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Some First Thoughts on Propaganda

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So I've been working on the media piece - about the role of media in creating and nurturing national mood - and, of course it's impossible (for me, anyway) to digest what I'm seeing down into a blog post because it's a woolly topic and one where I keep picking up threads - Homer! - Habermas! - and following them out to distraction.

Which means I've been reading a lot. I've looked and looked for the pithy quote that sums my position, or even a book to point you to. And to be honest, haven't found it.

The closest things I've found have been in Clausewitz and in Thucydides, about which more later.

I've talked in the past about 'wicked' problems - problems that are not readily reducible to formulas, which cannot be 'rationalized' in the traditional sense (although recent advanced in agent-based modelling are actually beginning to put a net over them) and which we have to conceive of in different ways than the formal, rational, deterministic ones we use in discussion, planning, and often in politics.

The result of living outside those rational models (which we do, whether we admit it or not) is that we spend a lot of time not knowing how we're doing.

Prince Hal stated it best:
I tell thee truly, herald, I know not if the day be ours or no;
For yet a many of your horsemen peer
And gallop o'er the field.
The day is yours.
Praised be God, and not our strength, for it! What is this castle call'd that stands hard by?
They call it Agincourt.
When you don't know if you are winning or losing, when the decision is outside rational calculation, how do you decide what to do? Combat is obviously the extreme case, but it serves as an example of anything that must be done that is difficult and where the outcomes are unknowable. You act on faith, and prejudice, and to a lesser extent, on fear.

You have faith in yourself and those with whom you are struggling. You are prejudiced, because you believe that your succeeding - Henry and the English winning at Agincourt - is better than your failing. And you are afraid, both of the real losses that will come if you lose, but of the loss of reputation, of esteem, of the regard of trust of your fellows. back to Henry:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhood's cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
In early warfare (and in modern as well) one of the roles of the leader is to inspire the troops with speech before the battle. Thucydides is full of these speeches:
Remembering this, the old must equal their ancient exploits, and the young, the sons of the heroes of that time, must endeavour not to disgrace their native valour; and trusting in the help of the god whose temple has been sacrilegiously fortified, and in the victims which in our sacrifices have proved propitious, we must march against the enemy, and teach him that he must go and get what he wants by attacking someone who will not resist him, but that men whose glory it is to be always ready to give battle for the liberty of their own country, and never unjustly to enslave that of others, will not let him go without a struggle.
These speeches amplify the faith, prejudice, and fear of those who listen to them. Is that a reprehensible thing? To us, those three words are themselves pejorative.

The arguments that support them we call propaganda, which is itself a significantly pejorative term today.

But should it be? And if it is, what does that mean in terms of how we function as a society?

The LA Times today had an article about the new film on Flight 93, which cast a fascinating light on the issue. The article, "Is America ready for movies about 9/11?" talks about films as propaganda:
While some might think Hollywood is moving too quickly, history suggests otherwise. Within five months of the Pearl Harbor attack, Republic Pictures had cranked out "Remember Pearl Harbor," the first in a series of Hollywood films that sought to depict the war and rally the American spirit.

"The nation was totally mobilized for war," said Robert Sklar, a cinema studies professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, who watched from the roof of his apartment building as the twin towers fell. "There was an Office of War Information that had some direct control over Hollywood, and there was the Army Signal Corps producing documentaries. People like Frank Capra and John Ford and John Huston went into the military and made films."

Some films were overt propaganda; others were more subtle.

"There was a string back then about the bombing of Pearl Harbor and kind of holy crusade that came after that," said Richard Jewell, a professor in USC's School of Cinema-Television. "There were a lot of movies made during that time period that dealt with events in the war that weren't that great for the U.S. but that were used for propaganda to show how brave our people were even when they lost battles, like Bataan and Wake Island."

Only after the war was over did movies take a less one-dimensional view.
More nuanced movies began coming out shortly after the war's end, such as "The Best Years of Our Lives" in 1946, about soldiers trying to resume their prewar existences, up through "The Men" in 1950, about wounded soldiers trying to recover physically and emotionally in a veterans' hospital.

"Relatively soon after World War II, we were able to show the soldiers in a much more complex light as opposed to having them be unambiguously heroic," Rodman said. "We could show the cost of the war on our soldiers, which is something we could not have done during the war."

The Korean War similarly gave rise to "The Steel Helmet" in 1951, a grunt's view of the war zone, but "MASH" didn't materialize until 1970 — and though set in a Korean War mobile medical unit, the movie was generally viewed as a Vietnam allegory. A year after the 1975 fall of Saigon, more direct treatments came out, such as "Taxi Driver" in 1976, which helped establish the now-familiar character of the troubled Vietnam veteran; "The Deer Hunter" and "Coming Home" in 1978, followed by "Apocalypse Now" in 1979.

Between Korea and Vietnam, the role of the filmmaker moved from the propagandist to the critic, and our national hero moved from John Wayne to Travis Bickle.

The problem, of course, is that without the self-confidence of faith - and yes, without prejudice and fear - it's probably very hard to fight a war. To many, that's a feature, not a bug, I get it. But...

...let's put war aside for a moment and ask ourselves how it is that we can function as a society without a certain kind of faith (I'm not suggesting religious faith, but rather the kind of faith that Schaar talks about:
"To be a patriot is to have a patrimony; or, perhaps more accurately, the patriot is one who is grateful for a legacy and recognizes that the legacy makes him a debtor. There is a whole way of being in the world, captured best by the word reverence, which defines life by its debts; one is what one owes, what one acknowledges as a rightful debt or obligation. The patriot moves within that mentality. The gift of land, people, language, gods memories, and customs, which is the patrimony of the patriot, defines what he or she is. Patrimony is mixed with person; the two are barely separable. The very tone and rhythm of a life, the shapes of perception, the texture of its homes and fears come from membership in a territorially rooted group. The conscious patriot is one who feels deeply indebted for these gifts, grateful to the people and places through which they come, and determined to defend the legacy against enemies and pass it unspoiled to those who will come after.

But such primary experiences are nearly inaccessible to us. We are not taught to define our lives by our debts and legacies, but by our rights and opportunities. Robert Frost's stark line, "This land was ours, before we were the land's." condenses the whole story of American patriotism. We do not and cannot love the land the way the Greek and Navaho loved theirs. The graves of some of our ancestors are here, to be sure, but most of us would be hard pressed to find them: name and locate the graves of your great-grandparents."

"But if instinctive patriotism and the patriotism of the city cannot be ours, what can be? Is there a type of patriotism peculiarly American: if so, is it anything more than patriotism's violent relative nationalism?

Abraham Lincoln, the supreme authority on this subject, thought there was a patriotism unique to America. Americans, a motley gathering of various races and cultures, were bonded together not by blood or religion, not by tradition or territory, not by the calls and traditions of a city, but by a political idea. We are a nation formed by a covenant, by dedication to a set of principles, and by an exchange of promises to uphold and advance certain commitments among ourselves and throughout the world. Those principles and commitments are the core of American identity, the soul of the body politic. They make the American nation unique, and uniquely valuable among and to the other nations. But the other side of this conception contains a warning very like the warnings spoken by the prophets to Israel: if we fail in our promises to each other, and lose the principles of the covenant, then we lose everything, for they are we."

Schaar's claim is made against the kind of reflexive and abstract cosmopolitanism that Chris Bertram talks about today:
I recently wrote a review of a couple of books on global justice, one of which expended a great deal of effort in explaining how a liberal cosmopolitanism could be consistently combined with a reasonable patriotism. For some reason, the concern to combine these positions seems to especially concern liberal Americans who want be good patriots and think of themselves as endorsing universal values at one and the same time. Well I guess I agree about this far: that, within the limits justice allows, one both may feel an affection for one’s country and compatriots and promote the good of that nation and community, just as one can legitimately promote the good of one’s family and friends within the bounds set by justice.
To Bertram, patriotism is a kind of affection; like the affection one might have for a sports team or a television show (yes, I'm being a bit dismissive, but affection is itself a dismissive term). Schaar (and I) would disagree.

To Bertram and others, the intention is to reclaim the sphere of the political from the sphere of belief; to create an abstract, Rawlsian, rules-based justice and then expect that the result will be something other than the Panopticon.

I'll switch to a scene from Yankee Doodle Dandy (released in 1942):
President: I'm sorry I missed the opening of your show. George: Maybe it was just as well.
President: Don't worry about it. We understand each other perfectly...The Herald Tribune says that you make a better president in I'd Rather Be Right than I am.
George: Don't forget, that's a Republican newspaper.
President: I can remember you and your family very well - the Four Cohans.
George: Do you really, Mr. President? That was a long time ago.
President: Yes, it was while I was attending school near Boston.
George: (smiling to himself) I was a pretty cocky kid in those days - a pretty cocky kid. A regular Yankee Doodle Dandy, always carrying a flag in a parade or following one.
President: I hope you haven't outgrown the habit.
George: Not a chance.
President: Well that's one thing I've always admired about you Irish-Americans. You carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open. It's a great quality.
George: I inherited that - I got that from my father. He ran away to the Civil War when he was thirteen - the proudest kid in the whole state of Massachusetts.
President: So you've spent your life telling the other forty-seven states what a great country it is.
George: Well, I never thought of it just that way before, but I guess that's about the size of it. And I lost no time either. It started with a very funny incident about sixty years ago...
So here's the question. Could we have won World War II without George M. Cohan, Frank Capra, and Michael Curtiz? Without Rick's Cafe Americain? How would history have been different if M.A.S.H had been released in 1952?

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Tracked: April 13, 2006 3:23 AM
Excerpt: HT Melanie Phillips via LGF and Austin Bay Blog It's Time to Loose Instapundit's Army of Davids! RBT first saw Melanie's post in the comment in the Austin Bay Blog, linked in the previous post. LGF is now linking to th...


VDH has a terrific piece about how the media can influence perceptions, using his home state of California as an example.

Could we have won World War II?

No. The culture that produced MASH, Over There, Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, and This ... would ... no ... are not able to sacrifice themselves in the ways needed in WW2. Technology has kept us ahead of the game in allowing us to get by with fewer and fewer willing men, but that will not last forever.

When push comes to shove we live in a suicidal culture. We really can not bring ourselves to sacrifice our lives for our beliefs and culture, but strangely are OK with being killed.


AL: Great post.

1) Think about the irony of the Yankee Doodle Dandy excerpt:

He ran away from Ireland to become American. His family turned his back on Irish roots, hertitage, and home country in exchange for another. Rather than stay faithful to Ireland through hard times of famine and English oppression, they left and adopted a new country. Isn't that contradictory to the essence of faithful patriotism, that you don't give up when times get tough? The fact is, every American (outside of Indians) has roots to someone who bailed on their home country for some reason or another.

2) You worry about insufficient resolve in the fact of drawn-out hardship. I personally have a lot of confidence in Americans ability to persevere through tough times, and worry more about what happens if an unquestioning faith in the goodness and righteousness of our cause blinds us to our greatest strenght: our ability to criticize and dissent from orthodoxy, our Protestant roots.

See, our military isn't run like China's, where leaders aren't questioned and a lack of competetion and merit-based promotion means a corrupt, staid military culture. It's why Eisenhower wrote a resignation note before D-Day in case it didn't go well- his action symbolized his belief that military competence was more important than his loyalty to his country. And frankly, the persistence of Donald Rumsfeld despite myriad failures signals a departure from this tradition, and I worry about this new tolerance for mediocrity far more than I do about losing our national resolve.

Nate: the last time this subject was discussed, I brought up the disaster associated with Exercise Tiger and its censorship during the war.

I know everyone wants Rumsfeld's head, but also thinking back towards WW2...

I am unaware of anyone resigning over Operation Tiger.

I know that in a previous amphibious assault, at Dieppe, the allies lost twice as many men to no effect that I know as the current US military has lost in the current WAR. AFAIK noone called for the heads of the secretary of war at that time. I think eventually one of the generals in charge was eventaully sacked, but Montbatten, who had strongly pushed for the raid, wasn't replaced as a result.

Would the US have had a better time in WW2 if they didn't have a tradition of mediocrity and replace the secretary of defense every 4000 casualties or so? (On average, that would come out to one every ten days).

I'm also being strongly reminded of all the people who back in WW1 thought Churchill's carreer should have ended permanently because of his association with the disaster in Gallapoli.

I thought I'd make an addendum to the above post:

I would probably have made a lot of decisions differently than Rumsfeld has if I were in his position.


A lot of the blame game seems to be attached to blaming Rumsfeld for the existance of "friction" in the Clausewitzian sense, or by judging him by standards noone associated with the military or civilian leadership in, for instance, WW2, could have withstood.

I think patriotism require 3 things:

-- A genuine love / respect / understanding of your country.

-- An appreciation that your country is not invulnerable.

-- A sense of responsibility to at least family, or at best future generations.

Getting all three traits in a single person these days if tough. Figuring out how to increase this population is tougher.

People who truly dislike America (as opposed to the Gu'ment) are very rare, but they are (oddly enough) the ones strongest on points 2 and 3. (The "America isn't Godly, and I'm here to fix that!" crowd. Think Timothy McVeigh, the Beltway Sniper, the Unibomber, etc. on the really radical end, ANSWER and Jerry Fallwell on the less-slightly-radical middle, and pick your academic tenured nutjob for the moderate/conservative side of the group.)

Even after 9/11, too many people think of the U.S. as fundamentally invulnerable to outside threat, and buy into the idea that the U.S. Government is so powerful it has to be responsible for everything. (The "Blame Washington! Blame Washington!" chorus. Got skyscrapers burning? Ask yourself "Why do they hate us?" Chances are, it's because of Chimpy HalliBushhitler.)

Finally, there is the aforementioned narcissistic effect of a culture that has been pampered and spoiled for 60 years. The "The future will take care of itself because it always has" set. I'm a tail-end boomer, and I expect to see unpretty things evolve as the demographic bulge slams into the welfare state.

Finally, two slight digs at Nate: I really don't want to live in a country where the military values competence over loyalty to the civilian government. That's how you get coup d'etats. (If Ralph Nader were president and outlawing my dog, my cats, and my pr0n on public health grounds, I would still be against a military coup.)

Also Nate, I think you totally misread Eisenhower's motivations. I don't think he believed a failure would be because of his own incompetence; you don't get to that level of command without being damned sure of your own abilities. Rather, I would guess he believed that if the invasion failed, the public would need a scapegoat for reasons of national morale. And the fact that he was willing to accept that role speaks to a deep loyalty to and love of country.

I can tolerate mistakes. What i cant tolerate is the inability/refusal to address/correct mistakes. This administration has been terrible with that. If there were any other viable alternative I would have tried to make them pay for it at the ballot box.

Actually i think Rummy isn't the biggest culprit in the reconstruction debacle. Bremmer was a flat out disaster. I tend to kick the responsibility upstairs to Bush and his circle, they tolerated mediocrity, slowness, and failure out of the CPA during the critical phase. A military governor should have been installed putting the Defense Department completely in control of Iraq from day 1. Actually before that. Had the Pentagon known they would be expected to administer and rebuild Iraq they might have planned for it. Which would have been nice.


Comparing WWII to the Iraq war is comparing apples to oranges, and comparing the number of deaths in particular battles from these conflicts is meaningless.

It's fine if someone wants to support and defend Rumsfeld's tenure. But I refuse to submit the US military to the "soft bigotry of low expectations" in the belief that all errors are inherent in the conduct of war. Nonsense. If a person wants to defend Rumsfeld, defend his policies, but the excuse that all wars have mistakes and deaths isn't much of a defense.

Two "finallys" in one comment, followed by a postscript.

Sadly, not a record.

I often sit on the other side of you Armed L but I think you hit it on the head on this. Great Job.

And would have we won WW2 with today’s media I think we would have surrender before 43’. Along the way they’re impeached the president had multiple investigations into incompetence of Pearl Harbor (that by the way was not even investigated until after the war) then fired Patton after El Enamen (if we even would have attacked a neutral previous ally). The bombing raids of Germany bwhahhahaha WAR CRIMES yeah right. Hell if we had made to to the battle of the Bulge would have we tried Eisenhower for war crimes for OKing executing German SS in civilian cloths behind US lines reeking havoc?

Nate I will throw with you for a minute what exactly is the catastrophic decisions/policies that old Rummy has made?

And by the way the historical comparison is not apples & oranges historical comparison is how you judge something like war. You cant just make unrealistic impossible to achieve standards then complain because they were not met. To just say any mistake and any loss or sacrifice is unacceptable is not REALISTIC.


Skorzeny's commandoes behind American lines during the Battle of the Bulge were in American uniforms, not civilian clothes. And we did it too - we sent a small number of elite American troops (German-speaking Rangers as I recall) behind German lines wearing German uniforms during the Battle of Aachen a month or so before. The Germans executed the few they captured without trials. We gave those of Skorzeny's commandoes we captured really quick & dirty military trials before shooting them.

Both sets of executions were perfectly proper. The Geneva Convention permits execution on capture of unlawful combatants, especially those captured wearing your side's uniforms. American law at the time and now requires only a quick & dirty military trial.

A bit off topic, but i've been boning up on WWI lately (far more interesting than conventional wisdom gives it credit for). The Germans especially would take civilian hostages and execute them as a matter of course. The Belgians especially had a rough time after they gave Jerry an awful bloody nose in what the Germans expected to be a quick shortcut into northern France. This was of course used by the Allies for propaganda purposes (the French censored it as the Germans pushed towards Paris, more afraid of the citizenry buckling in fear than being outraged into resistance). Its just odd to think how different what was 'normal' in war was less than a century ago.

I think the WWII comparison to the Iraq war is wrong for a number of reasons, too many to fully discuss here. Put simply, WWII was about body counts, whereas this new conflict isn't. This conflict more resembles the Cold War, in which a long struggle plays out in a war of ideas and in many arenas away from the battlefield. Hence, my contention that...

Leaving aside Rumsfeld's role in advocating and planning the war, his biggest sin and his failed D-Day was Abu Ghraib. That scandal "branded" the US military throughout the Muslim world and will have effects that will take years to undo. Those pictures will create more terrorists and make it more difficult for US soldiers in the future than any botched combat operation would. The fact that our leaders have held no one accountable except some low-level grunts for Abu Ghraib shows us how little we understand that we are in an information war and a media war, and the terrorists we don't create are the ones we don't have to kill. I don't want my kids to have to fight some future terrorist because of a present policy that creates them.

I doubt this contention of mine will go over well within this site, since most folks associate a strong strategy with one that puts heads on a plate. But that's because I think people don't understand the war we are fighting, and are stuck thinking in terms of WWII. America beat the USSR because we outsmarted them, and we'll have to do the same thing to Al-Queda. It took Westmoreland too long to figure out that body counts wouldn't be enough for America in Vietnam, and it looks like we're going down the same road again.

(Please don't trot out the canard that Abu Ghraib was the media's fault. Go read the Economist's call for Rumsfeld's dismissal for whose fault it really was.)

You are correct Tom they were in US uniforms but even so it doesn’t lessen the point that in today’s media world such videos would be played as war crimes.

We have terrorist who belong to no nation wearing civilian cloths captured on the battle field 4yrs ago and we cannot even give them full military tribunal’s with defense and all without the ACLU and other pansy groups demanding their constitutional rights.

The Geneva Conventions makes no difference between those who wear civilian and those who wear your uniform as to how they are classed both are considered the same NOT PROTECTED.

And for arguments sake lets go with the German-Americans who were inserted into the States to attack infrastructure by German Submarine how would we treat such today. The “American-Taliban” had a long trial with all constitutional rights given with a slap on the wrist of 15yrs.

And talk about open use of Presidential power::

“Roosevelt realized that neither the death penalty nor secrecy could be guaranteed in a civilian trial, so he issued a proclamation that established a military tribunal consisting of seven generals, the first to be convened in the United States since Lincoln's assassination. The prosecutor was Attorney General Francis Biddle. The chief defense lawyer was Colonel Kenneth Royall, a distinguished attorney in civilian life and later President Harry Truman's secretary of war.
The trial, which was held in secret at the Justice Department, occupied most of the month of July 1942. Biddle accused the Germans of coming to America to wreak havoc and death, basing his accusations on their own confessions. The would-be saboteurs pleaded innocence, denounced Hitler and insisted they had had no intention of actually engaging in sabotage.
The prosecution asked for the death penalty, the punishment required of spies during wartime, but it had a hard time making its case against Dasch and Burger, who had confessed so quickly and collaborated so completely.”

That’s right they were EXECUTED and the pres purposely denied them civilian trial just for this outcome. Can you imagine such today. We still cant even agree if our terrorist captured can be tried in a Tribunal 4+yrs after capture and they aren’t citizens.

Reference story:


Abu Ghraib that’s weak. It was an isolated incident by a small group of soldiers that had an inch and took a freekin mile. And ohh yeah the media way overplayed Abu Ghraib and if you doubt such explains how it still makes front page NYT even when the new part of it is based on a Fake easily found out victim 4yrs after the event.

I would also argue that Abu Grhaib and our WOT including most especially the Iraq phase, the air strikes and cross boarder snatch/grabs into other foreign nations have done more to help our PR war than hurt. Your miscalculation here is you are coming from the “we can’t make them mad” school. That school is wrong for one thing that Arabs are very familiar with such tactics in war and don’t think it wrong like many western pansies like yourself do, they consider it part of war business as usual. Bonus question were do all those renditions go to again it wouldn’t be the Arab world would it?

Admitted by our enemy themselves is that a major reason for striking US is they see US as weak. Embassy Hostage Iran, Beirute, Somalia, 93’World trade, two embassies Africa, Cole, and numerous CIA agents killed across the ME proved to our enemy we were just that. That stigma is broken after 9-11 Afghanistan, Iraq (even against world opinion), strikes into Yemen/Pakistan/Somalia/Philipines/Eafrica, snatch/grab in Italy/Germany/Pakistan/Yemen/Jordan/ect, Rendition policy, and ohh yes Abu Grhaib has broken that weak taboo and replaced it with WOW the giant has risen fear.

Why do you think we have not been hit again since they hate US so much more than before? Is it hard to come to the states go to your local gas station getting just a couple gallons of diesel at a time filling up your 50gallon drum in your room at night while you work in the day at your local lawn company putting the fert in your truck rather than the customers lawns until you reach that level and you drive to the local Publix and bam? There is two ways to stop terrorism one is absolute POLICE STATE (unacceptable) the other is you DETER them. Deterrence takes FEAR and what you see, as hate is Fear.

I do have a thought thou if it is so wrong to make the Arabs mad resulting in Rums field should be fired (thrown on the alter if you will) what is your feelings on say Newsweek board who printed fake stories that really pissed off the Arabs. Or maybe what about all those Jew synagogues they really piss of the radicals Muslims Jewish lobby and all. Or maybe all those disrespectful westerners who dare to eat Pork and fail to pray to Mecca 4times a day. Were exactly does the accommodation stop for ya Nate or even better at what point of accommodation do you think they will LIKE US?

"It was an isolated incident by a small group of soldiers that had an inch and took a freekin mile."

Let me introduce you the reality of Realpolitik. It doesn't matter if it was a few rogues on the nightshift. What matters is that the entire world believes the US military has a sadistic element to it. In this new war, perception becomes reality.

Just look at Turkey, the most moderate of Islamic countries, where the most popular movie of the last year was one in which the American military was the enemy. We are losing the media war, and on this Rumsfeld and I agree.

Heavy research is apparantly being done by A.L. 'about the role of media in creating and nurturing national mood'.

We know this because he drops names and references like a somombulant sophmore - Homer, Haberman, Shakespeare, Thucydides, Rawls and Benthem - hoping that proximity to such heavyweights will provide substance to an otherwise empty essay. I had to laugh when I read this, I suppose we have all done it, but for most of us not since we tried to BS our way through a paper in our sophmore year in college, I would think.

Look, if you want to show that the media can in fact have an impact on the 'national mood' you have to look no further than the yellow journalism of the Hearst papers that sparked the Spanish American War. (Or more currently the equally shoddy journalism of the MSM that jumped on the war bandwagan and eargerly passed along administration lie after lie about Iraq in order to influence the 'national mood'.

If, on the other hand, you are searching for an argument to justify a more 'patriotic' but yet still unpropagandistic media, then forget about it. 'Patriotism', it was once observed, 'is the last refuge of the scoundral'. Don't go there.

And resist the right wing resentment against the creativity of 'Hollywood'. Resentment is no substitute for talent. It will not produce anything of value.

So here is my suggestion for your essay:

1) The media can be misused to influence the national mood. We have plenty of example of this, see yellow journalism et al.

2) The media can be used to inform the public, where such information influences the national mood. We have plenty of example of this, election reporting, investigative reporting (like Watergate, Iran-Contra, the Bush lies) etc.

3) The media when bent to serve, willingly or not, the interests of the state is always venal, corrupt, useless, and untrusted. We have plenty of examples of this, see Fox News, Pravda and state run media outlets.

4) The media when left alone and free to produce whatever the public wishes to buy serves our informational interests best. (I would even point to al Jezeerra as an example of a free media existing within authoritarian regimes yet producing some decent informational content)

That should be enough.

What kind of propoganda and media "support" would you like to see to make more likely the possible initiation of Nuclear war by this administration against Iran?

Their silence and fear of asking tough questions is more than enough complicity to the "war cause" that the Republicans and Bush want to unleash on the world.

Maybe more stories about the End Days and the wonders of the Christian Afterlife?

Personally speaking, I'm not a soldier about to enter into battle who is in need of a pep talk. Like most people in the world, I'm just a civilian. And I certainly DO NOT want propoganda. I demand, and have a right to receive, access to unvarnished factual information and observations.

Then I will make up my own mind, independent of what War supporters (whatever "war" that is) want me to think.

Well I will agree we are losing on the Media front. And that is another argument involving Sedition, Treason, and Weak leadership unwilling to call a spade a spade.

But that doesn’t explain the catastrophic decision/policy of Rumsfield. Rumsfield can’t be held responsible for Hollywood and our supposedly loyal “American” media. And we can’t gut our upper leadership every time a handful of soldiers get carried away.

And this is Great

“Let me introduce you the reality of Realpolitik. It doesn't matter if it was a few rogues on the nightshift. What matters are that the entire world believes the US military has a sadistic element to it. In this new war, perception becomes reality.”

Like I said your misconception is that you are coming at this WOT from the “we can’t make them mad” school of thought.

Sure I will concede that Abu ghaib showed our enemy our dark side and showed we are capable of sadistic acts. I would also put forward that their “perception or their reality” of the west is that we are all a bunch of Infidel, Homosexual, Morally Corrupt, Weak, Greedy, Criminals (brought to them by Hollywood and our TV/Media).

So what is the answer should we shut down Hollywood? Should we change our laws and enforce good Muslim standards and Sharia Law? Should we give a Mullah a seat on the Supreme Court, or a veto in the Congress? Maybe we should quit supporting Israel so they can kill the Jews? Maybe we should kill our Jews here too, Jew lobby and all? Maybe we should kill the homosexuals here (they do over their sign of good faith)? Maybe we should put our women back into their place (veil and all)? Think that will do it?

What is you answer to fix this “perception or reality” of US? Like I said before at what point of accommodation do you think they will like US? Or at least at what point of accommodation do you think they will consider US worthy of life on earth alongside their most holly selves?

Until you can answer that I will be happy to accept the Muslim “perception or reality” that the US is Sadistic, evil, horrible, blood thirsty, barbarians that is feared to the point were it will Deter their attack on US.

On a side note what amazes me is how the LLL’s hate the mysterious “Christian right” supposedly on “principle liberal values”. Yet the LLL’s go to great lengths to support the Islamic Radicals even thou the “Christian rights” demands are petty compared to the Islamist demands? Makes me wonder “what are those Liberal core values short anti-Americanism”.


Ken did you just point to Aljizz as a fair informational media source? You gotta give a put down drink warning for such as*hat statements.

Say it you can do it ChimpyMicBushitler did it all global warming the 9-11 the mongul horde, WW2, 1, Stalinist purges what you didn’t you Bushitler was passing through innocent little russia and welll……...

IRAQ - The MSM Meme Bush Lied! People Died! Now Is Toast!

Great post A.L.,

A related thought see this post I just put up at RBT re interview with Iraq Gen Sada by blogger Melanie Phillips.

It's time to:

Loose Instapundit's Army of Davids!



RBT is posting the entire interview with Gen Sada here because of the extreme significance this has to winning the war of information. Hopefully the Blogos will begin to buzz and pass this interview directly to the American people. So far what Gen. Sada has said has not gained much traction in the MSM. Obviously this will shred the meme, Bush Lied! People!

This has been the mantra of the LL and the MSM for the last several years in news reports that falls squarely into the enemy's disinformation compaign in the GWOT.

It is extremely important that the American people hear the words of Gen. Sada. While the US Military and our allies in the GWOT our crushing the enemy on the ground, there is a danger will we lose this war for lack of political will of the American people. This is because of the highly distorted view of the GWOT as portrayed by the MSM.


Read More

Let's donate money to put up Norman Rockwell posters everywhere:

Wouldn't it help make everybody sane again if we all kept seeing pictures like these more often?

There should be a place where people who want to make America sane again could donate money, and that money would be used to buy Rockwell prints to put up in schools, and in sporting arenas and in public transportation, at toll booths, or anywhere that a lot of people would see them.

"I demand, and have a right to receive, access to unvarnished factual information and observations."

So the truly obvious question becomes, what if that product simply isn't available? From any source? Do you trust the people who brought us the deadly Afghan winter, the deadly Iraqi sandstorms, and a host of other laughable-in-hindsight stories (of which one can only hope the inevitable Iraqi Civil War will be one) to get it right when it counts?

Distrust the government, sure; but don't sell out to anyone who's simply anti-government. That simply isn't logical.

Oh, and normal; don't quit your day job, assuming you have one.

Ken, I would also include the Washington Post's investigations into the events leading up to Vince Foster's suicide, the NYTimes' groundbreaking journalism surrounding the bombing of the "Baby Aspirin" factory, CBS' expose of the lapses surrounding the failed rescue attempt of the hostages at the Iranian embassy, and the LATimes' investigations into what really happened to Juanita Broderick.

Or at least I would if such things existed.


Mark Poling, this may come as a surprise to you, as it does to all conservatives when they learn this simple fact: you are not in a position to dictate to the NYT, CBC or the WP what stories to cover.

If you think there is a story worth telling on any of the subjects you mentioned, you can write a book. Publishing is, after all, part of the media as well. I sure some right wing wacko lunatics would even buy it. Misinformation to you guys is like someones sister, you pass her around the entire family untill a cousin ends up marrying her and the next generation of inbred conservative lunacy is born. But hey, to each his own.

Ken, Ken, stepped up and made an argument...I'm probably even going to respond...and then we get #25. if you hadn't posted earlier, I'd have pulled it down.

I'd suggest leaving your more sordid sexual fixations at the door next time; rape and incest are just a little too much, dontcha think?

Just for a sec, do you see the difference between your two posts? other people do.


A.L. the imagery of the tight knit family of right wing idealogues passing around miss information until a new lunacy is gestated is fresher than the imagery of the 'vast right wing noise machine' and therefore has more impact.

Since you quoted Shakespeare at some length above I didn't think colorful, if bawdy, imagery could possibly be too risque for the comments that followed.

Ken, not to belabor a point, but who is in a position to dictate to the media conglomerates what to publish and what not to publish? Is the Government the only entity (or conglomeration of entities) that could do so?

You're right, it isn't poor old globe-trotting middle managers like me. So you might, if you were appropriately paranoid, ask who's getting smeared (on a regular, statistically recognizable basis), who is doing the smearing, who has the means to engineer the whole social construct, and who has the motive?

Not to say there is a conspiracy (and the only thing that makes me queasy about what I'm writing is SOMEONE will say "the Jews! the Jews!" as if they weren't the most smeared-upon people of all time, Gypsies included) but dude; if there IS such a conspiracy, and someone COULD set the agenda for the major media organs, you have just become a footsoldier for something you don't have the time to even try to understand.

Haven't you even read PKD?

You only thing you're hipishly paranoid. What you are, sadly, is co-opted. Tragedy if there is a conspiracy; farce if the whole media gestalt is the result of social dynamics we all remember from high school.

But then, the British Empire was run from Gentlemen's Clubs in the 19th Century (now there was a group that knew about inbreeding) so does anything really change?

"A.L. the imagery of the tight knit family of right wing idealogues passing around miss information until a new lunacy is gestated is fresher than the imagery of the 'vast right wing noise machine' and therefore has more impact."

Not to mention just as much basis in reality.

Always a pleasure to cross-post with postmodernists. (Not least because it makes my spelling and grammer look better.)


Mark Poling, your most recent comments are too obtuse for me. Is reporting the same thing as smearing in your mind?

It is useful to point to example of what you mean. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity are a good examples of smearers.

Reuters, Bloomberg Business News, Knight Ridder and Thompson are good example of objective news reporting.

These are paradigms in their fields. People place millions of dollars at risk based on the accuracy of the news reports from the 'objective' sources but would be fools to place a penny at risk based on the crap coming from Hannity or Limbaugh.

Also, what is a postmodernist, and who is PKD? No need to talk in code around me, just come right out and say what you mean.

A postmodernist believes that there is no truth apart from the text itself; reality can't be derived from the document. Only effect is important, and effect chances according to environment.

PKD is Philip K. Dick. Google the name.

My point (was) that if you buy into the idea that you're really getting objective news from any self-selected set of sources, you're relying entirely too much on your criteria of self-selection.

That may seem to support the case for postmodernest thinking, but it does just the opposite; if you buy into the idea that there is no way to represent a concrete reality, and everything textual become vulnerable to interpretation, you've abandoned the concept of second-hand knowledge.

Which means, of course, that everything you don't understand viscerally (from experience and practice) becomes magic and myth.

That's fine for Lit majors, not so good for folks who want to think about, you know, the real world beyond their own senses.

Reporting can of course be smearing. Remember the "Brutal Afghan Winter"? Wasn't so brutal. (Okay, maybe that was just being stupid, not smearing.) Remember the "Brutal Iraqi Sandstorms"? (Okay, maybe that wasn't smearing, maybe that was just being stupid.) Remember the systematic torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib? True to an extent, but bloody well smearing; people went to jail, people lost jobs, (Rumsfield offered to resign), it was a scandal and deservedly so. But, you know, a smear, because the press made it seem like SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and Andrew Sullivan's obsessions notwithstanding, there's not a lot of evidence that it was.

My point, oh gullible one, is that one predominant paradigm of political thought in the U.S. is subject to one standard of investigation, and the other dominant paradigm is not. I'd be as happy as a gormande in brie if both were held to the same excruciating standard. That they are not is an indictment of the Fourth Estate, for which you are carrying water most enthusiastically. If I think you're a fool its not because you've choseon one side or the other, but because you have done so uncritically.

Clear enough?

And, as a nasty aside which the moderators should feel free to delete, anyone who has not a clue about postmodernism shouldn't be throwing inbreeding slandars about.

Displays an insufficient level of inbreeding, don't'cha know?

I hate to break this to you, but Iraqis don't care about Abu Ghraib. They know it as one of Saddam's notorious prisons, and everyone had a relative raped or tortured or killed or imprisoned there. They know most of the prisoners we took there were common criminals and sunni insurgents and they think it's a joke that Americans get all upset about putting panties on some thief's head. (This is not to say we should adopt Iraqi standards, we were right to prosecute those soldiers and do a mea culpa about the whole thing.)

Iraqis also are not happy with how the rest of the Arab world has used Abu Ghraib for propaganda points, because they know their fellow Arabs didn't lift a finger to save them from REAL torture and murder by Saddam, so they see their Arab brothers being a bit hypocritical.

Our media didn't care about inflaming Muslims by pushing Abu Ghraib pix day in and day out, but publishing cartoons of Mohammed? All of a sudden it's: "oh we don't want to offend....."

(for this to post I had to put an asterisk in 2 of the URLs - if you want to go to those links you know what to do)

Mark Poling, a postmodernist sounds to me like a straw man someone created so people like you can knock them down. If you buy into their existance as a sufficiently large enough problem that someone grounded in the real world would know about them then it it tells me more about you than anything else you could possibly write.

Put another way and employing a hopefully more clear and less controversial metaphor than I previousy called upon, you are fighting windmills.

Now that I know where you stand here is a suggestion. Do a year long study of the difference between the news reporting of the Wall Street Journal and its editorial page.

But to make it 'real' open a margin trading account with an on line broker and start making decisions how to invest your money (longo or short) based upon the 'reporting' from each. Limit youself to interest sensitive sectors like financials as these respond most readily to the sorts of 'information' provided on a daily basis by both the 'news' pages and the 'editorial' pages.

You will quickly learn which is trustworthy and which is not.

PKD is Philip K Dick? Who would have known?

PS to my previous comment: Oliver Kamm on Abu Ghraib.

I had all these links because I tracked that issue on my blog for a few months.

PS Cox & Forkum on Abu Ghraib:




I'm with you!

If you read Gen Sada's book, Saddam's Secrets, he's making the same points as you. It's a matter of relativity from your frame of reference.

Unfortunately many Americans are left with a very warped sense of reality if their perception of reality if based only on the reporting by the MSM.

Fortunately for us in the Blogos we have alternative sources of information that to some degree have a self-righting/correcting ability.

Do read Gen. Sada's book for a very different perspective of the Saddam Regime and Saddam's WMD.

That was the point of my post above re Bush Lied! People Died!, meme of the MSM is now toast.




I see your blog is also linking to Melanie Phillips' interview with Gen Sada. GREAT!

Loose the Army of Davids to bring the truth to the American people!


Mark Poling, a postmodernist sounds to me like a straw man someone created so people like you can knock them down.

The latest postmodernists are actually made out of rigid polystyrene, which makes a much more satisfying crunch when you back a truck over one.


Glen, I might just have to steal that. ;)

I think you have it bass ackwards. The MSM reflects the national mood. It doesn't shape it. If the NYT were not receiving positive feedback from its malignant reporting it would try something else.

Mark Poling makes some valid points.

Postmodernism is a term describing a wide-ranging change in thinking beginning in the early 20th century. Although a difficult term to pin down, "postmodern" generally refers to the criticism of absolute truths or identities and "grand narratives." ... Postmodernism has had large implications in philosophy, art, critical theory, architecture, literature, history, and culture.

That's the start of the lengthy Wikipedia article on the subject.

Some people, myself included, regard the contributions of postmodernism to fields beyond literary criticism (and perhaps philosophy and art history) with disdain. Be that as it may, it is a very influential body of thought. Folks often adopt its concepts and methods of argumentation when it suits their larger purposes. Postmodern views of narrative and discourse are so embedded in the humanities and the softest social sciences that people often employ them without recognizing them for what they are.

Peter, have you looked at circulation and revenue trends for the NY Times (and the other major news outlets)? They are receiving a lot of negative feedback, they just can't seem to do anything about it.

If a typical mainstream media outlet wanted to get to a 50/50 representation of Democrats/Republicans in its content-producing staff, it would have to (a) fire about 80% of staff (all of whom would be liberals), (b) nearly double staff with conservatives (and good luck finding a hoard of conservatives who want to take entry-level staff writer positions), or © some less draconian, but still expensive and internally-devisive combination of the two approaches.

The problem is even worse for an outlet like the New York Times, where the social peer group for the editors (folks with season tickets for the Metropolitan Opera, who vacation on the Cape, and who hope like hell they don't get asked about the helps' legal status) are 100% behind the idea that conservatives are obviously the product of inbreeding.

(Hi Ken! How's writing for effect working for ya?)

(As to investment advice, I work in the International Banking industry -- Trade Finance, to be precise -- and I just watch what the bankers are doing. Word to the wise: mideast regional banks are scrambling to prepare infrastructure to cope with the volume of business they expect from Iraq in the next five years. But you go on reading Reuters.)

Frankly, the managing editor who wrenches the New York Times toward the Right won't get any invitations to the right parties. (And would probably end up in hot water with his or her building's Co-Op board.)

People love trotting Rush and Fox out as counterexamples to the groupthink that is the Manhattan/Los Angeles-dominated media conglomerates, but the meteoric success of both simply show that a market demand had existed that was not being served at all. (Who would have thunk that inbreeding could produce a population that would grow even faster than the population of NYTimes readers decreases.)

The biggest myth out there about corporations is that they are rational by nature. The second biggest myth is that they are flexible. Big, complex entities develop their own habits and have their own structural rigidities. Sure, capitalism over time favor the strongest competitors for a given market, but it sure doesn't make any one company act rationally in response to market pressures.

If it Bleeds - It Leads!


Re NY Times

Mark Poling beat me to it. The MSM is on its way down for the count and they don't know it yet. Some may suspect it as they have been caught fudging their circ numbers for ad rates.

Reynolds (Army of Davids) and Hewitt (Blog) are onto something that RBT wrote about quite awhile ago. The MSM must pay the freight for its overhead which is not cheap - paper, electricity, airtime et al. With the conglomerates consolidating the media, the business wonks have penatrated the corp/editorial boardrooms.

In the past there was almost a line painted down the floor of most Am dailies that separated the business side from the editorial side of the papers. This line no longer exists.

In short they have to pander for ratings and readers by sensationalizing their output, If it Bleeds - it Leads. A truism that is more truer than ever. This inherenting distorts the news. For news to have worth it must be correct more times than not, have some worth in your daily life, and be predictive of future events.

The MSM is losing the battle as the Blogos et al can now provide this. The overhead is pratically free. Viewers and readers are free to choose based on value of content as it has predictive value in their daily lives.

The MSM will continue its downward spin until the wonks figure this out and start delivering objective news, give info as to the credibility of its sources, educate viewers and readers of the important issues of the day and how they gather the news, and most importantly keep the editoralizing on the OP-ED page and not mix opinions in with hard news on Page One above the fold.

And finally the most important of all, once doing all of the above, allow the viewers and readers to decided for themeselves what the truth is and what is not.


Wow, how did we get to Finance? The post was about propaganda in the media. Not that the finance info wasn't useful - thanks Mark P. You have made some excellent points to Ken. I hope he understands that it's a discussion - not a law court.

I'm not sure that post modernism is important either - though Glen's new description had me lmao - fell out the chair and caused a stir here in the office - not really supposed to be reading this. But I couldn't quit.

I have to say AL, this was great post - but I was a little disappointed at your disagreement with Schaar. I thought what you posted there was excellent. Maybe it's because I didn't quite get the Chris Bertram piece - which you liked. :)

And speaking of media bias, check out Michelle Malkin's expose on Bilal Hussein. Quite a read - and quite an indictment, I think, of the Associated Press - and Reuters.

Tblubrd, I admit that the side-trip into international finance was a detour, but the sclerosis in corporate media does have a bearing on the original topic, I think. Back in WWII, there was a dominant worldview in the newsrooms and movie studios that either intentionally or unintentionally produced "propaganda". Today there is a different worldview, but one every bit as homogenous as the one back then.

It could be argued that today's dominant paradigm within corporate media produces propaganda against the interests of the U.S. Government; but I think to really be propaganda their has to be intent to misinform, or to obscure inconvenient truths, and I honestly don't believe that to be the case for the vast majority of content producers and managers. (Of course there will be exceptions, such as that AP photographer you mention.)

On the other hand, paradigms can shift; we went from Yankee Doodle Dandy to the Deer Hunter in less than 40 years. We may be seeing a shift today, as the media outlets struggle with new technologies and customer dissatisfaction.

(Look at this poll measuring public respect for different professions: "The lowest ratings go to real estate agents (5%), stockbrokers (10%), accountants (10%), journalists (14%), bankers (15%), actors (16%), union leaders (16%), lawyers (17%) and business executives (19%)." Considering bankers are barely rated above journalists, I suppose everyone should take what I say with a grain of salt as well.)

So who knows? Twenty years from now media may look radically different than it does today. I just hope it doesn't take a WWII-size event to tip it into a new configuration.

The MSM, LLL’s, and most Dems are so invested into defeat of our Nation they have gone way out on the limb putting every bit of credibility they got out their. It is amusing to me to see how they have degraded into pitiful desperation in their reporting and outright ignoring Facts worthy of report.

I for one will absolutely relish the humiliation and discrediting they will reap. This war will do what the Vietnam war did in reverse it will rebuilt our national pride while at the same time identifying our nations enemies from within and utterly discrediting their opinion on the future for at least the next 30+yrs.

Mark P-
Interesting poll - but more telling on today's paradigms than it seems what is being told in Antique Media. And I think that is what AL is trying to get to. Where do we draw the line between sedition and debate? And, of course, the blanket of patriotism covers it.
In your poll, it is significant to note the top tier of respect - doctors, nurses, teachers (that was good to see), and scientists. I think teachers would rank higher were it not for university professors and the few sex escapades of the high school instructionists who , while few and far between, garner a lot of attention. The most significant group would be military officers, something that is probably not on California's poll results. :)
But overall, a rather practical group at the top - and generally reasonable people that one can have a discussion with. But we don't find them in the AM news nearly as much as the lawyers and journalists, both of who think they are in demand by the rest of us. I think Greyhawk has a good point in his post
Washington Post story: "In March, the Army got 5,396 new recruits, topping its goal of 5,200, the 10th month in a row it has exceeded its monthly target."

Washington Post headline: Army recruiting below last year's levels

Is it sedition? Well, no. Is it biased? - I'd have to say no if this were an isolated post. But it isn't. It is their constant rendition of the facts. Story correct, for the most part, but headlines distort - intentionally.

This is what I trouble with - and why I'm so glad the blogosphere is available. Credible folks, like yourself, give us information that causes a much more positive stir than reading crap from the NYT.

Mark Poling, I have watched people like you make the same mistake over, and over and over and over and over again.

I have come to a conclusion, quite apart from the substantial evidence outside of my own experience, that history does repeat itself, in big ways and small.

I have watched as people bet large sums of money that the economy would suffer because Clinton raised taxes, and lost. I have watched as people bet large sums of money that oil prices would fall as Bush brought democracy to Iraq and opened the oil fields to further production, and lost. I even watched people bet against the Euro because they resented the French!

The common mistake is conflating their economic choices with their political choices. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Money doesn't respect idealogy.

Your assumption that Sony, GE, Disney and others are managing their media assets on idealogical grounds would be highly profitable to bet against if enough suckers could be convinced to take your side of the bet.

"Your assumption that Sony, GE, Disney and others are managing their media assets on idealogical grounds would be highly profitable to bet against if enough suckers could be convinced to take your side of the bet."


I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make about "people like me" (inbred lot that we are) but I don't think whatever argument you're trying to make works like you think it does.

My argument isn't that Boards of Directors are sitting down and saying "let's put those pesky conservatives in their place", but that Boards of Directors of companies can't necessarily change the work product of their companies by simply waving a magic wand.

(And of course the case of the New York Times is special, because that's really a family business masquerading as a publicly-held company.)

Consider an analogous situation: K-Mart execs know exactly why Wal*Mart is stealing their lunch, drinking their beer, and canoodling with their spouses. But K-Mart execs have a limited number of options in terms of actually changing the way K-Mart runs; they have leases, they have distribution contracts, they have financial liabilities, etc. Most importantly, they have a staff and a set of policies and procedures that they can't just toss out. So changing the way they do businessis a time-consuming process, and time is very much against K-Mart; there's only so much lunch, beer, and hottie, and when its gone its gone.

Newpapers are in the same boat. The money men may know exactly what ails the rags, but finding and implementing a cure may not be possible.

But I'll grant you one thing; people who really do invest in media to make money (as opposed to the Sulzberger family) can feel which way the wind is blowing. Knight-Ridder just dumped a lot of properties to McClatchy Company, and McClatchy turned around and immediately put all the big-market properties back out for sale. (They're keeping small-market papers because those apparently are still making money.) Moody's is downgrading both Knight-Ridder and McClatchy in the wake of the deal. Meanwhile, those big-market papers will end up closing doors if buyers can't be found.

So, if you're arguing that smart money-people wouldn't stand for supporting a left-biased media (could we go out on a limb and call it a "leftist-propaganda producing media"?) in the face of a declining market for the product, I think you are exactly correct. But somehow, that doesn't really support the thesis that I'm out of touch with reality and you're not (assuming that was the point you were trying to make).


Mark, when you write in a straightforward manner you actually make sense. When you get all elliptical and make obcsure references to PKD and the mythological postmodernists, I confess don't bother much trying to figure out what you think you are actually saying. I just go by what I see in the text. (Is that postmodern enough for you?)

In a post whose subject matter is propoganda and the media, and references oration, theater, and movies, it was clear to me that the topic was broader than the traditional conservatives lament against the New York Times or Washington Post.

In your first response to me you employed a tired old conservative criticism of these and some other wing nut media targets.

By claiming that these outlets did not report on a few of the classic canards popular among the ditto-head culture in ditto-head talking points you pretty much pidgeon holed youself as one of the inbred retards that populate sites like this.

Your subsequent posts, up till this last one, did nothing to dispel that first impression.

Glad to see you were actually just misrepresenting yourself there.

You ought to be more careful about that in the future.


Mark, when you write in a straightforward manner you actually make sense.

Ken, you made me laugh! Because ... well, you can figure out why.

These are open comments. It's hard to keep good on-topic discussions going. Some folks' best two cents worth, isn't even. Others consistently bring wisdom to the conversation. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

Something about indulging name-calling, obscenity and a few other things seems to drive the conversation down towards a lowest common denominator. We try and avoid that.

This isn't about left/right, hawk/dove. More about a meta-narrative of free inquiry.

As an added bonus, deleting the insults right before hitting "post" can add to a comment's credibility in the eyes of the skeptical, open-minded reader. The one we're often trying to persuade.

So, Welcome.

Mark, I have one more comment, my last, but I would be interested in reading your response, on the substance of your above comment:

I disagree that the media are much like Kmart at all.

For one, their product has to be created new almost every day. And a large part of the media not only has to create its own product but also has to distribute it every day.

For another, there is an abundance of talent available to provide them a total new content at the 'wave of a wand'.

Radio stations do this all the time with what is called format changes. TV stations change programs regularly and movie houses are in constant need of brand new content. The music industry, the theater industry, and the news industry are in a constant compitition for new material.

So it would be easy for the board of GE, Disney, Sony or anyone else with media assets to almost overnight demand a political bias to the content of their product, if they so choose.

It would be a piece of cake but it is not done because their is too small an audience for purely propagandistic type of product. Sure Murdock does it, Sinclair Broadcasting does it, Regency Press does it, but it seems to me they have sucked all the oxygen available out of the truly politically biased styles of media audiences.

Ken, once upon a time it was an article of faith on the Progressive side that the Rosenbergs were innocent. (Google it if you don't know the reference. You'll get a ton of hits.) Needless to say, once the Soviet Union collapsed, we found out the truth, both from declassified U.S. intelligence (Google: Verona) and from Soviet records themselves.

The classic way to avoid a question is to belittle it and ridicule/persecute the questioner. (To get obscure on you again, I always think of Gallileo's "Nonetheless, it moves" at these moments.) So if you're really a suspicious soul, when you see any faction get all self-righteous and dismissive about an issue, and especially if they reflexively attack the questioner, start digging; chances are good you'll find something worth your while.

I'll rephrase something I said earlier: Aggressive inquiry is good; Selective inquiry is bad.

As to finding new staff with a "magic wand" let me tell you a personal story. Back when I was looking at colleges, I seriously considered going to Oberlin. Beautiful campus, a good distance from home (3 hours drive), excellent faculty, a guaranteed scholarship, and of course I could expect a much higher level of discourse from my peers than I had in high school. (I grew up in West Virginia. You're not the first smug SOB to get under my skin with an "inbreeding" "joke". For future reference, that sort of thing gets you flagged as unserious and unsmart. And in the right circumstance, it might get your ass kicked.)

But to continue, I identified a problem with the Oberlin student body early on, which was that the most conservative political group on campus was the "Campus Moderates."

Now, I've identified Libertarian since I was twelve. I had done a bit of reading, and the one thing that had struck me from an early age was that the history of governments is predominantly written in blood. (I was also fascinated by the story of the founding of the United States, and I felt I had a good understanding of why the Founders had a healthy fear of a powerful central government.)

In short, I felt the road to hell was paved with good intentions, and the main job of governments was to build that road. And at Oberlin, there wasn't a good intention that didn't lead to a new government social program.

So, all advantages taken into consideration, I still felt that I would be a square peg among Oberlin's cadre of well-rounded world-savers. Instead I went to Johns Hopkins to study engineering, and found out exactly what excellent planning by an 18-year-old is worth.

What I'm getting at is that any conservative looking for work as an entry level reporter (or even a seat in a journalism class as a freshman in college) will have to have a very thick skin, or be able to keep their ideological perspectives strictly to themselves. Those of us not so tough and not so reticent choose other options.

Getting back to the topic at hand (propaganda, good or bad, and how a media culture could be changed to promote propaganda if someone with the means thought it to be a good thing), the trouble with ANY conglomerate media outlet "waving a magic wand" and bringing in an entirely new, conservative staff (beyond the simple chaos that would entail; I'd guess you're still in school and don't have a feel for how hard an office can be hit by losing 5% of a workforce at once, let alone 80% -- a format change at a radio station is a sign of economic desperation and not nice to the talent) is that the vast majority of the people who would apply for the open editorial positions will be ideologically isomorphic with the previous writers and editors.

In other words, meet the new world-savers, same as the old world-savers.

It's late so I'm not going to bother googling it, but I remember reading about a survey asking journalists why they chose their profession. A large majority said something like "to make the world a better place." I would submit that this is a bad ju-ju. As soon as a journalist decides that his/her first obligation is to make things better instead of report the truth, objectivity can put its head between its legs and kiss its ass goodbye. And apparently objectivity gets to do the ass-kissing before most of these kids take Journalism 101.

(In practice, most young journalists with conservative views end up writing for the Business sections of their papers. In business, at least, "Conservative" isn't a dirty word.)

Sorry for the long-winded response, but I've thumped on you pretty hard and think your questions deserved something other than another smack-down. But to summarize, I think you severely underestimate the structural barriers to ideological change within corporate media outlets, and the sociological structures which reinforce the current media paradigm.

Mark Poling, two points.

1) I really thought I would get something more from you than a regurgitation of dittohead talking points regarding the 'liberal media'. I really thought you were capable of independent thought. Consider me disappointed. Perhaps you are tired and wanted to respond without thinking too hard so you fell into an argument you heard others make?

I'll make my point simpler:

- Sony Pictures could, at the drop of hat, stop making movies like the DaVinci Code and Basic Instict2, and instead immediately start producing only the type of movies that meet Michael Medveds approval. The talent exists, the infrastructure exists, all that is missing is the instruction from the head office to do so.

- Schoolastic Books could drop the Harry Potter series and publish only authors like those published by Regency Press. There is plenty of talented conservatives, yourself included, who could produce material for them. Word from the top would put this plan into action almost immediately.

- ABCs corporate owned radio stations could be turned into country western stations overnight with a playlist focusing on 'patriotic' music.

- All of the 'media' in each of its forms has an almost insatiable appetite for new content, fresh styles, audience pleasing material. The owners of these assets could direct the production of content be focused on polically biases themes.

You buy into the tired libertarian/conservative cliche that the reason this is not done is because those at the working end, the people who would have to carry out the bosses orders, are liberal.

The real reason this is not done is because the audience for a purely biased political media, in any of its forms, is extremely limited. Large corporate entities with substantial media assets are not going to risk losing money to satisfy a political agenda.

2) Your personal story regarding your unwillingness to expose yourself to elements outside of your comfort zone in your choice of colleges is likewise disappointing. If any time in your life was the right time to broaden your horizens it would have been in college. It seems to me you have kept to that practice even to this day.

You are wrong to assume however that just because you are that way that liberals must that way as well. I think you will find that generally speaking liberal have a far better grasp of conservative thought than the other way around.

tblubird -

What in the wide world of sports made you think I disagreed with Schaar?

ken - I can't tell you how much I enoy playing with those to whom the Revealed Truth has been given. As long as I'm being sophomoric and quoting my betters, I'll suggest one book for you...look up Thomas Kuhn.

More when I get some time in the morning.


At it again with the personal attacks, Ken? Didn't I warn you that it was the first refuge of scoundrels? But last words seldom are last words

"Dittohead". Guess that's better than inbred. Oh, wait; same thing. My bad.

Comfort zones notwithstanding, I give reasons, you give assertations. I talk mechanisms, you talk visions. You're disappointed in me, well, I'm crushed. (I look forward to reading your reports from the military, because I'm sure you now feel obligated to find the most conservative environment possible in which to spend your next four years of your life. Keep us posted.)

Assertations are meanigless. I could declare myself King of Scotland and that won't make it true, even though, if I were a fool, it might give me a warm and fussy. Visions are great, but a dime bag does the same thing and doesn't actually require you to do anything but rifle your mom's purse. So I leave you with your tools and your right hand and wish you a happy relationship.

But I have a couple of parting cluse for you, buddy boy; don't dis the people at the working end. Real bosses who want real results have to deal with the reality of the grunts. Anyone who thinks the guys on the ground are insignificant is an idiot and an asshole.

(I think the fact you're comfortable calling yourself a "Liberal" is a problem in and of itself; you think the guys in charge are all that matter, and that's either the sign of someone who (a) doesn't think they themselves matter or (b) thinks they know the right way to apply the boot to the back of some necks to get things done. Either pathetic or evil.)

Your point about the audience for "purely biased media" being limited? What parts of shrinking mainstream media market share contrasted with growing "conservative" media market share aren't you getting? Hollywood's profits are shrinking. Mainstream media's profits are shrinking. Hello? Apply your own goddamned logic and see where it gets you. At least try to be internally consistent with your arguments. It makes you look brigher.

You still buy into the idea that liberals are somehow inherently better than those who aren't liberals. Okay, that's your little comfort zone. But the first cardinal rule of the Enlightenment is that you must always consider the possiblity that you are wrong. Try just a tine smidgeon of respect for those with whom you don't agree. It costs almost nothing, and makes you look like a reasonable person, even if you aren't.

Ken, someday you may grow up. The sad thing is, maybe not. And unfortunately, you're never likely to get any smarter. Godspeed.

I apologize to the thread for the acrimonious nature of this comment but damn. Responsible citizens need to recognize the dangers of smug.


Google: Verona

Be advised that that's VENONA, originally all caps. It's a made-up code word. The error is a natural one.

To Ken: Googling PKD produces Philip K. Dick as the third hit. So obviously some people would not find the reference obtuse. I'm not bashing on you, just saying.


Feeling better about yourself? You know Mark my rolodex probably contains the home phone numbers of one or more of your bosses. Oh, not your immediate supervisor, but someone at the level of senior management. That is if you work for major league financial institution. By how you write however, I tend to doubt it. Not that you are not capable of doing better, it is just that you are unable at this stage of your development to pick up and address the substance of an issue out of the noise surrounding it. /smug

I admit to adding some color to my commentary but shouldn't you be able to pick out the argument and respond with something other than cliches? Add as much insulting material as you want, your pretty good at that, but at least address the issues.

Here is where I think the issue stands between us:

You argue that the media cannot change to meet the biases of conservatives because the people who produce the product are liberal.

Let's first agree that this is not original with you. It is, in fact, a ditto head talking point. This is one of the ideas I mocked as being so inbred amongst conservatives it finally produces it own retard offspring. Examples of the retarded offspring can be seen in almost anything written by David Horowitz.

I pointed out that the media, in all its forms is bigger than the typical targets, NYT and WP, that this tired old conservative argument is aimed at.

Further, I gave some example of media where this is not true, movies, book publishing, and radio formats, came easiest to mind. These media can easily produce product to meet a conservative propagandistic bias at the discretion of senior management.

I argued that this is not done because there is not a widespead enough popular audience for such fare.

You responded with a touching personal story on how at a tender young age you refused to expose yourself to anything as liberal as the 'Campus Moderates', a claim of superior knowledge on how the real world works and its devastating effect on your fellow conservatives seeking work in the 'media', and a chest thumping assertion that you 'thumped' pretty hard on me. LOL

Do you have anything further to say on this topic? Or is that all you've got?

Marc, thanks for the pointer to Kuhn; I've read a bit about paradigm shifts in science, but didn't know where the idea was first conceptualized. I'll have to buy the book.

Nortius, thanks for the catch on VENONA. Aargh.

ken, this is your last and public warning. Talking smack about people who are trying to have an argument with you isn't something I accept; it's my party, and you're pissing in the punchbowl, to make a colorful metaphor.

The next time you do it, you'll be gone.


Ken, I work for a software house that serves the International Banking comunity. My two main roles are in product design for our internal development and in business process re-engineering for our clients. I'll be at Sibos this year in Australia. Look me up and we can discus the value you add to your own organization.

Cheers, mate.

A.L. I think that anyone who defends liberalism as vigorously as conservatives attack it would be considered 'pissing in the punch bowl' by your reckoning.

This place, with your permission I presume, reeks of hostility towards people who do not buy into its conservative bias. This hostility is so part of the fabric of this place that you do not see it. That is one of the problems that comes with isolation.

A recent post by Joe, on another thread, regading how to debate, is a pretty good example of this.

I think you see no irony in the fact that someone who admits to avoiding exposer to people as liberal as the 'Campus Moderates' would be considered mainstream here on the Winds of Change.

Any insult by a conservative commentator is consered legitimate 'argument' by you. But I see it as just background noise and does nothing to detract from any real argument, if there is one, and provides some colorful interest when the insult is particulary well formed, even when it is aimed at me.

In other words, I don't mind mixing it up a bit with people in an environment where the overall hostility is so out in open.

But it is your party. Delete, ban, or grow. Your choice.

Ken #63:

On the basis of reading and occasionally contributing to this site, I'd say all of your characterizations of WoC are incorrect. Your defense of your patronizing, ad hominem laced writing style is disappointing--I'd thought (#52) you were willing to move towards discussions of issues. Some of your later posts on this thread show that you can do that; now you've explained that you self-indulgently don't want to.

Too bad, really; it's our loss as well as yours. But Winds is a high-traffic site, and so it's vulnerable to the sort of lowbrow snark that you reserve the right to dish out.

Rather than provoke a ban, why not take a break and contribute comments to one of the many political sites whose commenting philosophy matches your own? That way, you could return here if you change your mind later.

My two cents.

About the campus moderates, and maybe getting back to the issue of the possibilities and perils of trying to promote beneficial propaganda:

To recap a bit, back when I was 18 I took a pass on Oberlin because I recognized the campus political discourse to be, in effect, an echo chamber, and one in which my natural inclinations likely would be met with hostility and derision. So I went to that bastion of right-wing thinking, the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering at The Johns Hopkins University.

My little anecdote, surprisingly, was met here with hostility and derision. You cannot imagine my shock at this turn of events, especially coming from a source so self-evidently learned, open minded, and gracious.

(Actually, the JHU student body back then was more known for being politically apathetic, except for certain Humanities departments. Those tended to be to the Left of Chairman Mao. And it so happens I was a housemate of a member of the Communist Party for a couple of years. But why let little details like that get in the way of a good ad hominen attack?)

About a week ago Joe Katzman on this site reference an Op/Ed by Michael Barone about the media echo chamber:

"I remember a conversation I had with a broadcast news executive many years ago. "Doesn't the fact that 90 percent of your people are Democrats affect your work product?" I asked.

"Oh, no, no," he said. "Our people are professional. They have standards of objectivity and professionalism, so that their own views don't affect the news."

"So what you're saying," I said, "is that your work product would be identical if 90 percent of your people were Republicans."

He quickly replied, "No, then it would be biased."

My esteemed and perspicacious opponent would seem to illustrate that this type of, shall we say, selective application of standards isn't limited to the newspaper business. (The shorter version of his argument would be, I believe, that there can be no liberal bias because liberals aren't biased.)

So the question becomes, if the media needed to change perspectives in order to survive (and in the age of Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh and the Cartoon Jihad, the word "survive" isn't just metaphorical) will it be able to do, in the face of such a strong set of entrenched assumptions? If the media needed to pump out anti-fascist messages to raise societal awareness of a growing danger, could it do so?

(Assuming this thread isn't totally dead, any guess on how long it will be before someone chimes in with says "Republicans are fascists"?)

After sparring with my polymathic nemesis, I have to say I'm actually more hopeful that our media could make the adjustment than I was at the start. It's pretty obvious to me that there are so many cracks in the foundations of the dominant paradigm that it won't take a nuke in a shipping container to bring the whole edifice down. Market forces and simple cognitive dissonance will, I think, lead the whole chattering class to adopt a new philosophical paradigm.

The question, and in a lot of ways it's more disturbing than the first, is what replaces the old one?

My obstreperous foil's characterizations of my political proclivities are actually quite specious. If anything, in my life my natural inclination is to prefer heterogeneous, tolerant milieus over homogenous, dogmatic environs. As such, my pollital prescriptions are predominantly predicated on classical liberal principals. For me, a media that became nativist and xenophobic as a response to some transformative event, calamatous or simply metamorphic, would be infelicitous in the extreme.

(I just do that to imagine the sound of a tiny little brain exploding.)

So I would conclude that either the media could not today and will not in the future be able to produce propaganda analogous to what it did in WWII (resulting, I'm afraid, in cultural senescence and eventual capitulation to some form of medievalism) or we'll see a sudden and utter collapse of the structural support of cultural relativism pervasive in the intelligentsia, resulting in the real possibility of massive societal upheavals. (Strangely, the events surrounding the debate over the illegal immigration issue may be a preview of things to come.)

So assuming our culture doesn't just collapse from ennui, does the question become "how do we surf the coming media singularity?" instead of "how do we define and cultivate a beneficial propaganda"?

Sorry to ramble, but Marc, you've written a great post; lots to think about here. Thanks!

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