What Everyone Should know about the Media
The title is derived from the infamous CIA campaign of the 1950s called the "Operation Mockingbird". It was(?) the propaganda arm of CIA to spread dissent, influence public opinion, etc. During 1950s, in its peak, around 3000 employees were working on propaganda efforts. In 1976, the then Director of CIA George H. W. Bush declared that CIA wouldn't enter into any paid contract with journalists. However, if it is the actually the case is anyone's guess...
In any case, a close observer could find the footprints of "Mockingbird" all over the media. Let us see some of the cases, which may make one suspect if the "Mockingbird" is still alive.
Iraq War I & II
Perhaps the most well known example in the recent history is the testimony of Nayirah al-Sabah. Until her testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq went widely unnoticed by the Western Media. The emotional testimony of Nayirah, supposedly as a part of the campaign, "Citizens for a Free Kuwait" helped stir public opinion in US to support Kuwait in the War (Operation Desert Storm). It is also alleged that she was paid by CIA to take acting lessons.
Similarly, in the lead up to the Iraq War of 2003, Western media was whipping up mass hysteria and paranoia about the WMD in Iraq. Only after the war, at the cost many US lives and its allies', it was found that Iraq had none. While over 4000 US life were lost, some were extremely benefitted. I followed up the news to ExxonMobils website and apparently it is having a couple of affiliates in Iraq but I'm not sure if these oil companies shared their profit with the deceased, after all its the death of the service men which led to their profits, isn't it?
Interestingly, during the 1990s and in 2002, US was experiencing recession and unemployment was high. Can the occurrence of such incidents twice be coincidence?
While the reception of "Zunzeo" among Cuban Youths and the "actual" reasons for its retirement is anyone's guess, it demonstrates US mastery over social networking. However, US is not alone in this. The UK's top secret STRAP COMINT unit of the GCHQ is similarly manipulating posts to go "viral". Thanks to Mr. Snowden the UK's capabilities of social network manipulation came to fore. The documents along with the exposure of Zunzeo reveals how aggressively the Western Govt. are exploiting Internet as a means to manipulate public sentiments both within and abroad to suit their interests.
|Source: Cover image of The Bane of Ethical Journalism|
"Mocking Bird" everywhere
Spot the "Mocking bird"
The previous sections gives a glimpse of how the Govts./politicians all over the world is using media (conventional and social) to shape/manipulate public sentiments in its favour. This is not limited to them alone. Even industries are in the game (Ex. Vogue). However, could we spot these attempts?
It is possible, but extremely difficult... From my perspective, asking rationally right questions is the start. However, as the "right questions" itself are subjective and changes with the news, spotting the public manipulation attempts become difficult. In my perspective, the following questions could help:
- Who are the beneficiaries?
- Why now?
- How could the claim be justified?
- What is not addressed? Why only certain things are addressed?
- How could the news/information be proved?
- What are the counter arguments against the said news?
- How the counter-arguments weigh against the advertised arguments?
- What is unstated expectation of the news?
- Why this particular news is given so much attention compared to others?
- How would I be benefitted?