28 April 2003


One of the screaming needs in political life today, as I've hinted earlier, is for media education. As Ralph Nader once pointed out, the Nation's children get their educations from their television sets, which would explain why the American electorate appears to be evenly divided between apathy and outright support for corporate dictatorship. Here are some initial things to teach about the mass media, for people as they try to make sense of a coerced world:

1) Follow the money. The mass media, like the government, operate with corporate money as the first-and-last interest explaining what is being said and done. The most obvious clue to money's influence over media are commercials, but attention must also be paid to the way in which even the TV news imitates the modes of persuasion that can be seen in the typical TV commercial.

2) Hysteria is where the people who claim to be solving the problem create such an emotional fever-pitch that they themselves are the problem. Key words and images mark the mass-media attempt to provoke hysteria. Calling opinions "extremist," for instance, is usually an attempt to deny them a fair hearing, to provoke mass ignorance of their actual content. Also important, of course, are emotionally-charged music and images.

3) The media don't usually lie -- except when they're quoting the lies of the State Department -- but they are horribly biased about which facts they choose to discuss and which ones they don't. Try to find a mainstream media representation of how many civilian casualties there were in the war on Afghanistan, for instance. The smart media viewers listen to Pacifica Radio and read alternative media sources in order to find "balance" in the news.

4) "Balance" in discussions about the news actually means discussing those issues which empower the consumer and citizen to make policy decisions. It doesn't mean armchair disagreements which leave the average person voicing a powerless opinion on the sidelines. Balanced discussion of the war against Iraq, for instance, meant a debate about whether the US should go to war against Iraq at all, or not. It didn't mean a discussion of whether the war would turn out poorly or well.

A footnote: a discussion of this material is a pre-requisite for more advanced discussions such as "What is ecosocialism?" If ecosocialists would hope to be more than a tiny clique of the well-educated, they'd better be out there spreading a "smart consciousness" about the mass media.


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