EoA: Part Two Begins

Edge of Apocalypse: page 139 (Part Two Quotes Page)

*blows dust off Edge of Apocalypse*

*coughing fit*

Hello, everyone! Sorry for the long hiatus. Seems that Fred Clark has a bit more influence upon the rest of us LaHaye book commenters than one would think. 😛

So before I dive into the actual next chapter, I’d like to take a look at the quotes page. Readers may recall that I have mentioned that LaHaye and Parshall seem to have taken left-wing critiques about concentration in the media, corporate power, and so on, and created a bizarro cracked-mirror image of this world for their generally right-wing RTC audience.

The first quote is quite interesting, because such media concentration has been argued by groups like FAIR as a basic reason why the media now has a right-wing bias, even though the Republican Party often cries a persistent “Liberal Biased Media” (to which I can only defer to Rack Jite’s Liberal Media My Ass. 🙂 )

In less than a generation, the five intertwined media corporations have enlarged their influence in the home, school, and work lives of every citizen. Their concentrated influence exercises political and cultural forces reminiscent of the royal decrees of monarchs rejected by the revolutionists of 1776.

Ben H. Bagdikian, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

What’s amazingly bizarre is that the book this quote is extracted from has been praised by others on the left (note the amazon reviews). I’ve gotta say, if Parshall (I doubt LaHaye did this spadework) actually went to the trouble of reading this book, he’s potentially a lot more open-minded on the subject than most of his intended readership; I have seen blogs by otherwise extremely intelligent people who are firmly convinced that the likes of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are 100% true, all the time. Even intelligent people who’ve read Chomsky and should know better.

So it flummoxes me completely to see Parshall completely turning this around and assuming that the world of Edge of Apocalypse is a valid alternate reality to our own (or for that matter even a valid representation of our reality!), because no left-wing oriented media has ever actually worked the way he presumes it does in this book. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of a media which was diverse and covered the labor beat, not just the business beat, and in which center-left ideas predominated, there was no command-and-control over the media (imagine if LBJ was as venerated as a demigod like Shrub by the populace and the media!) – in fact, I note that the Pentagon “learned” from the Vietnam era of war and began sharply restricting media access to battle theaters to get tighter control over the media message, which slots neatly in with a more authoritarian, right-wing mindset that people up top know best and should issue orders and commands that people below should follow.

So the closest approximation, in our own history, to anything like the world of Edge of Apocalypse just doesn’t mesh with it.

The next quote is this:

The media can determine foreign policy, and it can help to win or lose wars. It can bring about recession, or it can bolster confidence in the economy. In short, we live in a dictatorship of the media. It controls what we know, what we think, and what we buy. It is not Big Brother we have to fear as much as it is Citizen Kane. And if we are to be really free, we must lift the veil that blinds us.

Tom Neumann, publisher, The Journal of International Security Affairs

I find little to argue with here. One of the things that motivates right-wing command-and-control over media message in politics is precisely because of the loose-cannon attack-dog nature of the media if left to its own devices. Leftists don’t understand this, or if they do, they choose not to adopt similar tactics, probably primarily because it feels a bit like treating people like morons who have to be spoon-fed everything to develop the desired point of view.

So yes, the media is a powerful influence over what people do and think, and to argue otherwise is wilful ignorance either of self or of society, or purely disingenuous. I know people who have argued that advertising is not fundamentally a false creation of desires, and that in terms of economics, it represents a legitimate way to reveal preferences for products rather than representing a distortion of a fully competitive market, and of corporate incentive structures (since money spent on advertising is not spent on improving product quality, or making production more efficient, or even just hiring more people to do work).

But advertising is a media creature, and as such is subject to the same driving forces as news in the media – what is today’s sensation has to remain today’s sensation in the minds of an audience slowly becoming ever more tuned to the quicker pace of events in today’s world. (I’m primarily a creature of the 1980s and 1990s, and even I now am astonished and appalled at the ruinously inefficient mechanism of having to read actual books to get background information and/or references for papers! I can download 90%+ of what I need these days from the comfort of my home computer.)

To return from that digression to the quotes page, let’s round it out with the first really disingenuously placed quote:

By contrast, in the case of the BBC and CNN, you are explicitly aware that rather than presenting the world as they find it, those channels are taking a distinct side–the left-liberal internationalist side–in an honest and fundamental debate over foreign policy.

Robert D. Kaplan, “Why I Love Al Jazeera,” The Atlantic (October 2009)

First, notice that LaHaye and Parshall are explicitly reinforcing the “Liberal Biased Media” metaphor in the minds of their intended audience by referring to that mysteriously foreign BBC and that suspicious CNN (which, to be perfectly honest, is, by American Republican standards, somewhat to their left).

Then notice they round it out with that suspiciously Middle Eastern Al Jazeera in the title. I mean, could they be any less subtle in hitting the “Al Jazeera = very suspicious” button in their audience?

We often speak of “dog whistles” and “code phrases” used by many on the right. Just saying “Al Jazeera” is like a trigger word that connects an Arabic phrase to a whole host of mental associations that, after September 11 2001, primarily revolve around not-so-hidden racism against Arabic and Middle Eastern peoples. By linking the Al Jazeera title to the BBC and CNN, it extends the umbrella of suspicion and intolerance to these other news agencies.

By rounding it out with the “left-liberal internationalist” phrase it’s another obvious button push to a determinedly insular and politically conservative audience. Remember that this book has been all about playing on the exaggerated fears of their audience that the United Nations actively wants to govern the United States – to encroach on US sovereignty, in other words – and that Democratic politicians* actively want to give away the ability of the US government to do anything on its own soil or on another nation’s soil.

All the above determinedly ignores the fact that a large portion of the United States media viewing audience explicitly only watches, listens to, or reads right-wing media organizations. The most pre-eminent among them, of course, is Fox News which unabashedly pushes a slanted media message and has had the temerity to call it “Fair and Balanced”. One fig leaf they use to accomplish this is the Hannity and Colmes show, as Al Franken has mockingly termed it (I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating). By putting on one token milquetoasty “liberal” in the form of Colmes, who Sean Hannity regularly stomps all over with cleats in an unfair fight, Fox News gets an immunity to allegations by real liberals that the presentation in Fox of left-wing viewpoints is given short shrift, since Sean Hannity can point to Colmes and say “See? See? It’s not my fault he’s so easy to stampede with the correctness of my points!”

In conclusion, it’s worth keeping in mind the origins, sources and filters through which LaHaye and Parshall have obtained their ideas and thoughts which find expression in this “techno-thriller” Edge of Apocalpyse.

Stay tuned for Chapter Twenty-Six. 🙂

* Fixed. (see comment below)