Media and the Management of Reality


Marvin X says the news ain’t the news it ain’t nothing but the blues and I agree. You might as well listen to Damien Marley, Koran Streets, or WolfHawkJaguar, if you want the news, they will tell you what’s alive in the world. The news is not as truthful as some artists. Someone decides what murders, public policy debates and political chicanery will be reported to the public. The news is selected filtered and presented with a slant between marketing segments called commercials.   Although reporting is supposed to be impartial its difficult to communicate in words and not leave a trace of opinion especially if that is the intent of the speaker. If we are to critically evaluate the information we base our decisions on we must begin with the primary question: Who is speaking?  A second important question is where is their dog in this fight?

What is news and how it is presented is a choice. Corporate ownership of the news impacts the points of views offered as news and the consolidation of media ownership and the absence of minority voices narrows our chances for getting unbiased information about the world in which we live.  Essentially I am saying that corporations decide what news we will see and how that news will be presented. I think that’s a less than optimal situation in a society driven by consumerism, off the rails, so far from the reservation it forgot what itch it was looking to scratch.

It occurs to me that one use of media is the management of tragedy. Although some speak about the phrases of grief, in reality, the reaction to public tragedy is often manipulated by the media . They pull us into the vortex by pushing microphones into the faces of the bereaved, the victims, the perpetrators families, law enforcement– all take on an air of celebrity, flashes go off and we are center stage being served “reality” between commercials. We are overwhelmed with facts, details, and speculation. We readily accept contexts,  we allow connections to be made for us, we allow ourselves to be pulled into the undertow until we can’t hear  or see objectively. We wait for our collective reaction to be crafted by reporters and then we align ourselves in agreement or resistance to what is offered in mainstream media, rarely considering connections that go unmade, sources, or wider contexts.

The media, embedded in wars or reporting from the inner-city bring us statistics from city streets with the same air of detachment. The dead in war zones are insurgent terrorist and the dead in the inner city are gang bangers with juvenile records, who are so likely to carry guns — they are described as unarmed when absent a weapon,  even if they are the ones who are shot.  Mass shooters are disturbed young men although not the DC sniper Lee Boyd Malvo unlike most mass shooters was Black. Malvo was not described as unbalanced, he was just evil, it was reported that he said he felt like “the lowest kind of scum.” He was not crazy and evil — just evil. We have been given a context , a slant, a set of facts and a collective opinion.

We know precisely how many die in each mass shooting. We have begun to capture the number of black and brown men who die violent deaths in America. The news of these statistics is not kept alive in the mainstream corporate media it is being circulated by grass-roots movements. It pales in mainstream coverage to the cover of injured police, or police who die in the line of duty. Police who die in the line of duty rarely have cases brought before IA or any negative actions in their past made mainstream news. This is not true of the black and brown men who die under the color of law. They are often vilified as if such an act excuses their deaths. The value of life is assigned in the news. They tell us which dead are worth our sympathy.

The media helps to focus us on a point. So what points are we focused on? Shall we look at the mental state of a populace that produces people who dress up like The Joker and step into a movie theater with the intention of becoming the main event, or will we look at gun proliferation. If we look at either what aspects of the dialogue will be encouraged? Will we watch the NRA shove around money to insure the right to bear arms, will we look at where the bulk of guns in America are brought and by whom, shall we look closely at how so many guns find their way into the inner-city, will we consider where the dialogues for conflict minus artillery are grown? Will we question how diet contributes to mental state, how stress affects perception, how difficult it is to find competent mental health, how many mental health officials are ill themselves, or the end-cost to a nation that prescribes better than it heals? Maybe we won’t be encouraged to focus on any of this; but rather who speaks at the funerals, and how the altars across the nation reflect collective loss.  Because the loss has been scripted as collective, so that we will know how to carry it, and to indicate it is worthy of our acknowledgement — it is real.  Things that are not reported are not tragedies  they do not require our attention, they are not collective issues, they in fact may not even be real.

Is it possible the news helps to divide us, sequestering us in our separate realties without providing us the context to hold them in one interdependent whole? Who would benefit form that? What I am sure of is, it does not encourage us to make change, if we do not view our issues as common issues we can blame each other for our problems. If we think that what affects us is particular and specific we may be tempted to put bandaids on fatal wounds as we blame ourselves for being sick. They say information is power. We could debate how valuable it is to have facts without the means to engage or impact them it would not make sense to debate that the control of information is powerful. If you shape a man’s thoughts you shape his reality. If your overarching goal is to shape reality then the control of information is a valuable asset.

What happens when corporations gobble the fourth estate? How do you vet the information you base your life and death decisions on? How do you stay informed about local, state, and federal policy and your ability and need to engage it? How do you find the nation’s true pulse in the face of managed reality? How do we begin to read what it means to be human, if the news of how it is acted out, is filtered to fit the needs of those who sell soundbites and ad space?

How well informed are you?

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