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World without Context: Why the News Couldn't Be Worse


World without Context: Why the News Couldn't Be Worse

Tom Engelhardt

Sometimes what matters most takes up every inch of space in the room and somehow we still don’t see it. That’s how I feel about our present media moment.


Capitalist corporate media - enemy of democracy, threat to all humanity...


What is called news, by the corporate, dinosaur and old school MSM should not be called news because that is a misnomer. Like Chomsky has said, the corporate MSM is a manufacturer of consent. Anyone that gains access to the MSM like Phil Donohoe and tries to have an alternative narrative is removed no matter how high their ratings.

They have been doing this for far too long. The MSM supported and consented to the nuclear bombing of Japan; the Korean police action which was called that to circumvent congress; the MSM overwhelmingly consented to the lies of the Vietnam war; the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war and the Syrian war. And the elephant in the room? " Sometimes what matters most takes up every inch of space in the room and somehow we still don't see it'. Of course, what else! That would be the virtual blackout and censorship of any alternative narrative about 9/11!


To characterize the corporate media in the spooky conspiratorial terms such as yours completely missed the point though.

The corporate media is simply doing what any capitalist business does - maximizing profit by selling its product (a manipulated dumbed-down gullible public) to its customer's (advertising corporations) specifications.


Used to be a news junkie, then realized how much of my life time I was wasting watching that stuff. I thought the DVR was the answer, but then as I started having time to do other things, the hard drive slowly piled up with unwatched programming, even my NFL games, I realized I didn't need any of it anymore (including the NFL). Life is much more interesting without "television". I do like the big flat screens for movies, however. I'd advise turning off the news. You already know what's they're saying.


What is the harm if we all just turn off television news? Would doing so somehow give the upper hand to those still viewing?


Who is this "we" and how are you going to make people turn their TV news? And I don't see how no information of current events is better than bad information on current events.


Yes, and our need to "watch the news" is inherent in today's society. Fact is, real news is not on the tube, but here alive and well on the 'net. Unfortunately, to most of the public, the net is for porn trading stupid e-mails and that sort of thing.... won't go into the social media crap. As long as the masses belly up to feel good/ be afraid but just buy the latest and greatest(fill in the blanks) we, unfortunately get just what we deserve.


That was a question, not a suggestion. Of course, everyone is free to consume news in any form they wish. As for whether bad information is better than no information: In the case of the shootings mentioned in the article, there's no harm in most people waiting 12 hours or longer to learn about those events. I could argue that there are virtually no news events where wall-to-wall coverage serves the public's needs.


Eyeballs glued

Brainpans emptied


Where logic won't penetrate, fear will.


Hear, hear, to those advocating turning it off. No harm at all comes from not watching, and much good. I can't even remember the last time I watched TV news or listened to any radio news but Pacifica. It's been decades, I think. Instead, the wonderful internet brings me a range of articles and opinions, discussions, scientific studies (although often just the abstracts/executive summaries—some room for improvement exists) the proceedings of conferences, and much, much more.

On the one hand, I didn't know about Benghazi until weeks or months after it happened and still don't quite know what the fuss was, (just another attack in a violent world, the only difference being it was upwardly directed violence for a change—I think.) On the other hand, I didn't know about Benghazi, so bravo. The same happens with most 24/7 shootings coverage; I eventually find out they happened and every one is the same. I find out I missed nothing by missing weeks of coverage. Every election cycle the Republican party gets even wackier and everybody who watches the news acts surprised. Now how is that possible?

Granted, I had been reading newspapers (NYT, Chi. Tribune, etc.) for decades, so even when I don't know what the news is I always know what the news is. And I know what's happening in the physical world because I read a wide variety of environmental reports. I keep up with permaculture advances, peace, social justice and environmental activism—everything that actually makes a difference to my life. And when something comes up like Paris, I tune in and find out I knew almost exactly how it was going to turn out before it started. This is not to brag, just to say anyone can do this and everyone should, I think. There is only upside to tuning into other things than what corporations want to dull your senses with.


... adding to your comment, nor were any voices allowed on-air to challenge the pre-fab decision to go to war with Iraq and then take down those other Middle East nations (as delineated in The Project for a New American Century) like bowling pins.

There will always be a segment of persons, and possibly, a facet within many persons, that gravitates to the imprint of the Roman Arena. Or, as the news world puts it: "If it bleeds, it leads."

Nonetheless, that's the protocol. It doesn't explain WHY it's used. And just as persons end up creatures of habit, and consume bad food and do unhealthy things like smoke cigarettes; they can be conditioned to glare at violence. In other words, it becomes titillating for many and thereby habit-forming.

But more important than this predisposition in some, if not many persons is WHY and HOW it's exploited. And by that I mean, the focus on the weekly "gun-down at the local corral" is used so that things like the TIPP, TPP, climate chaos, the uneven income gaps in part the result of tax policies favorable to the 1% and all things that matter... can be discounted.

It's really the magician's sleight of hand trick all the way.

Get the crowd looking at the person being mugged, and then the magician's friends can get away with real murder, mayhem, and massive pickpocketing elsewhere.


In 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was front page news for an entire summer, NEVER once did the New York times or Washington Post mention where the oil would end up -- in our gasoline tanks. Since every other major media reads those two newspapers, it likely didn't show up anywhere else either, although it was the lead story for almost four months. We learned about everything else, including what Jimmy Buffett thought about the oil spill in his paradise, but not that we drive 3 trillion miles annually causing oil companies to dig deeper, further off shore then -- and now to threaten our water supply -- but not the reason why the Deepwater Horizon was there to begin with.

No wonder our "attempts" at climate change regulation are ineffectual. No one tells us the truly inconvenient truth -- and please remember that Al Gore didn't mention personal vehicles in his Nobel acceptance speech, perhaps because he and his entourage were running around in three Lincoln Towncars.



And there is no military-media complex.

And news shows, serious debates, and Sunday talk shows don't primarily feature pro-war generals or other hawks.

And there is no such thing as propaganda or lies told often.

And when journalists like Robert Parry point out the similitude of commentary from one talking head to another in things as important as the frame that sets Putin up as the aggressor in Ukraine, it's just an accident... just coincidence.

And when stories that the Control State doesn't want known--like what Julian Assange released, or Edward Snowden exposed as per the underbelly of the Surveillance State, that suggests nothing in the way of a conspiracy to SILENCE truth and those who dare to articulate it.

While a corporate media obviously has an interest in generating a profit, you leave out the other side of the equation: that our nation is morphing into a military state and MUCH in the way of business is predicated upon war and war profiteers' interests.

Not only do you do your best to mock, denigrate or discredit those of us who refuse to buy an official story that is as full of bull shit holes as was the "lone assassin" explanation for JFK's murder; you define yourself as an engineer. Yet the ONLY thing you're here to engineer is opinions.

And YOU want people to disavow any stories other than those which maintain the status quo that the MIC has built.

Thomas Friedman once said (accurately) that there could be no MacDonalds without McDonnell Douglas. In other words, foreign capitalistic ventures would get nowhere without a military fist in the negotiating gloves. "Confessions of An Economic Hit Man" explains the protocols.


Very true! And there were millions of people in the US and around the world that were against the Iraq war and knew it was not about the bogus WMD's or 9/11 but nevertheless; the overwhelming majority of the people could not prevail to stop that illegal war. That was proof to me that Amerika is a military dictatorship.


I agree.

And take Paris where the only leaders were a majority of white males protective of industry and the world that mammon built. The Indigenous wise women and men were left outside the gates and they are the only ones who truly know how to bring this marvelous planet back into homeostasis/balance.

And take the TIPP and TPP... these treaties absolutely eviscerate all sovereign laws through the ridiculous ISDS... Insiders decide whether a nation's laws impede profit and then take their claim to a court made up of their own ilk. But when it comes to compensating poor nations and low-lying lands from climate change largely generated by developed Western nations, no agreements are made.

I have posted the long but worth viewing documentary, "Everything is a rich man's trick" and it explains who writes the rules, sets up laws to back them, and commands the militaries and militias to enforce them. If you haven't seen it, I can post the link again.

Then this forum fills up with the fools who push a pseudo-Democracy narrative that pretends that "it's about us."

Notice how Yunzer took my WE-frame contested issue and ran with it as if it was his own, and where is Wereflea to lecture him on its purported "rhetorical" usage?

The level of consciousness seen in these comments leads me to despair... but for the few who DO see.


After the Paris bombings MSNBC was "terror in Paris" for two weeks 24/7-they even interrupted their weekend jail shows. Yet when I tried to watch this stuff it was all hype. It was the same info being repeated continuously. And now I hear these commentators railing against republicans for using fear(never mind Hillary doing the same thing). I come to this site and others just to hear different views. And utube has been a great learning tool. I have been able to view Sen. Sanders speeches,not available on any tv "news" or cable programs.-I think there should be a change to public air waves. For example why is C-span on cable -it should be available to the public. The same with local coverage and community affairs.


If you don't recognize the media in spooky conspiratorial terms you have missed the point.

The media serves the Military Industrial Complex by pushing their propaganda 24/7. It is a conspiracy.


If things are so bad, and the people like Engelhardt are the ones people wait to get some hopes from, we're just as toast. The progressive media and high echelon of media celebrities act just like a 1% of elitist, with a narrow minded and conventional way to cover the stories. They can't find ways to create the conditions to shift the power of the oligarchs, so they control the narrative that the 99% reads. There are clearly unconventional approaches to social change, but the highnesses and kings of the progressive narrative have to sell their books and control the narrative for the world of activism. "It's bad...We tell you it is, and if we can't find break through, nobody can"
It's a disgrace, that the 99% is just as ruled and controlled by people who lack vision and are corrupted by self interests, to protect their own means to maintain relevances and status, just as the 1% does in much more obvious and profitable ways. We challenge the alternative media to look at the FB pages with over 2M likes, those who have inspired and empowered people with a fraction of the funding that they have. Who knows, maybe among all the bad news there are gems of ideas of empowerment in the rough, waiting to be chiseled in new approaches to this pathetic paralysis.

The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change.”
― Howard Zinn, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times