by William Bowles
December 21, 2011
Well 2011 has been nothing if not eventful but
frankly, in spite of all the Occupy this and Occupy that, it's
not been a good year for us progressives or the planet.
The Empire acts with increasing, not decreasing
impunity, desperate now to try and keep ahead of events lest events take
control of it.
Are we living in a
A question keeps nagging at me:
Are all of us, including the left, reacting
to an entirely engineered reality, fed to us via an all-embracing media?
We get blown this way and that, all of it being
determined by whatever 'event' the globalized media decides to feed us with.
Then, just as 'mysteriously', the 'event' disappears to be replaced by yet
The old Anarchist cry of 'Do not adjust your mind, there's a fault in
reality' takes on an entirely new kind of import given the power of the
media to determine what's 'real' for us.
What this means is that
the media effectively acts as an agent provocateur
for the state and big business as it decides for us what is actually going
on in the world. In turn, progressives make decisions based not on what
needs to be done, but as a reaction to the 'news' in a weird political
the Heisenberg Effect.
Press coverage of the Summer Riots is a perfect example of this process in
action whereby the media, by focusing solely on the violence and
destruction, not only transformed it into a 'riot without a cause' but in
doing so actually incited even more violence and destruction, just as ASBOs
(Anti-Social Behavior Orders) are worn as 'badges of honor' by alienated
youth who actually go out of their way to get one (or two).
Aside from anything else it demonstrates just how out-of-touch the political
elite is with the reality of life as it is really lived by a goodly chunk of
the population; the so-called underclass.
Life as supplied to us is now an endless succession of 'crises' or public
spectacles (the lines between the two often blur):
'Ground-to-air missiles 'may protect' London
BBC News, 14 November 2011.
In fact, the very nature of BBC's headlines
headlines betray the essence of how to report the 'news' as a succession of
dramas to be played out, not in the real world that you and I live in but in
the world created by a globalized, corporate media machine.
'Crises' are played out in the TV equivalent of 'flaming' (shooting off at
the mouth without thinking). Dictators come and go... All but the dramatic
essence is removed and along with it real meaning disappears. This is the
triumph of television, the ability to be able to cut and paste reality in
And the question, what of life outside the media-supplied 'reality' has been
brought home to me by MSM's coverage of the Occupy 'movement'. The
left debates its relevance and its potential endlessly but within the
confines of a media-supplied reality. All that's solid melts into air, or in
this case bits and bytes.
Occupy movement exists for as long as it grabs the headlines and
for said headlines to work, an element of violence is an absolutely
necessary ingredient for it to become 'news'. But once the 'confrontations'
are gone and the 'struggle' safely removed to the controllable environment
of the High Court, the story is no longer 'newsworthy' except as a footnote
to '2011 - Year of Occupations'.
We are now literally, passive observers of our own funerals in a world of
total media saturation and control.
A world of endless tragedy but at a
distance, mediated by an unseen hand and fed to us pretty much like an
out-of-control soap opera, where events break and at first reporting is
chaotic and normally wrong but as soon as the MSM has gotten hold of the
'right script' then 'reasons', 'causes' and 'solutions' can then be inserted
for each unfolding, dramatic episode.
Gaddafi's tortured, broken and abused body presented to us as the rightful
end to a 'weirdo celebrity', a victim of his own success and failure. First
courted then betrayed, an epic worthy of a plot by Shakespeare.
The 'story' can then be handled as spectacle and for as long as it remains
spectacle it's a product that can be safely and passively consumed. In this
Occupy movement has also become a victim of its own
success. It plays out its life not in the real world but in that other
reality, that the rest of us live in, the one supplied by the corporate
In turn this determines our relationship with it or lack of one.
for example talks of how occupations or strikes affect the public, as if by
some miraculous process, the occupiers or strikers are no longer part of the
'public'. They've been relocated to media-land to live lives as ephemeral as
the photons they are made of.
It's for this reason that the question of the role of class in the
proceedings rarely if ever figures in media-land, for if it were to explore
the role of class with as much zeal as it explores the 'role' of violence,
it would have to redefine its use of the word 'public' let alone violence.
It would also have to reveal which side of the class divide it's actually
If it's true, and I think it is, that it's working people who are paying the
price for the crimes of the 1%,
the ones who own the capital that (just
about) makes capitalism work, then it's a question of a struggle between two
those who own capital
those who don't
Currently the media represents the interests of the 1% of the 'public' that
imposes its reality on the proceedings as if it's ours.
A reality in which
certain fundamentals are a 'given', for example, the rule of private
capital, the primacy of the state to act with impunity in all things in
order to 'protect our national interest'. In a phrase, the preservation of
the existing order and way of doing things.
Even the tools that we now have including blogs, social networking and
instantaneous video have proved to be very powerful tools of propaganda for
the Empire. Tools that have been turned against us as is
the case with Libya
and now Syria.
The BBC's use of video from cellphones - mostly unattributed and revealing
nothing about what is actually going on in Syria - have become the staple
diet of the BBC's alleged news coverage of Syria, claiming that they're not
allowed into the country.
And 'bloggers' are now a regular feature of MSM (Mainstream Media) coverage, which is fine
except that only a couple of years ago, the MSM was ranting on about how
'blogging' was going to be the death of 'professional' journalism. If
But no more, the MSM realized that 'reality' video was the perfect tool of
propaganda, as it appears that it's 'the people' speaking. The BBC is merely
relaying 'reality' to its public and in the process it accrues the
authenticity needed to make it believable. To make it credible.
And in doing so, the MSM has jettisoned the last remnants of what it chooses
to call 'impartial and objective' journalism.
The drama and (hidden) tragedy of the destruction of Libya was played out
for us as if it were cinema verite, all grainy footage and hand-held
cameras swinging about wildly all over the place, inter-cut with BBC
propagandists masquerading as news-men standing in front of a weapon of
death boasting to the viewer of its awesome fire power.
As the Empire acts with increasing impunity, so too does the media.
The Media and the Empire in total lockstep...