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‘DARK MEDIA’ MATTERS: American Meat Through the ‘Overton Window’

What the media also keeps out is the suffering of animals. Within the confines of the debate, news would gladly interview a local hog farmer’s opposition to American pork imports but, at the same time, never show actual footage of pigs suffering.

ENBION MICAH AAN: Media coverage and political discussions around the issue of ractopamine and American pork imports to Taiwan have reached the point of absurdity in past weeks… Discussions around pork imports to Taiwan is quite illustrative of how public discourse can be hijacked in the service of capitalism. Both the DPP and KMT have proven hypocritical on the issue, having switched their positions on this issue of American pork imports in past years. However, the fourth estate is also quite complicit in their hypocrisy.

The media does this with its exclusive focus on ractopamine and its unwillingness to bring in other perspectives as part of the discourse around the issue—for example, vegetarians are a sizable minority in Taiwan, constituting an estimated 13% of the Taiwanese population. Moreover, serious discussion regarding public health implications of pork import and examination of animal agriculture is completely absent in media coverage as well…

In 1988, Noam Chomsky, along with Ed Herman, wrote the book Manufacturing Consent to illustrate how propaganda works in a capitalist state. The propaganda model Manufacturing Consent laid out has filters that restrict the discourses allowed in the media… “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate”…

There are obvious reasons for the media, as profit-making organizations, to avoid serious discussions of the ractopamine pork issue, as their advertisers will not allow it—both for-profit news and advertisers are two of the filters mentioned in Manufacturing Consent… This propaganda model works in terms of safeguarding the interests of not only animal agriculture but also the pharmaceutical industry. The absence of serious discussions about pork and public health, for example, has serious consequences, as the consumption of red meat increases the risk of diseases that are nine out of top ten causes of death in Taiwan. In not having such discussions, the media failed in terms of informing the public and giving consumers the best possible information to make choices…

What the media also keeps out, of course, is the suffering of animals and environmental destruction. Within the confines of the debate, news would gladly interview a local hog farmer’s opposition to American pork imports but, at the same time, never show actual footage of pigs suffering. The media would show delicious pork dishes, but as observed by Carol Adams, will always keep the referent (i.e. the actual animals who have to suffer and be slaughtered) absent…

In the field of public policy, there is the concept of the Overton Window, which is quite similar to Chomsky’s description of how discourses are limited in the media. The “window” is an opening, or an opportunity for public policy, that conforms to public opinion… The Overton Window, in this case, looks quite cemented and unmoving. Not only is there powerful corporate interest, but the sizable meat-eating public is also a force that can prevent a minority view. So what exactly, can we see, if we look through the Overton Window, with the assumption that this window will not move? We can deduce that meat consumption will increase, in the absence of serious discussion to curtail meat consumption.

And once American pork imports start flooding the market, it will drive down the price, and consumption will rise. The implication for public health means more chronic diseases and more medical expenditures that will burden the already taxed healthcare system in Taiwan. Through this window, we can see extreme violence, as it is estimated more than 77 billion land animals are slaughtered annually to satisfy human gluttony. Finally, if we look far enough, we will see how environmental destruction, especially climate change, proves a threat to all species on the planet…

Once the problems associated with meat and its related industrial complexes become more and more apparent, the propaganda machine, however powerful, will not be able to hide the truth, especially when we can clearly see the problems that are all around us. Only when the Overton Window moves to the point where we can start solving some of these problems can we look through the window to find solutions. When we look through the glass, at first, we do not see clearly. Will we eventually see our inner Icarus in our reflection and understand that, in order to save ourselves, we must have faith, hope, and love; with love for the world and all its creatures being the most important? SOURCE…

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