Democracy and the manipultion of public opinion

Fox News hosts broadcast news they allegedly knew to be false.

By: Raúl Zibechi

The most adequate form of ensuring governmental stability has been, until now, controlled democracy or low-intensity democracy; that is, a system that achieves stability through disinformation that the monopolized communications media promote, which is proving to be more efficient than dictatorships.

A study conducted by scientists with groups of fish, whose results they estimate can be extrapolated to human societies, was published in the Science journal in 2011, under the title “Uninformed individuals promote democratic consensus in animal groups.”

The research concludes that to counteract the influence of an obstinate minority, “the presence of uninformed individuals spontaneously inhibits this process, returning control to the numerical majority.”

The work insists on the importance of what it calls “uninformed people” in decision-making, whose result would be democratic because they are simply in the majority.

At this point, scientists seem influenced by the concept of a democracy of the ruling classes, which reduce democracy to the role of the majority in the election of their representatives. The problem in our societies is that these majorities are created by the manipulation of information, a task that falls to the big media monopolized by small groups of highly concentrated entrepreneurs.

Although the work is much more extensive than the above-cited paragraphs, which only synthesize it, the importance of misinformation or, if you prefer, of the confusion they are capable of creating to distort the population’s perceptions, often pushed to support options that go against their interests, must be retained in order to paralyze its capacity to react with a real bombardment, a task that falls particularly on the audiovisual media, especially television, the segment of communication most concentrated and impervious to dissent.

Examples abound: from misinformation about the causes of the covid-19 pandemic, with over-information about the bat in a Chinese market as a cause, to hiding the proven role of deforestation for [growing] industrial crops, to the causes of the war in Ukraine. Rejecting Russia’s invasion should not go hand in hand with denial of the existence of a coup in Kiev in 2014, nor the closure of 217 media outlets in Ukraine during the first year of the war, while 12,000 local and foreign journalists were accredited to cover it, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Nor are there reports in the Western media about Nazism in Ukraine, nor about Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen, with its corollary of death, famine and humanitarian disaster. The presence of the U.S. armed forces in Syria, and so on in many other cases, is not considered an invasion.

Abdullatif with his two youngest children. Both show signs of acute malnutrition. Photo: WFP/Mohammed Awadh.

Not to mention the US sabotage of the Nordstream gas pipeline, Seymour Hersh, who prepared a detailed report on how it was destroyed, “will be silenced and vilified”, as Noam Chomsky has just assured.

The truth is that disinformation plays an important role in sustaining the Western systemic order, a sector of the world that controls the principal media outlets that reach the population. As a recent coverage of El Salto points out: “the best journalistic content may not have any consequences,” because the power and the media at its service ignore it.

It’s clear that democracy does not exist in the media. This almost absolute control has achieved something that decades ago seemed impossible: eradicating conflict from public perception. The most brutal crimes can go unnoticed if the media insists on it.

When this media control overflows, because the reality is too evident, as in Peru in the last 70 days, there are the police, “the permanent coup d’état”, to break up the protests.

In my view, this reality has two major consequences.

The first is that it doesn’t make much sense to fight for public opinion, nor to compete with the system’s media, something that the peoples who struggle will never achieve. Without a doubt it’s about creating our own media, but not to compete for the opinion of the majorities, but rather to consolidate our field, the peoples in movement and all those who accompany them. That’s not something minor.

Autonomy: “For the Defense of Land and Territory. The land belongs to those who work it.” San Francisco, Teopisca, Chiapas, Mexico.

The second is the conviction that something called democracy doesn’t exist, if it ever existed. From the moment in which peoples’ opinions and wills are molded and manipulated by gigantic machines that escape any control other than that of the ruling classes, entering the electoral game has no future.

Constructing below and to the left seems the only emancipatory path possible.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, February 24, 2023, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

One Comment on “Democracy and the manipultion of public opinion

  1. Pingback: Democracy and the manipultion of public opinion民主與操控輿論 – @narcissan

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