Monday, 30 May 2011

The War You Don't See

Being the media literate, conscientious objector that I am, I was unhappy with the information being presented via the mainstream media in regards to the 'humanitarian intervention' in Libya and decided to do some research for myself. What I found was some very eye-opening reports including the creation of a new central bank and oil company by the rebels, that in 2009, Britain, France and other European states sold Libya over $470m worth of weapons, and that there is indeed civilian casualties being caused by the west’s' bombardments on the people they are supposed to be protecting. These news stories are as important and informative as the reports of injustices being committed by the Qaddafi regime being shown in the mainstream media, so why are these points of view being overshadowed?

Proffitt (2007, 66) suggests that "mainstream news coverage of previous wars demonstrated that the marketplace of ideas is indeed dominated by a corporate ideology, is encumbered by corporate censorship and has stunted public discussion. This is due to a handful of dominant multinational conglomerates owning the means of distributing information and having special interests in maintaining their current political and economic power." This conglomerate power can have hugely negative effects on what is available to the viewer, which is evident in recent coverage of the Libyan unrest. Views that may not support the status quo, or do not conform to the guidelines of the conglomerates such as the killing of innocent civilians by western forces are often silenced, marginalised, ridiculed and slandered in an effort to discredit their position and maintain the desired agenda held by media owners and politicians. This creates a detrimental narrowly defined range of viewpoints that rather than discovering and reporting the truth aim to exploit situations for financial and political gain, therefore hampering the idyllic notion of the media as watchdogs (Proffitt 2007, 69). Media collusion with the state and corporations are frightening and when its extent is revealed it should be taken seriously. It is important to note that we should not take everything at face value, and we should evaluate the media's role in each situation. However this is only possible if viewers are given all the facts.
 Not everyone is happy about western intervention
The Libyan government controls more of its' oil than any other nation on earth, as well as controlling its own finances. Schortgen Jr. (2011) noted "six months before the United States moved into Iraq the oil nation had made the move to accept Euros instead of dollars for oil. Gaddafi made a similar bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and Euro and called on Arab and African national to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar." These facts along with the creation of a new central bank by the rebels and the implications it has on the control of the country's oil have gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media, further suggesting that the media conglomerates have vested interests in the war and its outcome. This connection can be made by simply examining the relationship between mass media and big business, which to an extent are one and the same. Turrow (2009, 220) states "when a small number of huge firms exercise power over production, distribution, and exhibition, the democratic process is jeopardised. By examining the board of directors of these controlling media corporations it becomes quite clear as to their position, which in theory is supposed to be neutral and free from opinion. Media and oil companies often share board members, Sam Nunn; Co-Chairman of Chevron is also on the board of directors for GE who own NBC. J. Richard Munro the once CEO of Time-Warner has also held a place on the board for Exxon-Mobil. It is also impossible to ignore the far right wing position of the supposed 'fair and balanced' Fox News (News Corp.) CEO Rupert Murdoch and his ties with the Republican Party and the effect his networks have on marginalising any voice that disagrees with his position.

In order for a democratic society to succeed, citizens need to be able to make informed decisions based on diverse and freely accessible information (Proffitt 2007, 65). The relationship between politicians, big business and media owners needs to be addressed to end the media monopoly and allow a multiplicity of voices to be heard across all media industries.
The current focus of the media on the humanitarian issues in Libya allows the viewer to see one side of a multidimensional issue. It is important to step back and examine the media's role in the conflict and what vested interests it might have. The business and political elite know that the more information the public has, the more difficult it is for them to pursue agendas that may otherwise not be a cause for concern. We have to be aware and informed of the media's real role in society, to challenge those who seek our acceptance of their latest bloody adventure in someone else's country. That means, "Always challenging the official story, however patriotic that story may appear, however seductive and insidious it is. For propaganda relies on the media to aim its deceptions not at a far away country but at you at home. In this age of endless imperial war, the lives of countless men, women and children depend on the truth or their blood is on us. Those whose job it is to keep the record straight ought to be the voice of people, not power" (Pilger 2010).

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