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The magicians of lies

The magicians of lies

By Umberto Mazzei

The idea is to impart only the knowledge necessary for the worker to be useful, but politically ignorant. This allows forging in the minds of the majority a vision of the world that is far from the truth, but that guides it according to the ambition of the leaders. The trick also serves governments that without electoral fuss have a visible ruling class, but it is in democracies where it is most useful, because there those who really rule are rarely seen, but use deceptive propaganda to promote their puppets at electoral carnivals .

The 21st century begins with ownership of the media being highly concentrated and the dissemination of news highly orchestrated. There is an international cartel whose political views go beyond those defined by the Washington Consensus or NATO. His basic technique is to lie by default. Essential parts of the truth or of the historical and political reality are amputated, while what one wants to reveal is invented or exaggerated. The aim is to demonize people or countries, beliefs or ideologies, which annoy the vagrant ambition.

The typical novelty of the century is the use of the Internet to spread news outside the media poster. That information is being used by the growing class that uses computing. It is still a minority but influential group, because it is the most educated stratum of the working class. More complete versions of reality can be found on virtual Internet sites, but the media cartel and agents of the puppet governments also manipulate information there, especially in the so-called social networks.

Discussions on standards for the news media

The concentration of ownership and the anonymity of shareholders makes it difficult to specifically identify the economic, political or confessional interests that guide the manipulation of information, but the way in which large news groups coincide in describing the attempts to democratize information as Attacks against freedom of expression, indicates fear of transparency.

Recent European data shows that concentration is increasing, because the crisis affects more the small and independent media. According to El País (12/14/2012) since 2008, 132 magazines and 22 newspapers disappeared in Spain and 6,300 journalists joined the strike. Investment in the press, radio and television fell 45%, but on the other hand investment in the Internet rose 171%.

At this time, in the world there are several public cases related to the concentration of the distribution of information, the methods of making news and the veracity of its content. Those that attract the most attention happen in Argentina, Great Britain and the United States. In Argentina the initiative originates from the executive power and the legislative power, with setbacks before the judiciary. In Britain it is rather the reverse. In the United States, the trial against Private Bradley Manning sheds light on the risk of violating the information monopoly.


In Argentina the government introduced a law to democratize the provision of information that was approved by a large majority in Congress. The new law allows a person or company to own up to 24 cable television systems, 10 radio broadcasting licenses - be they FM radio, AM or open television - and a content signal. The law was appealed as unconstitutional by the Clarín Group, which with 250 licenses predominates among the Argentine media, so much so that, without being officially a party, it exercises the role of political opposition to the government.

Clarín alleged that it was a law that violated the constitution before a Civil and Commercial court. The Supreme Court then granted Clarín a precautionary benefit that expired on December 7, but the Civil and Commercial Chamber renewed it until a sentence is issued, delaying the application of the law only for Clarín. The other media owners have already complied with the law. The government appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered the court in the case to speed up the proceedings. The court obeyed and ruled on December 15 that the law is not contrary to the constitution.

In Britain there were scandals over the conduct of the media throughout the 20th century. Despite this, the principle of "self-regulation" has been applied as a virtue since 1953. The results are an indication that this does not work and the Commission chaired by Judge Leveson recommended the drafting of a law to regulate their conduct. The list of crimes committed by the tabloid press includes the interference of electronic messages, the debasement of innocent defendants, the persecution of celebrities.

But there are things of more depth. The investigation uncovered complicities between the press and the political class, between the Murdoch Group and the two main parties, between the police and the newspapers. Judge Leveson has already ruled on the links between media barons and British politicians, with a classic British "understatement": "For the past 35 years there was an unhealthy proximity in that relationship."

Because of this proximity, Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the drafting of a law because "it would endanger the freedom of the press" and talks, just with the barons of the media and the heads of political parties, seeking an agreement that avoids regulating the media ownership and conduct. Cameron serves the Murdoch group well, which has half the press and Sky television network. The British model of Clarín.

Ed Miliband, the Labor leader, supported Justice Leveson's recommendations and proposed reverting to the pre-Thatcher deregulation law on media ownership. Hopefully it is consistent with what it says.

In the United States, the Manning case shows two facts: the almost total control of the news and the cruel treatment of those who give information about crimes committed by government agents. The media there, like the politicians, follow orders. If you want to know what Manning said or his defense at the pre-trial hearings, you should seek foreign media; as about the North American economic crisis, the remote-commanded assassinations or other official crimes.

Truths and lies on the Internet

The Internet is growing as a source of information, because it is possible to write freely. One indication is that the United States, the country where information is most concentrated, is where information on the Internet grows the most and where very lucid analysts are read. There are several major free news and analysis sites that the mainstream press dodges, like the Information Clearing House or Counterpunch, to name a well-known pair.

Every newspaper or magazine of any importance now has a digital edition on the Internet. Television programs also follow that trend. In Spanish there are very effective distributors of alternative opinions, with a variety of topics, international projection, sometimes multilingual, such as ALAI, Argenpress or Rebelión, to name just a few.

Social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, are not only used to chat with friends, they are also used to express opinions, but there the complications begin. In them it is possible to assume false identities that are used to spread false rumors and lies. There are false profiles that appear by hundreds simultaneously - created by robots - that spread “likes” or comments in support of a cause or political person. There were cases during the US electoral campaign, with sites in favor of something and then it was found that their support came from unlikely sites such as Bangkok or Vilnius. That same trick was used in the color revolutions against governments in Eastern Europe, also in creating false support for revolts in Iran or in the so-called "Arab Spring" to justify the wars against Libya and Syria.

In Latin America, the activity of Daniel Gabriel, a CIA expert in the subversive use of social networks in Afghanistan and Iraq, stands out. He was hired by BBG [1] to direct a group of journalists in Cuba, who delivered five stories a week . The leader of the group is Yoani Sanchez, who already worked for Applied Memetics, Gabriel's company. Yoani Sanchez is Cuban and emigrated to Switzerland in 2002. She returned to Cuba and in 2007 opened the blog “Generación Y” that in a short time had great international recognition. Only in 2008, he had the Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize; TIME ranked her among the 100 most influential people in the world; CNN put his blog in the top 25; Foreign Policy put her among the 10 intellectuals of the year and the Mexican magazine Gatopardo did the same. More awards followed and in 2012, the IAPA [2] appointed her Vice President of its Committee on Press Freedom, to monitor press freedom in Cuba. Now she is the correspondent for El País in Cuba, a newspaper that in Spain cut its staff in half.

Mrs. Sánchez is striking for other reasons as well. The quality of his ideas is shown when he said that Gabriel García Márquez should never have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, for being a friend of Fidel Castro. In Le Monde Diplomatique they wonder about how a blog in 18 languages ​​can be run from Havana. They also wonder how his Twitter account claims 214 thousand followers - but only 32 in Cuba - and says he communicates with more than 80 thousand "by sms, without access to the Web." That is to register 200 accounts per day, an activity possible only with robots and outside of Cuba, due to the difficulty of connection there. Indeed, many profiles on the @yoanisanchez account do not have a photo or activity on the network.

I have pointed out the case of Yoani Sanchez for being an obvious manipulation, but there are many others in the world and Latin America. That is why the news that circulates on blogs and social networks must be read with caution. Global computing gives the possibility of exposing truths, but there are also new tricks invented by the magicians of lies.

- Umberto Mazzei is a Doctor in Political Science from the University of Florence. He is Director of the Institute for International Economic Relations in Geneva.
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