Mind Control and the American Media
April 12, 2005
By Mary Shaw
The U.S. mainstream media are frequently accused by the right of
being too liberal. But consider the following.
For most of March, the U.S. population was fixated on the Terri
Schiavo right-to-die case. Discussions and arguments about the Schiavo
case took place daily around water coolers, bars, and dinner tables
everywhere. It was likely the most talked about topic of the day.
Then Pope John Paul II died, and all attention quickly moved to
the late pope, with almost 24/7 coverage of activities at the Vatican
and interviews with mourners from around the world. Terri Schiavo
was no longer of interest.
Meanwhile, the media has had very little to say about Iraq, where
several more U.S. soldiers have been killed, the Abu Ghraib prison
was attacked by insurgents, and a Belgian soldier died from "friendly
fire" by U.S. troops.
While the Schiavo case and the papal passing were certainly interesting
and poignant stories, did they really merit 23 hours of coverage
per day on the cable news channels, while other events that more
closely impact the lives of the average American citizen went unreported?
The Schiavo case had sex, illness, and death going for it. The
papal death features so much pageantry. The entertainment value
for these stories is far greater than that for, say, the proposed
Bankruptcy Bill and the threats to Social Security.
And, conveniently, they distract us from the ethics scandals plaguing
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the lawsuit against Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld over U.S. torture policies, the deaths of our soldiers
in Iraq, and other news inconvenient to the right-wing agenda.
The media are in business to make money. Sensational stories like
the Schiavo case and the death of the pope can easily be spun into
headlines that sell papers. But the media have a moral responsibility
to give us all the news of the day, even if the truth hurts.
The media must remember that their purpose is to inform the public,
not to protect or placate the powers that be. They must regain the
brave commitment to the truth that has been the hallmark of great
journalism through the centuries. And they must be honest without
fear of the consequences.
At the same time, the American people must open their eyes, open
their minds, and recognize that there is more to life than entertainment.
They must snap out of their complacency and their blissful ignorance
of what's really going on in the world, and hold the media accountable.
A true democracy requires an informed electorate. With the 2006
mid-term elections just around the corner, there is no time to waste.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. Her
views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have
appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines
worldwide. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.