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August 14, 2005


By Morley Evans

T he other day, a friend and I were discussing the risks of being eaten by a bear or a cougar whilst hiking in the mountains. I urged caution. She objected, saying I was spoiling her expedition before it had even begun. I agree. I was spoiling her fun; but the danger is real, I felt, if somewhat exaggerated.

From where did I learn about these threats to life and limb?

I learned about them from TV, radio, one newspaper or another, or some other organ of the mass media. Surely these are reliable sources (at least compared to the Internet), aren't they?

We get our ideas from somewhere. Apart from our own direct experience and gossip, this is where we get our everyday ideas and attitudes, after we have been indoctrinated for years by state-run education. Parents and churches can only try to compete.

Thanks to my friend, Chomsky, I know the real purpose of the mass media, which is this:

The real purpose of the media is to make money (for owners of the media and for everyone who earns his or her living in the media). The media primarily makes money by selling its audience to advertisers. Advertising is a relatively new (or "modern") phenomenon.

The "mass media" could also be called the "successful media". The terms are interchangeable. Or it can simply be called "the media" since it owns everything anyway. (Two of the last two Governors General of Canada came from the CBC's stable of journalists, not from law or politics or academe, proving that the Prime Minister of Canada — who appoints the Governor General of Canada — recognizes, more than anyone, the power of propaganda.)

Those who aren't interested in these universal laws of publishing generally do not make any money and they usually find it difficult to survive. They are called "idealists" and sometimes "beautiful losers" or "cranks" when they are interred in the unmarked graves at the publishers' cemetery. Then, they are forgotten.

From this we can surmise that:

The mass media attracts its audience by appealing to people any way it can. We are talking about life or death, here. This is not cynicism. This is realism. "You must give 'em what they want." The media has nothing to do with "freedom of the press"; "justice"; "democracy"; "informing the public"; or "telling the truth". In fact, the media is one of the least reliable tellers of truth anyone could hope to find anywhere. "America's most trusted news source!" Indeed. Best of all (for them), the media can usually manage to get its audience to pay to participate. Busy watching the entertainment, members of the audience (who are lambs at the slaughter) do not suspect they are the real product.

The Pulitzer Prize, awarded to journalists who have been deemed (by other journalists) to have written an excellent story, is named after Joseph Pulitzer who owned the New York World at the turn of the 20th century. Baseball's "World Series" is named after this newspaper, not because it is a world championship. Competing for an audience with his rival William Randolph Hearst, Pulitzer and Hearst invented stories and started the Spanish American War, with the connivance of the government of the United States: The Maine had mysteriously exploded and sunk in Havana harbour, providing the casus belli for war. No one knows to this day who, or what, was responsible. Sure.

Who profited from the crime? Only Pulitzer, Hearst, American war contractors and the U.S. government profited. They are the only suspects. The war should be called the American War on Spain and maybe that's what it is called, in Spain.

The Media publicizes stories like yesterday's "red hair story" to attract an audience. That story was amusing. It had a "man bites dog" flavour. It was publicized throughout the day. They put the story at the end of each newscast so viewers would watch the entire program (and all the commercials) before seeing what they were waiting for.

By the way, they report stories about bears and cougars eating people and automobile crashes on the highway to the mountains for the same reason. You will surely witness reports of Global Warming and the coming ice age too.

But you know that. Don't you?




Dear Morley,
Sadly, few of us survived the hike. A wild posse of bears from the far reaches of the Rockies swept down and decimated our helpless party. I barely escaped with my life - and only because I was wearing my new hiking shoes and was able to use their inflexible leather uppers to choke the bear who had me in his brutal grasp....