"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Saturday, April 08, 2006,4:47 PM
Big Ideas: The Future of Media Activism
Much ink has been spilled in recent years about the failings of our corporate media system. And about the real, life-and-death consequences of these failings—the war in Iraq being only the most obvious example. What is just now becoming clear, however, is how profoundly this situation has affected the public’s trust of the media, as well as how it’s beginning to pull together existing strains of media activism into a movement that parallels other great social movements of our time, like environmentalism, feminism and civil rights.

The mainstream media is no longer providing us with the information we need when it matters most.

Increasingly, there's a feeling out there of genuine anxiety, that maybe we don't really know the world around us anymore. So widespread is the condition, it's earned itself a name: information insecurity. It’s what people are feeling in the wake of phantom WMDs and fictive links between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. In the wake of regular, scripted, time-managed military heroics. In the wake of fake news and fake journalists paid for by governments and corporations. The media fiascos have gotten so frequent, it's become impossible for anyone to trust any of the versions of the world that are on offer.

And so the information insecurity deepens. People sense that they lack the diversity of information needed to make good decisions about the issues they face everyday. What food to eat. What drug is avoid. What political line to believe. Everyone is being forced to ask one profoundly simple question: do we really know what's going on?

There's a widespread realization that media is the issue of issues.

Our whole relationship with information has been distorted, and along with this distortion comes a desire for radical change. In conference after conference, commentary after commentary, the sentiment among media reformers is clear: rather than just irrevocably crushing our ability to trust, all of the bad news about our global media system is building up to a watershed moment in awareness. Information insecurity has brought us to the realization that mass media has a profound effect on nearly every other social and political issue.

When scientists funded by Big Oil are given equal airtime to well-respected, publicly funded researchers, how can we ever hope to make informed choices about climate change? When the local news is hysterical with stories of random violence and immanent terrorism, how can we be expected to address neighborhood crime with a cool head? Whether the problem is poverty, health care, climate change or war, the solution will ultimately involve access to more reliable information and more rigorous public debate. In short, it will involve a complete rethink of how meaning is produced in our society.

Media activism, in all its disparate strains, is slowly but surely becoming a bona fide global movement.

There are plenty of people who have been working hard for years to reform aspects of the mass media. But media activism has remained fragmented across dozens of different agendas. Policy mavericks are fighting ownership concentration in the courts. Independent journalists are speaking out on the internet and airwaves. Educators are helping the next generation by teaching media literacy in their classrooms. Pirate broadcasters fighting for a slice of the public airwaves. Up until now, there has been little to bring these interests together, to argue in some compelling way that they are all struggling toward a similar goal.

Enter Media Democracy, Media Justice and Mental Environmentalism. These are the larger narratives emerging from the grassroots to help describe and explain our common cause. They are the storylines that promise to gel our currently disparate threads of activism into an effectual, truly global media movement.

Mental Environmentalism in particular is a powerfully simple idea: like our air and oceans, our shared mindscapes are littered with pollutants—distorted news, manipulative ads, top-down culture. Either we act now to preserve information diversity and the mental commons, or we risk slipping further into a psychological wasteland in which we literally cannot survive and stay sane. This is the narrative that we feel has the greatest potential to play a major role in helping the movement to reach the next level of organization, and so Adbusters has chosen it as the focus for the Media Carta campaign. Over the coming months, we hope you’ll join us to refine and expand this Big Idea, to build it into a narrative that is capable of inciting people to make global media reform a reality.
posted by R J Noriega
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