The perpetrators of fascism aren’t just government entities. Lies, manipulation, and disinformation propagated by theoretically independent, privately owned, commercial media also plays their role. Rupert Murdoch is a fascist, and his “news” networks worldwide are a propaganda arm of the oligarchy, everywhere it broadcasts.
All of this you probably knew. But if you think Fox, or even “right-wing” media, are the only ones involved, you’re missing all of the point. Fetishized and weaponized capitalism ensures that even the most radically “independent” organizations *must* participate in the cycle of pandering to lies or distorting the truth for the purpose of appealing to biases in order to remain a viable company. Non-profit status doesn’t matter – NPR and PBS rely on contributions from profit interests, so if they don’t please their contributors (who include, for instance Koch industries for NPR & PBS), they still ultimately will be unable to operate.
We, the people, are left without a media model we can truly trust.
This is just one example, of course, and there are thousands every day. We will periodically feature examples of media distortion – and fair warning, we’re not going to just be picking on Fox here, they’re all guilty to some degree – in blog posts on this site.
Never in the history of humanity has it been more important to educate yourself about manipulation and compliance-gaining tactics in mass communication. Social media is a battle ground in the war for your brain; skilled semanticists and specialists in propaganda understand how to guide and push you into beliefs you won’t even realize you had until they’re challenged, and you’ll believe you thought of them yourself.
We cannot recommend highly enough, if you’re the bookish type or even if you’re not, that you familiarize yourself with the work of Edward Bernays (the “father of public relations), journalist and propagandist Walter Lippmann, The UK newspaper publisher Lord Beaverbrook and their Wellington House war propaganda bureau during WWI, linguist Noam Chomsky, general semanticists Alfred Korzybski and S.I Hiyakawa, and Robert Cialdini. Cialdini’s “Influence: Science and Practice” is a particularly eye-opening and mind-growing bit of work that successfully deconstructs “compliance-gaining tactics” in an objective way and shows how we’re all subject to those techniques – even and maybe especially those of us who like to think we aren’t – and how they can be used for good or evil. This is pretty dense stuff, although Cialdini has gone so far as to render the latest edition of “Influence…” as a graphic novel, but it’s also absolutely necessary to understanding the ways you can be manipulated and influenced by all of the information you consume from Bazooka Joe bubble-gum comics to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In the “know your enemy” vein, the work of Goebbels in Nazi Germany is critical to understanding media manipulation today.
For instance, anyone who can read should be able to look at the graphic attached to this article and see “the problem,” but do you see how the specific lies told – abolishing courts, opening prisons, “de-gentrification,” and publicly funded higher education, are all deliberately and specifically tailored to induce fear and outrage in the minds of the target audience of older white people, many of whom were never able to attend college themselves and many of whom also likely hold anti-intellectual beliefs rooted in the very lack of access they now want to perpetuate? See how it plays on fears of destabilization, radical change, non-white criminality (it’s Fox, all criminality is non-white there), and a world passing them by because they failed to learn how to think clearly and grow personally? Nearly every word is surgically tailored to create a very specific and predictable response. The ability to recognize and deconstruct disinformation with that degree of close analysis will be as critical to the lives of people entering college this year as the ability to operate a desktop computer was to those who entered fifteen years ago.
(Note well: the links in the above paragraph are to Wikipedia articles. The articles themselves are reasonably decent summaries, but explore the footnoted references for a deep dive…Wikipedia is a great idea but notoriously unreliable, especially in matters of subtle implication and use of manipulative language even within it’s own pages – check out their ever-shifting article on Antifa for an example of this.)
The point: in the 21st century, the great battlefields are our very minds. That’s where the war is being conducted, and the vast majority of us are woefully under-equipped to fight effectively. More effective than any single event, action, change of law, or even outright insurgency is the manipulation of the human mind, which has reached truly Orwellian levels now with not merely one centralized “Ministry of Truth” but thousands of them operating on behalf of everyone from your local school board to Corn Flakes to every national government on the planet, each with their own spin, each trying to “sell” you some idea or set of ideas just like…well that box of Corn Flakes.
Media literacy is your armor, above all else. You have to build it yourself, and keep it well-oiled and polished yourself. You simply can’t delegate the job; it’s a fact of human nature that basically every conversation or interaction you have with another human being involves trying to convince you of something, and you do the same thing to everyone else you meet. Don’t take anyone’s word for anything by default, including ours.