Monday, December 17, 2012

Crime Profiteering: another day, another school shooting

There was another school shooting in Ohio last Monday.

(This was first posted on Open Salon March 5, 2012; since then the way the media covers these stories hasn’t improved. This will be followed up soon by a repost of the shooting in Aurora in July and a new post about the two recent shootings in Oregon and Connecticut.)

"He chose his victims at random," prosecutor David Joyce said. "This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs." Source: USA Today “Prosecutor: Shooting suspect chose victims at random” This story was first published on the day of the incident, although updates may have been added later. I suspect that the conclusions that the prosecutor came to after no more than a brief investigation will almost certainly turn out to be flawed but I have no way of knowing for certain without further investigation any more than he may have.

According to an AP/Boston Globe article there are conflicting reports about whether or not he was bullied. ‘Fifteen-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said the gunman was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But other students disputed that. “Even though he was quiet, he still had friends,’’ said Tyler Lillash, 16. “He was not bullied.’’’ (1 dead, 4 wounded in Ohio school shooting) This isn’t enough investigation to come to final conclusions but it is enough to know that a prosecutor should not be trying to jumping to conclusions and making statements that could affect the investigation.

A 16-year-old Tennessee boy faces a first-degree murder charge in the fatal stabbing of his principal. The Washington Post

A semi-well-kept secret is the fact that we have the knowledge to educate the public about how to prevent these types of incidence or at least make them much less likely.

This secret is well kept from the majority that relies on the Mass Media and the establishment for the most of their information. It may also be a well-kept secret for people who obtain their information from prejudicial sources.

However it isn’t a well-kept secret for a small minority of the public that does some of their own reading and looks up information from reliable sources that do good research and show the work to explain how they came to their conclusions.

These researchers are for the most part not welcome at the corporate media, although some of them get extremely rare and brief appearances on TV.

Once again we have a major school shooting and the Mass Media is focusing an enormous amount of attention of it but, as usual, they refuse to acknowledge the fact that there are many good academics that know a lot about what causes this and how to prevent it. This isn’t something simple that can be presented in a thirty second story but there is much more educational material than the corporate media or the political establishment is willing to provide the public.

The Mass Media has the best position possible to inform the majority of the public about many of the most important issues and how to address them but thanks to legislation that has been passed over the last fifteen years as well as legislation that goes back decades it is now in the hands of a for profit institutions that are motivated almost entirely by profit that they can receive from selling advertising.

I have written several Blogs explaining how the child abuse leads to escalating violence later in life including bullying including Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence? and Child abuse and bullying link in study long overdue, and one recommending a Public relation campaign for child abuse prevention; they include sources that have done more research than I including Project No Spank; so I’m not going to go into that too much hear. The problem is that the establishment and the Mass Media goes into the same routine every time another incident like this happens and it pretty much always involves jumping to conclusions without adequate research; an effort to argue about what the right punishment should be after the fact; and appeals to emotions without much if any productive discussion about solutions. They do have plenty of discussions about what they present as quick easy solutions but they don’t address the enormous amount of research being done by credible academics and they often attempt to imply that there is one and only one cause to these problems that will lead them to the solution.

One example of this is the attempt to study the effect of media violence on children. When they present this to the public they attempt to imply that some believe it is the only cause while the opposition claims they’re calling for censorship. No credible researcher that I know of would call this the only cause, or even the leading cause, but there are many that indicate that it could and probably is a significant contributing cause.

The bigger problem is the fact that while the Mass Media accuses the critics of violence in the media of calling for censorship they’re simultaneously practicing censorship by declining to give the best academic sources a chance to present their case. Furthermore, as far as I can tell, most of the critics aren’t calling for complete censorship at all; instead what they’re trying to do is to convince the mass Media to give them more time to present their work to the public.

To put it bluntly the implied case being made by the Mass Media is that if they aren’t allowed to have total control over the information that is given to the public it is censorship; and that the rest of the public should have no right to address the country as a whole instead they should only be allowed to communicate with a small percentage.

The Mass Media spends an enormous amount of effort trying to present material to the public that may or may not be influenced by how many advertisements they can sell to people that want to profit from conducting business that is almost never as fair as they attempt to present it to the public. This means the decisions on what does or does not get aired to the public is based almost entirely on what enables the corporations to sell more deceptive advertising. This essentially means that the truth, as presented by the Mass Media or corporate propaganda machine, is for sale. Those with the best academic work and the best interest of the public take a distant back seat to those that have the most money to buy propaganda or advertising. (If there is any doubt about the fact that the mass media has turned into a propaganda machine and that other outlets are being used for this purpose as well I have included several additional sources to back it up below.)

Sincere and concerned citizens aren’t always the best target audience for this type of marketing, especially if they’re well educated and consumer savvy about the deceptive marketing techniques that the mass Media uses.

This may be why the Mass media rarely if ever provides much if any material that could be good for educational purposes; it isn’t nearly as profitable as providing crap!

Demagoguery that can help sell ads to people that responds to appeals to emotions.

Rational educational material targets people that might be less inclined to fall for those deceptive ads.
The picture above is the typical way that our society is starting to handle many of our biggest problems; they ignore the problem until it escalates until it is so serious that they feel the need to send in well-armed SWAT teams to handle the problem with overwhelming force. They become so accustomed to using this tactic that they often do this even when there is no need for it, like when they send in armies of well-armed men using mostly what they consider non-lethal weapons to suppress the Occupy Wall Street protesters without making any sincere attempt to find out what their grievances are and address them.

This appears very dramatic and those that don’t know any better might be infatuated by it and it is accompanied by many other activities that are repeated over and over again that have nothing to do with addressing the true causes of these problems. In this case there was live coverage of the court arraignment the next day on the so called news channels which probably should be called corporate propaganda channels. They also spend a lot of time showing the students grieving and a figure who appeals to their emotions, often quite sincerely. In this case there was another coach that presumably had the best of intentions presented to the public who probably did a good job comforting his students after the fact; however it would have been much more helpful if they also had some academics explain to the public more about how to prevent these disasters or at least make them much less likely.

Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Jeanine Pirro, who spends a lot of her time flirting with her guests and the audience, and even Dog the Bounty Hunter all get an enormous amount of air time along with many other demagogues who often refer to themselves as victim rights advocates; however despite the fact that they appeal to the emotions of the victims they do little if anything help educate the public about how to avoid the crimes that make them victims in the first place. Few people would doubt the fact that Dog the Bounty Hunter is a sincere advocate for victims’ rights or interested in the best interest of society but when that is all many people watch and they don’t have much if any access to more rational educational material, even by choice, this constitutes propaganda.

However much more qualified academics that actually can provide educational material about the contributing causes to this violence like James Garbarino, Barbara Coloroso, Philip Greven, Murray Straus and many others are almost completely banned from the Mass Media. By educating the public about the true causes of these crimes and how to address them they prove that they are the real victim rights advocates, although they don’t feel the need to promote themselves that way.

The Mass Media does provide what they call their own experts like Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jeff Gardere; at best these experts decline to provide the best advice possible compared to many other more credible academics. Jeff Gardere is the lowest profile of these three but he doesn’t seem to say anything of any importance as far as I can tell from the occasions that he has appeared on TV. Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew have much more air time including their won shows but they seem more like demagogues that are playing to people emotions. They don’t provide the public with a good explanation about how violence escalates from early abuse like Philip Greven, Murray Straus, Alice Miller and other more qualified academic sources. During his show about “UnGodly discipline” Anderson Cooper actually managed to do a better job at that in one of the rare occasions that they do cover this material but even that wasn’t nearly as good as it could and should have been. In many cases when someone actually does indicate that it might be partially because of the abuse that the perpetrator endured as a child there is often someone who yells with emotions something like, “that’s no excuse” which effectively dismisses that idea and no one follows up by saying that it may not be an excuse but it might be a partial explanation. If this did happen then the public would understand better how to change things so that this will be less likely.  
The simple result is that we have a Mass Media that has turned into a Mass fraud institution selling useless crap to people that have little or no critical thinking skills. If you educate people about the fact that a commercial for something like Gold from Rosland Capital doesn’t actually provide a product or service that improves the quality of life, and they have a lot of expenses including the commercial and the extras that they claim are “free” that have to be paid for from the revenue they receive from sales; which means that it is one hundred percent fraud, then they won’t buy and the mass media doesn’t make money selling ads. This is just one of many examples of the fraudulent advertising on TV; in fact I suspect that if you took the time to review random commercials that you could probably find something deceptive or misleading about every single one of them. I know I haven’t seen one in a long time, if ever, that I couldn’t find a flaw in. the simple truth is that they’re purchased by people who want to maximize their profits and they don’t do that by telling people what the flaws in their products or that you may be able to accomplish your goals more effectively; they do it by spinning the truth to their advantage or outright lying and relying on the complacency of the public.

Several academics including Robert McChesney author of “Rich Media, Poor Democracy” and “The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” wrote about the history of how academics originally tried to have some access to the media and that they had very little success. For decades they weren’t completely shut out of the Mass media but they always took the back seat to the corporate interests due to the powerful lobbying of the corporate media. In the past few decades the academic sources that are the most sincere have lost almost all of the opportunity that they once had to address the public on any given subject.

This means that no matter what the mass Media is reporting on whether it is violence in schools or wars or the destruction of the environment it may be influenced subtly or more blatantly by the excessive reliance on money from advertisers. In the case of violence in schools it is harder to see but in other cases it may be much more blatant like the fact that the oil companies are providing an enormous amount of public relation propaganda on TV but the sincere environmentalists are absent; although the oil companies do have the opportunity to present the views of people they choose that pretend to be environmentalists for public relations purposes.

The problem is the same when it comes to coverage of the political debates which is controlled almost entirely by the mass media and the corporations in this country. The institutions that previously provided some alternatives have been seriously eroded or shut out of the Mass Media; for example the League of Woman voters no longer sponsors the debates nor do they or anyone else that isn’t controlled by the corporations have much if any influence over the debates as they’re presented to the majority of the public. There are alternatives for those that use alternative media but they can’t out vote those that may be heavily influenced by the corporate propaganda machine.

Crime Profiteering isn’t limited to the Mass Media it is also taking place in other businesses like home security and private prisons. In the case of Home security there are plenty of ads on TV about how people who can afford it can buy security systems that protect their property implying that this is the most effective way of addressing the problem of crime. In the short run for those that can pay it may help but it is much more expensive to protect people from crime than it is to address the social causes that cause it for society as a whole and this is designed only to protect the privileged and increase the division between the haves and the have nots. It also results in gated communities where those within the communities are ignorant about the rest of society and don’t base their decisions on the best interest of society including themselves based on an accurate perception of reality.

In both cases of Private Prisons and home security the corporations have an incentive to ensure that the problem of crime isn’t solved since the public would no longer have the need for their services. Yet they both have more powerful lobbies than the sincere citizens who aren’t making profits or donating to campaigns. And unlike the majority of the public the security companies have plenty of chances to get their commercials on the air.

The propaganda isn’t limited to TV either; the corporations are making an enormous amount of progress in their attempts to increase their presence in schools as well. In the late eighties Channel One (blog about Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds”) began providing advertisements in schools that children were required to watch and Susan Linn author of “ Consuming Kids” reported on the enormous amount of advertising corporations are directing to kids both in and out of school and how it is detrimentally effecting their critical thinking skills. Cities and town are also increasingly relying on charter Schools especially in poorer areas where parents can’t afford better options as well. These Charter Schools are almost certainly not doing as good a job as the Mass media attempts to make it appear and at least one recent study indicates that they may be doing worse than traditional schools. This particular study indicates that “More than one quarter of the charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains than their traditional public school counterparts in reading, but their performance is eclipsed by the nearly half of charter schools that have significantly lower learning gains.” This is just one of many studies but they almost certainly don’t measure everything; anyone that is familiar with the way these types of studies are done should understand that there are almost always flaws and that they need to be studied and verified in multiple ways to be certain. A more thorough search on Google for more studies will turn up many more conflicting results; however a familiarity with the way many studies have been done in the past by business and political organizations should be enough to indicate that if some of these ideologues have the opportunity to present studies that may have subtle biases to support their cause they probably will and already have. One clear indicator of the effectiveness of these Charter Schools can be made by using basic sense if you consider the fact that introducing profit organizations and recognizing their history on many other institutions including Channel One should raise doubts about the incentive they have to increase profits at the expense of the children or use the opportunity to impose their ideological beliefs on the children.

With Channel One many schools have recognized that they aren’t working out very well and they are on the decline but Charter Schools and other forms of advertising to children continue to rise and presumably if sincere people become complacent Channel One may attempt to reverse this trend. Barack Obama seems to be one of the leading supporters of these Charter Schools which will almost certainly not turn out to be any better than Channel One.

Recent reports in Barack Obama’s home town now run by his ally Rahm Emanuel indicates that Noble schools a Charter School that they support is now raising an enormous amount of money by charging students for infractions like “bringing chips to school” and “not looking a teacher in the eye.” This should raise some serious doubts about their priorities. There have been attempts to argue that this could actually be good for their learning; I have reviewed an enormous amount of authoritarian material on similar type’s or child rearing which indicates that even if there is some truth to this it probably comes at a high cost that influences their critical thinking skills.

This type of incentive plan should be especially troubling in schools that are already treating disenfranchised children that may be prone to violence. If troubled children are reading about more school shootings and they see that their teachers are more concerned about imposing fines than educating then it might be a matter of time before one of these students uses this as an excuse to carry out another school shooting. Instead of doing things to try to antagonize children they should be trying to find better ways to fund these schools properly and reduce the chance that this might happen. It is clear enough that this is much more common among low income schools where children have less opportunity to get ahead. The biggest problems with the schools almost certainly can’t be solved by introducing more incentive for corporations to gain more profits out of the schools and possibly use the opportunity to impose their own ideology as well.

Another indication of the possibility that this is part of a larger effort intentional or not to maintain class differences is the a recent story about Tanya McDowell being sentenced to twelve years in jail for enrolling her children in school while she was homeless; they referred to it as “theft of education.” It is becoming increasingly clear that maintaining class differences for the benefit of those that are already rich and powerful and their decedents are more important than educating children or solving problems with violence, education or anything else for the vast majority of the public.

The traditional establishment has overwhelmingly indicated that they can’t be trusted to fix the problems that they’re creating, including Barack Obama who is supporting the Charter School efforts and remains silent about many of the other important issues even those that affect the minorities that he is supposed to represent. One of the most vocal critics and advocates of the advertising to children and many other social injustices has been Adbusters which has also supported the Occupy Wall Street movement; however they don’t have much opportunity to address the majority of the public since the Mass media is unwilling to present their views fairly. The Fox has even attempted to make it seem like they’re costing the tax payers millions of dollars in cost that it takes to keep them under control. Imagine if someone broke into your house and you caught them red handed and they called the cops and the cops arrested you at tax payers’ expense; would you consider that your fault that the tax payers had to pay for your arrest. The police costs that the tax payers have been paying for run into the millions but the amount that the corporations have been stealing, through various types of white collar crime, runs into the hundreds of billions or more likely trillions and yet they don’t go to jail; instead the protestors that are trying to draw attention to it are thrown in jail and blamed for the much smaller cost!

The stupidity and insanity is enough to make anyone’s head spin if they can keep up with all the details!
For some sources on propaganda see the following sources or rely on additional research of your own if you’re so inclined:

“Rich Media, Poor Democracy” Robert McChesney Third World Traveler excerpts
“Rich Media, Poor Democracy” Robert McChesney Amazon excerpts
Scribd “The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” Robert McChesney Synopsis
“The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” Robert McChesney Amazon excerpts 
“Boxed in: the culture of TV” By Mark Crispin Miller
Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds,” Channel One Indoctrination of Kids (My blog review plus excerpts and additional links)

See also the complete series on inadequate coverage of causes of massacres.

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