Media misinformation

29-08-2013 06:46 PM

Robier al-Faris

Just how free or neutral is the media, specifically the Western media? The Mind Managers by Herbert Schiller, published by Beacon Press May 1975; and published in Arabic translation by The National Council for Culture, Arts, and Literature in Kuwait in 1986 and 1999; discusses that critical issue.

Why is the Western media, printed and audio visual alike, not reporting what is happening in Egypt as it happens on the ground? Why did the burning of Coptic homes, livelihoods and churches get no decent coverage on the Western media? Western TV channels and radio have fostered anger here in Egypt because of their biased coverage which failed to broadcast to the world the acts of violence and savage terrorism inflicted by the Islamist supporters of the ousted president Muhammad Mursi, even as it labelled ‘peaceful and unarmed protestors’. At the same time, the Western media gave poor coverage for the anti-Islamists, so that the outside world was inadequately informed of their magnitude, stance and opinions.
This attitude came as something of a surprise to Egyptians, who used to hold a firm belief that the Western media was objective, democratic and realistic. Now Egyptians have discovered how misled they were; the media in the West tells as many lies as they do elsewhere.
The myth of ‘balanced’ media
Herbert Schiller, in his book The Mind Managers, a work of great importance for its revelation that the media makes use of its many developed resources to control the output and serve up a specific ideological diet, made the claim that the Western media was no better than any other. 
In the media, information is controlled under the pretext of protecting personal property. The big companies that monopolise TV channels are paraded as personal property, but the real owners and investors are kept out of the picture. And so as to make the cover more effective and successful, proof of its existence needs to remain hidden. It serves only the benefit of its owners; the aim of the media moguls is to control public opinion; the public must be led to believe that whatever the lies propagated, they are true.
Schiller recognises a number of myths about the way the media manages minds. Major among them is the myth of neutrality or balanced reporting, which presupposes a belief that the integrity and nonpartisanship of government and of privately-owned media is beyond reproach. 
Yet all mass media organisations are commercial projects, and accordingly are neither neutral nor objective. Their income and profits come from those who use the media time and space to make advertisements. The channels are managed according to the interests of the owner—be that government, person or group—and are intricately tied to where their financing comes form. So circulating the word ‘neutral’ is part of the great effort to mislead the public. 
Thinking outside the media
In The Mind Managers, Schiller explains that the main aim of the rich or powerful is to hang on to what they have.  To this end they will do whatever it takes to serve their ends. Schiller believes that most media organisations have turned their audiences into mere followers; their opinions are limited to what is presented by the media, even in the smallest details of their lives. They do not give themselves a chance to think over or contemplate issues; they are occupied with the events as presented in the media. Persons who begin to think outside the line drawn by the media rapidly find themselves in the minority, so frequently prefer to hide their doubts and suspicions rather than be marginalised.  
Neutrality is a lie; the interest of the owner comes first. This is the lie the Western media is based on. Yet in this age of open skies, it should be no difficult task for readers, viewers, or online visitors to form informed opinions by looking into the coverage of different media outlets that adopt various and varied outlooks; even better if in different languages. A practice of critical thinking should make the recepient immune to being taken in by whatever the media wishes. 
Personal experience
I had an experience last week that supports the facts in Schiller’s book. I sent a German friend a list of the churches burnt by the Muslim Brothers (MB) for publication in the German press, as well as some videos. She took them to the press, but she told me that most channels already had the list but did not want to use it because some of these channels had interests in the same line as those members of the international MB group and their supporters. 
So much for the integrity and neutrality of the press.
WATANI International
30 August 2013
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