New Media

Is it a Promise?


When we talk about the effect of the new media, TV and internet in particular, on the quality of life, most of us would immediately think about violence, sex, and kids.  While these issues are extremely important, they are not the subject of this article.  But since they are related with the main issue, I offer a personal example as a preface.  My wife and I often argue about the new media, but when it relates to children, our views take different directions.  As a compromise, we assumed TV and internet are privileges kids of our generation enjoy, and NOT rights.  As such we can always take privileges away from them for punishment.  However, I am sure kids would soon prove us wrong on our understanding of rights versus privileges.  Then, I guess, we have to see if it is okay to limit their rights!  Just think about this for a moment.


On the surface, there are two fundamental views at odds with each other.  If the new media is good for our kids, then why should we take it away from them for punishment?  On the other hand, if the new media is bad for kids, then why should we let them use it when they behave well?  However, the issue is much more complex.  Obviously it is not the TV or the Internet per se, parents are having problem with.  It is the content.  One side believes in the educational values of the new media.  The other one worries about undesirable materials for the kid.  Both sides are in a state of wishful thinking.  In other words, TV and internet have different meanings for the opposing sides, but generally speaking, they understand each other’s point of view.  Most of us have tried technology to seek help for parental control, but kids have a tendency to outsmart parents.  In fact, if the new generation could not outplay the old one, our civilization would have moved backward.  Maybe that is the fate of the new generation anyway!


While we try our best, sometimes as silly as the above mentioned compromise, to preserve and transfer our values to our kids and to protect them from unwanted consequences, we do not realize how badly we, as grownups, are victims of the same media.  Not because it has become a normal way of life to move from observing the most gentle and beautiful scenes of nature or elevating emotions of a love affair to the ugliest and most gruesome scenes of violence in seconds.  No, we still have the option to change the channel or to turn it off with the click of a button.  What makes the new media a ghoul is the way it manipulates information to feed our thoughts.  It feels like they have planted the seeds a thousand years ago, and now is the harvest fiesta.  Yes, I am talking about our dose of the NEWS.


There was a time when anything WRITTEN was so sacred no one could even dare being indifferent about it, let alone disrespecting it.  Written materials are still viewed as major sources of credible evidence.  Yes, the words of wisdom have passed the most difficult test of time, but that is exactly where the devil hides.  Take your daily paper for a test drive.  You may never pinpoint a lie, but this is the same paper that sold you the biggest lies of the past one hundred years or so.  I remember LBJ for Vietnam, and I witness Bush and Co for Iraq.  Yet, we still buy the same paper as a trustworthy source of the news.  If you think WWII was the end of an era; Vietnam was a mistake; and invading Iraq was due to an after shock of the September 11 tragedy; you’d better think again.  It is a new era, and war profiteers are already busy cooking the books for one against Iran. 


Let’s take an oldie in flamboyant appearance for a test.  After the National Post of Canada was forced to apologize for publishing a bogus piece to present Iranian regime similar to Nazi Germany, the July 3rd issue of “The Nation” noted that by then “the New York Post, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, right-wing blogs and some wire services had picked up the claim, bringing the phony news to millions.”  In his article Bunkum From Benador  Larry Cohler-Esses writes “the debunking exposed the moving parts of a media machine intent on priming the public for war with Iran--as it did earlier with stories about Iraq's nonexistent WMD. … a Who's Who of the neocon movement, includes Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, Charles Krauthammer, Victor Davis Hanson and Iranian exile journalist Amir Taheri--the author of the bogus piece. Even among a crowd notable for wrongheaded analyses, Taheri stands out, with a rap sheet that leaves one amazed that he continues to be published.”


Mr. Taheri is just a sample of infamous paid journalists who sell a fiction as reality.   He, of course, denied any wrong doing and blamed others “it seems that my column was used as the basis for a number of reports that somehow jumped the gun.”  That is the whole point.  That is exactly how warmongers play out a scheme.  Someone fabricates the news, it follows by commissioning the work of a notorious bagger to give them the ammunition, and they waste no time to “jump the gun” before it is too late.  Amir Taheri became a piece of the puzzle when he was invited to the White House as an expert right after he was busted.  The old man then put his life in danger to travel in the Middle East.  To solve the puzzle, one must follow him in the corridors of luxurious Middle Eastern hotels where he shares his blessed “expertise” with other so called “respected” journalists to spread the word!  For an added attraction, you may attend some of his prearranged presentations at Rotary clubs or university halls in the region!


While I respected Amir Taheri as a journalist until the early days of Iraq war, I had no clue that he was busted fourteen years earlier.  It was in late June when I read about it “It was in 1989 that Taheri was first exposed as a journalistic felon. The book he published the year before, Nest of Spies, examined the rule and fall of the Shah of Iran.  … Suddenly a book review became an investigative exposé. … a history professor detailed case after case in which Taheri cited nonexistent sources, concocted nonexistent substance in cases where the sources existed and distorted the substance beyond recognition when it was present.” 


Just imagine how hundreds, if not thousands, of writers, researchers, and journalists all around the globe have quoted his fabricated piece in making a point against Iran.  In this jungle of controlled media where perception is THE reality, these secondary sources would never go back to retract their bogus stories.  Even if they do, it would be a small print hidden somewhere in the paper hardly noticeable even to researchers who are looking for them.  Again, the seeds will spawn some time in the future.  Remember how the U.S. paid Iraqi journalists to publish rosy stories about American invasion.  All of a sudden a chain of intermediate media picked up on these fairy tales to move them up the ladder to become world news for our consumption!!!


Despite enormous misrepresentations like the example I cited, the written word is still okay because beyond the headlines, people who READ are not only forced to pay attention to the issue, but also tend to be more educated.  The same thing is true about the internet except for the fact that anyone can setup a site, mine included.  I love it for the fact that everyone is now able to express his opinion for the world.  It does not mean he/she will be heard, but the opportunity is there; especially with giant search engines like Yahoo, Google, etc.  Yes, it is still big guys versus little ones.  They go on the top of the list; you and I are right at the bottom on the nth pages of the search results.


Nonetheless, sites are confusing and one does not know who is who and what is what or tell the difference between opinion and facts.  In short, internet is the golden mine for hoax.  It is where the truth coexists, nicely I might add, with falsification, distortion, and outright lies.  Within the same context, it is the internet that proved “graphics” wrong!  It may still be “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but if words can be twisted, so do pictures; only with enormous and immediate impact.  In the world of “Symbolic Interactions” graphics not only penetrate our brain instantly, but also stay there for quite some time.  That is not true for the written words.  Words, written or spoken, are not only slow moving medium of exchanging ideas and information that are often subject to miscommunication, but also very difficult to sink in.  Even then, words hardly have a fraction of the shelf life of graphics in the brain.  So when it comes to transfer of information, internet has the best and worst of two worlds: the real world, and the quasi distorted surrealism.


Most of us are captive listeners of different talk shows and news radio on the road.  Yet radio is not the most favored spot for the ghoul.  The devil resides in the stream of video clips aimed at our subconscious by TV.  So paper, internet, and radio do not come even close to the innocent looking archfiend on TV.  The culture of Good and Evil has deep roots in ordinary people to see things in terms of black and white.  Not wittingly, that is where they need a demagogue like Bill O’Reilly to make it both ways.  The showman not only misleads people by what he shows them as THE reality, but also by the facts he so conveniently censure. 


Most intellectuals are so fed up with Fox TV, they call it Faux News.  I think the cunning attribute of fox is more appropriate to big guys in the media.  But it is not just Fox; TV has become the permanent resident of every home.  Some ordinary people come home after hours of hard work, and just watch the idol box till they fall sleep.  TV is also the MAIN source of news to a great majority of people.  The problem with controlled media is the way it presents itself as being diverse; i.e. different channels.  If you don’t like the news, then change the channel.  Well, you will see a different person, but the same news!  No, it is not because the news is the same, but because they all air the same news and ignore the rest.  People are conveniently manipulated like it is the normal way of life.   The only choice is a matter of taste not substance!  Some think CNN is better than Fox; others like Dan Rather better than Brit Hume or the other way around. 


Even more important, is how they deny air time to relevant reality.  In other words, what matters is not only what you see, but also what you do NOT see.  For example, what the ordinary people never see is the fact that for every military intervention, there are billions of dollars to be made by the so called defense contractors.  The economic value of a conflict is huge, but only available to a handful of multinational companies who also control major TV networks.  So your famous anchorman is paid huge salary for what he/she flawlessly censors in the news. 


Censorship is fortified by the elements of repetition, omission, unknown, distortion, and miscommunications making them all work in harmony.  They are never concerned about a small minority that is disgusted by the way freedom of speech is hijacked.  In fact, they do not even want intellectuals to watch what they have to offer.  As long as intelligence is the monopoly of a minority, the rule of a majority is the sacred element of democracy favored by another minority who controls the NEW MEDIA.  That is the whole concept of the majority rule!


Now let’s see how little ones do dirty politics on TV.  TV networks are the media to make an otherwise reasonable individual take so many double standards as normal.  Tragedies happen all around the world all the time.  The little opposition groups, in fact every single political group, use act of god to make a political point against its opponent in power.  When the tragedy was the Bam earthquake, the rumors were ubiquitous on every stupid imagination possible in no time; i.e. it was actually a nuclear test by mullahs!  The funny thing is how the same people defended the PREVENTABLE Levees tragedy in Louisiana as an act of god.  The same thing goes for political prisoners; if torture is committed under Saddam’s control in Abu Ghraib, it was his vicious tyranny; but if it is under Bush’s control, then it is an isolated incidence by some undisciplined soldiers!  By the same token, a political prisoner in Evin is not tolerable, but thousands of them in Guantanamo Bay are okay!  Even in the former case, it is a political figure they bargain for, and not hundreds of young, zealous and nationalist students who fell in the maze of traps planted in the political jungle by opportunists.


While I have yet to find a real answer to the effect of new media on our civilization, I know it is a fact.  It is not a fiction that real people, maybe with good intension, lie to millions and millions of people simultaneously.  If we deprive our kids from using the new media because we believe they are not ready yet.  Shouldn’t we deprive ourselves from innuendo for the same reason?  Are we ready to stop judging people before making sure we have all the facts?  Even if we do have all the facts, are we capable to use them in coming to a judgment?  Questions multiply, but answers shrink if not disappear.



Mohamad Purqurian

July 7, 2006