The Achilles Heel of Media Power:
Loss of Credibility

by Sara Flounders

Socialist Breakup in Eastern Europe Devastates Workers

by Brian Becker

The Mass Media
and the Media of the Masses

by Jean-Bertrand Aristide

Neo-Colonialism and Media's Dark Age

by Nawal El Saadawi

excerpted from the book

War, Lies & Videotape

International Action Center, 2000

by Sara Flounders


Change Breaks Through

Every ruling class imposes on society as a whole the lies, deceits and biases that justify their existence. This has always been true. But historically this control of ideas and information has not been able to stop great change from breaking through.

It is hardly surprising that those who have great corporate fortunes to protect own more than just industries and banks. In order to protect those grand investments there is also a drive to control and own communication, information and culture.

Today the concentration of wealth has grown far beyond what it was in any prior stage in history. Monopolization and globalization, the concentration of ownership and control has taken place not only in banking, in auto, in airlines, in computers. The same process of mega-mergers is underway in information, communication, in entertainment and in mass culture. Wealth and control is in the hands of fewer and fewer.

Twenty-eight billionaires own more than the population of half of the world's countries. In the U.S. today four corporations control most of the daily newspapers, TV and radio stations, cable franchises and almost everything else that is perceived as information and news. These same corporations also shape our culture, values and our entertainment. They control the major magazine and book publishers, music industry and movie studies.

There are no longer hundreds of independent newspapers and locally owned radio stations. According to Ben Bagdikian, today 20 corporations around the world own almost all the major media. By the year 2001 there will be only six corporations that own all information, entertainment, and mass culture. There is no room for new competitors.

Like any concentrated mass exerting a pull of gravity, this concentrated control draws into itself all independent efforts. But what makes all of this more dangerous, more ominous? It is not only the tighter concentration of media into fewer and fewer hands. It also depends on whose hands.

Growing Militarism & the Media

In the U.S. today militarism fuels the economy. This is the center of an empire. There are U.S. military bases in 100 countries. The Pentagon absorbs a majority of the federal budget. The U.S. economy and its largest corporations are utterly dependent on military contracts. The total spent on the military budget is larger than what the rest of the world put together spends on its military. How can this enormous and ever growing expenditure be sold to the population in the U.S.?

General Electric and Westinghouse, the two largest military weapons manufacturers, own much of the U.S. media. GE owns the whole NBC network. Westinghouse owns CBS. It is no accident that these giant weapons contractors use the news media as the public relations arm for their primary product - war and the weapons of war...

Absolute Control Is Vulnerable

The more absolutely controlled and homogenized news and information become the more it lacks credibility-and the more vulnerable it is to the truth. A generation ago in the U.S. the average American accepted or believed what government officials said and what they heard on the news.

Now the distrust of the media goes even deeper than the alienation from government. Today the average person knows that the politicians lie. They lie about their personal lives and sexual affairs, of course. They lie about taxes and finances and they lie about the reasons for going to war. This distrust is reflected first in apathy and alienation. The U.S. today has the lowest voter turnout of any " industrialized democracy." There is not yet a crisis of sufficient proportion to cause millions of people to actively seek an alternative to the media's version of the truth.

However, the media as a mechanism of mass control, allegiance and loyalty seems to be losing its grip even as it becomes more absolutely concentrated.

One little deviation, one little crack and the ideological stranglehold begins to slip. There is consensus only as long as there is no debate.

Consider the response on issues of U.S. military action. Historically, war is one issue where every strata and class in society is aroused, apprehensive and has an opinion. The rulers in any society know they must find a way to whip up popular support. Wild claims of self-defense or demonizing an opponent are hardly new tactics in the annals of war. Great wars of conquest and plunder have always been marked by noble appeals.

[Capitalism] is an economic system based on ruthless competition and unending war. Capitalism has no solutions to the horrendous social problems of hunger and unemployment of millions.


Socialist Breakup in Eastern Europe Devastates Workers
by Brian Becker

New wealth does not even alleviate poverty

" The world's 200 richest people more than doubled their net worth in the four years [up] to 1998, to more than $1 trillion," the report states.

"The assets of the top three billionaires are more than the combined Gross National Product (GNP) of all the least developed countries and their 600 million people." '°

This is not a momentary trend of world capitalism. The flow of wealth from the people of the world to a handful of imperialist countries is rapidly increasing as a result of globalization.

"The income gap between the fifth of the world's people living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest was 74 to one in 1997," the report states. "

It was 30 to one in 1960.

Of course, the statistics about the "richest countries" don't really tell the whole story. In these countries a small handful of the population controls and benefits from the lion's share of the wealth. In the United States, for instance, just 1 percent of the population owns 40 percent of the wealth; the top 10 percent controls 80 percent of the wealth.

Capitalism has rapidly developed industrial and technological capability. It creates new wealth. One might think such a capability would alleviate or end poverty and hunger.

But because this staggering wealth belongs to the capitalists rather than society, the opposite is true.

"About 840 million people are malnourished. . . nearly 1.3 billion live on less than a dollar a day, and close to l billion cannot meet their basic consumption requirements," the report states. "Nearly 160 million children are malnourished and more than 250 million children are working as child labor


A social catastrophe

During its existence the Soviet Union's economy grew consistently. In spite of Western trade embargoes and sanctions and the devastation and the loss of 20 million people in World War II, the USSR grew to be the second- or third-biggest economy in the world.

With the exception of 1941 to 1944-the years of the Nazi invasion-the Soviet Union never experienced a period of economic recession, or negative growth, between 1921 and 1985. Recessions and depressions, which are fundamental to capitalist society, were avoided altogether.

Since 1989, just before the counter-revolution, production in Russia has fallen 43 percent. ]5 According to World Bank estimates, if the current trend continues, Russia will slip to 13th in total production by 2010-behind Brazil, Taiwan, Indonesia and Italy.

Unemployment, unheard of until 1990, now includes at least one out of every 10 workers. The real average income of working-class families has dropped to about one-quarter of what it was in 1990.

The International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency, describes what it calls the " appalling growth" of the number of people living in poverty in the USSR and the former socialist camp. The ILO reports that 100 million people in Russia live below the official poverty line.

These shocking statistics are replicated in other former socialist countries in Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria, 73 percent of the people now live in poverty. The rate is 50 percent in Poland. 17


The Mass Media and the Media of the Masses
by Jean-Bertrand Aristide

In 1960, the richest twenty percent of the world's population had seventy percent of the world's wealth. Today they have eighty-five percent. In 1960 the poorest twenty percent of the world's people had 2.4% of the world's wealth, and today that has shrunk to just 1.1%.

Today, worship of the market and its invisible hand has become a world religion in which economic growth is the only measure of human progress. The dominant discourse regarding the meaning of progress is so constricted, so narrow as to represent a global crisis of imagination. Within this discourse the human being fades from view.

The major media often equate democracy with the holding of elections every four or five years... Only the day-to-day participation of the people at all levels of society and governance can breathe life into democracy and create the possibility for people to play a significant role in shaping the state and the society that they want.

Haiti ... the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living on less than $220 U.S. per year ...


In the U.S., the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has deregulated all communication industries; it permits the market, and not public policy, to determine the course of the system.

Neo-Colonialism and Media's Dark Age
by Nawal El Saadawi

Never before in history has there been such domination of people's minds by the mass media. Never before in history has there been such a concentration and centralization of media capital, and of military power in the hands of so few people The countries that form the group of seven (in the North) control almost all the technological, economic, media, information and military power in the world.

Five hundred multinational corporations (MNCs) account for 80% of world trade and 75% of global investment. Less than five hundred billionaires own more than half of the wealth of all the inhabitants of the globe. With such concentration of the economic and technological means of power, the mass media and electronic telecommunications have served to colonize the minds of men and women, to plunder the economic and intellectual wealth of the majority of the world's population especially in our so-called Third World or South. The word " colonize" is no longer used by the post-modern media. More innocent words are used: Post-Colonial, Free Trade, Aid, Cooperation, Sustainable Development, Structural Adjustment and other post-modern terms with a double meaning.

To expand the global market, the media plays its role in developing certain values, patterns of behavior and perceptions of beauty, femininity, masculinity, success, love and sex. The media creates a global consumer with an increasing desire to buy what the transnational capitalists (TNCs) produce, thereby maximizing their profits. Neo-colonialism, like colonialism, cannot maximize its profits without exploiting others, and you cannot exploit women and men without deceiving them. Postmodern deception by the media and the broader information system is subtle. It works on the conscious and the unconscious levels. It gives you the impression that you are free to choose while it robs you of all the means of free choice.

But how can we be free to choose if the media injects us day and night with false information? The media has developed an ideology of individualism based on destroying the resistance of the individual. It glorifies the individual hero, the star. It destroys the idea of collective resistance. It propagates postmodern ideas such as the end of history, the end of ideology and the end of representation. It divides people by religion, ethnicity and race, under the idea of difference, diversity, and authentic identity, but it globalizes capital and profit under the idea of One World and One Humanity.

Post-modern capitalist writers and journalists provide the media with ideas which deceive the majority of men and women. Most of the writers and thinkers from our countries in the South adopt the ideas of capitalist thinkers in the North. Independent and original thought is not encouraged by our governments. You go to jail if you create new ideas for more justice and freedom. Most of the governments and dictators in Africa, Asia and Latin America are agents of the global economic powers and are protected by the U.S. army or police. Women and men are prevented from resisting locally or internationally...

War, Lies & Videotape

Media Control

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