JANUARY 12 2010 14:55h
In the past, the image of one’s pants bursting into flames was a convincing reason to stick to the truth. Today we have the media.
I still remember vividly the chant we used as kids when one of our playmates was exposed as untruthful: “Liar, liar pants on fire, hanging on a telephone wire!” For those of us who took it literally, the image of one’s pants bursting into flames was a convincing reason to stick to the truth whenever possible. Nowadays, the public has to rely on media monitoring organizations, most financed by foreign governments or powerful interest groups, and the simple common sense of an often confused and manipulated population.
The difficulties in identifying the truth were especially present in the recent Croatian presidential elections. Suppression by omission, for example, of information or points of view, by crowding them out or persuading other people or groups of people to ignore certain arguments, or by simply diverting attention elsewhere; neglecting or marginalizing the vital details of a candidate’s campaign or the entire campaign, creating an unfair advantage to his or her competitors.
The Croatian public sought in vain for stories about independent candidates and their campaigns, ideas, and programs, but were barraged by those of the major candidates. Can anybody name the elements of the “lesser” candidates’ programs? As far as we know, they advocated mercy killing, amnesty for all pedophiles, and human sacrifices. Or perhaps a stunning new strategy to promote new jobs, increase demography, strengthen the economy. We’ll never know!
Another widely used technique is known as “framing”. By bending the truth rather than breaking it, candidates and their spin doctors can create the desired impression and at the same time project “objectivity”. Giving one story front page treatment while the other is buried within the paper, or providing a huge amount of exposure to one and not the other are popular “framing” methods. We see such examples everyday in the major media: headlines about a certain massacre and a sentence or two about another, for example, although all innocent victims deserve equal media attention. Or wide exposure to illegalities by one party, candidate, group, and none at all to another, depending upon the media’s proclivities.
And then there are the strategies of marginalization. Information, arguments, and objections that come from other sources are simply considered "fringe" and ignored, or their proponents permanently discredited, or accused of having their own agenda. “This is something every two-year-old knows!” claims one politician, candidate, commentator about his particular view or position. If you don’t agree, you’re back in diapers! “Anyone with a second grade education would agree with that”, says another, but if you’re a college graduate and don’t, then you consigned to go stand in the corner with the proverbial dunce hat perched on your thick, stupid skull.
Demonization of the opposition is also good for a few votes. If you hold certain conservative views, then you’re a Nazi, and if you’re liberal, then you’re a Communist. Or fear-mongering, such as during the Iraq war, when opponents of the repressive and undemocratic “Patriot Act” were told that if it were discontinued, there would be another terrorist attack.
The techniques go on and on, and it is perhaps this insidious manipulation of the human soul – propped up by the braying media and scheming political and cultural circles who assure us that black is really white and up is down - of which Solzhenitsyn speaks, in a statement delivered the day prior to his exile to the West in 1974. In it he addresses the despair and absence of hope he sees in the faces of his fellow countrymen, the lack of belief in their ability as mere individuals to effect changes in the repressive, duplicitous wasteland in which they live, and shows them how they can bring it down by simple acts of individual rebellion. His advice is just as timely today as it was 35 years ago. The media spreads disinformation and destroys the soul?
Stop buying the offending newspapers and journals, boycott the media, turn off the television programs that disseminate the poison, get up and leave the theatres, the movie houses! Better yet, don't buy tickets in the first place. Before long they will all be forced out of business! No buyers, no product! And it is this individual passive resistance, when performed by larger and larger numbers of outraged citizens, that will destroy the flimsy, jerry-rigged constructions of today so that more enduring foundations can be reconstituted.
Solzhenitsyn's text is entitled, „Live Not by Lies“ and it provides the simple key to human liberation and spiritual independence: „Never knowingly support lies! Having understood where the lies begin, (and many see this line differently) step back from that gangrenous edge! Let us not glue back the flaking scales of the Ideology, nor gather back its crumbling bones, nor patch together its decomposing garb, and we will be amazed how swiftly and helplessly the lies will fall away, and that which is destined to be naked will be exposed as such to the world.“
Just say NO.