The Dysfunctional Media

I got rid of my TV set a few months ago. It was the culmination of a long process of deepening disillusionment.

I’ve long been aware that television is a propaganda medium. But over the past few years, the propaganda seems to have been becoming more and more blatant and ubiquitous.

The one issue that has vexed me more than any other over the past two years has been the smoking ban which has so effectively demolished my social life. That’s been a big event. I can’t remember the last time my social life was dismembered that way. In fact, it’s never, ever happened before. And it’s not just me who has been experiencing this complete dislocation. There are plenty of other people who have been going through the same thing. I know quite a few of them personally, although of course I don’t see much of them these days, now that our pub meeting places have become unsocial, drab no-go areas.

But do you see any reporting of the smoking ban and its effects on TV, or hear it on the radio? You hear bugger all about it, that’s what you hear. In Britain’s mass media, the smoking ban was a complete non-event. On 1 July 2007, when the ban came into force, I watched the news, imagining that the ban would be the headline. It wasn’t. It barely got a brief mention. It’s hardly been mentioned since. Except to say what a great success it is, and how absolutely everybody loves it, and wants to see more things banned.

So, here’s the biggest event in my life for the past two years, and one that is affecting millions of people much like it’s affecting me, and it’s not newsworthy.

One can only wonder what is newsworthy, if this isn’t. They report earthquakes all over the world, so why don’t they report smoking bans? More and more I think that what goes to make up the news in the news media is simply whatever they want to be news.

I suppose that if if some TV news editor were to explain to me how it works, he’d probably say something like, "Look, Frank, we don’t report little personal tragedies like yours. We can’t report every single failed marriage or broken friendship or pub closure. We report the big tragedies. The airliner crashes. The motorway pile-ups. The stock market collapses. Things that affect a lot of people a lot. Things that kill people." And I’d say, "Yes, I know that. It’s not me I want you to report. This isn’t about just me. And I know that smoking bans don’t kill people like earthquakes do. But they still have ill effects on the lives of billions of people, just like swine flu has ill effects on millions of people. With swine flu, mostly they’ll just feel a bit unwell for a few days, and then get over it. You report that. You report the numbers of people who’ve caught it. Why don’t you report this smoking ban plague that has been spreading all over the world. I’ve been sick with it for two whole years. It’s not something that wears off after a few days." And he’ll say, "Well, I think you’re unusual. I personally don’t know anybody who feels that way in my wine bar. Anyway, I must go. There’s a big news story breaking. Some footballer’s broken his foot."

It’s not just smoking bans. The news generally just seems to be generally becoming more and more trivialised. It has become its own separate reality, much like the ‘reality’ TV shows these days portray a completely artificial reality. And the rest of it is stupid quiz shows, or celebrity chefs telling people how to cook, or doctors telling them how to keep fit, or architects telling them how to renovate their houses. Who wants to watch this dross? Now and then they have a good documentary about something. But the propaganda creeps into them too. The sight of a few clouds or mountains or animals is the regular cue for a reference to the global warming which is supposed to be killing us all.

Our news media doesn’t work. It may as well be broadcasting white noise. Anyone who wants to watch TV is someone who just wants to be lied to, and bullied, and propagandised. 

I’ve had enough.

About Frank Davis

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4 Responses to The Dysfunctional Media

  1. Anonymous says:

    Take a look at this link, Frank. It explains a lot about why the negative effects of the ban – and there are many – are so rarely reported in the media, and when they are there are always other qualifications, such as “cheap supermarket alcohol” or “the recession” to dilute the devastating effects of the ban itself and make it seem less damaging than it actually is. But this article puts a very interesting perspective on smoking bans and their effect on economies generally – it’s a perspective which even a cynical, semi-conspiratorially-minded, untrusting person like myself hadn’t thought of, but it makes ten tons of sense and all the timings are perfect. The link is: Even if you don’t agree with everything it says (as indeed you may not – I’d be interested to know), it’s worth a read and is certainly, as I say, an unusual and potentially plausible theory.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    I’ve come across the suggestion before, that smoking bans caused the economic crash, but it didn’t seem very plausible somehow. I’ve generally supposed that the economic effects of smoking bans aren’t very great, and are restricted to the hospitality sector.
    But perhaps it deserves thinking about some more. After all, smoking bans have been multiplying all over the world, and are likely to have had a global effect. And what is that impact likely to be? Smokers stop going to pubs and restaurants all over the world, and so stop spending like they used to. That means that jobs get lost in the hospitality industries, businesses go bust. It’s certainly looks recession-like in its effect, because in recessions money dries up.
    But wouldn’t the smokers have just switched to spending their money elsewhere? If their money didn’t go to pubs and restaurants and clubs, surely it went somewhere, and found its way into the economy some other way?
    But perhaps it didn’t. Perhaps smokers just stayed home en masse, and didn’t spend? That is, after all, pretty much what I do.
    Perhaps it’s not so implausible. But I don’t know what amounts of money were spent by smokers, or what fraction of total spending in an economy this represents. If the amounts are small, and are a small fraction of the economy, then they’d not be significant. If they were large, they’d have a big effect.
    But if smoking bans have been the cause of the world recession, then we can expect a long and deep one, while the bans remain in place.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Funnily enough, I raised the question in a forum I visit some while back whether it had, anywhere, been noted that wherever bans – particularly very strict bans – had been enacted, economic problems always seemed to follow fairly hot on their heels. It could, of course, as I admitted at the time, all just be coincidence, but it did seem to be a bit too MUCH of a coincidence for there to be no connection at all. Admittedly, I was tending to think in local terms – US States, individual countries etc – but as you say, as smoke-banning seems now to be a global hobby (and assuming my comments at the time had a grain of accuracy in them) then it’s not impossible to assume that the economic effects would be global, too. I don’t think in this article they’re necessarily saying that it’s just the absence of smokers’ money which is causing the problem, although of course that wouldn’t help, but it’s more about the massive downturn in a whole sector of industry because industry itself is so inter-connected and inter-linked that the collapse (or even near-collapse) of one sector will inevitably bring on a huge downturn, if not a similar collapse, in another which may be dependent upon it. Which, of course, is one reason why the Government had to shell out our tax money to prevent the banking sector from collapsing – it wasn’t that we couldn’t cope without one or two major banks, because a few people would go bust, some people would lose their hard-earned savings, and then we’d simply start banking elsewhere, but it was the fingers that they all had in lots of other pies which would have been the real disaster. OK, so the banking sector is considerably larger than the hospitality sector, but hospitality is nevertheless still a large sector in itself, and the theory must surely still hold true, I would think. And it would certainly explain the media’s reluctance to acknowledge truthfully how damaging the bans had been.
    But an interesting one to muse upon, nevertheless.

  4. Frank Davis says:

    ECONOMIC LOSSES DUE TO SMOKING BANS IN CALIFORNIA AND OTHER STATES by David Kuneman and Michael McFadden (who has dropped into my blog several times). Dated April 2005, it pre-dates the recession. At a quick glance it seems to be arguing that US states with bans weren’t performing as well as ones without bans.

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