Drowning in Propaganda

In this corner, Nobel prize-winning economist Joeph Stiglitz, who correctly predicted our current economic maladies a decade ago. In that corner, Dick Armey, bleating the stardard Republican zombie talking points about balanced budgets and the evils of government spending. But Andrew Leonard writes in “Unfair Fight“:

Dick Armey, of course, was House majority leader for the first two years of George Bush’s first term, during which the first round of the Bush tax cuts were passed, without any corresponding cuts in spending, with the result that the Clinton-era budget surplus was transformed almost immediately into annual deficits.

Leonard calls this exchange an “unfair fight,” but in spite of the fact that Joseph Stiglitz has facts, credentials, and a track record of correct predictions his side, and Dick Armey is a gasbag, whose view will the American people adopt as conventional wisdom? Do I really have to tell you?

Thers at Whiskey Fire compares the economic wisdom of Paul Krugman, another Nobel Prize-winning economist whose predictions going back many years about the fruits of the Bush tax cuts and an unregulated financial system were almost all spot on, versus that of Chuck Norris. Um, yeah, Chuck Norris. As Thers says, Norris’s economic credentials are that “he made action movies and got hit on the head a lot, and also he loves Jesus.”

Krugman and Norris present polar opposite views regarding what economic policies the U.S. ought to pursue. So which view is winning — nay, has won — the argument in national media and most likely in the minds of most Americans?

I don’t blame the American people too much; for the most part, they only ever hear the Armey-Norris side of the argument. The Stiglitz-Krugman view is very well buried beneath a dense layer of media noise paid for by the likes of the Koch brothers.

At the Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg explains to British readers why the U.S. is bleeped:

US campaign laws make it easy for political interest groups and their corporate backers to hide their spending in elections. “This is a world of shadows,” said Taki Oldham, an Australian documentary maker who spent months following Tea Party activists.

Oldham’s documentary is called “(astro)Turf Wars,” and it can be viewed online. Here is the trailer, in which Dick Armey makes a brief appearance:

One gentleman appearing in the trailer that I don’t recognize says that America is drowning in propaganda, making real democracy all but impossible. Yeah, pretty much.

And, of course, the money that is buying America and burying democracy isn’t just coming from the Koch brothers and the other wealthy family trusts that fund the think tanks and media infrastructure burying us. In this election cycle, at least $885,000 is coming from overseas.

21 thoughts on “Drowning in Propaganda

  1. I think I’m going to start to blame the stupidity of this country on the flouride in the water.
    The Conservatives, and their hyper-right wing Bircher nuts, were all in up-in-arms about how flouride was not just something being put in our water to harden our teeth, but a Communist conspiracy, and how after drinking the water we would all be Bolshevik zombies.
    They may have been on to something!
    Oh, not the Communist conspiracy part, but the zombie part, because that’s what’s happened to a lot of our citizens. Apparently, the flouride did harden a part of our bodies, but the wrong part of our bodies – our heads.

  2. Does anyone else think it odd that money from non-citizens can, anonymously, fund our political issues, campaigns, candidates and parties while those same non-citizens are not allowed to vote in this country? Besides which, a citizen must register to vote while a foreign funder needn’t ‘register’ (make his ‘name’ public) as a ‘funder?’ Perhaps I’m missing something?

    • Perhaps I’m missing something?

      My understanding is that the law says election campaigns, including advertising on behalf of candidates for office, cannot be paid for with donations from foreign sources. So if it can be shown that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using money from foreign sources to fund its political ads on behalf of specific candidates, then it could face criminal charges. The Chamber doesn’t allow anyone to see its internal cash flow, but Think Progress has documented that foreign donations are going into the same 501(c)(6) organization that is running the Chamber’s political ad campaign.

  3. What’s profoundly sad is that we have a large segment of people in America who would actually have their vote influenced by what someone said or wrote in a paid advertisement explicitly designed to buy votes. Isn’t that well and truly absurd?

    Democracy cannot prosper in a society where most of the people place faith in what they are told. It’s as simple as this: authority is not a source of knowledge. Right or wrong is a matter of sound reasoning and abundant evidence.

    This simple idea came to the forefront of history in a period called the Enlightenment. Surprising how long it takes some ideas to root, isn’t it?

    • What’s profoundly sad is that we have a large segment of people in America who would actually have their vote influenced by what someone said or wrote in a paid advertisement explicitly designed to buy votes. Isn’t that well and truly absurd?

      I don’t think the paid ads are the primary problem, though. The problem is paid propaganda, which is by no means limited to ads. The only news and policy information most people hear is paid propaganda, often masquerading as “news” programming.

      Democracy cannot prosper in a society where most of the people place faith in what they are told. It’s as simple as this: authority is not a source of knowledge. Right or wrong is a matter of sound reasoning and abundant evidence.

      People pretty much have placed faith in what they were told throughout American history, though, for better or worse. Regarding policy issues, what source of knowledge do we have? What evidence is being presented to the people? The fact is that the big corporations and family trusts have bought a huge megaphone and are screaming propaganda at the American people 24/7, and rarely are other voices heard above the noise.

      The only arguments most Americans get to hear are the Right’s arguments. The only evidence they ever see is what the Right wants them to see. There has been some marginal improvement in recent years over the state of things in the early Bush Administration, but the Republican Noise Machine still dominates media.

      I still think that, most of the time, the American people make sensible decisions when they know the facts of a situation. The problem is that they aren’t being presented with facts, but with propaganda.

  4. maha – did you hear Rove’s reply to the person who asked if his (Rove’s political organization) had received foreign donations? “Of course not, that’s illegal.” (I always revert to being pulled over for, say, speeding and when the cop asks me if I was speeding, I simply reply, “Of course not, that’s illegal.” Don’t think it would work.

    I’ve been following the ThinkProgress articles. We’ll see where it goes, but if crimes were committed and if it turns out anything like the crimes committed by the financial services industry, the criminals will get off with a tut tut and a tsk tsk – period.

  5. The use of foreign money to fund issues in American campaigns sadly reminds me of the example of 17th and 18th century Poland. Poland’s legislative body, the Sejm, featured a device called the liberum veto, in which one member of the Sejm could veto a proposed legislative action. Poland’s more powerful rivals, the Holy Roman Empire, Russia, and Prussia, could and often did pay Poland’s magnates to exercise the liberum veto to prevent Poland from taking much-needed governmental reforms. In turn, Poland’s rivals were eventually able to dismember Poland and incorporate it into their respective empires in the 18th century.

  6. “I don’t blame the American people too much”. Well, I do. They aren’t paying attention. I don’t consider myself the brightest bulb in the pack, but I have taught myself to think critically (at least somewhat).

    My daughter, T, says the American people are too busy with two or more part-time jobs. That may be partly true today, but not 25 – 30 years ago. I’m not sure if the citizenry got dumb or just lazy.

    How many folks know what Bretton Woods stands for or whether Smoot-Hawley was a good law?

    The info is out there if you want to find it. But don’t expect the MSM to provide it. You need to search it out.

  7. I think it is sad to see how our media has betrayed us. America used to have responsible media who printed/televised the truth; but, that is now just history. What do we do to get our media back? I think that there should be a moratorium on Pulitzer prizes until we start seeing more truth in our media. I agree with Maha that when Americans have the facts, most will do the right things. But, the facts are now hidden from us much too often.

  8. I got my sample ballot yesterday (Florida) and the first nonbinding referendum calls for a federal balanced budget amendment without raising taxes. If there was a real media in Florida, they would be calling it the ‘Tooth Fairy’ amendment. Because we would all like the tooth fairy to bring down those quarters she’s got an endless supply of to fix the deficit.

    Read the history books – one of the main reasons for the Constitution was to establish a central government that could borrow money and levy taxes. I rather think the founding fathers would have written in a balanced budget clause if thy thought it was prudent. People will be too stupid in DROVES to see that the force behind the referendum are fat cats who are terrified they will be aksed to pay their fair share of taxes. So they want to box the Congress in at the spending AND revenue ends – and screw the elderly and poor who will be raped in the budget crunch. (If anyone wants to see where this type of legislation will take a government – look to California. Prop 13 did EXACTLY what the balanced budget amendment (without a way to recoup revenues) will do to the entire country.

    And it will pass overwhelmingly.

  9. Once again, I stayed at a hotel while working out of town ,that did not have MSNBC available on the tube. I ended up watching FOX “news”, and “FOX & Friends” in the morning. FOX and Friends is painful to watch; a sexy blonde flanked by a smirking air head and a mean little grump. The news is skewed to the right, even the rescue of the miners in Chile could not be covered without some chest thumping about the involvement of America in the effort.

    USA today is not much better; Tuesday’s edition featured a full page anti-union screed that was beyond ignorant, supposedly written by a union member disgusted with his union brothers.
    “Chickens for Col. Sanders unite!”

  10. TV will make you crazy.

    For some unknown reason, we have begun receiving “Newsweek” magazine free of charge. I am at the point where I would be willing to pay NOT to receive it. It is total crap. I have been saving the covers because many are great examples of planting misinformation. It can’t be an accident. Check out the classic on the ‘Ground Zero Mosque”.

    The deadly mix is anger, ignorance, misinformation, anti-intellectualism, intellectual laziness. American has become “a brute beast without understanding”.

    It is not a pretty prospect.

  11. I got my sample ballot yesterday (Florida) and the first nonbinding referendum calls for a federal balanced budget amendment without raising taxes. If there was a real media in Florida, they would be calling it the ‘Tooth Fairy’ amendment. Because we would all like the tooth fairy to bring down those quarters she’s got an endless supply of to fix the deficit.

    Yeah, I had to laugh and shake my head at that one. “In order to stop the uncontrolled growth of our national debt and prevent excessive borrowing by the Federal Government, which threatens our economy and national security, should the United States Constitution be amended to require a balanced federal budget without raising taxes?”

    You want some propaganda? There you go.

    (1) Who and what caused that ‘uncontrolled’ growth? Hints: tax cuts, two simultaneous wars, huge recession

    (2) The Federal government does not need to borrow money to function. This is a pernicious myth; it chooses to issue interest-bearing bonds to other nations in order to encourage strong demand in the dollar.

    (3) The Federal government running a budget in the red introduces new money into the economy. Spending more or taxing less is the primary means by which this is done, and without it, deflation is certain. Any and all Federal surpluses take money out of the private sector, and have often been followed by a recession.

    (4) The national debt is hardly of any concern to national security. What is a major concern is waging two unpopular wars at once under deceptive pretense. Beyond that, you might consider spending huge amounts on weapons programs that will be very probably be useless in the future — including new fighter planes and missiles. That money would be helpful toward relevant matters like intelligence, foreign relations, and foreign investment.

    (5) If you’re worried about the utter loss of domestic manufacturing, you might be interested to know that this was caused by the lowering of taxes and tariffs, and incentives granted toward ‘free’ trade, not by the increase in debt. The debt is a symptom, not a cause, and confusing the two is dangerous.

    (6) State ballots have no power over the federal Constitution.

    (7) Balancing the budget without raising taxes is a miserable joke. You’d have to eliminate the entire discretionary budget to do that, meaning axing the Pentagon, nearly all of the executive departments (Education, Energy, Defense, and so forth), public parks, all federal subsidization of business, all federal subsidies toward research, and much more.

    Or, you’d have to kill Social Security, or Medicare, or both. Social Security happens to have its own particular tax, though, so killing it will leave you with an anomaly that makes no sense. Pretty soon you’ll have people demanding the tax be repealed, and then your budget will be right back in the red.

    (8) Your nonbinding resolutions are pointless garbage. Next time, don’t bother and save all of us quite a good bit of time. You want to amend the Constitution? Start a Constitutional Convention. If you had read the damn thing, you’d know that’s how’s it’s done.

  12. erinyes – there was a time when the only thing one could get on the car radio while driving in the central valley of California was Rush and country-and-western music. There are a lot of people living in our valleys and those same people only got their ‘news’ from Rush – they’d have been better off getting no news.

    Bonnie – besides factless news, there’s a strange practice of presenting the news from commentators at opposite ends of the political spectrum, leaving it up to the viewer to ‘dissect’ the truth, the assumption being made that the truth must lie somewhere in between the two ‘poles.’ Fatuous, to say the least, yet a common practice in news rooms.

  13. The family-Federal government-balance-budget-checkbook-kitchen-table zombie meme needs more braaaaaaains.

    It’s wrong, but it’s very easy to understand. Understanding why it’s wrong is hard. And in a world where all problems are actually marketing problems, if a policy is easy to explain, and understand, that’s the best evidence that it must be right.

    The founders of our Republic couldn’t have foreseen that some day marketing would be a university discipline, with its own faculty, side by side with humane letters, divinity, medicine, and the law.

    You’re looking at the dark underbelly of The Permanent Campaign.

  14. Uh oh, my long response to Doug on that worthless Florida “advisory referendum” got caught in the mod filter and disappeared into some dark WordPress database, never to be seen again.

    I’ve noticed a lot of my long comments seem to get caught in moderation. I wonder what words or phrases are triggering that? I rarely use a bunch of URLs, so that can’t be it.

  15. kagerato …I think there is a possibility of a time factor trigger in how long you take to compose a comment. I’ve noticed that sometimes I’ll start a comment and then go outside for a cigarette, or whatever distraction. When I return and finish the comment, the comment ends up either in moderation or gets posted into cyber space. The reason I say that is because I’m pretty much certain that there is nothing(a key word) that would trigger the comment for moderation.

  16. Swami, I think you’re right about the time element, but I think there are certain words that cuase comments to get stuck, sometimes the names of products. I think I read that on another site that has a similar program.

  17. gulag …Oh, yeah..I know there are certain words that will put you in the filter.One of them is the name of those little blue pills that Rush Limbaugh has to take in order function properly adequately in a certain area.

  18. I referred to Rush in my last comment which is ‘awaiting moderation’ – and I made it two days ago. We’ll see if this one also ‘awaits moderation.’

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