Fear created by the media to make profits

Someone asked: “It’s weird that people have to stop feeling safe anymore.

The media drives that. “If it bleeds, it leads” has always been their mantra. it gives an impression of a world that in a state of violence. That’s actually not true for almost all people almost all of the time.

The media also requires people to keep coming back, because they are funded by advertising. Telling happy stories does not do that, whereas keeping readers in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear does. Hence all the fear-mongering they produce.

And now we can have videos of violence and pictures of bleeding women and blown-up babies and dismembered perpetrators, that has made it all much worse for us. We did not evolve to be constantly bombarded with images of dismembered people, but as social animals living in family groups working together collaboratively.

We are being conditioned to fear. And it is totally unrealistic compared to the statistical reality.

For example, more Americans get shot by other Americans in America every few months than all the Americans ever killed by terrorism by any method in the entire world ever put together. So what is the real threat – terrorists or other Americans with guns?

It’s not all bad, you know

A comment on a cartoon:

Given the reality we live in now, “the bad news” always has a greater impact on anyone than “the good news”

My response:

That’s because of how the media works.  Basic principle: “If it bleeds, it leads“. They only report bad news because it is exciting and creates fear, both of which make you want to return later to see how that thing is turning out.  Good news does not have that effect, so there is no incentive for them to include good news stories.

To get you to return – and see the ads, which is the only reason news outlets exist: to sell advertising space – they have to make you anxious, fearful or concerned. Which means bad news, over and over again, every single day.

So we get the impression other cultures are dangerous and scary (they are actually just other people), that other nations are out to get us (they are mostly just trying to run themselves), that an asteroid is going to wipe us out (they mostly are just in their orbit), that a virus will suddenly appear and kill us all (we are riddled with them all the time).

They do not report the billions (yes, billions) of acts of generosity that happen every day.  People giving money or gifts to charity, helping a friend or colleague, giving assistance to a stranger, doing voluntary work, caring for a relative.  Nations collaborate, trade, share knowledge and work on resolving conflict.  Every day people smile, laugh, share, give and care. But that’s not news.

And it should be.

The media give a very false, fear-making, scary impression of what the world is really like.

Remember: they are not giving you the news, they are selling advertising by making you addicted to the drip, drip, drip of titbits about threats and danger that mostly will never affect you anyway.

Why is conflict resolution not as recognised as it should be?

Why do we expect politicians to be all-knowing multidisciplinary people?

This was asked on LinkedIn by one of my fellow students at Lancaster University, someone I was very impressed with, Pilar Perez Brown.  The context was President Macron attempting mediation talks with Putin, despite not having the necessary academic background or training to do so.

Mediators that comprehend the full political and strategic reality of the war are needed, people that know the best ways to guide this conflict and the relations in it. We need economists and strategists that can explain the depth of both sides’ demands, as well as many other specialists who are equally necessary despite not being politicians.

A discussion began.

Conflict analysis and responses have changed enormously this past few decades.  There are far more options and interventions available to prevent conflict, transform conflict and resolve conflict than most people are aware of.  Somehow, we need to get conflict resolution recognised and given a much higher profile in diplomacy and international relations incident management.

Exactly! Thank you for your insight. Indeed the nature of conflict has changed, and so the analysis of it has enhanced, therefore presenting more opportunities to transform and resolve conflicts, as you mention.
Why do you think these processes are not as recognised as they should be?

I think these are some factors:

  1. The nature of the media.  “If it bleeds, it leads“.  War is exciting and attracts readers / viewers so it is the lead story (to help sell advertising and raise revenue for the media).  Peace is not exciting: there is no blood, no blown up cars, no crying children or other images to bring in the readers.  So the media do not cover peace.  Hence people do not know peace-making is happening all the time.  This makes people assume war is the natural outcome of conflict.
  2. The warring leaders do not want to look weakAll conflict ends by talking.  When powerful people who publicly say they hate each other come to meet and compromise, they do not want their supporters to know they are doing so.  They think it makes them look like they are backing down and are weak.  So negotiation talks are kept secret.  Hence people do not get to hear about them.  When the outcome is a peaceful solution, even then the conflict resolution talks are not mentioned.  So people do not get to hear about how conflict resolution was involved and worked.
  3. Sometimes powerful third parties are involved in the conflict who want their involvement kept secret.  When it becomes politically or economically expedient to have this conflict resolved, it is not necessarily desirable to have the rest of the world see into the detail of the conflict.  Revealing their involvement in the peace process could reveal their role in causing or feeding the conflict, or appear hypocritical because of what they are doing somewhere else.  So they do not want any media coverage of the process of resolving the conflict.  It just quietly fizzles out, without the rest of the world noticing a process was followed.
  4. Revealing the presence of peace-making mediators makes them a target and can cause more conflict.  Some people will not want the conflict resolved and may attack the mediators.  Once mediation has been successful, knowing they were involved could make them vulnerable when they get involved in a later conflict.  So their involvement is never revealed.  This can be high profile individuals or specialist mediation agencies.  Again, the conflict resolution process does not get talked about, this time for reasons of mediator personal security.
  5. Historical precedent.  One view of Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler was that it bought the rest of us a year to re-arm and prepare for the inevitable war.  But he has gone down in history as a weak man and a failure.  I suspect politicians are frightened of ending up in the history books for the same reason.  However, if you fight a war and lose, you can still be recorded as the brave hero who refused to give in.  It may seem better politically to go into a war and risk losing, then go into mediation talks that might fail and result in war anyway.  So a guaranteed war is actually more attractive than the risk of one.  Hence getting involved in peace talks risks losing one’s political credibility, so there is no interest, and no desire to have anyone know if they do so.
  6. President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex and how they have a vested financial interest to influence public policy toward fear of conflict.  Governments and academia get added to this mix, depending on the theory.  I cannot imagine NATO or Lockheed Martin lobbying to have their funds are reduced and diverted to investment into conflict resolution research and promotion.  Mediation specialists have small budgets for advertising and little need to do so to the general public.  The arms industry and the military and their activities get plenty of coverage for free.  That normalises conflict for the public.
  7. The immaturity of International Relations Theory.  It is still based around the Realist / Liberalist / Marxist tripartite.  The Realist theory is simplest, oldest and most embedded in our culture as “might is right” and international relations being anarchic, amoral and all about survival.  Liberal theory has had to be modified many times to try to match current affairs, making it look weak and reactive and so of little use as a theory.  Marxist theory is a political non-starter.  When people have studied international relations theory, it has typically been this academic view, one which is not about conflict resolution.  Instead, it is about studying how war is just and inevitable, based on past experience.  However, that does not cover what actual practitioners have been doing in reality, nor count the times a war was avoided.  Huge progress has been made in understanding how people are motivated and how to achieve change painlessly and so that it sticks.  These practitioner fields and their modern techniques are not taught so much as IR Theory in generalist politics degrees.
  8. But I blame the media foremost.
    Create a cease-fire in a war: it’s an editorial on page 7.
    Slap someone on TV for mocking your partner’s medical complaint: it’s front-page news and it fills social media (about 4,810,000,000 results on a Google search!)
    Violence increases sales and increases advertising revenue, conflict resolution does not.

Posts I never made

There is a useful function called ‘Google Alerts’ whereby Google will email you any new results for a given search.

I used this to set up a number of searches relating to ‘no new wars’ and the centenary of the Great War.

  • 21/12/2014 to 17/06/2021, “11-11-2018”, 1,117 results.  Returned anything that looked like a date of 11th November and 2018.
  • 21/12/2014 to 17/06/2021, “11/11/2018”, 1,113 results.  Returned anything that looked like a date of 11th November and 2018.
  • 09/06/2013 to 20/06/2021, “”Great War” 100 years”, 1,890 results.  Was just about memorials being done up.
  • 31/05/2013 to 20/06/2021, “”Great War” centenary”, 1,371 results.  All sorts of results, very few potentially interesting.
  • 17/06/2013 to 17/06/2021 (just by chance), “”war to end all wars” 100 years”, 1,042 results.  All sorts of results, very few potentially interesting.  Mostly about memorials.
  • 09/06/2013 to 29/05/2021, “”war to end all wars” centenary”, 348 results.  Some of these are very interesting, discussing the rights and wrongs and truths of war.  For about half of those, the article is no longer online.
  • 17/06/2013 to 13/06/2021, “”No New Wars””, 186 results.
  • 17/06/2013 to 21/01/2021, “NoNewWars”, 18 results.
  • “”NoNewWars””, 0 results.

I had been full of good intentions to read and consider each of those results.  Many of them contain multiple results themselves, up to about 6.  So there’s about 10,000 to 15,000 actual links there.  I was being waaaaay too optimistic.

I did glance at those messages, frequently.  Almost all were about heroes, celebrating sacrifice, celebrating the start of the war, how we need to remember what a great thing it was.  So much pro-war, pro-death, pro-suffering in the media.  It is very depressing.

As a consequence, no posts resulted.

But an awful lot of people saw pro-war messages.

 

 

The technical and other technicalities of a new organisation

What have I learned from my volunteering?

A friend expressed a desire to create a peace organisation and the first things that sprang to mind were:

  • the need for a name. It must be meaningful, appropriate, memorable, decent, SEO-friendly.
  • the means to raise funds
  • sufficient independence to get on with what the founders want to achieve
  • it needs publicity
  • it could do with high profile supporters
  • a blog can be helpful for giving less formal, more human, messages
  • a web site is essential
  • a web site requires people to keep writing content
  • a web site requires maintenance, applying updates, security controls, interfaces with social media, checking backups are working, detecting having been hacked
  • at least one domain name (needed for the web site and, ideally, email addresses)
  • something controversial to gain media coverage and attention
  • an understanding of its target audiences and how to communicate with them
  • knowledge of similar organisations with which to collaborate
  • the means, time and knowledge to create and drive collaboration with other organisations
  • a purpose
  • a plan
  • an idea of what “finished” or “success” will look like
  • specific responsibilities and authorities for individuals involved so they know what they should, can and cannot do
  • email addresses for the organisation and its individuals
  • a governance model with a committee or leadership and defined rules for managing it to prevent infighting
  • a legal structure (unincorporated, ltd co by guarantee, community interest company, charity, etc.)
  • a social media policy: which web sites and internet facilities to use, when, how with defined messages with defined purposes
  • a mailing list and the means to manage it
  • an online discussion forum with the supporting active moderation
  • an online shop with the necessary legal processes to protect people’s payment details and the staff and processes to deliver what is sold
  • equipment such as computers, mobile phones with cameras, franking machine, printer(s)
  • staff with the necessary recruitment, supervision, retention, development and appraisal processes
  • volunteers with the necessary recruitment, supervision, retention, development and appraisal processes
  • financial management, ideally with open reporting
  • an ethical policy regarding the law, environment, procurement, staff and anything else appropriate, with the supporting monitoring and reporting processes
  • the means of sharing information between staff and volunteers with appropriate backup, recovery, anti-virus and security controls
  • accounts with suppliers (e.g. stationery), technical services (e.g. Zoom) and so on, with the means of securely keeping passwords

“We were only following (the UN’s) orders.”

Another OU student made this observation on his blog:

The whole Authoritarianism thing a complete area on its own as there is a definite case of further investigation needed into why socially superior society accepts these individuals as authority.

which prompted these thoughts:

I did a Coursera course on international criminal law which talked about how the “I was only following orders” defence was challenged at the Nuremberg Trials and created a precedent for international justice by rejecting it.  I find that whole history—from Nuremberg to modern day decisions about what legal action can be taken across borders—fascinating.  We now have continental courts of justice and war trials procedures and all sorts of good stuff to improve the safety and security of (most) everyone on the planet from abuses by their own government.

But the pendulum seems to have swung the other way from the principal established in the mid-1600s of sovereign states having absolute control of internal affairs, (“Westphalian Sovereignty”) to NATO saying the Westphalian principles are undemocratic and humanity is not relevant and then Tony Bliar simply called it anachronistic and that you can therefore attack who you like with impunity which, it appears, he could.

When I take a step back and look at the last 1,000 years of European history, it seems in this past 20 years we have undone the work of the preceding 350 in a supposed pursuit of justice on behalf of the citizens of other countries.  We have scrapped the idea of governments killing their own citizens and replaced it with it being OK to kill the civilians of other countries.

The victims of the Nazis got justice (as much was practically possible, anyway) at Nuremberg.  But where do civilians killed by Western airstrikes get their justice?  As Hilary Benn said yesterday: “Ve are only folloving ze orders of ze United Nations!”

So that’s all right then.

As for accepting authority, the Milgram Experiment was the one where unwitting volunteers were talked into electrocuting people to death because the bloke in the white coat told them to.

When Hilary Benn¹ gave his speech, the bit about “We are only following a UN mandate” was the bit that won over the MPs: knowledge that whatever happens, not only does their collective responsibility mean they are only a tiny bit to blame if things go wrong, it was all the UN’s idea anyway.  They can vote for war and airstrikes that will kill civilians² with impunity.

Maybe that right there is a very good argument for our elected representatives to be held responsible for their actions, not just those of countries we don’t like, and I don’t mean at the ballot box.  Maybe we should be sending our war criminals to trial as a lesson to the others.  Maybe the MPs will cheer less than they did last night when they voted for war.

 

¹ The son of Tony Benn, the man who said “When there is a great cry that something should be done, you can depend on it that something remarkably silly probably will be done“.

² The first targets are to be oil fields and related infrastructure.  These are operated by civilians.  (Why weren’t these destroyed over a year ago?  Oh, yeah, the oil has to keep flowing, doesn’t it?  Even if it is bankrolling Islamic State.  Until it ends up all over the media that Israel and Turkey are cheerfully buying it for sale to the world market.  But it’s not all about oil, oh no…)

No New Wars 11 11 2018

No New Wars 11 11 2018

Meaning, let’s ensure No New Wars start as from 11th November 2018.

How?  By making it clear we expect our leaders to use other means to achieve change.

It will have been a hundred years since the Armistice, a hundred years in which we have learned an awful lot not just people’s ability to harm other, innocent, people, but also about communication, reconciliation, change management, energy creation, environmental management, understanding, and sharing.

In our name, and with our financial support, people are dropping air-bombs, firing guided missiles, shooting long-range heavy-calibre machine-gun fire, remotely-controlling armed drones…to kill people, including civilians.  And is a person who picks up a gun to defend their home a soldier or an armed civilian?  Much of the 20th century involved the deaths of tens of millions of civilians; the 21st century so far has comprised the deaths of 100,000s of civilians, and if you include civilians carrying guns, it is already in the millions.  And the media is glorying in the “Arab Spring” ignoring that it is the worst kind of war: a civil war armed, funded, supported and maintained by external forces who benefit financially or politically from the suffering and deaths of those involved.

Wars are the principle cause of this suffering, and it is time they stopped.  They are not necessary for peace.  There are other means, and not just financial sanctions which are only a feeble exercise in trying to show the futility of peaceful solutions.  Governments and politicians are not ”’trying”’ to end war; it neither adds to their power nor is it financially attractive for their sponsors.

Wars are started by politicians being manipulated and promoted by the media.  If politicians can be made to see that war-mongering is no longer going to create votes, they will become peace-makers.  And if the media are hit financially by not getting readers and web page hits, they will lose advertising revenue and so will cease that behaviour.

The trite cliché “”War is the continuation of politics by other means”” is not only facile, but also two hundred years out of date and inappropriate in a nuclear-energy, internet connected, post-empire world.

I am not so naïve as to think existing wars can be just stopped.  But we can do our bit to create a world where it is not necessary or politically wise to start any new wars.

We—that means you—can tell politicians they will lose their jobs if they start down the path of war.

We—that means you—can tell the media they will lose advertising revenue and sales if they promote war.

I am not saying we should not support our troops nor have a defence facility.  I am not saying the campaign to stop population growth is wrong.  But I am saying we must actively prevent our leaders from starting down paths that lead to the deaths of thousands of civilians just because that is easier and more attractive to them than any alternatives.  We must make peace more attractive.

Other thoughts: I’ll need leaflets, email signatures and other means of publicity.  Also, a blog, a wiki and a forum.

I need to form a No New Wars movement.

I need to start a 11112018 – The Eleven Eleven Twenty Eighteen campaign.

Other thoughts: the modern heroes – the new Ghandis – e.g. the Tienanmen square person with shopping bags in front of the tanks; the people who stand in front of Israeli guns; wikileaks to expose the leaders who lie.  They should not be needed.

(This article was originally published on or before 13/09/2012.)