Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Lies, damn lies and the media

Blair says that 'Now is the time stand firm with the US'. An ICM poll illustrates that in the UK support for the Bush visit is in the majority and support for the war has increased. How is this possible?

I was being pretty gullible when I asked myself that question. The majority of people are heavily influenced by the media. If we look at the stance of newspapers in the UK there is probably a direct correlation between support for the war and the type of paper a person reads (or the news channel someone watches). Is it really the case that people choose to read papers that tackle issues they care about? Or is it more likely that the papers tell the people what issues they care about and what they should think about them?

I don't have the stats. I haven't done any research, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that the majority of people in the UK (and probably the world) are led by smaller groups of people. Many years ago entire nations were influenced solely by their religious leaders. This is still the case in some countries today. Although in many nations, religion has taken a back seat to elected government.

In order to keep the population in line government has always used forms of spin and deception. A century ago is was about the good of the empire, and people flocked to support their homeland. But people didn't actually get to see all sides of the argument. A war would happen and the people would follow blindly because they trusted in the story they were being told by their elected peers.

Times change though. We now have access to media from around the world. If I want to I can find hundreds of different eye-witness accounts to an event. I no longer need to rely on my government or my nations media to give me the information I need.

But that isn't the case for everyone. Too many people choose to read the one newspaper or watch the one news channel and take the story as total truth. People need to understand that the media in every country is influenced by government and business. News organisations choose what stories to run with and what stories to drop. News organisations may present factual stories but they present them in a way that forms a particular opinion.

So why does the majority of the British public still support the war and the ongoing conflict in Iraq? Is it because they have come to a reasoned opinion based on the many available sources of information? No. It's because they have sat lazily in their armchairs and accepted the 'truths' told to them by government via the media they know and trust. They have flaunted the democracy our leaders speak so vehemently about.

If we as a nation want to be a leader in the world, then the people have to be in a position to question their government when things are not fair. But to do that on mass, the people have a duty to educate themselves.

When a nation is told what to think by the media and government what does that make it? When the people have their rights stripped away by dragonian anti-terror laws what does that make their nation? That isn't democracy, rather a totalitarian state.

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