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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
We may now add murder to the deepening scandal surrounding the man who brought us, among much other tripe, Fox News:
Whistleblower in Murdoch Phone-Hacking Scandal Found Dead
On Monday, Sean Hoare, a former reporter who helped blow the whistle on the Murdoch-owned News of the World, was found dead in his home. Hoare had been the source for a New York Times story tying phone hacking to former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who would later become director of communications for British Prime Minister David Cameron. Coulson was arrested as the scandal broke open earlier this month. Police say Hoare appears to have died of natural causes, but the determination had not lessened suspicion of foul play. Hoare not only talked about phone hacking, but phone tracking as well, or as he said they called in the newsroom “pinging,” where he said News of the World would pay police, he believed, to track individuals’ locations.
It is becoming evident that Murdoch’s revolting media empire, a veritable propaganda factory, has extensive ties to the wealthy and powerful, including government officials and the police force that is entrusted with maintaining public order. What is less apparent, however, is why exactly this has come to the fore now. What has Murdoch done to fall out of grace with the ruling elite?
Ever since the tragedy in Arizona last week, the corporate media has taken a rather predictable course of action. First, they attempted to lay the blame on both the left and right sides of the grossly restricted American political spectrum, claiming that both sides needed to tone down the rhetoric of anger and violence. Once this mission was largely accomplished, the narrative of Loughner the “dangerous loner” was inevitably brought to the fore:
WASHINGTON – The gunman accused of trying to assassinate Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others, Jared Lee Loughner, was not on any government watch list that might have warned someone not to sell him a gun or caused police to investigate his unstable behavior.
It turns out there is not a list in the United States for people like Loughner.
This particular example of AP propaganda then goes on to blatantly contradict itself by describing six other incidents in the last two years alone in which an “angry loner” has perpetuated similar acts of wanton violence:
Not that this should come as a surprise, but it is certainly entertaining:
Yet another study has been released that proves that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation. …
In eight of the nine questions below, Fox News placed first in the percentage of those who were misinformed (they placed second in the question on TARP). That’s a pretty high batting average for journalistic fraud. Here is a list of what Fox News viewers believe that just aint so:
91% believe that the stimulus legislation lost jobs.
72% believe that the health reform law will increase the deficit.
72% believe that the economy is getting worse.
60% believe that climate change is not occurring.
49% believe that income taxes have gone up.
63% believe that the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts.
56% believe that Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout.
38% believe that most Republicans opposed TARP.
63% believe that Obama was not born in the US (or that it is unclear).
There are a few important points to consider here. One is the danger of reaching conclusions of causation based on correlative data – namely, is Fox News making viewers stupid, or are stupid people simply more inclined to watch Fox? I do realize, of course, that using the term “stupid” is highly inflammatory and somewhat beside the point, but aside from being grossly misinformed, you really do have to be a little on the slow side to find Fox News believable.
The absurdity of mainstream media coverage is matched only by the sheer ignorance – and apparent stupidity – of the apathetic masses that accept such coverage as accurate. Take, for example, this recent screen grab from Yahoo! News:
The headline itself is seemingly innocuous, as indeed there was a piece of legislation dealing with taxation that had passed the Senate and was headed towards the House [which, regrettably, has since been signed by Obama]. The trouble begins, however, with the dubious lead sentence that follows:
AP – A massive tax package that would save millions of Americans thousands of dollars in higher taxes is headed for a vote in the House Thursday even as rebellious Democrats complain it is too generous to the wealthy.
The sheer volume of misinformation crammed into that single sentence is staggering, and one is almost tempted to admire the immense skill in deception that is on display here. Let’s face it: the corporate media knows its craft well, and it’s only when we guage their performance based on the antiquated -and sadly, inaccurate – notion that the media’s goal is to educate the masses. When we acknowledge that media’s goal is mass manipulation, we realize they are absolute masters of their field.
The basic theme in this particular story is highly familiar, even though it runs wholly contrary to reality. The “rebellious Democrats” (and for once the term is used in the pejorative sense) are seen as standing in opposition to a populist bill that would “save millions of Americans thousands of dollars in higher taxes.” In other words, the righteous Republicans have stormed the capital after the mid-term sweeps, and are now bravely fighting to lower taxes for the masses, because that’s just what conservative, Republican values entail. Right?
More of this please:
A Call for Active Support of Protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.
With the Obama administration beginning its third year, it is by now painfully obvious that the predictions of even the most sober Obama supporters were overly optimistic. Rather than an ally, the administration has shown itself to be an implacable enemy of reform. …
We are writing to you because, as well-known writers, bloggers and filmmakers with access to a range of old and new media, you have in your power the capacity to help reignite the movement which brought millions onto the streets in February of 2003 but which has withered ever since. There are many thousands of progressives who follow your work closely and are waiting for a cue from you and others to act. We are asking you to commit yourself to actively supporting the protests of Obama administration policies which are now beginning to materialize.
Written and signed by such progressive notables as Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges, this open letter to “the left establishment” is long overdue, and perhaps another case of too little, too late. But I welcome it as a sign that maybe, just maybe, we are finally beginning to witness the first rumblings of protest among the actual silent majority: the plurality of reasonable Americans with decidedly leftward-leaning social and political beliefs.
Ignoring the most pertinent issues of the day, Yahoo! News and the AP continue to distort reality in favor of promoting the fictional corporatist narrative. Witness today’s headlines:
As I’ve noted previously, the format of the headlines is such that most people accept the authoritativeness of the source implicitly. While the majority ordinary Americans complain incessantly of inherent media bias, most people fail to perceive the subtle coercive effects embedded in the very stories selected for coverage, as well as the cleverly scripted language employed in ever mainstream media news story. The corporate agenda is stealthily advanced through an almost imperceptible framing of carefully selected stories, utilizing pseudo-professional language and intentionally inaccurate phrases which distort any given issues and steers the national dialogue into a predesignated, rightward leaning conduit.
So let us dissect this latest monstrosity of “professional” journalism, beginning with the headline: “WH warns tax defeat could trigger new recession.” The greatest deception here is the implication that the recession has somehow ended, and we now stand in danger of entering a new one. It is hard to understand how anyone could believe the recession has ended, given that the unemployment rate is still hovering near 10%, hundreds of thousands of families have had their homes repossessed, and millions remain dependent on welfare. The recession has not ended for ordinary Americans, but perhaps the AP is referencing the fact that corporate America has recorded its highest profits ever.
In typical NY Times fashion, Paul Krugman’s latest blog post highlights the painfully obvious fact that Obama is not a genuine liberal:
“More and more, it’s becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.”
Occasionally, Krugman has something insightful to share in his columns and blog posts. More often than not, however, he does little more than point out what everyone who has been paying attention already knows. Generally speaking, this is exactly how the mainstream media operates: it will ignore a viewpoint that it deems inappropriate until a large enough segment of the population has adopted it, then the media reluctantly allows it to enter into the periphery of the rigidly restricted national dialogue. Hence, the indisputable assessment of Obama as yet another conservative president is not embedded into the narrative of front-page news stories, but rather slipped into a relatively obscure blog post by a self-professed “liberal” columnist.
In stark contrast, the ridiculous assertion that Obama is an ultra-left socialist is deftly weaved into the background of virtually every relevant news item. Read more of this post
The Atlantic has an article about the renowned physicist Freeman Dyson and his inexplicable denial of the reality and implications of climate change. The article provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of our great “deep thinkers,” as the author, Kenneth Brower, attempts to reconcile Dyson’s indisputable genius with his apparent oversight on the issue of climate change. As Brower mused, turning a decidedly arrogant comment by Dyson on its head, “how could someone as smart as Freeman Dyson be so dumb?” Indeed, it is a great challenge to understand how someone as obviously intelligent as Dyson could hold the views described in this excerpt:
Among intelligent nonexperts who have weighed in on climate change, Freeman Dyson has become, now that Michael Crichton is dead, perhaps our most prominent global-warming skeptic. Charlie Rose began his interview with questions about the climate. Dyson answered that he remained very skeptical about the dangers of global warming. He did not believe the pronouncements of the experts. He did not claim to be an expert himself, so he would not argue the details with anybody; he had not given much time to the issue and did not pretend to know the real answers, but what he knew for sure was that the global-warming experts did not know the answers, either.
Dyson did not deny that the world was getting warmer. What he doubted was the models of the climatologists, and the grave consequences they predicted, and the supposition that global warming is bad. “I went to Greenland myself, where the warming is most extreme,” he said. “And it’s quite spectacular, of course, what you see in Greenland. But what is also true is, the people there love it. The people there hope it continues. It makes their lives a lot more pleasant.”
Now, it is important to highlight the fact that Dyson is not a denier of climate change. He recognizes that it is happening, but he disputes its supposed severity. He seems to be under the misguided impression that global warming is potentially a good thing for our planet and the species that inhabit it, as clearly demonstrated in quoted passage above. In matters of mathematics, physics and engineering, Dyson possesses an intellect that is almost without peer. And yet his reasoning on the issue of climate change seems exceedingly rudimentary – childish, even.
Dyson’s opinions on the matter are shared by a large percentage of Americans, including Dyson’s belief that the fruits of science and technology will eventually save us from the worst dangers of climate change. However, until very recently most Americans were reluctant to even admit that climate change was actually occurring. It has only been within the last decade – and mostly within the last half-decade – that the effects of climatic shifts became so apparent that all but the most fool-hardy skeptics could continue to deny its existence.
George Orwell’s 1984 was far more prescient than most people would like to admit. Although a thorough analysis of his benchmark novel is beyond the scope of this post, the notion of doublespeak is tragically all too relevant in the era of corporate-controlled media. One of the most fundamental reasons why the nation continues to be dragged further into the abyss of the Right is that the media has successfully redefined a number of terms which are crucial to engaging in meaningful debate. Shifting definitions is just one tactic used by the corporate media to narrow the parameters of our national dialogue, but it effectively prevents a significant percentage of Americans from ever even realizing that a world exists beyond those painfully restricted boundaries.
And so I would like to introduce a new feature of Failed Empire: Adventures in Doublespeak. Today we will be examining a word that has become the bane of liberals nationwide – the dreaded slur, “Elitist.”