cj#1022,rn-> Readers talk about propaganda

1999-11-28

Richard Moore

Dear friends,

We got lots of interesting responses regarding propaganda.
I'm combining the responses from both lists.  I'll skip
publishing anything tomorrow so you'll have a couple days to
look through this long posting.

Read at your own risk!  The range of viewpoints is considerable!

rkm

============================================================================
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 10:17:50 -0400
From: Brian Townsend <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...

Hello RKM

Although I have seen many things that gave me the feeling of
the distortions and manipulations you speak of, it was
Daniel Quinn's book "Ishmael" (not to mention his other
books) that gave me the clearest picture of the background
voice of "Mother Culture" and how it shapes everything we
do. This is an example of propaganda at the most basic level
of our society, that which forms the vision that people live
by. That "one right way to live" that closes our eyes to
other ideas, cuts off options before they are examined. A
good example of this is our lack of a built-in mechanism for
self-evaluation in our society.

Also, the idea that this thing we call "civilization" is the
crowning achievement of man on earth, the pinnacle of human
existance, that prevents us from imagining what could be
better. We have been told we are already there. There's no
need to strive for something better, this is the best there
is.

Brian Townsend

"If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with
changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be
saved by people with the old vision but new programs."
   --Daniel Quinn -from "the Story of B"

============================================================================
From: "Rick Martin" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 11:12:36 -0500

Dear Richard -

I think you're on the right track regarding propaganda.  I
have just a few comments.

Your "propaganda ocean that we live under" is a wonderful
metaphor, very descriptive.  You should use it for sure.

Our media's propaganda machine does produce total
fabrication, but I think it does it more through a mechanism
of peer pressure rather than through central control.  A few
years ago I worked with a Russian scientist who had come to
the US to find work after the USSR collapsed.  He said one
of the things that surprised him was that it was obvious to
him that the press in the US was as totally controlled as
the press in the USSR.  (He said that all Soviet citizens
were experts on recognizing a totally-controlled press,
because that's what they were used to.)  He wanted to know
how the US did it, since we had no government agency to
enforce it.

At the time I didn't have an answer for him but now I feel I
understand it a little better.  I think it's done through
peer pressure and people's natural desire to "get ahead."  I
read a book by a scientist who had wanted to be an
archaeologist when he was a boy.  He got a chance to meet a
famous archaeologist once and he asked him a question.  "My
boy," the famous archaeologist replied, "you'll never get
ahead asking questions like that." You see, the boy had
asked a "wrong" question, a question which shined a spotline
on an archaeological anomaly.  The boy was very disappointed
because it became clear to him that "getting ahead" in
archaeology meant supporting the party line and not asking
the wrong questions.  I think something similar is true in
our media.

There was a movie not too long ago called The Truman Show.
It was about a character who lived in a totally fabricated
environment.  ("Cue the sun" was Ed Harris' famous line.)
The Truman Show was not reality but I do think it serves as
a good metaphor for the fabricated reality of our media.

Regarding an attempt to undermine trial by jury, I think
you're right.  I was just reading in The Guardian that the
U.K. government is proposing to do
away with trial by jury in most instances.  This is certainly
ominous.

Thanks, and keep up the good work!

- Rick Martin

============================================================================
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 11:23:57 +0800
To: •••@••.•••
From: Dion Giles <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...

That posting by "rkm" was an eye-opener.

Here was I, like millions of others, seeing the two
communities' different responses to the OJ Simpson trial as
another depressing example of the racism which I still
believe is endemic in the USA, and rkm has pointed to a
quite different, and fully rational, basis for the divide.

One can't of course discount the strong influence of racism
in the two approaches to the OJ Simpson trial, but to
question whether Simpson got a fair trial was a _rational_
response to racism in the way the prosecution operated which
is a far cry from "he's a 'brother' and I don't care whether
he killed the couple or not they should leave him alone"
which was how it was presented.

As for the gibe that millions of journos can't conspire to
present a lie, that's the familiar "straw man" technique --
if they can't cope with what you say they restructure it
into a straw man to blow over.

The reality is that fewer than 2000 people (people, not just
corporations but actual people whose ownership crosses
corporation to corporation boundaries) control a decisive
slice -- possibly a majority -- of the world's accumulated
capital (of which they prioduced none).  With that it is
possible to exercise decisive control -- through systems of
intermediaries -- of the careers of key journos,
middle-range executives, civil servants (esp. in Treasury,
trade, foreign affairs etc), academics (esp in economics)
and politicians (throough control of the media and through
party sponsorship).  This percolates down the ranks.

I was a newspaper subeditor many years ago, in the era of
frenetic Cold War propaganda, and nobody told us to slant
the news. We simply _knew_ what was required of us, and
those who didn't take it on board were not "sound" and
didn't progress according to their technical ability.  If
you made too much noise the useless and misleading
"left-right" spectrum was applied to you and you were a
leftist, a pinko and even, at worst, a Commo (or in the USA,
Commie) or fellow-traveller.

That was in the 1950s.  The concentration of control has
accelerated since then, making matters worse in many ways.

The good news about this control by Mr Greed is that it
depends on a complex matrix of laws, conventions,
prejudices, assumptions and even religious propositions.
Without this underpinning, which is subject to organised
challenge, the whole shebang collapses.

Gibes about "conspiracy theories" are a favourite weapon of
conspirators. It's their defensive put-down word for
whistleblowing.  One must always remember that the most
fantastic and unblievable conspiracy theory of all is the
theory that if a group of people can gain by conspiring
together behind closed doors what they couldn't gain out in
the open, they can't or won't do so.

Dion Giles
Fremantle, Western ASustralia

============================================================================
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 09:02:42 -0500
To: •••@••.•••
From: "Mike Nickerson, Inviting Debate" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...

    >If you have ideas, suggestions, references, or comments - on
    >any of this or anything related - please send it in.  If you
    >don't want your name posted, please say so.  If you disagree
    >with my whole approach, that could be especially helpful.
    >If I start arguing with somebody, that often leads to good
    >prose.

Hi Richard:
        A Man after my own heart.
"It is from the clash of differing opinions that the light
of truth shines."

Is the most consise phrase i've come across to describe what
you say above.  The origin of the phrase is a contemporary
religion so I don't mention it.  Religion was largely
discredited way back as a way to pave the way for
materialism and the assendence of "the faith of the bottom
line" Capitalism.  Source available on request.

The largest propaganda campaign I have become aware of is
advertising.  Every radio, TV, magazine, newspaper and bill
board share one message.  You need things to be happy.  It's
not true!

Friendship and creativity are the real thing.  Coca Cola is
an imposter!

The homogeniety of this global propaganda is a coincidence
based on the fact that, for the most part, only 'things' can
be sold.  Friendship, creativity, understanding,
appreciation, song, dance, music and the like can be
produced by almost evcery human and it is therefore
unnecessary to buy them.  Some music and education are
packaged for sale, but they are an exception and don't get
anywhere near the sort of return business of material
things.

I've probably sent it to you before, but you may want to
embelish this observation by looking at the three paragraphs
at: http://www.cyberus.ca/choose.sustain/life.html

As to the more complex 'conspiricy' on issues reporting.
Noam Chomski did a video with the Canadian National Film
Board titled "Manufacturing Consent".  At one point in the
excelent production he talked about what he called
"concision".  Concision is the media format where one is
only given a few minutes to speak on a given topic.  As long
as what one says coincides with the view being developed by
the media, a few minutes is enough time to add anotehr
detail to the evolving picture.  If, on the other hand, what
you have to say contradicts the view being developed, a few
minutes is not enough time to provide the background
necessary to see the issue from another perspective.
Chomski says he has been welcomed onto numerous talk shows
where his views were contrary to what they were promoting.
Within the short time allowed, he could only say things
which sound foolish outside of the contextual background
which led him to those views.  With the media getting cudo's
for inviting a decenting viewpoint and that view looking
silly, 'Thank you very much Mr. Chomski, and now a word from
our sponsor.'

Those, quickly, are the thoughts that come to mind having
read your query.

Keep on writing.

Yours,  Mike N.

"We can no longer have everything we want, but we can be
more than we ever imagined."

Sustainability Project
P.O. Box 374, Merrickville, Ontario
K0G 1N0
Phone: (613) 269-3500
Fax: (613) 269-4693
e-mail:  •••@••.•••

                http://www.cyberus.ca/choose.sustain

============================================================================
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 18:08:35 -0500
From: ltbrin <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...

I agree generally, rkm, with your take on meta-propoganda. I
have attached a poem I wrote during the media circus
surrounding the Heaven'sgate "mass suicide" and another I
wrote last year when the three soldiers of the Big Red 1
Division, stupidly got themselves captured in the Balkans.

During the next 25 years the most divisive social issue
facing humanity will be, imo, the issue of privacy and who
controls the use of the digital tools of the Internet.

Respectfully submitted,
thomas brinson

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    commentaries, week of march 31, 1997

    in a funk i lean closer
    stare into stark teevee image
    of stern-faced commentator
    not able to fathom his indignant wrath
    the self-righteous condemnation
    i mutter to noone in particular but myself,
    "Hey what's the big deal?
    So 39 gentle souls gently passed
    following their leaderDo.
    Didn't they voluntarily choose
    to meet early their maker?"

    pausing for breath i begin to rant at the screen
    something i'm sometimes prone to do when alone
    "Ya know, in the winter of '91
    there was nary a newsworthy notice from you guys
    about the precision smart-bombed slaughter
    of a hundred thousand or so Iraqi civilian souls--
    who's counting?--
    involuntarily 'terminated with extreme prejudice'
    by the New World Order in the name of world peace.
    Not to mention the Kurds we handily abandoned.
    Jesus, their leaderSaddam
    to this very day remains
    alive and very well!
    What a  farce!      
    Dumb hypocrites!"

    out of breath, i pant  
                                                                 
    peering at vacuous morphed image
    of all back-lit talking-head hosts
    this week of alleged mother-ship trailing
    in fuzzed wake of bright Hale-Bopp
    he resolutely scowls with harsh cast
    of jaw and thin-pursed lips
    glaring at the soft visage of
    former Heaven's Gate member
    drills, "How   can   you   believe
        what   your   friends   did
        was   not     insane?"

    with demure smile
    the guest with quiet dignity
    simply replies,
    "We disagree."

                    April, 1997
                    Islip, NY



    An Off the Cuff Bitter Poetic Musing:

    Captain John Clearwater,
    Spinmeister extraodinnaire,
    Weaves gallant stories,
    Valiantly avoiding all questions
    From talking head Lady-caster on CNN.
    Rah-hah-hah-ing on and on and on . . .
    He is like an exuberant cheerleader
    Extolling the famous history
    Of the Big Red One,
    The very First Army Division.

    He praises, does not bury, its determined Commander,
    Speaking with such rousing rhetoric of War,
    This once again damnable War,
    As if it were the first quarter
    Of a wily global game . . .
    On this clever April Fool's Day
    Of 1999, this millennium eve year.

    Meanwhile, the blank, bruised faces
    of Stone, Ramirez and Gonzales
    In the background Serbian video
    Stare at me through the monitor
    Across thousands of miles and three decades
    With only the 1000 yard stare
    Of those who have killed
    Or nearly been killed
    For their country

                    April 1, 1999

                    Islip Hamlet, NY

============================================================================
Date: Sun, 28 Nov 1999 12:01:10 -0800 (PST)
To: •••@••.•••
From: John Lowry <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...

The whole subject of economics as currently taught is
largely propaganda, but my favorite bit is that people are
"motivated" by the profit motive.  In reality, when you
actually study the behavior of entrepreneurs, you find the
typical story of a skilled worker whose boss won't listen to
a better idea. So, the frustrated worker sets out on his
own, for about twice the workload at half the money.  A very
small percentage of these ever succeed at making big
"money."  So, clearly, entrepreneurs seek Freedom, not
Money.  Good luck!

===================

Dear John,

Speaking of 'economics as propaganda', I'd like to recommend
a little book I picked up at used-book store.  It's concise,
to-the-point, and makes more sense than anything I've read
about economics.  The author was a professor of economics at
Cambridge, but she talks common sense anyway!

        Joan Robinson, "Economic Philosophy", Penguin Books,
        Middlesex, England, 1962

thanks for your comments,
rkm

============================================================================
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 21:37:27 -0800
From: Robert Canby <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...

Richard:

I think this article is good, but I have one suggestion:

        I think it should be well noted that the "Sin of Omission" is
very well used by the propagandists. If some news item such as
the murder of a victim of homosexual assault in Arkansas is
unwelcome to the propagandists' agenda, it is submerged from
public awareness to the greatest extent possible. Such news often
is never made public. That saves having to crank up the
spinmeister machinery.

        Thanks for your good work.
                Bob Canby

============================================================================
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 01:41:28 -0600
To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <•••@••.•••>
Subject: meta-propoganda

    >I also want to say something about how the propaganda
    >machine operates. When I talk to people, they say things
    >like "You couldn't have a conspiracy of thousands of media
    >employees all agreeing to make up lies."  True enough... so
    >how does the system work?  I don't want to analyze this in
    >depth, but I'd at least like to point to some good sources
    >and quote some telling passages.

You could easily mention the very selective 'ecology' of
ideas that get positioned,  in an historical process of
popularization of various media frames. On this note, it's
important to understand the media is a physcial, tangible,
money making and market expanding group of organizations. It
relies on competition amongst itself to survive, and who
gets the largest market share 'wins.' To gain footholds in
this competition, the media support is provided by
advertizers with a great deal of money, as it is in both of
their interests to expand their markets. However, the
advertizers, who are the ones interested in particularistic
and one sided views, conflict with the understanding of a
media as a fountainhead of various views.

There are many cases of advertizers exercizing their clout
to remove particular pieces from the 'media' because it is
seen at odds with the advertizers desire to expand their
markets. This is particularly so if it is a critical 'media'
piece on a particular company's practices or an industry in
general. And when the money for the physical output of the
media group comes from that industry, you can rest assured
that there will be a warping of the selection of stories,
partiucularly over historical time in the media. Add to that
selective firings and hirings, and you have a system that
perpetuates an elision between advertizer propoganda and
media, where media 'know the rules' and have to some degree
internalized them in who works for the media. The framing of
stories becomes seamless (without having to touch, though
the threat of fund removal is there) and parallel to
corporate lines of propoganda.

It's probably best to take an historical viewpoint on how
these two forces have come to elide and how  'good business'
can lead to bad media.

Regards,

Mark Whitaker
University of Wisconsin-Madison

===============================

Dear Mark,

Good points.  I'd add only one caution regarding your
analysis.

NBC News, for example, does operate as a business - but it
is owned by GE, who makes nuclear reactors, jet engines, and
thousands of other products.  When it comes to deciding news
spin, the profit-motive of (relatively tiny) NBC News takes
a distant back seat to the interests of (giant) GE.

rkm

============================================================================
From: "Boudewijn Wegerif" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: SV: cj#1021, rn-> Let's talk about propaganda...
Date: Sat, 27 Nov 1999 18:04:23 +0200

You have a good point. You would have had my fuller
attention if you had gone straight from "I'm working on my
chapter on propaganda" to "I -- want to say something about
how the propaganda machine operates." The stuff about Plato,
caves, dreams dreaming, is ballast holding up the busy
reader.

Cheers.

=======

thanks for your patience! - rkm



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