Ever get the feeling that what you read in the newspapers is not really journalism. Well, you wouldn’t be far wrong. Much of what passes itself off as journalism today is actually slick public relations disguised as journalism, or more accurately, Corporate Media Propaganda.
It was the Australian social scientist Alex Carey who observed that there were three developments of major significance in the last century: “the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”
This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the Malaysian Herald last October:
Power is now moving into the hands of the transnational corporations – and the structures that support them. The corporate media’s role is to condition the public into blindly accepting such a fundamental shift in the way our economies are controlled and managed.
Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky introduced their ‘propaganda model’ of the media in their book ‘Manufacturing Consent’ in 1988. Basically, they said the media have five types of filters that determine what gets presented as news and what does not. They also showed how dissenting views get very little space – in stark contrast to the political-corporate powers-that-be who have easy access to the media (and the public).
Some of these state-corporate hidden messages include the notion that economic growth is the best way forward, that the neo-liberal corporate-led model of globalisation is the best thing since sliced bread, and that corporations are essentially benevolent.
The first filter that determines what is reported is of course the corporate ownership of the media, which heavily influences what is transmitted to the public.
The second is massive advertising revenue which again conditions a newspaper to be “friendly” to business interests for fear that firms may withdraw their advertising spending and go elsewhere.
The third filter is the sourcing of news. Ever notice how the media often quote speeches and statements from the centres of power – whether it is the White House or Putrajaya or economic interests – that are closely linked with the promotion of business interests? And notice the scarcity of interviews with the poor and the marginalised.
The fourth filter comes in the form of negative responses to a media statement or programme – that is public complaints, threats of lawsuits or punitive action or official warnings – all of which can put fear in media owners.
The fifth filter is the demonisation of enemies – whether they are communists, dictators, activists protesting against corporate-led globalisation, environmentalists, or anyone who has a different view about how the economy should be run. These dissidents are often portrayed as crazies, mavericks, ‘radicals’, and fringe groups.