MEDIA ACTIVISM FUNDAMENTALS
By Roland Watson
To begin the section, we should reemphasize the point that we have the right to tell communication institutions what to do. This is not form. Form occurs from the institutions to us, and person-to-person. By telling the institutions how we want them to behave, we are simply managing our own creation. We are taking away their limited liability, and their life of their own, the focus on their needs rather than ours, to force them to stop their brainwashing.
The basic activism, therefore, is simply personal efforts to fight form, which we can recall requires:
- education: to recognize its existence.
- self-knowledge: to recognize when it is being imposed on us, and when we are reacting to it and absorbing it.
- and rebellion: to reject it, and to help other people do so as well.
Our overall goal is to get these institutions: corporations, the media and advertising agencies, to be more supportive of real human needs, particularly our higher needs, and of public service and the social good. To this end we must bring about a change, to get them to conform to a different identity and purpose. We need to exercise our consumer demand to get them to show greater self-restraint, to alter their content, and to stop debasing us, and we must also restructure their funding basis, to delink it from its overwhelming dependence on consumption-based advertising. (Advertising agencies will still have business: it will just shift from making ads that take advantage of people, to creating those that assist us.)
At this point, though, I will present one final "counter-criticism." Are the media and advertising really as bad as I say? By no means are all media, and all media contributors, so socially destructive. There is so much media now that such a generalization is far too broad. For example, there is a large amount of educational programming on the TV, real education, particularly about environmental issues. PBS, and some of the cable channels, such as Discovery, The History Channel, and Book TV on C-span, etc., are very worthwhile. And, in some countries at least, there has been a reaction to the negative programming that is directed at children, and it has been reformed to a degree. Furthermore, but again only in some countries, there is a wide range of public service ads, on all manner of issues, including the environment, public health, and many other general and specific social concerns.
But it still remains the case that despite these positive exceptions, the overall effect of the media and advertising is largely negative. For instance, in the United States, the major television networks will not show ads produced by activist organizations. For Christmas 1998, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tried to run an ad encouraging vegetarianism, and even though it was not inflammatory, it was rejected. Then, the organization tried to buy airtime to run another ad, of "cows singing that they don't want to be used for leather," during the 2001 Super Bowl. This also was rejected.
Television will not broadcast anti-corporation, anti-consumption, anti-conformity ads. They have worked too hard to brainwash us. Their censorship of attempts to reverse this brainwashing reveals their true colors. Also, the existence of some good programs on a network does not justify its broadcasting of many others which are bad.
In addition, there is much that is objectionable with "Hollywood morality," including that the good guys always win. Considering that bad behavior so regularly triumphs in the real world, it would be appropriate for this to be reflected in fictional programs, not only in the news. Such morality helps keep us sedated against harsh reality, instead of mirroring it, confronting us with it, and encouraging us to do something about it.
And, perhaps most seriously of all, the media undermine our democratic system of government. For example, TV networks should allow the free broadcasting of a set amount of political advertisements, by all registered parties and candidates, during every election campaign. (Such a requirement should be appended to their broadcasting licenses.) This, in conjunction with a strong campaign funding law, would limit our exposure to repetitive, negative political advertising; reduce the overwhelming financial influence of special interests; and truly extend the option of candidacy beyond the class of the elite. Instead, the media revel in their role, as the conduit of propaganda, including of the most inflammatory content imaginable, and in the great income that they earn in the process.
More generally, the media are supplanting government. With their content and biases, and their censorship and autocracy, they are warping our values and beliefs and shaping us such that we cannot act rationally, via vote or poll, so that we truly do become ungovernable (and therefore must be controlled).
© Roland Watson 2016