WE ARE EXPOSED TO A HAMBURGER JOURNALISM FILLED WITH FAST FOOD, WITH HUMAN RIGHTS PREJUDICES, WITH PROPAGANDA AND WITH OVERSIMPLIFICATIONS. at The Social Medicine Portal

Add a comment October 7th, 2010 by claudio

Food for a public barometer thought

Human rights Reader 249

WE ARE EXPOSED TO A HAMBURGER JOURNALISM FILLED WITH FAST FOOD, WITH HUMAN RIGHTS PREJUDICES, WITH PROPAGANDA AND WITH OVERSIMPLIFICATIONS. (P. Rahola)

-Social immobility ends up being the result of weak consensus. (A. Gomez) …and reports of growing civic discontent are typically not found in newspaper columns. (adapted from H. Dembowski)

-By presenting us with half-truths or by its silence, the mainstream media do provide us with what the French call ‘la lethargie des mots’. I accuse this media of producing social indifference.

1. Because of what we read in the title, it really is now the public who asks for more of this fast food information. The question is: Has the media made us junkies?   It is difficult to understand rationally: Why does information manipulation get-away-with-murder so easily? Why does nobody in the press more consistently care-for and consider, among other, the points of view of the victims of human rights (HR) violations? What pathology explains the distancing of so many, in the controlling levels of the press, of their moral and professional obligations? Why are there not more public manifestations against this?   The different media outlets give me the impression that they drink from the wells of un- and half-truths, of intolerance, of prejudice. The deepest myths  and historical omissions are kept intact by such reporting.  it is not that the media should always be pointing fingers at the good and the bad in the world. but we see a historical betrayal being committed towards HR these days by a press that ignores and rarely reports on the countless violations of HR. *

*: Think for a minute: The digested news we get from the mainstream media does ultimately affect history: like the rain affects a sand castle, it washes down history’s credibility, it ‘modulates’ it so that it ends up prophesizing false futures.

2. as a corollary, the press does not bring us the new ideas and the current developments in HR work; instead, it brings us slogans; it brings us trivia, it brings us red press and an alienating lifestyle to aspire to. ** as it does not stand for HR, by default, it stands for prejudice and for discrimination!

**: one wonders, for instance: Does all the city’s trash end up in its television?

3. furthermore, the HR principles that make us function as a just society are made relative by the mainstream press. The critical mass of those groups for change in society is therefore thinning and, at the same time, neoliberal ideology is being fattened. Partly as a result, there is a lack of a solid compromise in society with the values of HR. (P. Rahola)

4. The ‘well-thinking’ newspapers and other media of our days –those that claim to be the barometers of public morality– point their fingers at what they think is the degradation-of-the-traditional-values-of-family-and-of-private-property (even if sometimes in a veiled manner). *** about human rights, if ever, they publish generally polished, but more often than not, innocuous ad-hoc articles that do not expose the real causes of the HR problems. (J. Saramago)

***: put another way, around the world, the media instruments actually reproduce the neoliberal establishment’s conventional wisdom. (V. Navarro)

5. What this boils down-to is that the media are actually suggesting to us –the readers, the listeners and the watchers– how to talk about certain topics and what we should remain ignorant-of.  Entire dimensions of reality are left out: prominently the appalling HR situation, i.e., the ‘postcard reality’ the press wants to sell to us does not fit with the current harsh reality.  Positive news (e.g., about the achievements of HR work) are not considered interesting and newsworthy. (J. Galtung)

6. The media purport to represent public opinion, right? this is clearly more comfortable for them than to openly confess their desire to influence it. The ‘public opinion’ is not naturally predisposed to go for ideological or  paradigm shifts.  Granted. but the media, for sure, do reinforce and influence this stance.

7. With its tendency to reduce everything to the minimum common denominator, the mainstream media really reflect what are pseudo-opinions; they push us towards weak thoughts, tranquilizing ideas and towards an attitude that fosters a status-quo. Often, the desires of society are presented to us in the form of numbers and slick statistics. In so doing, the media’s role in shaping public opinion stands in the way of creativity, in the way of protest. Reporting on HR conflicts is skipped altogether or trivialized in their reporting as if these conflicts were ‘natural’ and expected. Rejection and political dissent have but disappeared from our everyday formal media; or the vocabulary used is purposely toned down. (No surprise here since public debate of HR issues has disappeared also from the discourse of mainstream intellectuals who show a lack of interest for what is ‘political’).

8. The number of people who can find out about facts has grown enormously. True. but the media literally ‘construct’ the social (and HR) reality for us –and let us not forget that the creation of realities has been a key function of the State in its search for a status-quo.

9. The mainstream press tends to deal with generalizations; because they absolve. it sells out on our human rights in its pursuit of the security needed for the upholding of the system. If the press is not responsible in its reporting on HR issues, many more in society will not even start to feel a HR responsibility either. Journalistic fancy language and editors’ heavy hand at editing drown the ugly aspects of reality and so provide impunity for the defenders of the consumer society with its ugly HR face.

10. it is true that looking-at and judging the media ‘in general’ does not necessarily reflect the internal conflicts and tensions within the profession –they exist; and there are growing numbers of progressive media outlets out there fighting –not least in the electronic superhighway. but that potential is still to be fully unleashed: A challenge for us all there.

11. The conclusions this Reader comes to may not be intuitively appealing, but they shine a spotlight on the non-role of the media in society’s struggle for HR thus exposing an inconvenient truth. **** as I often say, I am not harsh in my analysis; I call a spade a spade.

****: Truth is a broken mirror and we all have a fragment of it. The question is what happened to the fragment the mainstream media has, the fragment it keeps shining at our faces…

12. The problem in our relationship with the media is ultimately our own attitude towards it (and, in general, this reflects the way we are…). another challenge for us all here.

13. bottom line: The world is now more informed than ever, but we do not have a better informed world.  On the contrary, the media connect us with any point in the planet, but they connect us neither with the truth nor with the real facts. as Goethe said: “ nobody is more of a slave than he who believes being free without being free”.

14. Albert Einstein warned us: “Life is dangerous. not because of the persons who do evil, but because of those persons that sit-by to look at what is happening”. never ever sit-by to look at HR evils go by!

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

cschuftan@phmovement.org

______________________

Partly adapted from J. Saramago, Las Intermitencias de la Muerte, Alfaguara, Santillana Ediciones, Buenos Aires, December 2005; D+C, Vol.35, no.4, April 2008; and A. Gomez, Tiempo de Descuento, Editorial El Fin de la Noche, Buenos Aires, 2009.

Postscript: as we will next time be coming to the 250th Reader, let me say again that I see these HR Readers as a call to a conscious dialogue among current and potential HR activists. The call is for a dialogue beyond conceptual and ideological differences we may have. I see promoting this dialogue as my un-postponable duty. There has been way too little preoccupation about HR in our work and it is becoming a must that we have individuals and organizations in society engage in the fight for HR. (adapted from M. Ovalle)

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WE ARE EXPOSED TO A HAMBURGER JOURNALISM FILLED WITH FAST FOOD, WITH HUMAN RIGHTS PREJUDICES, WITH PROPAGANDA AND WITH OVERSIMPLIFICATIONS. at The Social Medicine Portal


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