"They control the minds of the masses."
- Malcolm X (on American media power)
- Malcolm X (on American media power)
Perhaps my favorite illustration of life in a corporate propaganda state is the daily New York Times corrections box. Each morning, the newspaper of record comes clean about what it got wrong the day before.
For example, I remember a Times article that referred incorrectly to the status of Gwen Stefani’s tattoos. The next day, in the corrections box, came a dose of reality: Gwen Stefani has no permanent tattoos.
We can all sleep better knowing that Gwen Stefani has no permanent tattoosand secure in the knowledge that the media readily admits its mistakes. It’s all there in black and white—every single day—right?
Of course, the tacit message behind the daily New York Times corrections box is this: Besides a few minor typographical errors, everything else in yesterday’s paper was correct. It was accurate. It was, to use their phrase, fit to print…and has now passed on to become part of our official history. This is typical of life within a society dominated by a corporate-run press.
Whether you label them liberal or conservative, most major media outletsare large corporations owned by or aligned with even larger corporations, and they share a common goal: to make a profit by selling a product (an affluent audience) to a given market: advertisers.
Therefore, we shouldn’t find it too shocking that the image of the world being presented by a corporate-owned press very much reflects the biased interests of the elite players involved in this sordid little love triangle.
That’s why every major daily newspaper has a business section, but not a labor section. Why at least once a week, those same newspapers run an automobile section, but no bicycle section.
This is why when the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops, it makes headlines. But if the global extinction rate rises, it’s questionable if it'll even make the papers (and if it does, it’ll be buried in a small item on page 23).
If you created a blueprint for an apparatus that utterly erased critical thought, you could make none more efficient than the American corporate media.
Kill someone while wearing a uniform and you're a hero…do it in gang colors and you're a criminal. Hire a lawyer to help you find tax loopholes and you're a good businessman…make a few bucks off the books and you're a tax cheat. Sell cigarettes, alcohol and lottery tickets and you're an entrepreneur…smoke a joint and bet with a bookie: you're a menace to society.
Of all the beguiling propaganda tactics Corporate America has cultivated, the usurping of language is the greatest victory of all. Have you ever considered that also right after World War II the "Department of War" was renamed the "Defense Department"? Almost 70 years later, thanks to legions of pinstriped mountebanks, we exist in an age where helicopters named Apache are unselfconsciously used to quell (often alleged) ethnic cleansing.
It's all about setting standards and defining the accepted parameters. Yes, we can "have it our way," as long as we stay well within the range of choices being offered. We can “just do it” any time we damn well please. All we need is a $120 pair of sneakers. We've strayed so far from reality that even the most elementary truths have become obscured.
Show some flesh in a particular magazine and you're a pornographer…flash some skin on a public bus and you're a Calvin Klein ad. Collect food stamps and you're a welfare queen…hire a lobbyist to win government subsidies, tax breaks, and protectionist tariffs and you're a corporation.
Let's say you're a big city mayor and you want to institute a regressive tax on your city's poor residents. Easy, call it a "transit fare hike." Rich people don't ride the subway.
What if your company wants to dump toxic sludge on farmers to be used as fertilizer? Hire a massive public relations firm to give it a new image by renaming it "biosolids.”
There’s really nothing to it: Cars aren’t used, they’re pre-owned. Invasions aren’t invasions when they’re pre-emptive wars. Missiles aren't weapons, they're peacekeepers.
Claim that the Messiah regularly visits your suburban home and Mel Gibson’s faithful will beat a path to your door…claim to be the Messiah in Waco and they'll drive a tank through your living room. Serve the charred flesh of tortured animals and you're a gourmet…choose a lifestyle of compassion and logic and you're a zealot.
Since today's words have developed an uncanny knack for altering their meaning from situation to situation until they have no meaning at all, perhaps it's time for Americans to hold a mass dictionary burning. What good are definitions when they give peace prizes to men like to Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama—and so many of us believe these war criminals deserve such accolades?
As South African activist Steven Biko once said: “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
Reprint State Department press releases verbatim and you're a respected investigative journalist…dig up the truth and you're gonna have a hell of a time trying to earn money as a writer.
With a nod to Guy Debord, I say it’s time we reinvent everyday life—steal it back from corporate propagandists and reintroduce the joy of living. Stop settling for less pain and start demanding more pleasure. Today’s progressives can provoke dramatic changes simply by refusing to submit to the societal formula they’re presented with.
We know what we feel…so no longer should we allow Hollywood, Madison Avenue, the government, or Corporate America to define us. We must trust our own instincts and break free from manufactured needs and illusory goals in order to cultivate new American Dreams (yes, plural):
- Dreams not for sale
- Dreams not based on celebrity
- Dreams not based on material consumption
Dreams not based on physical beauty
- Dreams not based on military conquest
- Dreams that promote unity and collective action while maintaining individuality and independence
- Dreams that challenge us to think for ourselves and about others
Breaking away from the omnipresent message of “work, consume, and obey authority without question” can be this generation’s way of challenging—and smashing—a culture that has us programmed to be more concerned with Gwen Stefani's tattoos than the corporate pirates raping the planet and controlling our minds.
Comrades, it’s time to rediscover the subversive pleasure of thinking for ourselves…
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.