Assertions About Mass Media
by the late Herbert Schiller and by Todd Gitlin

Culture, Incorporated

In this 1989 book, Herbert Schiller says: "It is not a matter of people being dupes, informational or cultural. It is that human beings are not equipped to deal with a pervasive disinformation system -- administered from the commandposts of the social order -- that assaults the senses through all cultural forms and channels."

(from Herbert Schiller, The Mind Managers, 1972)

1) the myth of individual and personal choice. Cultural beginnings are normally tied to cooperation and communication, yet in a media world, individual choice is emphasized and promoted as basis of freedom.

2) the myth of unchanging human nature. When human expectations (that human nature is constant and unchanging) are low, passivity prevails, In the U.S., emphasis is placed on aggressive side of behavior and its unchanging nature permeate our work and thought. The belief that we can't change human nature helps to preserve the status quo

3) the myth of the absence of social conflict. Because social issues create uneasiness in mass audiences, so media advertisers are eager to eliminate controversial programs; it becomes OK to have a fair quota of violence but very little social conflict. In a way, control by power elite control makes distortion of social reality a requirement.

4) the myth of neutrality. This presupposes a belief in integrity and nonpartisanship of government and of media -- and that institutions (like the Supreme Court) are beyond reproach. This includes the belief that media are neutral in their coverage of government and public affairs.

5) the myth of media pluralism. Choice and diversity are seen as inseparable; information controllers equate media abundance of choices (lots of different magazines or channels) with diversity of content. Instead, Americans are trapped in a no-choice information bind.

Media Techniques that Shape Consciousness

1) Fragmentation as a form of communication (we get bits of information without context or a sense of the relationship to other info -- note this with Neil Postman chapters)

2) Immediacy of information (info comes at us before it is complete or has context -- but getting it NOW does not equate with full understanding)

The ultimate objective of Mind Management is PASSIVITY.

The content and form of American communications --the myths and the means of transmitting them-- are devoted to manipulation. When successful, the result is individual passivity... and that precludes action.

Passivity assures the maintenance of the status quo. It feeds upon itself and destroys the capacity for social action that might change the conditions limiting human fulfillment (note material on Noam Chomsky later in quarter).

Assertions by Todd Gitlin

Sociologist Todd Gitlin says TV has opened up sociey (which may be good because it makes us less narrow-minded and reduces our prejudices -- if we have a pluralistic, not merely a conformist mass culture) and lets us broaden our COMMUNITY.

But TV also stereotypes and reduces intelligence and understanding -- so it contributes to laziness and a general stupidity and also makes us feel like spectators.

So, we become consumers, not citizens. (By age 18 we spend more time with TV than anything else except sleeping).

Politicans learn to manipulate the media and thus the public are manipulated. What we get is a status quo that is managed in a general sense.

Media thus help to SET THE NATIONAL AGENDA -- but media are not free actors and, instead, tend to follow the government (and politicians), where they get their cues.

Media also take for granted that corporations are setting the tone for America and do not scrutinize that.

Media tend to report the government side (and, thus, the status quo) and in a way serve as PROPAGANDA agents (for the power elite and status quo).

So, media help manage a dynamic status quo. It adds up to a picture of the world that is extremely powerful because people see the world as it is given to them (largely from the mix of news and fiction, including TV docudramas)) and don't tend to have an in dependent sense of judgment.

Media PROMISE to free people (and become a good solution to the problem of mass communication) and once in a while they deliver on the promise (stories on Watergate, famine, Chinese man standing in front of a tank, or the Challenger explosion).

However, they also DISAPPOINT. They give a managed, sedate, predictable world, and people are reduced to specatatorship and voyeurism.

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Updated 2003