Like a meth addict whose gums are dissolving, muscles deteriorating, skin abscessing, and behavior becoming psychotic, industrial civilization is deteriorating, the social fabric is getting threadbare, and leaders of rogue countries are spouting off nuclear threats. I believe we would all agree that a radical change to society is in the best interest of the long-term survival of Homo sapiens. So to break our current self-destructive path which is not unlike that of cancer cells killing off its host, what obstacles are in our way preventing us from achieving mass consensus. Some call it the ‘wall of propaganda’ which our current economic system has constructed to protect its interests, namely the almighty profit margin, at literally all costs. Media Lens has an excellent article out discussing this ‘wall of deceit’ which corporate capitalism surrounds itself with in order to maintain the unsustainable business-as-usual.
The article starts out:
The systematic propaganda of the corporate media – its deep-rooted antipathy towards upholding proper journalistic standards in the public interest – extends to its coverage of human-induced climate change. The Independent recently delivered a masterpiece of headline obfuscation with:
‘World cools on global warming as green fatigue sets in.’
The news report said:
‘Only 49 per cent of people now consider climate change a very serious issue – far fewer than at the beginning of the worldwide financial crisis in 2009.’
As usual, there was no mention of the role of the corporate media as a leading cause of why ‘green fatigue’ has supposedly set in. No mention of the media’s shameful failure to explore root causes of the climate crisis, not least the elite-serving corporate globalisation that has taken humanity to the brink of disaster. Chris Shaw, a social sciences researcher at the University of Sussex, noted on Twitter that nor was there ‘any mention of the work of the merchants of doubt, paid for and acting on the behalf of corporate interests’.
We’ve discussed this before and it continues to be the case – mass media in the hands of corporations is a pillar of inverted totalitarianism. In addition, the corporations also make use of the state’s security and surveillance apparatus in order to stifle any grassroots movements which threaten the status quo. Thusly, we are enthralled to the corporate state. The article then goes on to quote important rebuttal points made by Joe Romm to the corporate media’s claim of the public suffering from a ‘green fatigue’:
• ‘There is not one single TV show on any network devoted to this subject [climate change], which is, arguably, more consequential than any other preventable issue we face.’
• ‘The public is exposed to constant messages promoting business as usual and indeed idolizing conspicuous consumption…’
• ‘The major energy companies bombard the airwaves with millions and millions of dollars of repetitious pro-fossil-fuel ads. The environmentalists spend far, far less money.’
The popular mantra of keeping the global temperature below a 2ºC increase is another misleading idea put forth and circulated in the mass media:
…Guardian environment editor John Vidal, a safe pair of hands at the paper who has managed to skip over numerous troubling questions for over two decades, noted:
‘The chances of the world holding temperature rises to 2C – the level of global warming considered “safe” by scientists – appear to be fading fast.’
Here, Vidal uncritically relayed the dangerous and discredited notion of a 2ºC ‘safe limit’ for global temperature rise. Climate change has been hereby reduced to a phenomenon defined by a single global dangerous number. This is a simplistic and damaging view of climate which, in reality, varies widely in time and space with multiple, overlapping impacts and feedbacks including ice melt, sea level rise, increasing storms and devastating droughts. Social scientist Chris Shaw, whom we mentioned above, has studied how this skewed ‘safe limit’ framing of the climate change debate arose, and how it has become a stranglehold on climate policy and even on progressive voices who should know better. Shaw warns that ‘falsely ascribing a scientifically derived dangerous limit to climate change diverts attention away from questions about the political and social order that have given rise to the crisis.’ He notes:
‘The oft quoted quip attributed to Einstein, that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing, even after it has failed, seems particularly apposite for the “dangerous limits” framing of climate policy.’
Rapid and dangerous climate change is already underway, with little chance now of keeping global temperature rise to under 2ºC …
…switch on the television or the radio, or open up a newspaper, and – bar a few items in passing – it’s as if none of this is happening. Instead, the public is being force-fed a diet of celebrity gossip, huge advertising campaigns to consume more and more, and tedious ‘news’ and ‘debates’ that elucidate almost nothing about the real world.
Journalists and editors at all levels of the major news organisations must be aware, to some extent, that the glorious vision of the media ‘holding power to account‘ is more myth than reality. But very few media professionals have the honesty, bravery and decency to speak out. We understand that it is not easy; one’s hopes of a stellar media career or even the prospect of continued employment might be on the line. In the early days of Media Lens, we used to entertain the very slim possibility that – if anyone – the environment editors of the major newspapers might do so. But signs of media sanity from even these quarters are scarce…
The Article then illustrates a few examples of media outlets like the BBC and The Guardian who are cobbled by the corporate need to downplay the catastrophic effects of human-induced climate change. The ever pervasive regime of business interests holds sway over public discourse:
Locked Inside A Box
…Take one report on the BBC News at Ten last month (February 19, 2013), for instance, by John Moylan, the BBC’s employment and industry correspondent. On the flagship television news programme, watched by millions around the country, Boylan spoke of the rising demand for energy and the cost of fuel. He stood in front of impressive high-tech graphics and he eloquently made his points. And he referred, briefly, to EU environmental targets on closing ‘dirty polluting power plants’.
But Moylan did not once mention climate change. In an era when leading scientists are warning of the catastrophic dangers of climate instability under global warming, how could the BBC correspondent possibly justify this omission from his report? We asked him, twice, but did not receive an answer…
…But what about the Guardian? It has long been considered by many greens as a sort of ‘flagship’ newspaper for the environment movement. This has never been an accurate picture. But even more so in recent years when, notes Haaretz columnist Zafrir Rinat, the paper has been avidly:
‘developing business ties with corporations leading to the creation of the websites such as Global Development Professionals, which received financing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a host of corporations. The Guardian is also involved in several environmental ventures that are expected to yield profits.’
Rinat spoke with Joe Confino, an executive editor of the Guardian, and the chairman and editorial director of Guardian Sustainable Business. This is a Guardian-corporate partnership which promotes the notion of ‘corporate social responsibility’, a public relations oxymoron that should be exposed repeatedly.
‘We are partners in ventures with businesses that we are convinced are going in the right direction on sustainability. The condition for all cooperation is preserving complete editorial independence.’
But high-ranking newspaper professionals always assert that there is a ‘firewall’ between advertising and editorial content, a claim that does not withstand scrutiny. Moreover, as Haaretz’s Rinat rightly points out:
‘Behind this [Guardian and corporate business] cooperation lies a pretentious worldview that it is possible to convince corporations to operate differently along the entire production chain, from the raw materials stage up through handling the refuse from the final products that are sold.’
Rinat added that ‘the media is still part of the problem because it continues to promote in its reports the culture of consumerism that depletes the planet’s resources.’ He noted that Confino ‘doesn’t deny’ this crucial point but, disappointingly, the Haaretz columnist did not press the Guardian executive about it.
Consider that a major imperative for corporate newspapers like the Guardian, struggling with dwindling advertising revenue, is to boost the numbers of people exposed to online ads by visiting their websites. Chris Elliott, the Guardian readers’ editor, was upfront about this in a recent column when he said that this was ‘essential’ to ‘secure the future’ of the paper.
But there are flickerings of internal dissent:
‘in the last six months three colleagues have written or spoken to me to express concern that the entirely reasonable desire to attract people to the site may be skewing news and features agendas.’
One ‘conflicted colleague’, as Elliott put it somewhat pejoratively, said:
‘There have been occasions recently where stories have been commissioned by editors who have talked about how they hope it will “play well” online – this appears to have been at the very forefront of their mind when commissioning. Certainly this is the prime driver of many online picture galleries. Obviously … we want to be well-read and popular, but it is a slippery slope, and it now appears that in a few cases we are creating stories purely to attract clicks.’
Given that Elliott’s piece was likely a sanitised, for-public-consumption version of the reality, one wonders what Guardian staff are really thinking, and how widespread is the concern, perhaps even direct opposition, inside their plush corporate offices…
Then we get to the crux of the whole matter, a life or death decision that modern society must work out before it is far too late:
…Covering dangerous climate change […] means not just reporting the science of climate change responsibly – a task too far for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. But it also means investigating the systemic reasons for global warming. That must include a critical appraisal of corporate-driven capitalism and unrestrained consumerism. And, finally, it must also mean full and open public debate about alternative ways of organising society to benefit human well-being and the climate stability of the planet.
There you have it in that last quoted paragraph. In order to move ahead and avert disaster, we must be given the unvarnished truth rather than be kept in the dark and fed shit. In order to do that, we have to get at the root of the problem – capitalism.