imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
Features
latest news
best of news
syndication
commentary


KILLRADIO

VozMob

ABCF LA

A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List

LAAMN List




IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

Disturbing Distortions: why the media fails to cover the protests fairly

by Rick Stahlhut, MD Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 4:44 AM
stahlhut@net-link.net 616/373-4149 1125 Piccadilly Road, Kalamazoo MI 49006

The severe disconnect between the reality of the ongoing peaceful protests and the "violent, ignorant revolutionaries" portrayed in the media can be easily explained in terms of the model of media function put forth in Herman and Chomsky's book, Manufacturing Consent.

When Seattle awakened me from my political sleep last winter, I began reading first-person accounts of the protests and technical descriptions of WTO atrocities. I was convinced, so I attended the Washington DC protests against the IMF and World Bank in the Spring, as well as the recent Philly protests. I was a medical observer and "street medic" in the middle of the action. The protesters impressed me with their dedication, their commitment to non-violence, and their enthusiasm. The issues are also real and incredibly important.

But I've been stunned by the response of the media, because what I saw and what the media has reported have been very, very different. The distortions are so large, and so disturbing, that my confidence in national news is gone. Perhaps you'd have to see it yourself to believe it. But I've seen it. Here's the story:

Uniformly, the media talks of "angry, violent protesters" or even "revolutionaries". Stories have been invented of extreme violence, and irresponsibly circulated by major media. In June, for example, the New York Times reported: "In [Seattle], demonstrators, some wearing gas masks, hurled Molotov cocktails, rocks and excrement at delegates and police officers." Confronted with their journalistic malpractice, they retracted it three days later: "The Seattle protests were primarily peaceful.... No protesters were accused of throwing objects ... at delegates or the police."

Serious Philly police misconduct has been reported through the Internet-based alternative press, but totally ignored by the mainstream. According to respected activist, Leslie Cagan, "There are numerous accounts of arrestees who have been isolated, verbally abused, punched, kicked, thrown against walls, bloodied, and dragged naked across floors.... There has been a reported sexual assault by a female officer who pulled and twisted a prisoner's penis, as well as reports of people dragged by their genitals and nipples being twisted by guards. Seven witnesses saw one woman dragged naked and bleeding." [from ZNet] The Philly legal support team verified this to me personally. You can find detailed accounts at independent media centers like www.phillyimc.org.

The media also ignores the issues. Why were 50,000 people in Seattle, or 20,000 in DC or Philly? What are the arguments of their "thought leaders" (there are no action leaders), their world class experts? Presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke to 3,000 marchers for healthcare reform in Philly. The media blacked him out.

The protesters are intentionally cast as hippies yearning for the bygone protests of the 60's. Sindu Srinivas, president of the American Medical Student Association (the world's largest medical student organization with 35,000 members) noticed at the healthcare rally that the national media was there, but only interviewing "unusual looking" people. Frankly, I love the alternative people. Their rejection of the dominant, greed-based culture is a breath of fresh air. No Nike sweatshop shoes on these folks. And I really would like blue hair (but no piercings!) if I had the nerve.

But the movement is much broader than that. Anyway, the media's interviewing strategy was so obvious, and annoying, she angrily asked why they weren't interviewing her (one of the speakers!) or the people marching in doctor's white coats. "Not good enough," they replied. "You need a costume."

So the media's outrageously distorted "frame" is this: the protesters are angry, violent revolutionaries. They destroy property and attack innocents with their thuggery. They are stupid and immature and look funny. The issues aren't important. They are not like you and me. They should be ignored and suppressed.

When I see a reality-disconnect this big, my world spins. I start groping for answers. Why is the media lying? Weren't they there like I was? Didn't they talk with the protesters for more than a sound bite like I did? Have they studied the issues? Is it just laziness--maybe they've already decided on the story before they arrive? "OK, we've let's say they're violent and angry and unusual-looking. Can we find a heavily-pierced anarchist wearing black for the photo?" Is "violence" just sexier than telling the truth? What is going on??

Finally, I was driven to read Herman and Chomsky's darkly brilliant book, Manufacturing Consent: the political economy of the mass media. You scarcely hear of Noam Chomsky in America (for reasons that will become clear), but outside the US he's widely considered to be the foremost intellectual on the planet today. An MIT professor, he has ideas about how our world really operates that are not, shall we say, "welcomed" by everyone in power.

The media, according to the authors, has five filters through which all news must pass to become "fit to print." These filters are not written down. They are not agreed upon at some vast conspiracy conference that meets every winter in Argentina. They are simply common pressures, facts, and attitudes that shape all major news organizations, and shape (and select) the people hired by them. I won't try to convince you here, but the book uses the many convenient examples history has provided, and hundreds of references, to show how plausible, even inescapable, this theory is.

The first filter results because all national news media companies are big businesses. Huge businesses. Greater than billion dollar businesses in fact. Some are owned by even larger businesses like GE. And most local news outlets--radio, TV, newspapers--are owned by one of the few huge media conglomerates. Therefore, they are unlikely to cover stories harmful to themselves. You will never see a TV special on Manufacturing Consent, for example. It's too dangerous.

Second, all major media today is almost completely supported by advertising, even public TV to an ever increasing degree. When a public TV station ran a documentary which revealed ugly big business practices in the developing world, an oil company supporter dropped their sponsorship of the TV station. Lesson learned.

Third, journalists don't have time to chase the details and verify every story. Much less expensive to get "news" from official sources, like the State Department, the Pentagon, the local police chief, the Mayor, the Chamber of Commerce. If the police chief says the protesters were only "slightly injured", it must be true. If I tell the reporter I saw protesters beaten to the ground and dragged away (which I did), the journalist has a lot of work to do if they want to report it, because I'm not "official." The result: the press unwittingly become "public relations" (less nicely: propaganda) arms of government bureaus and large corporations.

Fourth, media organizations are kept in line by flak. Some of this flak is visible, like letters to the editor. Other times it's more subtle, like a phone call from a government official or a major advertiser. When a UPI friend of mine reported news of a worker injured at a local nuke plant, her bureau chief immediately got angry calls from the electrical utility AND the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Fifth, all news must be "anti-Communist". Anything suggesting weakness in capitalism or free markets, or anything good about socialist or communist concepts, must be removed. Sounds crazy? Do you like interstate highways without toll booths? Are you glad the 911 operator doesn't ask your credit card number before sending the police? Isn't it right that poor or orphaned children can attend grade school and high school at no cost? Welcome to socialism, comrade (basic services provided without regard to ability to pay). A pure capitalist society would have none of this. But you won't hear that on the news. Nor will you hear that the Nicaraguan Sandinista government treated its people much better than the previous Somasa dictatorship (backed by the US for over 40 years), or that it was making great strides in education and healthcare before Reagan's illegal war destroyed their economy.

Now, we can begin to answer the question: why does the media consistently distort the message of the protesters? Because it violates nearly every one of the filters. A major message of the protests is that massive global corporations are too powerful. Of the 100 largest economies on Earth, 48 are countries and 52 are corporations. These corporations are creating international trade agreements and financial institutions--like the WTO, NAFTA, the World Bank, the IMF--that serve their interests and undermine democratically elected governments. They also directly influence our government through campaign contributions, lobbying, and the media itself. These are messages of the protesters--and they all violate filters one and two. They also suggest serious flaws in unbridled capitalism, which violates filter five. The journalists rely heavily on official sources (filter three), like the Philadelphia police, rather than spending serious time in the streets to learn what's really happening. This allows the police to spin the story their way. And flak will punish any deviance from these unwritten rules.

So, there you have it. Hard to believe, perhaps, if you haven't seen it yourself. But disturbing and permanently life-changing when you do.

How can democracy work when the people aren't properly informed?

Report this post as:

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 13 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
good job! joe Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 5:39 AM
New Club for Protesters! Tom-NYC Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 6:17 AM
Chomsky is da' man Winston Smith Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 6:46 AM
Thomas Jefferson would have been proud? noah Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 6:59 AM
How do we get the message out? Janet Staiger Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 7:08 AM
Thanks People Scott Stephansky Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 8:07 AM
Thanks People Scott Stephansky Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 8:08 AM
re: how do we get the message out? Rick Stahlhut Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 8:19 AM
my two cents Gish Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 8:45 AM
Something Interesting Nat Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 9:44 AM
Media Distortions and things to look out for Emma Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 10:18 AM
living in a bubble world kaira espinoza Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 10:42 AM
please not minority but people of color! kiara Thursday, Aug. 17, 2000 at 10:47 AM

Local News

GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE A12 5:39PM

lausd whistle blower A10 11:58PM

Website Upgrade A10 3:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 1:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 11:58AM

Change Links April 2018 A01 11:27AM

Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018 M31 6:57PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 7:00PM

Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018! M29 6:38PM

Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! M19 2:02PM

Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A. M16 5:40PM

Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released M15 12:34AM

Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups M06 12:10PM

After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video M02 11:44AM

Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights M01 6:28PM

What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It M01 3:30PM

Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down F14 2:44PM

Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29 F13 12:51PM

Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf F13 11:04AM

Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development F12 8:51AM

Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine F09 10:25PM

Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents F09 7:14PM

Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters F07 9:50AM

City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre F04 3:17PM

Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling F04 12:42PM

Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present F04 10:52AM

Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police F03 11:11PM

LA Times Homicide Report F03 1:57PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A26 10:37PM

TheMilitary of Yemen IN In The 1990's A26 5:42PM

The Shortwave Report 04/27/18 Listen Globally! A26 4:03PM

Federal Bank Examiner FDIC recalls year long 1999 robbery in 2017 A26 3:24PM

Doxa du lobby A25 2:03AM

Tech workers organize A24 6:24PM

Architect Stephen Francis Jones A24 3:01PM

UN Forum Wrestles with Economic Policies 10 Years After Financial Crisis Islands Call for A24 12:34PM

Xyloglossie attitudinale A23 8:07AM

What does the Quran Say About Islamic Dress?? A21 4:15PM

Biodiversité ou la nature privatisée A20 11:22AM

The Market is a Universal Totalitarian Religion A20 7:14AM

Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service A19 5:52PM

The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally! A19 4:01PM

The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder A19 11:48AM

Neurogenèse involutive A18 9:21AM

Paraphysique de la dictature étatique A16 10:13AM

Book Review: "The New Bonapartists" A16 3:45AM

The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia A14 12:25PM

Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine A14 3:30AM

The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally! A12 3:50PM

“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize! A12 3:48PM

The World Dependent on Central Banks A12 4:43AM

Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine A11 9:40PM

March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update A10 10:52PM

Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel A10 3:33PM

ICE contract with license plate reader company A10 1:14PM

Palimpseste sisyphéen A09 11:23PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy