Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Of Marxist media theory and MH370

Of Marxist media theory and MH370

by azly rahman



Thinking of the still missing Malaysian airplane, contemplating on a Marxist theory of informational diffusion, I came up with these random notes on media oligopoly I am sharing in this week’s column:

Information wants to be free and wishes to leave the shackle of control and the kingdom of officialdom.

Marx once said that whoever owns the means of production owns/controls (re: Vladimir Lenin’s classic essay on ‘commanding heights’,) and control the production of consciousness, and further controls the evolution of the act of knowing and the contents of what is to be known because what is known is produced as artifacts with politics of control structuring them.

CNN, the media empire of Rupert Murdoch, Time-Warner AOL, and media corporations controls the production of what is to be known, albeit appearing to be producing “objectivity” hidden under the shibboleth of “liberal-democracy” whilst in essence governed by the hegemony of the tightly-controlled news and informational oligarchic empire of consciousness-production.

This might sound like a (Noam) Chomskyian analysis of the post-modern, post-information age paradigm of media production re: the reporting of the missing MH370. It could as well be a Chomskyian view in need of a further work of deconstructionism.

There are classes of control of knowledge-production and those producing information in the ongoing reporting of MH370.

Level 1:


Those who know the whereabouts of the aircraft, such as leaders of the game, such as presidents and prime ministers playing the role of ‘chief-of-staff of armed forces’, etc. in collaboration with the warrior-commander-Kshatriya class and the most elite of the intelligence unit and working in tandem and alliance with military and supra-intelligence allies, the secret must be kept (from Edward Snowden (right) or Julian Assange) as long as the national and international security is safeguarded - the plot must be kept intact and the show must go on...

Level 2:

Those who know the “unsealed part of the story” and will be playing the role of making sure the world and the public knows what’s happening, in the name of freedom to know and freedom to profit from conflict or even the manufacture of conflict. The philosophy of news-reporting is simple: live and breathe the paradigm of liberal-capitalist informational democracy through sound-bite and blitzkrieg- technologies of cognitive dissonance and funnel in as much as possible issues versus non-issues and speculations and half-truths to feed the four-eyed viewers who are starved for information and drowned in speculations.

That's the role of the media, whether in America or in Malaysia. The longer one gets glued to the TV, the higher the ratings, the more big advertisers will pour in money.

But the media will only be allowed to view a certain amount of secrecy.

CNN will not talk about speculations that the US government and its media and military ideological apparatuses know what is happening and perhaps instead the focus will be on the incompetency (rightly so...) of the Malaysian government in handling this with her bumbling and fumbling technology and techniques of handling security (again, rightly so... with all these flip-flop, contradictory statements, and true-false vacillation of official reporting, and those elusive and informational-hide-and-seek-and-peekaboo type of reporting we hear since day one of the mystery unfolding.

That’s what the media is good at and will profit from. To report on speculations that the army or the government is perhaps involved in a huge cover-up will not be good - it will mean a media kamikaze of epic instant death proportions.

CNN will report on the human side of the story, bringing in expert after expert, lullabying viewers with a thesis-antithesis-synthesis fiesta of media party and focus on by the minute day-to-day coverage of the search for an object in many vast oceanic haystacks... the rescuers and commanders of the each search and rescue and recovery team do not have access to the “sealed information” on what actually happened and what is still happening

The sealed information lies with those in Level 1 above. Those searching are committed to their search and doing their job for the country and for the family and in the name of solving a most mind-boggling mystery (although Google Earth can photograph your car’s plate number from outer space).

From the point of view of revenue-generation, the longer the search, the more each team can charge the Malaysian government. As of today the United States has spent an equivalent of perhaps US$5 million to be billed to the Malaysian government sooner or later.

Level 3:

Of the owners of knowledge of what happened to MH370 are the classes of people who had consumed the information produced by those in Level 2.

In essence, there is both chaos and structure, and complexity and simplicity in the way we understand the kaleidoscopic and fractal nature of informational flow.

And who would Marx pronounce as the winner in this informational war, a Mahabharata of media mayhem of the construction of reality?

Not human beings. But technology. Media technology. Manipulated by the Military-Industrial Complex. The Frankenstein of our Orwellian World of 1984 inhabited by members of the Animal Farm.

Welcome to our global village.



DR AZLY RAHMAN, born in Singapore and grew up in Johor Baru, holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in International Education Development and Masters degrees in four areas: Education, International Affairs, Peace Studies and Communication. He has taught more than 40 courses in six different departments and has written more than 350 analyses on Malaysia. His teaching experience in Malaysia and the United States spans over a wide range of subjects, from elementary to graduate education. He has edited and authored four books; Multiethnic Malaysia: Past, Present, Future (2009), Thesis on Cyberjaya: Hegemony and Utopianism in a Southeast Asian State (2012), The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity (2013), and the latest Dark Spring: Ideological Roots of Malaysia's GE-13 (2013). He currently resides in the United States. Twitter, blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying. But I think 85% of Malaysians do not. I suggest more simple words that normal people can relate to. A good piece nevertheless.

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