American Propagandists in a New Age of Propaganda

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Propaganda is basically a lie with a purpose. It is a lie, or as some say, “the Big Lie,” the constant repetition of a message designed to influence a large number of people to act in a certain way. It is the opposite of impartial factual delivery of information. It can also be deliberate manipulation of fact, but whatever the technique, propaganda is the observed deliverance of messages designed to deceive.

A typical example could be: “President So-and-so did such and such and he should not have done such-and-such. Not only that, but his doing such-and-such means that he must be doing this for this specific reason—which I will interpret for you.” The problem is that President so-and-so did not do so-and-so. The premise is either deliberately misstated or exaggerated or something significant is left out. And therefore the premise is wrong and all the rest is a reinforcement of that misstatement or lie. That is how propaganda works. People agree with the first statement, which is typically difficult to prove one way or the other. Then you say perfectly rational things that people will agree with, but all based on that falsehood. “Jews control the world’s money supply. They are greedy and vicious. Therefore, we should not have Jews in positions of authority or in government or universities, teaching others.” Of course Jews do not control the world’s money supply; are not greedy—far from it; and they are not vicious. But, as we all know, that was but a mild version of Nazi propaganda against the Jews. And we all know how that ended.

Misstatement of fact, especially in a way in which that will not be easy for the hicks to uncover the truth is a famous trick by radio propagandist, Rush Limbaugh. Books have been written outlining the facts and the truth that were left out or deliberately distorted in the many commentaries he has made on air. He has been accused of being and has been proved to be—a monumental liar. Limbaugh would lie about the general popularity or value of some piece of Clinton legislation meant to help people or the economy. He would directly misinterpret the President’s intentions. Then he would build and build and build on that lie, as no one was allowed to challenge him on the air. He takes no callers who are not pre-screened to agree with him. In fact they call themselves “ditto-heads” people who agree with him unquestioningly. Sooner or later, Limbaugh would create for the “ditto-heads” and the unrepentant, elderly, Southern racist hicks that make up a large percentage of his audience an aura of corruptness and scandal around the President, which only existed in Limbaugh’s own ludicrously corrupt mind.

It is not difficult to become a master manipulator if no one contradicts you on the spot. Once a lie is set, the follow up designed to modify the first statements make them easier to accept. Thus he was easily able to persuade a whole segment of the country, over as many as 1500 radio stations of a political movement that existed only in his own demented brain. But it helped the billionaires and so they paid him even more, eventually $40 million a year. He says it was his audience, but as he became less and less popular for cruel statements that not even some Republicans, who love disgusting, crude commentary, could tolerate, he lost over a thousand sponsors. The radio network from whom he earned his huge income lost over $300 million. But he continued to be paid—by someone. Glenn Beck lost a few hundred sponsors and he was gone within six months, forced to set up a network of his own, with his only remaining audience the syndicated local lunatic audiences from the most abysmal communities in the nation as his underwriters.

Two things made Limbaugh a success. The first was his attitude. He treated the truth like some sort of humorous enterprise. He ridiculed people that the hicks liked to ridicule…those who made more money than they did, those who had more education than they did, and those who did not like to mistreat or kill animals or people. He equated patriotism with a love for war and ridiculed the French because they were smart enough to stay out of Iraq while Americans lost 4,500 soldiers, wounded 30,000 more and made us the most hated people by those living in the Middle East. Even the war, which he shouted and screamed for was a major lie. Limbaugh’s success came through the cultivation of ignorance, including religious fanaticism, though an anti-intellectual pandering to the worst instincts of the lower class, and resentment against those who succeed and act rationally. He created a huge following of cynics and skeptics based on his lies. He encouraged less humanity and more hatred among classes. He fostered it. And he became rich by arousing the least appealing aspects of American citizenry.

The second factor in Limbaugh’s success was that he was hired by ABC when they discovered that he could attract large audiences by simply telling a story about the invented oppression of middle class white males, particularly in rural areas and small towns. He arrived at a time when national radio networks could say what they wanted without the need to tell the truth. He was soon given a network through which he could spread his Right Wing ideas. Looking back, we can see now that the Neo-Cons of that era, out of power and being buried by the Clinton economic and political successes, found Limbaugh to be a godsend. They put him on a nationwide network of every little station in the country and paid him something like $32 million a year. Soon, you could not travel from Chicago to Dallas or New Orleans to Denver without hearing Rush Limbaugh along the way.

Rush Limbagh became the “hick-magnet” for the Republican Party and the national spokesman for the Neo-cons. He helped encourage young men to volunteer for the military and promoted the Iraq War. But his main function was to lie, to spread propaganda, not merely about the war but about those things that would help the billionaire-backed Republican Party. Limbaugh lied about the “9/11 Commission” report. He said that the report had identified one of the 9/11 hijackers as having met with Iraqis. That was proved a lie in fact and a lie. And the commission report had said that it was a lie. He said that there were reports that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. There were no such reports and weapons of mass destruction were never found. Limbaugh stated that he believed that Bill and Hillary Clinton were behind the Swift Boat Campaign against Senator and Presidential candidate John Kerry. That was not only ridiculous; it was proved false on several different counts. He lied about the national debt, maintaining that it was like “someone making $500,000 being in debt by $50,000.” (This was in trying to defend huge Bush/Cheney budget deficits in 2004.) The national debt by that time had risen under Bush in only 3 years by about $2 trillion to over $7 trillion and the 2004 deficit, according to the CBO would be $477 billion. Consequently, the analogy would more accurately be: “a man making $500,000 would be in debt by $315,000.” These are just a few of the bushel baskets of lies that Limbaugh spread between 1990 and 2014, including calling a young single woman, a law student at Georgetown a “slut” for wanting to have contraception included in her health care plan…which the majority of plans offer.

This kind of vile and abusive language spread throughout the Conservative propaganda radio networks is not unusual. It is a common way of spreading propaganda now. It deflects the lies and tries to turn the attention to the insult or the slur or the crude comment and avoid the fact that the comment is a lie. The billionaire Koch Brothers, the Waltons of Walmart, Sherman Adelson, the billionaire owner of gambling casinos in Las Vegas and in Macao and elsewhere…evil, greedy, vile men…all support political groups who support the Right Wing radio commentators, who comprise 90% of all political messages now going out over the airwaves.
Sean Hannity is best known for being on the Right Wing Fox News Channel, run by the former head of the Republican Party and owned by monopolistic, dictatorial and despotic media mogul, Rupert Murdoch.
But he also has a radio program on the same network as Rush Limbaugh in which he trashes every idea that a Liberal or Progressive House Member, Senator or the President offers on behalf of the American people. If it is about a higher minimum wage, Sean Hannity immediately makes broad, sweeping and seemingly innocent remarks like “hamburgers will go from $2 to $4 overnight.” Of course, he knows this is not true. And the comment was not random. These messages are carefully planned, so that the hicks will then tell other hicks that hamburger prices will double if the minimum wage goes to $10 an hour. In reality, the price of hamburgers would go up, if at all, to about $2.10 up to perhaps $2.25. Hannity works for the same billionaires as Limbaugh, who pay him $20 million a year to spread their propaganda.

Another propagandist who goes even further, Michael Savage, actually someone named Michael Weiner, a dropout from academia, who was likely tossed out by some university for being a nutcase found Right Wing radio as the only place he could preach hatred (certainly not at Cal Berkeley where he earned his PhD.) Well, that is, he gets away with it in the U.S. The British Government has banned him, put him on their list of other undesirables, like the head of a U.S. white supremacist group and the family that pickets and disrupts the funerals of gay dead soldiers, Muslim terrorists, internationally sought murderers and Russian gang leaders. Of course, in the United States, he makes millions and his books are on the Times best-seller lists. Glenn Beck is a lunatic-sounding, Right Wing crackpot whom the Tea Party has paid in excess of $6 million to encourage his support. He appeals to every crazy nutcase who sees everything in the world as connected in some giant conspiracy that has no end. He has made as much as $32 million in one year on Fox News and on Cumulus radio and other places, spreading his insanity.

There are many, many more. From Laura Ingraham is a bitchy, iron-voiced harridan who simply attacks any decent person and spins her every call to get in a message about less taxes on billionaires. Then there is the vulgar, creepy, Mark Levin, who prides himself on having to broadcast from a secret location because he is so insulting—all these Fascist commentators have one thing in common—that he makes the correct assumption that there are hundreds if not thousands who would like to make the world a far better place by killing him..Although to this point it is only his own paranoia—cowardice—that keeps him from coming out in public. For a large stipend, in the seven figures each year all these people spin the loss of jobs, government instability, wars, manufacturing facilities moved to China, even lower taxes on the rich, and no taxes on corporations into something supposedly good for the Middle Class.

It seems to work. This year, Americans voted for and elected 30 Republican governors, the majority of whom follow the Party line—no Medicaid for the working poor among other mantras, including the destruction of the ability of people to collectively negotiate for better wages and working conditions. This will kick 6 or 7 millions of poor workers off Medicaid, using a trick in the legislation created by the Republicans. They don’t want people to have health care but the voters, stupidly voted for them, and against the best interests of the country. Some of these tyrants were elected for the second time. The House of Representatives is Republican. The Senate is Republican. Fascists now control most of the levers of power locally and regionally and nationally (including the Supreme Court.) It may take a literal Civil War to unseat them.

The reason they are in power is propaganda. When the Fairness Doctrine was overturned in 1987, under Reagan, and later in the late 1990s when corporations were allowed to own as many radio stations as they could afford, propaganda became a serious activity. Unions, who had raised up the working man, became thugs. Teachers became incompetent and, somehow, greedy because they only taught when children were in class, and asked for a meager pension. All this and protecting low tax rates on people so rich that they have literally no idea how much money they have. There were no more rules. It was no longer necessary to have an alternate opinion on these things. They became matters of fact, even though they were, in some cases, clearly lies. But enough stupid people believed them. There was no legal way to limit the number of radio stations or control what they said. Soon Clear Channel and others would own hundreds of radio stations and companies like Cumulus and Citadel would spread lies into every home and auto and office in the nation.
This is where we are today. Oil companies hire “experts” to deny global climate change…which 30,000 international climate scientists have been studying for 30 years because of sudden abnormalities in the conditions of the atmosphere that influence the climate. And the radio commentators support the lie. Because they are owned by investors who also own oil companies. Those hundreds of Right Wing commentators all over the country are used to spread political propaganda against true scientists, and therefore against the world population.

Another way to spread propaganda is false equivalence. One side says—that man was murdered. He’s lying in the street face down with a bullet in the back of his head, and a man is standing over him, looking into the faces of several witnesses. One radio station reports the death and the circumstances. The other station says that the first station “reports” that a man “may have been murdered.” So, they say, things are not established because, on the one hand all the witnesses say that he walked up and shot the man, but, on the other hand, he says that he didn’t. So there’s your false equivalence to the nth degree. One side says and the other side says. The propagandists challenge everything and offer an alternate scenario, no matter how fraudulent or foolish. Despite the irrefutable facts about the President’s birth, for example, millions of people, who only listen to the ludicrously false version, told by propagandists, still think he was born in Africa, a place he never saw until he was a grown man. And only then for a brief visit.

So, in the case of the Conservative/Fascist radio commentators and Fox News, the facts are quite clear, even self evident. But the Conservative media, with an audience who refuse to think, refuse to challenge and are inclined to relax their way into servitude…which is coming more quickly than they know…have their profitable reasons to spread propaganda.

Are they not traitors? They have abandoned the people whose interests they agreed to serve when the Federal government allowed them to have broadcast licenses. They favor the rich because the owners of radio stations are no longer required to serve the people. They serve the advertisers who are merely using radio to create more benefits for themselves and their colluding fellow CEOs. Truth is secondary. The People are secondary. They have tried to create and have done a good job of removing truth and fact from reality. The only reality for major media companies is profits and a continued plutocracy. There is no more truth. There is only the discussion of truth and the debate over fact, which, while one side is a propaganda machine, will never be decided.
We used to have laws that prevented untruths from being broadcast here and around the world from the U.S. It was called “the fairness doctrine” and it said that any time a political statement was issued on air, a counter argument must be presented, if possible.
Propaganda often does not directly say the opposite of what is true. It is far more subtle than that. It may simple pre-select certain facts and discard others. It may add new aspects that were never there. It may deliver the same message in a far more emotional way to elicit a completely different response from what a simple elucidation of the facts might produce.
For example, during the Clinton Presidency, one of his aides committed suicide. Many commentators on politics, who were opponents of the Clinton regime, stated their opinions that the Clintons had somehow been involved with and somehow responsible for the man’s death. There was no truth to it. There was no evidence of it. In fact, the Washington, D.C. police, other investigative agencies, not to mention what were quite likely hundreds of private investigators hired by the Right Wing could find nothing remotely incriminating. In fact, the results were the opposite. But that did not stop the accusations. And the reason? It is because this is how another form of propaganda works. Start an inquiry that cannot be proved one way or the other or at all. This form of propaganda can go on indefinitely. The idea is to keep hammering away at the facts with lies and distortions to wear down the public awareness of the real facts and make them unconsciously accept the implications of the propaganda instead. The outrageous investigations of why some public notice of the Benghazi incident was not delivered sooner or with different facts is typical…a political investigation, costing literally millions, being done with the full understanding that we already know everything. And the only new information will come from people who have been bribed, one way or another, to testify, knowing that every intelligent person already has learned all the facts.

There is a less damaging form of propaganda that goes by another name. Public relations is propaganda. Advertising is also, in a sense, propaganda. In the early 20th Century, John D. Rockefeller Jr. hired a famous public relations man named Ivy Lee to advise him concerning a great mining incident in a company he owned, during which many miners and their families were killed. Ivy Lee then became a consultant for the Rockefeller interests. Public relations soon became something like, but not quite, commercial propaganda. The idea of creating a message to deliver to the public about products or services became common practice. In the early days of the 20th Century, both advertising and public relations messages were delivered to consumers with occasionally adjusted facts that would present them in their best light. The difference between public relations and propaganda was relatively fundamental. If you lied to the public on a large issue, you would be ostracized for a time, assuming the public found out. Corporations wanted exactly the opposite, to remove any possibility of being ostracized or in any way losing the good will of customers and prospects. On large national or international issues, politicians, statesmen and public figures could recover. Businesses could not take the chance.
Propaganda was not necessarily seen in a negative light during the First World War. The United States reluctantly entered the war in 1918. But entering the war was not popular. It was a European war and only the ferocity of the German military and the introduction of U-Boat warfare made it even possible for us to become involved. But after entering, the propaganda machine went into high gear. Coming out of the war, doughboys were popular. The war was a popular memory for most. It was all really propaganda. The Americans influenced the outcome, no question. But propaganda won the war at home.

As long as propaganda in the form of radio commentators, fake research institutes, television channels, and political parties that are not set up for the people but for the rich to purchase and an American journalism that is owned by corporations or frightened by billionaires, we will never find the truth that will return us to a real Democracy.

We are headed down the wrong road and we are being led there by the new Fascist propaganda.