from the book
War, Lies & Videotape
International Action Center, 2000
Government and media shape news together, censoring and self-censoring
If the United States of America ever elected a president with
the moral character, the personal experience of lifelong service
to others, the noble thoughts and compassionate values of Haiti's
President Aristide, then it would become a democracy. I don't
expect that to happen in my lifetime. Struggle as we may and must,
the greatest challenge in the struggle for democracy is the search
for truth. The question of human survival and, if successful,
of human nature, will depend largely on whether we can see the
truth in time. If the people of the U.S. had full, open, equal
access to the truth, they could find and elect their own Aristides.
The Nation magazine - a quote from a station manager for Fox News
out of Florida that makes you think of the Robber Barons of America's
late l9th century. Some members of the public were protesting
the media's silence on the question of the use of chemical insecticides
in food products. The station manager's answer was this:
We paid $3 billion for these stations, and we have a right
to make the news. The news is what we say it is.
The Romans created the idea of bread and circuses. Give the people
enough bread to keep them alive and enough circuses to distract
them from their problems. Television and the broader media are
by far the best circus that has ever been devised.
The media is owned by the same interests that profit from exploitation
of foreign people and weapons sales.
The U.S. media has lost its diversity and its ability to present
different points of view. Instead, there is a homogeneity of news
stories and the major media tend to look alike.
The media in the U.S. has created, to use Neil Postman's words,
the "best entertained, least informed society in the world."
Americans are ignorant about international affairs and alienated
from their own social issues.
The media provide entertainment and fear. The American public
watches celebrity news, infomercials, titillation, and sex as
I think that the American public needs to know that the U. S.
is now the arms merchant to the world, selling 60% of all export
weapons, using 650 government employees in embassies all over
the world to promote weapons sales for private corporate profits.
Aristide is a devil in the eyes of the U.S. government and the
mainstream press because he criticizes their plans for Haiti.
He is the "obstacle," the great manipulator, the "threat
to democracy." Well, the real manipulator, the real threat
to democracy is the corporate media and more generally the capitalist
system of which it is a pillar.
Every ruling class imposes on society as a whole the lies, deceits
and biases that justify their existence.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
Haiti ... the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with
80% of the population living on less than $220 U.S. per year ...
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
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.
In the United States, the media function as a class machine, shaping
and reshaping the mentality of the American citizen. The people
are taught to support prohibitively expensive space wars despite
the fact that 38 million Americans live under the poverty level.
They are taught to accept aggression against Iraq, Cuba, Libya
and the Sudan. They are taught to accept the colonization of Palestine
by the Israelis. The media attempt to get U.S. citizens to adopt
a passive attitude when it comes to foreign policy.
As Alexander Meiklejohn pointed out:
a robust democracy requires broad channels of discussion and
debate on all of society's issues and concerns. It requires a
media system which is open to the broadest possible range of views
and in which all citizens can effectively express and communicate
their ideals, thoughts and concerns, as well as receive and consider
the thoughts, ideas and concerns of their fellow citizens.
[the] extent to which there is non-elite participation into
communication policymaking may be a barometer for the level of
democracy in a society.
Lies & Videotape