Thursday, November 4, 2010

CHINESE view pertinent - western media HYPOCRITS

Media driven by market ignore ideas and ideals

AS a "veteran" journalist by Chinese standards (it is not easy to find an active journalist with more than 10 years' experience), I sometimes find myself in a position of defending China's media.

This usually occurs when some Westerners begin to bash government control of media, restricted Internet access and lack of freedom of expression.

China's media leave much to be desired, but media problems are global. Some of the most vehement and condescending critics, in their eagerness to accuse others, are surprisingly myopic about their own weaknesses.

And unlike those Chinese bureaucrats who are obliged to be self-congratulatory about our media prosperity, most tributes (Western or Chinese) to Western media are sincere.

This distorted perception of the reality can be partly attributed to effective media management that carefully keeps out the voice of, say, Noam Chomsky.

This 82-year-old linguist's TG (transformational-generative) grammar was a nightmare for me during my graduate years.

But his influence outside academia has earned my respect.

In a recent interview with India's Outlook magazine, Chomsky delivers a penetrating analysis of Western media.

He says the crisis in the media is not so much a result of its declining revenues as of its intellectual dishonesty, and that the so-called liberal media's major commitment is to the centers of power - state and private.

"The task of intellectuals and the media is to ensure the public is quiet, obedient. That's the liberal viewpoint," Chomsky said.

A Western newspaper pride itself on its diversity and freedom, though it is surprisingly efficient in manufacturing consensus when needed, for instance during the 9/11 incident and the subsequent invasion of Iraq.

The trick is to keep the audience busy. "When you read day after day and watch television day after day, a certain picture tends to sink into an overwhelming majority of the population. They don't have the time to do research projects," Chomsky said.

Western media, like other aspects of Western lifestyle, has been idealized as the best a human being can dream of in this life.

In the politically charged era, China's media had been depicted as restrictive, totalitarian, and ideological.

For some time, our new faith in the market seems to point to the path to heaven.

When media become elevated as the handmaiden of big capital, we are lauded as "progressive."

The progressive media rely on advertising, circulation, and traffic.

As Chomsky said, "When newspapers become dependent on advertisers for their income, they are naturally going to bend to the interest of advertisers."

And after decades of evolution, the media here and there in the West are essentially similar.

Recently, both have been complicit in fueling bubbles, in amplifying the clamor for bailouts and stimulus, and now fueling fresh bubbles.

The chase for profits makes media decisions easier.

Few, if any, care about our mission.

Last year, Yin Minghua, vice chairman of the All-China Journalists' Association, said that at the beginning the precursors of what are known today as newspapers were not created for news, but for ideas.

Given the inundation of information today, Yin believed there is more need for ideological direction.

Do ideas make sense in the marketplace?

Last Friday, a senior editor at People's Daily said the paper does not represent a particular interest group, but the interest of the whole nation.

It can be argued what is "the interest of the whole nation," but I do have high hopes for that paper, because it has the privilege of not being too worried about its advertising revenues.

Since it is apparently in no hurry to turn in a profit, it still has time to stand and stare.

For instance, on November 1 it commented that "many buildings in China are short-lived because governments crave exorbitant profits from relocation."

Media and state crimes

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 October 2010, 19:31 GMT]
“You don’t say or even think that the invasion of Iraq is a criminal aggression of the kind for which people were hanged in Nuremberg […]. Suppose a newspaper started publishing the truthâ€"that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal invasion that destroyed the country, that newspaper or the TV station is not going to get any ads”, said 82-year-old Noam Chomsky in an interview to India’s Outlook, Saturday. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, making his most brazen disclosure â€" 391,832 secret documents on the Iraqi war, is a hunted man by the world’s Establishments, reports The New York Times, Saturday. “You play outside the rules, and you will be dealt with outside the rules,” Mr. Assange an Australian national was told by an Australian official.

Twelve weeks ago, Wikileaks posted some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict.

In a news conference in London on Saturday, Mr. Assange said that the current release of Iraqi war documents “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.”

WikiLeaks on Friday said: "The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 'civilians'; 23,984 'enemy' (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 'host nation' (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 'friendly' (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period."

Sweden rejected residence visa to Assange, Australia signalled cooperation with the US in any possible prosecution against him, and he placed Britain along with Australia among those who are too easily influenced by Washington.

Mr. Assange has become that figure for the Internet era, with as yet unreckoned consequences for himself and for the keepers of the world’s secrets, The New York Times article written by John F Burns and Ravi Somaiya said.

Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 exposed a 1000-page secret document known as Pentagon Papers on Vietnam War commented, “I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference.”

There is a general belief in the Eezham Tamil diaspora circles that the USA, while busy with cases of arms supply to the LTTE, is sitting on many secrets related to crimes in the Vanni war, committed locally but abetted internationally.

Delivery of political justice appropriate to a national question is the straightforward way for the war criminals to wash their sins. But no one involved seems to have 'appetite' for it locally and internationally, the diaspora circles further said.

Meanwhile CNN, highlighting the worry of the US government, military and some human rights groups, about 'civilian names' in the freed documents and possible retaliation against them by Taliban and the like in Iraq, said on Saturday citing Pentagon that Wikileaks is not equipped to understand what information is harmful:

"The problem we have with WikiLeaks, it goes beyond just taking out names of people," Col. David Lapan, a top Pentagon spokesman said Friday before WikiLeaks released the documents. "There are lots of other types of information that we've described that could be damaging that go beyond names and they wouldn't have the expertise to know what those are," CNN quoted.

"They are not experts about how to redact in a way that protects American forces," Morrell said on "John King, USA." "Classified documents should not be in the public domain. At least not willy-nilly like this," was another citation of the CNN.

Speaking to Outlook, Chomsky commented on how the media behave supporting state violence in contemporary times:

“Their major commitment is to the centres of powerâ€"state and private […]. As soon as the plan to invade Iraq was announced, the media began serving as a propaganda agency for the government. The same was true for Vietnam, for state violence generally.”

On a question about ‘liberal media’ put to him: “Do you mean that propaganda enables the elite to dull the will of people, depriving them of the capacity to make political choices,” he said:

“The huge public relations industry, for example, has its goal to control attitudes and beliefs…And the task of intellectuals, media and so on is to make sure that they are quiet, subdued and obedient […]. I don’t doubt that the media is liberal in that sense.”

Chomsky further told the interviewers Ajaz Ashraf and Anuradha Raman: “A large majority of the population is disillusioned with everything. They are anti-government, anti-business, opposed to the political parties, Republicans even more than the Democrats; they dislike Congress, they don’t believe the professions, the scientists. It’s as if their lives are falling apart. So, yes, they don’t like the media.

Overwhelming majority of the population don’t have the time to do research projects, in finding out the truth of what the media brings out, Chomsky said, but added that how important the trust of people to a media.

“The second largest newspaper in Mexico, La Jornada, is a very high quality newspaper, one of the best I know. It gets almost no commercial advertising because the government hates it, business hates it. They survive on readership support. Why can’t it happen in a rich country? That’s because people in Mexico trust La Jornada. They are doing their job, you can see people reading it on the streets. You learn from it […]. La Jornada is the only independent newspaper in the whole hemisphere.”

On the media of India and on the attitude of the Indian elite he said the following:

“I spent three weeks in India and a week in Pakistan. A friend of mine here, Iqbal Ahmed, told me that I would be surprised to find that the media in Pakistan is more open, free and vibrant than that in India.

“In Pakistan, I read the English language media which go to a tiny part of the population. Apparently, the government, no matter how repressive it is, is willing to say to them that you have your fun, we are not going to bother you. So they don’t interfere with it. “The media in India is free, the government doesn’t have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things.

“As far as the elites are concerned they want the public to be disciplined, passive, obedient and directed to other things […]. If we can direct people to that, they will keep out of our hair, we can run things. You see that in India, certainly.”

To a question whether family-owned newspapers are better in comparison to the corporatisation, he said: “It is hard to choose. Take Rupert Murdoch. He owns a good part of the press. Is that a good thing? What would be a good thing is democratic control.”

“In the late 19th century… There was a great variety of newspapers, most often run by the factory workers, ethnic communities and others. There was a lot of popular involvement. These papers reflected a wide variety of opinions, were widely read too. It was the period of greatest vibrancy in the US.”

“But two things pretty much eliminated them. One, it was possible for the corporate sector to simply put so much capital into their own newspapers that others couldn’t compete. The other factor was advertising; advertiser-reliance. Advertisers are businesses. When newspapers become dependent on advertisers for their income, they are naturally going to bend to the interest of advertisers.”

“The first thing they do is to layout where the advertising is going to be, because that’s an important part of a newspaper. You then put the news in the gaps between advertisements. In television there is a concept called content and fill. The content is the advertising, the fill is car chase, the sexy or whatever you put in to try to keep the viewer watching in between the ads. That’s a natural outcome when you have advertiser-reliance.”

On the current intellectual culture Chomsky said: “We, again, come back to Orwell’s pointâ€"about an intellectual culture in which elites and great universities are inculcated with the understanding that there are things that just wouldn’t do to say.”

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posted by u2r2h at 10:56 AM

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