Monday, July 2, 2012

The Subtle Influence of the Media


Have you ever gone shopping for a certain product and you end up buying the product whose commercial was the last one you saw while walking out the house? The commercial was probably funny. Perhaps it convinced you that a certain brand was the best amongst others. Realistically, the generic brand would work just as well, but you are convinced that the name-brand is a better. This is how the world of media (television, radio, magazines, newspapers, internet) affects us subconsciously. We would all like to believe that the media has no effect on us (while sporting $600 Louboutin shoes), but they do. You think you developed your political views on your own. Your views are likely the work of CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News (Dear Lord Baby Jesus!). Whether it is television, radio, print or internet publications, someone is attempting to shape our thoughts, ideas, and the way we view the world. Sometimes the outcomes are positive and other times they are negative.

Who exactly is this “someone”? It is actually more like a few corporations. There are only a few companies that pretty much own television channels, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and internet sites. When it comes to television, the major conglomerates include CBS Corporation (CBS, CW, Showtime); Comcast Corporation (USA, E!, MSNBC, Telemundo, they have also bought shares of CBS Universal); News Corporation (Fox, FX, National Geographic); Time Warner, Inc. (CNN, HLN, HBO, Cinemax), and Viacom (MTV, VH1, CMT, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET). In radio, there is the beast known as Clear Channel that has two main owners, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners (Mitt Romney used to run Bain Capital and still has a major stake in the company). Clear Channel owns almost every radio station that we listen to (they buy out everybody!). Noticed a change in the type of music your local station plays? Clear Channel may be the reason. You recognize the name iHeartRadio? You guessed it! It is owned by Clear Channel. Then there are the major print and online publication and telecommunications companies like the Washington Post Company (the Washington Post, the Herald, Kaplan, Inc.); Bertelsman (RTL Group, Random House publishings); Google (Android, YouTube); and Microsoft (Windows, Bing.com, Skype). And of course most people receive their wireless services from Verizon and AT&T, the largest and second largest wireless providers in the U.S., respectively. (I did NOT take out the time to research who the individual owners of these corporations are. What? No one said I was an investigative journalist)

Very few minorities or women own major television/radio stations, magazines, and other media. According to a report from Free Press, women make up one-half of the U.S. population, but own a mere 4.9% of television stations (Oprah?). Minorities make up about one-third of the U.S. population, but own only 3.26% of all television stations (Oprah, right?). African-Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but own only 1.3% of television stations (Oprah!). So, people who do not look like or have anything in common with the rest of the population control the images that is seen in the media.

Black Entertainment Television (BET) is no longer owned by black people; it is owned by Viacom. Telemundo is not owned by Latinos but by Comcast. The Root, an online publication of politics and social views geared towards the black community, is owned by the Washington Post Company. Essence, a magazine aimed at the black community (women mostly), is not owned by black women or even women, but by Time Warner, Inc. Ebony/Jet magazines, which are published by a black-owned company, Johnson Publishing, now has JP Morgan as a stake holder (a “minority” stake they insist).

This may all seem trivial and for people who are not easily influenced it probably is. But when a majority of the population, especially the minority population, listens, watches, and reads from television channels, radio stations, and newspapers/online news publications from companies that are white-owned what will be the outcome? It seems insignificant until you notice that children are copying the negative images they see on television and talking like the rappers they hear on radio stations. Young girls think they have to look like the women they see in magazines (thin for white girls and having a big butt for black girls). The line-up for most channels now include some sort of senseless reality show that either portrays women negatively, portrays minorities negatively, falsely portrays a small group as representing an entire population, or is pointless altogether (Bad Girls Club, Basketball Wives, Jersey Shore, all of the reality shows on E!). People accept the political stance of major news networks without taking into consideration that these networks represent the view of their owner. It should also be taken into consideration that by supporting certain corporations (through purchases), you may also be supporting a coup d’états against a government that is considered a threat to said corporations’ interests. Or certain corporation may be keeping women in third world countries (where many corporations outsource jobs to for cheap labor) from forming labor unions in order to protect workers.

There is an interesting documentary entitled The Century of the Self (I highly recommend) that is very pertinent. The documentary shows how those in power used Sigmund Freud’s theories on psychoanalysis to control the masses. Viewers can see how Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, used the theories to convince women to smoke (it was taboo during the early part of the 20th century), which increased revenue for tobacco companies. Viewers can also see how, in 1950, the U.S. government manipulated the masses into thinking that Guatemala was a communist country led by Colonel Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán. The truth was that Colonel Árbenz wanted to rid the country of the United Fruit Company and give the land back to the people of Guatemala.

With that being said, were people not fearful of Muslims or anyone who looked like a Muslim after 9/11? The media convinced us that the problem was Islam (yeah right!). Remember the Kony2012 campaign from Invisible Children, Inc.? (That died out pretty quick) The film makers were pushing for an U.S. intervention in Uganda (which actually worked) to stop Joseph Roa Kony and his guerrilla group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, who was kidnapping children and turning them into youth soldiers and sex-slaves (at least that’s the only basis of the film). They failed to mention that Kony had been doing this for the past two decades, but there had been no media coverage. Plus, there were many local groups that had been attempting to stop Kony. No one mentioned that the U.S. had become very interested in oil found in Uganda. (There is no telling why or how the Kony2012 campaign came about so suddenly. The entire thing was “iffy.”)

What we have to realize is that the media has its own agenda and they know how our minds work and how it can manipulated. They study us and our reactions to certain situations (surveys, polls). They know how to make us want things we do not need and how to shift our minds in subtle ways. Why do you think marketing companies pour so much money into the psychology departments of universities? Until we recognize and accept the fact that we are indeed influenced by the media there will never be an effort to change anything. As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Right on, pimpin,’ right on.

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