Ideological Hegemony Part V

From: http://question-everything.mahost.org/

Parts
1 Introduction
2 The Media
3 The Education system
4 Newspeak
5 The Objectivity Myth

The Objectivity Myth   

The idea of “objectivity” is also used to reinforce ideological hegemony.  Ideas and sources outside the liberal-conservative spectrum are dismissed as “un-objective,” “biased,” “inflammatory” or sometimes “extremist.”  Only the ideas & sources within the liberal-conservative spectrum are considered “objective.”  Sometimes this is also used by groups within the liberal-conservative spectrum against each other, such as a conservative denouncing a liberal’s position as “biased” (or vice versa).

For example, journalist Christian Parenti was invited to talk on the March 2nd, 2004 edition of PBS’s News Hour with Jim Leher.  Leher asked Parenti whether bombings in Iraq would make the American job there harder.  Parenti’s response was:

“I would think so. I would think that we have to look at some of the deeper causes as to why there's so much frustration. Why are Iraqis so angry and willing to point the blame at the U.S. after this sort of bombing? A lot of it has to do with the failure of meaningful reconstruction. There still is not adequate electricity. In many towns like Ramadi there wasn't adequate water. Where is all the money that's going to Halliburton and Bechtel to rebuild this country? Where is it ending up? I think that is one of the most important fundamental causes of instability, is the corruption around the contracting with these Bush-connected firms in Iraq. Unless that is dealt with, there is going to be much more instability for times to come in Iraq.” [55]

Two days later Leher issued an on-air apology for this, claiming that the discussion on Iraq was not “as balanced as is our standard practice.”  PBS later indicated that it was Parenti’s comments, quoted above, which were the source of this “lack of balance.”  Nothing Parenti said was factually inaccurate, nor did PBS claim it was.  Several months earlier New York Times reporter John Burns expressed support for the occupation of Iraq on the show.  In September 2002 Donald Rumsfeld claimed that Iraq in 1990 had plans for invading Saudi Arabia, which was shown to be a lie more then a decade ago but Leher did not attempt to correct Rumsfeld’s factually inaccurate statement.  In neither case was there an apology for this “lack of balance.”  This illustrates how the idea of “balance” is used as a way of limiting thought within a certain spectrum.  When individuals express support for the occupation of Iraq, or government officials like Donald Rumsfeld make false statements, these don’t need to have an opposing view presented to “balance” them.  When Bin Laden opponents are on they don’t need to be balanced with Bin Laden supporters.  But when someone too critical of the status quo, as Christian Parenti was, is on then they need to be “balanced” with an opposing view.  If someone deviates too far from the ‘party line’ then an opposing view needs to be presented to refute it but those who adhere to the ‘party line’ do not need an opposing view presented.  That is what being “fair and balanced” really means in its actual implementation.

Another example is the treatment of the Internet.  One is supposed to be wary of news on the Internet because “anyone can put anything up.”  This idea is repeatedly promoted in the media, schools and elsewhere.  It is true, but it is also true of television, radio, newspapers and most other sources of information.  The only real qualification to put something on the TV, etc. is that you are rich enough to afford to do so.  Critical thinking, and a healthy degree of skepticism, should be applied to everything, not just things on the Internet.  To be more critical of things on the Internet as opposed to things on TV, etc. is implicitly to assume that rich people, and organizations controlled by rich people, are more credible than non-rich people.  There is no reason to make such an assumption.

There is no such thing as a values-free source as values-free is itself a value.  Every source of news must decide what stories should be covered, which to ignore, which should be emphasized and which should not.  Sources do not have the resources to cover every single story equally and even if they did it would produce an information overload, making it not very useful to the average reader.  The only way to really understand what’s going on in the world is to read a variety of different sources with different points of view (and I don’t mean multiple corporate sources – they all represent more or less the same point of view).

Closely related to this is the cult of moderation.  Moderation is often held up as a virtue and politicians (and others) rush to portray themselves as “moderates” while portraying their opponents as “extremists.”  Very few people who call themselves moderates actually take a truly moderate position.  Few self-described moderates advocate a moderate amount of slavery; even though that’s the position you arrive at if you take their philosophy seriously.  To advocate absolutely no slavery at all is an extremist position, as is advocating massive amounts of slavery.  A genuine moderate position is between the two extremes, in favor of a moderate amount of slavery.  What is really meant by “moderate” is not actually being moderate (few do that), but advocating the status quo.  The praising of moderation is really the praising of support for the status quo, which obviously reinforces the dominant socio-economic system.

It is not uncommon for those who have been highly indoctrinated into the liberal-conservative paradigm to reject ideas outside the liberal-conservative spectrum on the grounds that such ideas are “biased,” “un-objective,” “subversive,” “inflammatory,” “aren’t even-handed,” “lack balance,” etc.  Accusing something that openly argues for a particular conclusion of arguing for a particular conclusion (“being biased”) is a rather strange accusation.  Such an accusation is only relevant if the thing being accused claims that it is not arguing for a conclusion (which is the case with the media & education system).  Calling something a theory a name does not refute that theory.  The accusation of something being “biased,” “lacking balance,” etc. is itself “biased” (promoting an opinion).  There’s nothing wrong with promoting particular ideas and arguing for those ideas, so long as you’re open about what you’re doing.  Any argument against such a position would be arguing for a particular idea and so is self-refuting.  These are not rational arguments but reflect the kind of incapacity to think about issues found in fanatical religious cults.

The same standard applies to this essay.  There’s a difference between an individual article, essay, website, etc. arguing in favor of something and a social system which acts to systemically exclude certain ideas while enabling others to monopolize the press, schools, etc.  There exists a social system that acts to indoctrinate the majority of the population into believing the liberal-conservative paradigm but it does not follow from this that the liberal-conservative paradigm is false.  Hypothetically, it might be the case that there exists this system of thought control and some ideology within the liberal-conservative spectrum happens to be correct.  This is not the case, but refuting the liberal-conservative paradigm is outside the scope of this essay.  The media filters information by emphasizing facts that support the liberal-conservative paradigm, such as genocide in Cambodia and Iraqi atrocities against the Kurds, while downplaying or ignoring facts that harm the liberal-conservative paradigm, such as genocide in East Timor and Turkish atrocities against the Kurds.  The education system acts to promote belief in the liberal-conservative paradigm and discourage belief in theories outside the liberal-conservative spectrum.  These ideas also happen to support the position of the elite and reinforce support for the dominant socio-economic system.  Whether liberal-conservative ideas happen to be correct and whether ideological hegemony exists are two separate issues.  Even if it could be shown that a philosophy within the liberal-conservative spectrum were correct this would not change the fact that there exists a social system, hegemony, which acts to indoctrinate the populace into believing in those ideas.

Notes
1  http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A23974-2003Jun23?language=printer
2  http://www.pipa.org/whatsnew/html/new_6_04_03.html
3  http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-09-06-poll-iraq_x.htm
4  For a partial list of political prisoners, see http://www.prisonactivist.org/pps+pows/pplist-alpha.shtml
5  http://www.fair.org/extra/9512/hightower.html
6  http://www.conservativenews.org/InDepth/archive/199810/IND19981014g.html
7  Lawrence Soley, Extra!, July/August 1997 http://www.fair.org/extra/9707/ad-survey.html
8  http://www.fair.org/reports/ff2001.html   
9  Steve Rendall & Tara Broughel, Extra!, May/June 2003 http://www.fair.org/extra/0305/warstudy.html
10  http://emperors-clothes.com/milo/freezer1.htm
11  http://www.fair.org/extra/0403/iraq-study.html
12  Sources: http://www.freearabvoice.org/ http://www.wbai.org/artman/publish/article_530.php http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/watch/policywatch/policywatch2003/751.htm http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_insurgency.htm http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/aug31/fp1.asp http://www.jihadunspun.net/articles/18122003-Iraqi-Resistence/ir/ailatir03.html http://www.neravt.com/left/ http://www.disinfopedia.org/wiki.phtml?title=Iraqi_insurgency&redirect=no
13  Herman, Manufacturing Consent p. xxi
14  Herman, Manufacturing Consent p. 37-86
15  Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, p. 40
16  Richard Aldrich, Guardian, 22 April, 2002 http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,688310,00.html
17  http://discuss.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/zforum/03/sp_books_chomsky112603.htm
18  Ina Howard, Extra!, May/June 2003 http://www.fair.org/extra/0205/power_sources.html
19  http://www.aclu-wa.org/ISSUES/police/WTO-Report.html
20  Seth Ackerman, Extra!, January/February 2000 http://www.fair.org/extra/0001/wto-prattle.html
21  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2636647.stm
22  http://www.fair.org/reports/npr-study.html
23  http://www.fair.org/reports/kosovo-sources.html
24  Quoted in Commissar of the Free Press http://struggle.ws/issues/war/afghan/pamwt/media.html
25  http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=03/10/06/0396325 http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Iraq/Media_10_02_03_Press.pdf http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Iraq/Media_10_02_03_Report.pdf
26  http://www.fair.org/reports/journalist-survey.html
27  Steve Rendall & Peter Hart, Extra!, March/April 2002 http://fair.org/extra/0203/goldberg.html
28  Naureckas, p. 157-170
29  Chomsky, Media Control http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/talks/9103-media-control.html http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Chomsky/MediaControl_excerpts.html
30  McChesney, Rich Media, p. 189-225
31  Zepezaur, p. 52
32  http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/031800-02.htm
33  http://www.counterpunch.org/cnnpsyops.html
34  http://www.fair.org/activism/psyops-response.html
35  Henslin p. 332-335
36  See Loewen, p. 137-199
37  Quoted on Delfattor, p. 139
38  Quoted on Delfattor, p. 125-126
39  The content standards are available online at http://www.cde.ca.gov/standards/
40  Colorado’s Academic Standards are available online at http://www.cde.state.co.us/index_stnd.htm
41  This list is available at http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/yct/watchlist.html
42  Some of Harry Cleaver’s writings can be found online at http://www.eco.utexas.edu/facstaff/Cleaver/hmchtmlpapers.html
43  The Washington Post 24 November 2003, Texas Conservative Students List Professors "Too Politicized" by Karin Brulliard http://www.refuseandresist.org/police_state/art.php?aid=1177
44  Gatto, p. xvi
45  Quoted on Gatto, p. 153
46  Quoted Gatto, p. xxviii
47  Ibid., p.38
48  Ibid., p. 106
49  Ibid., P. 106
50  Ibid., p. 321
51  Ibid, p. 45
52  Ibid, p. 252-253
53  Ibid, p. 255
54  See my essay “The Myth of the War on Terrorism” http://question-everything.mahost.org/Socio-Politics/TerrorMyth.html
55  http://www.fair.org/activism/newshour-parenti.html

Sources:
Accuracy in Media (AIM) http://www.aim.org
Bias by Bernard Goldberg
Censors in the Classroom by Edward B. Jenkinson
The Chomsky Reader edited by James Peck
The CIA’s Greatest Hits by Mark Zepezauer
Commissars of the Free Press http://struggle.ws/issues/war/afghan/pamwt/media.html
The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America by Charlotte Iserbyt
Dumbing US Down by John Gatto
Essentials of Sociology by James M. Henslin
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) http://www.fair.org
The Fair Reader edited by Jim Naureckas & Janine Jackson
It’s the Media, Stupid by John Nichols & Robert W. McChesney
Lexis-Nexis
Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky
The Media and Politics edited by Paul A. Winters
Necessary Illusions by Noam Chomsky
Propaganda by Jacques Ellul
Rich Media, Poor Democracy by Robert W. McChesney
A Social History of the Media by Asa Briggs and Peter Burke
The Underground History of American Education by John Gatto
What Uncle Sam Really Wants by Noam Chomsky
What Johnny Shouldn’t Read by Joan Delfattor