The "El Bunko" Effect (fwd)

P. Myers (mpwr@u.washington.edu)
Mon, 15 Dec 1997 11:21:37 -0800 (PST)


well said...makes a good point, and a great argument for international
coalitions of like-minded, and marginalized/exploited folks!  Pat M

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AFTER EL NINO BLOWS OVER, "EL BUNKO" WILL REMAIN

By Norman Solomon

     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.

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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."