Babylon, more accurately ‘Mystery Babylon’, is a central theme in reggae music, but what exactly is it? Some people think it’s the police, others say it’s the Vatican, and others say it’s a state of mind – a mental slavery, so to speak. But is ‘Mystery Babylon’ a symbol of something else, or does it actually exist? The signs are all around us that ‘Mystery Babylon’ does indeed exist, and the mass media is its biggest and most successful project.
Sitting in a late night eatery this summer, stuck with a large-screen TV showing pop videos, I watched Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Katy Perry in constant rotation, with the masonic, mystery Babylon imagery fairly leaping out of every frame. Are these the great creative artists of our times – or are they simply mind-controlled puppets? Sometimes we wonder.
Watching the videos, I couldn’t help but laugh, as I had been reading the blog vigilantcitizen.com, which decodes the signs and symbols commonly used by the world powers-that-be. (Check out the brilliant ‘Vigilant Citizen’ essay on the MTV Video Music Awards from 2009). There’s no real mystery as to who controls the mass media. Viacom, Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner, Walt Disney and Sony are the five companies that completely dominate the press, music, television and film business in the Western world, and consquently set the agendas in popular culture, deciding what to hype and what to ignore. What is particularly weird – and this gives you an idea of the agendas at work – is how teenaged Walt Disney stars, from Miley Cyrus to Britney Spears – are built up into dominant positions in the media. This is the media oligarchy at work, controlled by the wealthiest people in the world.
Often, music becomes “popular” through sheer repitition; ideas are planted through sheer repitition, and this is the work of the media. In the year before the September 11 attack in New York, Doug Kellner wrote about the many films being made in the preceding years (such as Air Force One, Die Hard 2) which featured unhinged Arab and Muslim terrorists trying to hijack American planes. Such films generally featured crazed attackers shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ before shooting up the plane from the inside.
So it is that Babylon works, in the background, shaping the public discourse. What of Propaganda Due, the P2 lodge mentioned in the editorial? Italy serves as a good case study of the control wielded by the powerful through the media, as the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi cornered the media market; the media owners trumpet ideas of entertainment and education, which they themselves regard as critical tools of propaganda. Look at how the press in the UK and the US hyped the non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq into a war that shows no signs of ending.
Mystery Babylon – a theory or an international, organized criminal conspiracy?
Let’s leave the last words again to Marley:
“I and I nah come to fight flesh and blood,
But spiritual wickedness in high and low places.”
Reading ‘McMafia’ – Misha Glenny.
Talks by Misha Glenny on writing the book are on www.ted.com.