The biggest, and really the single, threat to all our liberties
If you’ve found this page, you probably know that our liberties are under attack from many actors, both commercial, government, and government using commercial services’ data about us.
This is not uncommon knowledge. Most people know it to some extent, and everyone who reads this is likely to know it very well.
What is not as known is why most people don’t care enough to do very much about it. I have written a little about this in Swedish before, but I think it’s time to post something that is more complete in the explaining, and I might as well write it in English since I may want to link to it from a comment field in English sometime.
What kind of power would you have, if you were in control of all mass media that your country’s people consumes? Sure, you could make yourself the king of kings, never having to lift a finger again, having money pouring out of your pockets but not even needing it, because everyone would just give you the best of the best in goods, services etc. because of who you are.
That’s not what I mean.
If you were to play your cards right, people wouldn’t be treating you so well because they feel they have to. They would be doing it because they want to. You would not just be in full control of people’s knowledge, not just in control of people’s thoughts. You would be in control of people’s emotions.
The people wouldn’t want democracy. They would want you. Or, rather, you would be the democracy, because everybody wants you to be their leader.
This is only the beginning however. If you had control of all the mass media, you could alter, even completely invert, any commonly accepted general, scientific or moral standpoint of the people, gradually, over the course of maybe 5-40 years depending of how radical the change would be, but definitely within a human lifetime. Memory is shorter than one might think, if handled in certain ways.
Seriously, if you wanted to, you could for example make people think, do and feel:
- That people with, say, brown hair should not be entitled to operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery, because they have slower reflexes that others. This in spite of reaction tests currently being the most popular game and hair colour doesn’t affect the score one bit.
- That cats are the most vile creatures that have ever existed, should never be touched without a two-metre self-sterilizing grip hook, and even seeing one means bad luck.
- That having sex with your own children when they are young is good and necessary for teaching them about sexuality.
- That killing people that have the opinion that you are not great and awesome, is the right thing to do.
To us, this is of course ridiculous and disgusting, but if all the mass media gradually came to these conclusions, repeated them in thousands of different ways, showing scientists reporting that it is confirmed in science, making statistics asked in such a way that they show that people are accepting and liking it all, made movies, music, comics, books, all with these standpoints embedded in them and very little although not necessarily nothing to the contrary, the people would look back and say ”I wonder how many millions of lives would have been saved if those brown haired people in the 2000’s wouldn’t have driven cars, and if people didn’t have those horrible cats, and it’s strange how we can even exist, how did people even know how to have sex when nobody showed them? And how could they possibly think of Your Highest Highness as an equal, some even as a bad person, they should have been slowly roasted to death…”
There is absolutely nothing more powerful than a unified mass media.
In reality of course, there isn’t one person that control all the news to the people. Except possibly in North Korea. But the mass media actors are collaborating very much, probably controlled by an unknown small group of people. It probably differs a bit between countries, but not too much since many of the trends I’m about to write about are more or less global. I’m writing from a mostly Swedish perspective, because that’s where I live.
The following things are real. They are subjects that the mass media of today and yesterday are and have been very uniform and persistent about.
Tobacco: In the past, tobacco companies had huge influence over the mass media. Everyone was smoking in the movies, ads everywhere, and tobacco was the healthiest substance known to man. (What cigarette do you smoke, Doctor?). Then something changed, and today they agitate for everything that reduces tobacco use. Every single time a scientist says something about tobacco in the media, it is that it is much more dangerous than previously believed. When recommendations of anti-smoking laws such as warning pictures, prohibited smoking in bus stops and train platforms, etc. are brought up, they always interview people that say it is a good idea, but never ever anyone who thinks it is bad.
Coffee: Much like tobacco, but the other way around, every time something about coffee is reported in Swedish mass media, it is that it has some newly discovered beneficial effect on health. It reduces depression and risk of suicide, it reduces the risk of cancer, it keeps your heart in a better condition and whatnot. Nothing bad about coffee, ever. Energy drinks however, are always reported as bad.
Russia: A year or two before the activity started in Crimea, Swedish mass media began reporting every tiny bad thing that the Russian government was doing. Sure, the Russian government does indeed do bad things, I don’t deny that, but this was seriously ridiculous. In some cases the Swedish government had done similar things without the Swedish media saying a single word about it. How and why this happened at the time it did, I leave to you to think about. I don’t even know myself, even if I have some suspicions.
Now we come to the things regarding what this blog is about.
Anonymity: The word anonymity is seldom used when describing good things such as whistle blowing and sensitive discussions, and when interviewing for example crime victims that are anonymous in the current media. Then they say ”We can now expose leaked information…” ”They don’t have to use their name there” and for example ”Sara’s real name is something else.” When discussing child pornography, on line fraud, so-called Internet hate, etcetera however, the word anonymity is used in every other sentence.
Privacy: Privacy is very rarely mentioned. When a new service, technology or law is reported, that any reasonable person would use almost half of the space discussing its privacy implications, such as social media functions, drones, surveillance cameras in elderly people’s homes (reassuring us that it’s for extra safety, not for saving money!), Google Glass, Data Retention Directive, etc. They always focus on what good it can do for society, often say that the development is inevitable, and sometimes just briefly cover the privacy implications, often with someone who reassures everyone it won’t be abused getting the final word.
Freedom of speech and expression: Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are generally combined in the word ”yttrandefrihet” in Swedish, so it will be a bit clumsy to translate, however Swedish mass media talks about it sometimes. When they do, it is either about something that prevents them from reporting something, or it is paradoxically enough about some more or less known person – usually hardcore feminist, way past the line into misandry – whose freedom of speech and expression ”is being trampled on” by means of ”näthat” (”Internet hate”) – angry, mean, sometimes threatening comments and e-mails. Never ever EVER does freedom of speech and expression have anything to do with regular citizens being able to speak and express themselves, most notably on the Internet, especially not anonymously.
Facebook: This is part of the above three, but deserves its own chapter: Facebook, and to a lesser extent Instagram and Twitter, the mass media loves. Almost every Swedish newspaper, TV- and radio station have removed their comment fields where anonymous comments could be made, and are instead telling people to discuss on social media, especially Facebook. Public Service Sveriges Radio and Sveriges Television are prohibited from advertising any commercial products or services, but especially Sveriges Radio very often tell its listeners to ”enter our Facebook page and comment this and that”, literally 20-30 times a day. If that’s not advertisement, I don’t know what is. And, as mentioned above, Facebook’s data collection is rarely mentioned, at the very most shortly, about once a year.
Music: Even the music often seems to contain propaganda. One of the most popular topics of Swedish artists, singing in both Swedish and English, and not unusual for English-singing artists from other countries either, is ”live now”, ”don’t worry about tomorrow”, etc. Politics of all kinds concern tomorrow and not today, per se. So if the message is only slightly analyzed, it means ”don’t get involved in, or even worry about, political matters”.
What to watch out for: If the following is being reported in the mass media, fire up your critical thinking!
Unanimous or near-unanimous support for a standpoint, opinion or even a claimed fact: This may be propaganda. Or it may be legit. Don’t just accept it without at least thinking of who might profit from people believing it, preferably also do a little research yourself.
Incompatible facts: Especially combined with above point. Be vigilant of facts used in an argument, article or other mass media message, that doesn’t seem to add up. This can of course happen from mistake, or facts sometimes appear to not add up, but they in reality do. But it is a warning sign that something may be wrong.
Statistics: This is one of the most important points: Statistics are almost always pure, ultra high-powered propaganda. Statistics are usually ordered by someone with an agenda, and that is reflected in what information respondents are given before answering, and it is reflected in how questions are asked, a fairly recent example being ”Are you afraid of surveillance?”. Not many people are genuinely afraid of surveillance (in some cases they should be, however), but most people are uncomfortable under surveillance, and alter their behaviour. The agenda is reflected in how things are measured: For example, three different newspapers could brag with statistics and all be right: 1:We are the newspaper with the most readers. 2:We are the newspaper with the fastest growing number of readers. 3: We are the newspaper with the most daily readers. The agenda is reflected in how the statistics are presented, headlines, descriptions, scale, colour, shapes, etc.
Other things giving statistics their propaganda power is that they are seen as mathematical (and everyone knows that math never lies) and that they are often used to measure what most people think or do:
”Many people are…”, ”More and more people are…” etc: Whether it’s through statistics, through interviews or pretty much any means, very often the mass media wants to make it known that a large amount of people or a quickly growing amount of people are doing this or that, or having this or that opinion. Ever wondered why? Would that be something especially interesting to know? Maybe, but the real reason is psychology 101. People usually want to do like most other people do. Why would the newspapers in the example above even want to brag about being read by many? To make even more people want to read them, of course. To attract customers! This has been used in advertising for decades, probably even centuries. The reason when it is used in the news is exactly the same: to ”sell” an opinion or a behaviour. You can be absolutely sure that many more people than you hear, see or read about are interviewed. Then the ones with the ”correct” opinions are published, maybe with a few exceptions for credibility. In November last year, Riksbanken, the central bank of Sweden, ordered statistics of the use of cash, cards and mobile payment services. In the newspaper Ystads Allehanda, a person using cards and not having much cash in her wallet was described like this (translation by me)
In that way, she is typical. A survey that Riksbanken have ordered, shows that 53 % of Swedes have between 100 and 500 crowns* in cash and a majority nowadays choose to use a card also for purchases under 100 kr. Different mobile services are also gaining ground…
*Crowns or kronor is the Swedish currency, when writing, 1 kr is about €0.11 and $0.12.
This survey can of course not be trusted. The banks makes billions from card fees and such, which they don’t on the cash. Of course they want to make people use their payment services even more.
(Cards and mobile services are unsafe – every transaction is traceable and stored for a very long time, during which values and opinions of what is okay to buy may change, and every purchase is a withdrawal from the bank, so if your money gets frozen, there is a major IT problem, power outage, etc. you can’t even buy food. If you have money corresponding to a few hundred € or $ at home or in the wallet, you have money for the most essential for a few weeks until the problem hopefully is corrected.)
That which is missing, layered propaganda: All mass media in Sweden has a clear anti-racist immigration-positive opinion, and this is by many people thought to be the huge propaganda drive in Swedish mass media. This is probably a big factor in the Sweden Democrats’ recent success, an immigration-critical party that the mass media is very clear about not supporting. But if you think that is the case, you are mistaken. The immigration debate and apparent non-representation of many people’s opinion is merely a distraction. The thoughts that the mass media doesn’t want the people to think, are neither advertised nor criticized, they are not discussed at all. This is true of our liberties such as privacy. It is very rarely mentioned, and when mentioned it is always in ways reassuring that it’s nothing to worry about.
However, privacy has been unusually much discussed in the Swedish media the last months, maybe five times. There may even be another layer, of something even more important, that is now urgent and must be kept out of people’s minds even at the cost of higher awareness of liberties and privacy. I don’t know what, though. Possibly the total monetary collapse that may arise from Greece going bankrupt(Warning – YouTube link) (which Bitcoin will not solve at all, for obvious reasons). Possibly World War III. Possibly something completely different.
The role of the Internet in this
Many privacy activists claim that the Internet saves the free information and truth, but I say that is a big exaggeration. What is being discussed on the Internet, for example on blogs, discussion forums, social media, podcasts, videos etc. is almost exclusively sourced from the mass media. If it’s not, it’s either mindless entertainment or it’s just a small fringe group discussing it, and it has no chance of reaching any significant number of people. If ”regular” people see it, most will call the people discussing it ”tinfoil hats”, even if the evidence is presented and verified in front of them. This is of course because of the mass media’s propaganda, the circle is closed. Don’t stop discussing however, any resistance is better than no resistance.