The Stupefaction of a Nation: Corporate Media Propaganda and its Weapons of Mass Distraction
Originally written in December 2003
For any news organisation to act as a cheerleader for government is to undermine your credibility... They [American news] should be balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other…Telling people what they want to hear is not doing them any favours. It may not be comfortable to challenge governments or even popular opinion, but it is what we are here to do.
-- Greg Dyke, BBC director general on American news organizations coverage of the war in Iraq
The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands... [Propaganda] must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect... The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses…[Propaganda] does not have multiple shadings; it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, never half this way and half that way …But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over….The purpose of propaganda is not to provide interesting distraction for blasé young gentlemen, but to convince… the masses. But the masses are slow moving, and they always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.
-- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
[Propaganda in this nation has never been more incessant than today. From the hundreds of lies, misrepresentations and deceits being told to us by both government and corporate media about battles, deaths, injuries, the resistance, security and the deteriorating state of the occupation of our quagmire in Iraq to the distortions and chicanery the Bush administration seemingly launches at us in wave after wave of lies to the purposeful distortion and omission by corporate media of the corrupt going-ons of the embarrassment and scandal that is the bordello called Congress, propaganda, it seems, has never been used so systematically and methodically. While the corporate Leviathan launches war against us its media merrily downplays or ignores its truth or consequences or our daily lives. With the growing power of the Leviathan becoming ever stronger, in essence becoming our government, we are witnessing propaganda, conditioning and manipulation on a scale never seen before. Our nation is being devastated by both government and business propaganda. As a result, we are being made brainless puppets attached to the willful strings of the powerful elite. What follows is an examination of this growing phenomenon and how it is affecting us all, our democracy and the direction this nation is headed in.]
He who controls the media controls the masses. Today, America’s media is controlled exclusively by fewer than a dozen multinational conglomerates and their many interests. NewsCorp, AOL, Viacom, General Electric, Disney and others have formed a media oligarch that reaches into every American home and most every citizen. These few omnipresent entities hold as paramount the belief in assuring for themselves perpetual loyalty from as many of the masses as possible. Revenue and profit, corporate growth and power, executive pay and ego, these are all determined by us, the masses, and helps explain why the oligarchy has decided to invest and take an interest in all forms of media that reaches and influences us.
We are the lifeblood of the conglomerate, of vital importance, and, as such, it is in its best interest to control as much of our lives as possible, transforming us into obedient servants of obliviousness. Is it no coincidence, then, that the United States has become a nation whose masses no longer question authority or the propaganda that passes for news? Is it any wonder why we seem so ignorant as to what is being done to us and incurious as to what is happening in the world, readily and naively accepting as true everything that is spewed out of our televisions and newspapers? We have allowed the oligarchy to hide the keys of democracy while we carelessly follow it on the road to fascism, where the elite have control of all aspects of our lives, including our mind.
We live at a time when capitalism’s inner demons are beginning to be exhumed from the catacombs of the human ego, when love for the almighty dollar and her sister greed blinds those basking in the hypnotizing light of greenbacks and materialism. This phenomenon, combined with the addictions spurred by power and pomposity, has created in the last several decades a need by the powerful elite to manipulate and condition the masses; to transform and mold us into subservient drones that neither think, question, participate or demand.
Through the use of the television – the most influential instrument of control and propaganda in present day America – conglomerates can direct and sway public opinion on virtually every subject they see fit. The television has become an opiate for the masses and a conduit from where conglomerates can dictate how society thinks, acts and evolves. Our habits and ethics are manipulated, our ideas and beliefs distorted. We are but pawns in a game of corporate capitalism played by a few elites whose economic interests lie in making us docile, conformist and oblivious creatures of mediocrity ingrained with the need to shop and consume. The system instills a sense of paralysis, isolation and uniformity among the masses. We are assimilated to conform to society, to incorporate how the oligarchy wants us to live. The derailment of democracy as we know it is the end result of the reality we are presently experiencing.
As captives to their propaganda, our ears become theirs, our mouths spout their distortions and our minds contemplate what they want us to believe. To the capitalist elites, we are but a product, hundreds of millions of worker bees addicted to televison, easily persuaded and exploited, wishing for the escapist fantasies we see, sold like shares of stock to other corporate entities interested in our existence, in our captive audience. They are the strings by which we move, the drill instructors by which we march and the brain by which we think.
Propaganda, both corporate and governmental, has seemingly exploded with the ever-increasing consolidation of the media. Today few interests own the majority of our nation’s airwaves, newspapers, Internet access, print media and television stations. One company can in essence control everything you hear, see and read on a daily basis, every year of your life. From coast to coast our sources of information are increasingly being sold to wealthy multinational corporations that more and more are mingling into our daily lives, transforming our beliefs, views and goals. American society is guided by them, evolving through the commands that help shape the direction opinion will take. Diversity of opinion and thought is disappearing faster than biodiversity on Earth.
There is nothing more ominous than peering into the not-to-distant future and seeing Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp – one of the world’s largest media companies and owner of the Fox network (We distort, We decide) – have majority ownership of DirecTV, the nation’s largest home satellite TV company that in many ways represents the future of entertainment and information delivery. If the deal is allowed to go through NewsCorp could incessantly shove down our throats its right-wing, pro-Bush, pro-Murdoch business propaganda while shutting off truthful and diverse sources of information. With Bush’s FCC enamored with consolidation it is a good bet that the deal will go through.
Guided by measly crumbs of ten-second news flashes, in paltry thirty-minute news capsules loaded with a potpourri of deceptions and distortions, the masses are subjected to a blitzkrieg-like summary of that news which the elites deem necessary to serving their own interests. These drops of news and information we are granted are designed to quench the already conditioned low level of curiosity among the masses. These morsels have no intellectual worth, no capacity to inform and act more to exacerbate ignorance than to educate. What tidbits of news are allowed to fester are an amalgam of contorted half-truths, cheerleading subjective diatribe and porous reporting that is biased in favor of those conglomerates that employ the reporter. This assures that the decisions and interests of the wealthy and powerful are maintained and accepted by the masses.
What information does not serve the oligarch interest is either suppressed by omission or attacked. Government and corporate interests, such as those prevalent in our occupation of Iraq, prevent realities and truths from surfacing. Instead, propaganda is disseminated that will distort and manipulate the masses into believing exactly what those in power want. Corporate media caters to military interests because in many instances they are part of the military industrial complex. Simply look at General Electric, one of the world’s largest military contractors and owner of NBC and its sister stations. Helping manipulate the masses in time of war allows both the corporate media and the government advance their respective interest in subverting public participation and discourse while advancing a perception of consent around the nation. Forming a symbiotic relationship, both now fused into the same two headed beast, one the master of the other, their combined actions undermine the reality of a world not seen by the American public.
Corporate media, an extension of its mother company, reports pro-business, pro-corporate and anti-labor positions on a constant basis. News bits lean towards those interests that will help the corporation achieve its goals of profit maximization, whether from pushing conservative, right-wing views onto a gullible public or from conditioning audiences towards those views it sees as paramount in securing allegiance. News reports are created not to be right but to have the highest ratings, which in turn means greater profit. The interests of the masses are ignored and exchanged for that debate which will fit the interests of the elite minority. Today, growing reports of an economic recovery linger on the evening news, but can we see it in our lives and in that of our friends and neighbors? No, but good economic news benefits the elite who depend on your wallets to fatten up theirs.
Many low and middle-class citizens, through propaganda, manipulation and constant bombardment by incessant repetition of sound-bite slogans and visual imagery end up supporting those interests that are contrary to their own socioeconomic well-being. These people have in essence been brainwashed into believing that by assenting to the will and opinion of the elite their lives will be made better. Unfortunately for them, their lives are made worse as the continued exploitation and subjugation of their class continues by the same entities they so fervently believe in. This is a system where the powerful few command the weak majority and where the most important decisions are made to the benefit of the elite at the detriment of the rest.
Manipulation of the masses has been made easy with the advent of television. Populations, many made ignorant by pervasive and purposeful determents of education (itself a different article altogether), naturally believe and blindly place their confidence in those "trusted" entities they watch on a daily basis. Television is made an all-comforting apparatus as we warmly welcome home the many celebrities we become enraptured with, each manifesting inside us our desire to partake in the small fictional fantasy world they inhabit. We become numb to reality and its consequences, failing to analyze and question the actual world we reside in due to conditioning we have undergone since early childhood.
Over time we become robots incapable of discerning or even seeking the truth in the news that is provided us. We have been stupefied into believing the garbage blasted from the monitor. We have been trained to never question, always accept and to always flip the remote when our attention runs dry. News is decided on the basis of ratings and on the advertisers paying for commercial spots. Corporate media is but a business where profit is king and where the seeking of customers – other corporations buying ad space – is of primary importance. We are but a means to an end, mere statistics in the earnings game. Shows are designed not for our enjoyment but to attract and retain as many souls as possible from which to harvest revenue from advertisements and product consumption.
The corporate media inundates us with promotion, news, gossip, tabloid, rumor and innuendo from those celebrities placed high above the pedestal of sanctimony. Our heroes’ daily lives, loves, mistakes and exploits are absorbed into our psyches through the constancy of corporate media’s assault on our brainwaves. Hollywood-hero news is designed to distract us from real world events such as war and recession, keeping our minds pre-occupied and away from information that might wake our slumbering conscious. While showcasing for our viewing pleasure the present tribulations of our halo-anointed superstars of the moment, so-called journalists dissect, analyze and comment about hairstyles, appearance and supposed crimes with award winning passion. Yet real, pertinent and important news is given minor and oftentimes erroneous insight. Throughout the channel-horizon we see the same news, headlines and marketing package. The oligarch’s WMDs have been unlocked; weapons of mass distraction fester like noxious gases in every state, city and home.
Repetitive sound-bites, facetious imagery, verbosity and one-sided and frivolous analysis and commentary by pundits, spinsters, newscasters and recycled "experts" is a daily and rampant occurrence on corporate channels, each spitting out talking points and the company lines and opinion, never forcing the viewer to actually think for herself. Relevant news is brushed aside in seconds so that the latest up-to- the-second news on "Wacko Jacko" is aired. Stories that have no relevance other than to stupefy a nation into ignorance are played and replayed, trumping that news that affects most people. We are witnesses to a form of propaganda that is transforming this nation from a once bright-shining pulsar of informed democracy into a dark nebula of nothingness where everything that matters is neglected and all that degenerates and indoctrinates prospers.
Without an informed and participatory citizenry democracy begins to stumble. Our government is being taken over by the corporate Leviathan and we are indifferent as to its consequences. Crony capitalism is affecting tens of millions through lower wages, layoffs, longer hours, lost savings, tax burdens, lack of health care, increased pollution, perpetual warfare, electoral fraud and the gradual elimination of social services. Yet we remain passive and loyal, ignorant to the Leviathan’s war against us. The oligarchy uses its powers of manipulation to divide and alienate us from each other. The divisive and passionate topics of class, race, culture, religion, party affiliation, immigration and education are constantly hammered into our collective mind, announcing as real myths and stereotypes, classifying peoples into groups and imputing on them the necessary ingredients by which society will marginalize and disdain them. We are told our way of life is in peril, that we must vote against our interests in order to preserve that which we most cherish. As usual, fear is used to attain the Leviathan’s interests. A united society is a threat to the establishment, which is why we are separated and corralled into distinct clusters, conditioned to segregate ourselves from those deemed different and to fear those labeled a threat to our existence.
In its never-ending campaign to control us, corporate media instills fear into our daily lives. It has found a gold mine with the war on terror, becoming yet another fear-mongering profiteer and looter of the American public. Abusing our still fragile memories of 9/11, the corporate media unleashes the vast array of products it manufacturers onto us, using fear as its principle marketing tool, hurling diatribes about our supposed imminent threats looming in every city. Consume, consume, consume the Leviathan commands, knowing full well that our fear will eventually succumb to their perpetual warnings of apocalyptic zeal.
America has become a nation of obedient drones, aimlessly walking empty streets devoid of an informed and participatory population. Our nation is being pillaged in front of our eyes, the government is now in the hands of our masters. Apathetic puppets we have become, free thinking minds we have none. The light that once shined so bright has disappeared in a fictional world of fright. The elite that pull our strings are becoming stronger, objective information is disappearing. The powerful few now control the nation’s media and its ideas, and soon our free will and freedom to think as well. Democracy is disappearing, the Leviathan is swallowing us whole little by little, assuring itself of allegiance from a people who once questioned, were once curious and who once had control of this great nation.