A Willful Ingestion of Media Poison

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

It’s clear there is an ever-widening divide between those who continue to rely on corporate media and established political parties to frame acceptable narrative in the United States. This has been made glaringly clear by the continued unhinged and unquestioning coverage of the current war on the Palestinians. It’s always been there, but with individuals in war-torn areas having access to real-time social media sharing, the secrecy is definitely gone for those who have their eyes open.

Corporate media, largely consumed by the older generations in particular, have demonstrated time and again a complete lack of objectivity in regard to this topic. Just watch evening network news to see who the target and expected demographic is. Hint: You can earn an honorary medical degree just by watching the pharmaceutical commercials during one network newscast. You will understand that having your hemoglobin A1C below 7 will make it possible for you to do pottery, ride bicycles, and frolic on the beach. It’s just common medical knowledge.

These antiquated and conventional media sources present outrageous stories, often coming from the Israeli government in the current case, or US government officials in recent similar examples. The claims are reported as fact, without seemingly even a cursory due diligence. It has been this way for a very long time, think of the earnest appearance of Colin Powell and his testimony to Congress. The adults in the room always present their case as if violence is the only option due to their horrific stories or trumped-up threats. Then these claims are repeated by politicians even after a thorough debunking has occurred (see Biden and the beheaded babies as a recent example, or Viagra rape soldiers in Libya, incubator baby dumps in Kuwait—the list is long, as you well know). Claims that should always be met with skepticism are taken at face value by most. It all has the value that I would imagine accompanied small-town “that black man raped that white woman” tales that preceded lynchings. That’s not to say that wartime brutality isn’t always happening, that’s what war creates, but when claims start to fail the sniff test and certain parties have a poor track record on truth (I’m looking at you Israeli government officials)–well it’s time to take a long hard look at what you’ve been ingesting and believing.

Americans will believe that all Iranians simply went bonkers in the 70’s and wanted to go full mullah. They will believe that South Americans actually created and desired dictators. They will believe whatever simplistic junk food they are fed by the media and the government (I really should not split the government and media as separate entities since the two work in a conjoined manner). They never consider the incidents preceding or their nation’s complicity in creating the necessary atmosphere for these events to occur. The common denominator that seems to get you removed from power in any part of the world is dabbling in the nationalization of key resources that the United States and its allies want control over. The issue in Gaza is along a similar path in that there are multiple profit-making options in the area for Israel to simply clear out and/or contain their undesirables. The people in Gaza are being demonized and murdered for fighting colonization and their own extinction. It’s of course, just what the United States did to the indigenous population of the Americas. I wish I knew who said this so I could give them credit, but I read a comment that a liberal is against all genocides (except the current one) and they are advocates for all civil rights movements (except the current one). I would hazard that the average United States conservative most likely isn’t even against the past genocides and would love to undo any previous civil rights accomplishments. Just look at the movement to deny the teaching of any uncomfortable history in places like Florida to see this in action. They don’t even want these issues being discussed.

So the media continues to report in this slanted manner and the truth never seems to percolate down to the masses. Terror-inducing headlines remain in the consciousness of citizens. Those consuming corporate media or taking their cues on what to believe from our two-headed, two-party, one-entity political apparatus fill themselves with lies willingly. It’s no accident that the well-known Winston Churchill quote “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on” seems to be used not as a cautionary revelation, but more as a playbook on propaganda and how to use it effectively. Throw the most wild unfounded accusations out there and watch them stick. Then allow the truth-tellers to try to clean up the sewage leak with a toothbrush. Nobody will watch the clean-up as they have moved on to the next (no proof attached) atrocity porn story that backs up whatever feels comfortable to believe.

It does create dual realities for those who are watching actual footage from war-torn areas and those who are watching The View. Those who only get their news in the rest home manner truly believe in all these lies and when your amygdala gets inflamed, you don’t think rationally or look for deeper truths.

So yes, it is so difficult to find common ground when many in the United States choose to actively limit their consumption of raw footage from the areas in question. Undeniably this seems to be the only way to truly begin to grasp the horror of what is going on. Older Americans know how to use the internet;  they simply choose not to use it for truth-seeking but for affirmation of the beliefs they already hold. It’s what is comfortable. It never feels good to question things like the religion you were brought up with, the accepted directives of your schooling…..it’s all very unsettling, especially at first.

The American response is generally to look at matters in a simplistic manner, to not look at wider and more nuanced patterns of cause and effect. Hell, it’s the way of the West. Things aren’t looking good, go west, take something not yours, but don’t think too hard about it. Or even better, create a narrative about why it’s yours in the first place and the aggrieved party is a non-human. It seems this type of collective personality in America makes it difficult for most to understand that it is settler colonialism that created the very situation we see today in Israel. And this makes it very convenient for traditional media to continue to peddle the same kind of story that the Dutch East India Company would advance in their time.

To truly grapple with the notion of resource theft and colonization would mean a complete reevaluation for most Americans about how this country was created. It’s simply much easier to side with the oppressors than to realize a kinship with the oppressed. Perhaps this is why Ireland seems to have been such a reliable and stalwart supporter of the Palestinians. They know their history and which side of the boot they have been on.

It’s no accident that so many of our militarized city police forces have trained in Israel. In this way, we will all be treated as Palestinians eventually if we don’t realize which side of the boot that we occupy. Perhaps this plays into some of the beliefs, the desire to be the bully instead of the victim. Naomi Klein discusses this masterfully in her latest book Doppelganger. But at the same time, Americans want to love the underdog in fiction like Star Wars or the Hunger Games. Then they believe and fetishize the Empire that shows up in their curated news feed. As individuals, we often have a decent moral compass that leads us to understand and hate oppression, but as a collective whole, we often cede our ethics and morality to something of a parental authority figure for adults. We accept what we are told by the media. This is a confused narrative that doesn’t bode well for mental stability when occupying the same mind. This incongruity probably leads to the record level of depression we see in our nation. Trying to fit our minds to believe falsehoods erodes our humanity and our sanity.

Of course, it was in relation to science, but Max Planck (in a more long-winded manner) said science progresses one funeral at a time. It’s disheartening to think this may be the only way to adjust the national zeitgeist and our acceptance of malignant resource extraction and the acceptance of large-scale civilian murder. We probably don’t have that much time to just wait for deathly attrition to save us. Also, it’s likely a bit naive to think the younger generations will all be on board for a new dawn when they are steeped in the same society of dysfunction as the rest of us. Still, as a whole, they have their eyes more open than any age group that has come along and this alone is hopeful. Their lives have been made so difficult by late-stage capitalism that a readjustment is certainly more likely from them than it was from the more privileged generations. It is undeniable that the deaths of some of the old guards will have some effect, however. Even with the trillions of molecules of oxygen we all share in the world, it is certainly a truth that the air got sweeter on November 29th, 2023 (Rest in Piss, Henry K). We simply have to continue pursuing the truth in these current events and to tirelessly be voices for the oppressed. For whatever reason, be it a genetic glitch, a simple and selfish realization that the path we are on will annihilate us—whatever makes those of us different and able to question– it’s on us to stay on this path and not to become part of the machinery of dehumanization even if it is as simple as refusing the toxic soup the media is serving us.

Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest. Her writing is collected on her Substack page.