JR'S Free Thought Pages
            No Gods  ~ No Masters   

                                               

                                                    

                                Propaganda Inc.

                        Who Controls the Media?   

                       Are we victims of a Lapdog Press? 

              Have we become unthinking uncritical obedient dupes? 

   We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy's side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace.” – Walter Lippmann                      

As Adolph Hitler understood only too well, whoever controls the media controls the masses. The very survival of democracy relies on diligence in questioning all sources of authority, untrammeled freedom of speech and independent dissenting views that are provided with a continual visible platform for their expression.

As social critics such as Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti have pointed out, it is a basic truism that thought-control is unnecessary in totalitarian societies. A one-party rule and the repression of freedoms render irrelevant what people think. But in a would-be free and open society - and especially in a society that aspires to be a democracy - propaganda and thought-control are crucial to the formation of public attitudes. In a nominal constitutional democracy, such as exists today in the United States, shaping the opinions of the masses is crucial to the appearance of legitimacy for the ruling elite. The public must be guided and persuaded to ratify the policies favored by the wealthy and well connected, while insuring that the general public does not actually interfere with the policies and profits of the corporate rulers.

According to two recent polls, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll and a New York Times/CBS News poll, indicate why George W Bush has been successful in duping the gullible unthinking American public and getting away with impeachable offenses such as manufacturing reasons for initiating an immoral and illegal war with Iraq. It seems abundantly clear that half the US population is not only ignorant of history, but incapable of assimilating, processing and drawing logical inferences from information.

Much of the problem is the corporate media itself, which in the United States serves as a propaganda and misinformation agency for the Bush administration. Fox News Network and right-wing talk radio are the most notorious offenders. Despite the media's complicity and duplicity, in recent weeks approximately half the population has finally managed to come to the inexorable conclusion that the US invasion of Iraq has not made them safer and that the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties is not a necessary component of the war on terror. The problem, it appears, must then lie with the absence of due diligence on the part of the other half of the population. Sixty-four percent of the respondents in a recent poll have concerns about losing civil liberties as a result of anti-terrorism measures put in place by Bush. Yet, fifty-three percent assent to spying on citizens without obtaining court warrants "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism." Can anyone then understand why any American thinks that spying without a warrant has any more effect in reducing the threat of terrorism than spying with a warrant?

The LA Times/Bloomberg poll has equally striking anomalies. Only 43 percent said they approved of Bush's performance as president. But a majority believes Bush's policies have made the US more secure. It is extraordinary that anyone would think Americans are safer as a result of Bush invading two Muslim countries and continually threatening two more with military intervention.

In the recent Egyptian elections, the radical Muslim Brotherhood, despite being suppressed by the Egyptian government, won a large number of seats. In Pakistan elements friendly or neutral toward al Qaeda control about half of the government. In Iraq, Bush's invasion has replaced secular Sunnis with Islamist Shia allied with Iran. And now with the triumph of Hamas in the Palestinian election, we see the total breakdown of Bush's Middle Eastern policy. Bush has succeeded in displacing secular moderates from Middle Eastern governments and replacing them with Islamic extremists. It boggles the mind that this disastrous result makes either Americans or Iraqis safer! Americans share this dysfunction with the Bush administration.

According to news reports, the Bush administration is stunned by the election victory of the radical Islamist Hamas Party, which swept the US-financed Fatah Party from office. Why is the Bush administration astonished? This is so because it deludes itself into believing that hundreds of millions of Muslims should be grateful that the US imperialist ambitions have interfered in their internal affairs for 60 years, setting up client states and puppet rulers to suppress their aspirations and to instead achieve the aims of the US government and corporate interests. Americans need desperately to understand that the vast majority of all Muslim terrorists in the world that exist at this time were created in the past three years by Bush's invasion of Iraq.

It is evident that the total lack of rationality and competence in the White House and the concomitant ineptitude and credulity of half of the US population to acquire, process and understand how to draw reasonable inferences from information are far larger threats to Americans than terrorism.

Is it no coincidence, then, that the United States has become a nation whose masses no longer question authority or the diversionary pabulum and propaganda that passes for news? Is it any wonder why so many are ignorant as to what is being done to them and incurious as to what is happening in the world, readily and naively accepting as true everything that is spewed out of our televisions and newspapers? Have we have allowed the oligarchy to hide the path to democracy while we carelessly follow it on the road to fascism, where the elite have control of all aspects of our lives?

Before I venture any further, I would first like to apologize if I have in my enthusiasm resorted to flooding your email inbox with dissenting literature. Second, I do read a huge volume of material on the web in spite of the fact the vast majority of what is available has very limited literary or informative value. Sadly this is true of most of the terrain within our culture. I freely admit to a liberal left leaning bias but with respect to the articles I do send, I try to choose those that display disputatious points of view and entail what I perceive to be quality writing and sound argument.  Third, I honestly feel that if you are restricting your interests only to the usual dose of right wing conventional wisdom and the promotion and reinforcement of cultural norms and the status quo, you can conveniently turn to any corporate television news service or print media. Fourth, I believe it’s generally beneficial to the intellect to expose ourselves to ideas and viewpoints that conflict with our own; views that are, for most of us, the end product of years of inculcation, proselytizing and indoctrination from various agencies of the dominant culture. By “agencies” I mean the mass media, the schools, religious institutions and other vehicles of social conditioning - even your dear parents. To be truly educated implies that one has questioned everything that has been imparted to you – to question as you were likely inclined to do in your pre-school years - before the mass culture does its nasty work. I think I almost drove my mother to the brink of insanity with my incessant “why” questions and I’m still actively engaged in attempting to answer those questions, but at least now, with hopefully improved intellectual maturity and logical tools I’m able to do my own research and inquiry. In spite of having the good fortune to be exposed to a few inspiring teachers, I have never allowed the intellectual confinements of a classroom environment, the curriculum or an incompetent teacher deter me from learning. Trying to learn something new each day has been an exciting lifelong quest and I’ll probably carry it to my grave. But somehow, due to the impact of religious institutions, the education system and other cultural forces that circumscribe our lives, many of us had the innate skepticism, tolerance for uncertainty and innate curiosity we once possessed pounded out of us by the time we reach senior high school. That’s the verdict of someone who spent thirty years as a teacher of Mathematics in the public school system so perhaps I speak with some modicum of authority. Finally, I generally find that, with few exceptions, the quality of writing and journalism on the best web sites to be at least just as good as what I find in the corporate media.

“Mainstream media” is the term often used to describe the collective group of big television, radio and newspapers in the North America. Mainstream implies that the news being produced is for the benefit and enlightenment of the mainstream population - the majority of people living in North America. Mainstream media include a number of communication mediums that carry almost all the news and information on world affairs that most North Americans receive. The word media is plural, implying a diversity of news sources. However, mainstream media no longer produce news for the mainstream population - nor should we consider the media as plural. Instead it is more accurate to speak of big media in the US today as the corporate media and to use the term in the singular tense-as it refers to the singular monolithic top-down power structure of self-interested news giants. [1]

Today, America's media is controlled exclusively by fewer than a dozen multinational conglomerates and their many interests. NewsCorp, AOL, Viacom, General Electric, Disney and others have formed a media oligarch that reaches into every American home and most every citizen. Consider General Electric, one of the world's largest military contractors and owner of NBC and its sister stations. Helping manipulate the masses particularly in time of war allows both the corporate media and the government advance their respective interest in subverting public participation and discourse while advancing a perception of consent around the nation. Forming a symbiotic relationship, both now fused into the same two headed beast, one the master of the other, their combined actions undermine the reality of a world not seen by the American public. Corporate media, an extension of its mother company, reports a steady stream of pro-business, pro-corporate and anti-labor positions on a continual basis.

I can generally predict the content and tone upon opening the pages of the National Post or Vancouver Sun or turning on a Canwest Global, CNN or Fox Network news channel. With rare exceptions, the right wing content and political point slant of those newspapers and television networks are as predictable as the inevitability of death and taxes. In addition to the ultra-conservative views, I find page after tedious page of advertising and numerous pages of wasted newsprint with superfluous mindless drivel including horoscopes and other pseudoscientific drivel, pious religious nonsense, mind numbing sports commentary, news on the latest fashions, anecdotes on the boring vacuous lives of the rich and famous, platitudinous gossip on movie stars and sport celebrities, the bankrupt philosophies of those born with the proverbial silver spoon, tedious accolades for the moral integrity and societal contributions of greed driven entrepreneurs and “business leaders” and page after page of nauseating monotonous stock market and business analysis. It’s about as exciting as watching golf or darts and intellectually stimulating as listening to rap music or the mind-numbing sermon of a televangelist. Quite often, after scanning through them, I end up finding absolutely nothing worth reading. Rarely do you see a celebration of the intellect, featuring a scientist, teacher or philosopher, a positive piece on the plight of the ordinary working person or trade unions. There are never any featured programs on the history of the labour movement’s violent struggle for decent wages and civilized, safe working conditions. The only passing reference to the struggles of Joe Lunch Bucket is when the stock price of a major corporation goes up on the news of a major layoff. This is affectionately referred to as “downsizing” or the result of “outsourcing”, euphemisms for “you’re fired” or “your job has been transferred to someone in Mexico or China earning 50 cents an hour”. Nor do you see any serious criticism of the negative aspects of religion or the capitalist system. These are sacred cows in our culture and anything that falls within their domain is sacrosanct and immune from criticism. The same can be said when you turn on the television. As you switch from one channel to the next looking for something that won’t nuke your neurons, you find, with the rare exception on publicly controlled networks, nothing but a vast cultural wasteland.

The corporate media inundates us with promotion, news, gossip, tabloid, rumor and innuendo from those celebrities placed high above the pedestal of sanctimony. Our heroes' daily lives, loves, mistakes and exploits are absorbed into our psyches through the constancy of corporate media's assault on our brainwaves. Hollywood-hero news is designed to distract us from real world events such as war and recession, keeping our minds distracted and pre-occupied and away from information that might wake our slumbering conscious and moral sensibilities. While showcasing for our viewing pleasure the present tribulations of our halo-anointed superstars of the moment, so-called journalists dissect, analyze and comment about hairstyles, appearance and alleged crimes with award winning passion. Yet real, pertinent and important news is given minor and oftentimes erroneous insight. Throughout the channel-horizon we see the same news, headlines and marketing package.

Repetitive sound-bites, facetious imagery, verbosity and one-sided and frivolous analysis and commentary by pundits, spinsters, newscasters and recycled "experts" is a daily and rampant occurrence on corporate channels, each spitting out talking points and the company lines and opinion, never forcing the viewer to actually think for herself. Relevant news is brushed aside in seconds so that the latest up-to- the-second news on the antics of "Wacko Jacko" or latest update on the net worth of Bill Gates is aired. Stories that have no relevance other than to stupefy a nation into ignorance are played and replayed, trumping that news that affects most people. We are witnesses to a form of propaganda that is transforming this nation from a once bright-shining pulsar of informed democracy into a dark nebula of nothingness where everything that matters is neglected and all that degenerates, anaesthetizes and indoctrinates prospers.

The appalling behavioiur of CNN (Censored News Network) and Fox in particular, as cheerleaders and cohorts with the Bush administrations conspiracy of weapons of mass deception, charmingly referred to as “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, is one of the worst cases of collusion of the media with a corrupt and duplicitous government in recent history. “Shock and awe!” they called it, as though it was a scene from a violent video game. Not a single criticism or even tincture of skepticism was on the radar screen of these two major networks concerning a major event that even the most self-deceiving  and gullible citizen now knows to be an unjustified immoral and illegal war. For any news source to act as an obsequious sycophant for government is to completely undermine its credibility. The Stooge Trinity of George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld should be impeached and then tried for crimes against humanity before international courts.

We are now (as of late March 2006) seeing the corporate media drumming up the same hysteria and delirium against Iranian weapons of mass destruction that we witnessed in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Fox News, which in my view is the most egregious peddler of propaganda, misinformation, preclusion by omission, artful avoidance and deception since Joseph Goebbels during Hitler’s Third Reich, provides a parade of bought-and-paid-for-consultants who assure credulous audiences that Osama bin Laden has forged an alliance with Iran, which will soon be providing al Qaeda with nuclear weapons.

In capitalist "democracies" like Canada and the United States, the corporate news media faithfully reflect the dominant class ideology both in their reportage and commentary. At the same time, these media leave the impression that they are free and independent, capable of balanced coverage and objective commentary. How they achieve these seemingly contradictory but legitimating goals is a matter worthy of study. I would tend to argue that media bias usually does not occur in random fashion; rather it moves in more or less consistent directions, favoring management over labor, corporations over corporate critics, affluent whites over low income minorities, officialdom over protestors, the two-party monopoly over leftist third parties, privatization and free market "reforms" over public sector development, U.S. dominance of the Third World over revolutionary or populist social change, and conservative commentators and columnists over progressive or liberal ones.

If you are willing to look hard enough though, the internet can provide you with one of the last remaining bastions of independent thought and dissent - something we used to have in this country when visible independent media existed. The entire enterprise is now controlled by a half dozen multinational conglomerates. Of course one does not have to agree with these dissenting points of view and I often don’t. But if democracy is to survive, we need those independent news sources unfettered by their corporate rulers and advertisers. Conflicting opinions, cultural and societal self-criticisms and the notion that there are no sacred cows are essential axioms of journalistic integrity and the spirit of democracy. The notion that there is an open season on all ideas and opinions and that nothing is sacrosanct is necessary if democracy, which seems to be eroding at an accelerating pace, is to flourish. The worst part of the corporate controlled media today is not so much its distortions, bias and celebration of the mundane, but what is not covered. Omissions can be worse than lies because at least if we suspect a lie or a fallacious claim, we can research the topic, evaluate the soundness of the arguments, and decide for ourselves.

Some mainstream media critics however do complain that the press is sensationalistic and invasive. In fact, it is more often muted and evasive. More insidious than the sensationalistic hype is the facile and disingenuous avoidance. Truly sensational stories (as opposed to sensationalistic) are downplayed or avoided outright. Sometimes the suppression includes not just vital details but the entire story itself, even ones of major import. Reports that might reflect poorly upon the national security state are least likely to see the light of day. Thus we hear about political repression perpetrated by officially designated "rogue" governments, but information about the brutal murder and torture practiced by U.S. sponsored surrogate forces in the Third World, and other crimes committed by the U.S. national security state are denied public airing, being suppressed with a consistency that would be called "totalitarian" were it to occur in some other countries.

To cite a recent example, the media coverage of the West Virginia Sago mine disaster has been a spectacle of ignorance, condescension and chasing higher circulation. Unburdened with any serious knowledge of the lives of coal miners or their history, scores of highly paid, highly coiffed journalists from the cable and network news channels and print media produced little but the most superficial explanations of the tragedy and its background and conveniently ignored the facts about the 200 safety violations imposed on the Sago Mine in 2005, information that was posted on the internet a week before any admission of it was cited by the shameless CNN or Fox. It generally takes such a tragedy for the US media to discover there is a working class at all. This was all but acknowledged by the editors of the New York Times, who commented, “Just as Hurricane Katrina forced Americans to look at the face of lingering poverty and racism, this mining tragedy should focus us all on another forgotten, mistreated corner of society.” Forgotten, mistreated” by whom? If the social realities of West Virginia or New Orleans have been kept out of public view it is because the US media has done its best to conceal them.

The media has spent much of the last quarter century celebrating wealth and power and doing everything possible to cover up the social consequences of the globalized “pro-market” and right-wing policies of both big business parties. If we are to believe the media, stuff just happens. Consider "globalization," a pet label that the press presents as a natural and divinely inspired inevitable evolutionary process. The reality however is that globalization is a deliberate contrivance of multinational interests to undermine democratic sovereignty throughout the world. International "free trade" agreements set up international trade councils that are elected by no one, are accountable to no one, operate in secrecy without conflict of interest restrictions, and with the power to overrule just about all labor, consumer, and environmental laws, and all public services and regulations in all signatory nations. What we actually are experiencing with GATT, NAFTA, FTAA, GATS, and the WTO is de-globalization, an ever greater concentration of politico-economic power in the hands of an international investor class, a global coup d'etat that divests the peoples of the world of any trace of protective democratic input.

In keeping with the neo-Conservative paradigm, the media never asks why things happen the way they do. Social problems are rarely associated with the politico-economic forces that create them. So we are taught to truncate our own innate skepticism and critical faculties. Imagine if we attempted something different. Suppose we report, as is seldom reported, that the harshly exploitative labor conditions existing in so many countries generally has the backing of their respective military forces. Suppose further that we cross another line and note that these rightwing military forces are fully supported by the U.S. national security state. Then suppose we cross that most serious line of all and instead of just deploring this fact we also ask why successive U.S. administrations have involved themselves in such unsavory pursuits throughout the world. Suppose we conclude that the whole phenomenon is consistent with a dedication to making the world safe for free-market corporate capitalism, as measured by the kinds of countries that are helped and the kinds that are attacked. Such an analysis almost certainly would not be printed anywhere except in a few select radical publications. We crossed too many sacrosanct lines. Since we have attempted to explain the particular situation (oppressive labor conditions) in terms of a larger set of social relations (corporate class power), our presentation is rejected out of hand as conspiratorial or even "Marxist".

The manufacturers of public opinion are well aware that mistreatment and oppression are not limited to the “corners” of society but are a permanent feature of life for tens of millions of working people throughout North America. Prior to the mine explosion, where were the hard-hitting articles examining the conditions of economic desperation in West Virginia—one of the poorest states in America—and the systematic dismantling of federal safety standards and other pro-company measures that have cost miners their lives and limbs. And it should come as a surprise to no one that after a flurry of articles and CNN news “specials,” the cameras will be packed up and the lives of West Virginia’s miners and their families “forgotten” again.

At the same time the media has deliberately played up the influence of religion among the miners, widely publicizing each pronouncement by a local preacher or relative that the miner’s fate is ultimately in the hands of faith, prayer and The Almighty. The aim is to present the miners and their families as “God-fearing,” good Christians, willing to turn their cheeks to whatever blows are delivered. Without denying the influence of religion—which has long been utilized by the mine operators and the authorities to counter the influence of social reforms and the early efforts to unionize the coalfields—the truth is the miners have never been identified with deference before authority and resignation to their fate. The resurgence of religious views today, including a certain element of passivity, is a by-product of the betrayal and collapse of the United Mine Workers union, which has left coal miners without any mass organization to defend them, and the abandonment of social reformism by the Democratic Party. But those in power have always realized the utility of religious faith as a form of social control and a useful tool in anaesthetizing the masses against the realities of oppression in all its forms. It’s all in the hands of God.

Over the past decades, the media downplayed many stories of momentous magnitude. In 1965 the Indonesian military -- advised, equipped, trained, and financed by the U.S. military and the CIA -- overthrew President Achmed Sukarno and eradicated the Indonesian Communist Party and its allies, killing half a million people (some estimates are as high as a million) in what was the greatest act of political mass murder since the Nazi Holocaust. The generals also destroyed hundreds of clinics, libraries, schools, and community centers that had been established by the Communists. Here was a sensational story if ever there was one, but it took three months before it received passing mention in Time magazine and yet another month before it was reported in the New York Times (April 5, 1966), accompanied by an editorial that actually praised the Indonesian military for "rightly playing its part with utmost caution."

Over the course of forty years, the CIA involved itself with drug traffickers in Italy, France, Corsica, Indochina, Afghanistan, and Central and South America. Much of this activity was the object of extended congressional investigation -- by Senator Church's committee and Congressman Pike's committee in the 1970s, and Senator Kerry's committee in the late 1980s. But the corporate media seem not to have heard about it.

When omission proves to be an insufficient mode of censorship and a story somehow begins to reach larger publics, the press moves from artful avoidance to frontal assault in order to discredit the story. In August 1996, the San Jose Mercury News, drawing from a year-long investigation, ran an in-depth series about the CIA-contra crack shipments that were flooding East Los Angeles. Holding true to form, the major media mostly ignored the issue. But the Mercury News series was picked up by some local and regional newspapers, and was flashed across the world on the Internet copiously supplemented pertinent documents and depositions supporting the charges against the CIA. African American urban communities, afflicted by the crack epidemic, were up in arms and wanted to know more. The story became difficult to ignore. So, the major media began an all-out assault. A barrage of hit pieces in the Washington Post and New York Times and on network television and PBS assured us that there was no evidence of CIA involvement, that the Mercury News series was "bad journalism," and that its investigative reporter Gary Webb was irresponsibly playing on the public's gullibility and conspiracy mania. By a process of relentless attack and shameless mendacity, the major media exonerated the CIA from any involvement in drug trafficking.

Like all propagandists, mainstream media people seek to prefigure our perception of a subject with a positive or negative label. Some positive ones are: "stability," "the president's firm leadership," "a strong defense," and "a healthy economy." Indeed, not many Americans would want instability, wobbly presidential leadership, a weak defense, and a sick economy. The label defines the subject without having to deal with actual particulars that might lead us to a different conclusion.

Some common negative labels are: “insurgents”, "leftist guerrillas," "Islamo-fascist terrorists," "conspiracy theories," "inner-city gangs," and "civil disturbances." These, too, are seldom treated within a larger context of social relations and issues. The press itself is facilely and falsely labeled "the liberal media" by the hordes of conservative columnists, commentators, and talk-shows hosts who crowd the communication universe while claiming to be shut out from it. Some labels we will never be exposed to are "class power," "class struggle," and "U.S. imperialism." This is the same “we are the victim” ploy used by evangelicals who portray themselves as an oppressed minority besieged by the evils of secular humanism, a group that comprises at best 4% of the US population. The total national membership of the American Humanist Association would be less than a typical community Baptists church.

A new favorite among deceptive labels is "reforms," whose meaning is inverted, being applied to any policy dedicated to undoing the reforms that have been achieved after decades of popular struggle. So the destruction of family assistance programs is labeled "welfare reform." "Reforms" in Eastern Europe, and most recently in Yugoslavia, have meant the heartless impoverishment of former Communist countries, the dismantling of what remained of the public economy, its deindustrialization and expropriation at fire sale prices by a corporate investor class, complete with massive layoffs, drastic cutbacks in public assistance and human services, and a dramatic increase in unemployment and human suffering. "IMF and World Bank reforms" is a euphemism for the same kind of bruising cutbacks throughout the Third World. As Edward Herman once noted, "reforms" are not the solution, they are the problem.

"Free market" has long been a pet label, evoking images of economic plenitude and democracy. In reality, free-market policies undermine the markets of local producers, provide state subsidies to multinational corporations, destroy public sector services, and create greater gaps between the wealthy few and the underprivileged many. Canada and her fight against softwood lumber duties by the United States government that violate the conditions of its own pet creation NAFTA points out graphically the Orwellian nature of “free trade”. It exposes it as a total sham. 

A popular Government without popular information of the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."  - James Madison

"If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn't be someone from our company. We're not in the business of providing news and information. We're not in the business of providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of selling our customers products." - Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays

If you’ve read George Orwell’s Animal Farm which he wrote in the mid-1940s, it was a satire on the Soviet Union, a totalitarian state. It was a big hit. Everybody loved it. Turns out he wrote an introduction to Animal Farm which was suppressed. It only appeared 30 years later. Someone had found it in his papers. The introduction to Animal Farm was about "Literary Censorship in England" and what it says is that obviously this book is ridiculing the Soviet Union and its totalitarian structure. But he said England is not all that different. We don’t have the KGB on our neck, but the end result comes out pretty much the same. People who have independent ideas or who think the wrong kind of thoughts are cut out.

 

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Quotes:

 

The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands... [Propaganda] must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect... The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses…[Propaganda] does not have multiple shadings; it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, never half this way and half that way …But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over….The purpose of propaganda is not to provide interesting distraction for blasé young gentlemen, but to convince… the masses. But the masses are slow moving, and they always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.

-         Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

 

All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it.... Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise

The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than to a small lie. For they themselves often tell little lies, but would be ashamed to tell big lies.

 – Adolph Hitler

 

 

 It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attach and expose corporate and government malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality of the command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance.

        Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent

 

 

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.

        Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

 

Since the voice of the people is allowed to speak out [in democratic societies], those in power better control what that voice says — in other words, control what people think. One of the ways to do this is to create political debate that appears to embrace many opinions, but actually stays within very narrow margins. You have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions — and that those assumptions are the basis of the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, the debate is permissible.

 

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. propaganda system did its job partially but not entirely. Among educated people it worked very well. Studies show that among the more educated parts of the population, the government's propaganda about the war is now accepted unquestioningly. One reason that propaganda often works better on the educated than on the uneducated is that educated people read more, so they receive more propaganda. Another is that they have jobs in management, media, and academia and therefore work in some capacity as agents of the propaganda system — and they believe what the system expects them to believe. By and large, they're part of the privileged elite, and share the interests and perceptions of those in power.  - Noam Chomsky, Propaganda, American Style

 

 

Suggested Reading:

 

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions

 

Noam Chomsky, Media Control (2nd ed) :The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

 

Michael Parenti, Inventing Reality: The Politics of Media.

 

Eric Alterman, What Liberal Media?

 

Robert Dahl, How Democratic is the American Constitution


 

[1] A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests. The following are but a few of the corporate board interlocks for the big ten media giants in the US:

  • New York Times: Caryle Group, Eli Lilly, Ford, Johnson and Johnson, Hallmark, Lehman Brothers, Staples, Pepsi

  • Washington Post: Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola, Dun & Bradstreet, Gillette, G.E. Investments, J.P. Morgan, Moody's

  • Knight-Ridder: Adobe Systems, Echelon, H&R Block, Kimberly-Clark, Starwood Hotels

  • The Tribune (Chicago & LA Times): 3M, Allstate, Caterpillar, Conoco Phillips, Kraft, McDonalds, Pepsi, Quaker Oats, Shering Plough, Wells Fargo

  • News Corp (Fox): British Airways, Rothschild Investments

  • GE (NBC): Anheuser-Busch, Avon, Bechtel, Chevron/Texaco, Coca-Cola, Dell, GM, Home Depot, Kellogg, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Motorola, Procter & Gamble

  • Disney (ABC): Boeing, Northwest Airlines, Clorox, Estee Lauder, FedEx, Gillette, Halliburton, Kmart, McKesson, Staples, Yahoo

  • Viacom (CBS): American Express, Consolidated Edison, Oracle, Lafarge North America

  • Gannett: AP, Lockheed-Martin, Continental Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, Target, Pepsi

  • AOL-Time Warner (CNN): Citigroup, Estee Lauder, Colgate-Palmolive, Hilton

Can we trust the news editors at the Washington Post to be fair and objective regarding news stories about Lockheed-Martin defense contract over-runs? Or can we assuredly believe that ABC will conduct critical investigative reporting on Halliburton's sole-source contracts in Iraq? If we believe the corporate media give us the full un-censored truth about key issues inside the special interests of American capitalism, then we might feel that they are meeting the democratic needs of mainstream America. However if we believe - as increasingly more Americans do- that corporate media serves its own self-interests instead of those of the people, than we can no longer call it mainstream or refer to it as plural. Instead we need to say that corporate media is corporate America, and that we the mainstream people need to be looking at alternative independent sources for our news and information.

 

                                                            

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