Monthly Archives: January 2013

Angela Vera: Propaganda Sales Retail

Media globalization cannot be stopped. It is a result of new communications technology. It is also the prerequisite and facilitator for all other forms of globalization. On the other hand, communication itself is conceived as a kind of social practice with societal implications and effects. If we weigh this feature from a responsibility standpoint, the consequences of a barbarian exploitation of such a powerful tool may be extremely deceiving, particularly when it comes to conflict coverage. The media is manipulated in all manners, for example through professional public relations, and covert and overt government propaganda which disseminates propaganda as news. What are often deemed as credible news sources can often knowingly or unknowingly be pushing political agendas and propaganda. The impacts of public relations cannot be underestimated. When it comes to propaganda for purposes of war, professional public relations firms can often be involved to help sell a war. In cases where a war is questionable, the PR firms are indirectly contributing to the eventual and therefore unavoidable casualties. Media management may also be used to promote certain political policies and ideologies and where this is problematic for the citizenry is when media reports on various issues do not attribute their sources properly.
Some techniques used by governments and parties/people with hidden agendas include paying journalists to promote certain issues without the journalist acknowledging this, or make the conflict be covered by young inexperienced journalists, who are more flexible and lack knowledge. The Kosovo War, for example, is one criticized conflict labeled as “a disaster for journalism” (Philip Knightley). In covering the Kosovo War, most media have selected information and sources in relation to the parties in the conflict and their propaganda activities, mostly the “War Parties,” namely the US and NATO. Essential information has been buried in the midst of unimportant facts. Propaganda techniques have been enclosed as part of the warfare and censorship has been adopted as the controlling-mechanism. Disinformation or partial information reported as news or fact without attributing sources that might be questionable, happened to be one of the main weapons used in the Kosovo warfare.

The intention lying behind manipulation is also creating a public opinion, for example to support a war. NATO’s bombing during Kosovo War and the so called “casualties” afterwards, did undergo through such a subjugating process via media, to make them less and less questionable. They hardly ever got questioned during the war. To question facts and sources as a reporter or journalist should do, didn’t happen; as a rational human being should do, didn’t happen either. And the fact that events were somehow ambiguous helped very little. Truth so became the first casualty. Never before has it been so important to have independent, honest voices and sources of information. We are – as a society – inundated and overwhelmed with a flood of information from a wide array of sources, but these sources of information, by and large, serve the powerful interests and individuals that own them. The main sources of information, for both public and official consumption, include the mainstream media, alternative media, academia and think tanks. But we should really start analyzing media as critical responsible global citizens.

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Angela Vera: Theatrical exits, upholding the illusion of objectivity

Despite living in the 21st Century, high-intensity conflicts have increased, and terrorism also has entered the picture. Although it’s evident that peace journalism is by no means absent from conflict coverage, forms of journalism that actively promote peace happen to be bypassed by the motto, “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Many times media ignore the positive developments involved in a conflict, so creating opportunities for society to consider and to value non-violent conflict responses, as peace journalism seeks to do, becomes an alternative model to traditional ways of war reporting. But despite this, it entails very noble goals, it is highly criticized for the many structural constraints that it tends to ignore. Critic reviews emphasize how it tends to overestimate both the power of journalism and how many of its elements are found not to fit the functionality of journalism and the logic of news production.
If we look at the case of Cyprus, for example, the media were often a mere tool for the elites, and although media at times adopted more or less a pacifist attitude, they happened to be State-oriented and far away from fulfilling peace-journalism criteria. News coverage still employed negative headlines towards the “others.” Thus, the selection of stories to report about did it help to build a reconciliation process. Public and politicians leapfrogged over each other in providing facts for journalists to report at a crucial stage of the peace process.
Thus, Bosnia became the theatre of journalism’s darkest dreams, with the still looming shadow of the Sarajevo market massacre hanging over its pretensions to objectivity. Could media strategy actually have prompted one side — the Bosnian government — to fire on its own civilians as they queued for basic necessities, in order to be reported as a Serbian atrocity and draw NATO intervention to their cause? How much responsibility do media bear for this? And how did these past flaws influenced media reports today?
Reporters are supposed to report the facts, but experience shows us that facts are increasingly created to be covered, serving an agenda far removed from quaint notions of informing the public. There is no role as “merely observers” left — reporters are always already participants whether they like it or not. Power is constantly exercised to inculcate s norms of right knowing and delving into all forms of cultural production, especially journalism. It saturates all social interactions and aims to maintain patterns of dominance: and power is meaningless if it is not relational. Power, to be power, requires resistance. To be a reporter today trying to disentangle the story from the facts is to peer into a hall of mirrors. We live in a time when everyone is media-savvy and anyone can be famous for fifteen minutes. And, as Thomas Hanitzsch has pointed out, the role of audience is crucial and cannot be left out. It is hard to convince people of the virtue of peace journalism, especially when they engage in a conflict in which their existence is at stake.
Objectivity is an evergreen debate, and journalists are brought up to “tell it how it is,” so we should start off by questioning the society.

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