Tag: journalism

Group Wisdom

Democracy is a discursive process, where citizens discuss public issues and social challenges. Whether they gather in their local church, school, or online, it is the discussion of ideas and events that enables them to arrive at group wisdom–something we see in the jury system.

Through letters to the editor, and comments on news stories and editorials, this exchange of ideas and perspectives facilitates the examination of beliefs and values, leading to clearer understanding. Sometimes, by reexamining what we think we know to be true, we discover that we were mistaken.

In today’s media of recycled press releases posing as news, there is a lot of propaganda, but little journalism. This creates a lot of heat, but little light.

Habitual opinions in this social environment–created by public relations (PR) marketing firms–are thus commodities, acquired in the same manner as other consumer goods. These competing commodified narratives are consequently similar to rival cheer-leading squads, espousing slogans for their team.

In The Creation of Discursive Monoculture, I discussed how the power elite (Wall Street) controls public consciousness through their ownership of the PR firms serving government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex. As a result, all narratives, including those on social media, serve Wall Street.

To break free from the narratives of privatized mass communication, that now dominates public opinion, we have to break free from financial and psychological dependence on handouts from Wall Street–whether in the form of foundation grants from the power elite, or in the form of paid advertising and PR.

Otherwise, Wall Street will continue to set the civil society agenda, and consolidate social engineering through social media, leading to an environment where nothing of importance is ever discussed in public. What I have described as ‘a world of make believe’.

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Boldly Pursuing the Truth

Fighting back to defend democracy against the right-wing is a laudable goal that few live up to in American society. Those that do usually find themselves marginalized, often by those who pay lip service to democratic values. Paid ‘activists’ mostly engage in show business.

The evisceration of journalism by private equity media ownership is partly to blame, as liberals and conservatives alike are severely misinformed. A dearth of institutionalized mentoring, due to an absence of available resources, as well.

Hostile takeovers of the non-profit industrial complex, i.e. Amnesty International, is yet another reason. Blatant fraud among social media NGOs, created by billionaire philanthropists and the military industrial complex, i.e. Avaaz, doesn’t help.

Self-censorship and self-promotion by non-profits dependent on the financial elite, i.e. Soros, Gates, Ford and Rockefeller, creates a situation where benign neglect toward those who make the sacrifice is commonplace. A lack of generosity and reciprocity between those funded by foundations and authentic grassroots leaders is the norm rather than the exception.

Honor and respect in our country is almost non-existent. Volunteer defenders of democracy are all alone.

Consumerism teaches us to cede our duties of citizenship and unthinkingly follow celebrities, i.e. Naomi Klein, who are in bed with the financial elite. Self-organized democratic renewal in this scenario is not only unattainable, it has become unimaginable.

Mustering the courage to boldly pursue the truth and not back down is extremely rare. The 2015 Paul deArmond Citizen Journalist of the year, Sandra Robson, exemplifies these attributes, as did Paul.

Preventing Discursive Monoculture

Sometimes I think IC Magazine readers fail to understand what is at stake in providing an Indigenous News Fund that would allow IC to remain independent from the aristocratic derivatives that have polluted the infosphere over the last decade. The transfer of wealth from public to private spheres in this century has ushered in an era of competing aspects of fascism worldwide–one secular, and one religious. The capture of media, academia, and civil society through aristocratic derivatives indicates a future of diminishing consciousness; docile NGOs on the aristocratic payroll help to consolidate fascism.
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Fascism, a rationalization of theft through the use of force, is what enables modern states to justify taking what belongs to indigenous nations. Dressing it up as conservation or so-called humanitarian interventions does not change the essential character of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and cultural genocide carried out by UN agencies and member states. Displacing indigenous peoples, dispossessing them of their property, and disconnecting them from their cultural roots has unfortunately been aided and abetted by aristocratic-funded NGOs.
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IC Magazine is the only indigenous news platform that has covered these life-threatening developments; the journalistic alliance between IC and the Center for World Indigenous Studies makes IC uniquely suited to address them in an intelligent manner. Preventing violence against indigenous communities requires serious investigative journalism and intelligent communication, not infantile fantasies about political power that most media and NGOs promote. Without the counter-narrative of IC, murder of indigenous activists and journalists can happen with impunity. Preventing ‘discursive monoculture’ is up to you.

Illuminating Private Equity

Privatization of everything we know and need, for the enrichment of elite private equity investors, is not commonly understood. Many understand that consolidation and deregulation have allowed large corporations to control media and information, but few comprehend how the ultra wealthy have destroyed accountability, transparency and the public interest in broadcasting, radio, digital and print news production and distribution.

In The Rise of Private Equity Media Ownership in the United States: A Public Interest Perspective, Matthew Crain investigates private equity takeovers (1999-2009) in the media sector, and explains how private equity firms function in the financial landscape. Focusing on profit maximization strategies and debt burdens imposed on acquired companies, Crain observes that private equity firms and consortiums pose a challenge to effective media regulation, that is distinct from the corporate media ownership model.

Corporate media rarely discussed the American aristocracy and how their agenda affects society. Consumers blame banks, but they have no idea how financial institutions are used by private equity traders to constantly replenish aristocratic wealth at our expense. They have little awareness of where that wealth came from, and almost never discuss the continuity of aristocratic theft from the public treasury over the last two centuries. Crain’s analysis can thus be considered a primer on the impact of reckless private equity investing, using inherited wealth and investment banks to cannibalize the economy.

Able to evade or avoid regulation associated with publicly traded stocks, private equity firms and consortiums — using holding companies and investment banks — have conducted immense leveraged buyouts that literally ruin companies. Through debt burdens, asset liquidation and wholesale employee termination, the private equity firms enable cash extraction that has imperiled mainstream media, leaving a hollowed out shell, where replacement of journalism by public relations is commonplace.

As Cain notes, democracy requires public spheres, of which the media system is a core institutional component. Private equity takeovers in the media sector — especially broadcasting, cinema, cable, telecommunications, digital and print publishing — imposes qualitative changes to media firms by these high-stakes investment groups that, “raises issues of adherence to standards of journalistic ethics and values.” Once the cash has been extracted, the social value of media firms as democratic institutions is structurally undermined.

As Crain observes, “Fewer reporters and editors make it easier for public relations firms to place unaltered messages into the news.” “Moreover,” says Crain, “growing pressure to turn a profit on journalistic production contributes to ongoing problems of commercialization of news, especially regarding the blurring distinction between editorial and advertising content.”

“Private equity firms,” remarks Cain, “are fundamentally non-transparent in their basic structure…Whereas publicly traded companies are legally obligated to periodically file extensive financial information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including detailed accounts of all holdings and subsidiaries, private firms are not subject to such financial disclosures.” This, says Crain, is “antithetical to the public interest obligations of the media sector.”

Message Force Multipliers

In May 2011, Pro Publica ran an article by John Sullivan titled ‘PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking News Rooms’. The impetus for the article was the 2010 story of the year, the Gulf oil spill at BPs Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform.

Reporting from the U.S. Coast Guard hearing, New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow observed, “You would go into these hearings, and there would be more PR people representing these big players than there were reporters.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of 2008 there were three times as many PR people in the US as there were journalists–a shift from 1980, when the numbers were roughly equal. According to the American Society of News Editors, the number of newspaper reporters and editors peaked at 56,900 in 1990, and by 2011, dropped to 41,600. As media critic Robert McChesney observed, “We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country.”

Public Relations is now used by government and industry to influence public opinion on everything from consumerism to militarism. As a result, the number of original news stories is down, and many stories are now generated by government agencies and PR people working hand-in-hand. As a retired editor of the Washington Post remarked, the Internet makes it easy for public relations people to reach out directly to the audience.

As PR Watch reported in 2006, television news now airs video news releases created by corporate and government PR people, within broadcast stories posing as original news. Appearances on TV by PR-coached “experts” are coordinated as “message force multipliers.” PR front groups, funded by the oligarchy, make it difficult for reporters to sort out.

As an example of the influence of PR, the health insurance industry paid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million to fight public health care. The Chamber, in turn, paid for ads that ran in 21 states. As the senior VP of communications at the Chamber noted, they also set up coalition groups to push the message online and in the press.

One of the areas the Chamber targets is college campuses. It even hosts video competitions on Facebook.