Second in our special communications series—
Introduction by Patrice Greanville
The lore of laissez-faire capitalism has given rise to many self-serving myths, and nowhere have they found a more hospitable soil than in America. The reasons for this are many, and probably deserve a separate article, but suffice it to say here that the upshot has been a dismal state of comprehension of contemporary realities. And here’s precisely the rub. For the backward political consciousness and naivete of the American nation is today’s main obstacle to the construction of a more just and humane social order.
WITH WHAT IS PROBABLY the lowest political consciousness in the industrialized world, Americans live the paradox of being media-rich and information poor. Major clues to this bizarre situation can be found in the national mythologies and techniques of miscommunication favored by the U.S. media. While no nation can claim today to be fully exempt from the ravages of false political consciousness or sheer historical confusion, in some nations the publics are more deluded than in others, and the myths sustaining the whole edifice of lies far more difficult to detect and expose. Sad to say, such is the case in the United States.
As we write these lines, this deeply-ingrained popular ignorance, so often deliberately cultivated by those in power, has finally translated itself in the postwar late-industrial period into a major engine for constant war, and a threat to all living things on this planet. How did such a grotesque situation arise in the United States? What are the major ideological pathways routinely utilized by the system for the dissemination of outrageous falsehoods, or, when the case recommends it, subtle distortions? How is this system maintained? Some of the answers may be found below.
Herbert I. Schiller, professor emeritus of communication at the University of California, San Diego, who documented key shortcomings in the new information economy before anyone called it that, died Jan 29, 2000 in La Jolla, California. Schiller warned of two major trends in his prolific writings and speeches: the private takeover of public space and public institutions at home, and U.S. corporate dominance of cultural life abroad, particularly in developing nations. His eight books and hundreds of articles made him a key figure in both communication research and in the public debate over the role of the media in modern society. He was a frequent and much sought-after contributor to leading journals of opinion, including The Nation and Le Monde Diplomatique, and a firm supporter of Cyrano’s Journal. Given his importance to the formation of true journalists, Schiller should be required reading in all J-schools in America, but, of course, he isn’t.
Note: The above introduction was penned expressly for Cyrano’s Journal‘s premiere issue, Fall of 1982. If anything, the situation is worse today than thirty years ago. Continue reading »