Censored News as Manufactured Corporate Products

Posted on 17/01/2012 by


As many noteworthy events unfold in these United States and elsewhere (National Defence Authorisation Act, for example), the disconnect between what is perceived important by people, and what is presented as important to people, is increasingly jarring. Calls of ‘censorship’ are growing, and with good reason: The lack of meaningful news, especially from domestic news sources, is inescapable for anyone with even a cursory interest in important affairs.

The general idea behind the calls of censorship, though, is that there is a board of interested persons who are running an old-school censorship programme. Although this is quite possible for certain measures, the number of people who would be involved in such a programme make secrecy effectively impossible. The more people are involved, the more the risk of leaks inexorably grows.

So although this does not preclude the possibility of a systemic and old-school method of censorship, but I would opine this ignores a serious concern in the nature of mass media ‘news’.

Mass media, first and foremost, is a for-profit venture. The ‘product’ of mass media is news. In a very basic theory, the quality of the news-product in ensured by market discipline; namely, the money from subscribers. Quality products, by this theory, will receive positive reinforcement by more subscriptions, and bad products will be punished by loss of subscriptions.

As I mentioned, this is very basic. In fact, it’s so basic as to be useless, if not misleading.

At heart of the problems with this theory, is the utter misunderstanding with the nature of modern, corporatised markets. It is only half-true that corporations create products for their customers. Because of tools like advertising, endorsements, and other such forms of persuasion, for-profit corporations’ customers are also products. Customers are socially engineered in order to have brand loyalty, or even be walking advertisements in their own right — for example, consider the people who sport brand-name clothing.

Essentially, the modern corporation has two meta-products: The stuff or services they create, and the people who buy them. This is the dynamic which exists in modern, corporatised mass media. The people who purchase mass media news are essentially the flip side of the production of a mass consumable product.

The implications of this are chilling: The mass media corporations are engineering the reality in which their customers exist. Advertising (and related techniques) manipulate the customer into wanting the news-product which mass media corporations produce. The system essentially becomes closed. Customers are acclimated — addicted, even — to accepting only certain ‘name-brand’ news-products; those products are concurrently produced to integrate with the engineering expectations of those customers.

To separate these two factors is an exercise in chicken-and-egg futility. This is simply a part of a wider economic, social, and political system which have come into being over a long and torturous evolution.

Moving on from there, another facet of corporatised markets needs to be discussed, which has a very immediate influence on the apparent censorship in the mass media. Corporations have solidified very powerful control over markets proper, as suggested by ‘corporatised markets’. They have done so by various techniques, such as advertising and direct ownership of the markets themselves (eg the New York Stock Exchange).

This is how we see markets vastly controlled by a mere handful of corporations; most commonly, about 90% of a market will be controlled by two huge corporations, with the remaining 10% divided up between about 5 lesser corporations. Although mass media is somewhat more diverse than that, it is only by degrees. The ‘market’ is largely in the hands of a few media corporations.

Pivoting on that point, the common behaviour of corporations is to have a product line, each product of which is alloted a certain percentage of that corporation’s market share. Out of a 40% market share, Product A is allotted 50% of that; Product B, 25%; and so on.

Returning this to mass media: Given the nature of news-products as a manufactured consumable, it is reasonable to expect that various types of news-product are themselves targeted toward various tranches in that particular media corporation’s market share.

Or, in other words, 50% of news-products will be celebrity related, 20% status quo politics, 10% ‘contentious’, and so on. Once those quotas of news-products are reached, there will be no further production thereof, because that would be outside of the corporation’s planned creation of its product.

And so we end up with a mass media system which self-censors, not out of any plot or conspiracy, but out of the very nature of its structure. If a certain event does not fit into the planned production of ‘news’, it is simply ignored; an act which is as normal and unremarkable as fixing a typo.

The everyday nature of this dismissal of ‘raw material’ for news-product is the key to the bland and rampant nature of the apparent censorship. Although I would not say this model of corporate mass media explains all censorship, it does go a long way to show how vast blind-spots can exist in the US mass media — for example, regarding the NDAA.

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Posted in: Analysis