SOLOMON: After El Nino, "El Bunko" Will Remain

As winter gets underway, much of the nation is bracing for turbulent weather. Recent news stories have heralded the ominous arrival of El Nino. But what about "El Bunko"?They're quite different: El Nino is an occasional climate shift that comes from nature. El Bunko is a perennial media pattern that comes from human activity.If we see El Nino approaching, we're likely to batten down the hatches and take a variety of precautions. But El Bunko is apt to be welcomed as an informative flood of news.People are concerned that El Nino might engulf their homes with storm water -- but they often swallow the deluge provided by El Bunko.El Nino is a mass of unusually warm ocean water, causing upheaval in weather patterns. El Bunko is the mass media's usual hot air, causing perceptual distortions.While the damage done by El Nino can be estimated, the harm that results from the El Bunko effect is so extensive as to be incalculable. No insurance company in the world could write a policy to cover what it's costing us.El Bunko is a system of manipulation, serving movers and shakers around the globe. A lot of their maneuvering is out in the open -- though furtive meetings are certainly useful to facilitate the process.Most of all, El Bunko is a non-stop barrage of words and images, obscuring rather than clarifying.When prestigious journalists tell us that "the economy" is doing great -- without reference to the realities of widespread poverty -- El Bunko is gathering steam.When wealthy elites develop new plans for turning Robin Hood upside down by taking resources from the poor and middle class in many lands, you'll hear the tempests of El Bunko howling about the need for more "market reform."When U.S. government officials proclaim that Asian nations must "drop barriers to foreign investment" -- while media pundits cheer -- El Bunko's wind machines are in high gear.When the mightiest economic institution on the planet offers Third World countries huge lines of credit -- under strict conditions, of course -- you'll hear the El Bunko chorus singing the praises of the global loan shark known as the International Monetary Fund.When news reports barely mention that those IMF conditions require scores of governments to slash programs for such human needs as nutrition, health care and education, El Nino is packing a ferocious punch. Later, the death toll goes uncounted.And when big-money titans stride across borders, flattening barriers to their dominance, you can count on El Bunko to depict resistance as old-fashioned "protectionism."After a rough winter, El Nino will blow over. But behind El Bunko is a high-pressure system of corporate power that promises to gain strength for a very long time.At the end of the 19th century, Ambrose Bierce defined the corporation as "an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility." The definition still holds. But near the end of this century, the profits -- and grim consequences -- of this ingenious device are beyond anything the author of "The Devil's Dictionary" could have imagined.In their recent book, "The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism," scholars Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney predict that current trends will continue "for the short and medium term."But despite the reasons for gloom, Herman and McChesney see more than a bleak horizon: "What is done now may significantly affect what is possible later. The system may be far more vulnerable and subject to change than appears to be the case at present. ... If it is to change, and in a positive way, it is important that people who are dissatisfied with the status quo should not be overcome and rendered truly powerless by a sense of hopelessness and cynicism."Perhaps the grandest achievement of the El Bunko effect is to make the existing political climate seem natural. We're supposed to believe that pillaging the planet is part of an inevitable progression. But it isn't.El Nino is nature. El Bunko is something else.Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His most recent books are "Wizards of Media Oz" (co-authored with Jeff Cohen) and "The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate Culture Gets the Last Laugh."

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