instead of using the media as a way to educate the public about crime it is being used for profitable purposes that wouldn’t earn as much money if they solved problems in the most effective way possible.

This is crime profiteering and war profiteering by those that pretend to inform the public about how to address these problems in the most effective way possible.

The corporate media doesn’t do much if anything to report on economic inequality; or at least they don’t do it in a fair way that explains to the public how difficult it is for many people that are raised in poor areas to get ahead. These people have little or no chance to get a college degree and the jobs that are available to them don’t pay enough to live a life that most middle class people would consider reasonable. However there is an enormous amount of propaganda about how anyone can get ahead in America that is repeated over and over again.

Occasionally they cite a small number of examples where people do get ahead but they don’t do much to explain how this one or two people got ahead while most other people don’t have a chance; and in many cases, especially in politics, that person has help from people within the system that provide this help only to those that go along with the approved ideology.

The mainstream media doesn’t do much if anything to expose sweat shops or other reports about people that are being badly abused in the global economy. This was done much more in the nineties when this type of reporting was increasing for a while but then the press consolidated even more at the end of the nineties and after 9/11 they found more to focus on and they rarely ever cover it as often as they were for a small amount of time. Nor do they report on many other tactics that were previously reported on occasion like the use of slotting fees to buy space in store shelves at grocery stores that drives up the cost of consumer goods or price fixing like when they investigated Archer Daniels with the help of whistle blower Mark Whitacre.

The corporate world has consolidated into a small number of companies in any given field so the concept of them having to compete with each other is no longer reasonably accurate. The true nature of the “free enterprise system” as it is currently practiced clearly means that the majority of the working force has to compete with people all around the world but the corporations that control the largest institutions don’t really have to compete against each other since they’ve come to the conclusion that it is no longer profitable to provide real competition to each other. Instead they pretend to compete with different advertising slogans but they no longer have incentive to do their best to improve the quality of merchandise for the consumer since they no longer have other options to buy from.

Yet this isn’t mentioned at all in the corporate press.

Nor do they cover the possibility that we could implement a single payer system that provides universal health care properly if they cover it at all. Instead they provide an enormous amount of coverage for the Affordable Care Act and the Republican alternative or lack of alternative. On one occasion recently when Mitch McConnell was asked about the lack of health care for so many people he said "That is not the issue, The question is how to go step by step to improve the American health care system. It is already the finest health care system in the world." (Mitch McConnell On 30 Million Uninsured: 'That Is Not The Issue') the corporate media spends an enormous amount of time and money trying to convince us that we have a good system or when they can’t do that, which is more often than not now, they try to confuse the issue as much as possible. They even use money from the premiums that people pay for their health care to pay for all these deceptive ads leaving that much less money available for actual health care or as Dr. David Himmelstein explains “The money for these commercials came from health care interests that collect fees from American patients. We experienced this before in Massachusetts. We ran a ballot initiative for universal health care in 2000 and the insurance industry spent $5 million on it, including the insurance company I am insured by. They used my premiums to smear an idea that 70 percent in Massachusetts, according to polls, favored before this smear campaign. Universal health care was narrowly defeated.” (Chris Hedges "This Isn’t Reform, It’s Robbery")

This is standard procedure in any given industry that has consolidated control and wants preferential treatment from the government. They take a portion of the money they collect and use it for lobbying, campaign contributions and when necessary public relations campaigns to spread misinformation and convince as many people as possible to vote against their own best interests. The expense of this propaganda is passed on to consumers but not the influence.

Thanks to a series of decisions including Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United the Supreme Court has essentially declared that the truth as it is presented in the corporate media is for sale.

In the long run it would be difficult for them to continue to get away with this if the public isn’t too complacent or distracted. Research into marketing to children may go a long way to explain why many people are so complacent and much less savvy when it comes to recognizing deceptive sales pitches. Many people within the corporate world recognized that their advertisings were becoming less effective as the public learned to recognize them for the lies that they really are. The marketing industry recognized that the most effective manner to counter this is to start marketing to children at a younger and younger age and keep marketing to them throughout life. They even market heavily to children in schools and preschool.

This is the way an effective propaganda works and that is essentially what marketing to children has become.

There have been numerous studies about how this has impacted children and their ability to learn and develop critical thinking skills and they have clearly indicated that children that have been subjected to advertising from an early age and where it has been part of their school curriculum have developed much lower critical thinking skills that enable them to recognize advertisements that are deceptive as well as deceptive reporting on wars and political activities. A sample of this researched has been published by Susan Linn author of “Consuming Kids” (excerpts) and Roy Fox author of “Harvesting Minds; and there is more research available in libraries and on the internet for those that know where to look for it.

However there is no reporting on it in the traditional press that many people rely on for their news.

If the majority of the public understood how they were being manipulated by advertising they would be much less likely to fall for it and if they realized the cost of these ads are being passed on to them they might demand equal time since they have to pay for it in higher consumer costs. Therefore the corporate media doesn’t do any reporting on it if they can avoid it and if they can’t they provide an enormous amount of propaganda to bury the legitimate concerns and confuse the issue. This usually involves the claim that people like Susan Linn are calling for the censorship of the media ignoring the fact that the media is completely censoring their opposition. Only a small percentage of the public has any chance to get any air time on the corporate media the rest are completely censored especially if they have opposing views to the elites that control the political system and the mass media.

This is all the more reason why we need to rely on more alternative media outlets.

The corporate media doesn’t even report on things that presumably wouldn’t be controversial or have much impact on their profits, in most cases, like science and astronomy. They fail to mention many of the basics on this like the fact that mars can’t have water due to the fact that their environment is too thin or the fact that a binary system can’t support advanced life due to inconsistent environment that won’t allow evolution. This might be because it interferes with their ability to provide dramatic coverage of Science fiction stories; however it also establishes a pattern of behavior so that whenever science interferes with the agenda of the corporations they can confuse the issue and present their own version. This has been obvious when it comes to Climate Change, escalation of violence, marketing to children psychology and many other subjects that have been controlled by a small number of people that now control the corporate press for their own agenda.

One of the most important issues that the corporate press has been doing an incredibly incompetent or corrupt job covering is of course political coverage which has turned into a farce. This is supposed to be a democracy where people vote for candidates that represent their interests; but in order for people to do that they have to have access to information about the candidates that are running and they have to have to have an opportunity to participate in the interview process. This has never been done as well as it could have been done but it was previously done much better than it is now. Since then the corporate press has taken over the interview process and they have consolidated their control and now use it to provide coverage only for those that suit their agenda.

It wasn’t always this way even at the presidential level. The League of Women Voters used to sponsor debates but they refused to “help perpetrate a fraud” in 1988 when the two traditional candidates negotiated a deal that would exclude third party candidates or make it very difficult for them to qualify. Since then the debates have been organized by Commission on Presidential Debates and they’ve been sponsored by a large number of corporations that create a major conflict of interest.

This essentially means that when it comes to the highest office in the land the corporations that have a major conflict of interest have almost complete control of the information that we receive about political candidates. Or at least they have in the past but there is good reason to believe that their propaganda machine is already breaking down and there are many more people that are learning how corrupt the corporate media has become. A recent article at the Centre for Research on Globalization clearly indicates that many more people are relying on alternative media outlets; however many of them may benefit from additional access to new outlets and many others may still not know how to navigate the new media outlets to sort out all the propaganda being provided by the corporations.

This was also demonstrated with the lack of coverage of many of the protest movements that have been going on over the past few years. The corporate press provided an enormous amount of coverage for the Tea Party before they started protesting in 2009; however a closer look at it clearly indicated that it was supported by many of the same establishment politicians including dick Army; and they promote policies that clearly have support by the corporations; which seems to indicate that this is partially an Astroturf organization that was formed with some grass roots support that was encouraged by demagogues that study how to manipulate crowds and it was given coverage by the corporate media for this reason. When they lost a large portion of their support the corporate media continued to present them as a grass roots organization while ignoring real grass roots organizations. This was especially obvious when the Occupy Wall Street movement began almost a year ago and there was no coverage of it until after it began and they have been downplaying it since then. The Occupy Wall Street first published online plans for this protest no later than July 2011 when they posted the first two blog posts on their site. This clearly indicates that if the corporate media wanted to know about this protest and report on it then they could have and would have. This is the same thing that happened when the Egyptian revolution began and the media acted as if they were surprised; on one occasion they even asked one of the protesters why they didn’t report on it earlier and the protester was clearly surprised by the question and said he didn’t know and that they had been trying to get the attention of the traditional media for months. And there have been many other protest movements that have been going on with little or no reporting in the national press but it has been reported on alternative media outlets and many people have been taking notice of this.

Clearly the claims that the “Revolution will not be Televised” have been for the most part true. The corporations have been trying to do their best to minimize the coverage of it and distort it when they couldn’t but it is becoming too obvious for all but the most sheltered people not to see it now.

In the long run we clearly need major Media Reform that enables a much larger percentage of the public to have an opportunity to influence the coverage that is provided to the majority. The handing over control of the air waves to the corporate press with little or no obligation to serve the best interest of the public is blatantly corrupt. Mark Crispin Miller has claimed that this is the most important issue of our time since this issue impacts all other issues and how we think about them. If this is true then I would like to add that early childhood upbringing and how children are taught is a close second or it is a tie. This is because there are still many people that don’t recognize how they’re being manipulated and when they recognize the manipulation from the corporate press in many cases they start believing many other sources that are just as corrupt or in some cases they go to sources that are also controlled by the same corporations that control the press only they’re disguised as alternative media outlets.

In fact Mark Crispin Miller has reported on some of the right wing people that fall for these scams but he hasn’t covered that aspect of it. This has been covered better by some other academic researchers including Alice Miller (no relation) who has studied how violence at an early age escalates into more violence later in life and how it also impacts authoritarianism. An abusive upbringing where children are told what to think under intimidating circumstances also makes people more susceptible to propaganda later in life like advertising; and as indicated that isn’t much later in life anymore. It appears that as many of this authoritarian upbringing has been reduced the advertising to children from an early age and TV saturation has been increasing so they may, to some degree, be replacing one form of indoctrination. This clearly should at or near the list of things that should be covered with a reformed media or in alternative media outlets.

Another good argument could be made to claim that the environment or war is the most important issue or tied with media reform; however if they were considered top priority and it didn’t include media reform they wouldn’t be able to educate the public about that issue and they would fail to fix it properly so even if Media reform isn’t the sole top priority it is one of the leading issues and can’t be ignored if we’re going to address many or any of the most important issues we have to deal with.

In fact the system is set up to give an enormous amount of preferential treatment to these corporations despite the fact that they have an enormous conflict of interest that anyone would recognize if they did a minimal amount of reporting on it.

There is plenty of additional information on this subject including many good books and organizations that study and try to reform the system; these aren’t being promoted by the corporate press, of course, since they would like to pretend they don’t exist. These books include "Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy," "Rich Media, Poor Democracy," and "The Problem of the Media" by Robert W. McChesney and "The Media Monopoly" by Ben H. Bagdikian.

The Third World Traveler has compiled a list of many of these organizations and books and provided many book excerpts among other things at Corporate Media's Threat to Democracy. This includes a list of many alternative media outlets and I have been building a list that is even longer and adding many other lists from other organizations for anyone that is interested at List of Alternative media outlets Wiki. This is intended to be a diverse set of media outlets including some that I disagree with as well as some that are almost certainly under the control of the same corporations providing outlets that they attempt to portray as independent. Attempts to weed out these would inevitably lead to excluding many good outlets as well and it is worth considering different points of view even when people disagree with them. In some cases like extreme right wing media outlets that promote bigotry it is still helpful for people that are not bigoted to be aware of them so they’re not taken by surprise so I haven’t excluded them; however I have included organizations that have attempted to refute them like Right Wing Watch. If you know of any worthy web pages that could be added to this list please let me know or just add them yourself; it is a Wiki; if you’re not familiar with it they provide advice at Wikipedia.

It would also be very helpful to make it as easy as possible for people to find out as much unbiased information about major candidates running for office and there are many organizations that have been working away to improve this without getting much if any attention from the corporate press. If enough people rely more on them and less on the corporate media that doesn’t provide unbiased information then we could dramatically improve our democratic system which will continue to be a farce without doing this or something similar.

There is no reason why we should wait for major reform since there are many things that can be done to advance reform already including trying to elect sincere candidates that haven’t been under the control of the corporations. There has already been an enormous amount of effort to inform many people about these candidates although the corporate media hasn’t been informing the public about it and they may have a much better chance than most people realize. The quality of the candidates that the corporate press have been presenting to the public has made this effort much easier to accomplish although it is difficult to know how successful it has been.

In the long run it would be important to fund a variety of organizations that are controlled by the public that could provide questionnaires to candidates like Project Vote Smart and carry out debates or other forms of interviews like the league of Woman Voters has done in the past and some other organizations are now doing again although the corporate press hasn’t been covering them. These organizations should be accountable to the public. People that donate to them should also be willing to keep them accountable and if we have public financing for these organizations then it wouldn’t be necessary for candidates to collect an enormous amount of campaign contributions to promote their campaign; instead they could fill out the job applications and go to a series of interviews that would be arranged during an sincere Election Reform process.

The candidates that the corporate press has presented as “viable” refuse to answer their questionnaires and participate in debates with grass roots candidates that gain their support directly from the people. They’re attempting to rig the system so that everyone believes that the only ones that have a chance are those that have been approved by the corporations and collected enormous amounts of bribes thinly disguised as campaign contributions.

If any potential employees behaved the way these candidates do then no employer for any other job would even consider hiring them including the same corporations that have bought these candidates.

Imagine if you were trying to hire someone and they refused to fill out a job application similar to the Project Vote Smart questionnaire and the applicant refused to fill it out and you asked them to show up for an interview but they said that instead of going to your interview they would stage their own that was rigged.

This is what candidates have been doing for a long time but there are a growing number of people that are no longer falling for it and with these large protest movements happening it provides an enormous opportunity to change things if we don’t fall for the corporate propaganda.

Project Vote Smart

Debate for alternative presidential candidates on YouTube also available at OS with links to their webpages for more information

On the Issues

The Center for Responsive Politics at Open

Election Candidates

The Political Guide

The time to let the corporations know that we’re not dumb enough to fall for it anymore is long overdue. Alternative candidates may have a much better chance than most people realize but even if they don’t and we accept the claim that we will be “throwing away our vote” if we don’t choose one of the candidates that have been bought and paid for they’ll think it worked and they can continue to buy candidates; if on the other hand there is an enormous amount of voter support for alternative candidates based on information gained from the alternative media then they’ll realize their scam isn’t going to work anymore!!

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