Mainstream Media Misinformation – the discussion

Our May 2013 topic, “Mainstream Media Misinformation,” was a follow-up to March’s “Evaluating the Evidence.”

Reference: False Flags, Fake Media Reporting, Deceiving the Public: Social Engineering and the 21st Century “Truth Emergency,” – James Tracy, Global Research

Nine questions, provided in advance, constituted the framework for the discussion:

  1. How do the mainstream media dis-inform or misinform?  Example?
  2. Why do the mainstream media dis-inform or misinform? Example?
  3. How has ownership of the mainstream media become concentrated over the years? Example?
  4. How do I find credible information sources? Is “independent media” any better than mainstream? If so how does it differ?
  5. how do I recognize and evaluate a media source?
  6. How do I know whether or not the information presented is indicative of a conspiracy theory?
  7. What is a conspiracy theory? Does it matter?
  8. How do I know if the history I’m reading isn’t mythology?
  9. How do our chronicles of war get distorted?

Mainstream Media was defined as being:

  • controlled by a relatively few people, generally either political leaderships pushing particular ideologies or corporate boards driven by economic gain;
  • motivated by self-interest, they show little concern for the very real information needs of their captive audiences;
  • often failing to provide a balanced and well researched viewpoint, choosing instead to offer dogma, distraction-based entertainment, or thinly disguised advertising;
  • generally profit-driven, with their output designed to titillate and distract their consumers;
  • powerfully influenced by advertising;
  • ready to report on violence and frequent use of stereotypes, impacting primarily women and the young.

Reference: What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream – Noam Chomsky

The discussion began with question 1 above, rephrased as: Do mainstream media fulfill their obligation to fully and truthfully inform their audience?

As there were no affirmative responses it was assumed that all agreed that the mainstream media do not fully and truthfully inform, and the discussion continued with examples of how they misinform. The examples were grouped as:

  • bias
  • euphemisms
  • doublespeak
  • repetition and propaganda
  • censorship, omission, trivialization

The ensuing discussion covered the first three of these:

Bias

From medialens.org (reprinted in Cyrano’s Journal; both are independent/alternative media websites)

“‘Objectivity’ is the sacred cow of professional mainstream journalism. All “professional” J[ournalism]-schools stress the importance of filling reportorial and editorial duties with the utmost “objectivity”. The problem is that, when pursued to its ultimate logical conclusions, human objectivity turns out to be a hoax, a fiction that, in expert hands, usually hides precisely the opposite, a very definite worldview which, wittingly or unwittingly, colors all choices, precepts, and opinions. In an environment in which most J-school students are simply indoctrinated to become unquestioning, careerist cogs in the machinery of corporate media, discussions of this kind may serve as an alarm bell for those wishing to become real journalists, real servants of the public interest.”

Commonly noted  journalistic biases:

  • Fox News – Far/ Christian/ right bias
  • Anti-Muslim bias
  • Anti-First Nations bias
  • Pro-Israel, anti-Palestine bias

Euphemisms

Euphemisms use bland, inoffensive, and often misleading terms for things the user wishes to dissimulate or downplay. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse; some are intended to deceive, refering to taboo topics (such as disability, sex, excretion, and death) in a polite way, masking profanity, or downplaying or concealing unpalatable facts. Some examples:

  • collateral damage for “civilian casualties” in a military context;
  • redacted for “censored”;
  • police action for “undeclared war” (The Dutch called two major military offensives against the Republic of Indonesia police actions; President Harry S. Truman called the Korean War a police action; similarly, the Vietnam War is also referred to as a “police action” or “security action”);
  • terrorist for “anarchist, “extremest” or “freedom fighter”. For example,
    • Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (1995 Oklahoma City bombing) killed 168, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 680 people. Neither was considered or tried as a terrorist.
    •  Anders Brevic (Norway 2011), massacred 77, convicted of mass murder. Not considered or tried as a terrorist.
    •  Jared Lee Loughner attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and shot dead a federal judge and a 9-year-old. Not considered or tried as a terrorist.
    • James Holmes was arrested for killing 12 people and wounding 70 others at an Aurora, Colo. movie theatre in Jul 2012. Neither considered nor tried as a terrorist.
    • Surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who allegedly killed two, was quickly classified as an enemy combatant and “held and questioned under the law of war,” without a lawyer. He’s Muslim.
    • The two who recently murdered a soldier in London were instantly referred to in the press, by police and politicians as terrorists.  They’re Muslim.
    • Palestinians – for resisting Israeli occupation – are considered terrorists by Israel, the U.S., Canada, and the mainstream media.
    • Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis – for resisting U.S. occupation – are considered terrorists.
    • Vietnamese – for resisting U.S. occupation – were considered terrorists.
    • Polish, British, French, Dutch, Belgique, and others who resisted “enemy” occupation during the 1st and 2nd  World War were considered freedom fighters; “Résistance;” patriots.
    • The term “terrorism” appears to depend on from which end of the gun barrel you are looking.
  • Bomblets – soft, cushy word western politicians and media use for cluster bombs, capable of sending 60,000 pieces of jagged steel shrapnel into human bodies
    • The U.S. State Department position statement on cluster munitions states, “Moreover, cluster munitions can often result in much less collateral damage than unitary weapons, such as a larger bomb or larger artillery shell would cause, if used for the same mission.” Perhaps the bomber(s) who stuffed nails and ball bearings into pressure cookers for use in Boston had a similarly twisted rationale. But don’t expect explorations of such matters from the mainstream media: when the subject is killing and maiming, such media take as a given the presumptive moral high ground of the U.S. government.
  • Colateral Damage for “murder” or “mass murder”;
  • Think Tank for “Lobby/Front” for corporate elite and conservative governments;
  • Economy for the corporate bottom line;
  • Global Leadership for World Policeman;
  • Incursion for “invasion” or “offensive”;
  • Disputed Territories for “Occupied Territories”;
  • Palestinian Territories for “Palestine”.

Doublespeak

In his 1949 book 1984, George Orwell introduced us to the words doublethink and newspeak, which have since been combined in the media and literature as “doublespeak,” meaning saying one thing and meaning another, usually its opposite. In 1984 when Big Brother and the Party say PEACE they mean WAR, when they say LOVE they mean HATE, and when they say FREEDOM they mean SLAVERY. So too, in 2001, do our versions of Big Brother and the Party abound with contradictions and deliberate reversals of fact. He also wrote about the conditioned reflex of “stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought . . . and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.”

In his essay “Politics and the English Language” Orwell observes that political language serves to distort and obfuscate reality. Orwell’s description of political speech is extremely similar to the contemporary definition of doublespeak:

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness… the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms….”

Edward S. Herman, political economist and media analyst, has highlighted in his book Beyond Hypocrisy some examples of doublespeak and doublethink in modern society. He describes the principle characteristics of doublespeak:

“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.”

Doublethink — continually reinforced by mass media — remains within an irony-free zone that would amount to mere self-satire if not so damaging to intellectual and moral coherence.

Reference: The Orwellian Warfare State of Carnage and Doublethink – Norman Soloman, Global Research

This discussion ended here, without having completely exploring question 1, due to lack of time. We hope to continue discussing this topic at a later date.

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