Modern Propaganda: Creating and Selling “Truth”

Environment Unlimited | Climate change | The denial industry

Global warming and its putative cause were always controversial within the scientific community. Global warming was an outlandish thesis from its inception because it was difficult to conceive that the scale of human activity would ever account for a measurable fraction of nature’s output. A century later, however, the scale of human activity has multiplied by several orders of magnitude (more than several thousand times), and its effects on the composition of oceans, groundwater and the atmosphere are now measurable by modern methods. Consequently, the controversy surrounding the most fundamental basis for the greenhouse effect–that human output can be so prodigious as to disrupt the earth’s natural cycles–has largely subsided. (See evidence from the polar ice pack, for one example.)

As a result, the most strenuous objections to the greenhouse thesis no longer originate in the scientific community. Even though objections still exist in the scientific community, the objections are no longer focused on the veracity of the statistics as much as whether these statistically accurate models have enough predictive power to merit the changes that are proposed. The scientific debate–if it can be called that–is concerned with estimating the magnitude of the disaster. The imminence of disaster is assured, it is accepted. The only subject of discussion is the enormity of the coming disaster.

Unlike political debates, scientific debates ultimately end peacefully, no matter how bitter the journey to consensus is. To be sure, careers are ruined as experimental evidence demonstrates that the hypotheses on which scientists had staked their reputations were utterly false. Hence, it is completely misleading to intimate that the politics behind scientific debates are as inconsequential as political debates. The consensus on global warming, or climate change, must, therefore, be accepted as scientific fact for it is the destination at which decades of scientific exploration has arrived.

So, who is objecting to this finding? Modern propagandists. Industry, the oil industry in particular (read article cited above), is attempting to obscure, to weaken and outright to deny scientific findings that they could not contradict by funding research. And, how is industry doing it? They do it by funding propaganda machines. They fund politically connected institutes that advocate whatever position their patrons desire. The oil industry’s patronage with the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and other “think tanks” cited in the Guardian article above has paid off quite handsomely. For paltry sums of millions of dollars, oil companies (and power companies, of course) have managed to avoid upgrades that would have cost them hundreds of millions of dollars, ostensibly.

Alas, few have the resources to recognize modern propaganda for what it is. Given the scale of modern global industries, the imprimatur of a scientist possessing a doctorate has never been cheaper. The surfeit of doctors of philosophy desperate for a job coupled with the coming of age of a generation so thoroughly indoctrinated by the conservatism propagated by the same organization over the past three decades has created the ideal conditions for big industry. For measly sums of money, they can have Ph.D. scientists untrained in atmospheric sciences proclaim that global warming is a myth in countless magazines and news programs. For mere pennies, industries put the veneer of scientific legitimacy on their propaganda.

Thus, companies have created a propaganda system that is much more sinister than traditional systems. The Nazis used remarkable force in quashing their opposition and to deny the truth. Modern propagandists crush their opposition and obscure the truth without firing a single shot, without imprisoning a single dissident and without presenting the specter of an organized power against which opposition may be raised. In the Soviet Union and in Nazi Germany, it was clear whom one had to oppose: the state. In contrast, modern propaganda hides its perpetrators perfectly.

Naturally, were articles like the Guardian article cited above ever to get wide distribution in the mainstream media, no problems would exist. This limited distribution of the truth is also another sinister characteristic of modern propaganda. The Nazis spent considerable effort usurping the national media and creating their distribution system. In modern propaganda, corporations take control of the mainstream media with money alone. The profit motive that drives modern media conglomerates makes them willing participants in the scheme. They gladly accept the propaganda prepared by industry supplicants and supplant the news with it. Thus, unlike the Nazis, industry groups need not even build or usurp a distribution system. They simply employ the existing, vast network for a pittance.

Ultimately, what makes the modern propaganda system particularly petty is the fact that the onus of responding to global warming will not affect the profitability of large corporations. After all, public utilities will recover their costs through rate surcharges on consumers: their contracts with public utilities commissions guarantee profits. Similarly, oil companies will recover their costs through higher gasoline prices. Thus, the entire propaganda endeavor is undertaken for an extra 2-3% in profits. Performing the upgrades might reduce the profit margins of these companies from 10% to 8%. The fact that cleaner air will save billions of dollars to the aggregate economy is no matter. Industry is sacrificing the national economy for a measly 2% margin of profit.

Are we to believe that this is a sign of economic might?

The French Laugh Next


This is rather shocking news indeed. This indictment of Rumsfeld does not bode well for the rest of the Bush Administration. Those who had predicted that nobody in the Bush Administration will be able to travel abroad were absolutely correct.

Perhaps some will manage to deliver their expensive lecture through video conferencing. Then again, the “war against terror” may well be used by the indicting bodies to choke these communications as well. It tastes like justice. Turn about is fair play, many say.  

Jesus Did not Suffer for This

Christianity’s image taking a turn for the worse | Los Angeles Times

Over the decades, the question of whether rock and roll bands belong in a place of worship has befuddled many a religious or spiritual mind in this country. It comes as a shocking surprise to learn that even the believers–especially the “Christian” believers–are beginning to resent and even regret the transformation of religion to pop culture to which they have dedicated themselves. It seems as if the relegation of profound religious sacraments to inane 4/4 time rock medleys is making people sick of their own religion just as they tire of ephemeral pop songs. The political power plays of churches are starting to be perceived as corruption of religion rather than elevation of government. And relentless, uncompromising proselytizing is beginning to be perceived as a rude expression of insecurity rather than a noble act born of strength.

It would be ever so nice if the profound wisdom of the Founding Fathers of the United States–the wisdom with which they codified the separation of church and state–were to reassert itself again in the minds of the populace. The rediscovery of a principle so manifestly true by a people so thoroughly removed from the pragmatism that made the country successful will be testimony to the wisdom of the founders and hope for the population. Alas, one can not have either one or the other.

Officially Disastrous Cost of the Iraqi Conflict

Congressional Budget Office – July 2007 Testimony on the Costs of the Military Conflict in Iraq (pdf)

It was quite a few months ago when I began composing this post, and it seems as if the journalism community has finally caught on to the fact that the Congressional Budget Office’s phenomenal economic forecasts of the past two years have declared the Iraqi war an economic disaster. In fact, mainstream reporting on the costs of the military conflict in Iraq has been so abysmal that I am utterly shocked that somebody at Reuters finally bothered to look at numbers that are available to everyone through the CBO web site, and that somebody at Yahoo! had the good sense to put the bleeding obvious on the front page.

What will journalists read next? Perhaps, that Clinton’s economic policies succeeded and Bush’s policies failed, as demonstrated in this budget projection (read chapter 1)?

It is true that the information age is here, and that most information is available to anyone anywhere. Nevertheless, it is also clear that mainstream news sources have gone out of their way to make themselves irrelevant. After all, it has taken them an entire year to report number that have been publicly available all along.

Silver Lining to California Fires?

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Californian fires affect TV shows

The California wildfires of 2007 will rank among the greatest tragedies that the state has endured. The only positive outcome of this tragedy could have been the halting of the filming of some of the horrible shows that that pass for entertainment on American television. Alas, the producers of 24 managed to resume filming at their Los Angeles studio, instead. The Writer’s Guild strike is the only hope we have left.

Marriage and Testosterone

Getting married saps your testosterone | being-human | 18 October 2007 | New Scientist Space

The progressive lack of interest in sexual activity that follows marriage seems to have a biological basis. This study of Ariaal men in Kenya shows that testosterone levels in men decline as they take on additional wives. It seems as if the need to reproduce exerts a profound influence on testosterone levels in men, though this need alone does not account for the fact that having more wives results in greater declines in testosterone levels.

How to Reduce the Number of Abortions

Family Planning Reduces Abortion Rate | The Lancet

The most comprehensive study carried out to date demonstrates that education and easy access to contraception reduce the number of abortions. Hence, if the Bush Administration, the Vatican, and virtually every “pro-life” organization that exists are to be believed when they equate abortion with murder, then every one of them is committing mass murder–by their own reasoning–when they deny funding for sex education and contraception. By denying people sex education and contraception, they are increasing the number of abortions. Thus, they are contributing to mass murder, it would seem. 

Of course, those who do not subscribe to these extreme notions of “life” and the protections that it requires do not see a crime for which these “perpetrators” should be punished. Curiosity does drive me to ask, however, what punishment these groups prescribe for contributing to mass murder. 🙂 After all, many American pro-life groups equate the number of abortions to the Holocaust, and, if this Lancet study is to be believed, these “pro-life” groups are now faced with the reality that they are complicit in this embryo “holocaust”.

Then again, denial and double standards are the hallmarks of extremism. 

Women in Computing

Wrens Operating the Colossus | Science and Society Picture Library

The Science and Society Picture Library is another magnificent internet project that performs a superb job of making 20th century history accessible to everyone. This particular photo is a terrific reminder of what it meant to be a computer operator. It is perhaps derivative of what it meant to be a telephone operator.

The New “America”?

Leaving for the Chinese Dream |

Mark Twain famously said “history does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme”. Now, it seems as if China’s emerging affluence and its tolerance of foreign traits are turning it into another “America”: the America that accepted millions of foreigners seeking a better life.

It is a very loose rhyme, to be sure. Of the more than half million foreigners in China, only 700 have green cards, and the article does cite considerable tension directed against African immigrants. Nevertheless, the reaction of one Arab immigrant from Iraq is quite telling:

Anwar said that despite the tensions he’s happier to be in China than elsewhere in the world.

“My brother lived in the Netherlands for nine years,” he said. “There, if you are a foreigner, you are below them. When he came to China, everything was different. Here, if you are a foreigner, you are treated better than Chinese.” 

Given the number of reports about the State Department’s slow processing of Iraqi refugees, this testimony has considerable meaning beyond the few simple words.

Hal Fishman 1931-2007; The Primordial Soup Remembers an Advocate

KTLA anchor Hal Fishman dead at 75 | Los Angeles Times

It is an awful thing to rejoice in another human’s demise, and that is not the intent of this essay’s writer. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to feel a sense of relief at the demise of a mainstream newscaster who had made the spreading of ignorance the primary purpose of his life in his final years. Hal Fishman, the famed anchorman of the ten o’clock news hour on channel five in Los Angeles is the subject, and his death feels like a blessing for the utterly anesthetized citizens of Los Angeles.

Although the thinking denizens of this city had long ago tuned away from the inane commercial blather that has passed for local broadcast news in Los Angeles, Fishman’s presence was singularly vexing in this lanscape of stupidity because he refused to hold the line at commercial blather. He insisted on disseminating an altogether common and utterly senseless ignorance in the guise of news analysis–the acceptance and the repeating of which by many in the primordial soup has been a source of anguish for the thinking members of this city since September 11, 2001. Fishman’s manifest existence as an irresponsible news director, a horribly misinformed reporter and a man radically deficient in faculties of reason and compassion is missing from all the obituaries that have been written. Perhaps, this post will set the record straight.

The Channel 5 News at Ten was a venerable news program, until Fishman became the news director some twenty years ago. On his watch, world news was reduced from a quarter of the broadcast to a minute while Los Angeles became the most ethnically diverse city in the United States. Fishman greeted the influx of Mexicans, Chinese, Koreans, Persians, Japanese, Israelis, Armenians, Russians and countless other nationalities with a reduction in the coverage of global events. As the American and especially the Californian economy became ever more dependent on global politics, Fishman deprived viewers of the information they needed to understand their own city.

At the same time KTLA became a member of the new Warner Brothers television network, and Fishman spinelessly went along with corporate directives to promote the networks programming during the news hour. Consequently, the raw news content of the news hour was reduced to less than twenty minutes of news and nearly forty minutes of advertising posing as “entertainment news” and sports advertising masquerading as “sports news”. Naturally, as the foreigners were driven to the international channels to get international news, Fishman and the rest of the management justified this stupidity on grounds of ratings.

To compensate for this demise, Fishman elected to speak his mind on subjects as inane as Britney Spears and as profound as military strategy in Iraq. In the former case, Fishman exhibited unbelievable hypocrisy, and in the latter he displayed his prejudices and his ignorance as proudly and as conspicuously as a peacock.

Fishman was the consummate curmudgeon when he complained about all the attention that Britney Spears was receiving from the press. Yet, he allowed the prime time news hour to be hijacked for the sake of advertising by the CW network bosses. It was on Fishman’s watch that half of the News at Ten (and the entirety of the KTLA morning “news”) became advertising space for Warner Brothers products. Fishman complained, but he never complained about the corporate overlords to whom he had capitulated when he allowed his news program to be used in the service of people like Spears.

Fishman also never cared to reconcile his half-baked patriotic ideas with the realities of world and war. In one salient instance, when a New York Times article that the insurrection in Iraq had reduced some cities to virtual “ghost towns”, Fishman advocated the carpet bombing of these cities because this action would have minimal “collateral damage” and because carpet bombing of cities like Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin had won World War II. Fishman even went so far as to claim that such carpet bombing wins wars.

Apparently Fishman was unaware that historians (civil and miliatry) have assessed the indiscriminate bombing of German and Japanese towns as strategically useless in WW II. Germany ultimately succumbed because its production of munitions, fuel and soldiers was insufficient for a fight on two fronts. Similarly, Japan’s resolve was not weakened by the firebombing of the country, but by the specter of the atomic bomb. No historian has ever claimed that indiscriminate bombing of civilians win wars. Why would they? The strategy had no effect in WW II and disastrous effect in Vietnam.

Nevertheless, Fishman felt emboldened to speak something that was completely and utterly false on the air. One can offer a great many reasons for why he did so, but it is difficult to ascribe such comments to anything other than ignorance born of misplaced patriotism and arrogance.

These elements suffused nearly every commentary Fishman ever made. He never bothered to correct the record, or to make his remarks more considered. When I corrected him by bringing to his attention that his remarks regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction had been thoroughly and absolutely refuted by the WMD Commission years prior, he only responded by saying that he may take those findings into consideration. In as much, Fishman spent his later years not just as a lousy commentator, but a decidedly incompetent reporter. 

What a shame that the man felt compelled to forego the legacy he had built through many good years in the seventies and eighties. May Hal Fishman rest in peace, and may his legacy be defined by the good years he had; not the miserable final years. People should not forget, however, what an instrumental role he played in the destruction of the news service in Los Angeles.