Monday, February 28, 2011

Democracy, the Mass media and the Arab World

The term democracy has suddenly entered the daily lexicon of journalists and news broadcasters who cover the Arab world as an after effect of the recent demonstrations throughout the Middle East. The true form of democracy that all Americans are familiar with from the beginnings of the United States is a relatively new idea in the Arabic / Moslem world. The inherent freedom in a true democracy, such as that in the United States, has become the new battle cry of millions in Tweets and on Facebook. This apparently spontaneous democratic outbreak has come as a response to those oppressive totalitarian regimes that have been controlling the lives of the people. It has inspired millions to go out on the streets and into the city squares throughout the Arab world to demonstrate at the risk of losing their lives to bring change. Will it bring real true democratic and hopefully secular change away from Islamic Fundamentalism? We in Israel most certainly hope that it will.

During the past few weeks the world mass media has been covering the outbreaks of "democracy" that have burst forth on the streets of the Arab countries of the Middle East. Magically the world press and the so called Human "Right" organizations' who have been preoccupied by the myopic view instigated by the Pro-Palestinian lobby, have suddenly discovered "Gross Human Rights Violations" in Arab countries far out strip those "alleged" violations by Israel. Even the infamous HRW or "Human Rights Watch" finally came out to condemn the Hamas for its recent rocket attack on the Israeli city of Be'er Sheba, an attack on a purely civilian target. Their web page states:
Hamas has failed to take any meaningful steps to hold anyone accountable for rocket attacks against Israeli population centers during the 2008-09 conflict, which Israel called "Operation Cast Lead," when it fired hundreds of rockets that killed three civilians.
Journalists who were based in Israel and were exposed to Israeli democratic freedom of the press consistently used negative sources and Palestinians to give Israel "bad press". Suddenly when rushed by their media bosses to the "new democracies" these same journalist found themselves beaten, raped, shot at and incarcerated. Has news coverage of Israel changed?

What has happened is that the blame for all the woes of the Arab war lords and dictators is being blamed on the Jews and Israel. The Palestinians are working overtime to drag the spotlight of the world on their "plight". Meanwhile in Libya just how many thousands have been murdered, Mr Goldstone? and How many refugees are there being treated by UNWRA? Oh I forgot! UNWRA is the organization still 62 years on paying for the upkeep of the grandchildren of ONLY Palestinian "refugees"!

There are many who wonder, "Where has this sudden impetus for democracy come from?" and "Why has it so suddenly appeared now throughout the Arab world?" It is my belief that these somewhat spontaneous revolutions for democracy that we are witnessing today are the direct outcome of the effect of modern mass media, in particular by influence of the newest forms of social interaction and communication on the Internet and cellular phones.

Most "baby boomers" can remember when the first television broadcasts began and how as youths in America this led to changes in our lifestyles. The massive use of television to spark materialistic values through televised advertisements changed America forever. These same advertisements, sponsored by major US corporations' were also used as capitalistic tools to counter Communism and undermine its influence on the captive populations behind the Iron Curtain. These advertisements utilized images of the total freedom symbolized by their consumption or reveled in their use. They emphasized small yet individual freedoms unknown to those of totalitarian regimes yet inherent in the western democracies.

In the 1950's, through the use of mass entertainment in TV programs, Hollywood writers wrote controlled scripts intended to inspire and educate the youth of America in "wholesome" American values, "good" white hats versus the "bad" black hats. Through the viewing of TV programs the American public, especially the youth, were subtly taught against the evil wrongs of Communism and to value the freedoms of democracy. The early syndicated TV programs taught moralistic values of good triumphing over evil yet they shied away from controversial items such as sex, drugs and racial relations. It was not until the McCarthy hearings that the extensive control of the mass media by the anti communists was revealed.

After the assassination of President Kennedy and the rise of the Civil Rights era of the 1960's the use of reality in American television became more critical towards government influence and censures. In the mid to late 1970's there was a growing demand for more realism in TV series. The three major networks rushed to incorporate more realism in their programming in the intense competition for their slice of the advertising market. These changes in the scripts and plots of the new shows were made possible from the massive revenues gleaned from advertisements of the large multi-national corporations.

The last attempted use, by the US Government, of the television industry's news broadcasts as a propaganda device was in the big three networks evening news broadcasts shown during the early years of the war in South East Asia. The US Government attempted to use its control of access to the battlefront to manipulate the news coverage. War stories by all forms of news correspondents together with the revelations of returning veterans created a backlash against the war in Viet Nam. The revelation of government manipulation of the coverage of the war brought on an immediate impact against the US Government. The major networks evening broadcasts beamed film footage of the horrors of the conflict taking place directly into the homes of all Americans. The dramatic footage of the traumatic experiences of young American draftees thrown into a conflict half way around the world directly affected American public opinion. The democratic effect was immediate President Lyndon B. Johnston decided not to seek reelection and the nation voted in Richard M. Nixon. The growing unpopularity in the mass media further inspired more and more young Americans to join the peace groups opposed to the war and to push for a resolution. However it was the total dissatisfaction and loss of willingness by the entire US population - both conservative and liberal that led to the final discontinuation of the war in Viet Nam.

The next step in the evolution of the mass media occurs in the 1970's with the creation of the independent cable TV network of WTBS owned by Ted Turner. The term "cable news" originated from the initial form of transmission televised news for a fee by cable to the subscriber. However with the advent of improved satellite reception provided by private telecommunication providers the expensive and cumbersome cable systems have all but been replaced.
Turner's revolutionary vision of an independent 24 hour Cable News Network supplied by satellite feeds directly from the source brought on the beginnings of actual uncensored breaking news. News incidents were no longer taped for later broadcast. News was now being covered live and uncensored as they occurred. News incidents were now broadcast directly to the household of the consumer without any form of restriction or censorship. No longer was television the sole proprietorship of the top three American national news networks it was no longer under the control of any government or national news networks censorship. CNN in essence became the first real global news network by the use of satellite relays of live coverage whenever it occurred in the world. The awesome influence of live televised uncensored news on the entire world was now basically in the hands of a private individual and his news division.

Throughout the 1980's the Western democracies with their taunted freedom of the press were now being put to the supreme test of the true freedom of the press. The effect of the CNN "Global News" approach was so effective that English Prime Minister Thatcher prohibited there access to the fighting in the Falklands Island war. On October 3, 1990 the zenith of the coverage of an event was that which given to the bringing down of the Berlin wall. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification and its effect resulted in the coverage of the final downfall of the Communistic regime in the Soviet Union in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin seized power in the aftermath of a failed coup that had attempted to topple reform-minded Gorbachev.
Today the term Cable News itself has become something of an anachronism but it is still in common use. Since its inception many European news channels have scrambled to enter the new competitive 24 Hour news; BBC World News, BBC News, Sky News, Al Jazeera, ABC News 24, France 24, STAR News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, Press TV, Russia Today, teleSUR and ABC News Now. Some news channels specialize even further, such as ESPNews (sports from ESPN), CNBC, Bloomberg Television and Fox Business Network (financial).
Televised news experienced another evolutionary step through enhanced computer functionality from cumbersome desktop to laptop computers to cellular phones and "pads". The improved functionary capacities together with remote direct satellite Internet access have brought the effect of the free press to millions of viewers who until now were restricted to the censored press of the regimes that controlled their home countries.

Democracy in real democratic countries, such as the United States, is something that is occasionally abused and ignored until post election results come in. The major difference is that in REAL democracies the population is accustomed to the advantage of a limited term office that allows for new elections. That REAL democracy has checks and balances to protect the rights of all men to be free.

Since the US invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein in Operation Iraqi Freedom launched on March 20th, 2003, the people of the world and especially the educated secular Arabs have finally come to envision their lives in freedom. Freedom from tyrannical despots and freedom from the death that Islamic extremism has wrought upon them and their families is slow to emerge. The urge to live lives as free individuals without the terror that their religious extremists have brought them is something which should be encouraged especially by all those émigrés who have fled to the west. That extreme hatred and blind obedience to backward philosophies that are being taught by Moslem clerics have brought nothing but misery upon them. It is time that the people of Arabic lands return to those ideas and ways of life that once made the lands of the Middle East places of enlightened education and learning and not that of ignorance and death.

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