Has Mao Become A Role Model For Our Media
China Seems To Be Having More Influence Than We Think
When that bible of business, the Economist magazine, put Mao Tse Tung on their cover in a red Santa Hat, I thought it was their way of suggesting that the Chinese Communist Party had become the new stabilizer and bearer of gifts for a westerncapitalist system in distress.Mao fought a revolution for independence from the West, which now seems to have become dependent on loans and finance from his People's Republic.
Mao had always preached, "no investigation, no right to speak," so I investigated further to find an article inside the issue suggesting that that "for all his flaws" -like maybe 60 Million or more deaths, 30 million from famine alone--"Mao was inspiring." An article on "Mao and the Art of Management" calls him a "role model of sorts."
In what could be read as grudging testimonial to Mao's revolution, the Economist lauds his strengths including "ruthless Media manipulation."
"Mao knew not just how to make a point but how to get it out...his message was constantly reinforced...it's hard to distinguish from the modern business practice of building brand value."
What? Has the Great Helmsman returned from the other side to guide us?
This Economist article suggests that Mao's media practices have also been adopted in the US and Britain through the use of syncophantic reporters, media management strategies and repetition.
Have the Chicom-commisars been watching Fox News to see how Rupert Murdoch, a big fave of the politbureau there, has marketed his own party-line news?
And what about CNN?
Similar propaganda techniques are driving news presentation here and there. Yes, alas, we too have ideological correctness and sloganeering all over the media spectrum.
Consider the coverage of the Iraq war-what there is left of it. We have all seen how it has mostly disappeared.
I was watching CNN's Wolf Blitzer report on all the "progress" being made in Iraq. No, he didn't go to a reporter in Iraq or seek out critics, but turned instead to the CNN's Pentagon correspondent who relayed the official view.
CNN noted (how surprising!) that the Generals are glad the war is no longer a key issue in Presidential politics. Yet no assessment is offered on how a fall-off in coverage is letting politicians off the hook.
CNN reported-for the upteenth time that the "surge is working." How many times have you heard that? This focus assumes that the main problem is military when everyone one who has looked closely recognizes that stability requires an equitable political settlement and the withdrawal of US forces.
Yes, casualties may be down but the Washington Post reports that Iranian influence may be more responsible than US military patrols. That story has not seeped into much TV coverage because like Iraq before it, Iran is now the boogie man and a target in the crosshairs of neo-cons urging a military attack. Balanced coverage is as rare on that front as it is from Iraq.
Conn Hallinan writes: "The narrative in the media these days is the success of the U.S. "surge," which has poured an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq.Last month, war critic and close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa), said, "I think the surge is working."
Polls indicate that concern over the economy has replaced the war
as the major issue for voters, and, that while a majority of Americans want the troops out, those saying that things are going better jumped from 33 percent to just under 50 percent. Are they going better? Car bombings, sectarian violence and attacks on U.S. troops are down, although 2007 has been the deadliest year of the war for the Americans. But does the reduced violence have anything to do with the surge?
As Patrick Cockburn of The Independent points out, Americans and the U.S. media tend to "exaggerate the extent to which the U.S. is making the political weather and is in control of events there."
Even as voters express concerns about the economy, is economic coverage getting any better? The Economist says that "laudatory" reporting is still the norm here as in China.
Our media is barely keeping up with the economy's free fall. We were told Christmas shopping was setting new records. Now we learn that the it was a dud, the worst in five years. Many business programs seem more concerned with whether CEO's will lose their jobs than exposing the fraudulent practices they encouraged.
One day, the Treasury Department makes news by encouraging big banks to put up money to bail each other out. A week later, we learn that the banks are about to chip in billions to form something called M-LEC (Master Liquidity Enhancement Conduit). And then, as more banks take bigger losses, the Fund is dissolved. Poof. Gone! At least that's one acronym we can forget about.
One person wins a $151.9 million Powerball ticket in Rhode Island and that is big news. Tens of thousands lose their homes and it's a footnote
The crisis may now on the radar screen of big media but the reporting remains superficial and managed. How different is all this from they way China's CCTV covers scandals involving their government.
The major media was late in covering the mortgage crisis and let the government off the hook, writes Dean Starkman in the Columbia Journalism Review: |"it failed to understand the crisis for what I think it really is: a regulatory failure of mammoth proportions."
What what should readers and media consumers do to read between the often fuzzy lines between hype and journalism? Journalist Pepe Escobar has some suggestions:
First, he says, read the news from the bottom up and from the back of the paper to the front, "the crucial info most of the time is in the next to last paragraph, and the story is buried in the bottom half of page A-21.
Next, he says, seek out alternatives, "My suggestion is that readers forget about reading serious news on mainstream/corporate media: stick to the sports and entertainment pages...In the case of weeklies, stick to the actual reporting and forget about editorials (well sometimes even that is impossible; in Time magazine ideology drips from every report). The Wall Street Journal or The Economist may carry excellent reportage, but frankly no one has to swallow as fact Wall Street and the City of London's wishful thinking."
In a season when people ask "what would Jesus think" we might wonder: how would Mao react to his new acolytes in the western press?