Guest Post: Herding the Sheep

By George Washington of Washington’s Blog.

Financial insider and commentator Yves Smith wrote an essay last week entitled “MSM Reporting as Propaganda” arguing that the government has been using propaganda to make people think that things are getting better, no one is angry, and – therefore – no one should get upset:

The message, quite overtly, is: if you are pissed, you are in a minority. The country has moved on. Things are getting better, get with the program

Per the social psychology research, this “you are in a minority, you are wrong” message DOES dissuade a lot of people. It is remarkably poisonous. And it discourages people from taking concrete action.

Is Smith right? And even if she is, isn’t “propaganda” too strong a word?

Think Positive

Sure, William K. Black – professor of economics and law, and the senior regulator during the S & L crisis – says that that the government’s entire strategy now – as during the S&L crisis – is to cover up how bad things are (“the entire strategy is to keep people from getting the facts”).

Admittedly, 7 out of the 8 giant, money center banks went bankrupt in the 1980’s during the “Latin American Crisis”, and the government’s response was to cover up their insolvency.

It’s true that Business Week wrote on May 23, 2006:

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations.

I can’t deny that the Tarp Inspector General said that Paulson and Bernanke falsely stated that the big banks receiving Tarp money were healthy, when they were not.

Okay, the government and Wall Street have traditionally tried to dispense happy talk when there is an economic crash, and Arianna Huffington recently pointed out:

There is something in the current DC/NY culture that equates a lack of unthinking boosterism with a lack of patriotism. As if not being drunk on the latest Dow gains is somehow un-American.

And I’ll give you that a recent Pew Research Center study on the coverage of the crisis found that the media has largely parroted what the White House and Wall Street were saying.

But that’s not propaganda . . . its just positive thinking, right?

The Other Guy

And the whole word propaganda is a Nazi, communist kind of thing which has no place in the same sentence as America. Right?

Granted, famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists.

And sure, the New York Times discusses in a matter-of-fact way the use of mainstream writers by the CIA to spread messages.

True, a 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques (but the BBC isn’t American, so it doesn’t count).

True, the Independent discusses allegations of American propaganda (but that’s a British paper, doesn’t count).

And (ho hum) one of the premier writers on journalism says the U.S. has used widespread propaganda.

And (are we still talking about this?) an expert on propaganda testified under oath during trial that the CIA employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations (the expert has an impressive background).

And (I can’t believe we’re still talking about this) while the U.S. government has repeatedly claimed that it was launching propaganda programs solely at foreign enemies, it has actually used them against American citizens. For example:

  • Raw Story confirmed yesterday the use of propaganda on Americans
  • As revealed by an official Pentagon report signed by Rumsfeld called “Information Operations Roadmap”:

The roadmap [contains an] acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.”Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience,” it reads.

“Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,” it goes on.***

“Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system”.

And (when’s the next episode of American Idol on?) CENTCOM announced in 2008 that a team of employees would be “[engaging] bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information.”

And (who do you think will win the playoffs?) the Air Force is also engaging bloggers. Indeed, an Air Force spokesman said:

“We obviously have many more concerns regarding cyberspace than a typical Social Media user,” Capt. Faggard says. “I am concerned with how insurgents or potential enemies can use Social Media to their advantage. It’s our role to provide a clear and accurate, completely truthful and transparent picture for any audience.”

And (did you see that crazy photo?) it is well known that certain governments use software to automatically vote stories questioning their interests down and to send letters favorable to their view to politicians and media (see – as just one example – this, this, this, this and this). The U.S. government is very large and well-funded, and could substantially influence voting on social news sites with very little effort, if it wished.

The Bottom Line

Yeah yeah, people say this or that, whatever, I’m too busy to think about it.

Even if true, propaganda is too strong a word for attempts to convince people that important issues are boring, that no one else is angry about them, and that everything is normal.

Perhaps “herding the wayward sheep” would be better . . .

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  1. i on the ball patriot

    “Even if true, propaganda is too strong a word for attempts to convince people that important issues are boring, that no one else is angry about them, and that everything is normal.

    Perhaps “herding the wayward sheep” would be better . . .”

    How about … Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    1. Steve2241

      patriot, you need to do a NC post on:

      … Deception is the strongest political force on the planet

      I, for one, am not quite clear on the extent and nature of the deception.

      1. Dan Duncan

        The “Deception” is Polarization by Button Pushing.

        Both Yves and George miss the point that there was a “regime change” last Nov.

        Curious, isn’t is that last summer it was the Right via McCain that insisted the “fundamentals of the economy are strong”? And the Right-Leaning minions followed suit. They listened to the Media (ie FOX, WSJ) that supported this view because they felt it was supportive of their candidate. “Shoot, things aren’t so bad! We believe in American Dynamism!”

        And the Left? Apoplectic.

        Now comes Obama…

        6 months into office, and it gets a little stale to just say it’s all Bush’s fault. Economic performance now begins to reflect on the Dems, and what do we have?

        Now, its Tea Parties and apoplexy on the Right…., while those on the “traditional” Left have grown more sanguine.

        We all know things in the economy haven’t really changed. We all know it’s window dressing. Yet, we have a shifting landscape of optimism and rage between the Left and the Right.

        And herein lies the Deception: As long as Left Middle and Right Middle are blinded by hate of each other, it doesn’t matter what our government does. Our government “governs” by fostering the hate. Our media garners ratings by fostering the hate.

        And both foster the hate through a perverse form of anti-governing and anti-reporting. They simply button push.

        If you believe that blatant pandering and button pushing is nothing but a calculated, controlled and refined form of deception….

        Therein lies the strongest political force referred to by “i on the ball patriot” as he hits it out of the park.

        [Hence the feelings of betrayal by Progressives. Progressives, by and large, haven’t bought the Dem Party Line. And the fact that there is much more overlap now between Progressives and the rage of the Tea Party Protesters only serves to enrage the Progressives even more. Progressives face the Hobson’s choice of aligning with the propaganda of Obama/NBC/CNN/ABC or the “vapidity” of the Right/Fox.

        Many respond to this ideological conundrum regurgitating spoon fed soundbites with petulance : “Fox News is evil! Larry Summers is scum!”

        And they wait for the keeping of promises they know won’t be kept…and they are left with the worst kind of rage…impotent rage…

        Progressives are to Obama’s first 6 months what the over-weight middle-aged man Wall Street Exec is to
        a night on the town with a stripper and a vial of coke….

        She’s back at his room now, and definitely frisky after dusting her sinus cavity.

        Only, he’s experiencing the Law of Diminishing Returns as his next snort brings not an endorphin rush, but an endorphin trickle….

        And through the hedonistic haze after a hours of telling his line-sniffing siren with the excessively long pinky nail—“Yes, we can!”…it dawns on him:

        Nothing is happening down there!

        “Rise-up!”, he commands.

        But, as he suspected all along…this now limp governing member has a mind of its own…And instead of crickets, all he hears is the slight trace of another one of her satisfied sniffles….

        “I got the babe. I got the coke. And nothing’s happening. WTF!!”

        Well…at least you got health care. At least on this issue, you don’t have to swallow the business as usual optimism of Summers/Geithner.

        Good luck with all that.]

        1. i on the ball patriot

          Dan Duncan, thanks, yes, good summary of the greater scamerican deception and how we are being pitted one against the other in a contrived perpetual conflict … not to worry … the progressives and all of the other lions are waking from their slumber … soon it will be feeding time … that distant rumble you hear is the trembling of the ruling elite …

          Steve, I am putting together a web site that addresses the extent and nature of deception and perception as the key evolutionary shaping forces … time my friend …

        2. Anonymous Jones

          Dan – I liked most of your rambling comment. It has a small nugget of intelligence. Nevertheless…

          1. Who exactly is (or was) “apoplectic?” The “Left?” It’s not just that this idea is totally interjected without substantiation. It’s also that the term “Left” is so ambiguous as to be without meaning in this context. You should think about this.

          2. “Many respond to this ideological conundrum regurgitating spoon fed soundbites with petulance.” Sorry, but I don’t know of many other posters on this site to which this would apply better than it applies to you. Your comments are not totally without merit, but two of the first words that come into my mind after reading them are “soundbites” and “petulance.” You should think about this.

          3. “Impotent rage.” Do you realize that you responded to a post about “propaganda” with a comment in which you decried “button pushing” and then went on to compare “progressives” to limp-dicked scumbags? Does this not strike you as somewhat hypocritical? You should think about this.

          There are people out there who are neither Democrat nor Republican, neither on the “Left” nor the “Right,” neither always “progressive” nor always “conservative.” I call these people “thinkers.” Your comment, by and large, does a disservice to those people.

  2. Yakkis

    As unlikely as it seems, how do we know that this blog is not funded by the CIA.
    You might say “Hey this blog post proves it.”…but maybe that’s what they want you to think…

  3. Yakkis

    In fact, you can find job postings in student newspapers for students to earn extra money by posting partisan stuff on blogs like these.
    Given that there are students with these jobs posting comments like crazy to try to pay off their student loans, how do you know that my comments are not being paid for by the word or words or whathaveyou trying to make this sentence a little longer to get a few more cents, god those guys are cheap!

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Who you trust, and what your beliefs are, is a function of your perception. Perception is the balancing force of deception. Your ability to perceive is a function of your genetically wired intelligence potential and the sum total of your life’s experiences, i.e. you are what you’ve been through. That is why propaganda is so powerful. It shapes your life’s experiences.

      But now and the future are up to you. That is why it is so important to constantly question what you have been through and what you are going through.

      This blog is what you make of it.

      When intentionally created divisiveness (like the intentionally created derivative problems), becomes all pervasive, trust completely breaks down and there is no good resolution possible.

      The result is perpetual conflict. That is where we are headed.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    2. EmilianoZ

      Yakkis: “In fact, you can find job postings in student newspapers for students to earn extra money by posting partisan stuff on blogs like these.”

      That’s pretty funny. I thought only the Chinese resorted to that kind of tactics (the “50 Cent Army”).

      1. mad professor

        ever hear of the term “obamabots”? contrary to the popular use of the term, these do not describe people who are motivated to post umpteen times a day simply by their unrelenting passionate support of then-candidate, now-fearless leader.

        1. EmilianoZ

          I googled and found 2 definitions of “obamabots”:

          1)”A person who supports Obama and is willing to vote for him but doesn’t know a thing about him.”

          2)”Internet user paid to post pro-Obama articles in newsgroups, forums, and viral e-mails. Often hired by Soros funded groups. Obamabots proliferated throughout the campaign, and are back again to tout healthcare reform. See ads in craigslist for obamabots.”

          How can you tell that a post was written by a paid person? If you like a comment, find the logic solid, the arguments convincing, the style sharp, does it matter that it was posted by a mercenary?

  4. Michael

    Oh please. Call it what it is and cut the bs. It is propaganda plain and simple. This is the sort of tarting up of language used to hide the truth.

    Then again the whole nation’s psyche is based on propaganda to start with. As it is pretty much with any other country.

  5. sangellone

    The MSM is fast becoming irrelevant so I wouldn’t worry too much about what they do or don’t do for like that old comment
    about the USSR’s house organs “There is no news in Izvestia or Truth in Pravda” serious people don’t take too seriously the editorial views on their front pages anymore. Same could be said for the US cast of CNBC.

    By the same token I doubt many people put much faith in the BLS official unemployment rate but pay much closer attention to reports of actual layoffs. For example, the most commented on story in my local paper today was the news that International Paper was closing a plant that employed 1100 people. No Kudlow bombast or White House spin is going to take the sting out of or remove the apprehension
    such real world news creates.

    What is more troubling for people like me is the difficulty in piercing the fog surrounding our major banks. I confess this derivatives business is unfathomable to me yet it seems to be basis for the health or lack thereof of our financial goliaths. Just what in the hell are profits from hedging on your mortgage servicing rights or booking a profit because your debt has declined in value. This is Zen accounting, the sound of one hand clapping, yet it is all the public is allowed to know of the real condition of the most important economic institutions in our lives. That this sort of inchoate information system is allowed to persist to the point where a ‘respected’ bank analyst can have two different opinions about one bank on the same day makes one believe we have entered the Twilight Zone.

    1. sarf

      “Serious people” (whomever they are) are in a minority.

      Really Serious People are who we say they are, and no backtalk from you, mister, or it’s the tazer for ya.

      Real world news? Sure, a local story carries higher impact than one from far away (say, for instance, the capital of your nation), but the impact of decision elsewhere can be far higher. People will grumble and scrimp and talk about “turning the rascals out” but will not become more interested in politics.

      If you believe that you are in a minority, and if you believe that being in a minority is the reason you are powerless, you are powerless. Do note that being powerless does have one powerful advantage – you are not responsible for anything.

      I do, however, think that the common people are underestimated, if not in the Enlightenment way – I believe that when the situation will become known as catastrophic, the common people will demand scapegoats and will perform the old rituals of human sacrifice – perhaps at the altar of justice, at the end of a rope on a lamp post or perhaps at the targeting reticule of a Predator drone.

      The capacity for violence, destruction and wilful ignorance in the common people is what is being underestimated by the current Masters of the Universe, and they are forgetting that they do live on the same planet with those people.

    2. jake chase

      The OTC derivatives business is key to the entire charade. It is the ultimate source of instability, the reason the DOW isn’t going to 36000, the reason the system is hostage to the next accounting fraud, ponzi scheme, currency bet, interest rate hike. Only by regulating and taxing and accounting for OTC derivatives can the economy be restored to health.

      For all its faults, the system was relatively stable (at least in America) before the explosive growth of OTC derivative contracts. These have made a mockery of accounting rules, tax rules, regulatory rules. They have enabled executive theft through stock options grants and accounting manipulation of stock prices; they are the source of the huge banker bonuses over which the public endlessly obsesses. Taxing and shining light on OTC derivatives wouldn’t create a perfect society but it just might save us from a complete collapse and an end to any kind of economic and political freedom.

      A tax of 2% on $600 trillion derivative contracts would produce $12 trillion, roughly equal to the principal of our National Debt. Disclosure of derivative bets would make most of them useless for evading tax and regulatory laws. The only reason not to tax and register derivatives is to continue enabling banker fraud. details proposed legislation.

  6. kwark

    Ok, so Yves Smith slings-about the word propaganda too freely. That’s an awfully long post for that riveting conclusion. I feel SO much better with the notion that our government is ONLY systematically deceiving us but hasn’t crossed the line into propagandizing. But I do wonder . . . how would we know when the propaganda-line is crossed? And would it matter since they already systematically deceive?

    1. cougar_w

      From Wikiedia “Propaganda is communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.”

      Deception is lies, and is a subset of propaganda. They tell lies to influence your attitude by depriving you of information you would need to make an informed choice. So you chose, but you chose wrong, and would have chosen differently had you known the truth.

      Propaganda tells you only what they want you to hear. It is not false as such, it is simply incomplete. As a practical matter, government tells fewer outright lies than it simply does not say the truth. Lies by omission, if you like.

      This avoids the taint of perjury, and provides an out; We never said that.

      True, they didn’t say it. They just didn’t say anything important. They left you to imagine what you might, then did what they really intended, and were always ready to say “but we never said that.”

      It is subtle, but it is important. It is propaganda because it is intended to change your mind so they can do as they like and not deal with public opinion.


  7. don

    What, missed the classic inquiry into the use of propaganda to enforce societal consent: /Conclusions_ManufacConsent.html

    “We do not accept the view that freedom of expression must be defended in instrumental terms, by virtue of its contribution to some higher good; rather, it is a value in itself. But that apart, these ringing declarations express valid aspirations, and beyond that, they surely express the self-image of the American media. Our concern in this book has been to inquire into the relation between this image and the reality. In contrast to the standard conception of the media as cantankerous obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and their independence of authority, we have spelled out and applied a propaganda model that indeed sees the media as serving a societal purpose, not that of enabling the public to assert meaningful control over the political process by providing them with the information needed for the intelligent discharge of political responsibilities. On the contrary, a propaganda model suggests that the “societal purpose” of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state.”

  8. Hugh

    We have had this debate going for a long time in other parts of the blogosphere. It isn’t just government that puts out propaganda. It’s the media. I have said of the MSM for a long time now that it is a mix of propaganda and infotainment. George Bush was the worst President in our history although Obama is trying to give him competition. Yet the media missed that story and did so for 8 very long years. There were literally hundreds of impeachment worthy stories that could have been investigated that received scant attention before sinking into oblivion. I know. I chronicled many of them on the web. Even a story like Risen and Lichtblau’s on domestic spying was held by the NYT for over a year and only published because Risen was writing a book on it. Or if a story is covered it is not the substance but the atmospherics that form the central storyline. The aim there is to smear, distort, distract.

    What I am getting at here is that there are not any sharp lines between where manipulation by government ends and that by the media begins. Yves calls our form of government a corpocracy. She’s right. There really isn’t any difference between our elites in government, the media, or business. The Conventional Wisdom of one is the Conventional Wisdom of all. All participate in the creation and propagation of the narratives that become Conventional Wisdom. Yes, there are disagreements and dissents but most of these are as real as plastic jewelry, shiny objects meant to misdirect our attention. The current healthcare debate is a wonderful illustration. Teabaggers and death panels were only a small part of it, a little lowbrow amusement. The real story was that the great healthcare debate was not a debate and not about healthcare. It was about the forced extention of corporate monopolies. Real healthcare solutions like single payer that had a track record of producing better outcomes at lower costs weren’t even considered. Obama implied that it was unAmerican and declared it would be disruptive, which is actually kind of funny when you consider how disruptive the current (and proposed) out-of-control American corporate system is. But in spite of this we have this debate and all these sides, all this process and all this media coverage. And what is it all? It is propaganda. You can apply this to any issue, any debate, the economy, the wars, the bailouts. Our news media don’t filter propaganda out. They filter it in. The only place left for real and honest analysis is the internet, and even there it is caveat lector.

    1. DownSouth

      Excellent comment, Hugh.

      This part I found especially intriguing:

      Yes, there are disagreements and dissents but most of these are as real as plastic jewelry, shiny objects meant to misdirect our attention. The current healthcare debate is a wonderful illustration. Teabaggers and death panels were only a small part of it, a little lowbrow amusement.

      As I have stated on this blog various times, the Teabaggers were pseudo-protesters. They were extraordinarily polemical, often verbally prolix, and always violently certain in their assertions. They spoke a great deal of nonsense which was frequently incoherent and irrelevant, and undoubtedly alienated many of those they sought to convert or convince. And in fact I have seen a couple of polls that confirmed this. They actually swayed public opinion away from their point of view.

      And yet, we hear it bandied about by the MSM how “effective” the Teabaggers were, how they were “game-changers” in the national healthcare debate.

      So we must ask ourselves: How can this be? How can it be claimed that they were so effective when in fact they were totally ineffective, even harmful to their cause? How do you explain the numerous Congresspersons and Senators who have invoked the Teabaggers as a “legitimate” reason for cooling their ardor for healthcare reform?

      Back when I was still in the trenches of grass-roots activism, one of the imbroglios I became most involved in was the case of a Bexar County DA and a state district judge who gave 10-year deferred adjudication (probation) to a young marine, Nicolo J. Giangrasso, who had beaten to death a squat, rotund, middle-aged school teacher by the name of Charles Resendez. The defense used to exonerate the marine was one known as the “homosexual panic” defense, which is based on the logic that if you are the victim of a homosexual pass, that is sufficient reason to kill the gay person making the pass. It is a defense that was argued and commonly accepted in Texas courts up until about 20 years ago.

      Sometime after the murder, Giangrasso was allowed to submit an exculpatory statement of the events surrounding the murder. This statement was accepted uncritically by both the DA and the judge, and later cited by both of them as justification for the lenient sentence. But there was a catch, and the catch was that the statement was total fiction. It had nothing to do with the factual reality of the murder.

      When I first began looking into this case, the first thing I did was to pull the police report. What I found was that there was a used condom found in the motel room where the murder had occurred. In the marine’s barracks the police found the marine’s tennis shoes with Resendez’ blood on them. The autopsy report showed the imprint on Resendez’ head where the marine had kicked him to death. The imprint matched the pattern on the bottom of the marine’s tennis shoes.

      I called Resendez’ father. He told me Resendez had $800 on him that night, something he had told the DA.

      I called the DA in New Jersey where the marine was from. I learned that Giangrasso had a history of violence. The DA from New Jersey said he had furnished all this information to the Bexar County DA, and was appalled that they had let Giangrasso off. Giangrasso never spent a single day in jail. He also told me Giangrasso was from a wealthy family.

      I checked the campaign finance reports. I found that the defense attorney had been the judge’s largest campaign contributor, and also a large contributor to the DA. I also learned that the judge was a former law partner of the defense attorney.

      The DA (Steve Hilbig) and judge (Terry McDonald) had readily and uncritically accepted Giangrasso’s exculpatory statement, which was totally fictitious and stood in stark contrast to any factual reality, and then used it to exonerate Giangrasso. And not until I had gathered all the above information did it become clear to me why they had done this.

      The point I am trying to make is this: Any reason given, any argument made–however nonsensical, incompetent or defactualized—will be accepted carte blanche by a DA and judge who have been bought off.

      And this is the same dynamic at work in the healthcare debate. As far as political actors go, by any impartial standard the Teabaggers defining qualities were ineptitude and incompetence. But one must understand that they are not playing to a fair and unbiased jury. The jury is on the take. The fix is in, and their antics will be accepted as “effective,” regardless of how much this flies in the face of factual reality.

      1. Skippy

        My first such moment, was as one of the primary witnesses to a murder in plain sight at Fort Campbell. The local news and up viewed the event as racial therefore the 3 accused were let off with a BCD dis-charge as a compromise.

        My testimony was revoked on the last day of deliberations due to an Article 15 issued against me within that same year. The poor kid that died was just walking past and was run down and beat to death. Myself and 2 others out of 60 odd combatants during the riot were the only ones to stay and tend the wounded after the MPs and OH-52 came in.

        Skippy…GO ARMY! Um wonder how many moms and dads know how the sons and daughters are beaten, raped, killed and told bold face lies.

      2. eric anderson

        DownSouth, you are not convincing. You’re drinking your own Kool-Aid. If the MSM shows you the mouthiest, stupidest, Tea Party protesters (there is really no cause for calling them testicle-suckers unless your arguments are so weak they must be bolstered by juvenile labelling) then you believe this is the truth of the Tea Party movement. Then you claim the MSM is not telling the truth about their effectiveness. So, is the MSM reliable or not reliable?

        I know people who attended the protests, intelligent, college educated people, working at high salaries in IT, working in technical jobs for local government. The screaming morons are not the main constituents of the Tea Party faction. I was not able to attend the event here in Des Moines, but a friend did, took many pictures, and I found the sentiments expressed on protest signs and T-shirts and the speeches given were original, thoughtful, and sincere.

        One look at the turmoil the Democrats are in over health care will tell you that the protests are effective. To believe otherwise is to fail to dig into the facts as diligently as you did in the case of the beating death of Charles Resendez.

        1. DownSouth

          eric anderson,

          Even though your comment is long on anecdotal information, it nevertheless comes up short on factual information.

          Let’s take a look at some polling numbers:

          Those who responded they “approved” or “disapproved” of the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats has remained remarkably stable since June. As Rasmussen says: “The numbers have been remarkably stable throughout the debate.”

          So what effect have your hallowed TeaBaggers had?

          Now that the Senate Finance Committee has passed its version of healthcare reform, the latest poll show 42% approve and 54% disapprove. Meanwhile there is a majority in favor of reform: 54% say that major changes are needed in the health care system. Sixty-one percent (61%) say it’s important for Congress to pass some reform.

          You can put me with the 54% who disapprove, for even though I am very much in favor of healthcare reform. I just don’t like the plan passed by the Senate Finance Committee. It lacks a clear and convincing public option.

          If one takes a look at the polling numbers, there seem to be two core ingredients needed for a healthcare plan that would garner broad public support:

          1) For those people who are currently covered and are happy with their coverage, it cannot jeopardize that coverage.

          2) It must include a clear and well-defined public option.

          “Without Public Option, Enthusiasm for Health Care Reform, Especially Among Democrats, Collapses”

          “The most important fundamental is that 68% of American voters have health insurance coverage they rate good or excellent. … Most of these voters approach the health care reform debate fearing that they have more to lose than to gain.”

          The surprising part is that these are not mutually exclusive objectives—there is no reason legislation cannot be promulgated that insures people can keep their current coverage and that also includes a public option. And yet there is no legislation on the table with these two objectives clearly defined. Why?

          The reason is that there is no leadership from the President. Zilch. Nada. Zero.

          Why hasn’t the President used his political talents, which are quite formidable, to articulate a clear and convincing plan that responds to the wants and misgivings of the American people? And after he has articulated that plan, why hasn’t he used those same talents to appeal to the better side of the American people to put aside their selfish concerns and do what is best for all Americans?

          I think the reason is rather obvious. This is clearly a battle that President Obama wants to lose.

      3. DownSouth

        I found the story:

        Today, the gap between mainline big media and the grassroots is just as wide. Top policymakers for what has become Obama’s Afghanistan war can find their assumptions mirrored in the editorials of the nation’s mighty newspapers — at the same time that opinion polls are showing a dramatic trend against the war.

        While a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of the public says the war in Afghanistan isn’t worth fighting, the savants who determine big media’s editorial positions insist on staying the course…

        When congressional leaders and top administration officials read such editorials, they can take comfort in finding reaffirmed support for their insistence on funding more and more war. If only public opinion would cooperate, there’d be no political problem.

        But, increasingly, public opinion is not cooperating. While the media establishment and the political establishment appear to belong to the same pro-war affinity group, the public is shifting to the other side of a widening credibility gap.

        In a word, the problem — and the threat for the press and the state — can be summed up as democracy…

        A cautionary note for those who assume that the impacts of public opinion will put a brake on the accelerating U.S. war in Afghanistan: That assumption is based on a misunderstanding of how the USA’s warfare state really functions.

        Under the headline “Someone Tell the President the War Is Over,” the New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote: “A president can’t stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won’t stay with him.” That was way back in August 2005.

  9. Namke von Federlein

    A couple of days ago I commented about the Blogger’s Dilemma.

    Lo and behold – From Some Assembly Required :

    “Wired : The CIA’s investment arm – why does the CIA have an investment arm? Recycling drug profits? – is backing Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring “social media.” Social media is the internet, blogs, tweets and such. Why didn’t they just ask NSA for this stuff?”

    Here is the link to SAR. Click on the link in the list called Wired to read the story.

    It’s 2:00 AM. Do you know where your CIA is?

    Any time is train time.

    BTW : the first link in this blog post called ‘essay’ isn’t working. Um…

    The new Blogger’s Bill of Rights : You have the right to remain silent…


    Namke von Federlein

    1. Justicia

      Excellent post, George.

      Newspeak has so distorted our language and our sense of reality that the “experts” and the pundits can tell us day is night and no one bothers to look out the window. We don’t think it’s real unless we see on TV.

      Worth checking out the FT’s video interview w. Tom Barrack of Colony Capital — a truth teller on the market rally and the “extend and pretend” policy that’s made all our banks above average.

  10. nowhereman

    I hope you are being snarky. As a Psych/Soc grad I can tell you that it is indeed possible to get sheeple to believe anything. A simple technique called cognative disonance works very well. All you need to do is get a sheeple to agree with one simple truth, and the rest follows. Haven’t you noticed that there is always a grain of truth behind any propaganda, then they manipulate this truth beyond belief and the sheeple are left with no alternative but to agree. Have you watched Glen Beck lately?

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    With the complexity of the modern world, I still think we need professional citizens since amateur citizens don’t seem to cut it.

    1. Skippy

      unless we simplify it.

      Skippy…oh, but that would be going back wards, better to leave it in as few hands as possible.

    2. cougar_w

      [professional citizens] In the Roman republic they had exactly that. And our own republic began that way; we had to grant the vote to women and Negros after-the-fact.

      I don’t see how it holds water. Citizenship is an attitude, not a social class. You can create a Patrician class if you like, but most of them will still vote their network and their wallet. How do you create the right attitude? Don’t know. And it gets harder every year.


  12. Edwardo

    I am amazed that anyone with a modicum of sophistication does not accept that the practice of manufacturing consent, for which propaganda is a key tool, is always, to a greater or lesser extent, active here in the U.S. This has been the case here in the cradle of Democracy for a very long time, and though the dissemination of propaganda has evolved in concert with a changing technological and social landscape, it is nevertheless, to repeat, omnipresent.

    One can ascertain this in a very real and substantial sense by noting that observable reality, especially in the case of the U.S. economy, is so markedly at odds with the general perspective offered by the MSM, which, despite the fast growing internet, is still, far and away, the nation’s main source for news.

    From where I sit, the only real surprise these days with respect to the ubiquitous deployment of propaganda, is that its manufacturers seem to have become quite brazenly sloppy in their fashioning and presentation of it.

    The “War” in Afghanistan in instructive. Only a modicum of effort is needed to discard the bedrock premise that the U.S. presence there is about controlling/stamping out terrorism. With the exercise of a slightly open mind one can, with relative ease, substitute something sensible for the incoherent narrative that is incessantly proffered for our consumption.

    The imperative to operate in Afghanistan has to do with controlling the international opium trade, as well as for the purpose of disrupting the activities and initiatives of Russia and China, who are the United State’s most bothersome global competitors, and rivals who are increasingly acting in concert with one another.

    1. toby

      Obsolutely Edwardo!

      The Nazis kinda gave propoganda a bad name. Really it’s nothing more than keeping a population on song, agreeing with general direction, and ready to offer themselves up as cannon fodder should this be deemed necessary. Consensus is very hard to win, and needs to be sustained somehow.

      True democracy would be quite a fractious affair, a little like herding cats. The holy grail of perpetual GDP growth seems to need an obedient and unthinking population, vulnerable to the charms of advertising and reluctant to disagree with authority figures. We have the pretty illusion of democracy in the West — not the messy reality — expertly projected to us by the MSM and other organs of the status quo.

      The last thing the powers that be want is a highly aware, well-educated general public questioning everything its leaders do. The great unwashed are good for three things only: shopping, fleecing and giving one a sense of supierority.

    2. kevin de bruxelles

      I couldn’t agree more Edwardo except that I would even go a step further and say that propaganda is a fundamental tool used to rule of any form of civilization, not just democracies. The ancients certainly used the deification of rulers as a form of propaganda which aimed to resocialize the society and in the process bringing cohesion and purpose. The resocialization of individuals into citizens of a society is analogous (but at a lower level of intensity) to the process in basic training where a citizen is transferred into a soldier. In order to get soldiers to create a cohesive unit, they must be mentally and emotionally retrained. The value of truth is subordinated to the value of military utility. The same process if fundamental to the art of ruling. Citizens, it is believed with some justification, cannot handle the truth.

      My copy of Leo Strauss’ The City and Man arrived last week but unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. In any case his acolyte, Irving Kristol, who recently passed away, has a famous quote the sums up the idea pretty well:

      There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people. There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.

      1. i on the ball patriot

        “Citizens, it is believed with some justification, cannot handle the truth.”

        Really? Please elaborate …

        1. kevin de bruxelles

          To make it clearer, I should have written: “Citizens, it is believed by rulers with some justification, cannot handle the truth”

          The truth is often ugly and conflicts with founding myths and dominant national narratives that are held so dearly by many that they cannot abide anything that challenges it. This is what makes deception, the strongest political force on the planet, so easy for rulers to use.

          To take a really banal example, let’s look at the invasion of Iraq in 2003. From their point of view, did the leadership really want to say that they were invading Iraq to open it up to American oil companies or was it better to spin a yarn about spreading Democracy and so on — tales more in line with the national narrative? While personally I much prefer to search out the truth, sadly I know many people who are just the opposite.

          One literary illustration of this conflict appears in Koestler’s Darkness at Noon where the communist-led dockworkers in Belgium were enthusiastically enforcing a boycott on goods bound for Italy, just after their invasion of Ethiopia in the Thirties. That was until the day their Soviet master visited them from Moscow and delivered the news, that due to the realities of protecting global markets from the capitalists, the dockworkers would have to break their boycott and unload a Russian ship full of petrol bound by truck for Italy. The idealistic true-believer leader of the workers cell was so crushed by the truth that he immediately hung himself.

          Another explanation of this conflict between the interests of the rulers and the ruled appears in The Grand Inquisitor chapter of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. Jesus reappears during the Inquisition and is immediately arrested and sentenced to death by Church authorities. From Wiki:

          The Inquisitor frames his denunciation of Jesus around the three questions Satan asked Jesus during the temptation of Christ in the desert. These three are the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptation to cast Himself from the Temple and be saved by the angels, and the temptation to rule over all the kingdoms of the world. The Inquisitor states that Jesus rejected these three temptations in favor of freedom, but thinks that Jesus has misjudged human nature. He does not believe that the vast majority of humanity can handle the freedom which Jesus has given them. Thus, he implies that Jesus, in giving humans freedom to choose, has excluded the majority of humanity from redemption and doomed it to suffer.

          Pretty little lies are held dear by many people and rulers manipulate this weakness to their advantage. If people want freedom, they must demand the truth. Sadly, not enough people these days are making that demand, although there are signs people are waking from their slumber.

    3. DownSouth


      You say:
      I am amazed that anyone with a modicum of sophistication does not accept that the practice of manufacturing consent, for which propaganda is a key tool, is always, to a greater or lesser extent, active here in the U.S.

      While that is entirely true, I believe there are some caveats.

      1) The sewing of pessimism and cynicism—the planting and nurturing of the idea that man lacks the rational and moral capabilities to implement justice and make free-riding costly–is an age-old instrument of social control. In “The children of light and the children of darkness,” Reinhold Niebuhr brands the paladins of cynicism “the children of darkness.”

      2) The idea of a population helpless before the engineers of consent, as Hannah Arendt points out in Crises of the Republic, is a fiction peddled by TPTB. “[T]he psychological premise of human manipulability has become one of the chief wares that are sold on the market of common and learned opinions,” she writes.

      3) For an empirical overview, see Daniel Yankelovich’s Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World::

      Opinion research in the U.S. does reveal a public strikingly inattentive to the details of even the most consequential and controversial policies. This suggests a potential for manipulation. But the research also indicates great stability and coherence in the public’s underlying attitudes and values. Americans show themselves perfectly capable of making the distinctions needed to determine what Harwood Childs called “the basic ends of public policy,” and of pursuing these logically and clearly. There is a persisting structure to American opinion that belies the picture of a populace helpless before the “engineers of consent.”
      –Everett Carl Ladd, The American Polity: The People and Their Government

      Case in point: I think it was Yves who posted a link to a story that cited something to the effect that a majority of the American public is opposed to any further involvement in the Afghanistan war (sorry, I looked for the story but couldn’t find it.)

      The idea that you need an elite to tell the people what to think is extremely beguiling. Even W.E.B Dubois succumbed to this dangerous doctrine:

      In reading “The Future of the Race” (1996), a book co-authored by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornel West, I came across the most sound criticism of one of America’s great intellectuals. No doubt, W.E.B. Du Bois’s genius is marred by his inability to transcend his “elitism,” as West put it, and to overcome his classism, as Gates frames it, though it appears to me that West’s argument is more persuasive. For it involves not only Du Bois’s only slight commitment to “the sorrowful, suffering, yet striving ordinary black folk,” but a dedication to preserving Victorian or Enlightenment thinking by precluding the masses as agents, by assuming that legitimate authority rests in the most educated classes, and by supposing that the masses and especially Black people needed to be saved from themselves.

      Why is it that “the children of light” are such easy marks for the “the children of darkness” and their creed of greed and selfishness? Perhaps no one said it better than Niebuhr:

      It must be understood that the children of light are foolish not merely because they underestimate the power of self-interest among the children of dark. They underestimate this power among themselves… Moral cynicism had a provisional advantage over moral sentimentality. Its advantage lay not merely in its own lack of moral scruple but also in its shrewd assessment of the power of self-interest, individual and national, among the children of light, despite their moral protestations.
      –Reinhold Niebuhr, “The children of light and the children of darkness”

      But it was Marin Luther King who put Niebuhr’s philosophies into action:

      And so the nonviolent resister never lets this idea go, that there is something within human nature that can respond to goodness.

      So that a Jesus of Nazareth or a Mohandas Gandhi, can appeal to human beings and appeal to that element of goodness within them, and a Hitler can appeal to the element of evil within him.
      –Martin Luther King, “Love, law and civil disobedience”

      1. DownSouth

        For anybody who doubts the wisdom or common sense of the American people, just take a look at this:

        57% Would Like to Replace Entire Congress

        ► If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators…

        Overall, these numbers are little changed since last October. When Congress was passing the unpopular $700-billion bailout plan in the heat of a presidential campaign and a seeming financial industry meltdown, 59% wanted to throw them all out. At that time, just 17% wanted to keep them…

        ► Today, 70% of those not affiliated with either major party would vote to replace all of the elected politicians in the House and Senate. That’s up from 62% last year…

        ► Just 14% give Congress good or excellent review for their overall performance, while only 16% believe it’s Very Likely that Congress will address the most important problems facing our nation…

        ► Despite these reviews, more than 90% of Congress routinely gets reelected every two years. It’s a shock when any incumbent loses. One explanation for this phenomenon frequently heard in Washington, D.C. is that “people hate Congress but love their own congressman.”

        Voters have a different perspective, and 50% say ‘rigged’ election rules explain high reelection rate for Congress.

        You think a majority of the American people don’t know what’s going on? Think again.

        1. Toby

          I second i on the ball patriot (even though I’m British). Abstain from voting — completely. Even though it smacks a little of petulance, even of nihilism, I think it’s all we awakening sheeple have got.

          And thanks Downsouth. Those are heartening statistics. If only they could be turned into a cohesive and well organized social movement…

    4. cougar_w

      Keeping people on song for the sole purpose of simplifying governance is insane.

      Moving in lock-step — whatever the apparent cause — can become lethal. Quickly.

      The lure of propaganda for those in governance is that it short circuits discussion and thus simplifies their jobs. But discussion is how we discover the truth of what the people envision for their lives. The work load and comfort level of the leadership is utterly inconsequential in that determination. And if managing the republic has become too hard — that only through mechanized democracy can it be managed — then it is too big to continue and should be broken into manageable segments.

      Because ordering a large, nuclear-armed republic by means of propaganda is madness.


  13. Uncle Billy Cunctator

    Washington, who are you? I like you. Are you friend or foe? The problem with the truth these days is that it demoralizes people. We need a way to keep everyone focused on the facts, and still maintain an optimistic outlook.

    Why are “they” demoralizing us? Who are “they” ultimately?

    1. Captain Teeb

      The more things change…

      From Frank Zappa’s “I’m the Slime”, mid-1970s:

      I am gross and perverted
      I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
      I have existed for years
      But very little has changed
      I am a tool of the Government
      And industry too
      For I am destined to rule
      And regulate you

      I may be vile and pernicious
      But you can’t look away
      I make you think I’m delicious
      With the stuff that I say
      I am the best you can get
      Have you guessed me yet?
      I am the slime oozin’ out
      From your TV set

      You will obey me while I lead you
      And eat the garbage that I feed you
      Until the day that we don’t need you
      Don’t go for help…no one will heed you
      Your mind is totally controlled
      It has been stuffed into my mold
      And you will do as you are told
      Until the rights to you are sold

      That’s right, folks..
      Don’t touch that dial

      Well, I am the slime from your video
      Oozin’ along on your livin’room floor

      I am the slime from your video
      Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go

  14. Patrick Neid

    OK, why don’t we cut to the chase here. Under Bush it was propaganda but with Obama/Dems it’s just messianic teachings.

    You disagree. Oh really. Virtually every economic pontificator/comment maker supports government intervention of major sorts led by Obama’s team. All the debate is about, bitching that they are not doing it “my way”. But no worries–whatever you do, keep doing something because the marketplace is an evil enterprise that needs to be managed by an enlightened few. When in doubt float the canard that the Pelosi/Reid/Dems mean well.

    Shutting down Fox news is OK because clearly they are into propaganda. See how easy fascism can be or in layman’s terms, Chavez 101.

  15. JohnC

    Two quotes from opposite sides in the war that framed our modern world:

    ‘The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.’

    Winston Churchill, Harvard University, September 6, 1943.

    That is of course rather painful for those involved. One should not as a rule reveal one’s secrets, since one does not know if and when one may need them again. The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

    Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941. Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.

  16. wethepeeple

    Propaganda is a fascinating area of study. I myself picked up Walter Lippman’s, “Public Opinion” and Jacques Ellul’s, “Propaganda: Formulation of Men’s Attitudes” to begin educating myself. Not only are the people of the U.S. referred to as “marks” and “persuadables” by foreign propaganda operations, but our own Congress and Senate are also “marks” and “persuadables” and are rigorously and relentlessly propagandized by domestic and foreign lobbyists, and ultimately coerced. If we cannot identify what propaganda is and when and why it is being used, we will, according to Burckhardt, fall victim to “the domestication of individuality,” or worse. Also, just ran across a book yesterday by Garet Garett entitled, “The People’s Pottage” a highly regarded compliation of three essays analyzing the New Deal and how society was prepared and led through it. The parallel’s of today are eye opening to what could be called the New-New Deal.

  17. i on the ball patriot

    The MSM is not a ‘main stream media’ at all, it is a corporate media, and it is corporate owned and controlled, as is the scamerican government which now functions as a corporate personnel department that is totally non responsive to the will of the people.

    The sea change in propaganda …

    What is important to note about scamerican propaganda is the sea change in its shaping messages and effects in the last forty plus years. Forty plus years ago the society in total was a reflection of a blend of family values and corporate values that at the time intentionally inspired freedom, opportunity, togetherness and strong family values. Today’s corporate propaganda, as a result of neocon influence, has incrementally morphed those past good family values and positive corporate shaping messages into the new all pervasive corporate shaping message which promotes fear, mistrust, and divisiveness. This intentional sea change in the public psyche is meant to create perpetual conflict in the domestic population so as to produce a two tier ruler and ruled society while at the same time deflect from the rape of the scamerican treasury. This sea change in propaganda in scamerica is part of a global phenomenon.

    Shun the scum corporate media sell outs of the political duopoly theater. You will get more integrity from pimps, crack whores, and car dealers — who are now held in higher esteem by the knowing public than cops, judges, lawyers, politicians and their scam ‘rule of law’! Focus instead on your common interests.

    Election boycotts are in order. Rewrite the constitution.

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  18. Siggy

    We are the target of propaganda from all factions. Politely, we call it a dialogue, nonetheless it is propaganda.

    Given the propaganda, consider the critical reading and reasoning skills of the population. Despite a plethora of college degrees, we still see purportedly educated people mouthing the most absurd propositions. In the thread above there is a very interesting quote attributed to Goebbels that is rich with irony.

    The health care debate is theater in the same way that television is furniture. Is the blogosphere headed for the same fate, has it got there, here and now? I think the tide is rising and the boats are curiously sinking. The curse of free speech is that to be deserved, the public must differentiate dross from truth.

    1. cougar_w

      Propaganda in debate is acceptable. One debates by presenting their view of the world. One does not have to reveal “truths” that would be used by one’s disputer, however one should know ALL the truths and be prepared to counter those with other ideas or notions, the better to reflect the values you want to promote.

      The audience hears all the truths the presenters can present, and the audience is informed (within the limits of time and human facility) and rational decisions might then be made.

      Propaganda in governance is lethal. It is lethal because it unhinges the debate going in. Truths are buried or lost, opinion is lop-sided, the outcome is assured from the outset, and drapes itself in the mantle of informed consent.

      Then you send in the cattle cars, and fire up the ovens, and it’s not even your idea any more but what the people wanted.


      1. Toby

        Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you here, but to me you’re saying it’s ok to win a debate by withholding information. I think that’s bad.

        What is the point of “winning” a debate by means of deception? Who benefits? How effective is attempting to arrive at better understandings of events or ideas etc., with an adversarial attitude? Doesn’t that just further deepen unnecessary divisions? Aren’t the closest approximations of the truth what we should be striving for, jointly, and for everyone’s benefit? Why turn this process into a competition, and a tribal one at that?

  19. tpn

    Propaganda is only a strong word because Edward Bernays came up with new terminology: public relations. This was after WW1, and as part of an overt effert to use the technique developed duting WW1 to sell products and an economic system known as corporatism. The first paragraph in Bernay’s book Propaganda says it all: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the [public] is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country”

  20. frolix22

    I find it amusing that the article baulks at the word “propaganda”. Prior to World War II it was an accepted term in elite circles and it is was only that word’s association with the Nazis that it became unacceptable. The word is unacceptable but the practices go on.

    Discussions such as this one generally bring out the underlying snobbery and suspicion of democracy that so many intellectuals harbour and there is some of this in this article and in this thread.

    Anyway, as I said regarding the last such story, “Manufacturing Consent” by Chomsky and Herman is the definitive work to read, a book with far greater insight and empirical support than the articles here.

    1. cougar_w

      WWII taught us late in the game that governance by propaganda is lethal.

      Isn’t that correct? Or what else did it teach us? Or perhaps it taught us nothing?

      Once bitten, twice shy, I say.


  21. Jim

    The game is rigged. In reality, this is a conclusion which is extremely difficult to completely(i.e. intellectually and emotionally) accept. Most of the bloggers on Naked Capitalism have spent the last 2 to 3 years closely examining the creation and evolution of this financial crisis. There was the implict hope that this type of detailed analyis, which ultimately and appropriately assigned primary responsibility for this crisis to the broker/dealer financial instutions, a largely corrupt Congress, and the statist roles of the Federal Reserve, Treaury and the office of the President, would be a message that would be amplifed across the internet and the nation and reform from within this system would begin to take place. This has not happened–and, oh my God, the game is rigged!

    This is the reality we are facing now. We find ourelves in a continuing economic crisis and a new power struggle. If the guiding principal, as indicated by Down South’s quotation from Niebuhr, is primay in our mind, “that there is something within human nature that can repond to goodness” then we will not be defeated in this coming battle. But keeping such a principal primary in our mind is not easy– it also takes practice and commitment.
    Our private internal streams of consciousness (our private internal thoughts) seem to consistenly belittle such sentiments as naive and dangerous.

    We start with simply hope that we can persuade our fellow citizens to see things our way. This means that Down South will come to realize that many of the Tea Baggers and many of the Town Hall protestors were much more than simply “inept and incompetent.” Many were taking their first steps out into the street, morally outraged, and ready for some kind of action. If the so-called “Progressive comminity” meets such outrage with moral superiority and contempt rather than Niehbur’s goodness–it only reinforces the message of the game-riggers “that you shouldn’t trust your fellow citizens.”

    It may well be that some of the private internal messages in our individual minds our wrong–that they have been put into our brain patterns by an extremely sophisticated cultural/propaganda system. For sure, future battles will be in our individual minds and well as in the public square and winning the former is as important as the winning the latter.

    1. JTFaraday

      I have been observing the culture war for a while now, and I am not optimistic. On this point, the NY Times covered a Town Hall meeting with new Dem Senator Arlen Specter this past summer. One attendant was reported by the Times as screaming at Specter and telling him “God would judge him.”

      My, how ominous.

      So, I looks up the video. The guy’s complaint is that he called Specter’s office in PA before attending the event in order to ensure that he can speak his piece. Yes, yes, he was assured he should come and he could speak.

      He gets there and discovers that only 30 pre-selected people get to speak. So, he blows his stack to, illegitimately it turns out, relate this story anyway. He concludes his rant with the (obvious) point that he doesn’t have millions to lobby Congress, that’s why he came to the Town Hall.

      He then tells Specter “God will judge him” and yields the floor.

      On that note, I guess we all do agree that the Town Halls were staged. The NY Times did a bang up job reporting them, too.

      1. cougar_w

        But you have no idea what the man meant by “God will judge you”. And it is ominous, it is imprecatory prayer. It is a kind of wish that God judge you according to that person’s prayer, which almost always is ruinous at that point.

        Imagining the judgment of God in the after-life is an important first step toward implementing it in the current-life.


    2. DownSouth


      You say:

      This means that Down South will come to realize that many of the Tea Baggers and many of the Town Hall protestors were much more than simply “inept and incompetent.” Many were taking their first steps out into the street, morally outraged, and ready for some kind of action. If the so-called “Progressive comminity” meets such outrage with moral superiority and contempt rather than Niehbur’s goodness–it only reinforces the message of the game-riggers “that you shouldn’t trust your fellow citizens.”

      This comment, while it rings of truth, could have come right out of the anarchists’ playbook.

      In order to silence criticism within the progressive community, the anarchists push an “all forms of activism work together” doctrine as set out here in this roster of “Principles”:

      As individuals and groups, we may choose to engage in a diversity of tactics and plans of action but are committed to treating each other with respect.

      While that may sound touchy feely and all that great stuff, it nevertheless is antithetical to effective protest politics. I hardly think Martin Luther King would have bought into the “diversity of tactics” argument:

      I met Malcolm X once in Washington, but circumstances didn’t enable me to talk with him for more than a minute. He is very articulate … but I totally disagree with many of his political and philosophical views — at least insofar as I understand where he now stands…. I feel that Malcolm has done himself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in the black ghettos, urging Negroes to arm themselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothing but grief.

      Interview in Playboy (January 1965),_Jr.

      In addition to tactics, MLK also knew that protest only works if the cause is a noble one:

      Marching feet announce that time has come for a given idea. When the idea is a sound one, the cause a just one, and the demonstration a righteous one, change will be forthcoming. But if any of these conditions are not present, the power for change is missing also. A thousand people demonstrating for the right to use heroin would have little effect. By the same token, a group of ten thousand marching in anger against a police station and cussing out the chief of police will do very little to bring respect, dignity and unbiased law enforcement.
      –Martin Luther King, “Nonviolence, the only road to freedom”

      Do you really believe the bad temper and worse manners exhibited by the Teabaggers were effective? I’d like to remind you that television is a most intrusive medium, and those protesters barged right into people’s most intimate living spaces.

      And, pray tell, just what exactly were the Teabaggers demonstrating for? Now granted, I’m sure there were a plethora of causes. But the prime mover that came through loudest and clearest for me was this: “I’ve got mine so you can just go screw yourself!” Now while self-interest is certainly a legitimate concern, it’s hardly an inspiring one, and pushed to an extreme trespasses on the American Revolutionary credo.

    3. DownSouth

      By the way, the latest Gallup poll shows:

      •25% say they are in favor of healthcare regardless of what the final bill looks like
      •33% say they are opposed to healthcare reform regardless of what the final bill looks like
      •39% say their support depends on what the final bill looks like

      But the kicker is the 39% who are taking a wait-see posture:

      The views of the 39% who are undecided on healthcare may be of particular interest to the nation’s lawmakers. The poll suggests these Americans would generally be receptive to a bill that includes a public option (56% are in favor), as well as one that raises income taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help pay for the plan (67% in favor).

      This would indicate a majority of Americans would likely favor healthcare if 1) wealthy Americans pay for it and 2) it includes a public option.

      Now tell me again how effective the Teabaggers and Town Hall protesters were in shaping public opinion.

      1. Skippy

        Easy DownSouth like this see:

        Fox News’ coverage also sought to build an identification with their viewers as would a commercial, but Fox employed exclusionary tactics, depicting the true American as de facto subscribing to the conservative ethos and branding the excluded as enemies. One specific way this was accomplished was by painting the eighties conservative movement as universal, as when guest Gary Bauer (a former Reagan aid) generalized that “by 1980, the people, who have seen the failures of many liberal ideas, were ready to try a more conservative approach.” Fox News also implied that those who dissented from this conservative movement were less than normal. When reporter Trace Gallagher at the Santa Monica funeral home noted that “many Democrats, many liberals just the same came to pay tribute to this American President” (in a tone which suggested, yes, they’re people too), the studio commentator Bob Sellers quipped, “they love him even there, even though the place is called the Social Republic of Santa Monica” due to its high concentration of liberals, thus equating liberalism (albeit in an admittedly “tongue in cheek” manner) with communism. Fox News then saw those who were not avowed conservatives as enemies of the country and acted as if any “American” behavior (such as a show of respect for a deceased president) was considered so out of the ordinary as to be a newsworthy event.

        The full-blown selling did not, however, last throughout the morning. When the coverage of Reagan’s death was combined with the previously scheduled coverage of the anniversary of D-Day, Fox News’ infomercial became increasingly erratic, with analyst Oliver North stating (among other things) that French President Jacques Chirac “would be speaking German if it weren’t for the people we honored today.” As a result, the slickness of the “infomercial” presentation largely degenerated into propaganda-Esq rants. However, it was clear from the coverage focusing on the deceased fortieth president, from the video montages, to the special analysts, that Fox News’ task was not to merely report Reagan’s death as news but to sell it as a product to the great American news consumer.


        Skippy…Btw the only people to show at said library that day was a pre-scheduled school day trip that had nothing to do with Reagan’s death, but never the less were set upon by faux news like vultures.

        PS. if you can get the video, watch it, your head will implode.

  22. EmilianoZ

    This guest post by George Washington is a truly great survey. I’m pretty sure I will use it as a reference in future discussions.

  23. sangellone

    I apologize for responding to a “George Washington” in lieu of an Yves, Jesse or Ed thread. I promise to never to it again. The man is toxic.

  24. Jim

    In Moral Man Neibuhr asked the following question: “If social cohesion is impossible without coercion,and coercion is impossible without the creation of social injustice, and the destruction of injustice is impossible without the use of further coercion are we not in an endless cycle of social conflict.?”

    Niebuhr’s answer to his own question was nonviolent coercion–a position I totally agree with. What matters most in political struggle is the spiritual discipline against resentment which draws a distinction between the evils of a social system (ie. in this case the broker/dealer institutions, a dysfunctional Congress and an out of control Federal Reserve, Treasury and Executive Branch,)and the specific individuals involved in it.

    In order to undermine our political/financial clases claim to moral superiority we have to avoid such claims on our own behalf–to renounce the priviliged status of victims–and to acknowledge that we need repentence as much as our oppressors.

    Such a perspective can create an attitude which may transcend social conflict and thus hopefully mimimize the cruelities of such conflict. Neibhuhr undestood that such an attitude rested on a sense of sin or common human frality and not on the assumption that all people ultimately had the same interests.

    The prevention of conflict is not possible but it can be hoped that our new politics will mitigate its cruelities.

    If both sides of the cultural divide in our middle class were to practice such discipline we would be taking a giant step towards confronting, in a powerfully unified manner, the self-righteousness and contempt or our present political/financial rulers.

    1. Toby

      “If social cohesion is impossible without coercion”

      How much social cohesion is necessary for a society to be healthy?

      How much and what type of coercion is needed to produce this sufficient amount of cohesion?

      Don’t the islanders of St Kilda show that, at least amongst small numbers of people, social cohesion is possible without manufactured coercion? What seems to have kept them together are the environmental conditions in which they lived. There was no real “law” or police, certainly no prisons. They had culture for over 2,000 years, wrote poetry and philosophy.

      I believe that nature is self-organizing, and further that everything is natural. Everything. You mention inner dialog as evidence of some kind of moral weakness, that the petty thoughts and snobberies we all privately entertain are evidence of some “natural” badness. And yet thoughts and inner dialog are only really possible after language has been learned. Language, and how it is wielded, the concepts wrapped in it, are learned. Hence, even in the private space of our own minds, all we can point to as unlearned is the biological ability to learn language and wield it effectively. Change the system, the private space will surely change too.

      All this humbly offered by one who has yet to read one page of Niebuhr. I live in Berlin. The owner of the building in which I live is Herr Niebur. This stunning coincidence is not lost on me (missing “h” notwithstanding). I will get myself a copy of Moral Man. It sounds fascinating, and thanks to all here who have introduced me to Herrn Niebuhr.

    2. DownSouth


      You say:

      In order to undermine our political/financial clases claim to moral superiority we have to avoid such claims on our own behalf–to renounce the priviliged status of victims–and to acknowledge that we need repentence as much as our oppressors.

      Here you are drifting off into moral relativism. Not by any stretch of the imagination would great theologians like Niebuhr or Martin Luther King have ever bought into such a philosophy.

      Even the rationalists are in full revolt against the immorality that has been foisted upon the academe for the past few decades:

      1. i on the ball patriot

        Jim says;

        “Niebuhr’s answer to his own question was nonviolent coercion–a position I totally agree with.”

        Nonviolent coercion = oxymoron.

        Jim says further;

        “In order to undermine our political/financial clases claim to moral superiority we have to avoid such claims on our own behalf–to renounce the priviliged status of victims–and to acknowledge that we need repentence as much as our oppressors.”

        Why? Our oppressors broke the social contract. I don’t need repentance. I want my fucking money back — and their asses kicked to boot so that it will not happen again!

        Jim says further;

        “Such a perspective can create an attitude which may transcend social conflict and thus hopefully mimimize the cruelities of such conflict. Neibhuhr undestood that such an attitude rested on a sense of sin or common human frality and not on the assumption that all people ultimately had the same interests.

        The prevention of conflict is not possible but it can be hoped that our new politics will mitigate its cruelities.”

        The prevention of conflict is possible. It requires perception of deception, eliminating the deceptions along with administering a little proportional ass kicking, and creating stronger regulatory mechanisms to prevent them from reoccurring in the future.

        Jim goes on;

        “If both sides of the cultural divide in our middle class were to practice such discipline we would be taking a giant step towards confronting, in a powerfully unified manner, the self-righteousness and contempt or our present political/financial rulers.”

        If both sides turned the other cheek as you suggest, and fell to their knees seeking repentance from sin, our present political/financial rulers would laugh their asses off!

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  25. Hal R

    I love the propaganda machine and their leftist bloggers we have some local types on the local chat room in my small southern costal town in SC. Obama maniacs coupled with Globalist US chamber types who want to run off what little jobs we have left and replace them with tourism jobs (poor house).

    I love to link to stories here on Naked Capitalism and tie them in on the local seen with my own little footer at the end. But I never attack Obama without attacking Bush jr. or the US Chamber a lot of the bankers around here are US Chamber members pushing their Marxist trash and illegal labor they are destroying our local economy.

    The key is to take this stuff to the street by legal protest. Make a poster put it in your window make a custom tee shirt were it to the mall. Ring their bells it’s a lot of fun and it scares them to death. Brick and Mortar baby that’s where it’s at. Thanks for your web-site and I will be looking for your book.

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