John Pilger gave a talk recently about journalism as a tool of the state. The way the US and British states have gotten away with murder over Iraq is a good case in point. The liberty of not having a television or reading a newspaper (I confess I do still occasionally listen to Radio4 news bulletins as I wake-up) has given me a distance from the mainstream media that I have never enjoyed before.
During the 1970s, I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. The dissident novelist Zdenek Urbánek told me, "In one respect, we are more fortunate than you in the west. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and watch on television, nothing of the official truth. Unlike you, we have learned to read between the lines, because real truth is always subversive."
Since the late 80's my skepticism about what I am told has grown and grown. I think that I believed not one word of what was reported in the build-up to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
On 24 August last year, a New York Times editorial declared: "If we had all known then what we know now, the invasion [of Iraq] would have been stopped by a popular outcry." This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that the invasion would never have happened if journalists had not betrayed the public by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and Blair, instead of challenging and exposing them.
I am getting all my news online and from voices (such as John Pilger). On Wednesday Euan talked about how he found watching a documentary so frustrating because of the editorial slant and how reading is so much better for him because he finds it easier to make his mind up. Quoting Pilger again:
Language is perhaps the most crucial battleground. Noble words such as "democracy," "liberation," "freedom" and "reform" have been emptied of their true meaning and refilled by the enemies of those concepts. The counterfeits dominate the news, along with dishonest political labels, such as "left of center," a favorite given to warlords such as Blair and Bill Clinton; it means the opposite. "War on terror" is a fake metaphor that insults our intelligence. We are not at war. Instead, our troops are fighting insurrections in countries where our invasions have caused mayhem and grief, the evidence and images of which are suppressed.
When we read we have a much greater capacity to understand the language being used and its effect upon us. In particular I believe we have a greater capacity to understand it's emotional effect upon as and so understand when we are being manipulated.
Further by reading authentic voices I can take what I know about that person and adjust my filters accordingly when I try to understand what they are saying. For example anyone who reads my weblog on even a semi-regular basis must have a fairly good idea of my views, the trajectory along which they are changing, and the pace.
If I think I know where I am going philosophically I guess you probably know it even better. And from that you will know my weaknesses and my blind spots and adjust accordingly (and even tell me about it sometimes, please?!)
As long as the media remain a compliant tool of the state I shall shun them and their tainted product.