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'Western media' and mass deception

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"Gaza-Israel border: Clashes 'leave 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured'." That is a typical BBC headline when Israeli soldiers start killing, with coldblooded precision, defenseless Palestinians. "Palestinian officials say," they would then add, "at least 16 people have been killed by Israeli forces and hundreds more wounded during protests at the Gaza-Israeli border ... The Israeli military said soldiers had opened fire after rioting."

Where did this particular noncommittal news prose come from, this language of equivocation, this pathological penchant for the passive voice, systemically compromising truth as you report it - what does diction of inbred prevarication mean, what would people around the globe reading these lines think had transpired on the "Gaza-Israel border" as BBC puts it?

It scarcely matters what did actually happen on that "border". What matters is what and how BBC, or any other self-designated honorary club member of "Western Media" says happened. But what about the truth? What did actually happen? Who had lethal firepower at hand, who had bare bones and flesh exposed? One of the few Palestinian journalists who could tell the world the truth of what happened, Yaser Murtaja, was targeted by an Israeli sharpshooter and deliberately murdered. So, the world is at the mercy of BBC or the New York Times, etc, to say what actually happened.

What is the distance, the difference, between what actually happened as Palestinians experienced it, walking like innocent gazelles in front of a gang of vicious human hunters, and what the BBC, or CNN, or New York Times, etc, say what happened?

In their groundbreaking book, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), the founding figures of Critical theory Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer devote a by now legendary chapter to what they called "Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception."

In this chapter, they investigate how advanced capitalist societies manufacture the social subjects as consumers of mass culture - as they are consumers of Starbucks coffee or MacDonald's hamburgers - which is to say their subjectivities are the creations of a culture industry, receptacles of a massive body of disinformation that do not just entertain and preoccupy them but, in fact, engineer them as passive receptacles of an ideological domination beyond their recognition or critique. They give them a sense of false autonomy of choice.

What today we call "Western Media" is the paramount example of Adorno and Horkheimer's insight, the production of "news" as perfect examples of commodity fetishism. Such news outlets as BBC, CNN, New York Times are brands under which this commodity that calls itself "Western Media" manufactures both a truth to be reckoned with and in effect the normative consciousness of the person who consumes that news and thinks herself informed. They may think themselves objective news outlets that occasionally feature or air a commercial for an airline or a washing detergent. But they are themselves a brand just like the other brands they advertise.

This "Western Media" has historically posited itself initially as the opposite of the news as used to be broadcast in the Soviet Bloc, or China, or "Third World" in general, which was branded as "state-controlled," "propaganda," and........

© Al Jazeera