Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the man behind the curtain

(sent this to Common Dreams; we'll see if it gets published)

There have been and continue to be many critiques of the mainstream media and rightly so. Most of the critiques have focused on the MSM simply repeating the current administration’s talking points, their lack of challenge to the run-up to the Iraqi war, their lack of journalistic integrity, etc. The following is a critique of a different kind (although related to all of the above). It hopefully will demonstrate how much more complicit and insidious the MSM (and others who employ the same strategies) is in maintaining the status quo as opposed to challenging it.

As we all know, the cost of oil has reached obscene proportions. It seems to reflect the surreality of life over the last 8 years; just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it skyrockets to new heights. Those of us who observe human behavior as a profession are oftentimes amazed at how the general public fails to seem outraged at what is happening. Indeed, they may be privately fuming, but publicly, collectively, they are invisible.

I began thinking about this the other day when reading that oil was now $130 a barrel. The next day, on an internet news site I frequent daily, there was an entire story devoted to saving gas. The day after that, there was an article on different ways that we waste gas while driving. The following day, there was an article on how tires contribute to gas guzzling. All of these stories at first glance seem to be helpful; but herein lays the insidiousness. Indeed, the MSM are attempting to help us save gas, but what they should be doing is asking very hard questions to government and industry leaders about why we need to save gas, why the cost of oil is so perverse, and why no one seems to be doing anything about it. But, they aren’t. Instead, they are being paternalistic and complicit by simply telling us how to save gas.

The MSM always seems ready to give us advice on how to respond to changing social conditions, but rarely, if ever, give advice to those who manipulate the social conditions. They claim objectivity about reporting, but apparently feel no compulsion to be objective in dispensing advice; the selective dispensing of advice, that is. They only give advice to those who they know can do nothing in response; they never give advice to those who can and should do something.

So, why aren’t people in the streets? Why aren’t truckers blocking highways as in Europe? Why aren’t people refusing to go to work at oil companies until the cost of gas comes down to manageable levels? Because we have been, and continue to be duped by the MSM and others into thinking that we are the problem. If only we would slow down on the highway, if only we would fill up our tires more, if only we would shut our vehicles off when waiting for someone, then the bite at the pump wouldn’t be so bad.

By making the problem about us, the real source of the problem is obfuscated; the status quo is maintained, oil prices continue to rise, profits continue to be made…and all is well. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.


a very public sociologist said...

The media is a factor, but not the only factor preventing large scale collective mobilisations against the oil price hikes. Two of the reasons why this is the case in Britain is because of the fundamental disconnect between populace and polity, and a break up of old collectivities that in the past that would constitute a resource that could be mobilised if people felt sufficiently aggrieved.

Just my simplistic two penneth worth. Btw, I've added you to my blogroll.

johneglass said...

i agree that there are other factors, certainly. i think that the influence of the media is overlooked many times, though as most people living in highly industrialized, highly individualistic countries think that they are above the influence of the media. clearly, this is not the case. imo, the notion of individuality is part of the massive brainwashing that all people undergo as part of their socialization.

thanks for adding me to your blogroll; i will do the same as soon as i get some time to edit my settings.

Gilles said...

Just a thought… Because protesting against oil prices is protesting against oil companies, and protesting against oil companies would be protesting against freedom of enterprise, and protesting agains freedom of enterprise would be protesting against "God, Country, Freedom" ?

johneglass said...

hi, Gilles
makes sense to me. i think that many Americans are deeply conditioned to not protest at all, for whatever reason. note how the word, "liberal" became and remains a "dirty" word. i think that the same can be said for any kind of mass collective action; only "traitors" protest would be a corollary. i commented awhile back on the blog that when well funded, bankrolled individuals petition Congress, this is called, "lobbying;" when individuals with little or no money to this, they are called, "activists"...Lord knows that we sure don't like activism in America.

Gilles said...

I think that many Americans are deeply conditioned to not protest at all […]
I'm old enough to remember the protests against the Vietnam War, against — and pro-school integration, and against — and pro-abortion. But now, quite a few Americans are, if not protesting against science, at least are all set on teaching... Junk Science (Creationism) ! Thanks to the Discovery Institute, a well-funded organization. But maybe it's only natural, since the Bible, Gone with the Wind and The Lord of the Rings are the Americans favorite books !
(Source : http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=892)

johneglass said...

hi, Gilles

yes, i too, am old enough to recall all of those same events. i was too young for the Vietman draft but i have three older brothers that were all eligible (none were drafted, however). this is what i am referring to as Americans are now conditioned to not protest; perhaps i should have clarified that they are conditioned to not protest against anything that appears to be anti-corporate, anti-Christian, anti-government, etc. indeed, the current protesters (like the ID folks you cite) have been very successful in achieving their goals; guess that is more evidence that protest does work. currently, though, anti-war, pro-abortion, pro-human rights, kinds of protests are discouraged. One reason cited why there was so much activism during Vietnam was due to the fact that the economy was strong, so youth weren't concerned about getting jobs once out of college. now, however, the economy is not strong, so perhaps there is some aversive affect happening (i also think that the draft was a significant motivator for protest). lastly, marketers, PR specialists, etc., have gotten much better in the last 30 years and now know how to control the population much more effectively than they did in the past. why protest when you can play XBOX?

Anonymous said...

The dismal science may point out that decreased demand without an equal decrease in supply would reduce prices. At this basic level it becomes clear that high gas prices are above all a response to our (including our Chinese and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters) collective decisions. We need to be careful to not over magnify the impact of government and media in a subtle attempt to rid ourselves of personal accountability. Expecting others to do for us what we are not willing to do for ourselves will only lead to more conflict.