Declaration of the Executive Board and Board of Trustees of the Ethecon Foundation dated 24th March 2012
Break the Power of the Media!
National and international mass media incapacitate the people, promoting the ruthless logic of profits
Today’s mass media go beyond traditional products of the press and beyond cinema, radio and TV – new web-based media have gained importance such as websites, facebook, YouTube, blogs, apps, twitter etc.. With few exceptions, these media penetrate people’s lives. There is no longer a single sphere in our lives which is free from their influence. Each day and all over the globe, their methods of control are more and more perfectionist. This goes from crude demonstrations of power all the way to subtle manipulation.
Noam Chomsky, Professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has stated: “The essential task of the mass media in the proper sense is to keep people from doing more important things.”(1) The “more important thing” they are trying to keep “people” from is standing up for their own interests. The mass media are designed to keep people quiet whilst they are being exploited and downtrodden. They are designed to offer distraction whilst the very basis of people’s lives is being disrupted and destroyed. They are designed to be a hindrance to protest and resistance or to weaken them or even to make them impossible whilst a small group of those who are in power take possession of the wealth of the world. They are designed to create some legitimacy whilst the countries step up repression against people and commit crimes and wage wars for securing and expanding the wealth of those who are in power.
It is the task of the mass media to stabilize the system. As early as some two hundred years ago the philosopher and economist Karl Marx stated: “In every epoch, the thoughts of the ruling class are the ruling thoughts; i.e. the class which constitutes the ruling material power in society constitutes, at the same time, the ruling power over the minds.”(2) – A timeless analysis which is valid until the present day. So in the end it is the few major shareholders standing behind the 147 big companies which rule the world. According to a Swiss survey (3) they decide about the information the world is fed with and notably the information the world is not fed with.
The media constantly boast a vocabulary of “democratic” and “independent” and “non-partisan”. But this is no more than a whitewash. Paul Sethe, chief political editor of DIE WELT (4), was quite right when he wrote: “The freedom of the press is the freedom of two hundred rich people to spread their opinion.”(5) The big media are completely in the hands of a small circle of the publishing companies’ mega-rich main shareholders (and of their profit interests) who act in the interest of their own profit. Instead of quality journalism an ever-increasing return on investment is the principal duty of the editorial staff.
An example from Germany is useful for explaining how this “opinion dictation” is enforced: 80% of all newspapers which are sold in the streets of the Federal Republic belong to the SPRINGER company. One clause of the labour contracts of the editors who work there is their commitment to adhere to “the principles of the company”, to assure “support for the transatlantic alliance and solidarity with the common values of freedom we share with the USA” and to defend “the free social market economy.”(6)
Even though you will come across journalists with an independent mind – these are few and far between and they live with the permanent danger of being fired. Whoever steps out of line will get the sack or even worse things may happen to him or her.
The media no longer shy away from the highest state offices. They were able to force US President Obama, for instance, in a most humiliating manner to publish his birth certificate as a proof that he was born in the USA (and not in Africa). And in Germany they chased the incumbent Head of State President Wulff out of office just a few months after his undisputed election (to make way for a more belligerent liberal man who is tougher on social issues and more open to the right wing – in short, more suited to the intentions of those who are in power).
With the results of what they are doing, the mass media trample on ethics and morality. They legitimize and promote every lowly instinct and aberration of the human character such as greed, egotism or brutality. Media producers driven by the viewing rate and return on investment disseminate scandalization, personalization and cheap thrills. What is left behind are respectable news reports based on sound investigation able to clarify connections between the economy and politics.
This is the demand of the ethecon Foundation: Put an end to the capitalist dictation of the media! It is contrary to basic ethical and moral principles. What is necessary is to rebuild the order of society – away from egotism and personal advantage and towards an economy where people really come first before profits. The primacy of profit must give way to the supremacy of solidarity and friendship between the peoples. The mass media must be put under democratic control. There is no democracy without democratic media.
Berlin dated 24th March 2012
(1) “Why the mainstream media are ‘mainstream’”, speech given in the Z Media Institute, translated from Z Magazine, July 1997
(2) K. Marx and F. Engels, “German Ideology”, Complete works of Marx-Engels Vol. 3, p. 46, Berlin 1969 (first published 1846)
(3) According to a much-quoted survey published in October 2011 by Zurich Confederate Technical University (ETH)
(4) DIE WELT from Springer publishing company is one of Germany’s big conservative daily newspapers
(5) Published on 5th May 1965 in the leading German political magazine DER SPIEGEL
(6)According to ISW-report No. 80 “Capital Power or Freedom of the Press”, Institute for social-ecological research into the economy, Munich April 2010