Long ago i read How we sell the bike a book that Ignacio Ramonet wrote together with Noam Chomsky and since then I was fascinated. Of Chomsky I have continued reading several of his works but of Ramonet I had not done so until now. And it goes straight to our section books.
The tyranny of communication is an essay on the functioning of the mass media in our society. Focusing on the role of television.
Despite being written 20 years ago, we see the validity of everything that counts in the current media. Special mention must be made of the analysis of television and especially the newscasts. It opens your eyes to its operation.
I am left with the desire to see these analyzes but in the present time taking into account the importance that the Internet, social networks, etc. have taken and that 20 years ago they were still not important.
Reading Ramonet makes me want to read his latest book The empire of surveillance and to subscribe to Le monde diplomatique where he was director for many years
I go with the most important ideas or those that have interested me the most in the book. You note that I do not want to forget them.
Ideas and arguments to remember and reflect on
First of all, the very idea of information. Until recently, informing was, in some way, providing not only the accurate - and verified - description of a fact, an event, but also providing a set of contextual parameters that would allow the reader to understand its deep meaning. It was to answer basic questions: who has done what? By what means? Where? Why? What are the consequences?
And so the deceptive illusion that seeing is understanding is established, little by little, and that any event, no matter how abstract, must necessarily have a visible, demonstrable, televisable part.
The time of information has also changed. The optimization of the media is now instantaneity (real time), direct, that only television and radio can offer. … The written press accepts the imposition of having to address not citizens but viewers
the veracity of the information. Today a fact is true not because it corresponds to objective criteria, rigorous and verified in the sources, but simply because other media repeat the same statements and "confirm" them ...
To all these transformations we must add a fundamental misunderstanding ... Many citizens believe that, comfortably installed on the sofa in their living room, watching on the small screen a sensational cascade of events based on strong, violent and spectacular images, they can seriously inform themselves . Capital error. For three reasons: the first, because television journalism, structured as fiction, is not made to inform, not to distract; secondly, because the rapid succession of short and fragmented news (around twenty for each newscast) produces a double negative effect of information and misinformation; and finally, because wanting to be informed without effort is an illusion more in keeping with the advertising myth than with civic mobilization. It costs information to be informed and it is at this price that the citizen acquires the right to participate intelligently in democratic life.
In other words, censorship does not work today by suppressing, amputating, prohibiting, cutting. It works the opposite: it works by too much, by accumulation, by suffocation. How do they hide information today? For a great contribution from it: the information is hidden because there is too much to consume and, therefore, the missing information is not perceived.
Through the camera, the photographic device or the report, all the media (press, radio, television) try to put citizens directly in contact with the event
What is true and what is false? The system in which we evolved works in the following way: if all the media say something is true, it is true. If the press, radio or television say something is true, it is true even if it is false.
About the news
The newscasts receive a special importance in the book. Because it is the main way of reporting news in the most important media, television.
Ramonet tells us about the structure of the news that we see today. How they have evolved and its marked Hollywood format, as if it were a script for a movie. Ending with the famous Happy end or happy ending.
It is not very difficult now to come to the conclusion that a person cannot be informed exclusively through the news. The news is not made to inform, it is made to distract. It is structured like a fiction. It is a Hollywood fiction. It begins in a certain way, ends in a happy end. You cannot put the end at the beginning. Whereas a written newspaper can begin to be read at the end. At the end of the newscast, one has already forgotten what happened at the beginning. And it always ends with laughter, with pirouettes.
The role of the newscast
As in those films, we try not to end on a tragic or excessively serious note (the audience would be dejected). The laws of happy end (happy ending) require ending on an optimistic note, a funny anecdote. Since the function of the newscast has something of social psychotherapy, it must, above all, instill hope, reassure the capacities of national rulers, inspire confidence, arouse consensus, contribute to social peace.
Information from the poor
Demolition Man. This that the news is the information of the poor has fascinated me.
The credibility of televised information is higher to the extent that the socio-economic and cultural level of the viewers is lower. The most modest social layers hardly consume other means of communication and hardly ever read newspapers; That is why they cannot question, if necessary, the version of events proposed by television. The newscast constitutes the information of the poor. Therein lies its political importance. It more easily manipulates those who have less cultural defense.
The victim, the savior and the dignitary.
In the news, the laws of staging create the illusion of the live show and, therefore, of the truth. As soon as an event occurs, we already know how television is going to tell us about it, according to what standards, what filmic criteria.
The new technologies will only contribute to the improvement of democracy if we fight, in the first place, against the caricature of a world society that the multinationals prepare for us, thrown into the open grave towards the construction of the information highways.
The media in wars
One of the interesting sections is the history of media in wars. I do not put all those that comment but there are some of the most important milestones.
Mexico 1911, cinema in action
Similarly, the Mexican Revolution (1911-1920) mobilized the mass media, reporters from around the world, photographers and, for the first time, the cinematographer. The Mexican Revolution is the first war filmed live.
The first world war (1914-1918)
Keep in mind that this is the first war in which all the combatants are literate, can read, write and count. Primary education was compulsory in all European countries in the last third of the XNUMXth century. School, and the study of national history, have made them patriots, they have made them for the most part convinced nationalists.
The new censorship
For the first time, governments consider that the state of the war authorizes them to control the content of the press and, for example, they constitute groups of officials specialized in information, who are the only ones accredited to contact journalists. The press does not have the opportunity to report properly and, among other impediments, reporters cannot enter the trenches until late 1917.
The main propaganda is directed at the public itself, so that it knows the fairness of combat and the evil of the adversary. A government-public opinion relationship is created so strong that it is difficult to have a contrary or hostile criterion to intervention.
As Admiral Antoine Sanguinetti says: "Wars are too violent for civilians to contemplate"
The first conflict, already dealt with with the new vision, is that of the Malvinas Islands in 1982 and from then on all armed conflicts are treated in the same way. It's the lessons of the Vietnam war
Lessons from the Vietnam War
The first lesson is that in a conflict the good role -for the media- is that of the victim. One of the first objectives will therefore be to appear as a victim. Create a very aggressive, very negative, very threatening image of the adversary.
The second lesson is that war is dangerous and that journalists are in danger if they come to the front. It is therefore necessary to protect them, preventing them from approaching the places, not letting the population as a whole witness the fighting, on the basis that wars are too complicated for public opinion to be able to know them directly.
We enter a universe in which the idea that wars are transparent has been abandoned. Since Vietnam, in wars only the version that should be given of the conflict is filmed, the one that the "minister of war" of the corresponding power wants to make known.
Granada in 1983, Panama in 1989 and especially the Gulf War. So much so that there is an official guideline of all the countries that belong to NATO drawn up in 1986 by the Atlantic Alliance on how to behave with the media in case of conflict.
in the newscast the main information is not what happened but how the presenter tells us.
Faced with information that continues today until the paroxysm the logic of suspense and spectacle, the citizen begins to understand the risks that make him run his abandonment and his fascination. Find out that it costs information. And that is the price of democracy.
There are 2 media to which I want to subscribe
I recommend the book again The tyranny of communication by Ignacio Ramonet who, even though he is old, teaches us and opens our eyes to how the world works.