The Decline of the MSM

Re-syndicated from

We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. —Edward Bernays

My last essay on the fourth estate garnered more feedback than I have had in a long time. People sent me email generally praising the notion that something is not quite right with the state of journalism and our mainstream media (MSM).

So I decided to continue the theme. The quote that begins today’s essay comes from Edward Bernays. Have you heard of him? If you are a media professional and have not heard of him, our problem as a nation begins here. We all need to learn the history of the profession in which we operate.

Bernays is the father of modern-day advertising and public relations. He also happened to be the nephew of Sigmund Freud. He wrote a book, Propaganda. Back then, the term “propaganda” was not a negative term. It was not until after WW II and Nazi Goebbels set out to systematically apply the principles outlined by Bernays that the term took on negative connotations.

By the way, before you start thinking that Bernays was some kind of right-wing yahoo, he was a liberal in the Rooseveltian sense. Once one really dives down into media criticism, you discover that conservative/liberal labels do not really matter.

Last week an expose came out on the BBC. You probably did not hear about it, but it was significant. The Independent broke the story how documentaries were produced by production companies receiving millions of dollars from the subjects of the films. Egypt’s Mubarak paid a production company to tout how great he was and the BBC hired this firm to make a documentary on Egypt.

The Independent discovered 13 such propaganda films made in the past year. The BBC was forced to issue a global “apology” for breaking editorial rules. This is a big story and ask yourself, “why didn’t you know about the story?”

I spend a lot of my time reading alternative media sources. And I try to understand history in a different light ever since reading Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the US.” But a recent PBS documentary, “Slavery By Another Name” shocked me. After the 13th amendment was passed making slavery illegal, a little known exception in the amendment made slavery legal if one was imprisoned.

So “peonage laws” were passed throughout the south that made many cultural practices that blacks normally did illegal. The result? Hundreds of thousands of blacks were imprisoned and then their services sold to coal mines, steel mills and other businesses.

How is it that this shameful chapter in history is not known by every grade school child? Instead, we get a day off in grade school honoring Columbus, who raped, murdered and pillaged from the native population amidst landing in the New World.

You see, our history books are part of the MSM and they serve a real function of fostering myths. Propaganda by another name.

I have never voted Republican NOR Democrat so I am no party hack. But if you have not noticed how the MSM treats Ron Paul, you are simply not paying attention. Here is just one line from the MSM LA Times trying to marginalize Ron Paul,

As usual, he ranted about monetary policy and railed against wars and other military operations abroad. —Kim Geiger, LA Times, 2/4/2012

But where the MSM particularly shines is in its full throated calls for war with Iran. Lost amidst the rhetoric is the fact that Iran has not attacked another country in more than 300 years. It has oil, which we all know, but no longer accepts dollars to settle oil sales. This fact coupled with what that means evades discussion.

On the Morning Joe (2/15/2012), the normally antiwar Al Sharpton was trotted out at 5:30 AM to lend his voice to the cause of war. The MSM needed Rev. Al to shepherd his flock or constituency to the cause of war. We are being manipulated into supporting war.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” —Edward Bernays

The BBC was caught being subsidized by propaganda agents. The Bush Administration was caught paying Armstrong Williams to go on MSM outlets to promote education policies. They also were caught paying generals to write and appear on MSM outlets touting war with Iraq. The MSM gives the platform…for a price as they are secretly subsidized by government agencies. That is how they are surviving the huge erosion in audience and not just in the US as the BBC and the Dutch MSM shows.

If you have read this far and are asking “so what” then you need to understand how critical it is for governments to grab control of information. And that means the Internet. The MSM is losing its grip. Ron Paul’s campaign demonstrates this point well. The MSM continued declining audience when it comes to news is losing to alternative information sources. This is the real intention behind SOPA, PIPA and ACTA. Beware of what new alphabet soup will soon be served to you.

About Jaffer Ali

Jaffer Ali is the CEO of e-commerce company, He is a serial entrepreneur who has touched every part of the online ecosystem since 1998. Jaffer is known as a contrarian thought leader who has contributed over 250 essays to industry trades covering every aspect of online media and marketing topics. A collection of his essays can be downloaded for free: Chasing String In The Digital Era.



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