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Part II.

The Damaging Agenda

Now that the web has been drawn, it is time to see how it is used to snare us. This section focuses primarily on the outward manifestation of the agenda, which is broken down into five categories: Distraction/Diversion, Disregard, Divisiveness, Dumbing-down, and Dogma. Before I get into these specific categories, let me review the basic premises behind the agenda. For one, there is a profit-making agenda. This places a priority on doing what's best for the corporation, its employees and its stockholders, first; and the customers second. Later in this article, I will be discussing this country's wealth divide, and you will see how this profit-making agenda is rooted in a deeper element: basically a kind of class warfare.

A second part of the agenda, very much related to the first, is a selling agenda. Media sources such as television and newspapers depend heavily, almost exclusively, on advertising for their revenue. Ben Bagdikian states in The Media Monopoly that, “Newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters in 1981 collected $33 billion a year from advertisers and only $7 billion a year from their audiences. The almost 5-to-1 dependence on advertisers has insulated these media from the wishes of their audiences.” This would seem to contradict the assertion made by many media executives that “they’re just giving the people what they want.” They’re really just giving the advertisers what they want, which is content that is directed towards a specific, “target” audience, and also content that puts people in a "buying mood." Any news or information which casts the advertiser in a bad light, or even puts people in a critical mind frame in regards to big business or consumerism, is strictly off the table.

A third aspect to the agenda, this one a little harder to define, has to do with the controlling ideas. Those who control the message naturally wish to use it to advance their own belief systems, and to maintain and expand their own base of power. This has the effect of dissuading change, and protecting the status-quo. Anything which threatens this by pushing the envelope is altogether avoided. That is a general look at this aspect of the agenda. Of course, it varies depending on the belief systems of those in charge. However, organizations like the CFR and the BBG have the effect of making sure that everyone is on the same page in this regard. There is a large faction within these groups who desire to take this agenda of ideas to what can only be described as very sinister, ruthless ends. This is perpetrated especially by the extremely wealthy and powerful families like the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers who frequent the Bilderberg meetings and other secret societies and organizations. One can easily begin to understand the true nature of this agenda that these people wish to inflict upon the world, but until the media's role is understood, it is likely, and logical, to question how or why such a thing could go on unnoticed, unreported, and unchecked. You will, however, get a sense of what this agenda entails when I discuss the aspect of Divisiveness and how the political spectrum is manipulated towards totalitarian ends. But to begin this discussion, I turn now to the category of Distraction/Diversion, which includes such phenomena as "fluff" and "junk food news." Also, before I begin, I would like to point out that while the agenda affects both the news and entertainment sectors of these big media corporations, it is far more important for me to discuss how it relates to the news media sector. It is also far more evident. Therefore, the following will be an in-depth and critical look at the news media and how it is used to further the agenda.

Distraction/Diversion

Real journalism has left the building. We are now in the age of "junk food news." The news media has blurred the line between entertainment and journalism. News anchors are hailed as celebrities, and celebrities are hailed in the news. Extensive amounts of news media coverage is dedicated to the entertainment industry. Of course, is this any wonder when the same corporations who control the news media also own a majority stake in the entertainment industry? The system feeds itself in this way, in the form of unpaid placements, basically free advertising (and no publicity is bad publicity), for the companies owned by the same people anyway. All the money funnels to the top. For those corporate elites, the news media and the entertainment media run on the same tracks, moving towards the same bottom line and agenda. Purely honest, ethical, and unbiased journalism cannot be so constrained, and therefore it is cast aside. The point has become not to inform but to misinform, and to distract. The glitzy, glamorous entertainment industry fulfills those purposes extremely effectively, and fills the void left by real journalism.

There are other ways in which they are blurring the lines between entertainment and journalism, or rather between fiction and non-fiction. One example is how news stories are treated with a spin, or given an angle, that serves to dig up drama where ordinarily there would be none. Fear mongering is also a common practice in the news media nowadays, mirroring the growing trend of apocalyptic and disaster-themed movies and TV shows which capitalize on our fears. Objective reporting has been largely replaced by opinion-filled commentary in a way that mimics talk shows. It is common now to turn on CNN or Fox News and watch reporters and commentators arguing over the news, and strongly voicing their opinions rather than simply reporting the facts. This makes it easier to influence the viewers' perspectives, as well as adding more drama. Another common trait exhibited by the mainstream news media is to pick a courtroom drama, usually one with little or no bearing on our actual lives, and running with it. They consequently run it into the ground, dragging it on as far as it will go. Courtroom drama is of course a staple in the entertainment industry, from movies where it is featured to television shows like The People's Court and Judge Judy that are based on it. There are even entire television channels based on courtroom drama, such as truTV (formerly Court TV). On that note, I should mention that when Court TV was recently changed to truTV, Court TV never really disappeared. It was actually incorporated into CNN. A transitional web page on the truTV website redirects surfers to the CNN website for "Court TV News". I find that very interesting, especially when you consider that those channels and their corresponding websites are all owned by the same corporation - AOL Time Warner. So here we have an example of a corporation whose entertainment sector has been clearly allowed to bleed through to its news media sector. Again, these kinds of court cases, typically murder cases or high-profile cases involving celebrities, are of little to no significance to our lives. The court cases they should be covering are the ones which have a definite impact on our lives, like cases that involve and have implications towards our personal freedoms and Constitutional rights. There are many such cases that have sprung up recently having to do with that, both in the Supreme Court and in circuit courts. The news media usually ignore such cases, and we're lucky to even have them pay one a passing mention. Also off the table are cases, and really any bad news whatsoever, regarding the corporations whose interests are shared with the media corporations, because of their vast web of connections. That's not to mention the fact that the media hardly ever reports on itself and its activities. That forms a nice segue into the next aspect of the agenda I will be discussing: Disregard.

Disregard

This category deals with the stories which are not being reported. There are a host of different news stories, cultural phenomena, scientific and historical findings and perspectives, as well as religious and spiritual viewpoints that we see reflected in the media. There are many who believe and trust that the mainstream media fairly represents those aspects, in what could be considered an overall interpretation of reality. However, as we shall see, there are significant and predictable chunks of reality that the media consistently ignores. In a similar yet contrasting fashion, there are certain ideas, trends, and stereotypes that the media will constantly shove down our throats. Overall, it can be said that the media walks a fine line between reflecting mass consciousness and attempting to control mass consciousness. The more authentic, reflective representations come via those who work in the media industry who are not part and parcel to the agenda. There are many such individuals, but it's important to remember that they are all answerable to levels of corporate hierarchy above them. You see, the agenda is employed from the top down, so at each level or step in the pyramid, the corporate goons at the top lose some degree of control. On the same token, those seperate levels serve to mask the agenda. As David Icke explains it, "the lie is different at every level."

Here I will be describing specific news stories which have been ignored in the mainstream media. I will also discuss several scientific findings and cultural trends which are also being ignored in their respective media sectors. More importantly, I will provide the sources which you can use to find the information yourself, because the volume of information I am referring to here is staggering. To truly appreciate it, you will have to walk through the door I am holding open here. To begin with, I would like to introduce you to a website called Project Censored. Their slogan is "the news that didn't make the news." For every year, they provide a list of the top twenty-five "censored" stories, with archives going back to 1976. By "censored," they are referring mostly to the news as a whole, not necessarily to the news stories themselves which are not being so much censored as they are outright ignored.

The first of these stories involves a statistical analysis of the rising inequality of wealth distribution in the United States. It was the number one story on Project Censored for the year 2005. I chose this story to discuss first and foremost because of the immense bearing it has on this discussion. In involves the very people I am talking about here: rich CEOs, corporate executives, media tycoons, "star" news anchors, politicians, and the like. The story on Project Censored cites (among other sources) Robert Weissman, co-director of D.C.-based corporate accountability group Essential Action, who also serves as contributing editor of the Multinational Monitor, in reference to his articles "Grotesque Inequality," and "The Wealth Divide". The latter of which is an interview with Edward Wolff, a professor of economics for New York University, whose research has greatly contributed to this subject and is frequently referenced. Allow me to briefly relay to you some of the findings of this research. Before I do, I should mention that there is a larger body of research that the above sources stem from, and from which I will be drawing my statistics. (For a complete list of sources, see reference section at the end of this article).

I would like to lead in with some statistics concerning the rising inequality of the income distribution in the U.S., before turning to stats on the actual wealth distribution (the two are sometimes confused; a loose definition of "wealth" is given in the next paragraph). According to a Congressional Budget Office report, from 1979 to 2004 the average after-tax income of U.S. households in the middle fifth of the population rose from $39,900 to $48,400 (in 2004 dollars), while the average income of the top 1% of the population rose from $314,000 to $867,800. This is the difference between a 21% increase and a 176% increase. The result of this enormous leap for the top 1% was that they nearly doubled their share of the total after-tax income -- from 7.5% in 1979 to 14% in 2004. Meanwhile, during this same time period, the bottom 80% of the population saw their share of total after-tax income fall from 57.6% to 50%, which means that in 2004 half of the total after-tax income was distributed among the top 20% (up from 42.4% in 1979).

The statistics on wealth distribution are far more pronounced than those of income distribution. Wealth, by the way, is basically measured here in terms of net worth, or a person's assets minus their debts. As of 2004, the top 1% of the population controlled an enormous 34.3% of the wealth. The next 9% of the population controlled 36.9% of the wealth, leaving only 28.7% for the bottom 90% of the population. This means that the top 10% of the population controls about 70% of the entire wealth of this country. Historically, with regard to the top 1%, their current share is not at an all-time high. However, since 1976 when their share reached a century low of about 20%, it has been steadily growing and expanding to where it is today.

Here are just a couple more related statistics. In 2004, American CEOs earned 431 times as much as average workers, while back in 1980 they were earning "only" 42 times as much. During the same time period, and despite a 64% increase in productivity, American workers saw their median hourly wage increase by only 12%.

Are these kind of statistics "newsworthy"? Since people are always concerned about how much money they make, and naturally want to know if they're getting shafted, then yes, of course this is newsworthy. People might want to why their wages and income have basically remained stagnant, even while they're working longer hours, and increasingly having to depend on two incomes to make ends meet.

Notice the inverse relationship between how this story affects the majority of people in this country -- the primary audience of the news networks, and how it affects the small, elite class of citizens including the network executives themselves. This is something that obviously should be getting reported on more in the press, but then again it's obvious why it isn't. Now when I say they "should" be reporting on this more, I am following the belief that a company's first responsibility should be to their customers. However, companies have to prioritize their responsibilities when it comes to their customers, employees, and their stockholders. According to some theories, if a company takes care of their customers first, then everything else will follow. On the other hand, some theories state that a company's first priority should be to their stockholders, and that in doing so the customers will also benefit. Which of these theories is more correct? I am inclined to say that neither of them are necessarily more correct, considering the ties that go both ways. However, the data on rising wealth inequality would seem to indicate otherwise. The widening gap between rich and poor that we have seen occuring over the past several decades has been consistent with the rising acceptance and preference for the profit-driven Stockholder Theory, proposed by Milton Friedman. Who truly benefits when a company caters first and foremost to their stockholders? To help answer that, take a look at who owns stock in this country. In terms of financial wealth, the top 10% of the population owns 84% of all stock, leaving just 16% for the bottom 90% of the population. All of the Big 5 media corporations are publicly traded, appearing on stock exchanges both in the U.S. and around the world. Taking all this into consideration, I state again that it is quite obvious why the media isn't reporting on these statistics. What it boils down to is the fact that the media is catering to a very elite, ruling class of society, of which they form a crucial part.

For the sake of comparison, and to show you a more proactive side to the agenda, consider the following examples of the kind of stories that the media is covering in regards to this issue. ABC News, for instance, reported on the fact that the number of billionaires from 2008 has seen a recent, sharp decline. They are quick to report any instance of the elite losing ground, but when it comes to the enormous gains of the wealthiest Americans, they say nothing. Another example comes from the ABC News program "20/20," whose investigative reporter John Stossel took on the issue of whether or not the rich pay their fair share of income taxes. He calls the idea that the rich don't pay their fair share of taxes a myth, using as support the statistic that the top 1% of the population paid 34% of the income taxes in this country as of 2001. That is basically the extent of his argument. A couple points to make about this: first of all, being a prominent figure for a major television network, Mr. Stossel probably makes at least a million dollars in annual compensation, putting him well within that 1% bracket. It is therefore difficult to think that he wouldn't have a vested interest in the way he covers this story, on his behalf and on behalf of the network executives above him. Second point: when the media reports nothing on the statistics of wealth distribution, such as those I have provided above, the lone statistic Mr. Stossel presents has no context. It seems surprising to those who are uninformed, when, in fact, it is not surprising at all. The audience is basically kept cloaked in ignorance, and fed only the little tidbits of information that will lead to a certain belief.

Again, I'm talking about important stories that are not being covered in the mainstream media, and the next story I would like to examine involves the death toll of Iraqi citizens caused by the war. This is currently the number one "most censored" story on the list for 2009 on the Project Censored website. Like I did with the previous story on wealth inequality, I am using this story on the Project Censored site as a point of reference and expanding upon it with my own supplemental research.

Current estimates vary as to how many Iraqi citizens have died since the onset of the second invasion back in 2003, which can be referred to either as the Second Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or just the Iraq War. There are currently about 100,000 cases of documented deaths due to violence in Iraq since 2003, based on information provided by the Iraq Body Count organization. However, the number of actual deaths is, of course, higher than the number of documented deaths. This is due to the fact that it is very difficult to document deaths in a country that has faced such extreme upheaval and disarray. This includes factors such as a general lack of control by a central authority, a loss of infrastructure, and the U.S. policy that "we don't do body counts". We must therefore rely on estimates to get a better idea of the actual death toll in Iraq.

Project Censored reports an estimate of over one million Iraqi deaths, based on a study by the British polling firm, Opinion Research Business (ORB). Given a standard margin of error, the firm reports a range from a minimum of about 733,000 to a maximum of about 1,446,000 deaths, with the current final estimate being 1.2 million. This estimate seems to confirm an earlier study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University that put the death toll at about 600,000 up to the year 2006.

Between the documented deaths and the estimated deaths, which of these sources do you suppose is used by the mainstream media? Well, if they report the number of Iraqi deaths at all, which is rare in itself, they refer to the IBC (documented) figures, which are unreliable and misleading in terms of the actual death toll, as I explained above. No mainstream media outlet, to my knowledge, has reported the ORB estimate of 1.2 million Iraqi deaths, nor do I expect them to. They would rather report a single, hyped-up and/or high-profile case, such as the death of actors like Heath Ledger. It reminds me of a quote by Joseph Stalin, "one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic" -- so true in terms of the mainstream media today.

Let us consider exactly why the media fails to report the great extent to which humans have lost their lives during the war in Iraq. You see, war has increasingly become a privately contracted, multi-billion dollar industry. Never before has our military depended so much on private companies to supply key infrastructure for their day-to-day operations. For these companies, war is highly profitable. You have to keep that in mind. Now, we all know some of the companies involved in defense contracting (or dare I say... war profiteering). Halliburton is one of them, one who currently has a big role in Iraq, and their former CEO just happens to have been former Vice President, Dick Cheney (who also is a CFR member). Now, another company that one might not ordinarily associate with being a defense contractor is General Electric. In 2006, they received $4.6 billion dollars in revenue from defense contracts, and as we know, they own NBC. So there's one obvious connection between big media and defense contracting, but it doesn't stop there. Sitting on the board of directors for Lockheed Martin is Douglas H. McCorkindale, former CEO of Gannett Company. Lockheed Martin is the nation's number one defense contractor, and Gannett owns the nation's number one daily newspaper (by circulation), USA Today. Furthermore, all of the major defense contractors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Nortrop Grumman, et. al. have representatives sitting alongside media representatives in the CFR.

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