Bill Moyers: Weapons of Mass Distraction

Bill Moyers interviewed Marty Kaplan who heads the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California on how the choice of media stories helps keep Americans politically somnambulant. While the role of propaganda and the shaping of mass culture clearly plays a big factor in Americans’ learned helplessness, it’s important also to recognize that there are other factors at play.

The first obstacle is that mass protests don’t have strong roots here. They are the province of the disenfranchised and/or the young, and the current generation of young has been bred to be conformist (a generation plus of overly attentive parenting being the norm) plus the one-two punch of a lousy job market plus debt slavery (even the kids who have gumption know how much an arrest will hurt their job prospects). But the second is the way Americans have had the right to assembly neutralized. Look at the way peaceful protestors are routinely roughed up and jailed. And large scale demonstrations are simply stymied. More than a decade ago, on the eve of the Gulf War (and in freezing weather) hundreds of thousands attempted to join protests in NYC at UN Plaza. But the police had cordoned off Manhattan at Second Avenue and used men, dogs, and horses to shunt demonstrators up to Harlem. So the crowd that actually was able to get to the official location was deceptively small-looking, suiting the official narrative that not many people in the US were opposed to an invasion.

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82 comments

  1. Schofield

    Broadly speaking complex organisms ( ourselves being a good example as a species ) always carry an advantage of being able to adapt better to a constantly changing environment or situations. Organisms achieve complexity through cooperation. However, competition remains important since it also produces new solutions. Accordingly, there is always room in the political “marketplace” for a political party that offers formulae for melding self-advantage with other-advantage and that’s the direction we’re heading. The Neo-Conservative or Neo-Liberal formulae of the Republican and Democratic parties are going to be dumped since their fundamental weakness is that in practice they are essentially constructed around self-advantage only.

    1. Jamie

      “However, competition remains important since it also produces new solutions.”

      That sounds like a dogmatic assertion to me. Clearly individual inventiveness sometimes produces new solutions and cooperation often produces new solutions (design team), so if competition ever produces new solutions, that can be true only in some limited sense that competition may produce new solutions under some circumstances, including circumstances whereby competition stimulates cooperation and/or individual inventiveness. When you use ‘competition’ as a proxy for ‘reward’ you loose sight of the fact that it is the reward that is stimulative. Competition produces winners *and* losers. Its main function is to provide a means for apportioning meager rewards to few individuals, rather than paying everyone who works on a problem. It may be trite, but I still believe that necessity, not competition, is the mother of invention.

      1. Banger

        Really great comment, Jamie. In fact, competition is overvalued in this culture because the ideology of competition serves the power-elite. In fact, studies have shown that “rewards” are also overrated that people, in fact, enjoy doing things for the sake of doing them once their basic needs have been met and prefer to cooperate rather than compete. Why? Because the human nervous system, when calm and balanced, is hard-wired for cooperation. It is only stress and fear that make us competitive it is not natural at all except in ways that are mutually fun where the fear of failure is taken out of the competition.

      2. Schofield

        Fair comment. I was thinking of competition in an evolutionary sense involving natural adaption and natural selection. The eternal problem for human societies being how to take advantage of above average or unusual skills of members of their societies without our surrendering so much power to these individuals they can abuse it.

        1. Schofield

          Indeed it is true that competition takes place constantly without our awareness. From memory I think it’s the evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak who quotes the example of an individual who maybe competitive in securing advancement within the company they work for but cooperate with others within that company to secure advantage within the marketplace for their company against other companies.

  2. Brindle

    The major media portray protesting Americans as the weirdos, the uncool, the losers. They re-cast and project the High School social status pecking order— the protesters are deemed to be at the bottom.
    I think we all remember “David Gregory” from our own High School experience: not the smartest, not the most interesting or the most honest— but the one who understood how and when and who to suck-up to.

    1. Schofield

      What changes in the sense that they had to put to death a “protesting” Christ who’s sin was to suggest that that we should better balance self-advantage and other-advantage?

  3. MikeNY

    Kaplan alludes to the myth of “American Excpeptionalism” as an impediment to mobilization and protest; I think it is a huge retardant. Americans have been told since childhood, and most want to believe, that “we’re number one!”, and that this is the best, most powerful, most democratic, richest, etc. etc. etc. country in the world. It’s “unpatriotic” to suggest someone somewhere else in the world does something better than we do…

    The myth dies hard, especially for people who have never spent much (if any) time abroad.

    1. Banger

      Actually I’m not sure you’re right. American Exceptionalism is very strong among the intellectual class sometimes more than the average person. One sees it, particularly, on the left whenever the say things like “what this country stands for” well what this country stands for is a lot of things most of them pretty bad–as is the case of most countries I can think of even Scandinavia. Many left-intellectuals just refuse to face facts that don’t go along with AE articles of faith–they refuse a priori to believe the American ruling elite would ever willingly commit atrocities (though objective evidence indicates that it is normal behavior), murder, and all the skullduggery known to classical historians and Shakespeare. Most left-intellectuals I know of are in deep denial which is one reason Morris Berman left this country–he felt he had “no one to talk to.” And I’ve seen this in discussion after discussion I’ve had with brilliant people with advance degrees at U. of Chicago, Harvard, Columbia etc., etc., all of them to a man or woman in denial of the basic facts of modern history they simply pretend, if they like you, to have not heard what you just said or say weird things like “even if it’s true I refuse to believe it.” To me this explains why there is so little pressure or effective organizing to deal with climate change, inequality, constant war and so on. It is no Joe Sixpack it is Joeseph GraduateDegree that is the main impediment to political and cultural change.

      1. nycTerrierist

        banger,
        Your comment rings absolutely true.
        The so-called smart, ‘progressive’ Ivy-Leaguers
        I know, many of them academics and law profs, are in
        complete denial. They’re like the Nazi-era ‘good germans’.
        If the NYTimes doesn’t validate it for them, it doesn’t exist.
        And these people see themselves as thinkers and progressive intellectuals.
        oy vey.

      2. MikeNY

        I’d submit that one reason many Ivies and U Chicago types believe in, or profess to believe in, the myth of AE is that they *benefit* from the status quo in our plutocracy: they are likely already the 1%, and are likely to remain the 1%. As will their children. But I don’t deny that there are also true believers in the ‘intelligentsia’.

        Why someone who is not, nor ever likely to be, anywhere near the 1% clings perfervidly to the myth of AE is more perplexing to me — at least on economic and socio-political grounds.

        1. Hugh

          It’s a class thing. Elites remain loyal to the system which has conferred their positions and privileges on them, even if they criticize aspects of it from time to time.

          And it is a function of class war to set segments of the 99% against each other or to so propagandize and confuse the issues that many in the 99% end up making war against their own interests.

  4. Dino Reno

    Every f-ing day is Veteran’s Day. Every Day. Every Goddamn Day. That’s the media’s relentless message. Honor those who served this country in the military.
    To protest dishonors this service. It tramples on the blood spilled, the missing limbs and shattered lives of our veterans. They didn’t complain. They sacrificed.
    It doesn’t matter who they killed or for what reason during their service to this country. They did their duty and followed orders destroying the lives of the enemy and their own in the process. That’s what real Glory is all about in a Military State. Protesters whine and complain, always wanting more and deserving nothing. They are traitors to be watched carefully. This is how we roll.

      1. Ulysses

        This is why “Veterans against the War” groups are targeted for the heaviest harassment, infiltration, and disruption by the surveillance state. Veterans who speak out against warmongering can’t be dismissed as “spoiled rich poetry majors whining because they can’t get a job,” etc.

    1. Hugh

      The real way to honor veterans and support the troops is not to send them off to fight in terrible pointless imperial wars.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      The one I love is the notion that once the troops have set foot on foreign soil, bringing them home again, scrapping the “mission”, would be traitorously putting them in harms way.

  5. Patricia

    Most everyone clicks/switches to silly stories for entertainment but that doesn’t mean it’s all people want. We like a laugh or an “OMG!” interspersed through our day but it doesn’t mean that we don’t want serious stories, as if either/or. When you merely count numbers, it may seem that it’s all we want, but that’s just a stupid way to evaluate viewer desire/need and genuine value (over against maximum profit).

    So then we go to the “serious” news, but for decades they’ve been shallow and without context, like the worst of our diets: sugar/salt/fat. That they don’t match personal reality creates feelings of guilt/shame. In confusion, we settle on stories that are concrete, limited and impersonal, such as the Trayvon Martin story.

    Marty Kaplan is correct that we no longer know how to evaluate for accuracy or depth after decades of a crap diet. How can we expect anything else? Most people don’t have the time to search out the internet to find what is accurate/solid. We have to slog through vast swathes of material to find the sites that offer clarity. The amount of BS baked into everything requires hours and hours to shovel out. We have to dismantle what we’ve been told, and then dismantle every issue (each of which is crammed with outright lies) and reconstruct piece by piece. We have to become somewhat educated/knowledgeable in every field. (It’s taken me a long time to become minimally educated in economics; I don’t relish it, it’s not my forte.) How many people are even capable of that? Not many.

    Ethics for Americans ratio approx. the same as for all humans: most line up as relatively decent, a portion are rotten, a smaller portion are amazing. And shit floats.

    Sure, Brazilians have a new democracy and ours is old, but what does that mean? IMO, it is not ossification (although it contributes) that paralyzes us, but the sheer complexity of BS that has been fed to us in every single area for so long. We can’t see reality through the poisonous haze. Marty is right, it has made us sick and it is now strangling us. It is destroying us, others, and the planet. And people who know what’s going on, like us, seem doomed to learn about ever-growing corruption, on and on, without recourse. It is really unhealthy!

    1. Banger

      It is not a question of time to do the research. It actually doesn’t take that much. The problem is that the American intellectual class, above all classes, does not want to find out the truth that will destroy their illusions–the illusions that sustain them through their day as they listen to NPR. Without those illusions they would have to take a leadership role in society and they don’t have the guts to do that.

      1. Patricia

        Well, Banger, I am a member of that American intellectual class, even if in fine arts academe. So I can say that you are only partly correct. Few listen uncritically to NPR anymore.

        I have a friend who is much as you describe. It is now a tradition between us, that in conversation I will declare Obama to be sociopathic and she will laugh heartily, although with increasing unsteadiness and last week she allowed that he wasn’t what she thought.

        I think that might be largely over. Edward Snowden did all of us as great a favor as he had hoped.

        Not that there aren’t those who merely double/triple down, but I think that sort are in every group. They just look ridiculous when they do it, IMO, because of all their grand assertions. But I have family who are conservative Republicans and they’ve also made grand assertions. A few among them have also doubled/tripled down, but are looking increasingly frazzled and a couple of them now venture to opine that there really isn’t a left/right in our country anymore.

        If the intellectual class is the most responsible to create change (not as clear to me as to you), also remember that their ranks have been decimated. Fair few now have more than an assortment of college classes cobbled together from several schools, without insurance or retirement, pursuing their own research/art late at night from home.

        The split is not between the intellectuals and the working class. It’s between the wealthy and the rest of us. A few of those wealthy are in academia but more are in other fields. I’d keep my eagle eyes trained on them. They are the ones enamored of their illusions of successful self-determination. They are the ones without guts.

        1. Banger

          By intellectual class I don’t mean just academics but those of us who see ourselves as part of what Mortimer Adler called “the great conversation”, i.e., the Western humanist project who are able, for example to diffentiate the thought of Michael de Montaigne from Thomas Aquinas or even more amusing between Charles Dickens and William Burroughs.

          When Western humanism came into its own in the 17th century or earlier, a class of people was created that was not necessarily loyal to Church of King, although many were forced to be, but to the enterprise of seeking knowledge regardless of personal comfort. I’m not saying these people were or are ultimately that good or bad–it’s just what has created, in my view, who we are. As such, intellectuals have to be on the vanguard along with artists in shaping the society to come. It won’t come from those that are desperately seeking power. What I see in and out of academe (and I know what is going on there my daughter works for a major university, and many of my friends have been victims of the current regime in that sector) is a serious failure of the imagination and a radical unwillingness to face the truth because it requires a sort of quantum leap to fully comprehend. That leap will have to be taken or things will just get worse for all of us who are waiting.

        2. Patricia

          I guess my main point is that kicking the liberal intellectual class is kicking a dead horse. Their time has gone. They’ve been plowed under. Hedges’ book was a requiem and a postmortem. We are now faced with coarse power embodied in raw money.

          1. Susan the other

            But fortunately for the rest of us raw money requires reality to flourish. Money has no meta reality, no manufacturing consent. The new reality does not favor raw money. Just like the old European land based aristocrats ate it because of the wave of liberal mercantilists; today we have another era morphing into post manufacturing. Post capitalism. Where is our name? I don’t know who the hell I am. Productivity is a proven poison in this world. It kills natural resources and human demand all in one fell swoop of blind greed and competition. So, hold on to your hats. “The rich and powerful” are not. 99% of change comes from the delightfully easy and passive act of simply not participating. If you don’t want your kid (or your government) to behave like an egotistical brat, don’t buy any of it.

            1. Patricia

              “Where is our name? I don’t know who the hell I am. Productivity is a proven poison in this world… If you don’t want your kid (or your government) to behave like an egotistical brat, don’t buy any of it.”

              I agree. It is particularly difficult for aware young adults (and the children coming behind them). Their sense of a foreshortened future is hard to manage. They have youth’s energy/desire to be involved in making changes that will allow us to survive best, but will they be allowed?

              My daughter wants to be a hydrologist. She needs to go back to school through the engineering dept and on to masters. Will she be able to find a worthwhile job, not shlock-work keeping golf courses green or piping water for industry, but tracking/protecting/cleaning water tables, neutralizing/removing chemicals from industry, grey water recovery for apt complexes, etc? Will her student loan load be worth it? And so on.

        3. William Falberg

          I think it would be more correct to say we’re divided along the lines of Corporatist/Constitutionalist. The cure is put a firewall between business and government similar to the firewall between church and state (and for the same reason: they tend to corrupt each other). This is how such a firewall could be enacted under Article Five:

          28th Amendment (The Constitutional Emergency Amendment)
          Corporations are not persons and shall be granted only those rights and privileges that Congress deems necessary for the well-being of the People. Congress shall provide legislation defining the terms and conditions of corporate charters according to their purpose; which shall include, but are not limited to:
          1, prohibitions against any corporation;
          a, owning another corporation,
          b, becoming economically indispensable or monopolistic, or
          c, otherwise distorting the general economy;
          2, prohibitions against any form of intervention in the affairs of government by means of;
          a, congressional lobbying
          b, electoral sponsorship or advocacy
          c, educational sponsorship or publication
          d, media news reporting
          3, provisions for;
          a, the auditing of standardized, current, and transparent account books
          b, closing the FRB and the establishment of state-owned banks
          c, civil and criminal penalties to be suffered by corporate executives et al for violation of the terms of a corporate charter.
          Optional: (or possible 29th amendment)
          The 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution is hereby repealed and Congress shall re-write the U.S. Code to reflect the changes embodied herein.

          (While we’re at it, we could also repeal the 17th amendment)

  6. Patricia

    Even with all that, Occupy happened and will happen again. The younger ones do a lot of living online. It is the source of the best news but also serves as a defense against reality. And it becomes a more enchanting defense as things get worse.

    I see this in my daughter and her friends, recent college grads. They are good intelligent kids who know Obama is the Great Betrayer, who went en masse to hear Chomsky in Ann Arbor this week, saddled with loans, appalled by Obamacare, reduced to part-time service jobs. Yes, there are the coddled helicoptered kids but they aren’t the bulk of this generation, being the children of the upper middle class of which there are fewer and fewer. Those among my daughter/friends who garner real jobs are those with money/connections or the most physically attractive who also have high social skill. Anything beyond basic competence of intelligence goes unneeded/unheeded.

    Teach for America is a terrible idea—a couple of them quit halfway through the year out of disgust. (I told my daughter to avoid it.) Internships are abusive. Americorps is stuffed and some of them are just nasty: a couple of the programs wrote that those hired were going to learn, as part of their education, what it means to be poor; that’s why they were going to pay them almost nothing.

    My daughter/friends voted third-party and then became suspicious that tallies showed so few voting third-party. They have gone to protests here in Detroit, but it’s not covered by local news—a couple of suburbs over have no idea what’s going on downtown. And then, as you say, there is concerted effort by gov’t to neutralize and stymie demonstration. I watch their lights dimming. They spend more and more time online. They are turning into me and I hate it!

    So I hate it when people condemn the citizenry. I think that’s just too easy and essentially inaccurate. We are socially atomized. Moreover, we are surrounded by a machine that has been slowly expanding until now it’s a constant roar. It spews poison; the haze is hard to see through and it burns the eyes. We live in the most peculiar society that humanity has ever seen. There is no precedence. It is not a surprise that we are gobsmacked.

    Marty and Bill did a decent job but easy contempt still appears now/then and I am weary of it. And even if it were true, it doesn’t help us find a way through. It’s just another bash on the head.

    Sorry for the rant.

    1. TimR

      Thanks for those personal anecdotes. What exactly was it about Teach for America that disgusted them though?

      And I sympathize with your rant. I read Morris Berman’s blog a lot and he is one to beat up the public a lot for its failings. Even when you point out that the propaganda and indoctrination by design of forced schooling goes back a long way, he argues the people were/are complicit in letting that go through. That the elites’ screwing the masses is consensual on both sides, as it were. Or he says, look at Occupy, they were just arguing for a Piece of the Pie; not that the pie itself was fundamentally rotten. And so on, one of his favorite quotes (I like it to) is Steinbeck’s, that “in America, the poor regard themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” But I “weary” of the bashing sometimes too.

      1. Patricia

        Re Teaching for America. My daughter’s two friends who accepted had a degree in biology/spanish and social issues in politics, respectively. Neither was trained to teach. For that, they took a 2-mth course the summer before they started and then were dumped unceremoniously into Detroit schools.

        Not only did they not have a clue how to teach to students of the age/grades they were put into, but they had no clue how to handle urban kids, most of whom were black and had much different approaches to life (good/bad). On top of that, Detroit public schools are being decimated by privatization and in those remaining, hundreds and hundreds of teachers have been laid off over the last decade. In that climate, two ignorant upstarts are going to be despised, particularly since the remaining teachers are swamped with gigantic classes, ever decreasing wages and uncertain (to nil) retirement promises, and constant disrespecting of them by society.

        This isn’t just in Detroit, although it shows most obviously here, as usual. It is profoundly stupid and also insane.

        Re “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”, well yeah, sure, but is that uniquely American? I think all humans’ dreams become more grandiose the further down they sink. It’s a defense, an attempt to stay above grinding reality.

        Yes, we’ve had the American Dream with its soaring ideas of a classless society and “work wins”. But for a while, we DID have it. Not as broadly/deeply as we supposed, but tangibly so for many people in a way seldom seen in human society. It’s been on a slow decline since the 70s and has taken a steep dive in the last ten years, but I don’t see why we need to mock each other for the loss. We need to help each other face that it is gone and that maybe something else not so bad can take its place, if we work at it together.

        Morris’ perceptions of Occupy were so cynical I paid it no attention. I’ll trot out that awful aphorism used so nastily on us third-party liberals before the election: “Don’t let perfection be enemy of the good” I think it is appropo for him. W00t

        1. Ulysses

          Some of the TFA kids I met, in Rhode Island, were appalled to learn that they were essentially being used as lower-paid scabs to help the privatizers bust the teacher unions!

        2. The Black Swan

          Patricia,

          I am currently doing research for a novel that I would like to take place in a city very similar to modern day Detroit and features a public school teacher as the protagonist. Would you, or your kids and their friends at all be interested in helping me with gaining a better understanding of life in Detriot? If so, click on my name and it will take you to an old blog of mine that you could contact me through.

          thanks,
          The Black Swan

          -the apparatus of our enslavement is the tool of our liberation
          -bhavatu sabba mangalam

    2. John

      Please tell us more. Are they turning to the internet to escape or to build a new way of living?

      Sounds like escape. And if it is I undestand completely. After a while you accept your non-free state in life.

      1. Patricia

        These young people attended the Residential College at U Michigan. They chose it because they were interested in the broad range of social justice. The college was an emphasis on multi-language literacy and social sciences with enough hard science types to be interesting, and a smattering of art/literature. The students aren’t IT types; although they are generally computer handy, they don’t do much code, for eg. They aren’t businessy, either, by nature.

        They are earnest, intelligent, ethical, hardworking. They set up a website to keep in contact with each other: three are teaching English as second language (two in Japan, one in Portugal), one has a job through his dad’s friends, one is employed by a non-profit in Paris, and three are slowly pursuing grad degrees while washing dishes, barrista, waitressing. The latter three are also doing various volunteer work in their communities.

        They use the net as escape. They go into it, come back out, slide back in. I am worried about them. I do my best to help.

  7. Banger

    Towards the end of the video Moyer asks Kaplan whether he’s an optimist or not and Kaplan says we have to be and I agree but what he said afterwards was that “individuals can make a difference” and I believe this is simply not true. Unless you are very rich an individual really cannot make a difference only communities can.

    The Brazilians demonstrated because there is a vivid community-based culture that is focused on the community, on the streets on touching or connection on engagement with others through collective rituals including a greater amount of celebration and partying than goes on here.

    Americans are isolated, for the most part–they believe they are individually responsible if they are poor or alone or in pain. They do not, because of the ideology preached to them in pulpit, schools and in the media, understand the nature of class struggle (something that takes up most of the work of the Roman historian Livy) that, in many ways, determines a lot of very practical issues in our country. The fact is our society has, compared to other developed societies, a fairly rigid class structure and I suspect 99% of the American people have no clue that is the case. Thus class solidarity which often motivates people in other societies really doesn’t exist in this country.

    Can we somehow encourage class solidarity? No, I think that’s not going to work because it rubs against the grain here where cultural identity trumps class identity. But we can begin to form and enhance community rather than stay at home watching shows on TV through more parties, more local involvement at whatever level you feel like—even going to a local venue with local musicians rather than spend a fortune on going to your Civic Center to see an arena act. Support local theater rather than go to the multiplex at least occasionally.

    What I’m saying is that if we expect political change it ain’t going to happen without profound cultural change. Dealing with climate change starts not only with experiencing the natural world more intensely but with connecting to others–if you view life as a matter of “individuals” separate alone, self-sufficient, you can never grasp a greater whole except in theory–and theory is just not going to cut it.

    1. TimR

      Interesting point that street celebrations and “mere” parties establish a base for political solidarity…

    2. John Jones

      Banger
      What type of positive difference could a billionaire cause
      in your opinion? What are some things he could do?

      1. Banger

        Billionaires have an enormous responsibility in my view of the world. If you have resources you are required to use them and not sit on their wealth or use to feed your narcissism–which, in the end, makes you suffer more than you can imagine.

        At any rate, the advice I have is that such a person open up to his or her intuitive/spiritual side a course that is not easy because it requires humility but not a masochistic humility that comes from submitting to some guru, though it is possible to find true spiritual growth from a guru–it is quite rare and happens by accident not intention.

        There is in all of us a guide or guiding force that brings us to our most natural state, what is called in Zen “the face you had before you were born” or “one point.” This natural spiritual state takes full advantage of our natural need to connect, as modern neuro- and social-science is showing us. To get there might mean spiritual training or just listening quietly or taking a substance like mescaline, magic mushrooms or ayahuasca or fasting or going on a vision quest or taking a motorcycle adventure or living in the wilderness or helping to feed and succor the poor and suffering all around us. I believe we “know” in a deep way what that path is and it may change quite a lot along the way but the best way is just to take one step then the next and not think to much about it, not plot and plan anything just go.

        1. Hugh

          Billionaires are a plague on society. They are a sign of a society’s sickness. Such wealth concentration is out of all proportion to any contributions these individuals have made to society, and lets be real clear, most billionaires made their money through their negative contributions, what they were able to take from and steal from society.

          People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs contributed only a few ideas, but it was the workers and designers who turned them into reality. It was the government which educated them, built the roads and infrastructure, and created the markets they were able to exploit. And it is important to realize that Gates and Jobs’ few good ideas were offset by their creating large monopolistic corporations which took relentless advantage of their workers and consumers.

          To be a billionaire is, by definition, to be reckless and destructive of the common good.

          1. Banger

            I don’t agree. Everyone has a good purpose even the very rich–they just need to find it. Being angry at them will just entrench the in what they already believe–compassion and openness is the only way to melt their hearts. Or, determined organized opposition is also good and not mutually exclusive.

          2. Brooklin Bridge

            I think Hugh is closer to the truth. Billionares are symptomatic of a human disease or perhaps multiple diseases originating from selfishness, greed and lust for power come to mind. Perhaps for the individual there is such a thing as redemption, but as Billionaires they have no more individual or “natural” purpose than a rat carrying the Black Plague.

            1. F. Beard

              Two things I asked of You,
              Do not refuse me before I die:
              Keep deception and lies far from me,
              Give me neither poverty nor riches;
              Feed me with the food that is my portion,
              That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
              Or that I not be in want and steal,
              And profane the name of my God.
              Proverbs 30:7-9 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

              Disclosure: I’m used to being full so I can’t honestly pray not to be except I’d rather not be fat either. But if someone else was in charge of my diet …

            2. Andrew

              Use the capital to try and organize a sustainable cooperative, maybe along the lines of John Lewis in the UK or Mondragon. Or buy a utility company and hand it over in perpetuity to it’s customers.

  8. docg

    I can’t believe he highlighted climate change as a prime example of media indifference, because climate change has garnered a huge amount of media attention for many years now. Everyone in this country is aware of the issue and the majority do see it as a problem that needs to be addressed. The issue over climate change is not so much whether it’s real but how to deal with it in such a way that our economy isn’t destroyed in the process. THAT problem is what’s delaying action, NOT media indifference.

    As I see it, the real issue in this country is class warfare, conducted against the working class (NOT “middle class”) by the ruling elite, and the corruption of our political system by out of control campaign funding, i.e., thinly disguised bribery. This is the sort of thing that’s enraged the crowds in Brazil and this is the sort of thing that should be enraging most Americans. But we hardly ever hear the word “class” in our news media, much less notions such as “nationalization,” “socialism,” “means of production,” “organization,” “unionization,” “boycott,” etc.

    Who in this country is calling for a student boycott of the overpriced colleges and universities, for example, coordinated with a boycott of their phoney “financial assistance” programs (aka sucker loans)? If 50% of all students agreed to cancel their enrollments this fall unless tuition were significantly reduced at their institutions, we would see real change no question and very quickly. But where is such a possibility even being discussed?

    1. Andrew

      There’s no danger to the economy by fixing global warming. In fact it’s the polar opposite, a huge economic boost. The only danger is to reduce the power of entrenched vested interests.

      Obviously the media “education” is not complete.

  9. TimR

    So journalists should decide where “the truth” lies in the latest scientific findings, AND they should make sure it’s in line with what Marty Kaplan decides?

    As lay-people neither journalists nor the public are qualified to evaluate the scientific evidence. Not even many scientists are qualified, given specialization. We have to “trust the experts.” And in a world of corrupt institutions, we have no reason to exempt scientific institutions from our skepticism and suspicion.

    And it’s not just corruption that can contaminate science, especially in a vastly complex field like climate science where (decisive, large-scale) controlled tests can’t be performed. Sociological and historical study shows that science can detour down dead-ends for many decades before correcting course. And that as scientists invest their careers in a given point of view, it may on occasion only advance “one funeral at a time.”

    But it would be nice if journalists would universally decide to advocate Marty Kaplan’s positions I suppose… /s

    Not that I advocate the tepid “equal weight to both sides” practice of much journalism, or the journalism according to ideological bias of Fox/MSNBC. I’d like to see journalists who are critical thinkers, who tear into “experts” of all stripes and don’t take anything at face value. And try to ferret out their funders, their institutional ties, their ideological agendas, careerism, etc.

    1. Patricia

      Ok, but we have some fairly clear indications here, in spite of poor journalism. Do you want to risk all on the slight mayhap that scientific consensus on climate change proves wrong? What if it’s half wrong in a milder direction? Or if it’s half wrong in a more severe direction?

      And when you add obvious environmental degradation outside that caused by the supposed climate shifts, it really is a no brainer that we need to drastically alter our understanding/use of resources, to say nothing of reducing population growth. And that won’t be done until people with bully pulpits take responsibility.

      I agree that we need more journalists such as Yves and Lambert in MSM. Hell, they should be the standard! I agree that laymen can’t be experts at everything or anything, depending. And, yup, academia has corruption in it too, which only deepens everyone’s rampaging suspicions. But climate change is not really the issue on which to make your point.

    2. Banger

      Don’t agree with your view of science. I think educated non-scientists sometimes understand better than scientists some of the research because they give a broader perspective. In the same way, artists and writers, often don’t understand the full meaning of their own works–and those that are honest know this–once the work is done it lives its own life and we may never understand it the way someone else might.

      As a practical matter, a study of linking disciplines like systems theory or philosophy or even mysticism can give insights unavailable to scientists doing the grunt work of research (and it is often grunt work) who are so narrowly focused they miss things often. If science is not readily understandable or explainable to the educated public then either education has failed or it isn’t real science.

      1. Patricia

        I will add here to what I wrote you earlier, Banger. I agree that an intelligent non-scientist can gain an extremely useful broad perspective. But think about how much time/energy you’ve spent on obtaining that broad knowledge. There are not many people with the skill-set to be able to bridge/link and see the large pictures. It takes a particular kind of creative intelligence combined with curiosity and persistence.

        And it’s different from those with a true sense of ethics. That quality is scattered willy-nilly across all types, skill sets, and intellectual abilities.

        A person with this form of intellectual breadth combined with serious ethics is made for times such as these. ;-)

        1. Banger

          Actually it is not that hard to learn, in my view. The main obstacle is that we have to accept the fact we are mainly operating out of unconscious motivations. So “knowing thyself” is essential and it is not necessary to master that sort of knowledge only that you calculate in the limitations of knowledge both internal and external and move on without illusions and with humility. Somehow things become clearer then and ideas and data are less hard to grasp.

          1. Patricia

            You undersell the nature of your abilities, Banger. You can know yourself down to the bottom of your toes, be all yourself to the max, and not do anything more than fall in love with the tree in your front yard, an amazing thing in it’s own right, a perfectly lovely thing to do, a joy for all to see/note. But not what you are assuming can be done.

            At least consider it.

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          First, thank you Patricia for your rants and re-rants. Without trying to repeat your position possibly constructing a strawman through misunderstanding, I believe that I very much agree with you.

          Regarding climate, trying to make heads or tails of much of the Science is problematic given the tendency for scientists to speak in gobbly-gook and then draw equivocal conclusions as if they’re afraid to draw real conclusions that a guy off the street can work with. This abdication by many in the scientific community puts the common man at the mercy of interpreters of the scientific results and opens the debate to those without scrupples, with something to gain from mangling the message, the very people I believe the Moyers video discusses (still haven’t watched it yet — I was very struck and moved by your comments).

          To my mind the melting of the North Pole, which seems to be happening sooner that predicted by our pussy-footing scientists — should make very plain our situation as far as global warming. Whether human caused or not hardly matters (of course it’s plain that it is human caused), if by changing our course we can change the very bad direction of our climate. We should be doing something about our oil and coal use just because it is running out and so much of our culture and industry are built around assuming an endless supply.

          Elliptical to this — I am extremely bothered by the way that the schools my children attended (very excellent public schools by any measure that I could contrive), succeeded in destroying any sort of intellectual curiosity or even mild interest or drive that I hope they might once have possessed. Both of them seem in some strange way damaged.

          1. TimR

            OMG, that’s very sad Jeremy Grimm…

            You might check out John Taylor Gatto’s “The Underground History of American Education” for an explanation, though it’s not a happy book I’m afraid.

          2. Charles LeSeau

            I agree, but science suffers from its own inbuilt humility via the scientific method. Data support conclusions that then have to be checked and rechecked and tested and collated and theorized and etc… Wonderful and honest, really, but this leaves it open to attack as being “wishy washy,” arguable, theoretical (as if it’s a bad thing), or unsure of itself by those – as you said – without scruples.

            R Buckminster Fuller certainly tried his damndest to warn everyone about all manner of potential disasters and the need to treat the planet as the only thing we have (which it is – very much Spaceship Earth), and was summarily ignored.

            And unfortunately, the world’s sociopolitical discussions now center around justifications for almost every type of horrible behavior since time began, with mild warnings of the “might, may, maybe” sort that are as ignored as Bucky was. Even if the science community put their collective foot down in a massive stroke, one has to wonder whether it would do anything to this current lot.

            I can sympathize with your kids too, though maybe for different reasons. The school environment was not what I needed to learn. I needed direct mentoring from experts, peers who only cared about learning, and lots of books books and more books, without all the social experience, position jockeying, and brutal cruelty of kids towards one another that I ended up seeing. It’s amazing to me how brutally the nerdiest kids (those actually trying to learn) in an American school are treated.

          3. Patricia

            Jeremy, I am sorry for your children. I read what you wrote to my daughter and she had this to say: “The information we were given was formulaic, rigid and hugely repetitive. There was no way to examine the way things were, only information about *how* things were. They swamped us with so much work doing all that mundane shit that we couldn’t really discover what we cared about. I never got the time/space to find out what is interesting to me. No one cared about me as a person, what I might like or what parts of a course I’d like to look into more….Plus, everything was so compartmentalized! Nothing flowed together and there was no sense of how the subjects you learned made up the world at large.”

            My daughter said that this is what Chomsky talked about at the lecture she attended this week (paraphrase): “Education is a way to keep the masses unquestioning by limiting the amount/nature of knowledge they receive and putting such high walls around the knowledge that only a few could climb over to anywhere else.”

            She said this book helped her to make sense of her grade school education: “The Night is Dark and I am Far from Home” Jonathan Kozel (Out of print but used copies float around)

            I will add that my daughter went to “good” schools in a wealthy district, with its attendant complacency, plethora of AP classes, sports emphasis, and quiet money-flash. I think because of her social awkwardness and inability to find a comfortable place in the social structure, she was more easily able to shed her dull weariness afterwards. Being forced to learn about the social hypocrisy made her able to more clearly see the contours of her education. (Also good college profs!)

  10. Brooklin Bridge

    Learned helplessness. The benefit of 60+ years of television – a side effect – who would-a-thunk? In fact, however, I suspect the government and more particularly big business started paying attention to the somnualizing phenomenon around the 1960’s when Kennedy won, at least in part, by television “presence” or propaganda savy and both big business and government have been using it ever since to manipulate public opinion.

    In the clip, Mr. Kaplan frequently puts a systemic slant on propaganda as delivered by the media; he paints it somewhat as a side effect of media’s desire to gain market share via dramatic tension, for instance, when it is almost certain that misleading is very intentional and very carefully designed at this point. In the Obama speech on climate change, the intention of the cable news coverage was specifically to diminish any importance Obama might unintentionally give to the reality and direness of climate change and the technique of cutting into his speech with an opposing view, before he had even said anything about climate change, was used identically by Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Megan Kelly of Fox news. The point wasn’t to dramatize tension between opposing views (and thus increase market share), the point was to trivialize climate change, period.

    Kaplan suggests that Brazilians are still “new” to democracy as being the reason they take issues such as an absurd pay hike for a soccer player, or an unfair increase in public transit seriously, whereas we would probably just give a collective yawn. It would be more accurate to say that Brazilians are still faced with life and death poverty and those who have made it into the growing middle class can still remember poverty vividly, but even that comparison to “fat complacent” US Americans is incorrect. We are not allowed to congregate anymore and when we do anyway, the public is kept almost completely unaware of it.

    Subjected to the same degree of manipulation and technological prowess, Brazil or any population would succumb. The European countries certainly have. Look at how France, for instance, is quickly covering up and burying any lasting damage from it’s President acting as Obama’s lap dog by following Obama’s orders to divert a plane from Russia carrying the Bolivian President from over France’s air space simply because it might have had Snowden aboard and thus forcing it to land in Austria. The French media works overtime for a bit, a train crash in Paris, and voila the affair is buried AND public transportation takes a major hit as the Privatization team licks it’s chops.

    1. Banger

      Brazil is a more socialy sophisticated and fun culture than ours. They are “hipper” than we are in the sense of the word as we usually mean it and the sense of actually being looser in the hip when they walk. Just feel it samba beat–very different that the marching patterns of American rock, say.

      Great comment though BB because you deconstruct Kaplan’s notion that the media is just a sort of passive victim of it’s own narrow views on “what sells” and I think this is completely wrong. Yes, they are interested in market share and so on but that’s secondary. Their existence is dependent on government and corporate approval first and foremost. For example, take the recent death of Michael Hasting in a fiery car crash. Where is the reporting on that? Look at the odd facts surrounding the event–what a juicy story that would make even if nothing untoward was found (that never stopped the media before) so why aren’t they feeding on that incident or any number of other stories full of interesting story lines that would attract the attention of the public? Because what Kaplan and, indeed, Moyers and the whole community of the liberal class refuse to face is the systemic nature of the system–the media, in short, is not separate from the government or the finance oligarchs or the energy companies–they are all in one interlocked continuum with deep social and economic/political ties, and yes rivalries. How the system actually works has rarely been examined by those with the tools to analyze it because of the deep denial inherent in what Chris Hedges calls the liberal class and I call American intellectual culture. Gore Vidal gave us glimpses but, alas, he is dead.

      1. Ulysses

        The refusal to examine closely the Hastings case is indeed disturbing. Very few journalists or academics have the courage to risk suffering Hastings’ fate. Violence and intimidation, sadly, works pretty well to suppress curiosity, free expression and dissent. Chris Hedges has the moral failure of the “liberal class” nailed.

      2. Brindle

        In the month or so since the Michael Hastings death I am still curious about the circumstances and facts.

        Does anyone have a good link/article that rationally looks at the facts and and explores possibilities based on facts, not Black Helicopter stuff?

        1. Banger

          No major news organization is touching this and LAPD and all LA agencies refuse to comment and have been told to keep quiet on this matter. The only “legit” station covering this is San Diego News 6 and its reporter Kimberly Dvorak. She as much as says this event could not have happened as described and all but asserts it was a hit. Some perspective and a broadcast of Dvorak’s segment is here: Kimberly Dvorak.

          My own view from the circumstantial evidence and the fact it happened in LA makes me now almost certain it was a hit. My own view is that the security services are not worried about being fairly obvious in their operations because they know that no major news organization would dare cover the story and they have been right so far. You know something is fishy because they aren’t covering it and the facts are pretty obvious. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-07-09/elusive-details-michael-hastings-death

          BTW, this LAPD is the same department that ignored the Coronors Report on how RFK died in 68 and framed Sirhan. RFK was shot from the back and next to point-blank range! I cite this fact often and it is always ignored. My point is that facts speak of massive abuses by the security services national and local in a variety of cases over long stretches of time and yet it is considered “insane” to mention it.

        2. Banger

          Kimberly Dvorak a free-lance journalist is covering the story for channel 6 in San Siego. As far as I know she’s the only journalist anywhere covering the story as it unfolds or fails to unfold.

      3. Brooklin Bridge

        It occurs to me that Kaplan, like a number of journalists and pundits trying to wake people up, may feel his audience isn’t quite ready to hear about media intent, much less media collaboration; that they would think, hyperbolie or (shhh) worse, so he has to tone down the rhetoric a bit. Better to get one point accross – that we are being desensitized – than to be crossed off as a conspiricy nut before he makes any point at all.

        Unfortunately, it has the net result of weakening his argument as you point out Banger.

      4. Brooklin Bridge

        As to your point about the media going for both market share AND carefully designed manipulation, I suspect market share comes in to the picture at a very distant second or third or fourth if at all. Look at the cable news ratings; they are abysmal and just getting worse.

        If the ratings, or market share, had any importance at all, a-n-y, those ratings would have gotten virtually every single pundit and host summarily fired shortly after weapons of mass deception became apparent eight or nine years ago, and if they had somehow managed to slither back in they would have been re-fired time and time again as the numbers have dropping like a rock ever since.

        Tweety bird and Blitzer, for instance, who both have ratings just a little lower than a three weeks dead corpse in a hot humid environment, are proof beyond any conceivable doubt that market share is an utterly meaningless concept to the networks at this point, just as “patriotism” is to our politicians or “justice” is to our prosecutors.

      5. Brooklin Bridge

        Sorry, forgot to give a link to the ratings:
        http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/

        You can go back several days to get additional ratings charts by going to the bottom of each page and clicking on next. It goes backwards in time (which is oddly appropriate in some way I can’t put my finger on). The chart on the linked page actually has Blitzer much higher than usual (he is usually a little below tweety bird) which happens when there is some particular type of event.

  11. John

    Bill Moyers is part of the problem, meekly showing both sides of every issue even if one side is pure criminal and evil and in doing so lending it creedance when it deserves none.

    Stopped watching Bill a while back. He is useless to progress and change.

  12. Paul Tioxon

    http://occupycomics.com/2011/10/06/occupy-comics/

    The Cultural Apparatus of our Capitalism produces political awareness of the ideas and behaviors it approves of. Sometimes in areas of pop culture, there is subversive art that dissents from the rigid consensus of conformity. While high culture may be the preferred medium of cultural transmission and social change, pop culture and public gatherings that are not primarily public assemblies for politics do manage to thrive in areas not immediately apparent as hotbeds of radical political activity.

    Alternative media has always been challenging to operate and a challenge to the status quo, but it still has to pay the bills and at the same time not turn into another commodity for mindless consumption. Due to the death of the great city newspapers across the country, the survivors are experimenting on the internet with content that it previously barely bothered with. Traditional sections such as Local and National News, Business, Sports almost never had a section called Labor or work. But recently, on Philly.com, due once again to another revenue collapse, new local owners had revamped their website to now regularly include LABOR AND UNIONS in their Business section, along with Technology and personal finance sections! Holy Solidarity Building Batman!!

    But of course, this is not a General Strike, and discussions of Media are not supposed to include tactics and strategies of an entirely different category. What it does show, is that in the places where there is some leadership in the media, there can be more news that creates a larger awareness of the presence of organized labor as well telling the story of a larger class of people who may be laboring in isolation from one another, but really have common interests, problems and options to improve their lot in life.

    Bill Moyers is a great example of high minded cultural possibilities with good standards of reporting and validity, but is strictly limited to people whose comfort zone extends to their own higher position on the income stratification totem pole of the USA. Pop music, rock, rap all have had their turns of extreme radical protest with wide influence in opinion shaping. Movies, TV and paperback novels, comics and now the internet carrying all of theses media, have also produced their share of “7 DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD”. What goes almost unnoticed on this site is the rage in other communities that while not physically contiguous with many of us, are easily within reach by youtube. And while much of the cultural offerings are just terrible, bad and even impossible to watch, there always seems to be some socially redeeming value essay that is non apologia in offering an earnest insight into the soul of some seemingly mindless distraction that becomes the habit and total boundary of the possible for the culturally deprived. Yes, I am denigrating Nascar racing, especially their broadcast on network TV, really?

    But while there are more than a few irregular attempts at good art, a watchable movie, an enlightening novel, a moving vocal performance, there can not possibly be a channel of political denouncing and accusation with sole purpose to jail each and every money center banking executive we would like to see boiled in oil. Kennedy had his “GET HOFFA SQUAD”, when will we see the “GET DIMON SQUAD”? Certainly not on CNBC! The ridiculously biased talking heads could not be more timid about reporting the carnage of the financial collapse in the face of the horror of attenuating the size of scope of TBTF banks proposed by the US Senate with Liz Warren’s and John McCain’s Glass-Steagall 2.0 legislation.

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/100883074

    About 30 seconds before Sen Warren appeared on CNBC, she appeared on MSNBC, to a more receptive talking head. Less dismissive, less parroting key bank exec talking points, almost journalistic in actively listening to what the Senator had to say and why she thought it was important for America and not just the investors in banking stocks. She was treated like someone who wasn’t a moron for sticking her busybody nose into the capital markets like clueless politicians with no one to go out to lunch with.

    http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/07/12/elizabeth-warren-get-wall-street-out-of-our-savings-accounts/

    But it is not that hard to understand, again, the superstructure of the social order depends on the economic power to buy consent, to fabricate it and to stymie any associating processes of humanity organizing for itself outside of cash making activities. Here is a more serious study of the CULTURAL APPARATUS that even affected the British Government policies around media holdings in private hands vs public broadcasting. The BBC has more than tradition underpinning its operation.

    Excerpted from this months “MONTHLY REVIEW”

    “Central to the Frankfurt School’s concerns was the relationship of mass culture to politics and social change. Baran read widely and carefully in this area, and it was his passion for the subject that likely was the impetus for the prospective chapter in Monopoly Capital. He approached culture and communication as encompassing art, literature, entertainment, education, media, and the role of intellectuals.21 His main concern was the undermining of affirmative culture, as a necessary form of human development, due to the relentless process of commodification promoted by monopoly capital. As he stated in 1950:

    We have to understand the ideologically overpowering impact of bourgeois, fetishistic consciousness on the broad masses of the working population…. The heart-breaking emptiness and cynicism of the commercial, competitive, capitalist culture. The systematic cultivation of devastatingly neurotic reactions to most social phenomena (through the movies, the “funnies,” etc.). The effective destruction in schools, churches, press, everywhere, of everything that smacks of solidarity in the consciousness of the man in the street. And finally, the utterly paralyzing feeling of solitude which must overcome any one who does not want to conform, the feeling that there is no movement, no camp, no group to which one can turn.22

    In Baran’s view, commodified culture comes to play a preeminent role under monopoly capitalism. The overarching critique is of the massive and growing gap between the actual quality of culture in the United States and what the society is capable of producing. This gap is both cause and effect of the absurdity of monopoly capitalism and evidence of its increasing destructiveness. It is a political-economic critique because it assesses the cause of the gap as being the capitalist nature of society and, more specifically, the capitalist nature of the “cultural apparatus.” Baran and Sweezy took seriously the close examination of the structures of media and communication industries.”

    http://monthlyreview.org/2013/07/01/the-cultural-apparatus-of-monopoly-capital

  13. Paul Tioxon

    http://occupycomics.com/2011/10/06/occupy-comics/

    The Cultural Apparatus of our Capitalism produces political awareness of the ideas and behaviors it approves of. Sometimes in areas of pop culture, there is subversive art that dissents from the rigid consensus of conformity. While high culture may be the preferred medium of cultural transmission and social change, pop culture and public gatherings that are not primarily public assemblies for politics do manage to thrive in areas not immediately apparent as hotbeds of radical political activity.

    Alternative media has always been challenging to operate and a challenge to the status quo, but it still has to pay the bills and at the same time not turn into another commodity for mindless consumption. Due to the death of the great city newspapers across the country, the survivors are experimenting on the internet with content that it previously barely bothered with. Traditional sections such as Local and National News, Business, Sports almost never had a section called Labor or work. But recently, on Philly.com, due once again to another revenue collapse, new local owners had revamped their website to now regularly include LABOR AND UNIONS in their Business section, along with Technology and personal finance sections! Holy Solidarity Building Batman!!

    http://occupycomics.com/2011/10/06/occupy-comics/

    But of course, this is not a General Strike, and discussions of Media are not supposed to include tactics and strategies of an entirely different category. What it does show, is that in the places where there is some leadership in the media, there can be more news that creates a larger awareness of the presence of organized labor as well telling the story of a larger class of people who may be laboring in isolation from one another, but really have common interests, problems and options to improve their lot in life.

    Bill Moyers is a great example of high minded cultural possibilities with good standards of reporting and validity, but is strictly limited to people whose comfort zone extends to their own higher position on the income stratification totem pole of the USA. Pop music, rock, rap all have had their turns of extreme radical protest with wide influence in opinion shaping. Movies, TV and paperback novels, comics and now the internet carrying all of theses media, have also produced their share of “7 DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD”. What goes almost unnoticed on this site is the rage in other communities that while not physically contiguous with many of us, are easily within reach by youtube. And while much of the cultural offerings are just terrible, bad and even impossible to watch, there always seems to be some socially redeeming value essay that is non apologia in offering an earnest insight into the soul of some seemingly mindless distraction that becomes the habit and total boundary of the possible for the culturally deprived. Yes, I am denigrating Nascar racing, especially their broadcast on network TV, really?

    But while there are more than a few irregular attempts at good art, a watchable movie, an enlightening novel, a moving vocal performance, there can not possibly be a channel of political denouncing and accusation with sole purpose to jail each and every money center banking executive we would like to see boiled in oil. Kennedy had his “GET HOFFA SQUAD”, when will we see the “GET DIMON SQUAD”? Certainly not on CNBC! The ridiculously biased talking heads could not be more timid about reporting the carnage of the financial collapse in the face of the horror of attenuating the size of scope of TBTF banks proposed by the US Senate with Liz Warren’s and John McCain’s Glass-Steagall 2.0 legislation.

    About 30 seconds before Sen Warren appeared on CNBC, she appeared on MSNBC, to a more receptive talking head. Less dismissive, less parroting key bank exec talking points, almost journalistic in actively listening to what the Senator had to say and why she thought it was important for America and not just the investors in banking stocks. She was treated like someone who wasn’t a moron for sticking her busybody nose into the capital markets like clueless politicians with no one to go out to lunch with.

    But it is not that hard to understand, again, the superstructure of the social order depends on the economic power to buy consent, to fabricate it and to stymie any associating processes of humanity organizing for itself outside of cash making activities. Here is a more serious study of the CULTURAL APPARATUS that even affected the British Government policies around media holdings in private hands vs public broadcasting. The BBC has more than tradition underpinning its operation.

    Excerpted from this months “MONTHLY REVIEW”

    “Central to the Frankfurt School’s concerns was the relationship of mass culture to politics and social change. Baran read widely and carefully in this area, and it was his passion for the subject that likely was the impetus for the prospective chapter in Monopoly Capital. He approached culture and communication as encompassing art, literature, entertainment, education, media, and the role of intellectuals.21 His main concern was the undermining of affirmative culture, as a necessary form of human development, due to the relentless process of commodification promoted by monopoly capital. As he stated in 1950:

    We have to understand the ideologically overpowering impact of bourgeois, fetishistic consciousness on the broad masses of the working population…. The heart-breaking emptiness and cynicism of the commercial, competitive, capitalist culture. The systematic cultivation of devastatingly neurotic reactions to most social phenomena (through the movies, the “funnies,” etc.). The effective destruction in schools, churches, press, everywhere, of everything that smacks of solidarity in the consciousness of the man in the street. And finally, the utterly paralyzing feeling of solitude which must overcome any one who does not want to conform, the feeling that there is no movement, no camp, no group to which one can turn.22

    In Baran’s view, commodified culture comes to play a preeminent role under monopoly capitalism. The overarching critique is of the massive and growing gap between the actual quality of culture in the United States and what the society is capable of producing. This gap is both cause and effect of the absurdity of monopoly capitalism and evidence of its increasing destructiveness. It is a political-economic critique because it assesses the cause of the gap as being the capitalist nature of society and, more specifically, the capitalist nature of the “cultural apparatus.” Baran and Sweezy took seriously the close examination of the structures of media and communication industries.”

    http://monthlyreview.org/2013/07/01/the-cultural-apparatus-of-monopoly-capital

  14. Paul Tioxon

    The Cultural Apparatus of our Capitalism produces political awareness of the ideas and behaviors it approves of. Sometimes in areas of pop culture, there is subversive art that dissents from the rigid consensus of conformity. While high culture may be the preferred medium of cultural transmission and social change, pop culture and public gatherings that are not primarily public assemblies for politics do manage to thrive in areas not immediately apparent as hotbeds of radical political activity.

    Alternative media has always been challenging to operate and a challenge to the status quo, but it still has to pay the bills and at the same time not turn into another commodity for mindless consumption. Due to the death of the great city newspapers across the country, the survivors are experimenting on the internet with content that it previously barely bothered with. Traditional sections such as Local and National News, Business, Sports almost never had a section called Labor or work. But recently, on Philly.com, due once again to another revenue collapse, new local owners had revamped their website to now regularly include LABOR AND UNIONS in their Business section, along with Technology and personal finance sections! Holy Solidarity Building Batman!!

    http://occupycomics.com/2011/10/06/occupy-comics/

    But of course, this is not a General Strike, and discussions of Media are not supposed to include tactics and strategies of an entirely different category. What it does show, is that in the places where there is some leadership in the media, there can be more news that creates a larger awareness of the presence of organized labor as well telling the story of a larger class of people who may be laboring in isolation from one another, but really have common interests, problems and options to improve their lot in life.

    Bill Moyers is a great example of high minded cultural possibilities with good standards of reporting and validity, but is strictly limited to people whose comfort zone extends to their own higher position on the income stratification totem pole of the USA. Pop music, rock, rap all have had their turns of extreme radical protest with wide influence in opinion shaping. Movies, TV and paperback novels, comics and now the internet carrying all of theses media, have also produced their share of “7 DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD”. What goes almost unnoticed on this site is the rage in other communities that while not physically contiguous with many of us, are easily within reach by youtube. And while much of the cultural offerings are just terrible, bad and even impossible to watch, there always seems to be some socially redeeming value essay that is non apologia in offering an earnest insight into the soul of some seemingly mindless distraction that becomes the habit and total boundary of the possible for the culturally deprived. Yes, I am denigrating Nascar racing, especially their broadcast on network TV, really?

    But while there are more than a few irregular attempts at good art, a watchable movie, an enlightening novel, a moving vocal performance, there can not possibly be a channel of political denouncing and accusation with sole purpose to jail each and every money center banking executive we would like to see boiled in oil. Kennedy had his “GET HOFFA SQUAD”, when will we see the “GET DIMON SQUAD”? Certainly not on CNBC! The ridiculously biased talking heads could not be more timid about reporting the carnage of the financial collapse in the face of the horror of attenuating the size of scope of TBTF banks proposed by the US Senate with Liz Warren’s and John McCain’s Glass-Steagall 2.0 legislation.

    About 30 seconds before Sen Warren appeared on CNBC, she appeared on MSNBC, to a more receptive talking head. Less dismissive, less parroting key bank exec talking points, almost journalistic in actively listening to what the Senator had to say and why she thought it was important for America and not just the investors in banking stocks. She was treated like someone who wasn’t a moron for sticking her busybody nose into the capital markets like clueless politicians with no one to go out to lunch with.

    But it is not that hard to understand, again, the superstructure of the social order depends on the economic power to buy consent, to fabricate it and to stymie any associating processes of humanity organizing for itself outside of cash making activities. Here is a more serious study of the CULTURAL APPARATUS that even affected the British Government policies around media holdings in private hands vs public broadcasting. The BBC has more than tradition underpinning its operation.

    Excerpted from this months “MONTHLY REVIEW”

    “Central to the Frankfurt School’s concerns was the relationship of mass culture to politics and social change. Baran read widely and carefully in this area, and it was his passion for the subject that likely was the impetus for the prospective chapter in Monopoly Capital. He approached culture and communication as encompassing art, literature, entertainment, education, media, and the role of intellectuals.21 His main concern was the undermining of affirmative culture, as a necessary form of human development, due to the relentless process of commodification promoted by monopoly capital. As he stated in 1950:

    We have to understand the ideologically overpowering impact of bourgeois, fetishistic consciousness on the broad masses of the working population…. The heart-breaking emptiness and cynicism of the commercial, competitive, capitalist culture. The systematic cultivation of devastatingly neurotic reactions to most social phenomena (through the movies, the “funnies,” etc.). The effective destruction in schools, churches, press, everywhere, of everything that smacks of solidarity in the consciousness of the man in the street. And finally, the utterly paralyzing feeling of solitude which must overcome any one who does not want to conform, the feeling that there is no movement, no camp, no group to which one can turn.22

    In Baran’s view, commodified culture comes to play a preeminent role under monopoly capitalism. The overarching critique is of the massive and growing gap between the actual quality of culture in the United States and what the society is capable of producing. This gap is both cause and effect of the absurdity of monopoly capitalism and evidence of its increasing destructiveness. It is a political-economic critique because it assesses the cause of the gap as being the capitalist nature of society and, more specifically, the capitalist nature of the “cultural apparatus.” Baran and Sweezy took seriously the close examination of the structures of media and communication industries.”

    http://monthlyreview.org

  15. Hugh

    The mass media and most of the blogosphere are a propaganda apparatus controlled by the rich and elites. They are staffed by eager propagandists and Upton Sinclair people who don’t understand what they are paid not to understand.

    It is not just about what they choose to cover or not cover. It is how they choose to cover what they do cover. In the Snowden affair, they dutifully follow the White House lead and make it all about Snowden. They barely cover the programs Snowden is leaking information about. They assiduously avoid delving into the deeper issues of their unConstitutionality, Presidential power and its imperial unilateral nature, the surveillance state and whom it is really directed against, and the complicity/active participation of all three branches of government in fostering this state.

    Now I am sure someone can point out a story or an editorial somewhere that touches on one or some of these points, but we are talking about one or two instances lost in a sea of reports that obsequiously follow the standard narrative on the Snowden affair. The point is these issues should be an integral part, if not the center, of the discussion. Instead they are relegated, with they are mentioned at all, to the periphery of a periphery.

    The other line I come across is that the media can not report on old news. But of course since the media have not reported on the fundamental questions Snowden’s disclosures raise, this is not old reporting. At the same time, anyone who has run into the reporting on stories like the Trayvon Martin trial or the Asiana plane crash knows that the media are quite willing to repeat, rehash, and endlessly speculate on every detail no matter how old it is.

    In a kleptocracy all public institutions are taken over and their elites coopted into the service of the kleptocrats. The media are no different. Modern journalism is nothing more than an instrument of class war. Its purpose is to distract attention away from the looters and their crimes and to confuse the general populace and set it against itself.

    1. allcoppedout

      Most can’t take the critical eye or voice Hugh and the elite have made it profane. What we have in practice is socially approved epistemic authority that places extreme restrictions on free speech through ‘manners’. There’s a long thread from Socrates declaring the unexamined life worthless, through Bacon’s Idols (ignore scholasticism, parental and clan traditions, marketplace gossip), Cartesian evaluation, Nietzschean re-evaluation, Wittgenstein’s concern that soaked-up language (even in philosophy) has bewitched us and needs massive re-grouping and all science – all of it declaring and hostile to mass ignorance.

      Mass ignorance is the major weapon we face and it is installed in “democracy”. To declare it is to declare most people as incompetent (we are in many ways and skill ourselves in it) – an unmannered and impolite signal in face work.

      We have not worked out how to deal differently with this.

  16. robnume

    The United Stasi of Amerika has a justice system? I don’t think so, judging the recent SCROTUS decisions. Lights out, Guerilla Radio, turn that shit up!!

  17. allcoppedout

    “The eternal problem for human societies being how to take advantage of above average or unusual skills of members of their societies without our surrendering so much power to these individuals they can abuse it”.

    You got that right Schofield.

    US academics are now more bolshie than in the UK but still basically enfeebled. Most write and teach in supplication, feeding at the Establishment zoo. Media heads are even more inclined to this. Our classrooms teach subservient behaviour, crushing rebellion and chanelling expression into mannered conformity. Students constantly seek to know what the tutors want them to express, the party line of the module. We exercise power very badly in this respect. I’ve even had an external try to fail and excellent use of Gramsci and Foucault because he ended saying ‘hegemony explains everything, but what fucking use is that in the face of telling truth to power’?

    That particular student had demonstrated the Jarrow hunger march had received headline coverage in order to conceal other demonstrations much closer to insurrection, related human resource management to de Sade’s Justine and Foucault’s take on the panoptican – all in an essay on bias in image management.

    There’s a brilliant US film called ‘Beer’ contrasting truth with what gets printed and an excellent short ‘Crackerjack’. Recent research at Cardiff demonstrates massive City bias in BBC reporting on finance. But we knew all this back in the 60s – a book called ‘The Art of Persuasion’ is an example.

    The Nazis are always the masters of propaganda, or the Soviets – yet the world leader is surely Anglo-American. The neo-liberal muck would have us believe that productive work with all the cost pressures put on wages and conditions is reliant on the vast profligacy of finance and alpha creating genius. That ‘alpha’ loses out to a blind darts player throwing at listed shares and market averages … well we know the story.

    Or is it even bleaker and this “finance” organises wars, murders and plunder as surely as a post-Armada joint stock venture sailing off to plunder Spain, Hitler a creation of Anglo-American strategy to let Germany and the USSR exhaust each other (Preperata’s ‘Conjuring Hitler’)? How deep does the depravity go? What horrible truth might we be distracted from?

    The quote from Schofield could be about our control of the above average or unusually skilled – but there is also the chance such people are merely exploited by a shadow controlling group we have no power over in our captured democracies. I can wear Einstein and Soddy as above average, but banksters, media heads, sports stars and idle rich I think not.

    ‘Crackerjack’ seems like a B documentary of ‘On the Town’. This is the story told, but what you see is a sailor in a jerk-off booth who has just dropped his coin into the last customer’s ejaculate, the lovely girl he imagines his girlfriend from Des Moines turning tricks … the American dream only believable when you are tranced and not able to see reality.

    What could we do if we could cut our current affairs and news programmes with real-time critique?

  18. Mario Panzerio

    This article made me recall why I bother writing on blogs and occasionally teaching youngster how not to be shafted.

    Many years ago I was used to write on a local newspaper every now and then. Once I met an enterpreneur owning a small 5-10 employee company, like many others, who happened to connect a picture of mine with an article I wrote.

    He asked me “Hey, do I know you? Aren’t you the huy who writes on that paper?”

    “Yes, I am”, I said mildly flattered for being recognized in a public place.

    “I read you every time I get your paper. An excellent one! I never miss one!”

    “Thank you”, I said almost giggling, “Which article did you like the most?” I asked.

    “Like? I like none of them, I loathe them all.”

    I was quite taken by that unexpected comment and didn’t know how exactly to reply.

    “See, it’s not about you personally, it’s clear to me you are intelligent. It’s what your paper is about. It’s a perfect example of how NOT to write a newspaper, but I admire your being so consistenly bad, it takes some kind of skill!”.

    “So may I ask you sir”, I inquired, “what do you expect from our newspaper? It’s clear to me that you are a reader, yet you hate it nonetheless.”

    “Oh, it’s easy, let me give you some clues. You should be writing what people want to read, that is, nice stories. You all are always talking about bad things happening, unemployment, problems and whatnot. People don’t want to hear that, that will hurt your circulation.”

    “So all we should do is writing stories about, for instance, kittens saved by a firemen? Elderly lady helped by nice young boy?”, I asked.

    “Exactly!”

    “And who would give our readers information about more relevant or complex events?” I inquired.

    “See it’s none of your concern, don’t worry about it. You know what people actually do? When they read something they don’t understand they ask experts. For instance, my employees know that I am always right, so any opinion I have on some issuee, they just hear from me and that’s perfectly fine with them.”

    “Is it?” I said.

    “Absolutely. So thanks for your time, see you soon, take my advice, write about nice things!”.

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