Propaganda was a highly effective political device during the course of the First and Second World Wars, promoting nationalism and militarism. Although its form has changed, society is still exposed to propaganda today. Long gone are posters of Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter encouraging military enrolment and national involvement, for mass media has taken their place. Nowadays, politicians use mass media as a tool to influence the population. Therefore, as Dr. Cohen states, “What North Americans see and hear is … largely a paid political announcement.”
The world of media is controlled by six mega corporations which have strong ties to government institutions or the government itself. Connections between politicians and media are dangerous, especially when money is at hand, possibly resulting in censoring and manipulation in favour of the government. Take General Electric for example, owner of NBC, who wanting to obtain a military contract selling jet engines in Iraq swayed the newscast as to favour the U.S military action.
Not only are the big media corporations biased, they “set the framework is which everyone else operates,” as revealed by Noam Chomsky, MIT professor and author of Manufacturing Consent. Since smaller media institutions do not have the resources to send out reporters to the Middle East to investigate conflicts, they base their articles on news reports from the corporate-owned Fox News, CBC, or The Times.
Dr. Cohen’s statement that “The corporate media is succeeding in keeping Americans uninformed, and worse, misinformed” is supported by the East Timor case. In 1975 the Indonesian army invaded East Timor, a small island off the coast of Indonesia, and treated the population harshly, displaying genocidal characteristics.
Over 200,000 East Timorese died, most killed by troops and the rest victims of starvation. Why are so few people aware of this genocide? The answer is simple: western governments like the United States didn’t want the public to know.
At the same time, the media placed all its focus on the genocide in Cambodia and the atrocities committed by the communist Khmer Rouge. The American government took advantage of this anti-communist propaganda, while choosing to dismiss the East Timor crisis. In fact, Indonesia was an ally and a client of the U.S who, along with Canada and Britain, sold Jakarta the weapons used to illegally take over East Timor. In this case, as in numerous others, public was managed and mobilized from above, by means of the media’s highly selective messages and evasions, as noted by media analyst W. Lance Bennett. Instead of holding its governments accountable, the mainstream media was complicit in the genocide.
The Canadian Association of Journalists has asked for a parliamentary inquiry into media concentration and its implications since Canadian media is entirely controlled by five corporations: CanWest, Bell, Quebecor, TorStar and Rogers Communications. The CAJ especially denounced the actions of the media giant CanWest as “a disturbing pattern of censorship and repression of dissenting views.” Their daily newspapers were required to run corporate editorials written at the headquarters, and articles in the papers could not contradict the views expressed in the editorial. So, while it would be easy to point fingers south of the border, we should be analyzing the true extent of our freedom of speech, the implications of an increasing corporate media monopoly and the effect of political propaganda on our society.
Solenn Madevon, Grade 12
Penticton Secondary School