Archive for the ‘Propaganda’ category

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“You Didn’t Build That”: Put it in Context

October 9th, 2012



The facts:

Obama’s remark came at a July 13 speech at a firehouse in Roanoke, Virginia, where he attacked Republican opposition to his economic plans and defended the role of government in promoting economic growth. It is true that he used the phrase, “you didn’t build that.” However, when you put it in context, there is nothing in the statement that indicates that he is saying small business leaders did not build their business and that somehow the government did. Nothing. Keep reading.


Here is the full text:

“Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own,” he said. “You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.

“If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” he continued. “Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.”

So there it is. Everything before and after “You didn’t build that” refers to infrastructure, education and public services.

Obama released a rebuttal to the criticism within two weeks of his Roanoke appearance. In a television spot, the president tells viewers, “Of course Americans build their own business. Everyday hardworking people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs, and make our economy run. And what I said was that we need to stand behind them, as America always has. By investing in education, training, roads and bridges, research and technology.” He called ads that used the edited version of his remarks “flat-out wrong.”


(Source: CNN)

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Manufacturing of Consent

January 26th, 2011

Democracy requires the free flowing information, critical thinking skills, and broad participation. When monopoly powers of any kind interfere with these principles, democracy suffers. Today, more than ever before, our democracy (or “Democratic Republican,” if you like) is under assault by monopoly powers–powers that control the media, political representatives, and write the rules for our society. Policy that flows from the interests of the powerful would never be accepted by the electorate, and using force wouldn’t work today (and would interfere with kind of market “freedom” that the powerful want to uphold). So the only way to get the electorate to go along with the interests of the powerful is to use propaganda. People’s consent must be engineered, manufactured. (…And it explains why conservatives still exist today, despite such broad access to real facts!)

The powerful have been using this method for centuries, but with greater sophistication since World War I. This explains why a citizen could make a comment like, “Keep your government hands of my medicare”; it explains why they would support repealing the “death tax,” which only effects the heirs of the very wealthy. It explains the strong connection that many Americans make between love of country and support for military strength and war. It explains why an under-paid employee will reject the idea of a labor union, viewing it as connected to socialism. More recently, it explains the overall low polling scores of the healthcare bill of 2010—even though most Americans accept specific ideas in the bill, many are willing to march to Washington with the Tea Party in protest…not realizing that they would benefit greatly from many aspects of the new law.

Understanding how power works is critical for citizens in a democracy, because it empowers them to fight back, and to remain independent. One of the best models for understanding power in general, and thought control specifically, is MIT professor Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model. Chomsky has been called by the New York Times, “Arguably the most important intellectual alive.” The Nation magazine has said, “Not to have read him is to court genuine ignorance.” The Boston Globe called him, “America’s most useful citizen.” The New York Times Books Review proclaims: “Chomsky is a global phenomenon…perhaps the most widely read voice on foreign policy on the planet.” He has also been called the most cited living scholar. His propaganda model was developed with Edward Herman. (See links to their books below.)

Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model goes beyond the worn-out narrative of the “liberal media” that was conjured up by the Right. The model does not assume some kind of back-room conspiracy either. It is an “institutional analysis” of how facts become “filtered” to present content to the public that favors the media’s real customer: big businesses, those who advertise with the media establishment. As a result, media content comes out with a bias that favors the interests of those in power: the rich, corporations, etc. (However, there are independent media sources that are supported by consumers rather than “sponsors” and advertisers; some of the best sources are: Democracy Now!, The Nation magazine, public radio and TV, the BBC, Al Jazeera, city weekly magazines…see the links section of this blog). A documentary film about Chomsky’s model was released in 1993 (and it is excellent…and free online!). See also Chomsky’s books, “Media Control,” and “Necessary Illusions.”

We have included a summary of the propaganda model here. This model should be studied by all who seek the liberation and empowerment of ordinary citizens.

Propaganda Model

Five Filters Intro from Keyvan on Vimeo.

Chomsky Video

Good summary from Wikipedia (source):

Editorial Bias: Five Filters

Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model” describes five editorially-distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:

  1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
  2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de-facto licensing authority”. Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
  3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”
  4. Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.
  5. Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the “War on Terror“, as the major social control mechanism.
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Let’s Take On Right-Wing Think Tanks

December 29th, 2010

How do you get people to vote against their own interests? How do you get working people to buy-in to false beliefs, such as the theory of trick-down economics? How do you get them to fight against policies and institutions that will give them greater opportunity, such as progressive taxes, regulatory agencies, and workers’ unions? One word: Propaganda.

Since at least the early 20th century, the powerful and privileged have used propaganda, as Walter Lippmann said, to “manufacture consent.” Since the 1950s, one of the primary distribution channels that has been used to disseminate propaganda has been through conservative think tanks. These think tanks are usually privately funded by wealthy families and corporations. They engage in policy research, advocacy, and consulting. Some of the more prominent conservative think tanks include, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Hover Institute. Some have called these conservative think tanks a response to “liberal academia.” However, there is a fundamental difference between research conducted at the university and “research” published by conservative think tanks. These think tanks do not have the same level of institutional review that is required at the university. Moreover, think tanks are often exclusively funded by powerful interest groups that have a defined agenda. Not that university research is not funded by interests groups. But there is a code of research ethics and peer-review that helps filter out shoddy research. This is not the case when it comes to conservative think tanks.

This is not to say that all think tanks are negative or turn out poor research. Think tanks like the Brookings Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations are much more independent and bipartisan in their research. The problem with many of the conservative think tanks is that they are not held accountable for the lack of facts contained in their research. The function that they serve is to provide “research” citations—ideology-driven “facts”—for those who are pushing a conservative agenda; whether it is a conservative pushing a big business agenda on the Senate floor, a right-wing pundit trying to create a conservative reality for his listeners, or a columnist or author trying make push a philosophy of free market utopia.

There is nothing wrong with having many voices in a marketplace of ideas—in fact, it is preferable. But when ideas are placed on the alter of public discussion, there should be winners and losers—and ultimately, the facts should stand at the end of the day. Unfortunately this is not what is happening. Propaganda produced by conservative think tanks feeds the myths that reverse progress.

Although left-wing think tanks have also sprung up over the past decade—such as,, and—they do not have nearly the influence that the right-wing organization have. George Will wrote that liberals were “tardily trying to replicate that [conservative intellectual] infrastructure.” According to a FAIR report, in 2007, of the top 25 media-cited think tanks, the media cited conservative think tanks 37% of the time, whereas progressive were only cited 16% of the time. So much for the “liberal media” myth. As a result, many of the unsupported ideas of these conservative thinks tanks persist in the minds of many voters, leading them to vote against their own interests. Let’s look at one example. » Read more: Let’s Take On Right-Wing Think Tanks