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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 27-Sep-15


Sunday 27-September-15

The power of television and control of a country

As all dictators know, there are three things you need to control in order to subjugate a country. First, you must have command of the military and the police, so you can protect yourself and coerce others. Force, however, is not the best way to control people, especially a lot of them, as it uses much resource and breeds resentment. Better is to change minds. So the next control is of the media, including all newspapers, radio and television. Control of the internet has been a particularly thorny issue for a number of less liberal countries and censorship has been common in places such as China. The last area of control is education. If you can manage what children are taught, you can build 'right' minds without the need later to change them. China again has strong nationalistic elements throughout their school system.

It's a big subject for a blog, so for now, let's just consider television. In his recent book, The Invention of Russia, Arkady Otrovsky explains the power of television in the recent years of transition within Russia. In particular, during the period of transition during the 1990s, when there was a broad hope for a Western-style freedom, television channels emulated the style and content of European TV, portraying a society. It was like television was trying to define the country and was surprisingly effective in creating belief that the full trappings of democracy had really arrived. A reason for this is that the Russians were trained to believe in ideologies and signals under the Soviet system.

The oligarchs who owned television were impressed with their success and, feeling the power at their fingertips, decided that they could run the country. They chose a relatively unknown official, Vladimir Putin as their puppet and he soon rose to power with their solid TV support. However Putin is nobody's puppet and promptly took over the TV system. He also runs the military effectively and is now looks like he will be in charge for a long time.

Meanwhile in the UK, for many a paragon of democracy, the Conservative government is busy working to wrest away the independence and authority of the BBC. As a (theoretically at least) independent broadcaster, the BBC has been long suspected as being rather too socially minded and a bit too liberal for our rather right wing government, who have put John Whittingdale, a known disliker of the BBC system, in charge of 'reform'. The Conservatives are also much cheered by the election of leader of the opposition (Jeremy Corbyn) who looks likely to lose the next general election and are also going ahead with redrawing electoral boundaries to further lock opponents out of power for what could be decades. Will we become an effective one-party state? It seems possible.

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