Friday, October 4, 2013

Wal-Mart censorship in Argentina is part of a larger pattern

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Forbes recently reported a little known story about how Wal-Mart and other advertisers have been accused of participating in censorship in cooperation with the Argentina government. the low profile of this story is a subtle form of censorship or propaganda. By reporting the things they want to emphasis over and over again while they report the things they don't want too much emphasis on briefly then forget about it they can claim they aren't censoring things but few people would notice that they have focused the public's attention where they might want it, or at least tried.

More important they don't even focus on some of the more insidious forms of censorship and the possibility that it is already happening on a much larger scale in the United States. If they did it would almost certainly raise many more questions about how allowing large corporations to consolidate into only six major conglomerates that control the media and a similar small amount of companies that control what books, movies and CDs people buy.

Perhaps more importantly, it should raise more questions about relying almost entirely on media outlets that are financed by advertising revenue that gives them an incentive to look the other way at problems with the corporations that provide financing and makes it much more difficult for opposing views that aren't backed up with big money to get their messages across to the public.

One major example is the fact that advertising expenses have been rising dramatically while at the same time manufacturing expenses are being cut significantly. This hasn't been reported widely, presumably because the people that do most of the reporting of the news are dramatically increasing the amount of revenue they collect at the expense of the rest of the public; and if they report it the public might consider reform that might reverse this trend, which must have a major impact on the increasing wage gap and the lowering of quality of merchandise.

This is especially important when these advertiser are involved in activities that are destructive to the environment, the education system and that might encourage violence. Not that they should be completely censored either but those with opposing views that protect the environment education system and reduce violence need to have a much better chance to speak to the majority of the public not just those that seek out alternative views.

The following are a few excerpts from the Forbes article:

Another Corruption Scandal For Wal-Mart As Retailer Accused Of Censoring Argentine Media 09/26/2013

It’s the 1940s again in Buenos Aires, where it does not pay to be an enemy of the government. ....

.... Grupo Clarin, the biggest news publisher in the country, is on the outside. As are La Nacion and Editorial Perfil. As a result, they’ve lost all of their ad revenue from their best clients. Big retail is doing an ad freeze tango on Argentina’s big media. ....

The list of enablers is long. Wal-Mart is joined by Carrefour, Jumbo Retail, Coto Supermarkets, Easy Argentina, Garbarino, Rodo, Megatone and Fravega. With a few exceptions, all of these companies have full-stopped advertising since February. ....

For that special treatment, Moreno asked the big retailers to pull out all the advertising in the major national press, punishing them for their constant criticism of the government. .... Complete article

The example sited in Argentina would be considered so blatant and outrageous that it might raise major objections if it happened here in the U.S., yet in a more subtle manner it already is happening here in the U.S., on a much larger scale and it has been happening for years.

Most people have come to think of this as normal; or more likely they don't think about it at all.

The amount of influence that advertisers could potentially hold over the coverage in the media has always been a problem however thirty years ago before all the mergers and acquisitions enabled a relatively small number of corporations to dominate large markets, in theory if some media outlets investigated the wrong doing of one of them they could easily get advertising from many of the other businesses and it would add to their credibility by demonstrating that they're doing good investigative reporting.

Robert W. McChesney has gone into this much more in his work including two books, "Rich Media, Poor Democracy," and "The Problem of the Media." Advertisers have plenty of time to get their views across and in some cases the critics of these advertisers can't even buy time on TV like when Adbusters attempted to by what they called "uncommercials" which the networks refused to air as indicated in the following excerpt:

Adbusters produced a 30-second spot that pointed to the connection of fashion and eating disorders. The commercial begins with a soft-focus image of a naked woman accompanied by a voice-over saying, "Obsession, fascination, fetish." The writhing woman appears to be in slow-motion ecstasy before we realized that she is vomiting into a toilet bowl. The voice says: "Why do nine out of 10 women feel dissatisfied with some aspect of their bodies? The beauty industry is the beast."

Several women's groups joined Adbusters in purchasing four spots on the CBC show, Fashion File, and they attempted to buy airspace on CNN's Style with Elsa Klensch. Both networks refused to run the Adbuster's uncommercial. Adbusters also attempted to buy time on ABC, NBC, and CBS for a spot declaring the day after Thanksgiving, "Buy Nothing Day." None of the major networks would run the ad. Richard Gitter, NBC's vice president of advertising standards and program compliance, says that NBC doesn't air controversial ads. Gitter continued with more candor, "this action was taken in self-interest. It was a spot telling people, in effect, to ignore our advertisers" (Oldenburg).

Even though the Adbusters' uncommercial was censored by the networks, it and other uncommercials have been viewed by many people via the Web. The Adbusters' URL is frequently mentioned in lists of favorite Web sites in newspapers and on individuals' home pages. The Adbusters' Web site offers a critique of the visual icongraphy of the perfect body and the "Just Do It" rhetoric of personal empowerment embedded that iconography. Adbusters seeks to redefine agency by "trickle-up" activism. The "Culture Jammers Toolbox" section of the site gives production advice on how to introduce noise into focus groups, compose alternative print ads, make television spots, buy television time, and subvert billboards with spray-painted modifications. Complete article

The clear implication is that major media gives preferential treatment to those that spend the most. This effectively means that the truth, as presented by the mass media, is for sale, at least partially. However many people may never have even heard of this which happened years ago and many of those who have may have forgotten about and they may allow the corporate control of the media to influence their thinking without realizing it.

The commercial media is much less likely to report on many of the activities of Wal-Mart and many other major advertisers than they are the activities of people without political power and in many cases when they involve both they might present things in a manner which implies that any negative aspects are solely the fault of those that aren't their advertisers as in the case of the large amount of crimes that are taking place at Wal-Mart every day, as I pointed out in "Wal-Mart high crime rate continues uninvestigaterd." Studies have shown that there are much more crimes committed at Wal-Mart than at other competitors and that small businesses are much less likely to result in high police expenses. There are also many studies that indicate that Wal-mart leads to higher poverty and lower quality and paying jobs but these studies aren't covered much if at all in the commercial media.

In one example Wal-Mart supporters misrepresented a study from the University of Missouri to imply that it showed that Wal-Marts were good for communities when the actual study indicated that there were some good aspects of it but there were also many negative aspects and that they caused many problems as well. This misrepresentation was debunked; however the coverage of this didn't get much coverage at all while the misrepresentations continued to be repeated over and over again. Other examples where positive stories about Wal-Mart have been reported much more widely include when they report they're hiring for the holidays without reporting how low quality their jobs are, or when they report that they're buying American, which they ahve done over and over again even when they increase their imports from China and Bangladesh. The most recent incident where they reported this apparently there is finally an increase in American manufacturing but what was reported much less widely is that the manufacturers took the lead, for all retailers not just Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart took the credit this time.

This is clearly a major part of the reason why Wal-Marts have been growing long after many people have started to learn how bad they are for communities. Hardly a store opens any more without major opposition from local people organizing against it, or at least trying; but they report these as isolated incidents just like they report each shooting or bomb scare as isolated without letting many people know how much opposition there is to Wal-mart and why or that their policies might potentially be contributing to their higher crime rates.

The majority of the criticism of Wal-Mart's censorship has been about their attempts to control the books and music that is sold at their stores and this is a major concern, especially when they have such a dominant position in the retail industry. Many of the best books or music might not make it if they're not featured in Wal-mart and it may have already led to lower quality of these items. It also may mean that major celebrities might not dare to criticize Wal-Mart.

However, this may not be the most important concern. a bigger problem might be that many of the biggest critics of corporate America including but not limited to Wal-mart might not have an opportunity to get their views across to a large percentage of the public that still does take the initiative to seek out their own information even though it is increasingly obvious that the commercial media isn't even trying to do a good job reporting the news especially when it comes to reporting on those that finance them.

The same could just as well go for the oil companies which buy an enormous amount of propaganda on TV telling the public how the "energy future could look very Bright," and that what they call "safe technology" or "clean coal" could address all our environmental and economic problems. This could also go for Monsanto which is hardly being exposed even though they don't seem to be buying much advertising time at all, at least not directly; however many of the companies that deal with their products buy an enormous amount of advertising time, including Wal-Mart.

The Mass Media outlets that we rely on to bring us the most important news have a major incentive to continue to sweep it under the rug instead!!

Most of this isn't as blatant as their cooperation to censor Argentina's media, assuming people see this article, but the more people look at it and think about it the more problems they might be able to find and the more clear that it should be that a much larger group of people need to have ways to get their views across, not just the six media conglomerates and the corporations they sell advertising to.

The following are some related articles:

Top 10 reasons why media censorship in China sucks (photo source)

Corporate Censorship, Part I: Son of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Bans Sheryl Crow's Next Album

12 Items Walmart Apparently Considers More Dangerous Than Assault Weapons

The Wal-Mart Thought Police The 'everyday low prices' superchain refuses to carry books and music that dare criticize conservative values.

The Inconsistent Censorship of Walmart: Fifty Shades of Grey?

Green Day Changes Its Stance on Walmart and Censorship

Censorship Backfire: Surge Of Interest In Zinn’s ‘People’s History’

Censorship & Comics

Wal-Mart tries to shut down union organizing site

The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Robert W. McChesney

Juan Gonzalez interviews Robert W. McChesney on Democracy Now

Corporate Control of the Media

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