A Marriage of Convenience

Since I am on the subject of the relationship between the MSM and the ‘Muslim street’ I might as well keep going. What we are seeing right now is a particularly dishonest, but mutually profitable relationship between the two that goes beyond the usual pandering for audience numbers through sensationalism. It reminds me of a glazier in NY City I heard about who’s son would go out at 3 or 4 in the morning with a sling shot and knock out a few shop windows so the old man would have business in the morning. The way the Pope’s remarks have been reported is just the latest cynical provocation. The other outstanding examples are the bogus Koran flushing story, and the Danish cartoons. Austin Bay puts forward his view of the origin of the relationship and how it has developed into a recognizable, and increasingly routine, way for both sides to get what they want. He calls it the CBS ambush.

Recall the talking heads who told us in 1990, after Saddam invaded Kuwait, that “the Arab street” was going to rise en masse, as an ur-proletariat, which would support Saddam against the West. If you need documentation, check out a few old PBS “NewsHour” transcripts.

But the mass rising didn’t happen. Why? Because the Arab street was, to a great extent, the creation of television cameras. Political operatives — no doubt many on Saddam’s payroll — knew they could attract the sensation-hungry camera crews and use the media to project the operatives’ preferred “image of anger.”

Twenty-first century Islamo-fascist terrorists, however, have refined the model and moved beyond an image of anger to a new form of prepared global ambush that integrates murder, terror and instant media.

The ambush technique coordinates blood-spilling violence with sensational imagery and rhetoric using a dispersed network of media operatives, guerrillas and terrorists. Networked, Coordinated Blood-spilling plus Sensationalism — hence the technique’s acronym: the CBS ambush.

What I want to emphasize here again is the theatrical nature of television news. Theater is an art form that significantly engages the emotions as well as the intellect. Because we often have difficulty coming to terms with emotions, theater has been used by great dramatists to elevate our understanding of human nature and help us come to terms with our own emotions. But the manipulation of emotion has also been used to control and coerce us to do the bidding of others for at least as long. Cinema and then TV are direct descendants of the theater and once the appropriate techniques (use of camera angle, selective framing etc.) are mastered the newer media can present increasingly realistic and emotionally manipulative drama and dramatized news. What people don’t see easily is the extent to which theatrical and cinematic techniques are used to dramatize the news. As McLuhan pointed out they see the content and miss the elements of form – or techniques – that are being used to distort the content. Goebbles recognized this potential in the thirties and put together a basic mix of radio, motion pictures and print media to carry out his program. TV has superceded the technology of the thirties and given todays propagandists a media environment dominated by TV and, with it, a high degree of control over how events are viewed and how we react to them emotionally. Here is an extract from the Wikipedia entry on Goebbles:

The Goebbles technique, also known as argumentum ad nauseam, is the name given to a policy of repeating a point until it is taken to be the truth (see Big Lie). Goebbles also pioneered the use of broadcasting in mass propaganda, promoting the distribution of inexpensive single frequency radio receivers (the so-called Volksempfnger (People’s radio) to the German public which ensured that millions of people heard the output of the Reich’s propaganda ministry while being unable to receive news and other broadcasts from outside Germany.

We don’t crudely limit the audience to one station but the culture of the media business ensures a certain sameness is adhered to by all players. Owners, journalism schools, the dominant political beliefs of reporters, commercial pressures, as well as the universally accepted and unconscious understanding of what can and cannot be displayed by the media in a particular culture all contribute to the homogeneity of the media. All you have to do is change cultures – even closely related ones such as Canada and The US, to be forcibly reminded of these factors in the makeup of the media environment. For me the great lesson of Fox News is that they have not changed the form of TV news at all, only moved the content to the right to take advantage of a market produced by a shift to the right in the American electorate.

So these particular stories are largely a transaction between the MSM and the terrorists manipulating the Muslim street. If the Muslims didn’t react the media would stop doing it. If the media didn’t report it the terrorists would stop putting on demonstrations and killing people. The victims are the public both Western and Muslim. We have a pretty good idea of the range of reactions to the publication of such stories by the media in the West. However, I don’t think the Western media full appreciate that their constant theatrical presentation of Muslims as angry and murderous is creating a very negative view of all Muslims. I only have to look at how my own inner attitude toward Islam has become more negative in the past five years despite knowing, and genuinely valuing as friends, moderate Muslims who do not support jihadism at all. Despite the popularity in the Muslim world of overtly anti Western media outlets such as Al Jazeera I can’t help but remember that the terrorists kill many more Muslims than Westerners. I note that in Iraq, where the terrorists are very active, they do not fare well in polls. I suspect there is a silent Muslim minority or even majority that wishes the terrorists would go away but are too terrorized to say so.

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