“The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban” (George Orwell(1))
If our media were trying to cover world events each day honestly, then the headlines would repeatedly say things like:
- “US and Britain commit more war crimes in the Middle East”
- “Thousands persecuted by tyrants supported by US and Britain”
This does not happen because our current media are not trying to give us an honest explanation of what is really happening in the world. This does not mean that the media is necessarily telling lies (although it frequently does). It is mostly presenting distorted versions of events. This is usually known as the Propaganda Model of the media, which is analysed at length in a famous book called Manufacturing Consent, by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, first published in 1988.
The book explains that the beliefs of journalists, the ownership of the media by governments or big corporations, advertising, and the sources of information for news stories, all create a system which filters out topics and opinions that are considered ‘undesirable’.(2) That is, topics or opinions that challenge powerful interests, such as governments or big corporations. In particular, the media are uncritical of British and US war crimes, and they are not sufficiently critical of the profit-driven economic system. The main reasons for this are discussed below. These are sometimes called the five filters.
1) Conflicts of Interest: Ownership by Corporations and Governments
The media in the US and Britain is mostly controlled by a small number of big corporations,(3) with the exception of the BBC, which is controlled by the government. As with all corporations, the power rests with a few people at the top. Journalists are just employees who can be hired and fired. Putting forward radical or controversial views is likely to annoy people in power. Corporations do not want journalists who are troublemakers or whistleblowers. Presenters and journalists quickly realise that media owners will not tolerate certain types of critical stories. Insiders in the US media have admitted that they back away from controversial stories that might offend their audience.