Media and the protection of elite power
By Tapani Lausti
David Cromwell, Why Are We The Good Guys? Reclaiming Your Mind From the Delusions of Propaganda. Zero Books 2012.
Media Lens's editors David Cromwell and David Edwards have over the years become important analysts of the corporate media's failure to meaningfully engage with the real world of greed, mendacity, destructive economic and financial practices, relentless environmental destruction and constant mounting of illegal wars. We are not supposed to think that these horrors of the world in fact tend to be created by Western political and business elites who claim to be bringing democracy everywhere.
Cromwell has now written another useful book about these themes with some interesting self-biographical interludes. He also includes many exchanges with mainstream media journalists which never cease to amaze me. Experienced journalists who seem very pleased with themselves turn into silly moaners if not aggressive bullies when confronted with clear short-comings in their work. The same phenomenom could be witnessed when these journalists turned against Wikileak's Julian Assange. The venom directed against Assange has been breathtaking.
These elite journalists seem incapable of understanding why they are being criticized. Cromwell sums up the failure of mainstream media thus: “… media professionals have long played a crucial role in the protection of private power by maintaining the illusion that members of the public are offered an ‘ímpartial' and wide selection of facts, opinions and perspectives from which any individual can derive his or her own well-informed world view.”
Not all people are deceived. Various polls of public opinion in the US and UK show that even with daily media distortions a large part of the populations is actually aware that something is seriously wrong in their societies. Subsequently they don't trust their politicians, business leaders and journalists to give them the true picture of political and economic life. So it wasn't surprising that the Occupy movement in the US and “los indignados” in Spain almost immediately had much of public opinion on their side.
However, this public doubt of the political, business and media elite's true nature cannot stop corporate journalism inflicting immense harm in the world. The Western elites' rapacious attempts to control the natural resources of the world can still be partly hidden behind the propaganda of “benign intentions”. The immense suffering of millions of people tends to disappear from view. Even when the awful reality becomes visible the media offers support to the pretences of “spreading democracy”. Cromwell quotes the American writer Edward Herman who pointed out in the aftermath of the first Gulf War: “it is the function of experts and the mainstream media to normalize the unthinkable for the general public.”
Recent developments in the public's awareness of the true state of the world offer some hope. Cromwell quotes the late American historian Howard Zinn who wrote about the many surprises which popular movements have presented in the past: “We are surprised because we have not taken notice of the quiet simmerings of indignation, of the first faint sounds of protest, of the scattered signs of resistance that, in the midst of our despair, portend the excitement of change.”
See also my reviews of other Media Lens books:
David Edwards and David Cromwell, Newspeak in the 21st Century. Pluto Press 2009.
- David Edwards and David Cromwell, Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media. Foreword by John Pilger. Pluto Press 2006.
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