Dr.Dawg

Fearmongerage, or how to manage the masses

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Pancake syrup.jpg

The corporate mass media do not exist to inform, in some “objective” sense. Their effect is to maintain the status quo, the “natural order of things,” and we can observe the various techniques by which they, wittingly or unwittingly, accomplish this imperative. And no, I’m not talking conspiracy here, if I seriously have to state the obvious in 2014. There’s a a complex dynamic at work, described by Chomsky and Althusser, inter alia, and it’s, well, old news, isn’t it?

Do “radical” voices get media attention? On occasion, presented as a kind of exhibit. Are marginal voices well-reported? Well, that’s a trick question: obviously they wouldn’t be “marginal” if they were. Is a full spectrum of political opinion available for public consideration? Even the Greens and the NDP are frequently considered “out there” by reporters and in the nauseatingly comfortable petit-bourgeois punditry that passes for informed comment in Canada. Again, old news.

The so-called “MSM” sing lullabies to us, and put people into a sound sleep. But that’s not the only technique at work.

The other major one is the generation and maintenance of fear. For crude on-going examples, check out the Toronto SUN. Fear opens us up to easy solutions to be carried out, not by ourselves, but by authority: “lock and load,” or “keep them behind bars,” etc. Fear immobilizes and demobilizes. Fear diverts attention from the outside world, and re-focuses it on ourselves and our “precious bodily fluids.”

Which brings me to pancakes.

Here is a classic case of fearmongering without substance. Pancake syrups like the one pictured above, we are told, may cause cancer. People who use popular brands may be putting themselves at a higher risk of developing cancer, a new report reveals. They contain a colourant called 4-MeI, a potential carcinogen. “We’re concerned because this chemical has been shown to cause cancer in mice and is a possible human carcinogen.”

But wait! “[I]t’s not pancake syrup that actually poses the greatest risk: some soft drinks have significantly higher levels of caramel colouring, and therefore higher levels of 4-MeI.” And: “4 -MeI in syrup is less of a concern than in soft drinks because people tend to consume far less syrup.”

And, finally, the authorities, in this case corporations, are reacting: “The report shows, however, that levels of 4-MeI in certain products were lower in December than they were when previously tested, ‘suggesting that some manufacturers may be taking steps to reduce levels, which would be a step in the right direction.’”

To re-cap: No proof pancake syrups are dangerous. No proof a commonly-used colourant is an actual carcinogen. And we haven’t even gotten to soft drinks yet. But “they” are already doing something about this “threat.”

What do stories like this do? They first arouse fear. Then they make it clear that any solution to the imminent danger is out of our hands. Then they assure us that’s it’s being looked at by benevolent authorities, so no need to panic. Sleep tight.

As a coda, note the illustration above, a bottle of (possible) poison. Not only does the dark Mrs. Butterworth conjure up her sister Aunt Jemima, in her old and new, more subdued manifestations: she, a Black woman, is now the very personification of a threat. No matter: it’s being taken care of.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here: the topic bears much more discussion. Fire away.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr.Dawg published on April 7, 2014 11:17 AM.

I KNOW "King Kong" and "Lovely Bones" Bombed, but PLEASE... was the previous entry in this blog.

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