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Friday, May 25, 2012

Messing With Our Minds: The Ever Finer Line Between News and Advertising | Kingsley Dennis. Truthout

The manufacturing of consent is endemic within modern societies. Throughout history, the need to "persuade and influence" has always been manipulated by those people in power as a means to maintain authority and legitimacy. In more recent years, the overall manipulation of the mass public mind has become less about making speeches and more about becoming a pervasive presence within the lives of each individual.
With that introduction, Kingsley Dennis begins his analysis of the growing, disheartening and not-surprising connections between not only news and advertising but between those inbred information institutions and government. And we recipients -- consumers -- of the information produced are the, uh, victims.

Dennis writes:
Modern programs of social influence could not exist without the mass media. Today it exists as a combination of expertise and knowledge from technology, sociology, social behaviorism, psychology, communications and other scientific techniques. Almost every nation needs a controlled mainstream media if it is to regulate and influence its citizenry. By way of the mainstream media, a controlling authority is able to exert psychological influence upon people's perception of reality.
Dennis goes deep into how that influence is concocted and regurgitated through the mass media. I was especially pleased to read his information on the international reduction in the mainstream sources of information we receive. While in grad school during the mid-'70s, I had studied that trend, and it's certainly evolved, for the worse, since then.

Dennis writes:
The display of diversity in the information coming from the mainstream media gives the illusion of independent reportage and news. Yet the mainstream media of any given nation or nations is owned by only a small handful of corporate entities with high-level state relations.
I've never been a believer in huge national or international conspiracy theories of any kind, including ones suggesting that all our major news media are, intentionally, in cahoots to limit and funnel the information we receive -- and to do it with government and corporate blessing.

Instead, I believe it's more of a sadly inevitable outgrowth of people and institutions in constant contact -- as part of their legitimate, essential work. To gather information, to be competitive in reporting information, to "win" at doing it first, the news media build functional links with the institutions with the information. And too often the watchdogs become lapdogs -- and their articles get the big headlines.

And while that's taking place, media corporations -- just like all other corporations -- find financial value in joining hands, merging -- not necessarily with a goal of controlling information but mostly to control costs and enhance profits.

As Dennis writes:
[T]he shift toward propagating banal reality lies at the heart of the ever-increasing centralized control of the media. It is somewhat worrying to learn that most Western media organizations are owned by only a handful of giant corporations: News Corp; Viacom; Time Warner; Disney; Vivendi Universal, and Bertelsmann.
Fortunately, Dennis gets into what we consumers can do to respond to that "somewhat worrying" trend; I'm surprised he describes that trend so mildly. He writes:
In terms of mainstream news reporting, it is always important to check the source when reading a news item; that is, is it from an independent source or is it, "according to a government source," etcetera. The mainstream media is largely fed via global news services, the two largest being Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) and Associated Press. This again constitutes a centralization of news information.
But then he points to a way around it that worrisome trend -- if we consumers and citizens are attentive:
What has changed the game plan over the past two decades has been the rise of distributed and decentralized global communications between individuals. The Internet in particular, as well as other forms of social media, have spurred the growth of individuals seeking information between and among themselves, a process which is often external to the consensus of various nation-states. This has had the effect of shifting people away from conditioned patterns of propaganda and belief systems.
We've seen the powerful impact of the Internet and social media in the Middle East, where the citizens of some countries have been able to communicate among themselves and to outsiders. And they've been able to stir and win at revolution from tyrants.

But, as Dennis concludes (emphasis added):
This bottom-up intervention has seriously compromised the patterning techniques of ruling authorities. There are now efforts underway to censor information sites that are critical of the state. It is therefore imperative that our independent media be protected, our social networks of free speech preserved, and our right to seek and speak the truth defended. Messing with our minds has no place in a truly democratic and egalitarian future.
And that is up to us -- the consumers, the citizens, the middle-class and poor masses -- to ensure that protection and preservation.

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