Archive for the ‘propaganda’ Tag

Fallacy of Persuasion   2 comments

What’s the most useless thing you know how to do?

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Propaganda Ride SharingWow, this is going to be a hard thing to say because I know a lot of really useless stuff. That happens when you’ve been alive more than half a century during a time of great innovation. As a writer of fantasy novels and an apocalyptic series, I sometimes use those now “useless” skills in my writing, which means I now I have to find something that wouldn’t have a use even in a fantasy world.

That means things that are kind of useless in our world today might be highly useful in the worlds I write about. For example, do you know how to adjust a butterfly valve in a carburetor? The other day, I mentioned rebuilding a carburetor to a friend of my son who actually knows a thing or two about cars and he said “Why would you bother when you can just replace the engine with a fuel-injected one?” Good point. Knowing how to rebuild a carburetor is pretty useless unless you live in a time when an EMP has wiped out the computers that run fuel-injected engines and then it becomes a highly valuable skill.

In the United States of America where it is very hard to even find a standard-transmission vehicle these days, being able to drive stick is an increasingly useless skill. Ah, but if you go to a 3rd world country, there are almost never any automatic transmission cars, so driving stick becomes a very valuable skill.

So, what is the MOST useless thing I know how to do? I know how to use propaganda to manipulate people to get a predetermined outcome. I trained how to do that when I was in college. But it’s a useless skill because you can’t really control other people. I recognized that in my first job out of college and so I don’t really use the skill anymore. While it is true that you can persuade people with reason and truth, it’s an illusion that if we just apply the right pressure, say the right words, whatever we do to sway other people, that we will get long-term willing compliance with things that are not true. Sooner or later,  people will rebel against whatever we’re trying to convince them of. Some people will recognize the falsehood immediately and others might take decades, but sooner or later, truth will work its way into people’s consciousness and then you’ll have a rebellion on your hands. The only persuasion worth investing a great deal of time in it is explaining reality to people who have been confused by propaganda.

Propaganda Testimonial.png

This past week, after six years of incredible pressure by local government agencies pressing arguments with questionable science trying to scare people into a specific and self-destructive course of action, the voters of my community rebelled and told the local government that it cannot be involved in air quality issues related to home heating for at least the next two years. The “victory” was won because the government itself boldly did what some of us predicted they would do back when this whole totalitarian regime first started – their hand-selected “community” taskforce y voted to force the entire community to use a fuel that will increase our not-inconsiderable heating costs by one-third. It was like they just decided to self-destruct. With them showing their underdrawers, the voters decided to take the power away from them. Now the individuals who make up the community will have to use reason and technology to solve the problem of air quality in a cost-effective way.

I was part of the community group that hoped to sway the vote to remove authority from the Borough. I helped with the social media campaign. The other folks kept looking for just the right words or just the right slogan to get people to understand what they were saying. I kept saying “Just be honest”. I told them to talk about how the local government’s actions have effected them personally. Meantime, the Borough and the useful idiots who support their draconian measures used hyperbole and end-of-the-world propaganda language. And in the end, about 15,000 people (in a community of 100,000, which is another issue) voted. More than 7500 voted to take away the Borough’s control over home heating devices, while less than 6500 voted to let them remain in control.

Propaganda CredibilitySo, I would say my skill with propaganda is the most useless skill I possess because human nature eventually pushes back against propaganda. Sometimes it takes years for the rebellion to occur, but it does eventually happen. As stupid as many people often seem to be, truth will out … eventually. I can put decades of effort into a propaganda campaign only to have information revealed that discredits the propaganda and … poof, I’ve just wasted years of my life on an illusion.

I’m pleased I learned that lesson very early in my career because it could easily be me as the Public Information Officer of the Fairbanks North Star Borough who now has egg on her face. So, it really is truly the least useful skill I possess, so I’m glad I’ve sworn it off as not worth the effort.

Posted October 8, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Trust by the Numbers   2 comments

Blog Hop Topic – Do a survey of your readers and publish the results.


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I didn’t participate in the blog hop last week because I really couldn’t think of a poll I wanted to do, but then I hit upon a question that I thought would work.

=How Much Do You Trust Mass Media to Report the News Fully, Honestly and Fairly?

I got different results depending on the forum I asked the question on.

Image result for image of public's trust of the mediaThe blog got likes on the question, but no responses — which was one reason I didn’t participate last week. That happens more often than not on blog polls – mine, anyway.

Facebook fans – many of whom are writers – don’t trust the mass media at all. Well, a few said they trusted some sources more than others and they disagreed about which sources are more trustworthy. There were the perennial arguments over whether Fox News can even be called news compared to, say, network news and if it would be better under the “Fairness” Doctrine. Such is the nature of a “poll” taken on a forum that encourages comments. I have liberal and conservative followers and even a few libertarians weighed in. I’d say fewer than 10% trust the media to any degree at all.

On Twitter, 8% mostly trust the mass media to give them full, fair and honest reporting, while 31% partially trust the mass media. That leaves 61% of the respondents who rarely trust the media to give them the straight scoop on anything.

What do I think about those results?

Twitter respondents are apparently optimists because 39% of them believe you can trust the media to some degree. One woman did comment that she trusts the sources she’s researched and approves of how they were funded. Okay, that makes sense — sort of. But who is to say that – for example, government-funded media is more trustworthy than privately funded media? I watch PBS and see a lot of propaganda being pushed there, then I flip over to CBS and that’s all propaganda. Fox and CNN … news with a decidedly ideological bent sometimes with propaganda mixed in. Some websites are also propaganda, while others report the news from an ideological bent.

I’m not surprised that only about 10% believe the media can be trusted most of the time and only about 40% believe it can be trusted at all, but I suspect we need to be honest with ourselves and say we really can’t trust any one source to report fully, honestly and fairly. You could maybe follow 2 or 3 and get a well-rounded idea of what’s really going on, but they all are slanted so you can’t just trust a single one.

I also asked a few coworkers about this question and got some interesting answers. A couple of them blame Donald Trump and his “fake news” diatribes for making people distrust the media … or they blame Sarah Palin for her “lame stream” media comments. But really, I think — unless you’ve been hiding in a bunker without an Internet connection for, well, decades … you’d have to be pretty naive to trust the mass media, because they’ve done such a poor job of being honest, fair and full in their reporting.  Remember when we were kids and our parents trusted Walter Cronkite to give them the truth? Well, it turned out he was lying and slanting the news for his own purposes. He wasn’t doing anything new, by the way. Edward R. Morrow lied about the World War 2. The New York Times lied us into World War 1 when it insisted the Lusitania wasn’t carrying arms. The Hearst Media empire created fake news to convince Americans that the Maine explosion was an act of war rather than an attempt at self-protection. Heck, newspapers in the Civil War days carried water for the Confederates and the Union. The media claims its goal is to provide full, fair and honest reporting of actual facts, but reporters are human beings who are influenced by their prejudices and who work for editors and producers who sometimes have agendas on one side or the other of an event. How could any human-made institution be wholly fair, honest and full given the biases that are so much a part of us as human beings?

And, there you have it.

Posted January 29, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Language Manipulation = Coercion   Leave a comment

Do you ever think about how we misuse language today? Probably not. Most people don’t. But we should … really … think about it because it affects all of us.

The Nazis and the Communists both changed the meaning of words in order to manipulate their populations. Consider how the leaders of Soviet Union used to pontificate against the “Imperialist West” when it in fact had one of the largest Empires in the world at the time. The Nazis included “Democratic” in their name for their country.

Image result for image of coercionThe same manipulation of words and ideas appears in the language of the progressive and radical “left” in America today. Just how successful this has been can be seen in getting people both to forget the past and accept the title “progressive” for all those who look forward to a collectivization of contemporary society.

Today’s “progressives” were the socialists of a century ago. Back then, they were confident that Marx’s “laws of history” made a socialist planned society inevitable and inescapable. But “socialist” soon came to possess too many negative connotations such as central direction and command of everyone in society under what was likely to be a dictatorial political regime. People rejected that, so the socialists performed a linguistic trick to prevent anyone from taking such a critic seriously. They used some language sleight-of-hand sleight-of-hand to transform themselves into the new and “true” or “progressive” liberals. Their goal, they insisted was entirely in line with the unfinished political program of the old, 19th-century “individualist” liberals who only spoke of “negative” freedoms from coercion and interference by other private individuals or governments.

They explained that the old-style liberals had left the program unfinished and this required a new “progressive liberal” agenda to the fulfill “positive” freedoms through governmental guarantees to a wide variety of redistributed benefits for the “needy,” the “exploited,” and the toilers of the earth who were the “real producers” of all things, but who were unjustly treated and abused by “the rich” — those capitalist owners who cared nothing about the little guy on whose back these capitalist exploiters rode to their unethically acquired wealth.

And, it didn’t matter how ethically or morally you’d acquired your wealth, how well you treated your workers, or paid them. If you were wealthy, you’d obviously become so through exploitation of people who couldn’t defend themselves from your rapacity.

Eventually, liberal” became a swear words due to negative attacks by political conservatives and, well, just about anyone with observation skills, so “liberal” was jettisoned and replaced with simply “progressive,” meaning a person looking forward for the achievement of more “social progress,” connoting what used to be considered a “socialist” program of a century ago – welfare redistribution, along with extensive government control and regulation of economic and social life.

These days, if you accuse a “progressive” of being a socialist or interested in advancing portions of a traditionally socialist agenda, you will be labeled a “right-wing extremist,” a “hater of the poor,” and an opponent of “social justice,” … if they just don’t call you insane, stupid or evil. It’s a linguistic trick to prevent anyone from taking your critique seriously. Clearly, you  have no logical and historical basis of your argument so to take it seriously shows that such a person has fallen victim to “reactionary” ideas outside of legitimate and acceptable political debate. No need to talk further. Discussion closed.

From “Class Warfare” to the New Race Collectivism

Traditional Marxist political economy was based on “class struggle.” Society is divided into two main “social classes” defined as and identified by whether an individual is or is not an owner of the means of production. If he is an owner, then he is a member of the capitalist “exploiting class.” If he is not an owner, then he is a member of the exploited, oppressed and victimized workers’ class.

Property ownership determined the social status and place of any and every individual person in society. What the individual believed, how he personally acted in his social and economic interactions with others were essentially meaningless. You were praised or condemned based upon your “class status” in the society.

Today, we’ve modified the the Marxian conception to transform it into the new notion of irreconcilable social conflict. We cast it in racial terms – you’re benefited by “white privilege” or a sufferer of “white oppression.” Instead of your status relative to the ownership of productive property determining your classification of social “saint” or social “sinner,” there is racial collectivism to tell you who you are.

Being “white” condemns a person as an implicit and explicit beneficiary of a social and economic system (“capitalism”) that has been placed at the service of a limited segment of the human community to gain power, position and wealth for itself at the expense of all those other “persons of color” everywhere else around the world.

The race advocates will insist that “white people” either fail to understand this or oppose admitting it in demonstration of just how embedded “white racism” really is in modern American society. Failure to accept this new race collectivist argument is taken to be proof of the racist mindset that the “progressive” opposes and is determined to overthrow by virtually any means.

Nobody cares what the individual’s own background is. It doesn’t matter if his ancestors owned slaves or conducted a waystation on the Underground Railroad. Did those ancestors come to the United States after slavery had ended in America? Were they, themselves, immigrants escaping oppression and discrimination in the “old country” and advocates of equality of rights for all in their new land of America? It doesn’t matter. You are unable to transcend your own accident of birth to be a thinking, willing, acting individual.

How has the individual standing accused of “white privilege” merely due to the pigmentation color of his skin acted in his own personal life toward others? It doesn’t matter because the color of his skin is all that’s important. How has he earned his own place in society … through fair dealing in what remains of a free market in the United States or through “crony capitalist” favors and benefits from the government? The question is never asked, and any attempt to offer answers to the the false assumptions of the progressives is rejected as smoke screens and rationalizations for maintaining “white privilege.”

Individuals are submerged within and reduced to social categories defined and imposed by ideologists reflecting their notion of a new racial- and ethnicity-conscious society. Yes, it dehumanizes the individuals who happen to be the descendants of Caucasian parents, and it does seem eerily reminiscent of racial stereotyping against blacks and Hispanics in earlier generations, but whites are not considered to be “victims” because they are not “persons of color.” You are an inescapable captive of your race, with only a “progressive” government able to guarantee you a “just” place in society.

Yes, this sounds a lot like the Nazi assertions that everything undesirable thing in German life was due to the machinations and intrigue of “international Jewry.” The failure of so many others in the world to see the insidiousness of Jewish manipulation and exploitation demonstrated the extent to which “the Jew” had succeeded in his control of the social and economic affairs of the world, and how many others were either their unwitting victims or the degenerate accomplices of their attack on “civilization” and race purity.

And, yes, there is a creepy similarity to the Soviet method of debate and argument-stopping. If you disagree with the politically correct statement, you are a dupe of the capitalist exploiters, and therefore should be ignored or condemned. Your refusal to admit the justness of the socialist cause shows that you must be in the pay of the capitalist bosses, and thus your arguments should be rejected as special pleading. Your arguments against communist and socialist planning should be discounted and ridiculed because you are simply a “red baiter” trying to demagogically arouse emotional resistance against those interested in “social justice” and “world peace.”

That’s really how it feels on some American campuses now. The techniques used are very similar to those used by the “Red Guards” during the Cultural Revolution under Chairman Mao in China during the 1960s and 1970s. Mobs of shouting, bullying and physically attacking young thugs spouting meaningless and ideologically vacuous phrases from the “little red book” of quotations from Chairman Mao, to mentally and physically crush any and all who failed to parrot the Party Line or who were the objects of Chairman Mao’s political purges and personal vendettas against real and imaginary opponents.


A distinct difference between the proponents of this new race collectivism compared to the 20th-century episodes of German Nazism or Soviet socialism is that this linguistic totalitarianism and word indoctrination is being advanced and imposed without any direct coercive and monopoly apparatus of governmental power. Academia, who were the opposition in Germany and the Soviet Union, is the headquarters of the new indoctrination. Schools with heavy taxpayer funding that allows comfortable salaries, programs, curricula and lifetime tenure are freed from the system of market-based work and reward to become islands of educational socialism with “safe spaces” within which there can be cultivated, to use George Orwell’s phrase, “some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual can believe them.”

An increasingly successful Orwellian-like thought police of politically correct “newspeak” is imposed on people in almost every circumstance of social life.

The assertion and repetition of “white privilege,” “the one percent,” “social justice,” “racist,” “gay-basher,” “LGBT-hater,” “gender insensitivity” have had numbing effects on private and public discourse, which produces self-censorship out of fear that the wrong word, the misplaced phrase, the wrongly understood witticism, or an unintentionally offending double entendre will bring down an avalanche of criticisms and threats to one’s job, social status, or acceptance among professional and informal circles in society.

The politically correct world of American progressivism and race collectivism threatens to drain human interaction of spontaneity and the real and relevant diversity of views, voices, and modes of expression and argumentation. Increasingly, people feel that they have to be “walking on eggshells,” never knowing who might take anything said or done as an offense against some ethnic or racial group or person.

Another technique of race collectivism and progressivism is to take what is normally accepted as reasonable and appropriate modes of polite and courteous behavior and turn them into a weapon to serve their own agendas. We all know and usually attempt not to intentionally say or do something that will offend or be embarrassing to someone we are associating with in some social setting. We just know it’s not the “right thing” to do. And if we see someone going out of their way to act in this improper manner, we find it inappropriate and “not right,” even if we remain silent and don’t do anything in response to it. Race collectivists and progressives have learned to use this notion of proper etiquette and good manners that acts as a break on most of us in the social arena as a weapon to silence and beat down anyone or anything not consistent with their worldview and political agenda. Anything said or done inconsistent with their ideas and ideology is “hurtful” to some oppressed minority or subgroup in society. We show insensitivity and misunderstanding of that group’s experiences, history, culture or degree of suffering caused by – “white privilege,” or “the capitalist system,” or . . .

Made to feel guilty in thinking some thought, saying some word, or expressing some idea, and fearful about the consequences of doing so, an increasingly successful Orwellian-like thought police of politically correct “newspeak” is imposed on people in almost every circumstance of social life.

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the anti-hero, Winston, works in the Ministry of Truth. His task is to go through the pages of old newspapers and rewrite the articles in them to make events and statements made in the past consistent with and supportive of the government’s current Party line. The words and events of the past are made to conform to the ideological “truths” of the present.

And that happens today. In another tricky technique, race collectivists and progressives insist that historical events and the people who lived in the past must be remade to fit the “truth” of these new totalitarians. When Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all human beings are created equal and have certain unalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, this was all “really” code words and rationales for a society of white racism.

If James Madison helped to author a constitution for the United States that had as a leading purpose restraints on the passions of potential individual rights-violating majorities that would threaten a free and prosperous society, this is “really” the institutionalization of the power of an oligarchy of the “the rich” to thwart the progressive will of the majority of “the people” for “social justice” against the exploiting “one percent.”

Stalin rewrote the actual history of the Russian Revolution to make himself, a relatively minor player in those events, into the right-hand comrade of Vladimir Lenin. Making the past conform to the politics of the present is often followed by a purge of those who might remember otherwise.

Everyone who believes in freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of association, in freedom of exchange of ideas, must oppose and prevent this new racial collectivism and its accompanying “progressive” linguistic manipulation from imposing a new dark age of diminished human discourse.

The wit, charm, creativity, and humanity of words and the ideas expressed through them, must not be stunted and then petrified by those who wish to reduce individual human beings to collectivist categories of ideological control and command. Liberty of thought, deed, action, and association is too precious to be lost to these coercing thugs bent on intimidating the human mind.

Slogans   Leave a comment

I suspect Clinton and Trump used the same ad agency to come up with their vacuous slogans. Consider this –

  • Make America Great Again
  • Stronger Together

They’re more or less interchangeable. In fact, Bill Clinton used something similar to “make American great again” back in 1992. As for “stronger together” … what does that mean exactly? Does my stealing your income make us both stronger? It certainly seems as though it makes me fatter and you weaker. How does that make us as a unit (that I haven’t agreed to become, by the way) stronger?

Image result for image of faneuil hallPolitical slogans are often filled with sound and fury. Growing up in Alaska, I was unfamiliar with the street side political rally where people gather and shout slogans. It just doesn’t happen here. By election season here, it’s not warm enough to stand outside and shout slogans. You just can’t gather a crowd. Some of the more transient members of our community remark on this lack occasionally, but Brad says it’s something you just stop expecting as you become an Alaskan.

But we were at Faneuil Hall in Boston one election season and a bunch of people gathered on the steps there to shout slogans at one another. I could tell they were supporting two opposing candidates, but I knew nothing about them, so the slogans were meaningless. Being the inveterate journalist that I am (and waiting while my husband and sister-in-law were shopping for things I didn’t care about), I mingled with the crowd, made up a magazine and asked folks why they supported the candidate they were supporting. In Alaska (18 years ago), that question would have brought up policy issues, personal character, voting history. There in Boston, the overwhelming answer was that they liked his slogan (the challengers) and he’d been their alderman for years (the incumbent whose supporters couldn’t remember why they’d voted for him in the first place). As far as I could tell, there wasn’t much difference between the slogans. Maybe the challenger’s was a little easier to shout, but I’m not a judge of slogans.

I don’t know for sure that Clinton and Trump’s slogans are completely meaningless to everyone who is shouting them. What strikes me is that they are thoroughly devoid of liberty, which had great meaning to the men (and a few women) who established this country.

Make America Great Again … by abusing people, segregating some and piling on regulations so that we are not able to exercise our liberty.

Stronger Together … by doubling down on regulation and increasing taxes and taking from those who work to give to those who don’t so that we cannot afford to exercise our liberty.

Yeah, utterly lacking in what is important to me.

The Founders’ guiding lights were liberty and equality. When you read their writings, you find very little talk of greatness or strength, let alone togetherness. They assumed that, if the country remained committed to liberty and equality, greatness and strength would emerge. Togetherness was seen as a voluntary choice.


Image result for image of political rally at faneuil hall

Yeah, their view of equality was a bit different from ours today. Most of the American Founders (the men who put their quills to the Declaration of Independence) were members of what Bernie Sanders would call the evil 1%. Not that anyone was worried about such percentages then. It should be noted that a lot of militiamen were farmers and laborers, not the elite and it was the militias that actually won the war, while Washington’s army mostly lost battles. The late-18th century American understanding of equality meant something very different to the generation that birthed the American Revolution. They were interested in equality in the eyes of God and before the law.

Yeah, they were limited in their understanding. Some of them were slaveholders who clearly didn’t mean equality for everyone. They also didn’t mean liberty for all. Being human, they had flaws and they didn’t know what we know today. Of course, there’s a lot of things that we don’t know now that they knew then. We’re not as smart as we think they are. Being imperfect is a human stain. Despite their flaws (or maybe because of them) they understood the importance of liberty — the right of a man who owned himself to determine for himself how he would live his life and the associations he would join in if he so chose. This is what Patrick Henry meant when he called out “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Isheep-choose-path-clinton-trump-to-slaughtert’s sad that the 20th century pundits reduced what the Founders believed to a slogan over a minor issue– “No Taxation without Representation.” Reverend Jonathan Mayhew said it in a sermon in 1750 – 25 years before the Revolution. The sentiment was prevalent in the 13 Colonies, but I don’t envision Thomas Jefferson and George Washington shouting those slogans from the steps of Faneuil Hall in 1776. The masses paid little in the way of taxes. No farmer left his fields to go shoot at Brits because he wanted Thomas Jefferson to pay lower taxes. Without the modern propaganda machine, people fought for what was important to them, not the elites. The colonists valued their liberty … the right to own oneself, to own one’s land, to support one’s family … without interference from a government that had no understanding or caring for the needs on the ground in the colonies. They fought for liberty and equality, not for blind adherence to a shouted slogan.

This is what we’ve lost in the country. We may believe that we are so much smarter than earlier generations, but in reality, we segregate ourselves in separate lines to head to the same slaughter house, shouting our pithy little slogans as if they actually meant something.



Posted November 4, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Western Media Credibility   Leave a comment


September 19, 2016

The latest from the Gallup Poll is that only 32% of Americans trust the print and TV media, to tell the truth. Republicans, 18 to 49-year-old Americans, and independents trust the media even less, with trust rates of 14%, 26%, and 30%.

The only group that can produce a majority that still trusts the media are Democrats with a 51% trust rate in print and TV reporting. The next highest trust rate is Americans over 50 years of age with a trust rate of 38 percent.

The conclusion is that old people who are Democrats are the only remaining group that barely trusts the media. This mistaken trust is due to their enculturation. For older Democrats belief in government takes the place of Republican belief in evangelical Christianity. Older Democrats are firm believers that it was a government under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that saved America from the Great Depression. As the print and TV media in the 21st century are firmly aligned with the government, the trust in government spills over into trust of the media that is serving the government. As the generation of Democrats enculturated with this mythology die off, Democratic trust rates will plummet toward Republican levels.

The Rest of the Article

Posted September 20, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Media, Uncategorized

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Media Perception of Religion   Leave a comment

Statistically, conservative evangelical Christians are far and away the most generous people in the country … not just giving money to causes, but also giving time. The Southern Baptist Convention funds state-based disaster groups that are often the first responders to crises like Katrina and the World Trade Center attack. The World Health Organization actually sent a team to a section of Tanzania where there was an unexpectedly low rate of HIV, only to find that a Christian missionary team had spent the last 20 years evangelizing among the villagers, so that the majority of about 10 villages were Christians who had only one wife and didn’t sleep around.  Slightly more than 50% of American scientists say they believe in God as a metaphysical concept.

And, yet, America’s largest identifiable voting bloc — that of evangelical Christians — are overwhelmingly portrayed by Hollywood as hypocritical, sexually abusive, hostile to science, and psychological inhumane. Since the late 1960s, Hollywood has portrayed Christians in unflattering ways, branding them as ill-informed, intolerant, fanatical and wicked people who are not in touch with reality.


  • Warden Norton in the Shawshank Redemption, quoting Bible versus while mistreating inmate and pilfering money
  • The fanatical preacher in Contact, who blows up an interplanetary spaceship because he hates science
  • Mrs. Carmody from The Mist — just your average Christian housewife waiting to uncork some pent -up repression.
  • Mother from Carrie (choose your version) – a garden variety Pentacostal nutjob child abuser

Christians tend to get excited whenever a faith-themed movie is announced. We hope it will finally portray us or the Bible accurately and respectfully, while at the same time, we know it won’t.

NOTE: I did not say “fear” it won’t. We KNOW it won’t. We hope for better, but we no longer are surprised by what Hollywood feels free to do to our most precious stories and history.

Which is not to say that Muslims are not also portrayed in stereotypical ways — when they’re not featured as terrorists, they are depicted as misogynistic brutes with backward and mysterious customs. I’m just choosing to focus on Christians because I know from personal experience the truth of what I am writing.

When Hollywood attempts to do a “Christian” film, they give us Noah, depicting the Biblical figure as a crazy, irrational nut who is so fixated on modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation that his wife has to threaten him with divorce to keep him from killing his grandchildren.

Faith on television hardly gets any better treatment. Contemporary television goes out of its way to paint moving, sympathetic portraits of everyone from bullied gay teenagers to sex addicts and Mafia wives, but somehow can’t find any empathy for men and women of faith.

This misrepresentation of Christianity and Christians has wide-ranging effects. For a secular audience, it is much easier to passively watch a 90-minute movie than interview members of a congregation or attend a religious service to get facts straight. Under the 1st amendment to the US Constitution, Hollywood may legally portray religions in a negative light, but the aftereffects can be harmful in shaping public opinions about religion or its followers.

The typical Hollywood writer, according to media commentator Ben Stein, is from a large Eastern city, often of Jewish background, who grew up being taught that people in small towns hated him and were out to get him. When he gets a chance, he attacks that mythical small town on television or in the movies. He’s not writing reality, but portraying the point of view of a small, extremely powerful section of the American intellectual community, resulting in a popular national culture waging culture war on a way of life that is still widely practiced in the same country. Affection for small towns and small town values (like faith) runs very deep in America, but the mass culture of the country hates small towns and their related values, so spews their view onto television and movie screens, showing nothing but contempt for a fairly large part of the population. People are told that their culture is rooted in sickness, violence, and depravity, which gives them little confidence in the future of that culture. They feel ashamed of the country and come to believe that, if their society is in decline, it deserves to be.” (Stein, 1976).

Media Manipulation Mash   Leave a comment

Media manipulation currently shapes almost everything you read, hear and watch online.

When I was working on my degrees, we feared the government propagandist and the hustling publicist. They were serious, but known threats. Vigilance kept them in check and they were the exception rather than the rule. They exploited that the media was trusted and reliable. Today, with our blog and Internet-drive media cycle, nothing escapes exaggeration, distortion, fabrication or simplification.



And, no, the European press is not immune to this syndrome, nor is PBS, the Blaze, or Huffington Post.

Every media outlet can manipulate you and most do.

Today news is selected by what readers are clicking rather than the importance of the topic or event. The news cycle is so fast the coverage is never complete. Dubious scandals scuttle election bids and knock billions from the market share of publicly traded companies. News organizations frequently report on their own reporting in “unfolding stories.” Media manipulation is the status quo.

A couple of nights ago, a reporter told us breathlessly about what was going on in the White House as the president decided what to do about Yemen. As she stood there in in blue coat and white gloves before the lit-up White House, my son (16) wandered in and said “If it’s so cold she has to be that bundled up, why is there no fog coming out of her mouth?”

Smart kid! Observant! And, Alaskan! We know aboutt talking outside in the cold. My point is, if the media are playing that sort of game with the setting of news-coverage, just imagine what they could be doing with the content.

I could spin the bottle on media manipulators and hit many familiar names and faces, but let’s start with Michael Arrington, the former editor and founder of the popular blog Tech Crunch.

“Getting it right is expensive; getting it first is cheap.”

Arrington made $25 million from that fact, but others do it too. Ever wonder why Gawker headlines have just enough of the story to grab your attention, but not enough to satisfy your curiosity, so you click on the headlines? Did you know they are partially funded by those clicks?

The Bush administration knew how to use the media. The Obama administration is even better at it. While newspapers and traditional broadcast must worry about libel laws, so will not touch some stories, campaigns understand that blogs don’t have the same concerns. While some bloggers strive to present news from perspectives never covered by traditional media, the courts consider them opinion … hence libel laws are not in force (yet).

Media manipulation exploits the different between perception and reality. When my parents were heads of the household, they trusted Uncle Walter to give them the straight scoop. Walter Cronkite lied regularly about the Vietnam War — so regularly that my parents (on opposite ends of the war debate, btw) caught onto him. Today, we get our news individually, which removes the checks-and-balances of your spouse or kids calling “crap” on the broadcast you’re watching together. That individual consumption and opinion-based news means all the barriers that made the traditional media somewhat reliable have broken down. Yet, the old perception remains. If a random blog is half as reliable as a New York Times article that was fact-checked, edited and reviewed by multiple editors (who each have a political agenda, btw), it is twice as easy to get coverage on. So manipulators play the volume game. If they can generate enough online buzz, people will assume that where there is smoke there is fire and the unreal becomes real.

There’s no consequence for burning someone. Facebook and Twitter will help destroy a reputation (or make one), and there’s nobody to blame. There’s no cost to the media organization so long as they have advertising dollars to keep the doors open. The politicians and corporations who pay them to manipulate you (or provide the content) can point their finger at the media, but nobody really gets blamed. It’s all hidden in smoke and mirrors and perception is accepted as reality.

And, the solution to that?

I don’t know that there is an easy one. One pundit I read said he believes it would be solved by readers paying for the news, but I don’t think so. I get some good things from the Blaze, but it’s one organization’s view of the news, which doesn’t necessarily mean it is wholly true.

I think the solution lies with us — the readers/consumers — but saying that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Wicked Web of Deceit   Leave a comment

Inundated and overwhelmed by a flood of information from a wide array of sources, Western society needs to have independent honest voices to provide facts and analysis that we can trust. Unfortunately, most people get their news from media that are obviously biased and manipulative and connected with a complicated network of other major global corporations and elite interests.

Take Time Warner for instance. It owns Time Magazine, HBO, Warner Bros, and CNN (among others) and its board of directors includes individuals who are or once were affiliated with the Council of Foreign Relations, the International Monetary Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Warburg Pincus, Phillip Morris and many others.

The New York Times (newspaper of record for the US) has board members affliated with Schering-Plough International (pharmaceuticals), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (also major donors to PBS and NPR), Chevron Corporation, Wesco Financial Corporation, Kolberg & Company, The Charles Schwab Corporation, eBay Inc, Xerox, IMB, Ford Motor Company, Eli Lilly & Company … among others.

The Washington Post board has Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University and former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and others associated with Coca-Cola Company, New York University, Conservation International, the Council on Foreign Relations, Xerox, Catalyst, Johnson & Johnson, Target Corporation, RAND Corporation, General Motors and the Business Council.

I’m a capitalist and I don’t think any of these companies or individuals are evil just because they’re in business, but it’s important to realize how intertwined, often covertly, these corporations and mainstream media are with the federal and some state governments. Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame) claims that over 400 American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.

“The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence-gathering employed by the CIA.”

According to Bernstein, the cooperative media companies include ABC, NBC, the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, PBS, NPR, CNN, the Miami Herald, the Saturday Evening Post and the New York Herald-Tribune.

The media are meant to be a fifth column, a bulwark against government corruption, willing to take corporations to task when needed … but how do they do that when their members are completely wrapped up in government and corporations?

Which brings us to the most important question of all. How do we the people even know what is real in the news and what is propaganda created to elicit certain responses from us depending on who is pulling the strings?

Your Opinions, Please!   Leave a comment

Let’s discuss this. What do you think?

Medium & Message   Leave a comment

Marshall Mcluhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message”; a concept that revolves around the idea that the content of a communication product  is far less important than the medium under which it is produced. Mr. Mcluhan died in 1980s, so didn’t have the opportunity to see his philosophy writ large on the modern stage.

With the advent of instantaneous communication, we have become a generation of individuals who see all information as equally relevant and conversely irrelevant, often at the same time. Far too many of us lack the cognitive ability to discern the immaterial from the material. We have allowed the least talented amongst our populous to direct the course of our society and civilization through little more than the click of a button.

Listen carefully and you can hear Mcluhan laughing hysterically between bouts of grieving sobs.

What the hell is wrong with us?

When Mcluhan made his observation in the 1960s, television was replacing newspapers and magazines as the primary source of news and information for most of society. He was concerned to see that people were turning from indepth news coverage — available in print to one-minute segments of broadcast news. He recognized that the medium of broadcast was far more attractive than the message that it carried, no matter how stripped down and shallow that message had to be to meet the demands of the medium.  Mcluhan contended that print, by presenting information in ordered small bits, gave consumers the power to separate thought from feeling and led to the compartmentalization of knowledge that enabled Western man to specialize and mechanize. He saw promise in broadcast for engaging senses other than the visual, but worried that it would encourage emotional thinking while interfering with critical thinking.

I wonder if he would criticize how today’s massive cluster of impersonal notifications generated by social media sites has effectively desensitized us to the human condition. On any given day, my timeline is clogged dozens of personal causes and flag-bearers who have no active stance to take on a plethora of issues. Half the time, they clicked “Share” because they liked the picture and never gave any thought to the content. But if you try to point out any inconsistencies in whatever stance is portrayed, you quickly discover that this medium kills intelligent debate!  The moment an individual decides to set their words upon the infinite aether that is the online community, it becomes more fact than opinion. It’s as if we can no longer distinguish the two.

We live in a world of information bubbles and what we know about the world is largely self-selected, which is made possible by the power of the Internet. When we encounter someone we disagree with, we no longer assume that they lack knowledge that might change their opinion, but we now assert with great confidence that they are crazy, evil, stupid or in some other way defective. This allows us to adhere to our own opinions and not let any contravening facts get in the way of our certainty on any given subject.

Examples abound and some of these may be worth exploring in future posts.

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