News Fugue: All That’s Fit to Censor

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Retreating loyalists of Moammar Gadhafi killed scores of detainees and arbitrarily shot civilians over the past week, as rebel forces extended their control over the Libyan capital, survivors and a human rights group said Sunday.

[... more than halfway through the article ...]

It remains unclear who is responsible for some of the other killings, including of dozens of dark-skinned men whose bodies were found in two areas of Tripoli.

- Gadhafi forces killed detainees, survivors say
(Associated Press, 8/28/2011)

Meanwhile, from an unaffiliated human rights watchdog report:

Warning: Graphic violence, corpse desecration (perpetrated by the rebels, not the regime)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33C93rMfoYY

Contact news organisations to demand they cover this story and to contact politicians to ensure that the rebels, amongst whom are clearly a significant faction equivalent to Al Qaeda /the Ku Klux Klan, are not supported in taking control of any further population centres.

- Lynching in Benghazi
(HumanRightsInvestigations.org, 7/17/2011)

The Associated Press is covering all its bases – while it can deflect any charges of outright lying, (it explicitly states some things “remain unclear”) it can enable as many who stop at the title or first few paragraphs to lie to themselves: “well, it’s a good thing the Qadhafi regime was ousted by those freedom-hungry rebels” – never mind that they’re Al Qaeda sympathizers and genocidal opportunists.

So, why not present the Libyan rebels as they are, lynchings and all? (If you watched the video, you know that there’s plenty of footage given the number of electronic eyes on the carnage)

News has become an outreach of popular culture: the news you are presented with is primarily intended to sculpt your opinion of yourself – what you represent, (good guys? that’s U.S.) why “concerned citizens” like yourself are paying attention, (social proof also makes a great excuse for voyeurism) – vis-à-vis the associations you are presumed to have internalized (“I am an American, therefore I support freedom, therefore I support the Libyan rebels – just like my government”).

You can have your choice of opinions so long as none reflect poorly upon the carefully-crafted pre-fab self-image you purchase when you plunk down $1.50 for a Sunday edition or three minutes of your time for an internet article. The stories you consume – and the things you believe about the world and yourself as a result – are typically as relevant to your life as the color of your fingernails, but you’ll trot them out in conversation because there aren’t many things you feel so surely of, (Democrat/Republican/papal/evangelical/atheist scandal: “I was right all along!”) and there’s precious little else to relate with your co-workers over.

Where mainstream news providers prevaricate speaks as deeply to whom you, the consumer (and member of the aggregate product) of their service, are supposed to be as where they pontificate: why you need to care about sexting (but you needn’t pay attention to “conspiracy theories”), why Hollywood’s box office figures are terribly important (but you shouldn’t worry about financial industry malfeasance), why Louis Chen is newsworthy (but who cares about Hege Dalen and Toril Hansen).

How does a single-source news consumer/silent partner in Libya’s burgeoning new democracy (okay, let’s be realistic: it’ll be a bloodbath of un-televised tribal warfare with a few well-televised elections) view and interact with the world as opposed to a multiple-source news consumer with reservations about fueling genocide?

… and, more importantly given present trends, does it matter?

 

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About operator

Finally, a shade of something reprehensible that inhabited this planet long before the internet that isn't Xenu.

6 Responses to News Fugue: All That’s Fit to Censor

  1. Torgest says:

    never mind that they’re Al Qaeda sympathizers and genocidal opportunists

    In other words, what you’re calling censorship is actually failure to adopt your premise, i.e. that the rebels are genocidal Muslim extremist, which in turn implies a moral-equivalency argument. That’s not an indictment of media bias but a rant against one particular bias.

    Don’t get me wrong: Examining the biases in news reporting and deconstructing the sources of those biases are all good and well. Of course bias exists. When did it ever not exist? At which Utopian point in history were media, including the news, not ” an outreach of popular culture”? That’s always been a matter of degree.

    So, let’s acknowledge bias exists and just examine it. Look at it’s sources. E.g., I might argue “Hollywood’s box office figures are terribly important (but you shouldn’t worry about financial industry malfeasance)” because Kim Kardashian sells copies whereas financial reporting doesn’t, not because some elitist intellectual kabal is forcing those priorities on you. I might argue the rebs in Libya get the benefit of the doubt when there is doubt who did what to whom because there’s a subtext here of breaking free from a monstrous dictator. Reacting with sympathy to the perceived underdog in that story is a human tendency, not evidence of some industry-wide political conspiracy. Reporters and editors need to try and see past those sympathies. Often, they fail, and then we get to point that out. (Mind, now, that the only reason you know there are alternate interpretations of events is precisely that the facts aren’t repressed. Your problem is with the placement and prominence of the different facts in the story.)

    Whether you agree or disagree with those arguments I made above, they are exercises in examining bias.

    The exercise of examining bias falls apart, unfortunately, when it starts sounding like this: “You’re being fed a line by [the media]/[east coast elites]/[liberal academics]/[people who use Apple corp. products]/[read the New Yorker] and I alone see the [real truth]/[the big picture]. O that the world would only listen, but it’s all pointless anyway.” If we start sounding like that, what are our chances of actually changing anything?

    • operator says:

      … what you’re calling censorship is actually failure to adopt your premise, i.e. that the rebels are genocidal Muslim extremist …

      That seems a fair critique – despite the example (which was selected based on shock value and dissonance with the AP article) the intention was to illustrate the way in which news publishers often sow misinformation (while deflecting responsibility – blame it on subscribers’ lack of reading comprehension) and subscribers are encouraged to internalize the “reality” of news.

      If pop music junkies are magpies lining their nests with singles and posters, news subscribers are hermit crabs living inside designer shells branded “Fox” or “MSNBC”.

      Reacting with sympathy to the perceived underdog in that story is a human tendency, not evidence of some industry-wide political conspiracy.

      But is that still the case when the audience is told that the underdog may have rabies?

      If we start sounding like that, what are our chances of actually changing anything?

      No original research or claim to special knowledge was presented – in fact, the “evidence” of prevarication is covered by … smaller news outlets.

      “Mainstream” is a feedback loop: it’d be easier to change the programming than convert the audience to critical thinking – and whether you believe the latter is even possible (let alone desirable) is likely where our views diverge.

      • max says:

        “Mainstream” is a feedback loop: it’d be easier to change the programming than convert the audience to critical thinking – and whether you believe the latter is even possible (let alone desirable) is likely where our views diverge.

        The media doesn’t care about “critical thinking”; as long as you consume it, they’re good either way. Some of the most popular “news” shows today are involve moral dilemmas.

  2. max says:

    News has become an outreach of popular culture: the news you are presented with is primarily intended to sculpt your opinion of yourself

    I detect a less nefarious motive in the media most of the time: laziness. Intellectual laziness, investigative laziness, and institutional laziness.

    These reporters are all in their mid 20s, making $40K a year with massive student loan debt from top liberal arts colleges, working for pompous a-holes who can take away their careers on a whim. This is not a work environment that encourages risk taking of any form, so of course these reports will stick with safe, established, mainstream narratives. Mainstream is what gets you widely published, gets you access to people in power, and what builds your career.

    Point being, the narrative itself is not important, just that it be mainstream. The public vacillates on a whim between myopia and extreme awareness, and the career reporter will constantly be taking the pulse of the people.

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