How to Sew a Straighjacket - A Look at How the Mainstream Media Behemoths Wag the Dog
By Cheryl Seal
As most of those who care about free speech probably already know, the mainstream media - network and broadcast television, major radio stations, high-circulation newspapers, large book publishers, mega-Internet servers, and national magazines - are all owned by a tiny handful of behemoth corporations, which include Viacom, News Corporation (the Murdoch empire), Walt Disney Group, AOL-Time Warner, Bertlesmann, and GE (NBC). Like "The Blob," a monster from the lame 1950s horror movie of the same name, these corporations keep rolling across the landscape, gobbling up everything in their path. Every independent operation they consume then becomes an indistinguishable part of the oozing, faceless mass of goo. All of the parts are just different names for the same whole - thus, for ex., Viacom is also Paramount movies, which is also CBS, which is also Simon & Schuster, which is also Blockbuster, which is also MTV and Nickelodeon, which is also Infinity Broadcasting (radio).
But probably the most insidious and evil of the Blobs is AOL-Time Warner because it has the most diverse tentacles and uses them with a cold and cynical disregard for the principles of true and honest free speech. When Ted Turner sold out CNN and became just another corporate baron, he wiped out whatever net good he'd ever done by paying down the UN debt and donating wildlands. Why? Because with the free press dealt such a decisive blow, Turner's benevolent contributions may not matter much in a few years under the Corporate Global Reich.
Many folks think that when we proponents of a free press harp on the mainstream media being controlled by corporate-political interests that we mean some sort of vague and ominous control - nothing specific, just a general "feeling" of something rotten in the states of America. Oh that it were so. But the control is not only far-reaching, it is extremely calculated and very, very specific in its ways and means.
If VIACOM and AOL-TIME WARNER, for example, wanted to join forces to create the impression of a national trend - even if one did not exist in reality - they could (and routinely no doubt do) create one with chilling efficiency. Here's a hypothetical example - the real examples are probably far too numerous to contemplate in a short commentary.
Let's say, to help consolidate Bush's power and thus further all corporate interests, that AOLTW and VIACOM decide to pump up the idea that the nation is in constant peril from outside terrorists and that only aging Republican white men can save us, while Democrats and ethnic people are all suspect. A primary underlying part of the plan, of course, is to drum up a good reason to invade a few countries that have oil and natural gas resources that the administration and its pals covet.
Let's pretend for a minute that we are the corporate puppeteers behind the scenes - the people who slink furtively around their plush offices, sending pointed memos, and attending closed board meetings. How can we "wag the dog?" The whole thing starts when our friend G.W. Bush and the propagandists in the White House provide us with a concocted, unsubstantiable story about secret terrorist groups across the nation, with "cells" in every city, town, and hamlet, all directed from some unknown "central command" post by Al Queda and aided and abetted by Democrats, Greens, and everyone with a swarthy complexion. Sounds unbelievable? I mean, who would buy something like that? Well, here's how the sell goes:
We'll plant the story in the evening news on CBS (Viacom) and CNN (AOLTW) as the top story and make it show up as a lurid headline in AOL that keeps flashing across the homepage every few seconds for 24 hours or so. (A prime example of the shameless propaganda technique used by AOL occurred June 16 or thereabouts. On the homepage was a shot of Joseph Padilla, the color of the photo darkened to an ominous monochrome tint...under it was the lurid headline "Dirty Bomb threat - the Sum of All of Fears?" intentionally pairing the trumped up nuke threat from the Bush amateur fiction writers club with the professional, strategically timed silver screen fiction cranked out by fellow media Behemoth, VIACOM. Goebbels would tip his hat in admiration).
So back to our hypothetical case... as we're smearing the story across AOL for all our Freepers to hook into (they LOVE the AOL newsbytes and forums and will believe anything we feed them), we'll "leak it" to our army of right wing talk show hosts in our radio network. These guys really know how to whip up a lynch mob mindset! Give 'em some smoke and they'll MAKE a fire! Suddenly, to the unknowing American (unaware of these interconnections), it will seem like EVERYONE knows about those terrorist groups!
When some tough questions start getting asked, we can preempt them by having stories all ready to plant in Time" or "People" Magazine (also our holdings). These will have intense looking headlines, and maybe a high-powered cover shot, but they won't really answer any questions - they'll just rehash the press release that went out to AP, no questions asked, maybe make a few vague references to "inside sources," and "former agents" and thus lend a scent of credibility to our fiction.
While we're at it, we'll get Simon & Schuster (VIACOM) to release a few nonfiction books that rewrite history to our satisfaction - how about "Joe McCarthy, All-American Patriot Saint" for a title? Or maybe "How to Talk to Your Child About Informing on the Neighbors"? The Heritage Foundation and Cato institute will buy up thousands of copies in advance, so we can shove it onto the best seller list before it ever leaves the warehouse!
We can also run a bunch of "60 Minutes" segments with "case histories" of swarthy people-turned-terrorist or interviews with sobbing terrorism victims. We can also do "profiles" of small towns, featuring terrrified, church-going citizens in SUVs, their concerned, church-going Republican mayors, and their local deadbeat, dope-smoking commie-loving ACLU members. We'll just make sure no one in our "news stable" asks any uncomfortable questions - like "What the hell is going on?!" Not that we're worried much about that - we'll just offer Dan Rather a good retirement package and he'll roll over and play dead, just like the rest of em!
We can also make sure the nightly news focuses just on Republican players, and is liberally splashed with closeups of cheering people at Bush speeches (we'll have the boys and girls in the cutting room make sure all that footage of protestors ends up on the floor for the janitor's broom!). Then we'll start an "all Cheney/Condi Rice/Colin Powell all the time" series of "Face the Nation" segments where all the questions are supplied by Ari Fleischer and Karl Rove. Hey here's a nice touch! - We can preempt episodes of Providence on Friday night with JAG, to make sure those leftwing feminists know who's boss or better yet, preempt that new show about the liberal wacko professor on Sunday with an all-star superpatriotic concert staring Bono!
Meanwhile, to enhance jingoist fervor and whip up an "us against a vague them" atmosphere that will make people reluctant to question even vague threats against 'Merica, we'll start scattering the red white and blue liberally throughout the pages of the scores of popular magazines owned by AOLTW - everything from "Southern Living," "House and Garden," "Family Circle," "Golf," and "Women's Weekly" to "Superbike" and "Horse & Hound." Articles will abound about decorating in red white and blue, talking to your child about patriotism, cooking patriotic food, naming your horse or hound after an American patriot, etc. Suddenly it seems to the uninformed that the WHOLE NATION has gone off on a patriotic binge. And, no one wants to seem unpatriotic, if EVERYONE is doing it!
...But now that we've whipped up some patriotic fervor amongst the 24 and older crowd who subscribe to the magazines and watch network news, how can we reach the under 24 crowd? - the folks your buddy Bush might soon have to draft? Easy! How about a movie or two with a gung-ho "warrior as hero" theme? Better yet, how about that Paramount film (VIACOM) where they nuke Baltimore (as the population there is 9 Democrats for every one Republican, that'll give those leftwing wackos something to think about!). Hey - World War II is good for business too - don't want any messy Vietnam stuff if it can be avoided. And, while we're at it, let's make sure that cable runs a good dose of this type of stuff - easy to do when you own HBO Direct, Time Warner Cable, Time Warner Pay-per-View.
Also, we could get some sports people to make some patriotic go-get-em statements...afterall, we own HBO sports, Sports Illustrated, the Atlanta Braves, World Championship Wrestling, to name a few possibilities. We can offer some sports hero a sweet deal to preach to the teens!
Of course, you don't wanna miss the preteens - afterall, they're tomorrow's cannon fodder! So let's get some military action cartoons going - we own the Cartoon Network and Hanna-Barbara productions!!
And of course, if we really want to make dissenters feel they are in the minority and thereby feel too intimidated to kick up a fuss or ask any questions, we can conduct an online "poll" at AOL and make sure that the freepers are alerted.
Oh, yeah - Don't worry about any Bob Dylan style protest songs popping up to fire up the masses! Between us, AOLTW and VIACOM, we own about 60 record labels and MTV, too, so just let any guitar-playing rabble rouser try to get a record contract and air time!
Yep. Got it sewed up tight....tight as a straight jacket.
If you want to get an idea of just how many tentacles these corporations have into the world's media, just check out the following links, which display the holdings of these Blobs.
WALT DISNEY GROUP
NEWS CORPORTATION (Fox empire)
These big six control all of the networks, most of the cable, most publishing, most major radio in the U.S. and much of Europe and Australia. Worse, they are becoming increasingly incestuous - with GE crossing over to collaborate with Walt Disney, Bertlesmann with AOL, etc. At this rate it will become one SUPERGIANT BLOB operated by a syndicate composed of the CEOs of these six megacorps. At that point, the straight jacket will come equipped with an a gag, blindfold, and leg irons.
Even George Orwell would have nightmares.