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Media Distortion, A Clear Example

By Russell Burnell

23 June, 2011

Often we talk about media bias and how the mainstream news can manipulate popular opinion. How they transmit information in a manner designed to be a benefit more for the continued enterprise of the owners and funders of the station than the viewer. And while we all tailor the way we present our views to better get our point across, when the primary sources of mass opinion (the mainstream media) are so concentrated in the hands of so few, we are in danger of what they want us to believe as a people becoming what we believe as a people, while the facts are ignored.

Everyone reading this is probably all too aware of this process, in case any have doubts reading ‘Manufacturing Consent' might help shed some light. Meanwhile we need examples to cite that show people clearly what we are talking about, as they occur. To that end here is an absolute beauty.

The written article which can be read at [http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/oceans-on-brink-of-catastrophe-2300272.html] which is a fair reflection of the scientists report, and so far as I can tell an accurate representation in itself of the facts, sounding quite alarmist but surely demanding with its gravity of potential consequences nothing less than alarm from a sane readership. States:

"This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level. We are looking at consequences for humankind that will impact in our lifetime, and worse, in the lifetime of our children and generations beyond that."

While the report itself similarly states:

"The participants concluded that not only are we already experiencing severe declines in many species to the point of commercial extinction in some cases, and an unparalleled rate of regional extinctions of habitat types (eg mangroves and seagrass meadows), but we now face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation.

Unless action is taken now, the consequences of our activities are at a high risk of causing, through the combined effects of climate change, overexploitation, pollution and habitat loss, the next globally significant extinction event in the ocean. It is notable that the occurrence of multiple high intensity stressors has been a pre-­‐requisite for all the five global extinction events of the past 600 million years (Barnosky et al., 2009)."

[From: http://www.stateoftheocean.org/pdfs/1906_IPSO-LONG.pdf (P.7) 21/06/2011]

To surmise the scientists are saying ‘The oceans are dying’ and as stated on the home page of the IPSO [http://www.stateoftheocean.org/index.cfm] “If the ocean goes down, it’s game over”. It seems obvious that the oceans are in trouble, and equally obvious we rely on the ocean for our continued existence. Given the gravity of this we can return to the original point of this article. It makes such a clear illustration of the bias mass media can achieve as the television reportage, a 45 second newsreel from ITN on the same report has a link on the same page as the written article, just watch the video on the same page as the article at [http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/oceans-on-brink-of-catastrophe-2300272.html] and notice both the sponsors message that you have to sit through before it plays, and the differences in tone and content. If the scientists are saying this is serious and we need to act now, the television many rely on exclusively for their news is in contrast saying, and allow me to translate

‘Oh, some people think some fish might die, sometime you may only be able to see them in a glass tank somewhere. Don’t get up though, it’s nobody’s fault and there’s nothing you can do, accidents will happen’

The stressors here are mostly in the over use of the words ‘some’ and ‘might’ and ‘could’ to water down the message and calm the viewers fears. The literal translation is “Don’t say anything that could alarm the idiot’s into acting, that’s our job”

This in only intended as ammunition for anyone who needs a clear example of what a serious message looks like when it filters down to the ‘average’ viewer. Good luck with your aim.

Russell Burnell is a long term activist and Lecturer at various colleges in Essex, England. He is involved in many campaigns from the campaign against climate change and stop the war to anti cuts and privatisation movements . He also runs a local branch of the socialist party for several years in Romford.



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