“The tragedy of journalism now is that it’s demand-driven”

This is a fascinating video about modern American journalism and its role as propaganda.

Bill Moyers talks with Marty Kaplan of the Norman Lear Center on the obvious purpose of modern  journalism — to keep Americans “info-tained” and out of the mass-demonstration streets.


Thanks to Yves Smith and Naked Capitalism for the find. About this, Yves writes (my emphasis and paragraphing):

While the role of propaganda and the shaping of mass culture clearly plays a big factor in Americans’ learned helplessness, it’s important also to recognize that there are other factors at play.

The first obstacle is that mass protests don’t have strong roots here. They are the province of the disenfranchised and/or the young, and the current generation of young has been bred to be conformist (a generation plus of overly attentive parenting being the norm) plus the one-two punch of a lousy job market plus debt slavery (even the kids who have gumption know how much an arrest will hurt their job prospects).

But the second is the way Americans have had the right to assembly neutralized. Look at the way peaceful protestors are routinely roughed up and jailed. …

Yes, “learned helplessness,” which always means “taught helplessness.” Yves has more at the link. In the video, Moyers discusses the mass protests in Brazil because the equivalent of millions of dollars will be spent hosting the World Cup, while unemployment, infrastructure and mass transit are ignored.

Listen, and as you do, note the terrific production values. Moyers offers a quality product.

Marty Kaplan says he has “outrage envy.” He explains:

It’s my feeling that what happened in Brazil, which is so encouraging about citizens taking their destiny in their own hands, is not happening here. We [too] have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system. Why are we not also taking to the streets, is the question.

We are paying attention to the wrong things. We’re paying attention to info-tainment, which is being spoon-fed to us, and sadly we are enabling, because we love the stuff. …

The tragedy of journalism now is that it’s demand-driven, and when you ask people what they want, we’re like one of those rats that have a lever to push and cocaine comes out. And once that happens one time, they’ll stay there till they die. …

The control of our democracy by money is shocking and deserving of the same kind of response to corruption that it got in Brazil, and instead we have become used to it. … we have been taught to feel helpless and jaded.

There’s a good mention of “climate change” — which really means “the pending worldwide catastrophe we might have only 5–10 years to avoid“— at the 5:07 mark. Note the terrific example of Kaplan’s point (plus video) in which all major networks cut away from the president’s climate speech to comment instead on the meta-news — how the news will affect … the news. (Our coverage of the climate story mentioned by Kaplan is here — “Atmospheric CO2 at highest levels in three million years”.)

Note also the smart discussion of the media’s reaction to Sandy Hook at the 8:40 mark. And don’t miss the phrase “the race, crime and porn axis” in today’s news at about 20:55.

Kaplan ends with the argument for being optimistic — the same argument that Richard Eskow calls “making a Pascal’s wager with the future.” Listen to the last few minutes of the Kaplan interview to see what that is. Eskow is right — his Pascal’s wager is the way out. Well analyzed by Kaplan, and as always, a nice interview by Moyers.

Taught helplessness. David “One Live Crew” Gregory and his ilk — whom Kaplan calls “the class that produces news” — have much to answer for.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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