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The Making of a Zombie Culture

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Message Charles Sullivan
It is difficult to know what the public thinks when they watch the major media networks. My mother is a devotee of the CBS evening news that was anchored by Dan Rather. I do not know who anchors the program now. If my mother does not hear about something on the CBS evening news, she does not believe it. On the other hand, I get none of my news from the televised media, because I know they are not telling us the truth either by content or by omission. When I discuss the issues with my mother she is often incredulous about what I tell her, doubting my authenticity. Like millions of other Americans, my mother fails to grasp the extent of the propaganda that is used to manipulate and misshape her views.

The effectiveness of the corporate propaganda campaign in accomplishing this end is demonstrated by the following example. Millions of viewers refuse to believe that the US engages in a world wide campaign of torture and prisoner abuse. These viewers summarily reject the documented evidence to the contrary, and the graphic testimony of the gulag survivors themselves. This is news that CBS does not report.

Propaganda appeals to the emotional side of the human brain, while circumventing the side that evokes critical thinking. Therefore, the systematic torture of captives is a non-event for the consumers of the corporate news, whose minds have been deftly manipulated to reach this conclusion without their knowledge. This is only one of many incidents that explain the appalling ignorance that characterizes the American public. It is this kind of ignorance that allows the public to believe the most horrendous lies, while coaxing them to act against their own self interest. None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who think they are free.

If we are to understand the current media crisis, it is necessary to comprehend who the commercial media serves. The corporate media exists to serve the status quo, not to inform the people, as is widely assumed by its consumers. It serves the private sector, the bottom line, not the public interest, or the Commonwealth. The commercial media cooperates with those in power to program the public mind by creating propaganda that in essence engenders specific emotional responses, and creates a belief system favorable to the status quo. In essence, the consumer's mind is programmed to accept the 'official version' of events, without consideration of any and all contradictory evidence. Well crafted propaganda compels the people to act in the corporate interest, even as they operate in ways harmful to themselves and the public interest.

Rather ingeniously, the corporate media furtively programs the American mind to consume goods and services, while simultaneously dumbing them down by withholding relevant information. If this information were presented in context it might induce the people to act in ways that are public spirited, rather than selfish. An ignorant citizenry is easily controlled and manipulated, while a well informed citizenry is not. The result is that we have evolved into an intellectually lazy and spiritually shallow culture of mindless consumers""mere automatons who cannot think critically, or act to save ourselves.

This explains why the multitudes appear to be in a state of perpetual somnolence, while the world is collapsing around them. Their capacity for critical thinking and self examination has been utterly subverted through prolonged exposure to commercial television and radio. Their minds remain receptive to the message of capitalism and empire""programmed to believe whatever they are told; and to consume goods and services in abundance.

It can be exasperating to those of us still in possession of our mental faculties to witness the zombie-like state of indifference that afflicts our fellow citizens, even while the sky is falling upon them. Their minds truly are not their own.

During the height of revolutionary unionism early in the previous century, Eugene Debs and other prominent organizers had the astonishing ability to turn out hundreds of thousands of people to protect workers from the tyranny of their employers. This was done without sophisticated electronic media. Large scale work stoppages were quickly organized to disrupt the flow of goods and services, which in turn affected corporate profits. The bottom line is the soft underbelly of capitalism that leaves it vulnerable to economic disruption through the general strike.

Now we are blessed with an immense and sophisticated electronic media that is capable of informing and organizing billions of people in ways that Eugene Debs could only have dreamed of. Yet the people remain in a state of stupor and somnolence. Far from being a tool used for the public good, commercial media exists solely to promote corporate interests, even as it usurps the public owned airwaves for the masked purposes of accumulating privatized wealth. The commercial media thus persuades the multitudes to behave in ways that are self destructive; that foster ignorance while spreading fear as a method of mind control, and promote the copious consumption of goods and services.

Like public lands, the air waves are the property of the people and they should be used to serve the public, not to program our minds. However, corporate influence over the political process has resulted in a massive giveaway of the airwaves to a homogenized and concentrated media conglomerate that does not serve the people. We must take them back.

Accomplishing this will require that we think about the public airwaves differently. We must think in terms of the public good rather than privatized wealth. Contrary to popular belief, most private wealth was not earned; it was stolen from the public domain without providing any benefit to the public in return. So it is with the public airwaves. Massive corporate profits are being realized, while doing great and irreparable harm to the public that owns them. Thinking in terms of the Commonwealth, rather than privatized wealth, will be a major step toward ending Plutocratic rule while simultaneously implementing democracy.

By now it should be clear that the corporate media serves empire by turning truth on its head. It provides those who control the government the means by which to coerce and to deceive the masses by creating its own fictionalized version of reality. Thus if George Bush says that up is down, up becomes down. If Bush says that global warming is not real, it is not real, even as the planet warms beyond the tipping point. This is relativism in its purest form; and it does not serve truth. Under relativism, the familiar points of reference such as up and down, black and white lose their traditional, reality-based meaning. They become whatever the emperor proclaims them to be. If we allow this to occur we will lose our ability to make sense of the world.

The atmosphere of indifference and apathy that prevails so widely in America is no accident. It is the result of well designed and deliberately ambiguous messages crafted by psychologists employed by the commercial media industry. Thus, public perception is as far removed from truth and reality as the miasma induced by powerful mind altering drugs. Because of the effectiveness of this subtle brain washing, the people are unable to think critically, and thus are unable to act to save themselves from the emerging Gestapo state that is enveloping the nation. Their only hope for salvation is to withdraw from the reality altering drugs of commercial television and radio, to which they do not even know they are addicted.

A great awakening must precede revolution.
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Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer residing in the hinterland of West Virgina.
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