Total Information Control

Freedom of information in American society is in danger because corporate media needs to maintain access to official sources of news. Consolidation of media has brought the total news sources for most Americans to less than a handful and these news groups have an ever-increasing dependency on pre-arranged content.

The 24-hour news shows on MSNBC, Fox and CNN are closely interconnected with various governmental and corporate sources of news. Maintenance of continuous news shows requires a constant feed and an ever-entertaining supply of stimulating events and breaking news bites. Advertisement for mass consumption drives the system and pre-packaged sources of news are vital within this global news process. Ratings demand continued cooperation from multiple-sources for on-going weather reports, war stories, sports scores, business news, and regional headlines. Print, radio and TV news also engages in this constant interchange with news sources.

The preparation for and following of ongoing wars and terrorism fits well into the visual kaleidoscope of pre-planned news. Government public relations specialists and media experts from private commercial interests provide on going news feeds to the national media distributions systems. The result is an emerging macro-symbiotic relationship between news dispensers and news suppliers. Perfect examples of this relationship are the press pools organized by the Pentagon both in the Middle-East and in Washington D.C., which give pre-scheduled reports on the war in Iraq to selected groups of news collectors (journalists) for distribution through their individual media organizations.

Embedded reporters (news collectors) working directly with military units in the field must maintain cooperative working relationships with unit commanders as they feed breaking news back to the U.S. public. Cooperative reporting is vital to continued access to government news sources. Therefore, rows of news story reviewers back at corporate media headquarters rewrite, soften or spike news stories from the field that threaten the symbiotics of global news management.

Journalists who fail to recognize their role as cooperative news collectors will be disciplined in the field or barred from reporting as in the recent celebrity cases of Geraldo Rivera and Peter Arnett.

Journalists working outside of this mass media system face ever-increasing dangers from “accidents” of war and corporate-media dismissal of their news reports. Massive civilian casualties caused by U.S. troops, extensive damage to private homes and businesses, and reports that contradict the official public relations line were downplayed, deleted, or ignored by corporate media, while content were analyzed by experts (retired generals and other approved collaborators) from within the symbiotic global news structure.

Symbiotic global news distribution is a conscious and deliberate attempt by the powerful to control news and information in society. The Homeland Security Act Title II Section 201(d)(5) specifically asks the directorate to “develop a comprehensive plan for securing the key resources and critical infrastructure of the United States includingSinformation technology and telecommunications systems (including satellites)S emergency preparedness communications systems.”

Corporate media today is perhaps too vast to enforce complete control over all content 24 hours a day. However, the government’s goal is the operationalization of total information control and the continuing consolidation of media makes this process easier to achieve.

Freedom of information and citizen access to objective news is rapidly fading in the United States and the world. In its place is a complex entertainment-oriented news system, which protects its own bottom-line by servicing the most powerful military-industrial complex in the world.

For the majority of Americans who depend on corporate media for their daily news, this monolithic news structure creates intellectual celibacy, inaction and fear. The result is a docile population, whose principal function within society is to simply shut-up and go shopping. The powerful would like us quiet and consumptive and the corporate media is delivering that message on a daily basis.

PETER PHILLIPS is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and Director of Project Censored a media research organization. He can be reached at: peter.phillips@SONOMA.EDU


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Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and President of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored. He wrote his dissertation on the Bohemian Club in 1994.

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