If you want to know what is happening in the world….

If you want to know what is happening in the world, don’t follow the news. News media nowadays is more about entertainment — attracting eyeballs — than about information. There is more coverage of Kim Kardashian’s sex life than analysis of major events. And if it bleeds it leads — the more shocking a story, the more eyeballs it will attract. Television and newspapers are full of coverage of the recent Paris attacks. The media and terrorism have evolved a mutually beneficial relationship.

Information on the other hand is boring and does not sell newspapers.

According to the WHO 153,000 people died yesterday. Most were from non-communicable diseases (104,000) with cardiovascular disease the top cause of death (20,000 from ischemic heart disease and 18,000 from stroke). Of the 33,500 deaths yesterday from communicable diseases, HIV accounted for 4000, the same number as diarrhoea, tuberculosis 2500 and malaria a paltry 1200. There were 13500 deaths from injury, the leading cause being road accidents (3500). Death from terrorism, fortunately, is too insignificant to even deserve a mention in the WHO tables.

Eradication of diarrhoea would have far greater impact than eradication of terrorism (which causes about 90 deaths/day according to a recent article in the SMH). And potable drinking water costs far less than bombs and missiles. Unfortunately it just doesn’t get enough media coverage to warrant attention.

….extracted from a discussion on Terror and Publicity.

Is Russia making preparations for a great war? | OSW

Andrzej Wilk asks “Is Russia preparing for a large-scale war?”

In total, these armed exercises involve over 200,000 soldiers and several thousand combat vehicles, hundreds of planes and helicopters, and about a hundred ships…… military spending has become the undisputed priority of Russia’s financial policy. For 2015, this will reach the value of 4.0% of GDP (compared to 3.5% of GDP in 2014), a rise of more than 10% in real terms (to a level of at least US$84 billion). The increase in the Russian army’s activity and military spending is being accompanied by an information campaign which is increasingly intense, and is being channelled to meet public expectations, according to which Russia must defend itself against the aggression of the West.

….At present, it is increasingly relevant to question whether the spiral of militarisation which the Kremlin has set in motion has already reached the point of no return. The only way out in such a situation would be, in the best case, to achieve a spectacular success along the lines of Russia reducing the whole of Ukraine to a vassal state… and in the worst case, for Moscow to start a war on a far bigger scale than its actions in Georgia in 2008, or currently in Ukraine.

Read more at Is Russia making preparations for a great war? | OSW.

How Russia Is Revolutionizing Information Warfare | Defense One

From Peter Pomerantsev:

In today’s Russia, by contrast, the idea of truth is irrelevant. On Russian ‘news’ broadcasts, the borders between fact and fiction have become utterly blurred. Russian current-affairs programs feature apparent actors posing as refugees from eastern Ukraine, crying for the cameras about invented threats from imagined fascist gangs. During one Russian news broadcast, a woman related how Ukrainian nationalists had crucified a child in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. When Alexei Volin, Russia’s deputy minister of communications, was confronted with the fact that the crucifixion story was a fabrication, he showed no embarrassment, instead suggesting that all that mattered were ratings. “The public likes how our main TV channels present material, the tone of our programs,” he said. “The share of viewers for news programs on Russian TV has doubled over the last two months.”

…..The point of this new propaganda is not to persuade anyone, but to keep the viewer hooked and distracted—to disrupt Western narratives rather than provide a counternarrative. It is the perfect genre for conspiracy theories, which are all over Russian TV. When the Kremlin and its affiliated media outlets spat out outlandish stories about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in July—reports that characterized the crash as everything from an assault by Ukrainian fighter jets following U.S. instructions, to an attempted NATO attack on Putin’s private jet—they were trying not so much to convince viewers of any one version of events, but rather to leave them confused, paranoid, and passive—living in a Kremlin-controlled virtual reality that can no longer be mediated or debated by any appeal to ‘truth.’

Read more at How Russia Is Revolutionizing Information Warfare – Defense One.

Absence of ethics in advertising [video]

The Pitch from Gruen Planet asks two ad agencies to come up with a campaign concept to sell viewers on the idea of restricting advertising. The first ad is amusing, but the second is chillingly Orwellian.

The Pitch runs from 21:20 to 23:30.

The latter reminds me of Noam Chomsky’s observation about propaganda and the media:

The public relations industry, which essentially runs the elections, is applying certain principles to undermine democracy which are the same as the principles that [it] applies to undermine markets. The last thing that business wants is markets in the sense of economic theory. Take a course in economics, they tell you a market is based on informed consumers making rational choices. Anyone who’s ever looked at a TV ad knows that’s not true. In fact if we had a market system an ad say for General Motors would be a brief statement of the characteristics of the products for next year. That’s not what you see. You see some movie actress or a football hero or somebody driving a car up a mountain or something like that. And that’s true of all advertising. The goal is to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices and the business world spends huge efforts on that. The same is true when the same industry, the PR industry, turns to undermining democracy. It wants to construct elections in which uninformed voters will make irrational choices. It’s pretty reasonable and it’s so evident you can hardly miss it.
~ From lecture titled “The State-Corporate Complex: A Threat to Freedom and Survival,” at the The University of Toronto, April 7, 2011

Two more quotes by Chomsky from Alternet.org:

The leading student of business propaganda, Australian social scientist Alex Carey, argues persuasively that “the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
~ From World Orders: Old and New

If the media were honest, they would say, Look, here are the interests we represent and this is the framework within which we look at things. This is our set of beliefs and commitments. That’s what they would say, very much as their critics say. For example, I don’t try to hide my commitments, and the Washington Post and New York Times shouldn’t do it either. However, they must do it, because this mask of balance and objectivity is a crucial part of the propaganda function. In fact, they actually go beyond that. They try to present themselves as adversarial to power, as subversive, digging away at powerful institutions and undermining them. The academic profession plays along with this game.
~ From Lecture titled ” Media, Knowledge, and Objectivity,” June 16, 1993

Chomsky has been painted as a wacko conspiracy theorist by mainstream media — and some of his later statements on global politics do strike me as odd — but his early insights into the unholy alliance between the media, business and politics and their use of propaganda are chillingly accurate and should not be ignored.