White Man’s Media: two places, Western Europe and the US, control the global public mindsetAug 25, 2021
You and I currently live on a glorious planet with almost eight billion people in about 200 countries and an astonishing range of cultures. Yet only one, consisting of 8% of the world’s population, claims precedence. Why?
My most listened-to music genre last year, according to my music app, was melodic Taiwanese retro jazz. Yes, it surprised me, too.
But wait a second. I look up the Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest songs ever. It tells us that virtually all the good music comes from just two places—the US and Western Europe.
The US contains about 333 million people, a little less than five percent of the world’s population, and Western Europe, with 196 million, about three per cent. So that’s eight per cent. What about the other 92 per cent plus of humanity? The rest of us have no good music?
The Best Everything
Let’s look at other media. The international press presents the Booker Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as the identifiers of the world’s best books. But both competitions are limited to books published in the same two parts of the world – specifically, they are limited to the UK, Ireland, and the US.
In fact, when we, in fact, look at the lists of the best TV shows, the best movies, the best culture, the best fantasy novels, the best pretty much everything – we find that almost all of it comes from the same two places: the US and Western Europe. And it makes no difference whether we consult the international media from Asia or Africa or Australia: the results are largely the same.
Story gets dark
Now here’s where the story gets dark. Let‘s look specifically at the news media. International news coverage, worldwide, is dominated by three news agencies: Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France Presse. And they are all are from the… Same. Two. Places.
The scale of this problem is huge: the majority of news outlets around the world, whether you’re reading the Bangkok Post in Thailand or the Hindu in India, their international news is provided by the same news agencies, from the United States and Western Europe. All three have received cash from NATO governments, and all have the exact same biases.
What if you avoid the “international news” pages of your local newspapers and look at other news sources which have their own reporting staff?
Well, let’s think about the dominant news channels today. We have the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Daily Mail, CNN, the Washington Post, and so on. And we’ve got the online channels, too, which have become news delivery channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others. You know what? All of them are from the… Same. Two. Places. [Cue eerie music.]
We are the enemy
All this is frankly disastrous for the rest of the world, and particularly the places not allied to the lucky eight per cent. By being seen as “the enemy”, we get a rough ride, every news bulletin, every day, every week, every year. My home country, China, is demonized to a ridiculous extent, but we’re not the only ones.
Why do they do this? Why does the mainstream media, which means the Western media, work so hard to polarize the world? Well, some do it deliberately, others, I’m not sure. It wins them clicks, it makes them money, it confirms their biases, and there’s probably a touch of innate racism in there too. Some of the bias will be deliberate, while some may be accidental.
My group has been quietly running a survey on mainstream news outlets to see which produce positive, neutral or negative articles on Hong Kong and mainland China. We knew there would be some level of bias, but were stunned that so many outlets literally never produced a positive political article on our city or our country.
The good news
This all sounds gloomy, but this writer is actually feeling upbeat. The Edelman annual survey on the press indicates that around 60 per cent of people mistrust the media. It’s good that most people have some healthy scepticism about the press – and I say that as someone who has spent their entire working life in the media.
And things are definitely changing. New voices are being heard, new channels are opening up, new formats are evolving, and new messages are getting out. All over the world, alternative media outlets are springing up, with Pearls and Irritations being a particularly celebrated one. (This writer also runs a small one.) Alternative media outlets invariably have tiny budgets – but our support teams are huge, because they are the unheard voices which need to be heard. In others, they are the silenced majority.
The fact that eight per cent of the world provides international news for the rest of the planet is a dangerous anomaly. And the thing about anomalies is that they eventually tend to fix themselves through cultural evolution.
Just wait. And while you are waiting… if you’ve never heard melodic Taiwanese retro jazz, try Bossa Sweet Orange by CinCin Lee. You can thank me later.
Please see the other articles in this series here.