Tell Me No Lies

With every month that passes, it’s becoming more important to stay clear-headed. Things are moving very fast, and we need to know what’s going on. We need to devise, quite deliberately, mechanisms to stay tuned in to truth.

The news on TV is not where we will get the truth. (Let’s not even talk about commercial radio. That whole medium seems to have been shanghaied by the right wing, who use it as a podium for their most mean-spirited nutcases.) Television gives us a faux reality, and we need to strengthen our connections to the real reality. Our sanity is too critical to trifle with right now. We have to screen out the nonsense.

I am not proposing that we make ourselves ignorant by withdrawing from all media. I am not even proposing that we stay ignorant of what the idiot talking heads are saying. We need to know what they are saying. But first we need to know what they aren’t saying.

By this I am not referring to the important stories that are withheld through censorship, although that would be a worthwhile discussion. I’m referring to the fact that the mass media does not convey what’s happening in the world, as it purports to do, so much as present a cherry-picked little fragment of what’s happening, spun in a very particular way. It is not really an opinion-making system, but an assumption-instilling system.

The US chart features an opposition between Mercury (media) and Pluto (raw power), the signature of mind control. For those who wonder why the American public sees things so differently from the rest of the educated world, this is a big clue.

This phenomenon is much more pernicious than simple bias. The bias in Fox News, to choose the quintessential example, is so obvious that large numbers of people see it for what it is. At issue here is not merely the presentation of one side in a more favorable light than its opposing side. Pluto’s gambit is far more subtle and all-encompassing. The corporate media doesn’t just skew arguments; it skews worldviews. Under the guise of information-dispensing, a ubiquitous paradigm is presented, and woven so seamlessly that the viewing public doesn’t notice it’s happening.

Consider the unanimity with which Fidel Castro was and is referred to with the word dictator. Who was it, exactly, that dubbed him with that term? Is there some international agency somewhere that dispenses official titles to world leaders; and at some point they all voted to apply this particular moniker to this particular guy? Every American kid grows up assuming Castro was a dictator, because the press never mentions his name without pairing it with that word.

When Pluto (to overpower) opposes Mercury (to communicate), information is presented with a purposeful subtext. When Castro or Chavez (or any other head of state who doesn’t play ball with Washington) is referred to as a “dictator” by the mainstream news, the term is not presented as opinion or subjective description; it isn’t qualified at all. It pretends to be neutral: a simple fact. Thus is spin disguised as common knowledge.

There’s a word for this kind of information manipulation; and it’s used, funnily enough, by the US media to describe the Cuban media: propaganda.

The most blatant example of the Pluto-Mercury phenomenon is so obvious it has become part of the woodwork of American culture, and thus is rarely perceived: that “politics” in the USA has come to mean “Democrats and Republicans.” Thus the only political stories the media deems worthy of coverage are those that highlight the differences between these two groups.

The truth is, of course, that these two organizations constitute a very tiny little piece of the wide-ranging gamut of viewpoints that inspire human opinion these days. Especially in this time of global crisis, thinkers from every corner of the philosophical spectrum are having a field day; many of them with truly ground-breaking and newsworthy things to say.

But the mainstream news doesn’t cover any of them, except in the context of the two major parties. If an important political idea comes down the pike that can’t be construed as part of the Big Dems-vs.-GOP Show, it won’t be mentioned; except perhaps in a dismissive aside (e.g. a third-party candidate like Ralph Nader, who threatens to skew the smooth workings of this duopoly; or some social critic whom the programmers find wacky and amusing, enough to warrant a mention at the end of the broadcast). I have written elsewhere about the potential for dualistic thinking in the USA chart, and how it has been used to keep us confined to a very primitive mentality.

This really hit home for me back in October, when Wall Street melted down. A group of us were demonstrating against the bail-outs in front of the building where some investment bankers were convening in San Francisco. As we talked to passers-by about the bailouts, which Obama was supporting, some folks would knit their brows in perplexity and ask, “So you’re for McCain?” The idea that the government could be perceived outside of the framework of the two dueling major parties just did not compute.

Even the few intelligent media critics that do exist, including the brilliant John Stewart, allow the mass media to dictate the terms of debate. Granted, that’s Stewart’s gig: to respond to the media; not to introduce new topics to talk about. But this means that, though he critiques the networks scathingly and hilariously, he keeps himself completely confined to their definition of newsworthiness.

A few months ago, I was surprised to hear that The Daily Show was going to air a segment on “Robot Soldiers.” I thought, Whoa: are they really going to talk about the remote-controlled planes the Pentagon uses in Iraq and Pakistan? No, it turned out, they weren’t. They were going to show clips of a scientist in a white lab coat building a life-sized video-game-like figure, who could shoot guns. Bang bang.

Tellingly, not a word was mentioned, even to make a point of contrast, about the existence of America’s actual robot fighters, the unmanned drones. One could make the argument that, as subject matter goes, a story on these drones would actually be more of a story. These machines aren’t hypothetical; they are being deployed even as we speak; and we’re all paying for them. That’s pretty relevant in an economic crisis, right? But no.

I started musing about whether or not Stewart knows about the drones. He is obviously a very busy man, but he might have heard about them; they do get mentioned in the newspaper every time one of their missiles strikes a group of Pakistani civilians at a wedding party or in a marketplace, which is just about every day. But I realized it was a moot point whether or not he knows about them. His show is not about the news; it’s about being about the news.

So t
o entertain his youth-demographic audience he presents a clip about a comic-book version of a robot. No information about mass murders carried out from 30,000 feet was dispensed that evening to disturb the public’s ignorance.

Ignorance isn’t the same as stupidity. To be ignorant is just to be deprived of information (see my article on Mercury). But ignorance, according to the Founding Fathers, disqualifies a populace for democracy. Of course, the FFs had no television. They did have pamphleteers, though, like Tom Paine. How interesting it is that these 18th-Century printers and publishers of broadsides were considered the ultimate patriots in their day, because they kept the public informed.

But what happens when societal ignorance is not only allowed, but aided and abetted by the media? What kind of public discourse can there be, where the powers-that-be have a lock on the terms of debate? What kind of intelligence can be expected from a culture where only two opinions are imaginable? What happens to the agility of the mass mind?

The same thing that happens to a muscle that isn’t used.

Jessica Murray
Jessica Murray

Viki,Yes, I agree with your analysis: the potential is there to see the covert illusion behind the overt illusion that is the mainstream news. The hysteria in the GOP camp lately seems to be a bellwether of this; e.g. the Obama-bashers calling the prez a fascist one moment and a communist the next (man, they should pick up a basic history book. Or maybe a dictionary). Americans are watching this group run amok in real time, making things up on the fly; and I think it is calling attention to the make-believe aspect of the whole news-anchor/pundit enterprise, as you say. I too see TV as a Neptunian hypnotic, the most significant one in the country's overflowing arsenal of self-medications.Jessica


Jessica, I agree with your article about the news. We don't have intelligent discussion of important subjects - just dumb soundbites that aren't even "news." I wonder how we can solve problems when we don't have intelligent discourse. Discourse does not revolve around political viewpoints, but it's true that many people see it that way.With television news, I was wondering if the conjunction of Jupiter (exaggeration), Chiron (wounding) and Neptune (television) will uncover the degree to which the news is fabricated, so that it becomes very obvious to the American public (the conjunction occurring on US Moon). What are your ideas about this?