Anti-Socialist Bias in Mainstream Media Reporting: Endorsement of Major Political Aggressions of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

I recently participated in a conference at the university I work at and while it is part of my job to help organize these events, I also wanted an opportunity to speak to a larger audience on socialism in real life and not just in leftbook. So I seized this opportunity and delivered a short talk on fake news on socialist countries and how imperialist countries justify their invasions of socialist countries based on such fake news. I did not manage to complete the entire paper before the conference, during which I could only present on Venezuela and the DPRK given the time limits. I intend on writing the full paper and publishing it here in parts. This post will focus on the introduction, the next post on media reporting on Venezuela vs France, thereafter the DPRK vs the USA, and so on until I manage to cover Syria, Libya, Iraq, and other countries.

Abstract

Historically, economic production and the relations of production of every era have been the most decisive factors in determining the political currents of that era. The major events of the last century have been primarily the result of the conflicts between two competing modes of production, i.e., the capitalist mode, in which a minority of individuals privately own the means of production, and the socialist mode, in which a government centralizes the means of production. The socialist mode of production, implemented both successfully and unsuccessfully in a number of Southern countries in the last hundred years, is a serious threat to the capital stronghold in Northern countries with a history of imperialism. This threat has led to continuous political conflict resulting in major wars and invasions in Latin America, Asia, and Africa by Northern countries, especially the United States of America. Mainstream media plays a major role in what the late political commentator Walter Lippman had called “manufacturing consent” of people worldwide to justify the actions of governments, becoming the namesake of Edward Herman’s defining work on media propaganda.

In this paper, mainstream media sources such as The New York Times and BBC have been analyzed for journalistic standards to reflect how Western media spread anti-socialist propaganda that supported the invasion of countries such as Libya, Iraq, and Syria, while at the same time continuing to engage till date in hostility towards countries such as China, Cuba, and the DPRK. The author concludes that leading news sources, which are deemed authoritative and trustworthy worldwide, regularly report fake news or report news with heavy bias about countries that challenge both the dominant economic mode of production and the Western liberal democratic form of government. The author also provides a dialectical system for media consumers to navigate online news reporting that aids in seeking objective truth from facts.

Anti-Socialist Bias in Mainstream Media Reporting:
Endorsement of Major Political Aggressions of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

What is politics? What does it have to do with capitalism and socialism? How do we understand history? What is the structure of our society?

If you have been observing or engaging in discourse on social media, you have probably asked yourself these questions at some point. These are some of the key questions that we must ask ourselves before we participate in discourse and analyze the major political aggressions in the last hundred years such as World War II, Afghan war, Iraq war, Syria war, Libya war, Korean war, Vietnamese war, and the current attempts by imperialist powers at starting a war on Venezuela.

Let us begin with understanding society and its development in history. Marx had correctly identified the structure of our society as having a base and a superstructure. The “base”, or the foundation, of any society is in economics, i.e. the availability of resources and technology to engage in production. This base forms the material conditions of a society that leads to wealth generation and development of products, services, and employment. Based on the material conditions of a society, people develop ideas in philosophy, law, religion, science, business, political theory, etc., which together form the “superstructure” of a society. Progress in the base and the superstructure through time comprises the history of mankind. The superstructure influences and maintains the base but it is built on the base.

01. Base and Superstructure

This view of society is rooted in the materialist branch of philosophy, which proposes that our ideas are a result of the material conditions we live in. The materialist branch of philosophy is opposed to the idealist branch, which proposes that our material conditions are a result of the ideas we have. Materialism is demonstrably correct and idealism is demonstrably unrealistic. It is materialism that explains the contradictions of capitalism in society – for example, blacks, Asians, lower caste Indians, native Americans, women, and non-binary people are economically weaker than whites, Europeans, upper caste Indians, men, and cisgendered people. Ownership of land, its resources, and technology have been historically concentrated with such privileged groups and hence, there are more capitalists in these groups while oppressed groups are primarily wage employees. Idealism would have us believe in unrealistic ideas such as meritocracy in a capitalist society, that if anyone works hard enough, they can be as successful as a Steve Jobs or a Dhirubhai Ambani, and that people can ultimately change their material reality in spite of all the systemic barriers that prevent them gaining an equal footing with the ruling class. Most people from oppressed communities do not get to go to privileged schools or get high-paying jobs. They are not a significant percentage of the engineers, doctors, lawyers, business owners, or CXOs of the world, and they do not have enough access to critical healthcare. The majority of people from oppressed communities remain in labor-intensive jobs of production and service such as mining, waiting, driving, delivering, and even manual scavenging.

So how does politics come into play? What do we think of when we think of politics? Is politics a game of power and money game? Yes, it is but what is this power and where does it come from? A more accurate way of understanding politics is that it is the science of production because it is the production of commodities and the subsequent generation of wealth that gives people “power”. The dominant mode of production in this era of history is capitalism and hence major political events of our era are rooted in capitalism and the threat to capitalism, i.e. socialism.

Before we proceed further, here’s a brief definition of capitalism and socialism:

  • Capitalism: A lot of people believe that capitalism is when someone has an idea and the opportunity to make profits from the materialization of their idea. This is not capitalism. Capitalism is a mode of production in which the means of production, i.e. land, labor, natural resources, infrastructure, and technology, are owned privately by individuals. Those who do not own these means of production become wage employees and they sell their labor-power to those who do, i.e. the capitalists, for their survival.
  • Socialism: A lot of people believe that socialism is when the government owns everything but this too is a misinterpretation of the term. Socialism is a mode of production in which the means of production are owned communally in the form of a government. Xi Jinping or the Communist Party of China doesn’t own all land or labor in China. It’s the Chinese people who do. The management of these resources are entrusted to a democratically elected government, a government that represents the masses. Which, in this case, is the 90 million strong ruling party in China, of which over 80% are from the working and agricultural classes.

Before capitalism, the dominant mode of production in society (i.e. economics or base) was feudalism and monarchy and hence the superstructure (i.e. politics, religion, laws, philosophy, etc.) reflected that mode of production. It is production and the relations of production that decide who is in power and who is not. And hence, the ruling ideas (in science, philosophy, political theory, and religion – the superstructure) of any society, at any point in time, belong to the ruling class because they are in power.

The ruling political idea of our time is democracy through multi-party systems, which is the Western liberal interpretation of democracy. Capitalism started in the West and hence Western ideas dominate every sphere of our lives globally (Eurocentrism). Any challenge to the ruling ideas of the West has been labelled as a “threat”. The fact that socialist countries have developed their own, and better, forms of democracy, even though they are led by single parties, is not acceptable to the West as democratic. That in socialist countries, which are naturally resource rich, land and its resources are not given to a ruling elite is a huge threat to Western countries, which are founded on settler-colonialism, slavery, genocide, and imperialism. It is these threats, in politics and production, which have shaped the course of events in the last hundred years, i.e. since the birth of socialism in 1917 Russia.

What is the role of media in politics?

02. Authoritarian Leaders

Most people will answer this question as “dictators” or “authoritarian leaders”. But what is authoritarianism? Who is a dictator? Let us look at these leaders and their countries more closely.

03. Socialism

Is it authoritarian to provide basic facilities such as education, healthcare, and housing for free so that even the most marginalized will have the opportunity to live a life of dignity? Is it a dictatorship that ensures there is unprecedented poverty reduction and the right of the masses to a decent income?

What about the quality of life in socialist countries? Were these initiatives in healthcare and education successful? Here’s a study by researchers Shirley Cereseto and Howard Waitzkin titled “Economic Development, Political-Economic System, and the Physical Quality of Life”, which compares the quality of life in socialist countries vs capitalist countries in the same income groups in 1981, a point in time when more socialist countries existed than they do today.

Table 1: Quality of life in Capitalist vs Socialist Countries – Healthcare (1981)

Variable Capitalist Countries Socialist Countries
Infant mortality rate (per 1000)
Low income countries 131 71
Lower-middle income countries 81 38
Upper-middle income countries 42 22
High income 10
Child death rate (per 1000)
Low income countries 25.7 7
Lower-middle income countries 11 2.3
Upper-middle income countries 4 1.1
High income (.)b

Table 2: Quality of life in Capitalist vs Socialist Countries – Healthcare (1981)

Variable Capitalist Countries Socialist Countries
Life expectancy (in years)
Low income countries 48 67
Lower-middle income countries 60 68
Upper-middle income countries 69 72
High income 75
Population per physician
Low income countries 19,100 1,920
Lower-middle income countries 5,832 638
Upper-middle income countries 1,154 488
High income 524

Table 3: Quality of life in Capitalist vs Socialist Countries – Healthcare (1981)

Variable Capitalist Countries Socialist Countries
Population per nursing person
Low income countries 4,763 1,890
Lower-middle income countries 1,646 303
Upper-middle income countries 692 210
High income 142
Daily per capita calorie supply
Low income countries 94% 107%
Lower-middle income countries 106% 117%
Upper-middle income countries 122% 137%
High income 131%

Table 4: Quality of life in Capitalist vs Socialist Countries – Education (1981)

Variable Capitalist Countries Socialist Countries
Adult literacy rate
Low income countries 34% 69%
Lower-middle income countries 63% 87%
Upper-middle income countries 81% 97%
High income 99%
Secondary Education
Low income countries 15% 34%
Lower-middle income countries 38% 74%
Upper-middle income countries 59% 74%
High income 86%

Table 5: Quality of life in Capitalist vs Socialist Countries – Education (1981)

Variable Capitalist Countries Socialist Countries
Higher Education
Low income countries 1.7% 1%
Lower-middle income countries 12.1% 11.7%
Upper-middle income countries 15.7% 18.6%
High income 28.3%
Physical Quality of Life Index
Low income countries 35 76
Lower-middle income countries 62 83
Upper-middle income countries 81 92
High income 98

Many fail to understand the relationship between these indices and socialism, because they have an idealist approach to society instead of a materialist approach. Education and healthcare are two of the most important aspects for a good quality of life, which people in socialist countries should not have if their leaders are selfish and greedy dictators.

In every single parameter above, socialist countries have done significantly better than capitalist countries in the same income group. Life for the poor has flourished in these countries, unlike in capitalist countries where only the privileged flourish. It is important to remember that all these socialist countries were previously colonized and hence have suffered an immense loss in terms of life, property, and resources at the hands of primarily Western colonizers in modern history. Yet, they managed to bounce back in a relatively short period of time and give their people a good quality of life. How is it then, that we have decided to label the heads of governments of these countries as dictators?

We have been led to believe that socialist governments are dictatorships by Western Capitalist Media.

We now understand that ownership of resources gives people power and that is how a ruling class develops. The ruling ideas of our society belong to the ruling class because they control the superstructure. Hence, it should come as no surprise that privately owned media companies in a capitalist society are mouthpieces to spread bourgeois ideology. Media companies will spin narratives to show socialism in a negative light because socialism is a threat to their wealth. After all, there is no private media in socialist countries and in the US, 90% of the media is owned by 6 companies only, the owners of which are billionaire capitalists.

06. Media companies

Fake News on Official Enemies of the US

The late Edward S. Herman, who was an American economist, media scholar, and social critic, had published two articles on media propaganda in the journal Monthly Review, which was set up by Albert Einstein. Best known for his media criticism, in particular for his propaganda model developed in conjunction with Noam Chomsky, Herman was also a Professor Emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania and a media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy.

Here are some important excerpts from one of his articles from 2017, Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies.

“It has been amusing to watch The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” These publications take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward, unbiased, fact-based reporting… They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of fake news, often by disseminating false or misleading information supplied to them by the national security state, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power.

Fake news on Russia is a Times tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the 1917 revolution… From the point of view of professional journalism, the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster… [Walter] Lippmann and [Charles] Merz found that strong editorial bias clearly fed into news reporting… The editors’ zealous opposition to the communists led the paper to report atrocities that never happened and to predict the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime no fewer than ninety-one times in three years.

In the United States, anti-communism became a national religion… With this ideology in place and with U.S. plans for its own global expansion of power established, the Communist threat would help sustain the steady growth of the military-industrial complex and repeated interventions to counter purported Soviet aggressions.”

In a second article, Herman revisited the proganda model to show how it creates anti-communist sentiment and fear in the minds of the public. Given the need of media companies to make profit, they rely significantly on funding through advertising, and companies that fund them get to decide the narratives of capitalist media.

04. Propaganda Model

What are the consequences of such fake news? Why should we care? We should care because such fake news has directly or indirectly led to our endorsement of horrific wars with socialist countries that has led to millions of death and displacement.

05. Wars

In the next part of this paper, we will read about how Western capitalist media is spreading fake news in Venezuela to justify a US invasion if it were to happen, and compare media reporting on Venezuela vs France.

1 thought on “Anti-Socialist Bias in Mainstream Media Reporting: Endorsement of Major Political Aggressions of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    On Sat, Mar 30, 2019 at 6:15 AM Socialism Simplified wrote:

    > Shikha Patnaik posted: “I recently participated in a conference at the > university I work at. It is part of my job to help organize these events > but I also wanted an opportunity to speak to a larger audience on socialism > in real life and not just leftbook. So I seized this opport” >

    Liked by 1 person

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