Manufacturing Consent: The Game Plan for Ugandan media -OPINION

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By Simon Ssenyonga.

For us to succeed in opposing the blanket draconian lockdown mandates that have affected the social, political and economic progress of Uganda, we must be fully aware who are the major contributors of propagating this suppression. The blame doesn’t squarely fall on only the state but also the government (executive, judiciary and legislature).

But when these arms of government are oppressing the citizens, they rely on the mainstream media or the fourth Estate. Some, conveniently and deliberately propagate oppression, others are accomplices and majority unconsciously push for an unknown agenda.

The lockdown nightmare began with the media. When the virus reached the shores of Uganda, the people were already petrified of the virus and panic ensued. Feeling the heat, politicians readily jumped on the lockdown bandwagon to appease the frantic masses. Thanks to the media.

When the President irrationally closed down places of worship, schools and other aspects of the economy, he relied on the media. Like little children in a home waiting for supper, all media platforms (under coercion or unwitted compliance to the UCC) had to broadcast the addresses out of “public interest”. Beyond that, a deliberate media campaign was hatched to instill fear, panic, despondency and ignorance through manufacturing consent.

Manufacturing consent is the acceptance of government policies by people on the basis of the partial picture of issues offered by the mass media (and even social media), denying them access to alternative views which would lead them to oppose such policies. They present this as a propaganda model in which the mass media select material in relation to the values of those in power. Its the art of manipulating people without them being aware of it.

How media manufactures consent

1. Media Ownership; The endgame of most mass media organizations is profit. “It is in their interest to push for whatever guarantees that profit.” That is why they will hardly popularize counter views to popular government opinion. They are in this for the profit so whatever compromises profit isn’t popularized.

So, you could as well ask yourself, who owns the major mainstream media platforms in Uganda.

2. Advertising; Media costs more than consumers will pay: Advertisers fill the gap. What do advertisers pay for? Access to audiences. “It isn’t just that the media is selling you a product. They’re also selling advertisers a product: you.” So, who is the biggest advertiser in the pandemic? Government? Be the judge.

3. Media Elite; “Journalism cannot be a check on power, because the very system encourages complicity. Governments, corporations, and big institutions know how to influence the media. They feed it scoops and interviews with supposed experts. They make themselves crucial to the process of journalism. If you want to challenge power, you’ll be pushed to the margins…. You won’t be getting in. You’ll have lost your access.”

They’ll use their ponies to propagate their lockdown and vaccination mandates by hiring pseudo elites and spin doctors.

4. Flack; “When the story is inconvenient for the powers that be, you’ll see the flack machine in action: discrediting sources, trashing stories, and diverting the conversation.” They will conveniently use the notion “conspiracy theories”

5. The Common Enemy; “To manufacture consent, you need an enemy, a target: Communism, terrorists, immigrants… a boogeyman to fear helps corral public opinion.” In the present age, it will be “conspiracy theorists”, “anti vaxxers”, enemies of progress, Mr. Museveni’s “false prophets” among others.

On whose side is the media? He who pays the piper seems to be calling the tune. Mainstream media is mainly a tool of government propaganda. Propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.

The Ugandan media seeks to translate the Ugandan populace into a “spectator democracy,” in which the public is seen as a “bewildered herd” that needs to be directed, not empowered; and its majorly focused on “controlling the public mind,” and not on informing it. Media control is an invaluable primer on the secret workings of disinformation in democratic societies. When you hear the state propagating the fight against misinformation, it’s not because it cares, but because it seeks to disempower vitriolic contrary views.

There is no doubt this has a global perspective to it whose narrative our local media religiously parrots. Never before has the world witnessed such a coordinated propaganda effort, featuring near perfect streamlining of messaging and policy, as well as an establishment launching attacks against any dissenters by deploying “fact-checkers” and using social media firms to block any voices who offer an opinion which differs from the official narrative. It is nothing short of a completely global, corporatized war effort.

These are just my simple reflections. The key issue is #EndLockdownNow

The writer is a lawyer.

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