Posts Tagged ‘corporate media’

Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press

Directed by Rick Goldsmith (1996)

Film Review

Tell the Truth and Run is a tribute to muckraking* journalist George Seldes, released shortly after his death at 104. It takes its title from a book Seldes published in 1952. It includes an extensive interview with Seldes at age 98, detailed biographical sketches and commentary by prominent activists, whistleblowers and media reformers (including Ralph Nader, Daniel Ellsberg and Ben Badikian, Victor Navksy and Jeff Cohen) who were influenced by his work.

Born in 1890, Seldes first became a reporter at 18, just as all major dailies were starting to rely on advertisers (instead of readers) for their funding base. As this occurred, investigative journalists seeking to expose government and corporate corruption began writing for the monthly magazines instead. Bankster JP Morgan and other industrial robber barons put an end to this by buying up all the monthly magazines.

Seldes quit his first job at the Pittsburgh Leader after the publisher spiked a story he wrote about the son of a department store magnate who raped a female staff member.

Following an eye opening stint in the US military press corps during World War I, Seldes became a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He first ran into difficulty at that paper for exposing the violent and corrupt nature of Mussolini’s fascist regime – at a time when the US government and all the major newspapers were pro-Mussolini (owing to banker JP Morgan’s desire to refinance Italy’s World War I debt).

Seldes quit the Tribune in 1927 and published the first two of a series best selling books (You Can’t Print That and Can These Things Be?) based on all his material the Tribune refused to publish between 1918 and 1928.

Between 1940-1950 he put out the weekly newsletter In Fact: An Antidote to Falsehoods in the Daily Press. He would use the newsletter to expose the FBI role in spying on labor unions and  corporate media’s failure to report on 1940s research documenting health problems associated with smoking. He was also the first investigative journalist to expose the role of major Wall Street corporations in supporting Hitler’s rise to power.


* A term applied to American investigative reporters, novelists and critics of the Progressive Era (1890-1930)

 

Lies Wars and Empire

By Michael Parenti (2007)

In this presentation, Michael Parenti focuses on the science of media manipulation and mass indoctrination. He makes his most important point at the end: mass indoctrination never works perfectly. Spontaneous skepticism tends to be a natural outcome of a steady diet of media propaganda. I suspect this healthy skepticism is a major reason why Trump’s attacks on the corporate media have been so popular – and why counterattacks by US intelligence and the mainstream media have been so savage.

Trump is the highest profile politician to ever publicly challenge the official version of 9-11, the job-killing effects of free trade treaties such as TPP and NAFTA, the threats to democratic process posed by investing power in a private central bank (the Federal Reserve) and the long term safety of America’s multiple vaccination regime in children.

Parenti begins with an explanation why, in most cases, peoples’ beliefs are totally impervious to facts. He reminds us that our perceptions are shaped by a number of factors beyond our control, particularly income, status, background assumptions and disinformation.

He maintains that what passes for objectivity in the mainstream media is really conformity of bias – nearly always in favor of corporate capitalism and the status quo. Owing to this emphasis on conformity, expressing a dissenting viewpoint viewed as a radical activity, mainly because it helps expose and expands the boundaries of permissible debate. Because the corporate media only allows an extremely narrow range of debate, you will never see a open discussion of evidence implicating the government in 9-11 or  the JFK, Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King assassinations.

This lecture examines numerous world events deliberately censored or distorted by the corporate media:

  • The war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic (who died under suspicious circumstances in prison in 2006).
  • The stolen 2004 election (in which election fraud in Ohio, New Mexico, Florida and Arizona wrongly awarded the electoral vote to Bush).*
  • The repeated claim that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 – the Afghan government requested assistance from the Soviets to restore order in the face of a major CIA destablization campaign.
  • Saddam Hussein’s 40-year role as a CIA asset in the coup overthrowing Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim and declaring war on Iran.

*See Stolen Elections

The Fuck It Point

Savage Revival (2012)

Film Review

The Fuck It Point occurs when you fear the evil of the current system more than you fear actively organizing to tear it down. A growing number of activists around the world have reached this point (which Paul Hawken discusses in Blessed Unrest). We still have a little further to go to reach critical mass.

The specific fears that deter people from attempting to dismantle the current economic system are fear of losing privilege, fear of police brutality, fear of imprisonment, fear of death, fear of chaos and instability, fear of failing and, most importantly, fear that other people will think badly of us.

After summarizing a wealth of evidence that capitalism is doomed, The Fuck It Point asks whether it makes more sense to let it collapse on its own or to take active steps to dismantle it. The filmmakers maintain if we sit and waiting for the crash, the people who have prepared will “hold all the cards.”

The film focuses a lot of attention on corporate media manipulation that promotes apathy and passivity. Even when peoples know they’re being ruthlessly exploited, they can be too psychological paralyzed to do anything.

The public relation industry continually recycles do-nothing messages. One day they tell us that climate change and mass extinction is easily fixed with the right technology. The next day that the ecosystem is too far gone to do anything. The day after that they blame us for the global ecological crisis and urge us to buy more eco-friendly products.

The film also challenges the myth that humans can no longer survive without civilization. The obvious reality is that human beings can’t survive without clean, non-toxic air, water and food and robust social relationships – which are increasingly difficult to access under the current system. People find the idea of giving up civilization unthinkable because they are addicted to it.

The filmmakers estimate that only 1/7 of the current global population achieve real benefit from our current economic system. The other 6/7 would experience an immediate improvement in their life circumstances if it collapsed.

bernaysEdward Bernays

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds – Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

Public relations is the polite term for the systematic dissemination of propaganda and disinformation by corporations and the corporate-controlled state. The crude psychological manipulation in most advertising, which appeals to deep insecurities, is ridiculously obvious. TV viewers are told constantly that they’re lonely and sexually frustrated, as well as too old, too ugly and too fat, to pressure them to buy products they neither want nor need.

People are less likely to recognize that all mass media (e.g. movies, TV programming, newspapers, magazines, etc) employs subtle psychological messaging that shapes shape the way we view ourselves, other people and the world at large.

To be effective, any movement seeking lasting political change must address the ideological strait jacket all of us wear to some extent. The good new is that the pro-capitalist indoctrination we’re meant to live by is surprisingly superficial. Under the right circumstances, it can totally unravel. At this very moment young people throughout the industrialized world are waking up and refusing to be taken in by it.

Edward Bernays: Father of Public Relations

Thanks to Edward Bernays, known as the father of public relations, an artificial capitalist ideology has emerged that enables the corporate state to use psychological manipulation, rather than brute force, to control us. This competitive, individualistic pro-consumption ideology is totally at odds with biological programming that has hardwired us to be social animals.*

Competitive individualism holds that all human achievement results from superior individual effort, which directly contradicts historical evidence revealing that all major inventions and discoveries stem from cooperation and collaboration. We’re also conditioned to believe that concepts such as class, society and community are nonexistent – that all social problems, such as poverty, joblessness and homelessness stem from individual failings. Because America is the richest, cleanest, fairest country in the world, any problems we experience must be of own doing.

We are simultaneously bombarded with messaging sowing distrust between young and old, between men and women, between different ethnicities and between straight and gay. Messaging that encourages us to blame convenient scapegoats for economic and social problems – Muslims, feminists, welfare queens, Jews and red necks. Instead of the true culprit: a corporate elite that’s robbing us blind.

Our Fabricated Lifestyle

After nearly a hundred years this careful mental programming, reinforced by schools, universities and middle class helping professionals, has facilitated the breakdown of family and social networks. A traditional lifestyle centered around close family and community has been replaced by a fabricated lifestyle based on continual consumption, low wages and debt-slavery, as people work ever longer hours to pay off debt.

With the breakdown of traditional family and social networks, people must purchase services (e.g. child and senior care, meal preparation, mending, simple repairs) friends and neighbors used to provide for free. Social isolation and loneliness have become epidemic as people struggle to survive in the absence of social connections we’re biologically programmed to seek out.

The PR industry plays on our feelings of emptiness and discontent by trying to sell us yet more products. In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein writes of a profound inner emptiness that can never be satisfied – an emptiness born out of the breakdown of social networks human have relied on for most of our 250,000 year existence.

Taking the Risk Out of Democracy

As the late Australian psychological Alex Carey describes in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, Woodrow Wilson first hired Bernays in 1914 to convince a strongly anti-war American public that they should commit sons and tax dollars for a European war that had no direct impact on their own lives. His success in selling World War I led Bernays to coin the term public relations and set himself up as a public relations counselor. Among others, his clients would include corporate giants like Standard Oil, General Electric, the American Tobacco Company, United Fruit Company, CBS and Proctor and Gamble. As Carey describes, in 1919 the National Association of Manufacturers hired him to (successfully) reverse strong pro-union sentiment when steel workers struck for the right to bargain collectively.

Bernays published his seminal book Propaganda in 1928. During the 1930s he assisted Alcoa Aluminum in persuading American doctors and dentists that the toxic waste sodium fluoride improved dental health. In the mid to late thirties he was deeply influenced by the work of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. In 1954 Bernays’s propaganda campaign for the United Fruit Company laid the groundwork for the CIA overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected government.

 The Rise of Consumerism

The work of Bernays and his successors would also lead to the rise of American consumerism – the transformation of Americans from active involved citizens to passive consumers. As Betty Friedan describes in the Feminist Mystique, the earliest pro-consumption messages were directed towards women. Working class women have always contributed to household income – if not through formal employment, by renting out rooms, taking in laundry or performing children. Moreover working class families tended to share washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and other home appliances when they first came on the market. The PR industry had to discourage this trend to promote sales. They did so be creating a feminine mystique that measured a woman’s femininity by her ability to attract a man wealthy enough to provide her with her very own home appliances. And a color TV, hi-fi stereo and new family car every year.

*Within the human brain, complex neural networks reward us with powerful “feel good” substances, such as endorphins and oxytocin. Thanks to these substances and “mirror neurons” (believed to be the biological basis of empathy), human beings have met their basic needs through close knit social networks for most of their 250,000 year history.

To be continued, with signs our ideological programming is starting to break down.

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc

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(The 1st of 8 posts describing my 2002 decision to emigrate from the US to New Zealand)

When I finally left the US in October 2002, I had been thinking of emigrating for many years. In June 1973, I shipped all my belongings to England, intending to start a new life there. Many Americans of my generation left the US in the early seventies, for Canada, Europe and more remote parts of the world. Most were draft-age men afraid of being sent to Vietnam. A few were women involved in clandestine abortion clinics that sprang up before the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Many were artists and intellectuals like me, disillusioned by lies about Vietnam in the Pentagon Papers,  Watergate, CIA domestic spying and Nixon’s use of US intelligence for his own political purposes.

In 1973, I myself was totally apolitical. My own decision to leave the US had very little to do with Vietnam or Watergate. My disillusionment stemmed more from watching rampant consumerism overtake the humanist values I had grown up with – the strong family ties, deep friendships and involvement in neighborhood and community life that were so important to my parents’ and grandparents’ generation.

During my eighteen month stay in England, it was deeply gratifying to meet people in London and Birmingham who had little interest in owning “stuff” they saw advertised on TV. People who still placed much higher value on extended family, close friendships and the sense of belonging they derived from their local pub, their church or union, or neighborhood sports clubs, hobby groups, and community halls. All these civic and community institutions had disappeared in the US. I missed them.

A downturn in the British economy in late 1974 forced me to return to the US to complete my psychiatric training.  I never abandoned my dream of returning overseas and religiously scanned the back pages of medical journals for foreign psychiatric vacancies. Meanwhile I  joined grassroots community organizations seeking to improve political and social conditions in the US. While and

For many years I believed Nixon was an aberration. This made me naively optimistic about the ability of community organizing to thwart the corrupting influence of powerful corporations over federal, state and local government. It never occurred to me the institutions of power themselves were deeply corrupt and had been for many years.

The Murder that Turned My Life Upside Down

As I write in The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee, the 1989 intelligence-linked murder of a patient was a rude awakening. It demonstrated, in the most horrific way possible that ultimate power lay outside America’s democratic institutions. It forced me to accept that political control lay in the hands of a wealthy elite who employed an invisible intelligence-security network to terrorize – and sometimes kill – whistleblowers and activists who threatened their interests. This painful discovery lent new urgency to my political work. It simultaneously caused an increasing sense of alienation and isolation from who hadn’t shared these experiences.

There was also the slight problem that I was experiencing the same phone harassment, stalking, break-ins and hit-and-run attempts as my patient.

Most of my liberal and progressive friends were far more knowledgeable than I was about the power multinationals corporations held over elections, lawmakers and the mainstream media. Yet they reacted very differently than I did to this knowledge. My response was to devote every leisure moment to building a grassroots movement to end corporate rule. Their response, in contrast, was to become cynical and withdraw from political activity to focus on their personal lives.

The Patriot Act: Repealing the Bill of Rights

In September 2001, I expected that the Patriot Act, which legalized domestic spying on American citizens, as well as revoking habeas corpus and other important constitutional liberties, would be the turning point that would send progressives into the streets, as the 1999 anti-WTO protests had, to halt rampant corporate fascism.

It never happened. In Seattle, a small 9-11 coalition formed in October 2001 to protest Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan. Over the following year, as Bush prepared to invade Iraq, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter and others spoke to sell-out crowds about the lie the Bush administration was hawking about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Then in February 2002, evidence began to emerge that officials close to the Bush administration had played some role in engineering the 9-11 attacks. By October 2002, like most American intellectuals with access to the international and/or alternative press, were well aware that neither Afghanistan nor Iraq had played any role whatsoever in the 9-11 attacks. There was no longer any question that Bush a war criminal under international law for launching two unprovoked wars of aggression.

So long as I, as a US taxpayer, continued to work and pay taxes in the US, I shared some responsibility for these crimes. It was this knowledge that ultimately forced my hand. I had a psychiatrist friend who had spent a year working in New Zealand. He told me who to contact in the Ministry of Health about psychiatric vacancies. By September 1, 2002, I had signed a job contract to work for the New Zealand National Health Service in Christchurch. I had six weeks to close my Seattle practice, sell my house and ship everything I owned to New Zealand.

To be continued.

***

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Winner 2011 Allbooks Review Editor’s Choice Award
Fifteen years of intense government harassment leads a psychiatrist, single mother and political activist to close her 25-year Seattle practice to begin a new life in New Zealand. What starts as phone harassment, stalking and illegal break-ins quickly progresses to six attempts on her life and an affair with an undercover agent who railroads her into a psychiatric hospital.
  • Available as ebook (all formats) for $0.99 from: Smashwords
  • New and used print copies from $13 from Amazon

dirty truths

Dirty Truths

by Michael Parenti (City Lights Books, 1996)

Book Review

Nearly 17 years old, Michael Parenti’s 1996 Dirty Truths offers an analysis of the national security state that props up monopoly capitalism which is largely missing from scholarly “leftist” literature.

Parenti is one of the few theoretical Marxists to formally acknowledge the impeccable scholarship of Sylvia Meagher, Mark Lane, Carl Oglesby, Peter Dale Scott, and others in uncovering the role of the national security state in John Kennedy’s murder. Noam Chomsky, Alexander Cockburn, the Nation and other high profile mouthpieces for the American left are all highly critical of leftists who subscribe to so-called “conspiracy theory.” In addition to eye opening chapters on the JFK assassination and the apparent 1970 assassination of labor leader Walter Reuther, Dirty Truths also features an excellent chapter on the bloody US-supported coup Russian president Boris Yeltsin carried out in 1992.

 “Selective Fascism”

Most of Dirty Truths is dated and of mainly historical interest. In his introductory chapters, Parenti, a PhD historian whose anti-Vietnam activism ended his teaching career, offers a Marixian analysis of the structural origin of poverty, corporate media censorship, and American military empire that are now taken as a given by most liberal intellectuals. Yet already in 1996, Parenti writes at length about the fascist nature of the national security state and its role as an all-powerful shadow government. Like Chomsky and other media analysts, Parenti believes the modern state mainly uses propaganda and brainwashing to prevent the working class from agitating for social justice. However when ideological control fails, it freely indulges in a a “selective fascism” of unrestrained violence, particularly against minority communities.

According to Parenti, most Americans fail to recognize the fascist nature of the national security state because the corporate media sugarcoats the militaristic violence and brutality that has crept into community policing.

Yeltsin’s 1992 Coup

His chapter on Yeltsin’s 1992 coup casts a whole new light on the break-up of the Soviet Union. In 1992, the corporate media glorified Boris Yeltsin as a hero of democracy when he behaved exactly like the puppet dictators the US props up in the Middle East. After ordering Russian troops to shell the parliament building (while the Russian Parliament still in session) and killing upwards of 1,000 people, he officially disbanded both Parliament and the constitutional court, nullified the new Russian constitution, banned labor unions, jailed all the opposition leaders, abolished city and regional councils and outlawed fifteen political parties. He took these actions when a parliamentary majority voted down some of the “market reforms” Wall Street and the IMF were trying to impose on Russia.

Once Yeltsin had a free hand to end price controls and sell off the state-owned industries (to foreigners and Russian gangsters), the result was an economic disaster that transformed Russia into a 3rd world sweatshop for US investment. The rampant inflation turned the Russian people into instant paupers. This, along with the collapse of the health care system, led to mass starvation and epidemics of typhoid, TB that reduced Russian life expectancy by an average of twenty years.

The JFK Assassination and the Gangster State

Parenti’s discussion of the conspiracy to murder John Kennedy fits neatly into his analysis of the national security state as a large unaccountable state power with a primary purpose of protecting the ruling elite. Any individual or group who poses a serious threat to the corporate elite is automatically subject to neutralization in the form of illicit surveillance, sabotage, infiltration, false arrest, tax harassment, and violence and assassination. I suspect Parenti’s depth of knowledge relates in part to personal experiences as an anti-Vietnam War activist, which he describes at the end of the book. It’s also a matter of public record that the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies enlist the services of mobsters, drug traffickers, and assassins to target peasants, intellectuals, clergy, student and labor leaders and community activities who threaten US financial interests, both overseas and domestically.

Parenti devotes most of this chapter to Oswald’s role as a low level intelligence operative (and patsy) and the aggressive role corporate media has played in suppressing volumes of documentary and research evidence linking the assassination to the national security state.

He’s also highly critical of what he describes as a “conspiracy phobia” on the part of Chomsky, Cockburn, the Nation and other high-profile leftist and progressive publications. He includes excerpts of his lengthy correspondence with Chomsky, highlighting the illogic of the MIT linguist’s principle arguments against serious consideration of the assassination literature: 1) studying conspiracies (supposedly) “distracts” activists from focusing on the structural problems of capitalism, 2) the US government (supposedly) had no reason to assassinate the Kennedy brothers because they were both cold warriors and mainly acted in the interests of the ruling elite, and 3) focusing on assassinations (supposedly) leads activists to idealize the Kennedys and overlook their shortcomings.

Parenti also notes that Chomsky and Cockburn both condemn the meticulous and extensive work of Sylvia Meagher, Mark Lane, Carl Oglesby, Peter Dale Scott, and other scholars without ever reading any of it.

 Free from the Open Library

I borrowed Dirty Truths from the Open Library. Following registration, borrowers can download a PDF or Epub version of a large selection of books. All have a two week due date and vanish from your hard drive two weeks after you borrow them.