Let's begin with an example of the backwardness and obtuseness of the mainstream news media, as revealed by public interest polling.
The New York Times 8/15/97 lead editorial, lead sentence, gave credit to Bill Richardson, the United States representative at the United Nations, for an ingenious proposal to remedy an old UN problem, the frequent hobbling and ineffectiveness of the Security Council, the only UN entity authorized by the UN Charter to take military action. The Security Council has five permanent members that are unrepresentative of most of the world and any one of them can veto any action. The idea of increasing the number of new permanent members had been discussed within the international agencies and studied by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for years. Richardson's ingenious proposal was to add five more permanent members. Richardson would not say whether these new members would also have the veto.
Three years earlier I and my colleagues had conducted in the U.S. many surveys on UN issues, all made available to the news media. We found that
Adding to the Security Council new permanent members "that have become important or represent larger developing nations, such as . . . . [five countries mentioned]" was favored by 80% of the public and strongly favored by 42%.
An 81% majority favored a reasonable increase in UN dues payments from new permanent members. Only 27% favored admission of new permanent members with the veto right, 65% opposed.
So the Times lead editorial considered a proposal ingenious that had been favored by 80% of the U.S. public three years earlier. Further Richardson was relegated to being one among only 8% of the public who did not answer whether new permanent members should have the veto. NGOs and the U.S. people understood the value of these proposals long before the Times found them ingenious.
The editors of mainstream news media to this day have not recognized that many of the civil society organizations, the NGOs that represent the people, are out in front in understanding where the world is and should be going. Did the U.S. pay a price for the obtuseness of the mainstream media? Yes, it did. The people were not informed of increasing Soviet weakness and the rise of civil society there and in Eastern Europe and South Africa from 1980 onward. The ending of the Cold War to the vast majority of the people (who only heard or saw mainstream news) appeared to happen mysteriously during 1989.
Does the obtuseness still go on? Yes it does. Considering problems produced by "rogue dictators" the mainstream news media and special interest pollsters see solutions one of two ways, either diplomatic efforts or military intervention. Little else gets serious consideration. The efforts of NGOs seems beyond the ability of media to handle. Perhaps, as explained by Hazel Henderson in "Building a Win-Win World" (1996), slow motion good news does not fit into a news media treatable category. As a result, NGO efforts, seldom noticed by the media, are little understood by the public. Remarkably, this is independently confirmed by a poll question asked just after the revolutions of 1989, by Market Strategies Inc, pollsters for Pres. George Bush, Sr.: "Some people have commented that in places like Eastern Europe and South Africa the people WITHOUT the guns are winning. Can you understand what they mean by that?" Yes, 53% No, 44%.
The U.S. public was so kept in the dark by mainstream media that almost half did not even understand the question. But look what happened when the follow-up question was asked of the majority that said "Yes":
"Do you agree or disagree with the comment that the people WITHOUT the guns are winning?" A whopping 82% agreed. Media moguls, anchors, editors, and reporters don't understand things that the public does.
We are paying the price for it again. George W. Bush agreed on 9/9/02 to some diplomatic initiatives before the U.S. intervenes militarily in Iraq (with 68% of U.S. public approval). The mainstream U.S. media still has not tried to make clear why and how the people without the guns can and do win. So it is likely that again it will be "off to war we go."
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