Finger Point

August 10, 2019

When the mass media want to discredit an assignment of blame, they call it finger-pointing. Usually, when that phrase is employed, the finger points at the USA or some favored corporate entity, somebody the news-monger would rather not offend. If the target's not among our assigned enemies--North Korea, say (or, in a big turnaround, Jeffrey Epstein)--reporters are obliged to go easy (as they did for a decade with pedophile Epstein and his rich friends). It's part of the natural bias of news-reporting.

That doesn't mean ordinary people shouldn't assign blame, even when it falls on favored people and institutions. If a case can be made for culpability for society's ills, it probably should be. Certainly, there's no one factor responsible for any major failure, but if there's a patently culpable party, we should know about it.

Take war, for instance. The USA is unique in the world, maybe in all of world history, for its application of armed force and its expenditure of resources on weapons. Who's responsible for this? We could blame the politicians, but we citizens empowered them. We could blame the weapons industry, but they simply perform the contracts the politicians give them. We could blame our opponents in the world, but none of them causes nearly the destruction we do. We might justifiably blame ourselves if we weren't so stupefyingly ignorant of our situation. Do we actually have any idea what our soldiers, sailors and airmen do? How would we? Information about our armed forces is carefully edited out of our news. Coincidentally, the same editors that keep us from knowing what our military's doing also raise holy hell against anybody who criticizes the use or threat of armed force. Exactly when and how a permanent state of war became an acceptable condition among newsmen is a question to ponder, but killing in war is tolerated pretty much universally. Clearly, the flag-waving, sensation-peddling commercial mass media--not just in their news function, but in their entertainment and advertising functions, too--are responsible for war.

How about addiction? Who's responsible for that? The addicts certainly get most of the blame, right? Just because you consider yourself a useless loser because you can't make enough money to pay your bills or can't carry on an intelligent conversation or can't enjoy the routine of your life or can't free yourself from constant worry, that's no reason to take drugs, right? I mean, if you read the paper or watch TV, it's one smiling face after another. If you're low down, it's your own fault, seems to be the message. It's win/win for the mass media here, because having convinced you you're defective, they promote food, drugs and cosmetics that can make you whole. Here again, the commercial mass media--their news and entertainment and advertising functions--seem to be responsible for additiction.

Who's responsible for racism? "It's not what we're about," said the mayor of El Paso, Texas, after a young white guy shot down a crowd of dark-skinned shoppers with a military-style rifle. Actually, this is exactly what we're about.Shooting, bombing, and otherwise terrorizing dark-skinned people is our stock in trade. We kill them in Somalia. We kill them in Libya. We kill them in Yemen. We're OK with that. Ask any newsman. Nonwhite life is cheap in the news business, where you will never hear any mention of the disproportionate toll of US brutality on dark-skinned people. The lesson is not lost on dark-skinned people. They point the finger at the mass media for degrading them.

Material inequality is a problem, Who's responsible for that? There's a dozen or so people with half the world's wealth. What do you suppose they do with all that? You won't find out from your mass media. There's business news that's fed like pablum to reporters, but what they don't tell you is anything that might evoke preljudice against rich people and their acolytes. They could have told you another Boeing 737 was going to crash after one crashed in Indonesia, but they didn't. People with money, who share ownership of Boeing, would have been hurt, so the Indonesia crash--over 100 killed--was ignored, and we found out the plane was defective after the second one took a fatal nosedive in Ethiopia. But didn't these same media tell you this or that business is overtaxed or overregulated? That the profits of the weapons trade would trickle down to you? That the economy is in recovery? Rich people got richer, and why didn't you read about how that happened in your local paper? We could, as a nation, have been confiscating excess wealth--legally--but our media don't want us to know that.. All fingers point at the mass media when it comes to blame for material inequality.

Who's to blane for crime? Funny we should ask. Crime has actually declined in the past couple of decades because of changes in the makeup of our population, and yet prisons are booming. The media pour out crime stories--mainly fiction--like a cow spews manure, so it's no wonder that people think there's a crime wave and breathe a sigh of relief whenever brown kids get locked up. Real crime, like bankers committed in 2007 and 2008 when they looted their own vaults, goes unpunished and mostly unreported. This inspires and empowers the street crime crowd, who sense that they're in the land of anything goes. More than any other social institution, the media are responsible for crime.

Do we need to discuss whether the mass media might be resonsible for mass ignorance? We're smart enough to know the stats for our favorite athletes and where to eat in Our Fair City, but we can't spot Brazil on a map. What the media don't tell us, we don't know.

There won't be anybody here to criticize them for this, but it is the media that will be principally responsible for the extinction of homo sapiens. In 1980, when we could have done something to prevent it, newsmen knew that fuel-burning emissions were going to harm the environment irreparably and catastrophically. They hid the evidence and presented the issue as an unsettled controversy, giving the fuel-burners twenty years to accumulate and safeguard their assets and consolidate their political power. The deterioration of our atmosphere in the interim means it's no longer a question of whether humanity will succumb, but when. The mass media industry--news, entertainment and advertising--the only industry explicitly protected by the Constitution of the United States, will have brought about the destruction of humanity. If there were anybody to write about it, the irony would be compelling.