Thursday, 10 July 2008

Chomsky: What makes the mainstream media mainstream? (part two)


Orwell wrote Animal Farm in the mid-1940's, a satire on the Soviet Union, on a totalitarian state. "Literary Censorship in England" was an introduction to that novel, but it was suppressed and wasn't discovered until some 30 years later. In it Orwell says that whilst England isn't a totalitarian state, and doesn't have the KBG breathing down peoples necks, the result is pretty much the same: "People who have independent ideas or who think the wrong kind of thoughts are cut out."

People only succeed in the media when the power structure knows they're going to say the right thing. Much like university faculty in the more ideological disciplines. They've been through a system.

"Corporations sell audiences to other corporations."

"The obvious assumption is that the product of the media, what appears, what doesn’t appear, the way it is slanted, will reflect the interest of the buyers and sellers, the institutions, and the power systems that are around them. If that wouldn’t happen, it would be kind of a miracle."

This hypothesis is extremely sound and stands up under the harshest scrutiny.

Such discussion is unlikely to be found in the education system. And obviously not in the media. Why would it?


It's a system simi;lar to Leninism. We - the elite political and corporate class - do things for you and are doing things in the interest of everyone. We let you vote once in a while. But otherwise shut up, do as we say, think what we tell you to think, and let us get on with making the decisions.

How did this evolve?

Much of it comes from the first World War, after which the US went from being a debtor to a creditor nation.

Highly organized state propoganda was first seen during World War I in the form of the British Ministry of Information (BMI). The BMI was used to pursuade the US to enter the war, otherwise Britain was in trouble. It was geared towards sending the US propoganda, massive fabrications of "Hun" attrocities, largely aimed towards US intellectuals. It succeeded. BMI documents show that their goal was "to control the thought of the entire world," as Chomsky puts it.

Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1916 on an anti-war platform, in spite of the fact that he intended to go to war. The problem for Wilson was this: how do you get a pacifist population to become raving anti-German lunatics who want to kill people. To this end they set up the only major state propoganda agency in US history: the Committee on Public Information, often called the Creel Commission. It worked, stirring up enough hysteria to convince Americans to go to war.

A lot of people were impressed by this, including Hitler, who cited (in Mein Kampf) state propoganda as a reason why Germany lost the first World War. The US business community was also impressed.

Public Relations industry

A US invention, a 'monstrous' industry derived from the Creel Commission. Edward Bernays was a leading figure of the Creel Commission and went on to write Propoganda, published in 1925. (Incidentally, whilst 'propoganda' means something different today, at the time it meant simply 'information' and didn't have the negative conotations it has today.) In Propoganda, following his experience of the first World War, Bernays says that it is possible "to regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies".

Also of the Creel Commission, Walter Lippman (the most respected 'serious' journalist in the US for over half a century) spoke of a new art in democracy which he called the "manufacture of consent". Chomsky says:

"By manufacturing consent, you can overcome the fact that formally a lot of people have the right to vote. We can make it irrelevant because we can manufacture consent and make sure that their choices and attitudes will be structured in such a way that they will always do what we tell them, even if they have a formal way to participate."

[Which is why Chomsky says elsewhere that "Democrat and Republican are two sides of the same business faction". It doesn't particular matter which side you vote for because the same interested parties (the corporations and banks) are backing both sides and their interests will served no matter what.]

Academic political and social science derives from the same propoganda industry (Chomsky cites Harold Lasswell as their founder). Lasswell and others realised that "politics has to become political warfare, applying the mechanisms of propaganda that worked so brilliantly during the first World War towards controlling people’s thoughts."

Strangely, "controlling people's thoughts" is not somemthing you'll study in media classes at college.

James Madison, during the constitutional convention, said that the goal of the new system was "to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority".

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Chomsky: What makes the mainstream media mainstream? (part one)

What follows are detailed notes of a talk Chomsky gave at the Z Media Institute in June 1997. The talk was called what makes the mainstream media mainstream?

The media readily lends itself to being studied. The evidence of what is and is not being reported, the focus of what is reported, what is ignored or suppressed, etc, can be analysed every day by looking at the press itself.

Studying the media - or any institution

Ask questions about its internal structure. How does it relate to other systems of power and authority? Internal records (memo's, letters, that sort of thing) from leading figures in the instituion can be highly revealing, valuable tools for understanding how the institution works.

Institutions should be studied as a scientist would study a complex molecule. You make a hypothesis about its nature and then see how it holds up under scrutiny. In the case of the media, make a hypothesis about what the media product will look like. How does the hypothesis hold up?

What do you find?

There are different media that do different things, such as entertainment/Hollywood, soap operas, newspapers, and so on.

One sector of the media is the "elite media". This is the "agenda-setting" media, the large media institutions with the vast resources. The New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, for example.

So you have a news editor in Dayton, Ohio, who doesn't have the resources "to figure out what the news is"; who has to fill the quarter page he devotes to non-local stories and diverting his audience. Well, he puts there what the New York Times says he should. Local papers do not have the resources to do much else. They do not have 'foreign correspondants" littered around the world.

If you get out of line and start producing stories that the elite or agenda-setting media doesn't approve of, you'll soon hear about it. (Chomsky cites a recent San Jose Mercury News incident as a dramatic example of this.) If you try to break the mold, you simply won't last long. All of which is an understandable reflection of the obvious power tructures of corporations. They are tyrannical institutions.

"The real mass media are basically trying to divert people."

Let them do something else - watch sports, soap operas, etc - keep them occupied while we run the show, while we take care of the serious stuff and make the big decisions.

Who are the elite, agenda setting media?

Take the New York Times and CBS. They are major, highly profitable corporations. Most are either linked to or owned outright by much bigger corporations, for instance General Electric, Westinghouse, etc. They are way up in the power structure of an extremely tyrannical private economy, an economy that is hierachical, controlled from above.


The media are a doctrinal system, a sytem based on a body or set of principles, on dogma. The media interact closely with universities. A reporter writing about, for instance, Southeast Asia or Africa, is supposed to go to a big university and find an expert to tell him what to write; or to foundations such as the Brookings Institute or the American Enterprise Institute. These corporate funded foundations are very similar to the media.

"Universities are not independent institutions."

"There may be independent people scattered around in them, but that's true of the media as well." In fact that's generally true of corporations and of fascist states.

Universities are dependent on outside sources of support: from private wealth, big corporations, and from government, which is so closely linked with corporate power you can barely distinguish them.

People who don't accept this structure, and internalize it, are likely to be weeded out anywhere from kindergarden up. Conformity and obedience are rewarded, people who think independently are not. They are often marginalised, isolated.

[Part two will follow.]

Friday, 4 July 2008

The BBC: "a mouthpiece for establishment views"

"Media commentators have been quick to point out that the communal door linking BBC, government and business executives has been turning for a very long time."
Thanks to a recommendation I was recently introduced to the website medialens, a 'UK-based media-watch project which offers authoritative criticism of media bias and censorship'.

Whilst I'm new to the site I was particularly interested in the following article by David Edwards, one of two medialens editors:

New Chairman confirms the BBC as a mouth-piece for establishment views (September 2001)

The new chairman at the time was Gavyn Davies. Whilst the BBC would have us believe they are an impartial organisation without corporate bias, Davies CV tells a different story. In 1997 Davies was touted as the next governor of the Bank of England. He was former chief economist for Goldman Sachs. He has a wealth of over £150million. Davies and Greg Dyke (BBC director general at the time) are both New Labour supporters and have given money to the party. Davies wife ran Gordon Brown's office. Their children were pageboy and bridesmaid at Gordon Brown's wedding. Blair has stayed in Davies holiday home.

Edwards also notes that Sir Christopher Bland, outgoing BBC chairman at the time, went on to become chairman of British Telecom.

In other words, it would be hard to find anyone more biased in favour of both government and corporate interests. As Chomsky might say, to expect otherwise of Davies would take some kind of miracle.

According to Edwards such bias can be found throughout the BBC's history, right up to the point of its inception:

"The BBC was founded by Lord Reith in 1922 and immediately used as a propaganda weapon for the Baldwin government during the General Strike, when it became known by workers as the "British Falsehood Corporation". During the strike, no representative of organized labour was allowed to broadcast on the BBC; the Leader of the Opposition, Ramsay McDonald, was also banned."

It's an insightful article. I was talking to someone recently about this. We're told that the BBC is perceived around the world as some kind of beacon for truth. That it's free from corporate and governmental bias, "because of the unique way the BBC is funded." It's content and the credentials of its chairmen tell quite the opposite story. The BBC is obviously biased and we have little reason to expect it not to be.

"The idea that the "non-corporate" BBC somehow counterbalances the corporate media is made absurd by the fact that, on issue after issue - global warming, sanctions against Iraq, the bombing of Serbia, Western support of Indonesia, inaction over East Timor, the history of US and British support of Third World tyrants - all promote near-identical establishment views."

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Television and the media: the almighty inventors of false realities.

"I know the secret of making the average American believe anything I want him to. Just let me control television...You put somemthing on television and it becomes reality. If the [real] world contradicts the images [on television], people start trying to change the world to make it look like the images [on television]." (Hal Becker)

"They must find it difficult: those who have taken authority as truth rather than truth as the authority." (Gerald Massey)

"If it is not in the media it did not happen. If it did not happen but is in the media we believe it has happenned." (Charles T Tait)

Monday, 16 June 2008

FILM: Money as Debt

"The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled."
John K Galbraith (Canadian economist, 1908-2006)

If you're like me you've probably never asked yourself how banks 'create' money. Similarly you probably didn't realise that 'creating' money was something banks did. Well, they do.
Everytime you take out a loan from a bank it 'creates' money. It does so by simply writing the money into existence in your account. The bank stakes little when it does this. It literally creates the money out of thin air. Yet you, who must labour to pay back the loan, plus the interest, may lose your car, your house, or whatever else it was you used to back the loan if you cannot keep up the payments.

Can it really be that simple? Yes, it really is. The common and understandable fallacy is to think that banks lend money which they already have in their possession. They don't. They create money in the form of debt. Money is debt. Indeed if there was no debt, there would be no money for anyone to spend. 'If this is news to you', the film notes, 'you are not alone'.

“The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented...If you want to continue to be slaves of the banks and pay the cost of your own slavery, then let bankers continue to create money and control credit.”
(Sir Josiah Stamp Director, Bank of England 1928-1941, reputed to be the 2nd richest man in Britain at the time)

Money as Debt is a clear and insightful 47min animated film about money, debt and our quite ludicrous banking system. It was made by Canadian artist Paul Grignon. It explains how our banking system came to be what it is today; how each and every one of us are in one way or another enslaved by it; how the 'central banking system' is doomed ultimately to collapse (its design makes this inevitable); and the film also offers some real solutions for change.

For more information about the film including a full transcript, references, endorsements and a wealth of quotes, see the Money as Debt website. Watch the film below or on google here.

On the eighth day God created the banker

In the beginning there was - a goldsmith. The paper and coins that we call money today originated from receipts written by the goldsmith for gold that people deposited in his vault. Crucially the paper recepits written by the goldsmith were not 'money' and were not thought of as 'money'. The money was the gold. The paper was just that, paper, a receipt.

One day the goldsmith had an idea. He realised that since he was the only one who knew what was in his vaults he could write out paper receipts for gold that he didn't actually have. Since he made interest on gold deposited in his vaults, this new scheme would allow him to earn interest on entirely ficticous gold. Meet the banker.

Fiat currency

'Fiat' means by 'official sanction' or decree. So 'fiat currency' is money created by the sanction of government.

Fractional reserve requirements

In the past the total amount of currency in existence was limited to the total amount of gold in existence (or whatever physical stuff was used to back the currency). As such, in order for more money to be created, more gold had to be mined. However since our currency is not backed by gold - or indeed anything at all - the only real limit to the amount of money in circulation is the amount of debt that can be created by banks. Fractional reserve requirements are a somewhat arbitrary limit set by government on how much debt or money banks can create.
For example, on a fractional reserve requirement of 9 to 1 a bank with an initial deposit of £1,111 can make a loan of £10,000. This £10,000 is brand new money, brand new debt. Today - as a result of lobbying by banks - fractional reserve requirements of 20 and 30 to 1 are not uncommon.
Time lag
It's only the time lag between the moment when debt (or money) is created and the time when it must be repaid that keeps the shortage of money from catching up and bankrupting the entire system.
"One thing to realize about our fractional reserve banking system is that, like a child’s game of musical chairs, as long as the music is playing, there are no losers."
(Andrew Gause, Monetary Historian)
Other quotes

"I am afraid that the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that banks can and do create money...And they who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of Governments and hold in the hollow of their hands the destiny of the people"
(Reginald McKenna, former Chairman of the Board, Midlands Bank of England)

“Thus, our national circulating medium is now at the mercy of loan transactions of banks, which lend, not money, but promises to supply money they do not possess.”
(Irving Fisher, economist and author)

"Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws."
(Mayer Amschel Rothschild, International Banker)

"Everyone sub-consciously knows banks do not lend money. When you draw on your savings account, the bank doesn't tell you you can't do this because it has lent the money to somebody else."
(Mark Mansfield)

“Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, that there is no human relation between master and slave.”
(Leo Tolstoy)

“None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

"Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes the nations laws...Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognised as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile."
(William Lyon Mackenzie King)

Sunday, 15 June 2008

9/11 Truth Movement: Karen Johnson at Arizona State Senate

On 10 Jone 2008 Arizona State Senator Karen Johnson called on the Arizona Senate to endorse a new and independent investigation into the 9/11 attacks. Johnson spoke of the inadequacy of the official 9/11 investigations which failed to reveal the full truth of the largest terrorist attacks on US soil in the country's history. Johnson paid specific attention to the overwhelming evidence supporting the theory that the three WTC buildings that collapsed on 9/11 were each brought down by controlled demolition and not, as the official investigations claim, fire and damage from the airplane impacts.

In attendence was Blair Gadsby, a professor of religious studies who has been on hunger strike for over two weeks outside John McCain's office, demanding that McCain look at new evidence regarding the 9/11 attacks.