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Controlling Consciousness

Public Good Project

November 10, 2015

by Jay Taber

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The role of public relations (PR) in producing ‘discursive monoculture’ is currently in vogue with communication scholars. As an instrument of social control, the goal of PR is to dominate discourse, and to keep out alternative views.

Using PR, the donor elites in the US — MacArthur, Ford and Open Society foundations — set the civil society agenda. Human rights indicators — set by governments, NGOs and civil society — thus reflect the interests and bias of ‘the power elite’.

Access to communication technology and services is one obstacle to democratic renewal; overcoming the obstacle of communication gatekeepers requires that they be recognized as such. There are no neutral players in the netwar of ideas about privatization.

Consumers remain largely unaware that investigative journalism in mainstream media is extinct. Corporate and government public relations agents have filled the void with propaganda posing as news.

Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness is based on five components: ownership of media, fabrication of news, integration of advertising with state propaganda, financing of foundations and brokerages, and co-option of NGOs and grassroots groups.

 

[Jay Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and activists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website: www.jaytaber.com]

 

 

FURTHER READING

Charms of Naomi: the Mystique of Mass Hypnosis

Communication: the Invisible Environment

A Culture of Imbeciles

Dependence Limits Strategies

Distorting Reality

Illuminating Private Equity

The Point of Protest

Welcome to Netwar

Message Force Multipliers

A Culture of Imbeciles

February 12, 2015

 

In May 2011, Pro Publica ran an article by John Sullivan titled ‘PR Industry Fills Vacuum Left by Shrinking News Rooms’. The impetus for the article was the 2010 story of the year, the Gulf oil spill at BPs Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform.

Reporting from the U.S. Coast Guard hearing, New York Times investigative reporter David Barstow observed, “You would go into these hearings, and there would be more PR people representing these big players than there were reporters.”

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that as of 2008 there were three times as many PR people in the US as there were journalists–a shift from 1980, when the numbers were roughly equal. According to the American Society of News Editors, the number of newspaper reporters and editors peaked at 56,900 in 1990, and by 2011, dropped to 41,600. As media critic Robert McChesney observed, “We are entering a zone that has never been seen before in this country.”

Public Relations is now used by government and industry to influence public opinion on everything from consumerism to militarism. As a result, the number of original news stories is down, and many stories are now generated by government agencies and PR people working hand-in-hand. As a retired editor of the Washington Post remarked, the Internet makes it easy for public relations people to reach out directly to the audience.

As PR Watch reported in 2006, television news now airs video news releases created by corporate and government PR people, within broadcast stories posing as original news. Appearances on TV by PR-coached “experts” are coordinated as “message force multipliers.” Front groups funded by the oligarchy make it difficult for reporters to sort out.

As an example of the influence of PR, the health insurance industry paid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million to fight public health care. The Chamber, in turn, paid for ads that ran in 21 states. As the senior VP of communications at the Chamber noted, they also set up coalition groups to push the message online and in the press.

One of the areas the Chamber targets is college campuses. It even hosts video competitions on Facebook.

Video: A short film created by Henderson Shorter for Radical Media – taught by Mark Tribe at Brown University, Department of Modern Culture and Media (2009)

 

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