The Role of Media for a Culture of Peace
TMS PEACE JOURNALISM, 5 Feb 2018
1 Feb 2018 – Over the past century the control of information, especially through the mass media, has become the most important characteristic of the culture of war. Why?
It is because there has been such an advance over the past century in democratic participation that the modern state is forced to justify its culture of war. Since people in general do not want war, the state and its military-industrial complex must convince them that military preparations are necessary in the face of external enemies. This is a major change from earlier history when the state was not subject to election by the people and it could pursue its policies regardless of their attitudes.
In fact, we see that the mass media in countries with the most powerful military forces, such as the United States, are pro-military and continually publish propaganda against external enemies and give priority to news about unavoidable violence and disaster. They do not give place to peace initiatives.
One is not usually aware of this, but I came face to face with it during the campaign for the Manifesto 2000 during the International Year for the Culture of Peace. We obtained millions of signatures in India, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Korea, Kenya, Nepal and many hundreds of thousands in Algeria, Italy, Azerbaijan, Morocco and the Philippines. But in the United States, despite signed agreements for its distribution with the American Association of Retired Persons and the National Council of Churches, each with something like 50 million members, not to mention another 69 organizational partners and over 100 events and projects (more than in other countries!), the Manifesto obtained only 46,000 signatures. I don’t believe that this was because Americans do not want peace. Instead, it was due to the fact that there was a total blackout in the mass media.
In view of this, it is especially important when the mass media begin to promote a culture of peace instead of a culture of war. This is the case in Mexico, Colombia and in much of Sub-Saharan Africa as described in this month’s CPNN bulletin.
Perhaps it is not by chance that these are regions of the world where people have suffered especially from violence and where the state with its culture of war has been weakened. In Mexico, corrupted by the narco traffic, one speaks of a “failed state.” And Colombia is just putting into practice the peace accords that ended decades of war. Africa has been weakened by colonialism and neo-colonialism (which are culture of war) to such an extent that it is now victimized by extremist violence as well which adds to their suffering. As a result, the people have a special thirst for a culture of peace.
In the Global North the mass media have become monopolized by huge multinational companies that are part of a military-industrial-media complex closely linked to the political parties and the government. As an illustration of this, consider the money paid to the mass media by the political campaigns in the United States. The last Presidential election in the United States cost over one billion dollars, much of it spent for media advertising. And candidates for Congress pay enormous sums as well.
Fortunately, we have the Internet, where it is possible to create media that promote a culture of peace for a very small price. The annual budget of CPNN is in the hundreds (not thousands!) of dollars, even though we publish in three languages and at least one article per day. Hopefully, the Internet will remain a space that is free and available, although there is always the risk that the culture of war will try to restrict it. And hopefully, CPNN will be joined by more and more such internet initiatives for peace.
Given that the control of information has become a key function of the culture of war, it is urgent that we continue to develop media for a culture of peace throughout the world, hoping that someday it will obtain an audience as great as that for the culture of war. When that day arrives, we will have made a great advance towards the historical transition from culture of war to culture of peace.
David Adams is the coordinator of the Culture of Peace News Network. He retired in 2001 from UNESCO where he was the Director of the Unit for the UN International Year for the Culture of Peace. Previously, at Yale and Wesleyan Universities, he was a specialist on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior, the history of the culture of war, and the psychology of peace activists, and he helped to develop and publicize the Seville Statement on Violence.
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