With local television stations all reporting the same news simultaneously, one claiming the title "news leader", another billing itself as the one with "total news", it is apparently becoming more difficult for the public to distinguish one from the other--or from common entertainment, according to former CIA agent, Philip Agee.
"Television news is show business," declares Agee in his book,On the Run, Lyle Stuart Inc., 1987, "designed to entertain and intentionally or not, programmed to keep people ignorant." With an observation as this written ten years ago, George Orwell's prophetic world where "ignorance i s strength" no longer seems a prophetic forecast, but a present reality.
Surfing between channels, seeking a different perspective on a particular news story, or to even see a different story, one can easily observe that not only are the reports worded nearly identically, but the photography, in many cases, is identical.
A logically sardonic question could be posed as to why the waste of resources? Why not pool them into one reporting agency and charge the advertisers two or three times the standard fee based on how many news sources were eliminated in the consolidation?
The answer, other than the obvious monetary considerations, perhaps lies with Carl Jensen's assessment of Adolph Hitler's philosophy of information control--"More than half a century ago Hitler said the masses
take a long time to understand and remember, thus it is necessary to repeat the message time and time and time again. The public must be conditioned to accept the claims that are made...no matter how outrageous or false those claims might be." Censored 1996.
Last month Good Morning America reported that a state governor announc ed the Fig Newton as his state's official fruit cookie. The comment made by the program's host, amidst much laughter was, "You'd think the Governor would have a few better things to do." With such an observation, would it not seem logical that Good Morning America would have much better items t o report on?
"If, however, the public does not receive all the information it need s to make informed decisions," Jensen claims, "then some form of news blackout is taking place...some issues are overlooked (what we call 'censored') and other issues are over-covered (what we call 'junk food news')."
Why does a boxer's bitten ear receive local and nationwide coverage, but we are never told about presidential Executive Orders that affect the entire nation? Why does the case of a slain child beauty queen receive daily updates, but UN sanctions that starve thousands during their "peacekeeping" operations, receive only a passing mention? One can receiv e minute detail on the actions of a homosexual serial killer involving a nationwide hunt for a man possibly dressed as a woman, but UN soldiers camouflaged as peacekeepers are scarcely reported?
Aldous Huxley in his book, Brave New World, observes, "The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, bu t by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth." A child's death is certainly a tragedy. A bitten ear is painful, yet things that affect an entire nation or the world are seldom, if ever, covered. Truth, it seems, is destined to be forever buried under a flood of "cookies".
Peter Phillips observes in his book, Censored 1997, why it is so difficult in this age of information to obtain true, pertinent facts that have a distinct impact upon the lives of this country's citizens?
"Corporate-owned media outlets tend to ignore or dismiss stories that run counter to corporate interests...," Phillips observes. "Why does a particular story not receive the coverage it deserves in the media? While a variety of reasons may be at cause, foremost among them...seems to be conflict of interest issues involving the financial concerns of major med ia advertisers."
Walter Cronkite, intimately aware that the news media is controlled b y money, laments, "Those who permit such pressure to be exerted clearly are thinking purely of their pocketbooks and that alone -- not of the people' s rights to know or necessity to know -- and I abhor it." Apparently, the hand that pays the news media controls the mouthpiece as well. It does no t appear to be a question only of news gathering costs being supported by advertisers. The advertisers themselves are the apparent determiners of what is newsworthy based exclusively upon monetary considerations.
When this ethic is applied to multi-national corporations whose yearl y revenue arguably exceeds the national budget of most third world countrie s, the stakes are raised to a level that far exceeds merely the success or failure in the marketplace of a new model of automobile or a diet pill.
"In the United States, in particular," says Benjamin Ginsberg, Direct or of the Center for Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University, "the ability of the upper and upper-middle classes to dominate the marketplace of ideas has generally allowed these strata to shape the entire society's perception of political reality and the range of realistic political and social possibilities. While westerners usually equate the marketplace wit h freedom of opinion, the hidden hand of the market can be almost as potent an instrument of control as the iron fist of the state." (FromThe Captive Public, New York: Basic Books, 1986).
While news is driven by advertising sales, there is another aspect to the proliferation of media censorship. "...A significant reason...stories were not covered has to do with the conglomeration of the mainstream press," says Peter Phillips in his introduction to the 1997 volume of Project Censored. "This has resulted in fewer media outlets, increased pressure on news divisions to produce higher ratings and profits...."
The Telecommunications Deregulation Bill, signed into law February of 1996 by President Clinton, generated significant opposition due to a piec e of legislation tacked onto it called the Communications Decency Act (CDA) . Most of the opposition to the bill resulted from fears of censorship, but few recognized that the CDA allowed for the creation of virtual monopolie s in the communications arena from the purchase of multiple media outlets b y large corporations. General Electric's ownership of the National Broadcasting Corporation with all its subsidiaries, for example, ensures that anything NBC airs will not run counter to GE's policies or conflict with its revenue base. The same principle would necessarily apply to Time
Warner's ownership of Turner Broadcasting, Disney's takeover of ABC and Westinghouse's control of CBS.
"Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses
constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country", wrote Edward Bernays, assistant to William Paley, founder of CB S. "...We are dominated by a relatively small number of persons....
"...Media corporations, practicing 'press release' journalism, have become dependent on established sources of information available through government and corporate channels. These channels sanitize and spin the news to reflect their special interests, and downsized news organizations do not expend resources to do the in-depth investigative news gathering necessary to counter these packaged versions of the news. Therefore, stories that run counter to major corporate or governmental messages tend to be ignored or discounted." Censored 1997.
Does a larger portrait of corporate intent emerge from this? For example, would General Electric, previously one of the nation's leading manufacturers of nuclear reactors, have allowed NBC to disseminate accurate, in-depth news critical of nuclear power? Is it also realistic t o think that a government bent on world dominion would allow news releases of national and international importance if that news would prove counterproductive to its political agenda?
By observing history, can we not see that governmental and media censorship is greatest when efforts at major national control are being undertaken? Walter Cronkite addressed the issue of governmental control o f the press and information flow when he said, "Limitations on press freedo m are imposed by the government itself despite the very clear wording of th e First Amendment that there shall be 'no law abridging the freedom of spee ch or of the press.'
"The government limits freedom of information through secrecy, the almost uncontrolled use of the document classification privilege," Cronki te continued in his introduction toCensored 1996. "It limits freedom also by limiting access to news sources. The government limits freedom when it, a s the courts have from time to time, forces revelation of reporters' source s, a process which can cut off valuable, perhaps unique springs of information. And there is what I consider to be the greatest threat to freedom of information: the government licensing of broadcasting."
"A 1975 study on 'governability of democracies' by the Trilateral Commission concluded that the media have become a 'notable new source of national power,' writes Noam Chomsky in his book, Necessary Illusions. Samuel Huntington, a professor of international politics at Harvard and t he chairman of Harvard's Institute for Strategic Planning said, in his book, The Crisis of Democracy, "Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers." (New York University, 1975). World bankers, by pulling a few simple levers that control the flow of money, can make or break entire economies. By controlling press releases of economic strategies that shap e national trends, the power elite are able to not only tighten their stranglehold on this nation's economic structure, but can extend that control world wide.
Those possessing such power would logically want to remain in the background, invisible to the average citizen. Expressing that very sentiment, David Rockefeller, founder of the aforementioned Trilateral Commission in June of 1991, addressed a meeting of that organization.
"We are grateful toThe Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine," Rockefeller told them, "and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us t o develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright light s of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferab le to the national autodetermination [read as "democracy"] practiced in past centuries."
"...A handful of us," wrote Walter Cronkite, again from his introduction toCensored 1996, "determine what will be on the evening news broadcasts, or, for that matter, in the New York Times or Washington Post
orWall Street Journal.... Indeed it is a handful of us with this awesome power....And those [news stories] available to us already have been culle d and re-culled by persons far outside our control."