Information warfare: Freeing the minds of the masses

By Jesse Muhammad -Staff writer- | Last updated: Jan 4, 2012 - 11:08:26 AM

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'Social media has been invaluable because mainstream media has been co-opted and is bought and paid for by corporations intent on maintaining the status quo. People in power use the information or the lack of it to control the masses.'
—Jasiri X

( - With the widespread use of small video cameras, sophisticated smartphones and popular social networking sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, injustices are being exposed, global movements are growing and the people are expected to continuing rising up in 2012.

“Social media enables us to connect directly to like-minded people and get our message out quickly and without censorship. It enabled us to expose and reveal many facts that have been kept from us, and once people get the truth they demand change,” said Jasiri X, a popular hip-hop artist based in Pittsburgh, told The Final Call.

These digital tools have become weapons in the hands of the people, also called citizen journalists, seeking to spread relevant information instead the last celebrity gossip.

Coupled with on the grounds mobilizations in 2011, Twitter and Facebook served as go-to vehicles by which people stayed abreast of, supported and disseminated updates on major headlines such as the Arab Spring uprisings, Occupy Wall Street, brutal military crackdowns on protesters in foreign nations, the execution of former Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, rioting in London, police brutality in U.S. cities, earthquakes and more.

“Social media has been invaluable because mainstream media has been co-opted and is bought and paid for by corporations intent on maintaining the status quo. People in power use the information or the lack of it to control the masses,” said Jasiri X, who uses his music to address social justice issues via his YouTube page that has garnered over one million upload views.

“First and foremost, information must be viewed from a different perspective in the modern context. As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has stated, “We are at war” and the greatest weapon in this battle is information—it is truly a battle in the sky,” said Traci C. Muhammad, a library director for a liberal arts college in Arizona, told The Final Call.

“When viewed from that stand point, then one can see that information is a strategic resource that enables the holder to remain in a position of optimum tactical advantage. It's no longer about the haves and have-nots from a wealth perspective, it is the haves and have-nots from a strategic resource management perspective,” she said.

During a commercial break in an Oct. 25 radio interview on Chicago’s WVON-AM 1690, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan chided members of press for what he called a betrayal of the American people.

"You don't have a democracy when you don't have a free press. You are all slaves and you love it, so you deserve what you get: the erosion of your democracy. You'll soon be the laughing stock of the world,” said Min. Farrakhan.

“That's why the children are occupying space in New York, in Boston, in Washington, in Chicago, in San Francisco, in other cities, because they are not looking at you as a source of information. Look how long it took you all to talk about what was going on in New York. It took you two weeks, because the same people that control the banks control the media. You all know it but you are afraid to say it.”

Min. Farrakhan added, “I thank God for the young man that invented this wonderful technology, Steve Jobs, that's the man that is freeing the whole planet where Zbigniew Brzezinski could say ‘Yesterday it was easier to control a million people than to kill a million people,’ then now he says, ‘It is easier to kill a million people than it is to control a million people,’ because the genie is out of the box, the cat is out of the bag, the people all over the world are waking up.”

According to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 61 percent of Americans said they get news online and 75 percent said they hear about news via e-mail or social media sites. Fifty-four percent said they get news via radio programs and 50 percent said they read a local or national print newspaper.

This free flow of information could be under attack by the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives on Oct. 26, by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). The bill would allow the U.S. Justice Department, as well as copyright holders, to seek court orders against websites suspected of enabling or facilitating copyright infringement.

“We already see Congress attempting to pass bills like SOPA which would effectively kill sites like YouTube and Facebook and the National Defense Authorization Act which could lead to Americans being able to be detained indefinitely. This oppressive legislation is a direct response to the success of the Occupy movement and the movements overseas,” said Jasiri X.

Interestingly, TIME magazine’s annual 2011 Person of the Year cover acknowledged protesters from around the world. One of those persons was New York’s Malik Rashaan, founder of Occupy the Hood, a national grassroots movement comprised of activists, organizers and community members.

“That story by TIME proves that we’re in a different world. These protestors have to be answered to and paid attention to. It’s growing and will expand further in 2012,” said Mr. Rashaan.

“I also know that a story like that can work against our movement because people may try to move in on us to shut us down. The key is not to get caught up in press coverage but to stay focused on the mission,” he said.

In order to build up Occupy the Hood, Mr. Rashaan and his team used Twitter and Facebook coupled with canvassing the streets. “The internet makes the world smaller and helps to get your message out quicker. I didn’t have the funding to market and reach all of these people. At the same time, you have to get out in the streets and not just do everything digitized. We have to marry the two together,” he advised.