Medialens

2 December, 2011 | created using fivefilters.org

Climate Crisis – The Collapse In Corporate Media Coverage
The latest round of UN climate talks has just begun in Durban, South Africa, but the world’s richest nations are already planning to prevent any new treaty from taking effect before 2020. Achim Steiner, head of the UN environment programme, has condemned the action as a ‘political choice’, rather than one based on science, calling it ‘very high risk’. With the Kyoto Treaty due to expire in 2012, the so-called ‘international community’ has failed abysmally to fulfil its commitments to protect the planet. This should surprise no-one. As senior Nasa climate scientist James Hansen pointed out after the previous climate summit in Mexico in 2010, UN talks are ‘doomed to failure’ since they do not address the fundamental physical constraints of the Earth’s climate system and how to live within them. Public concern about climate change continues to rise. According to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll (October 2011), 68% of Europeans polled consider climate change a very serious problem (up from 64% in 2009). Altogether 89% see it as a serious problem (either ‘very serious’ or ‘fairly serious’). On a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most), the seriousness of climate change is ranked at 7.4, against 7.1 in 2009. Meanwhile, media interest in the subject has crashed. Dr. Robert J. Brulle of Drexel University describes a ‘collapse of any significant coverage of climate change in the [US] media. We know that 2010 was a record low year, and 2011 will probably look much the same. If the media doesn’t draw attention to the issue, public opinion will decline’. In his authoritative Climate Progress blog, Joe Romm notes, for example, that the New York Times ‘cut coverage sharply since its peak in 2006 and 2007′. Equally disturbing is the variation in media performance across the globe. A wide-ranging Reuters study on the prevalence of climate scepticism in the world’s media – Poles Apart – The international reporting of climate scepticism — focused on newspapers in Brazil, China, France, India, the UK and the USA. The periods studied were February to April 2007 and mid-November 2009 to mid-February 2010 (a period that included the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen and ‘Climategate’). Remarkably, the study concluded that climate scepticism is ‘predominantly an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon’, found most frequently in US and British newspapers: ‘In general the UK and the US print media quoted or mentioned significantly more sceptical voices than the other four countries. Together they represented more than 80% of the times such voices were quoted across all six countries.’ The study concluded:

‘In general, the data suggests a strong correspondence between the perspective of a newspaper and the prevalence of sceptical voices within it, particularly in the opinion pages. By most measures (but not all), the more right-leaning tend to have more such voices, the left-leaning less.’ But in all ten UK newspapers studied, there was an increase ‘both in the absolute numbers of articles with sceptical voices in them and the percentage of articles with sceptical voices in them’. And so we find that Britain and the US – the two countries responding most aggressively to alleged ‘threats’ to human security in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – are also the two countries least interested in responding to the very real threat of climate change.  ‘Capitalism Is Trampling On Journalism’ As the Reuters study suggests, media reporting is heavily influenced by editorial stance which, in turn, is heavily influenced by commercial interests. In October, the former Daily Star journalist Richard Peppiatt told the Leveson inquiry into the culture and ethics of the British press the truth about about the UK’s newsroom culture: ‘In approximately 900 newspaper bylines I can probably count on fingers and toes the times I felt I was genuinely telling the truth, yet only a similar number could be classed as outright lies. This is because as much as the skill of a journalist today is about finding facts, it is also, particularly at the tabloid end of the market, about knowing what facts to ignore. The job is about making the facts fit the story, because the story is almost pre-defined. ‘Laid out before you is a canon of ideologically and commercially driven narratives that must be adhered to. The newspaper appoints itself moral arbiter, and it is your job to stamp their worldview on all the journalism you do… The ideological imperative comes before the journalistic one — drugs are always bad, British justice is always soft.’ Peppiatt noted: ‘Tabloid newsrooms are often bullying and aggressive environments, in which dissent is simply not tolerated. It is difficult to stand up and walk out the door with a mortgage to pay, knowing another opportunity is unlikely to be waiting beyond.’ The issue that is not being discussed by Leveson is the extent to which these observations generalise to the ‘quality’ corporate media, and why. By contrast, in soft-pedalling the level of interference from owners and advertisers, the Guardian’s Nick Davies wrote: ‘Journalists with whom I have discussed this agree that if you could quantify it, you could attribute only 5% or 10% of the problem to the total impact of these two forms of interference.’ (Davies, Flat Earth News, Vintage 2008, p.22)

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’ A prime example of this trampling was supplied by the high-profile BBC series Frozen Planet. or run campaigns in support of unfettered fossil fuel energy’. We are building up a horrible legacy for our children and grandchildren. Greenpeace reports: ‘The corporations most responsible for contributing to climate change emissions and profiting from those activities are campaigning to increase their access to international negotiations and. Southern Company. Most notable among them is the United States. In recent years. The climate campaign organisation 350. PG&E. said: ‘It is a “monster” increase that is unheard of.’ Journalist John Gibbons covered the issue of climate change for the Irish Times for two years. Groups like the American Petroleum Institute. do billionaire media proprietors. ‘Climate change is the most important part of the polar story. 2 . the ones who investigate.’ Leach added: ‘It’s quite right to cut the episode. yes and no. The world pumped about 564 million more tons of carbon into the air in 2010 than it did in 2009. Edison Electric Institute. the Tory peer and former director of the British Library. the world’s leading contributor both to climate crisis and disinformation about the problem. Gregg Marland. Prof John Sweeney of NUI [National University of Ireland] Maynooth. However. Chief among them.5 bn is invested annually in lobbying activities at the federal level. confusing the public through climate denial or advertising campaigns.Compare this with corporate escapee Peppiatt’s unfettered conclusion: ‘Capitalism is trampling on journalism. he added.’ While The Media Fiddles. He’s very endearing but I don’t think there’s any truth to what he says — he has no idea about it. making corporate political donations. aren’t journalists supposed to be the good guys. it’s changing the environment there in ways that are making experts fearful for the future.org estimates that 94 per cent of US Chamber of Commerce contributions went to climate denier candidates.’ The BBC’s helpful packaging of Frozen Planet generated little interest in the media.’ While making public statements that ‘appear to show their concern for climate change’. a professor of geology at Appalachian State University. This is because the BBC packaged the series in such a way that the climate change episode was an ‘optional extra’ that foreign networks could choose to reject. 2010’s Monster Increase Burns While public concern grows and media coverage collapses. ‘On thin ice’. According to a recent study by the US Department of Energy. approximately $3.” [Justin] Lewis and [Tammy] Boyce [of the Cardiff School of Journalism] point out. Lord Leach of Fairford. acknowledged last week that climate-change deniers were “winning the propaganda war”. Chevron. the US Chamber of Commerce. 10 have opted not to buy the episode on climate change. the climate change problem is going through the roof. damning column in February 2010: ‘Ireland’s most senior climate expert.’ Granger Morgan. not propagate. and ridicule dissenters. viewers in some other countries will only watch six episodes. said of the new figures: ‘Really dismaying. the warming in the Arctic can’t be denied. ‘Hang on a minute. the global output of heat-trapping carbon dioxide jumped by the biggest amount on record in 2010. the last of which. including using trade associations and think tanks as front groups. narrated by David Attenborough. USA Today reports. As. The fact is you can be jolly nice to monkeys but it isn’t the same as knowing what you’re talking about on climate change. working to defeat progressive legislation on climate change and energy around the world.’ Gibbons stated the obvious: ‘Millionaire “journalists” have a profound yet undeclared personal vested interest in the consumption-driven economic status quo upon which their wealth is predicated. deals with the threat of climate change. This helps explain. focusing on life and the environment in the Arctic and Antarctic. ExxonMobil. employing a variety of techniques. who has helped calculate Department of Energy figures in the past. an increase of 6 per cent. A spokesman for Greenpeace said: ‘It’s a bit like pressing the stop button on Titanic just as the iceberg appears. “A media and telecommunications industry fuelled by advertising and profit maximisation is part of the problem. head of the engineering and public policy department at Carnegie Mellon University.’ So why is nothing being done about the problem? In a new study. And reject it they did — of 30 networks across the world that have bought the series. the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and the Australian Coal Association. often campaign directly ‘against measures that would cut greenhouse gas emissions. They in turn seek out affirmation of their own biases. BP and ConocoPhillips all made the top 20 list of lobbyists. at the same time. He wrote his last. scams? Well. as well as making use of the “revolving door” between public servants and carbon-intensive corporations. of course. Greenpeace notes. ‘why decisive action on the climate is being increasingly ousted from the political agenda’. The latest figures mean that levels of greenhouse gases ‘are higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago’. They add: ‘These polluting corporations often exert their influence behind the scenes. although some praise.’ In the US alone. were deniers from the ranks of journalism and lobbying. these corporations are fighting fiercely to prevent action. Royal Dutch Shell. you might ask. Who’s Holding Us Back?. commented: ‘I don’t think what Attenborough has to say about climate change is worth listening to. British viewers will see a total of seven episodes.

’ Indeed. (Email.rusbridger@guardian. The accompanying photograph helpfully depicted a giant mushroom cloud during a 1954 nuclear test over Bikini Atoll.co. we challenged James Hansen to sum up governments’ responses to the threat of climate change in a single word. the corporate media is keen to avoid honestly addressing an issue that so violently conflicts with its profit-maximising agenda. but we wanted to get an idea of his gut feeling. Nothing. A strategic approach would instead recognize the geophysical boundary conditions. Borger gave prominence to a quote from an 3 .  SUGGESTED ACTION The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality. at the coal/oil/gas source or port of entry). “Goals” for emission reduction. June 18. Two years ago. while continuing to build more coal-fired power plants and developing unconventional fossil fuels is a disastrous path.co. informed scepticism in the corporate media has been muted or non-existent — the image of Iran as a ‘nuclear threat’ has yet again been imposed on the public mind.uk James Stephenson. Naturally enough. even themselves. BBC News at Ten editor Email: james. its need for endless economic growth. says that this latest study: ‘shows beyond a doubt that there are a handful of powerful polluting corporations who are exerting undue influence on the political process to protect their vested interests’. ‘suggesting that Iran is secretly working to obtain a nuclear weapon.uk ‘They Found Nothing. If you do write to journalists. and other carbon-free energies) — there must be a rising price on carbon emissions (a fee. ArcelorMittal and Business Europe. It’s just this — almost the same sort of — I don’t know if you want to call it a “psychosis. Thus. the corporate takeover of government policy really has taken humanity to the very edge of the climate abyss. threatened planet on which we depend for our very survival - burns. requiring 1–2 decades to reset. non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.’ Two days earlier.’ The IAEA. editor of the Guardian Email: alan.co.blackhurst@independent.uk Chris Blackhurst. he told us. subsidized) fossil fuels relative to alternatives (energy efficiency. 70%. Please write to: Alan Rusbridger. As that price rises and the competition ensues we would reach a point where alternatives suddenly take off and we move beyond the dirty fossil fuel era. Would he say that governments were 1%. We need to occupy the corporate media system that is fiddling the same idiotic tune even as our world — this precious. editor of the Independent Email: c.’ He added some disturbing analysis: ‘The fundamental economic requirement concerns the price of (cheap. said the BBC. the same sort of — no lessons learned. specifically that coal emissions must be rapidly phased out. Any reasonable news reader and viewer would find it extremely difficult to question the emphatic declarations offered right across the media ‘spectrum’.uk John Mullin. its heavy dependence on corporate advertising.’ Even the cautious and conservative International Energy Authority has now warned that under currently planned policies: ‘rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change. the IAEA said Iran had carried out activities ‘relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device’.co. Julian Borger.… of the way there? We knew this was imprecise.Attempts by the EU to increase its emissions reductions target for 2020 from 20 per cent to 30 per cent has been undermined by the heavy lobbying of carbon-intensive interests. renewables. we strongly urge you to maintain a polite. 50%. 2009) We then asked him to give a rough figure to indicate how far he felt governments had moved towards tackling climate change. The fear that this will in fact occur is what drives the fossil interests who have totally taken control of our governments’ actions. including BASF.’ Be in no doubt. veteran journalist Seymour Hersh commented this week in an interview with Democracy Now!: ‘But you mentioned Iraq. 20%. anticipated the report’s publication on his ‘Global Security Blog’ with a piece titled ‘Iran “on threshold of nuclear weapon”’. But we also need to occupy the media space that for so long has been monopolised by Wall Street’s propaganda arm. We need to Occupy Wall Street. the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its much-trailed report ‘presenting new evidence’. cap-and-trade with offsets.mullin@independent.stephenson@bbc. a Guardian editorial asserted: ‘It really is time to drop the pretence that Iran can be deflected from its nuclear path.” but it’s some sort of a fantasy land being built up here. the Guardian’s diplomatic editor. Tzeporah Berman. Co-director of the Climate and Energy Program at Greenpeace International. His article was linked prominently from the home page of the Guardian website. editor of the Independent on Sunday Email: j. It is meant to fool people. He responded: ‘0%. Iran And ‘Fantasy Land’ Earlier this month. obviously. Having looked deeply into the claims. In a later article. He chose ‘misleading’. compassion and respect for others. because they are starting down a wrong track.’ Relying on ‘evidence provided by more than 10 member states as well as its own information’. Why misleading? Because ‘it’s mostly greenwash’. of course — we need to win back our governments from corporate control. as it was with Iraq.

Nothing. They found nothing.’ The title of an editorial (November 10. but in agreement with us. and it was aware it had a very high threshold of credibility to meet. The sole exception we could find anywhere in the UK print media was an article in the New Statesman by Mehdi Hasan.’  4 . Seymour Hersh is a rare voice of rationality exposing this latest propaganda hype. from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. This is a truly damning indictment of the ‘free press’. international sanctions and perhaps – the threat was left ‘lying on the table’ – war. we can even do better now. Its findings are entirely consistent with all that has been known and exposed before. it explains in detail how Iran has established a programme to develop the technologies for a nuclear weapon. According to a US Embassy cable from a US diplomat in Vienna. court on every key strategic decision. the editors added: ‘Indeed. but has been reluctant to say so.’ The Daily Telegraph declared its version of the truth unequivocally in a leader titled ‘Iran’s nuclear menace’. high confidence in its analysis. very. It noted that the IAEA report ‘has for the first time acknowledged that Tehran is conducting secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of weapons. It’s still a fantasy. Amano described himself as ‘solidly in the U. Following his election as IAEA chief. very classified.’ For anyone relying solely on corporate news media coverage. Virtually every component of warhead research has been pursued by Iran. Rather than report this vital evidence from WikiLeaks. We have incredible surveillance. On Democracy Now!. And some of the stuff is very technical. if it does exist. The coming transition period provides a further window for us to shape Amano’s thinking before his agenda collides with the IAEA Secretariat bureaucracy. the anonymous source continued in the Guardian: ‘The agency has very.unnamed ‘source close to the IAEA’: ‘What is striking is the totality and breadth of the information [in the IAEA report]. 2011) in The Times was similarly categorical and damning: ‘Deadly Deceit.’ This ‘very high degree of convergence’ would presumably be useful in hyping the alleged ‘nuclear threat’ of Iran. They lobbied successfully on Amano’s behalf. A US mission cable from Vienna commented that Amano was ‘DG [Director-General] of all states. but not in the paper itself.’ Presumably all-too-aware of increased public scepticism in the wake of Iraq. Our newspaper database search revealed that not a single UK national newspaper has mentioned the WikiLeaks cable revealing that Amano is ‘solidly in the U. no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. Yukiya Amano.’ And then continued without a shred of uncertainty: ‘The IAEA report is extensive and understated. As ElBaradei came to the end of his term in 2009. We monitored everything.’ Presumably drawing on clairvoyant powers.’ The editorial stamped this with the required emphasis: ‘This will sound. They have facilities to enrich. What is so breathtaking is that the apparent consensus on Iran. illustrates the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA. but I can tell you. Amano’s first bilateral review since his election. JSOC — they would send teams inside Iran. there’s not much you can do in Iran right now without us finding out something about it. the British media have either tried to silence or vilify its founder. So it would not be published unless they had that high level of confidence. Burying The Cable – WikiLeaks And IAEA Chief Yukiya Amano One of the stunning omissions in corporate media coverage of the IAEA report are the WikiLeaks disclosures concerning IAEA chief. No evidence of any weaponization. but not separate facilities for building a bomb.’ The Guardian reported the Amano cable in a blog back in November 2010. All that remained was to decide the necessary course of international action: ramped-up ’diplomacy’. even Jundallah. and is. a statement of such banality that it ought not to need saying. is a fraud. a US cable reported on a meeting with him: ‘This meeting.S. which is a very fanatic Sunni opposition group — and they would do everything they could to try and find evidence of an undeclared underground facility.S. They would work with various dissident groups — the Azeris. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has confirmed this week that it has credible evidence that Iran has worked on the development of nuclear weapons.’ Amano’s predecessor as IAEA chief was Mohammed ElBaradei who had refused to bow before US war-mongering.” and that the project may still be under way. court’ in coverage of the latest IAEA report. In those days. Founded on intelligence sources from ten countries. It did not want to make a mistake. like the case against Iraq. Julian Assange. what we did then. the case against Iran was closed. where the IAEA is based. the Americans sensed an opportunity to work with someone more compliant. the Kurds. In other words. This is simply a fact. the IAEA has known for years that Tehran was building an atomic weapon. Indeed. Hersh commented of former US Vice-President Dick Cheney: ‘Cheney kept on having the Joint Special Operations Force Command.’ In similar vein. a New York Times report opened with: ‘United Nations weapons inspectors have amassed a trove of new evidence that they say makes a “credible” case that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device. By contrast. Iran’s bellicose duplicity is definitively exposed by an IAEA report’: ‘Tehran’s decade-long nuclear programme is obviously not intended purely for generating electricity. and who was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. We haven’t found it. the IAEA is late in stating them.

Hersh added that one of the classified US Embassy cables from Vienna described Amano as being ‘ready for prime time.’ Shouldn’t these crucial facts be noted in your analysis? The NYT report continues: ‘When the director of the agency. We did get him in.’ In a blog on The New Yorker website.A. They did do that. We don’t see people with different points of view… And I get emails. Six ballots. court on every key strategic decision’. even as it continues to press for more international sanctions against Iran. I appreciate your comments and insight. In your analysis which is included in the BBC News article ‘UN nuclear agency IAEA: Iran “studying nuclear weapons”’.’ Isn’t all this relevant in assessing the context.A.”’ He described the new IAEA report as ‘not a scientific report.’ Amano had been ‘a marginal candidate’ for the position of IAEA chief but the US wanted him in place: ‘We supported him very much. you could approach the experienced investigative journalist Gareth Porter. and others. I sometimes get offended by the same voices we see in the New York Times and Washington Post. is deliberately taking a back seat. Reynolds emailed back: ‘thanks for your message. That’s still the American consensus.E. “I wonder why this same stuff is now considered ‘new information’ by the same reporters.’ In his Democracy Now! interview. but we pushed to get him in. A more balanced approach might be to report that a US Embassy Cable published last year revealed that Yukiya Amano. an officially-declared enemy of the West. noting that ‘Amano has pledged his fealty to America. and that it included expert testimony shunned by the major newspapers: ‘These are different voices than you’re seeing in the papers. We wrote to him the same day: I hope you’re safe and well there.’ The BBC ‘Notes’ Privately That There Are Dissenting Views On November 9. is ‘solidly in the U.’ Hersh cited Robert Kelley. Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attack on Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report. a non-profit organisation campaigning for effective arms control.’ You attribute such views to Iran.S.’ The cable also noted that Amano’s ‘willingness to speak candidly with U.S. would you perhaps consider addressing the above points in your analysis in future. “Way to go.  And according to a recent New York Times report: ‘the Obama administration. came to the White House 11 days ago to meet top officials of the National Security Council about the coming report. it’s a political document’.” I’m talking about inside the IAEA. His government has already declared that its findings are baseless and inauthentic. allegedly supplied to the I. told Hersh: ‘There is troubling evidence suggesting that studies are still going on. realpolitik and implications of the IAEA report? Can you not find critical commentators outside the Iranian government whom you can quote? Given the stakes involved.” Kelley said. like crazy. and known to many journalists. the administration declined to even confirm he had ever walked into the building. the IAEA director general.A. please? Many thanks. a retired IAEA director and nuclear engineer who previously spent more than thirty years with the US Department of Energy’s nuclear-weapons programme: ‘He noted that hundreds of pages of material appears to come from a single source: a laptop computer. we agree. 2011): Have you considered interviewing sceptical and informed commentators? For example. but internally. eager to make the conclusions entirely the I. It’s an organization that doesn’t deal with the press. you note that: ‘The agency stresses that the evidence it presents in its report is credible and well-sourced. He was considered weak by everybody. He’s going to do what we wanted. but they stopped in ’03.’ (Email.A. Greg Thielmann. they’re very bothered by the direction Amano is taking them. The Israelis will tell you privately. Hersh pointed out that his blog piece was thoroughly researched and checked by The New Yorker. He shares our views on Iran… it was just an expression of love. Rather than address any of the above points. interlocutors on his strategy … bodes well for our future relationship. a BBC news piece carried a side bar ‘analysis’ by James Reynolds. Yukiya Amano.E. whose provenance could not be established. a former US State Department and Senate Intelligence Committee analyst who was one of the authors of the ACA assessment.’  You then add: ‘Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed the IAEA as puppet of the United States.’s. November 9. by a Western intelligence agency. 2011. “Yes. a new BBC piece appeared in which the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany claimed to have ‘deep and increasing concern’ over Iran’s nuclear programme. Those materials. the BBC’s Iran correspondent. He responded by thanking us and saying he shares our views. He says that the recent IAEA report’s ‘dubious intelligence [is being] used as pretext for tougher sanctions’: 5 . from people on the inside saying.Hersh said that Iran did look ‘at the idea of getting a bomb or getting to the point where maybe they could make one. 2011) Just over a week later. acutely aware of how what happened in Iraq undercut American credibility. but there is nothing that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb. We emailed Reynolds again (November 18.” ’ An assessment of the IAEA report was published by the Arms Control Association (ACA). “were old news.

Activist and historian Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States) described it as a “wise and acute analysis of the way our minds are controlled”. heating. we nudged Reynolds on November 21 when he again avoided addressing the points made: ‘I received your message — thanks. it depends on ensuring that the culture is swamped by certain types of facts. Can journalists really have forgotten the propaganda offensive that predated the March 19. Please write to: Julian Borger. and co-author with David Cromwell of Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media (Pluto Press. He is also the author of The Compassionate Revolution (Green Books Ltd.’ Why remain silent about this astonishing fact? Isn’t this crucially relevant for public understanding of what is happening over Iran? Perhaps there are editorial reasons that are making it difficult for you to properly report these vital issues? (Email. diplomatic editor of the Guardian Email: julian. from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. Enormous numbers of people wake up every day wondering how to feed themselves and their families. ethical and spiritual issues. 2009).uk Twitter: https://twitter. November 22. BBC Middle East editor Email: jeremy. The interview is quite long. Kelley believes that ‘the report misleads and manipulates facts in [an] attempt to prove a forgone conclusion.com/#!/julianborger James Reynolds. conformist and uninformed.com/#!/jfjbowen Please blind-copy us in on any exchanges or forward them to us later at: editor@medialens.’ He also says that the IAEA report ‘recycles old intelligence and is meant to bolster hard liners. we strongly urge you to maintain a polite.co. SUGGESTED ACTION The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality. It is notable that you do not appear to have included them in any of your BBC reports to date.uk Twitter: https://twitter.uk Jeremy Bowen. November 22.org). political.bowen@bbc. If you do write to journalists. 2011) To no avail: the response was even more terse this time: ‘points noted. ‘the lifeblood of the BBC’ deserves no better than this. email. a media watch site. Free to be Human - An Interview with David Edwards “Thought control in modern society doesn’t rely on conspiratorial control. and so on. 2003 invasion of Iraq – a tsunami of disinformation in which they were accomplices? Have they really learned nothing? What gives them the right to absolve themselves and to start with a clean slate now that Iran is the next hyped ‘threat’? Surely now more than ever — as the spectre of yet another war in the Middle East looms. perhaps the greatest conflagration yet — it is vital that journalists should be wary of repeating propaganda claims over Iran. ideas and sources. you surely cannot be unaware of the informed commentators and important points presented to you [in the previous emails]. a nuclear engineer who has carried out IAEA inspections. (1) The central topic of the book is freedom. non-aggressive and non-abusive tone. Then there are wage slaves who are forced to sell their labour to pay for food.’ (James Reynolds.’ Shouldn’t you also be including such important and informed views in your reporting for BBC News? Not hearing from him. of course.Porter’s analysis is backed up by Robert Kelley. according to a WikiLeaks cable. 2011) We tried once more to elicit a response from the BBC’s Iran correspondent that actually addressed the points put to him: I appreciate your reply.medialens. Here is Richard’s November 10 interview with Media Lens co-editor David Edwards about his book Free to be Human. But with the resources of the BBC at your disposal.” – David Edwards Free to be Human demonstrates how powerful state and business interests distort our understanding of many political. They’re slaves to their need to find food and to the society that makes that so difficult. court on every key strategic decision. Don’t the majority of people living in the world today more or less have this? It depends.borger@guardian. David Edwards is co-editor of Media Lens (www. rent. Earlier dissidents understood that wage slavery really is a form of slavery.org Media Lens Cogitation: Free to be Human — An Interview with David Edwards The aim of Richard Capes’ More Thought blog is ‘to provide detailed audio/video/written interviews with authors of non-fiction social. compassion and respect for others. as ‘solidly in the U. November 21. 1011) Curiously. mortgages. we urge readers to ensure a steady supply of tea/coffee and biscuits. ‘It is always important for me to hear from licence-fee payers — the lifeblood of the BBC. email.reynolds@bbc.co. If you have no option but 6 . BBC Iran correspondent Email: james. There are the obvious restrictions on freedom. 2006) and Newspeak in the 21st Century (Pluto Press.S. 1998). I shall reflect on the points you raise. Why not? Nor have you reported — although I may have missed it - that IAEA chief Yukiya Amano is regarded by the US. philosophical and environmental books that I consider essential reading’.co. on how we define ‘freedom’.’ (James Reynolds. ensuring that we remain passive.

We say: ‘I’m furious!’ Then we are under the control of anger. Or we depend on the BBC. ‘War. (2) Why is it that many people in the West seem to believe freedom has been more or less fully attained for the majority of people? I’m not sure how much evidence there is for that ‘seem’. for feeling and serious thought. the Independent and The Times. the Buddha. and the 7 . Sensible discussion on these issues is essentially unknown in the mainstream media. modern culture steers us away from serious thought about the nature of freedom. If you try to opt out in the UK. and so on. and finally they don’t know that they don’t know. you know. Libya (again). Iran and so on. as an inspiring example of authentic democracy offering real choice to ordinary voters who are depicted as being in control. Virtually nobody knows that they don’t know what is going on. Yemen. So we are trained to actually seek. we have lost our freedom. we are chained to the people and organisations with the power to bestow these rewards. We’ve all got that scenario hovering over us in the backs of our minds. disturbing. But mystics like Bodhidharma. when different corporate interests are in agreement on something – that is. When we’re angry. 2001). we’re propagandised by society to seek freedom in dependency. can perceive the anger as a phenomenon separate from ourselves. The Observer. prettified picture of pseudo-reality. Well. Similarly. Whichever party we vote for. we tend to lose any sense of observing our thought processes. Obviously there’s much more to say even about this constraint on modern freedom… Our freedom is undermined by less obviously political forms of social manipulation. In polls. every random thought that comes into our heads. a background awareness that is able to observe thoughts and emotions. We feel that we are our thoughts (‘I think. Afghanistan. a life of dependence. The great spiritual teachers argue that the chains of society reach far deeper. we identify completely with the thought. commented on the US political system: ‘We have a two-party dictatorship in this country. indebtedness. we’re voting for corporate control of society. and so on.to sell your labour to survive. you will be denied the means to live and can end up on the street. you’ve got no meaningful choice. to willingly embrace. on issues that broadly favour elite interests — choices tend to vanish. Iraq (again). If you don’t like war. Osho and Eckhart Tolle argue that we are in fact a ‘witnessing consciousness’. I have been out of paid work numerous times in my life (Free to be Human was mostly written when I was out of work). Mystics teach that we can achieve freedom by learning to observe thoughts and emotions – we can watch the arising of anger in ourselves. they don’t influence policy. not too different from the savages [sic] who lost their land and freedom for glittering glass beads.’ With really immense power. Chomsky has said: ‘Not only is the rabble excluded. and so has freedom from thought. It’s clear that most people are striving for freedom from wage slavery. all dependent on corporate advertisers for 75% of their revenues (Peter Preston. political freedom is dramatically limited. But anyway it was alarming. Ultimately. Instead. identification can mean that we identify with.’ Erich Fromm made the deeper point: ‘Modern man exhibits an amazing lack of realism for all that matters. So you can try voting for a party that is opposed to Permanent War against Libya. and act on. As three-time US presidential candidate. for example. How do these media portray the corporate political puppet show? Unsurprisingly. For the meaning of life and death. large majorities recognise that government serves elite interests rather than ordinary people. Ralph Nader. happiness. The emphasis is on competition. Interestingly. This version of freedom chains us to external sources of reward and respect. But in reality. An insane person automatically acts on even the most extreme thought and becomes a danger to himself and others. We all have this threat hanging over us all the time. and then in jail. but I only once. getting the best grades to get to the best universities to get the best jobs and salaries. I suddenly felt very much an outsider. Chuang Tzu. now we’ve reached the ultimate. It is said that an Enlightened person is able to observe thoughts like birds flying across the sky. we cannot stop thinking obsessive thoughts about the target of our anger. This separation through watchfulness disengages the ‘clutch’ of the mind from the ‘engine’ of emotions. giving us freedom. He has covered up the whole reality of human existence and replaced it with his artificial. To work for a corporation is to be part of a system in which power flows strictly from the top down – it’s a totalitarian power structure. He or she can choose to act or not act on the thought. for happiness and suffering. you are ordered to ‘look for work’. some of the fiercest opposition to honest debate is found in the ostensibly ‘left-liberal’ press: the Guardian. How do we learn about these corporate-friendly choices? Through a corporate media system made up of ‘quality’ newspapers like the Guardian. Let’s face it. with senior managers appointed by governments ‘in thralldom to giant corporations’. It was nothing at all compared to what millions of people face on a daily basis — I was reduced to eating tins of mackerel on bread for a few days. therefore I am’). If we believe we need high status and ‘success’ to be happy. mostly different kinds of corporate bondage. coming first. For example. Serbia. Iraq. That’s the ultimate possibility in the destruction of democracy. If you refuse. you can’t be considered free. Human culture trains us to identify with our thoughts. 2008) The same applies in the UK. for example. Somalia. very briefly. Why? One reason is that the corporate media boost corporate-friendly parties and relentlessly attack and undermine alternative parties and voices challenging them. Pakistan.’ (Interview with The Real News Network. Closely watching an emotion creates a separation because we know the observer cannot be the same as the observed – the eye cannot see itself. Yes. One of the key purposes of modern schooling is to instill a thirst for ambition and status in the young. ran out of money. November 4. compassion and so on. That’s the lot of enormous numbers of people in the world. what is it good for?’. And it is a dictatorship in thralldom to giant corporations who control every department agency in the federal government. October 7. but almost no-one else will. but they don’t know what’s in policy. you can vote Green. Independent. Try as we might.

interview with David Edwards. our own society has evolved to persuade us to conform to anonymous authority. Journalists know very well that they are ill-advised to mention his name. ‘important’. But of course nobody even dreams of attempting to balance the flood of corporate advertising by which we are constantly assailed. the ‘radioactive’ writer is to risk contamination oneself. 2003 anti-war march in London – the largest political protest march in UK political history. to be constantly caught up in mind activity. Perhaps another example is the idea that a priestly caste is the embodiment of unconditional compassion and karmic purity – to have a single negative thought about these virtuous beings is said to incur huge karmic debts. The media system has both evolved and been designed to serve the corporate status quo. and that He is represented on Earth by a priestly caste and an authoritarian ruler. Why don’t you just go away?!“‘ (Lasn. fear and superstition. in part. through a kind of artificial evolution. and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public’. including who they are.BBC. this may prove to be our undoing. They sought out ‘structural factors’ to explain the ‘systematic behaviour and performance patterns’ of the media. you introduce the reader to Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s propaganda model of media control. high-tech solutions to all our problems. Not only are we not free. these attacks can have the effect of making a writer ‘radioactive’. (4) In the first chapter of ‘Free to be Human’. it is hardly surprising that so many people are unable to give serious thought to the extent to which they are free. techniques of control have evolved through trial and error over time to serve the needs of people with wealth and power. are subject to constant smears by these media (we at Media Lens have experienced plenty of this ourselves). is beginning to bypass the mainstream ideological gatekeepers. 1988). we are in a very real sense not even awake. Pantheon. to perceive a pathological situation as normal. nor in a past that has disappeared. Technically. This is the case with Chomsky. but mostly ignored. did try to place anti-corporate adverts on US TV. to challenge political authority based on this ideology? One can easily imagine how this idea could be used in the service of political oppression. This has the effect of flooding the marketplace of ideas with business-friendly messages about the state of our politics. is to be cut off from an experience of life lived in the present. to perceive ourselves as free when we are free to choose even though the choices have no meaning. or even to mention. from Pilger to Assange. They are greedy and exploitative because they identify with thoughts about the world. which is then accepted as Truth by other journalists. Genuinely left voices: from Chomsky to Chavez. happiness cannot exist in a future which does not yet exist. Herman and Chomsky listed five news ‘filters’ through which ‘money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print. As progressive journalists know only too well. Elites have learned that they can achieve control without coercion (understanding that force is unstable because it generates resistance) by dominating the framing conditions of society. Contemplatives argue that to identify with transient thoughts. Similarly. you have gone a long way towards controlling what people think. The messages are vacuous. When media smearing reaches a certain level of intensity it gives the impression of an informed consensus. newspapers are supposed to offer balanced coverage. for example.2): 8 . (3) Who is responsible for restricting our freedom? My feeling is that. which is the basis of egotism and greed that we call ‘materialism’. How could an ordinary person hope. democracy and freedom. undermined or ignored. It is this identification with mind activity – which is obsessed with the ‘better’ more ‘special’ future or the ‘golden’ past – that prevents us from being present in the only time that really is: the now. Manufacturing Consent — The Political Economy of the Mass Media. A classic example is the idea that a vengeful God will reward the obedient and punish heretics. Adbusters. in a really unprecedented way. one can argue that the majority of people are victims of powerful elites who (like their victims) are themselves victims of a false sense of identity. We need not concern ourselves with anything beyond this corporate version of reality. the field is left wide open for the corporate monoculture. And this gives rise to the craving to be ‘special’. Happiness can only exist in the moment. an early symptom of the internet’s liberatory potential. With dissent discredited and removed from the public debate in this way. Identifying with the mind means we are never here and now. August 1998) The advertisers’ message is always the same: freedom can be experienced through high status consumption and production. The spiritual teachers I mentioned in my first answer. Under this extreme psychological bombardment. This creates a pervasive sense of emptiness. In fact the Canadian dissident group. Obviously. as their founder Kalle Lasn told me: ‘TV Station managers said “Why should I run ads that hurt my business? We decide what we run or not. (Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. other than to ridicule him (academics report that they have been advised by fellow academics to remove Chomsky’s name from their studies for the same reason). marginalise dissent. The ‘Arab Spring’ is surely. and is allowing people to see through the ‘necessary illusions’ of the monoculture. On a deeper level. If you create conditions that make it impossible for anything other than corporate newspapers to thrive in the media marketplace. from Galloway to Castro. But. p. who have discussed the deeper limits of freedom. the internet. ‘extraordinary’. it is understood that to endorse. At that point. Anything that threatens this version of ‘normality’ is attacked. Having said that. of meaninglessness. are also heavily smeared. 1988. As was the February 15. we’re trying to run a business. Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky described a ‘propaganda model of media control’. not even fully alive. Could you explain why? In their book ‘Manufacturing Consent — The Political Economy of the Mass Media’ (Pantheon. benevolent corporations are offering a blizzard of wonderful. In the age of climate change. or dare. but they appear to represent an informed consensus and can persuade people to ignore their own doubts. The level of conformity is almost surreal. These ideas have clearly evolved to maximally exploit human greed. and never experience happiness.

cause a certain degree of solidarity to prevail among the government. But he does not know. He conforms to anonymous authorities and adopts a self which is not his. In spite of a veneer of optimism and initiative. The state-corporate system needs us to associate success with high-status employment and conspicuous. happiness.S.g. in our ideas about the purpose of psychotherapy (to adapt people to ‘normal’ life). the corporate media is structured in a way that protects and furthers the interests of state-corporate power in the absence of any conspiracy. business. ‘We believe that the flow of journalists in and out of the framing structure of the mainstream corporate media accounts. The more he does this. while others bounce (or are bounced) out. in a roughly analogous way. as discussed above. I looked at how they are reflected in our ideas about morality and religion. psychotherapy. U. The balls either land in a pyramid-building position. or even overt interference. ‘These factors are linked together. As a consequence. Of modern man. and was mobilized often to prevent the media from criticizing attacks on small states labelled communist. if he knew what he wanted. high status consumption. our ideas about love. it struck me that the ‘propaganda model’ powerfully substantiated Erich Fromm’s analysis of modern thought control.’ (Media Alert. how is it that books like your own. owned by very wealthy people (or other companies). for the remarkably uniform patterns found in mainstream reporting. (5) If all areas of modern culture are filtered by powerful interests in a way that reinforces the status quo. moral and religious beliefs. ‘Conspiracy-Free Conformity — How the Mainstream Smears Dissident Output.’ July 26. are able to be published? Thought control in modern society doesn’t rely on conspiratorial 9 . or bounce out of the structure. ‘Government and large non-media business firms are also best positioned (and sufficiently wealthy) to be able to pressure the media with threats of withdrawal of advertising or TV licenses. and frequently overlapping interests. owner wealth. major media. I examined different aspects of the ‘pyramid’ to see how various aspects of modern life settle within the ‘framing structures’ of state-corporate capitalism. and felt. libel suits. 2002) In Free To Be Human. compassion are often lost in wild goose chases that have nothing to do with the reality of human nature and everything to do with the needs of the status quo.’ (Erich Fromm — The Fear Of Freedom) Fromm argued that all aspects of modern culture – media. reflecting the multi-levelled capability of powerful business and government entities and collectives (e. Fromm argued that while Western society has broken the more overt chains of authoritarian control maintained by force – by tyrants and dictators – we are still imprisoned by ‘anonymous authority’ which filters what we think and believe about the world.. the more is he forced to conform. and other direct and indirect modes of attack. they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit-seeking entities. and so on. which challenge the status quo. I wrote in an early Media Lens media alert: ‘Chemistry teachers have long delighted students by showing how near-perfect symmetrical structures can be produced by pouring a large number of small balls into a square box. literature. It needs us to perceive political subordination to corporate power as ‘democracy’. Herman and Chomsky explain how this is achieved without a conspiracy or use of force. in fact it is merely a consequence of the random flow of small round objects over a square framework. thought. by organising the ‘framing conditions’ of society in such a way that they make a particular outcome all but inevitable. which heavily featured anticommunism before and during the Cold War era. whereupon a perfect pyramid is inevitably produced. individual ideas about love. July 1996) When I read Manufacturing Consent in 1993. The resulting pyramid — like crystalline structures found in the natural world — looks for all the world like it has been carefully designed. Chamber of Commerce. and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power 4: ‘flak’ as a means of disciplining the media 5: ‘anticommunism’ (more recently.1: the size. He would be free to act according to his own will. modern man is overcome by a profound feeling of powerlessness which makes him gaze towards approaching catastrophes as though he were paralysed. industry lobbies and front groups) to exert power over the flow of information. and other corporate businesses. the more powerless he feels. priorities and goals ‘fall into place’ in the media pyramid. Fromm wrote: ‘He has become free from the external bonds that would prevent him from doing and thinking as he sees fit. bounce into such a position.’ (Herman. The uniformity of reporting simply follows from the interaction of human nature with the framing structures of state-corporate capitalism — journalists with the correct views. at how they generate ‘Trojan thoughts’ that we perceive as our own but which have in fact been pre-filtered by the society around us. I looked at how these framing conditions tend to be reflected even in the authors and books we revere as ‘classic’. and both efficiency and political considerations. As we have shown in earlier Media Alerts. concentrated ownership. The media are also dependent on government and major business firms as information sources. ‘anti-terrorism’) as a national religion and control mechanism. ‘The propaganda model revisited. It needs us to perceive working as cogs in a corporate machine as compatible with human happiness. The media are also constrained by the dominant ideology. and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms 2: advertising as the primary income source of the mass media 3: the reliance of the media on information provided by government. They are profit-seeking businesses. the Business Roundtable. freedom and happiness – are effectively filtered by powerful interests in a way that reinforces the status quo. and who want their ads to appear in a supportive selling environment. success. I then discussed my own experience of the chains of ‘anonymous authority’ and my attempts to escape them. Herman commented: ‘The crucial structural factors derive from the fact that the dominant media are firmly imbedded in the market system.’ Monthly Review. but rather.

ideas and sources. But it’s still a drop in the ocean. Del Boy. or have they? What about the millions who didn’t march? Was going to the DIY store or watching the football on Saturday a demonstration of support for the government?’ (BBC. February 17. So the mainstream system tends to flood the market with system-supportive facts. Former Guardian journalist. puts him right (to paraphrase): ‘Can’t you see what’s happening? You’re missing Cassandra [Rodney’s ex-girlfriend] – you’ve got to get out there and get yourself another girl. this level of marginalisation is changing somewhat in the age of the internet. their relegation to the margins of the commentary pages of Britain’s “leftwing” media serves a useful purpose for corporate interests. Black Rose Books. How does it do this? One way is by relentless scepticism about all ‘deeper’ thought and all challenges to the status quo. Radical Priorities. will sell maybe a few thousand copies – maybe 20. The Scottish Socialist Party. ‘A big day out in Leftistan’. On the rare occasions when Media Lens is mentioned in the mainstream. 2003) We could analyse this tendency to ridicule. As discussed. So my book. It is a vital component in maintaining the fiction that a professional media is a diverse media. It would attract right-wing flak from politicians and other media. too. in terms of types. Jobs was the middle class’s Diana. politics and personal history of an Obama or a Clinton). so that one should simply accept the state capitalist order with its inherent inequities and oppression as the best that can be achieved. People who have heard of him know about his linguistics but not about his politics. Because his work is of such high quality. the Observer wrote: ‘It was back to the old days. but it’s typical of the media tendency to associate protest and dissent with naïve. against all the odds. After the biggest march of any kind in British history in February 2003. Quoted in C. Only Fools And Horses. it depends on ensuring that the culture is swamped by certain types of facts. you argue that one way our corporate capitalist society discourages us from challenging its goals is by persuading us that the search for truth is pointless. and ex-Services CND.000 copies over 15 years. the eyes of the Skibereen Eagle are upon him. In fact.’ (See David Edwards and David Cromwell. p. for example. September 29. leafleting outside Temple Tube station by 11 am. and so on. The Socialist Workers’ Party. In one episode of the hugely popular BBC sitcom. We’ve been accused of denying genocides we’ve never even written about! Or sample from the world of entertainment. Newspeak..’ …” (Ferguson. but the power of the corporate media remains immense. journalists have associated us with everything from ‘anti-semitism’.000s or millions of copies (just look at the shelves of books by and devoted to the philosophy. Jonathan Cook.’ Chomsky commented in 1979: ‘It is necessary to destroy hope. Mainstream political analysis. sneer and smear on so many different levels. it’s Samsung or whatever’s a “deal”. 1981) Here’s an alert on the theme. to ‘Stalinism’. Free to be Human. who would go elsewhere. to ‘Holocaust denial’. solidarity. This is essentially what happened when editor Piers Morgan pursued a comparatively radical anti-Iraq war stance in the Mirror in 2003. has managed to become one of the most-read writers on international politics. 2009. (‘In this edition: Noam Chomsky in Socialist Worker!’). Dissidents will appear – in fact it’s important that such ‘figleaves’ do appear — but very much at the margins.P. to replace these dangerous feelings by self-centred egoism. 2002) It’s just one article. CND. or even mentioned. A journalist commented to me on the huge media coverage of the death of Apple boss Steve Jobs: ‘Apple is the middle class toy. It’s all nonsense. has commented: ‘However grateful we should be to these dissident writers. in any mainstream newspaper or magazine. Otero. can of course sell 100. The Observer. Pluto. wealthy readers and wealthy owners. heavily reviewed and boosted by corporate media. a pervasive cynicism that holds that all change is for the worse.000 or 30. to supporting Saddam Hussein. a great international propaganda campaign is underway to convince people — particularly young people — that this not only is what they should feel but that it is what they do feel. Almost no-one knows about the book because it has never been reviewed. useless beliefs and goals. the BBC’s flagship Newsnight programme asked: ‘The people have spoken. It helps define the “character” of the British media as provocative.2) Dissident media will typically have a tiny fraction of the resources that are available to giant media corporations. His position was deeply unpopular with US shareholders who had him removed. (6) Towards the end of chapter 2. ideas and voices. which has a lovely ring of optimism to it. It will tend to provide an elite view of the world. to threatening journalists. Almost no-one I speak to has even heard of him. So a corporate media system will naturally tend to focus on issues that appeal to big advertisers. Newsnight. and concern for the poor and oppressed. Assad. This would not create a successful ‘selling environment’ for advertisers.control. ed. Drop a few rungs down from Guardianland and people don’t give a toss. pluralistic and free-thinking – when in truth they are anything but. without which Middle Class life is barren. young Rodney suddenly becomes obsessed with ‘saving the planet’. His family and friends are aghast at this new found altruism until his much older brother. (7) Why should we try to understand the ways in which our view of the world is distorted to suit the goals of state-corporate capitalism? 10 . to ‘genocide denial’.’ (Chomsky. After a massive anti-Iraq war march on September 2002. All the oldies and goodies were there. Noam Chomsky. and that if somehow they do not adopt this set of values then they are strange relics of a terrible era that has fortunately passed away. recalling the famous Irish provincial leader column in 1939: ‘Let Herr Hitler be warned. old-fashioned. Pressure would mount on editors and journalists pursuing such a radical course. idealism.’ A corporate media system will tend not to focus on issues that fundamentally challenge the system. ‘Scarborough Against War and Globalisation’. Qaddafi.

we can experiment in our lives. And advertising is only one of the constraints on honest reporting. This. It’s when we conform in the name of obligation. skilled and effective in what we’re doing. I had become used to judging people by how much they earned and had enjoyed a pretty rapid increase in earning power. duty and ‘normality’. which involves living in the here and now. that we become destructive. He suggested that the only really moral life is a blissful life – the point being that a life devoted to greed and ego is not blissful. This isn’t something to be taken on trust. We may stumble on the fact that this is the game our minds are playing. promote and keep editors who might be willing to subordinate profit to principle. we will still have our bliss. the suffering of desire. In other words. So we are never fully ‘here’ – we always have one mental foot somewhere ‘better’. As I wrote in the book. if we find bliss in a particular activity. but the point is that they got the general idea and it was plausible to them. The mystics tell us to accept desire. It’s clear that the greed machine will not stop of its own accord. no matter how terrifying the evidence – it has to be stopped. friendliness. Also. If we can manage to make that outpouring our life (if we can somehow support ourselves in doing it). then by devoting ourselves. I had no idea what it might mean to reject a corporate career. I fully believed I would never have the courage to escape. this time spiritual desire (far more insidious. I started out as a customer service rep in telesales and ended up group marketing manager for a small management consultancy. On the other hand. I asked them: ‘If a newspaper gets three-quarters of its money from business advertisers. depriving us of peace and happiness.’ It was simplistic and unscientific. I was making good progress and of course the investment in what I was doing had begun much earlier at university and school. it’s blindingly obvious. not to fight it – we should just intensely witness our desire. status or not. But why should it result in moral activity? I believe that human destructiveness is precisely a result of the failure of human beings to experience their aliveness and bliss. (8) How easy it to escape the chains of modern thought control or ‘anonymous authority’? It’s quite easy to see through the political illusions. something else in some better place and time – something is always missing. how likely do you think it is that that newspaper will tell the truth about any terrible things those advertisers might be doing to the environment and so on?’ I got responses like ‘It doesn’t seem very likely. To feel bliss is to be compassionate. We are persuaded to accept a version of the world that is immensely harmful to victims of exploitation in Third World countries. 11 . compassion. At this point. the goals of state-corporate capitalism are leading to a catastrophic collision with the planet’s life-support systems. we can pour all of our enthusiasm and energy into that task. In so doing we move out of the mind and into felt experience. you could follow that bliss like a line of thread through a forest and it would lead you to a life that was genuinely successful — both fulfilled and moral. And so we produce uninspired. But the lack of freedom. Campbell suggested that if you experienced bliss in some way. then we will be living in bliss. What work would I do? How would I feed myself? For a long time. I walked out on a sunny July afternoon 20 years ago – it was wonderful to feel that freedom.Three major reasons spring to mind: We are persuaded to pursue a version of happiness that serves others’ ‘best’ interests rather than our own. When I realised the significance of what Campbell was saying. Corporate greed is so destructive because it subordinates people and planet to profit. Notice that this can be achieved without any reference to. It makes sense. I have myself tried explaining the propaganda model to children as young as 10 and 12 in simplified terms. can bring liberation from thought-based illusions and suffering. the political chains we’ve been discussing – one can simply move straight to a focus on the spiritual problem. when the mind has been dropped. it became easy to give up corporate work for a life of writing about the issues I’ve been discussing here. I stumbled across Joseph Campbell’s work. Obsession with mind activity constantly takes us away from the present. Indeed. So it’s not complicated. Most of the time we do work that bores us. So we become accomplished. or be owned by their parent company). our mind is again caught up in desire. The antidote is to make human aliveness and bliss the highest value in our own lives. promote or keep journalists who consistently alienate important corporate and political allies. (9) Why did you decide to abandon your job as a corporate manager in 1991? Was it an easy decision to make? I built my career over about six years. and do what we find futile and boring. and happiness can arise. Escaping from the chains of egotism – a problem which goes far beyond mere political deceptions – is much more difficult. And so we are constantly desiring something more. far more dangerous). But of course the fact that we are pouring all of our energies into something with such passionate enthusiasm means we tend do a better job than people performing in a bored and listless way. ultimately. Following our bliss tends to bring the kind of conventional ‘success’ we have rejected as well. desire has been dropped. and who threaten profits. The bliss we can experience by focusing on something we love doing here and now – something that is not an investment in some ‘better’ future – is the same bliss we experience when we feel love. generosity and kindness. And the company isn’t going to recruit. so the only time where we can be happy. But our response may then be to desire to be free of desire! So then we are striving hard to make ‘spiritual progress’ towards that happy place where we are finally free of desire. however fleetingly or small. goals and strategies of foreign policy quite easily. that only engages a small part of our enthusiasm and energy. Too much really is not enough when we feel dead inside. the only time that actually is. Money or not. Jumping off the career ladder really did seem like a kind of suicide. money and status become almost irrelevant because they are unable to provide the bliss we experience simply from doing what it is we love doing. or awareness of. You can also understand the broad trends. Of course editors aren’t going to recruit. who cost the company money and ‘respectability’. Of course newspapers dependent on corporate advertisers for 75% of their revenues aren’t going to report honestly the destructive activities of the corporations on which they depend (and which may own them. it’s empty and deadening. the falsity and above all the terrible boredom of corporate work constantly pushed me to try and find a way out. boring results.

seemed so permanently full of ‘us’ — me. perhaps environmental — had triggered an immune system over-reaction called sarcoidosis. Our hearts sink into our stomachs. twice! It dawned on me that I could have died at any moment over the previous four years. to appear like scar tissue in various parts of the body — sometimes on the back of your arms. protein deposits. But we know we will have to move away. the last goodbye. or a car mechanic from under the bonnet. But that seemed appalling. some unknown factor — perhaps genetic. It seemed like an incredible vote of trust in myself. It didn’t always feel very real. of family and friends who are also falling. In some ways we are actually in a worse situation than the September 11 jumpers — they were falling towards death. disrespectful. with the usual twinkle in his eye: ‘It’s not Mickey Mouse territory. in your heart. my. We are falling towards old age. Or at least you think you’re in trouble. sometimes in your lungs. and the heart specialist says to me. our control cables a little more frayed. The American edition of ‘Free to be Human’ is entitled ‘Burning All Illusions’. the next moment I might be a slab of lifeless meat. 12 . the world. It hit me with incredible force that everyone would have to face what I had to face. Wisdom. Sometimes. we have a sense of falling in a universe that. or a consultant talking about your heart. quite rarely. you know you’re in trouble. from their very lives. that I would wake up and experience the same sense of invulnerability I had previously felt. without choice. too. This causes granulomas. We choose to move away.000 feet. My life was divided between the time I went into the hospital and came out — everything before belonged to a different. sometimes in your eyes.’ Reassuring words from a plumber standing over your sink. I felt such pride that I had been so true to myself. And my ‘aircraft carrier’ had been hit amidships. That seems extraordinary! We look at our relatives. in such a situation. amazingly. We are like airliners taking off every day packed full of passengers yearning from their very hearts for happiness. four years earlier. on the way down? The question seems outrageous. When it did feel real.332) We are all falling! How truly happy.To be honest. had turned against me with terrible ferocity. far worse. sickness. of everyone’s situation — we will all die! We could all die at any moment. but then you know you’re in trouble when you don’t know! My problem was that. It seems really shocking to me now that I ever allowed myself to be incarcerated in a corporate office. we are all falling. And every day our rivets are looser. the Buddhist sage Matrceta offers a stark analogy: ‘Should someone who has fallen from the peak of a very high mountain feel happy as they fall through the air heading toward destruction? Since they are running toward death from the time of their birth. Though protected by denial. If enough lumps collect in the wrong place. halt the disease. nature. is the situation we are all in. in the section of the heart that carries the electrical signals that keep it beating. when I lost some of the youthful complacency that shields us from the reality that we really will die. At that point. actually possible. an illness had been playing a one-sided game of Battleships with my body. And then we ask ourselves what we will do when they’re not there. who clung to their parents and loved ones and children — they would all be torn from everything they loved. Steps on the Path to Enlightenment. Even the people who were particularly sensitive. From A High Mountain Peak In the aftermath of these moments. how can sentient beings find happiness during the interval of life?’ (Quoted. This is one of the causes of Sudden Death Syndrome in otherwise healthy people who may have no idea they even have an illness. our engines leakier. and then death. nervous. ours — but which will one day be completely empty of ‘us’. p. and see that we are all growing older. I felt as though I was falling. at ourselves. as children. and far. This thought came to me quite often. Unbeknownst to me. in conventional terms. timid. featured two lumps that had appeared right there on the electrical pathway — the doctor drew a little cartoon for me on the back of an envelope. And yet this. we hold onto our loved ones and move away. all clinging onto their seats. When I left the hospital with orders to consume the maximum permissible dose of steroids in an attempt to switch off the immune reaction. I couldn’t decide if I’d been lucky or unlucky. My ‘territory’. I was hit by another shocking thought — this was the reality! It wasn’t that I was being miserable or deluded. It also occurred to me that. Once again. But not from a pilot speaking from the cockpit at 37. In fact you don’t know. it was as if the universe had turned on me. the signals can be blocked. greyer. safer world. We are falling towards the gradual loss of loved ones. The mind reeled at the suffering that forced that action upon them. 2004. I might yet drop down dead. and that other people are still living that kind of life. And sometimes. In Story for Stopping the Four Errors. which was not ‘Mickey Mouse’. The fear I felt of impending death was the truth of my situation. more vulnerable. One moment I might be here. but you’ll be okay. as if life. one day. Geshe Lhundub Sopa. I felt this most keenly at night. When one of these beloved airliners crashes it is a disaster for us. as the disease was still active. all desperate to avoid suffering and unhappiness. and ensure no more damage was done. mine. even more rarely. to what I felt. if (as I was told) ‘not aggressive or progressive’. And what level of happiness do we imagine would have been achievable. When we visit loved ones and say goodbye there is a sense that it is a rehearsal for the final parting. The sinking feeling of the fall is always with us on some level. can anyone be expected to be when they are falling in this way? We all remember the footage from the September 11 attacks of people throwing themselves from the upper floors of the World Trade Centre. 1999. Our happiness is dependent on the weakest part in all the many parts in all the many airliners we love (and we’re told that a Boeing 777 has not less than 3 million different Media Lens Cogitation: Falling By David Edwards April Fool’s Day. Volume 1.

with no desire to fill it – there is no need. Osho International. all is not as it seems. of dissident books. Nothing else is needed. ’10 Steps to Conquer Jealousy’. The remarkable fact is that we know almost nothing about our anxiety. For example. We seek tranquillity by pitting one part of our mind against another part. Bookshops are full of titles like: ‘Beat Depression and Reclaim Your Life’. comments and reviews across the internet in the hope that their words will matter to someone. welcoming it. is to escape. Ernest Hemingway describes a Spanish waiter who appears to live that way. resonate. Hail nothing full of nothing. when we are anaesthetised against fear and sadness by a thousand high-tech ‘solutions’? To be protected from all suffering is to be numb to the suffering of others. nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. observe them. and only this. always. deny or destroy them. But how can we feel compassion for others when we rush to escape from the slightest suffering in ourselves. p. We call this ‘solving problems’. that is the wrong way. some live in it and never feel it. Well-Lighted Place’) In the ordinary way of things. When we stop escaping and instead look deeply. But it is hard not to feel it when there is nothing left to aim for. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada. it is overflowing with joy. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada [nothing and more nothing] y nada y pues nada. viewing our painful emotions as natural phenomena to be investigated with respect and care. enjoying it. shared suffering. all-conquering? Are we doomed to live in the perpetual twilight of futility and despair? Towards the end of his short story. if we have 1. shared Being. we are told to fight nature. 13 . 10. but we can plunge deeply into them. It was all nothing and a man was nothing too. When the deer are startled. and those very rare precious beings who try to see the inner emptiness. become meditators. in recognition of our shared awareness. Millions of people write millions of opinions.’ Atisha meant that we should first gain deeper experience of our own suffering. with untold consequences for our own well-being. Compassion is a trembling of the heart based on an awareness of shared suffering. The waiter’s version of The Lord’s Prayer is strangely familiar: ‘What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. This is the surprise waiting at the summit of ambition. not peace. and sometimes dangerous.157) Our eyes are similar to their eyes. You see it through the mind. we can stop escaping. ‘Beating Anger’. But death renders it all meaningless — of what comfort can these things really be when we are falling ‘from the peak of a very high mountain’? Or we try to fill our sense of emptiness with a feeling that we are ‘somebody’ in the eyes of others who are also falling. because it is already full. as we fall. The Indian mystic Osho said: ‘There are only two types of people in the world: those who try to stuff their inner emptiness. We recognise the agony of fear in them. experiences. These enlightened alchemists rebel. The Buddha asked of some forest hunters: ‘Why do you commit such dreadful acts upon deer? Your eyes are similar to the eyes of a young deer. frustrated.000 or 1 million Twitter ‘followers’? Is the fact of the fall. Our hearts tremble. hopes and distractions that obstruct our perception of the great nothingness. It looks empty because you don’t have the right way of seeing it.’ (Hemingway. In fact bliss is found to be hidden in the last place we expected to find it. Instead. We can sit still and observe. nothing survives the fall to destruction – everything is ‘nothing and more nothing’. This is the great emptiness that haunts the heart of every achievement. disappearing. To fail is to suffer the agony of frustration and regret. An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics. Our society offers a limitless supply of such ‘solutions’.000. ‘Meditation is looking into your emptiness. they look about with revolving eyeballs. sadness and emptiness because our first impulse. nothing is with thee. then. 2000. Rarely do we approach our psychological life with curiosity. conquer it. ‘A Clean. Should you not therefore have compassion for those deer?’ (Peter Harvey. A vast industry has developed even to medicate us against our own emotions with powerful. above all. In classic Western style. being one with it. of course. Psychologists urge us to wage war on our emotions. that has the power to transform the lead of despair into the gold of liberation and bliss.parts!) As Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche said so well: ‘What an unfortunate situation beings are in!’ Our Nothing Who Art In Nothing We seek distraction in pleasures. The Book Of Wisdom. psychotropic drugs. But to succeed is to eliminate all the plans.’ (Osho. But there is a counterintuitive solution. Well-Lighted Place. It was a nothing that he knew too well. 2009) We cannot escape our fear and emptiness as we fall. We live as though we depend on the positive opinion of others like oxygen. Those who try to stuff it remain empty. against our tendency to escape from the reality of our own experience. their whole life is futile and fruitless. witness them. in discussing the development of compassion – through the practice of imaginatively taking and absorbing the suffering of others into ourselves — the great Indian sage Atisha said: ‘Begin the development of taking with yourself. It is a recipe for civil war. We build houses of business cards. They go on collecting garbage. Only the other kind. A Clean. possessions. The claim of the mystical alchemists throughout the ages has been that it is this. Cambridge University Press. it is divine. pues nada. it has tremendous beauty. Our nada who art in nada. ‘Controlling Your Emotions: Before They Control You’. will provoke some positive reaction or comment. But what does it matter. As Hemingway wrote. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. the very precious people who try to look into their inner emptiness without any desire to stuff it. If you put the mind aside and look into your emptiness. feel them.

We can’t ‘solve’ the anxiety that comes from falling from a high mountain. we are faced with the undeniable awareness that we. observing sadness. pp. This is vital self-awareness. to observing and experiencing our thoughts and emotions without trying to ‘solve’ them.org Email: editor@medialens. ‘But every time he put his foot down there was another step.medialens. counterintuitive — is that a deeper appreciation of the suffering of others diminishes the perceived seriousness of our own suffering. that he determined to get rid of both.’ Observing our emotions gradually teaches us (it is a slow process) that these are misperceptions. while his shadow kept up without the slightest difficulty… ‘He failed to realise that if he merely stepped into the shade. not in mere ideas about suffering. carefully. undeniable - a gap opens between us and the emotions with which we have always identified.’ (Osho. When we sit and simply observe our fear of death. When The Shoe Fits. There is another unexpected result of not escaping. So he got up and ran. We can come to know that we and the anxiety are separate.’ Rather: ‘There is sadness. Rebel Publishing. It is not that ‘I am sad. though.org/subscribe_cogitations. emptiness. still falling. Ironically.68–69) The ‘shadow’ is suffering. ‘I am in despair’. This is important because we fall into such acute despair precisely because we believe ‘I am desperate’. The observer and the observed cannot be the same phenomenon. Note: After resorting to steroids – and traditional Chinese acupuncture — all signs of the illness disappeared from my heart with no damage done.medialens. ‘I am depressed. And the irony – again. But compassion must be rooted in our own authentic experience of suffering. his shadow would vanish. The ‘shade’ and the ‘sitting still’ refer to meditation. As this understanding takes hold through consistent practice - as the separation becomes apparent. sadness. The compassion that emerges from this self-awareness is deeply rooted. a compassionate heart can come to be free of the feverish torments that afflict the self-obsessed heart. This disidentification is a great liberation.html Visit the Media Lens website: http://www. and if he sat down and stayed still. 1997. I am. are certainly not the emotion we are watching.’ The sadness is separate from the witnessing ‘I’. http://www. not toxic self-obsession. I am watching. the observer.watch and witness our suffering – we can feel it deeply. there would be no more footsteps. Chuang Tzu tells the story of a man running from his shadow: ‘There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps. The result is blissful. ‘The method he hit upon was to run away from them.org 14 .