The world is interconnected like never before, and the overwhelming growth of accessible information on the internet has made figuring out the truth both easier and more difficult.
It is very important to note that 100 years ago, we had more than 100 times as many different interests contributing to the official news media. There were more locally owned news sources which were not fronts for larger mega-corporations. There was no television, so the people relied on the newspapers and the people they met in the world for information. While it was harder to find reliable information about what was happening around the world, it was easier to figure out what was happening where you lived.
Today, only a handful of corporations control the vast majority of mainstream news sources. Corporations like News Corp, Bertelsmann, and Time Warner collectively control huge parts of the market, with actual numbers and percents obscured by shell-corporations owning each other.
This media centralization assures that if we do not take the time to educate ourselves, to inform ourselves from sources other than the TV, we are allowing not only our viewpoint, but also the very basis of our view; the information we base our view on, to be spoon fed to us by highly impersonalized forces with the primary objective of maximizing profit.
What exactly does this mean? This means the interests of those who decide what goes on the air, in the newspaper, decide what is investigated, what is published, what information is ignored or emphasized, do not feel connected to the people who are consuming the news. They do not feel connected or identify with us.
The people making these decisions are connected to the people who are paying them, and to other businesses and interests (sometimes government, but since corporations mostly control government, it is hard to tell the difference). This makes them answer far more to existing power structures than to us: their primary interest is not in giving us news, but keeping us glued to the screen, keeping us from thinking about important issues, and maintaining their funding.
While every one of us in the “civilized” world has heard every possible viewpoint in relation to abortion, how many of you know about ocean acidification, biosphere or ecological collapse and its costs, or about hidden viral genes discovered by regulators in Monsanto GMOs? How many are talking about the ubiquitous threat presented by endocrine disruptors in our water or by many common types of EMF.
As Noam Chomsky said “any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the US media.” But, unfortunately, it is not just a US problem, as we saw no reporting about the protest/blockade in Taksim Gezi Park, Istanbul, in the Turkish media, despite sister-protests in at least 67 Turkish cities. The Western media then began talking about Istanbul, but as always is largely ignoring the underlying reasons for the protests: namely democracy and a right to decide what happens where you live.
Since the dawn of mass media, the political center has been continually and slowly moved to the right to the point that Ronald Reagan’s policies would be criticized as overly liberal by today’s center, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would be characterized as a socialist and likely impeached. This has been deliberately done to benefit the existing financial interests: to make different shades of their opinion the only acceptable opinion, to make corporate fascism look reasonable.
Debate is routinely railroaded into topics of little systemic importance while the available parties actually all hold basically the same economic, environmental, and civil rights stance. This stance can and has been called neo-liberalism, which can be summed up as no regulation, and no government aid, except in the protection of existing power structures, as we see in the bank bailouts and “austerity measures”. It represents a merger of government and big business.
Because debate is kept within this limited spectrum, people are often left with the impression that the view being presented is the only view and that alternatives do not exist. People are also distracted by superfluous or unimportant debates and allow themselves to overlook important issues, and sometimes even end up opposing things which would benefit them, for instance environmental regulation.
Fortunately, we have access to the internet, and this can allow us to bypass these media bottlenecks and exchange information with each other and access independent news sources. Sites like Exposing The Truth, among others, strive to connect with real people, do real research, and speak honestly about important topics. These 21st century sources try to present varied viewpoints and dig for the truth, instead of settling for viewpoints which all basically agree.
Unfortunately, current power interests have noticed this migration to the internet and governments and corporations have been actively purchasing and using software for influencing social media. This includes personality-management-software, which enables a single individual to control 70+ online personalities (for instance on Facebook) simultaneously to shift the tone of debates and make certain positions seem more popular than they really are.
The internet has brought with it as many risks and dangers as it has possibilities. The average person has access to more information than ever before, yet people, according to Noam Chomsky, are less informed than they were 70 years ago, and according to historian Howard Zinn, also less involved in their own communities than they ever were in the past. Censorship efforts also threaten to limit the effectiveness of the internet, and its centralised nature -with only about a dozen main servers in the whole world- means there likely exists one or more digital dosiers about every one of us, our interests, and our online behavior.
As Chomsky so artfully states: “all over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and consume.” Despite the conditioning, many of us know we are not helpless. As I discuss in Be The Change, we can directly effect the people around us, and when 10% of people become aware of something, convinced of it, it quickly spreads to everyone (Syzmanski, 2011).
And as Niklas Luhmann explains, a system –for instance civilization or society- can endanger its own survival and not notice it until the environment is no longer able to fulfill its needs. The system can only notice problems in its environment through overlap with its needs –at which point it may be too late- , or through sub-systems (like ecologists and international scientific bodies) who investigate these questions. But, the facts about both the ecological and social pieces of the puzzle do not effect the system unless other subsystems translate these facts into resonance –or vibrations- within the system, unless other parts of the system ring the warning bells so hard that the system itself recognizes the situation.
This is where social media comes in. Social media has the capacity to produce resonance, to “awaken” society, without the participation of the mainstream media. As long as we have an open and free internet, we can work to assure people wake up, that problems start to be solved instead of only symptoms treated, and that decision making is returned to the people.
Of course, we will need to do more in terms of organizing and solving this dilemma, the current monopoly of power in the hands of irresponsible people, than inform others and trade information. It is a necessary first step, and in the coming months I will write other texts to better highlight our position, strategy, and a few ideas about how we can change the status quo. But, none of that can be successful if people do not realize what is going on, if we collectively are not aware of what is going on. People do not help in an emergency unless they are aware there is one, and it is our first job to let people know there are in fact many emergencies, and they require our attention.
1) Chomsky, Noam. 2002. Media Control.
2) Zinn, Howard. 1999. A Peoples´History of the United States.
3) Luhmann, Niklas. 1986. Ökologische Kommunikation.
See also: The War on Whistleblowers and Journalism