Opinion: On the Systematic Poisoning of Public Channels of Information

Fear knows no friends, it is indiscriminate. It is also a fodder for the powerful to voraciously feed on, writes Sabin Muzaffar.
Opinion: On the Systematic Poisoning of Public Channels of Information

Shock waves reverberated all around the globe on October 7th, 2023 when an occupied, colonized and oppressed people – living in the largest open air ghetto – rose in rebellion.

There is no going around it. Indeed, there can never ever be justification for taking lives! That said, it is also true that oppression begets insurrection. Whether it is one group, a band of individuals or an entire community, separating wheat from chaff inevitably becomes a challenging cesspit. With hope nowhere in sight; impunity, crippling political and diplomatic deadlock as well as fascist authoritarianism – on the premise and ‘weaponization of trauma’ – being the law of the land, it paves a way for the creation of a vacuum that is easily filled with justified resistance but also inescapable radicalization.

The aggression rages on. Yes, militarily it is an unequal battle with an outcome definitely not too hard to fathom – given the history and global political narratives.

Even now, countless are dead, lives lost, millions suffering! There is a dismal finality in the air. In fact, it has been there for quite a while and only a few of us have just begun breathing it!

People are saying goodbyes yet aid workers still forging on despite the onslaught of bombardments and blockades. Children, doctors, journalists, humanitarians – humans – dead and littered on the streets.

And this is one side of the human story.

Suffering is an experience which is as collective as it is individualistic.

Similarly, fear knows no friends, it is indiscriminate. It is also a fodder for the powerful to voraciously feed on.

One must continuously emphasize that there certainly is no justification for taking lives. And yet, the powers that be are quick to rationalize. Any excuse to maintain their accepted derivation of a democratic system.

Mainstream media outlets, too, across the world were in a fit of frenzy with incredulous how’s and why’s, as if just woken up from a drunken stupor to the crisis at hand.

We often lament that the system has failed us. Has it really? Or is this exactly how the system is supposed to work? In his book, Media Control, Noam Chomsky talks about the public relations industry, pouring billions of dollars to control the public mind through what it deems as correct messaging and good propaganda. Spectator democracy – just the perfect kind of democratic derivative, imperialism thrives on?

Some 30 years ago, Chomsky theorized how ‘people have to be atomized and segregated and alone. They are not supposed to organize…’ He also meditates about the benefits of what he labels good propaganda. ‘You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for’ For example, “Do you support what Hamas launched on Saturday morning?” a question posed recently to the Head of the Palestinian Mission in UK – Husam Zomlot – on BBC. Questions and messaging like these hold a ‘crucial value (which) is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something,’ wrote Chomsky.

While there is much debate (rightfully) about the role the international community is playing when it comes to not just one man-made geopolitical conflict at hand, but many others as well. What is dismissively being swept under the carpet is the reductive role mainstream media is playing by using propaganda and linguistic manipulation.

It is true mis and disinformation across social media platforms are wreaking a havoc, fueling a pernicious divisiveness in an already hate-filled polarized world. Equally dangerous, if not more, is mainstream media’s (a major chunk of it) positionality and tonality as far as various crises are concerned.

There may be more than seeds of distrust in public opinion as far as the press is concerned – entirely of their (media’s) own making. Still, it has long been playing a very treacherous game that the masses – the bewildered herd seems to compulsively latch on.

It is every bit an irony that in 1944, Henry A. Wallace, Franklin D Roosevelt’s Vice President equated fascism to an ‘infectious disease’; alerting about the ‘deliberate, systematic poisoning of the public channels of information.’ Expertsalso warning of the press’s role in triggering public discord and distorting political debate.

Who is being served?

Bottomline is, questions must be asked… And it all begins with accountability being justifiably conceptualized. Until then, what remains will be a vicious circle of discord, oppression, injustice, exploitation and violence.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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