Five Reasons to Unplug the TV Now!

Posted by Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall on @ 5:31 pm

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Commentators from all parts of the political spectrum are increasingly vocal about overwhelming public passivity in the face of far-reaching legislation, by both the Bush and the Obama administration, that strips Americans of important Constituional protections. I’m sure much of this passivity relates to Americans’ overall alienation from the political process – by the powerful corporations who fund elections and whose army of lobbyists drives most major legislation.

Nevertheless the corporate media also plays a significant role in reinforcing public passivity and apathy. This can be seen by a careful breakdown of specific ideological messages (also known as propaganda) that continually bombard the American public. These messages can be found in direct advertising, “news and information” reporting and the so-called “entertainment” content of TV, films, books magazines and newspapers.

The notion of using carefully crafted psychological messages to condition Americans’ thinking and behavior isn’t new. As Australian born psychologist Alex Carey has traced, it grew out of a decision by the National Association of Manufacturers decision in the 1930s to foster the development of a “public relations” industry. However over time the science and techniques employed have become increasingly sophisticated and new players – (predominantly right wing) think tanks and government (Pentagon and intelligence) agencies – have quietly entered the arena.

At present the “messages” Americans are bombarded with on a daily basis fall into five broad categories:

Category 1: Pro-war messages.

These are messages occurring repeatedly both in “news” reporting and both TV and film crime and spy dramas (both TV and film) which portray the US is under threat of imminent terrorist attack. This includes regular reporting that US intelligence, on the basis of secret information, has upgraded the US alert status from yellow to orange (high). Obama, like Bush, uses these messages to justify a continual escalation of the war in the Middle East and apparent plans for an imminent attack on Iran.

Category 2: Anti-civil liberties messages

There are fear-inspiring messages used to make Americans so fearful of imminent terrorist attack that they willingly surrender their own civil liberties to prevent it. Both Bush and Obama have used similar messages to convince the American public to surrender their right to habeas corpus (guarantees review by a judge whenever anyone is detained by law enforcement), their protection against warrant less search and seizure, government surveillance of phone conversations and emails, torture and extrajudicial assassination of so-called terrorists (unfortunately this could potentially include anyone who criticizes the government, as there is no burden to prove the victim’s guilt). These messages figure prominently in a raft of national news reporting and a raft of crime and espionage dramas that have dominated TV and movie entertainment in the past decade (24 and Without a Trace are good examples). It is common in similar programs (which often employ Pentagon consultants) to portray warrants and non-violent interrogation techniques as an “inconvenience” and a threat to public security. (As an aside the original Patriot Act was directed towards the growing anti-globalization movement and not towards towards Middle East terrorists.)

Category 3: Messages promoting fear of dark skinned people

Government propaganda aimed at minority scapegoats dates back to the Middle Ages and the systematic persecution of Jews in Europe – with Hitler’s “Final Solution” the most extreme example. It serves two main purposes – to deflect popular anger from a corporate elite (in Hitler’s case to conceal the German, British and US corporate backers who promoted his rise to power) and to promote distrust between various sections of the working class that might otherwise unite and rebel. Recent racist media messages largely take the form as anti-immigrant hysteria directed against Hispanic immigrants from Mexico (who are portrayed as welfare cheats and a threat to American jobs) and dark skinned people from Middle East and Asia (who are portrayed as potential terrorists). However there continues to be a disproportionate portrayal of African Americans as angry, violent and criminally inclined, both in unbalanced news reporting and racial stereotypes in TV and film entertainment.

Category 4: Messages promoting US exceptionalism (the belief that that US has the fairest, most democratic and most open political system in the world)

The media carefully conceal corporate interference with elections and the legislative process (all the perks – gifts, meals, cocktail parties, free trips and free use of corporate aircrafts – corporate lobbyists dispense as an inducement for favourable legislation). They also systematically concealed the massive electoral fraud which occurred in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

Category 5: Messages encouraging ordinary people to disengage from the political process because it’s too complicated and too corrupt

(Yes, the government and the public relations industry deliberately portray politics as corrupt to persuade the public to stay out of it). This message is driven in part by the name, blame and shame focus that dominates political reporting – Americans are most likely to hear their lawmakers mentioned in the mainstream media as a result of immoral, illegal or unethical contact. However this message is mainly driven home via distraction – by making other aspects of modern life (such as Tiger Wood’s infidelity) vastly more prominent than demanding a voice in whether the US gives two trillion dollars in bail outs to banks or engages in an unwinnable war with Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.



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Posted on October 4, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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