Yes, of course we can decide that now. Barring near complete planetary destruction, we can decide what we want the biggest stories to be in advance and just get them on the front pages. Those in power have been doing that forever, focusing exclusively on celebrities, celebrated for their ability to distract, sell propaganda and model rampant consumerism, politicians, those not-too-bright replaceable figureheads standing in for the real powerful who never change and are never in the news, and men with guns, presented as both our greatest fear and our greatest hope to keep the general population in a mood of infantile dependence and insecurity. If citizen journalism is worth anything it should be able to create focus of its own. These are my suggestions for 2014.
Truly an endless source of material. Practically every story on the front pages right now can lead straight back to a corporation, although they almost never do. Every conflict presented as ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ has also an economic and resource based aspect. Every island in dispute has a seabed of corporate interest. Militias are hired, trained and armed by corporations. Trade deals revolve around corporations. International laws are created for corporations. The NSA and other intelligence agencies spy for corporations. International banking is completely intertwined with other corporations. Infrastructure is contingent on resource corporation development. Laws against so-called eco-terrorism and even other terrorism are created and advertised by governments in support of resource corporations. Every environmental story has a resource corporation or several behind it.
The real celebrities
The people behind the corporations are equally fascinating since they are also the people that run the governments, the financial world bodies, the international courts and the trade deals or they are connected to them. The web of what they own, what boards they sit on, who they are related to and who they are allies or enemies with is endlessly intriguing and dictates the course of our lives. In our personality driven world it is not enough to have a logo as the subject of a story and nor should it be. The CEO’s and presidents currently hired to front stories with their faces need to be replaced with the faces of the owners, those actually controlling and benefitting the most from the corporations’ activities.
Why do school children learn the names of dead Presidents and Prime Ministers instead of the names of the billionaires who control their media and their lives? Why is there about 444,000 Google search results for “Mother Theresa controversy” and only 80,700 results for “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation controversy” (the biggest private foundation in the world)? Why are there no Wikipedia pages (or mainstream news coverage required to create them) for most of the world’s most powerful?
We need a database of all of the holdings of these people, what boards they sit on and who they are related to as friends, families and business associates. Celebrity gossip is crucial information but we have misdirected it. These celebrities are far more interesting than the ones we are being trained to focus on.
The money trail
We need longer trails to put stories in context. Instead of just pointing at laws, we need to show who is behind proposing the laws and who is benefiting from them. What corporations (and owners) are benefiting from TPP and other trade treaties? What foundations and celebrities are making their funding in African countries contingent on the spread of homophobia and homophobic laws? Instead of just a non-stop advertisement for war products featuring the latest in fighter jets and killer drones, we need to see all of the people who benefit from the sale of each piece of equipment purchased for a war zone and where that equipment and the trained militias end up. Illegal sale of weapons, drugs and resources go to fund legitimate governments, armies and corporations. Illegal militias are hired as security for resource corporations and others. Hostages tortured for ransom in the Sinai, refugees sold as slaves, the booming human trafficking industry, all have financial trails that do not fit into 500 word articles but are essential to follow.
The other people
We need to overcome the overwhelming nationalism and other group affiliations that still makes some voices far more equal than others. As we have seen repeatedly, people are valued more as they are seen more. Getting media to show atrocities being committed is less necessary (or reliable) for verification than it is for generating an emotional response and a direct human bond from other people. Everyone needs direct amplification when needed, not as props for western saviours or products to promote NGOs but to tell their own stories and establish their own direct support networks. We need to continue the fight against communication blackouts, not just by Internet shutdowns but also by refusal of Internet access to prisoners and others and by our own nationalism and other group affiliations refusing to amplify all voices equally. It is absurd to feel that someone you don’t know dying is vastly more important than someone else you don’t know dying. The focus on some lives as more important than others greatly benefits corporations and governments who do not want any coverage of their activities outside their home base.