April 23, 2001
How PR opinion-shapers turn the people against their own interests
Today's right-wing public relations spin has much in common with the propaganda methods of Hitler's PR man, Joseph Goebbels.
Today's right-wing public relations spin has much in common with the propaganda methods of Hitler's PR man, Joseph Goebbels.
Goebbels admired Edward Bernays, a self-proclaimed founder of the public relations industry. Bernays, a Vienna-born nephew of Sigmund Freud, opened a New York office in 1919. According to John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, ( "Toxic Sludge is Good for You," Common Courage Press, 1995 ) Bernays "pioneered the PR industry's use of psychology and other social sciences to design its public persuasion campaigns."
Bernays wrote in "Propaganda," ( New York : 1928, pp. 47–48 ) "If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it." Bernays referred to this scientific opinion-control as the "engineering of consent."
In his autobiography, Bernays discusses a dinner at his home in 1933 where, "Karl von Weigand, foreign correspondent of the Hearst newspapers, an old hand at interpreting Europe and just returned from Germany, was telling us about Goebbels and his propaganda plans to consolidate Nazi power. Goebbels had shown Weigand his propaganda library, the best Weigand had ever seen. Goebbels, said Weigand, was using my book 'Crystallizing Public Opinion' as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked me. Obviously the attack on the Jews of Germany was no emotional outburst of the Nazis, but a deliberate, planned campaign."
Today, corporations spend millions on public relations campaigns to "crystallize public opinion," often in an effort to convince the public that harmful things are actually good for us. Sometimes the companies start by bending the minds of our elected representatives.
This is the first part of a series. In part one, we'll focus on the ways in which corporations and their public relations mind-shapers worked to destroy the Clinton health care plan. Today forty-four million Americans, about one in five people, have no health coverage, and many people cannot afford needed pharmaceutical drugs. Most Americans probably wonder why, despite repeatedly broken campaign promises, Congress never does anything to improve the health care system.
As far back as November 8, 1999, a Newsweek article reported that half or more of eligible heart attack patients are at greater risk because they can't get needed beta blockers. The article stated that two-thirds of people surveyed say they are worried that health care is no longer affordable. Conditions haven't improved since then.
In 1993, the Clinton administration tried to do something about the high price of prescription drugs, hinting at possible government-imposed price controls. The pharmaceutical industry then turned to the Beckel Cowan PR firm to oppose the administration's designs on lowering the cost of prescription drugs—although, of course, the Clinton plan would have benefited the public.
Stauber and Rampton write that Beckel Cowan "created an astroturf [ or, fake grassroots ] organization called 'Rx Partners' and began deploying state and local organizers to, in the words of a company brochure, 'generate and secure high-quality personal letters from influential constituents to 35 targeted members of Congress.'"
At the same time, Beckel Cowan managed a mail and phone campaign "which produced personal letters, telegrams and patch-through calls to the targeted members' local and Washington, DC, offices." The PR firm built a network of supporters in 35 congressional districts and states.
Pharmaceutical companies weren't the only corporations to oppose an improved health care system. The insurance industry went to work to fight against the Clinton health care plan, recruiting PR-man Robert Hoopes. According to Stauber and Rampton, the 300,000 member Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA) hired Hoopes as their "grassroots coordinator/political education specialist."
Campaign & Elections magazine reported the IIAA activated "nearly 140,000 insurance agents during the health care debate, becoming what Hoopes describes as a new breed of Washington lobbyists," wrote Stauber and Rampton. Hoopes said the lobbyists "have behind them an army of independent insurance agents from each state, and members of Congress understand what a lobbyist can do with the touch of a button to mobilize those people for or against them."
In Campaign & Elections magazine ( "Killing Health Care Reform," October/November 1994 ) Thomas Scarlett writes of the insurance companies PR moves, "Through a combination of skillfully targeted media and grassroots lobbying, these groups were able to change more minds than the president could, despite the White House 'bully pulpit.' ... Never before have private interests spent so much money so publicly to defeat an initiative launched by a president."
The Coalition for Health Insurance Choices (CHIC), an insurance company front group, led the attacks on health care reform. According to Consumer Reports, "The HIAA [ Health Insurance Association of America ] doesn't just support the coalition; it created it from scratch." Stauber and Rampton write that PR-man Blair G. Childs masterminded the Coalition.
Describing the fight against health care reform, Childs said in 1993, "The insurance industry was real nervous. Everybody was talking about health care reform ... We felt like we were looking down the barrel of a gun." He added, "We needed cover because we were going to be painted as the bad guy. You get strength in numbers ... Start with the natural, strongest allies, sit around a table and build up to give your coalition a positive image."
To battle health care reform, Childs said the coalition brought in "everyone from the homeless Vietnam veterans ... to some very conservative groups. It was an amazing array, and they were all doing something." ( Blair Childs speaking at "Shaping Public Opinion : If You Don't Do It Somebody Else Will," in Chicago, Dec. 9, 1994 )
Childs advised industry health reform opponents on selecting names for their fake grassroots coalitions. He said they should use focus groups and surveys to find "words that resonate very positively." ( Examples included the words "fairness, balance, choice, coalition and alliance." ) His own coalition sponsored the famous "Harry and Louise" television spots. Those ads used strategic words to convince the public that Clinton's health care plan was overly complex — a "billion dollar bureaucracy."
Propagandist Rush Limbaugh also fueled the anti-health care debate on his radio show with frequent "calculated rants" aimed at his dittohead audience. PR-man Blair Childs said his coalition ran paid ads on Limbaugh's show to encourage Rush's listeners to call members of Congress and urge them to kill health care reform.
Stauber and Rampton say that congressional staffers often didn't know the callers were "primed, loaded, aimed and fired at them by radio ads on the Limbaugh show, paid by the insurance industry, with the goal of orchestrating the appearance of overwhelming grassroots opposition to health reform."
During 1992 and much of 1993, before the propaganda blitz, both Democrats and Republicans were leaning toward a health reform bill according to James Fallows (The Atlantic, January 1995.) Fallows writes, "Bob Dole said he was eager to work with the administration and appeared at events side by side with Hillary Clinton to endorse universal coverage. Twenty-three Republicans said that universal coverage was a given in a new bill."
By 1994, the insurance corporations' PR attacks had changed the political environment. Stauber and Rampton write that "Republicans who previously had signed on to various components of the Clinton plan backed away." Even Democratic Party Senate majority leader George Mitchell "announced a scaled-back plan that was almost pure symbolism . . . Republicans dismissed it with fierce scorn."
Although Hitler's propagandist used mass mind control for more sinister goals, today's corporate propagandists have the following in common with Goebbels: They use the same opinion-shaping techniques he did, and they use them for the purpose of turning the people against their own interests. When large numbers of American citizens suffer or die because they can't get needed medicine or surgery as a result of corporate propaganda, it becomes obvious that Goebbels and today's industry PR spin doctors have produced fruit that is similar in kind, though different in degree.
The public benefits from understanding corporate PR and its character and intentions. Hitler said, "Only one thing could have broken our movement: if the adversary had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed with extreme brutality the nucleus of our new movement." ( Speech to Nuremberg Congress, 9/3/33 )
Corporate America's movement to undermine affordable prescription drugs, universal health care and other public health and safety interests has to be understood before it can be fought. Stauber and Rampton say the PR industry resembles the title character in the old Claude Rains movie, "The Invisible Man." Rains' character uses his invisibility to get away with robbery, murder and other crimes. The film was made using special-effects techniques such as hidden wires to make ashtrays, guns and other objects appear to float in mid-air, as if they were being moved by the invisible man.
"Instead of ashtrays and guns," write Stauber and Rampton, "The PR industry seeks to manipulate public opinion and government policy. But it can only manipulate while it remains invisible."
In part two, we'll look at specific techniques today's public relations ploys have in common with Goebbels' methods, and we'll examine the corporations' and think-tanks' Goebbels-like attacks on environmental protection.
April 25, 2001
How PR opinion-shapers undermine environmental protection
In part one, we examined the fact that Hitler's propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, admired Edward Bernays, a self-proclaimed founder of the public relations industry. Goebbels used Bernays' book "Crystallizing Public Opinion" in his campaign against Germany's Jewish population. Now we'll look at specific propaganda techniques shared by Goebbels and today's corporate PR teams, and at how those techniques undermine today's environmental movement.
Public relations can be used for good or ill. When PR spin is used to convince people that harmful things are good for them, or to turn people against their own best interests, it is used for ill. Goebbels practiced propaganda as a black art.
He helped organize Hitler's "brown shirts," and incited them to violence. He instigated the events leading to "Kristallknacht," the infamous nights of widespread brutal attacks against the Jews, November 8–9, 1938. He helped create the "fuhrer cult," spinning Hitler as Germany's great redeemer and convincing millions that the Nazi state was vital to their well-being.
Goebbels believed in using stealth tactics, or "institutional lying," and in using "fronts" to promote anti-Semitism and Nazi policies. For example, Goebbels set up a film office in July 1933, made it part of a branch of the Reich Cultural Chamber, and then used films to influence mass audiences. Klaus P. Fischer writes in "Nazi Germany : A New History" that most of the entertainment films "presented a sanitized image of carefree life under the protective umbrella of the Nazi regime."
When pro-Nazi or anti-Semitic propaganda came from the mouth of a popular German movie star on the screen, instead of directly from Goebbels, the public perceived it differently. In the same way, today's PR firms use front groups (fake grassroots, or "astroturf " groups) or so-called "third parties" to speak for corporations.
In "Global Spin," (Chelsea Green Publishing, 1997) science lecturer Sharon Beder writes that Merrill Rose, executive vice-president of the PR firm Porter/Novelli, said: "Put your words in someone else's mouth ... There will be times when the position you advocate, no matter how well framed and supported, will not be accepted by the public simply because you are who you are. Any institution with a vested commercial interest in the outcome of an issue has a natural credibility barrier to overcome with the public, and often with the media."
John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton point out in "Toxic Sludge Is Good For You," that on behalf of tobacco company Philip Morris, the PR company, Burson-Marsteller, "created the [front group] 'National Smokers Alliance' to mobilize smokers into a grassroots lobby for smoker's rights ... To defeat environmentalists, PR firms have created green-sounding front groups such as "The Global Climate Coalition" and the "British Columbia Forest Alliance."
Both Goebbels and today's PR firms have used euphemisms and Orwellian newspeak and doublespeak to influence the public mind. For example, corporate PR spinners have told the public that polluting-corporations are friends of nature; that weapons-manufacturer General Electric does no harm but merely "brings good things to life;" that spreading sludge on farm fields is "beneficial use;" that human beings killed in war-for-profit are "collateral damage."
American corporations have at times managed to circumvent the U.S. Constitution and ignore laws designed to protect our own workers and the environment by moving their companies offshore, in the name of "freedom." In Hitler's Germany, the euphemistically named "Law for Terminating the Suffering of People and Nation" (or, the "Enabling Law") gave governments such "freedoms" as the right to deviate from the constitution, ultimately helping Hitler undermine democracy and gain political power.
Goebbels presided over a communications monopoly in Germany by denouncing "intellectualism" and urging book burning. Today, U. S. corporations have a Goebbels-like communications monopoly, because virtually all television networks and the vast majority of other media outlets in the country are owned by a handful of corporations.
Klaus Fischer writes, "On May 10, 1933, an appalling event in the history of German culture took place–the burning of the books ... This particular 'cleansing action' (Sauberung) was carried out by the German Student Union."
Of the book burning, Goebbels said, "The age of extreme Jewish intellectualism has now ended, and the success of the German revolution has again given the German spirit the right of way." (J. M. Ritchie, "German Literature Under National Socialism," 1983.) Today corporations discourage Americans from educating themselves about corporate wrongdoing by, as Stauber and Rampton say, "burning books before they're printed."
For example, science writer David Steinman obtained obscure government research from the Freedom of Information Act and used the information in his book, "Diet For A Poisoned Planet." Steinman wrote that many U.S. foods contained contaminants and gave readers a chance to make safer food choices by comparing the amounts of toxins contained in various foods.
Right away, corporate PR firms, including a "pesticide industry front group with deep Republican connections" went to work attacking the book. The Ketchum PR agency (representative of Dole Foods, the Beef Industry Council, Miller Brewing and many other corporate food clients) markets itself as a specialist in "crisis management," according to Stauber and Rampton.
A Ketchum memo to the CALRAB food safety team read : "The [Ketchum] agency is currently attempting to get a tour schedule so that we can 'shadow' Steinman's [book promotional] appearances; best scenario, we will have our spokesman in town prior to or in conjunction with Steinman's appearances."
Stauber and Rampton's source inside Ketchum said the PR firm called every talk show where Steinman was booked, saying the shows shouldn't allow Steinman to appear without also presenting "the other side of the issue." The firm also tried to portray Steinman as an "extremist" without credibility.
According to Sharon Beder ("Global Spin") corporate front groups are a fairly recent phenomenon in America ... a response to the rise of genuine citizen public interest organizations. One front group, the American Council on Science and Health, receives funds from Burger King, Coca-Cola, NutraSweet, Monsanto, Dow, Exxon and other corporations.
Dr. Beder, author of numerous books, and a professional engineer and senior lecturer in Science and Technology Studies at the University of Wollongong, Australia, writes that "the American Council on Science and Health is one of many corporate front groups which allow industry-funded experts to pose as independent scientists to promote corporate causes. Chemical and nuclear industry front groups with scientific sounding names publish pamphlets that are 'peer reviewed' by industry scientists rather than papers in established academic journals."
On the subject of corporate front groups, Beder quotes Mark Megalli and Andy Friedman ("Masks of Deception: Corporate Front Groups in America,"1991) : "Contrary to their names, these groups often disregard compelling scientific evidence to further their viewpoints, arguing that pesticides are not harmful, saccharin is not carcinogenic, or that global warming is a myth. By sounding scientific, they seek to manipulate the public's trust."
The goal of pseudo-scientific corporate front groups, says Beder, is to cast doubt on the legitimacy of authentic environmental problems. For example, the Global Climate Coalition is a front group for various gas, oil, coal, automobile and chemical corporations; and it has battled restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions.
Global Climate Coalition has sent journalists videos claiming increased carbon dioxide levels will help feed the world's hungry by increasing crop production. The coalition has lobbied against mandatory emissions controls and asked the Clinton administration to avoid agreements that would reduce greenhouse emissions, claiming they "would damage the U. S. economy."
Corporations have worked to shape the next generation's environmental perceptions "through the development and distribution of 'educational' material to schools," writes Beder. Of course, the "educational" materials promote a corporate slant on environmental problems.
Conservative think-tanks have also opposed environmental legislation, working to cast doubt on greenhouse warming, industrial pollution and ozone depletion. These think-tanks mingle with lobbyists, consultants, interest groups and others and, as Beder says, "seek to provide advice directly to the government officials in policy networks and to government agencies and committees."
The think-tank employees ultimately "become policy makers themselves," and act more as pressure groups or interest groups than as academic institutions. Even so, says Beder, think-tank employees are treated by the media as "independent experts" and sources of expert opinion. Most conservative think-tanks promote free-market ideas, including corporate deregulation and lower taxes for the wealthy.
Corporate and think-tank PR spin doctors typically show little respect for the targets of their propaganda, and little regard for democracy. In another book by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, ("Trust Us, We're Experts!" - Tarcher/Putnam, 2001) the authors write, "If you ask the managers of these ever-more-expensive propaganda campaigns why they have vulgarized the democratic process [with, for example, fake grassroots campaigns], they will frequently tell you that the problem is not with them but with the voters who are too "irrational," "ignorant," or "apathetic" to respond to any other kind of appeal."
Stauber and Rampton quote Bill Greider's "Who Will Tell The People:" "On issue after issue, the public is belittled as self-indulgent or misinformed, incapable of grasping the larger complexities known to the policymakers and the circles of experts surrounding them. The public's side of the argument is said to be 'emotional' whereas those who govern are said to be making 'rational' or 'responsible' choices ... The reality, of course, is that the ability to define what is or isn't 'rational' is itself loaded with political self-interest."
Hitler's spin doctor, Joseph Goebbels, also expressed contempt for the people and democracy. Klaus Fischer quotes the propagandist : "We go into the Reichstag in order to acquire the weapons of democracy from its arsenal. We become Reichstag deputies in order to paralyze the Weimar mentality with its own assistance. If democracy is stupid enough to give us free travel privileges and per diem allowances for this service, that is its affair. We do not worry our heads about this."
Fischer also points out that the Nazis were beneficiaries of popular anti-democratic theories of their time, and of a "totalitarian mood," which included "a wish to dismantle the egalitarian welfare state." Again, Goebbels' techniques and attitudes and the fruits of his propaganda were different in degree from those of today's corporate propagandists, but they were clearly of the same basic nature.
Goebbels and today's corporate PR firms often practice public relations as a black art, however some citizens inform people in helpful ways that produce the fruits of increased public health, safety and well-being.
For example, registered nurse and environmental activist Terri Swearingen worked to prevent the building of one of the world's largest toxic waste incinerators, eventually inspiring the Clinton administration to declare a national moratorium on new incinerator construction. When accepting the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, Swearingen said, "There are experts who are working in the corporate interest, who often serve to obscure the obvious and challenge common sense; and there are experts and non-experts who are working in the public interest."
Swearingen added, "Citizens who are working in this arena—people who are battling to stop new dump sites or incinerator proposals, people who are risking their lives to prevent the destruction of rain forests or working to ban the industrial uses of chlorine and PVC plastics–are often labeled obstructionists and anti-progress. But we actually represent progress—not technological progress but social progress. We have become the real experts, not because of our title or the university we attended, but because we have been threatened and we have a different way of seeing the world."
April 27, 2001
How PR opinion-shapers undermine the people's political power
A closer look at propaganda and politics.
In parts one and two, we compared the methods of Hitler's propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, with the PR techniques of today's corporate spin doctors. We also looked at the ways in which corporate PR spin works against the public interest regarding health care and the environment. Now we'll explore the ways that corporate propaganda undermines the political power of ordinary citizens.
Journalist Frank Rich wrote in a recent New York Times opinion piece that he felt he was living through a "Twilight Zone" episode when he read the Palm Beach Post's scoop saying that Palm Beach's butterfly ballot cost Al Gore "about 6,600 votes, more than 10 times what he needed to overcome George W. Bush's slim lead in Florida." Rich said the reason it felt as if he had entered "The Twilight Zone," was because, beyond Palm Beach, he could find no sign such a thing had happened.
"I turned on my TV," writes Rich, "and had to search to find a mention of the Post's story. It might as well have been a hallucination."
In an article entitled "The Invisible People," (The Progressive, March 2001) June Jordan writes about Election 2000's disenfranchised African-American voters and the corporate-owned news media's neglect of the story. Jordan, a noted author and professor of African-American Studies at the University of California-Berkeley, says, "We have moved from The Invisible Man to The Invisible People. It's a raging and a sorrow at the terrible meaning of that discount—for us, and for democracy itself."
The corporate-owned news media "invents reality," as author and educator Michael Parenti has said, by instructing the American people on which news stories are real, and which facts to ignore. Parenti has also written (Land of Idols, St. Martin's Press, 1994) that our political system can be seen in one of three ways:
"A conservative celebration of the wonders of our free-market society, coupled with an insistence that capitalism would be still more wonderful were it not for meddlesome government regulations and the demands of undeserving, low-income people who feed out of the public trough."
A liberal complaint about "aberrant problems that remain in an otherwise basically good System."
A radical analysis "that sees ecological crisis, military interventions, the national security State, homelessness, poverty, an inequitable tax system, and undemocratic social institutions, such as the corporate-owned media, not as irrational outcomes of a basically rational system, but as rational results of a system whose central goal is the accumulation of wealth and power for the few."
Parenti adds that if you take the radical analysis perspective, you "cross an invisible line and will be labeled in mainstream circles a 'conspiracy theorist.'" He notes that Abraham Lincoln might today be dismissed as a conspiracy theorist, because Lincoln once observed in a speech, "These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people."
However, Parenti adds that the corporation/ruling class's mode of operation is systemic and institutional rather than conspiratorial. The fact that corporate domination is built into our existing political system, and into many of our institutions, makes it a more daunting problem than a grand and aberrant conspiracy might be.
In a brilliant article for Online Journal (4/24/01), Scott Morschhauser took up the same issue, pointing out that the label "conspiracy theory' is used by those defending corporate interests the same way they use the label 'communist.' If you are successful at pinning a person or idea with a negative label, then the public will ignore the message. It doesn't matter whether or not the label fits. The facts don't matter. All that you have to do is accuse (see the elder Bush administration for prime examples.)"
When corporate PR teams are able to confuse the public by spinning citizen dissenters as "conspiracy theorists" or as "wacko, tree-hugging environmentalists" or as "extremist fringe," they are able to marginalize activists and dilute their political effectiveness. Journalist Norman Solomon once suggested that rather than succumbing to media manipulation, we can "tune up our personal and collective 'radar screens' to track unidentified flying propaganda."
In "False Hope," (Common Courage Press, 1994) Solomon also discusses the subject of public confusion. He writes about the various ways in which corporate PR spin and media "illusion-making" confuse the public. Solomon quotes Anne Wilson Schaef on the results of this kind of confusion :
"First, it keeps us powerless and controllable. No one is more controllable than a confused person; no society is more controllable than a confused society. Politicians know this better than anyone, and that is why they use innuendo, veiled references, and out-and-out lies instead of speaking clearly and truthfully.
"Second, it keeps us ignorant. Professionals give their clients confusing information cloaked in intimidating language that lay-people cannot understand. They preserve their one-up status while preventing us from learning about our own bodies, our legal rights, and our psychology.
"Third, it keeps us from taking responsibility for our own lives. No one expects confused people to own up to the things they think, say, or do . . .
"Fourth, it keeps us busy. When we must spend all our time and energy trying to figure out what is going on, we have none left over for reflecting on the system, challenging it, or exploring alternatives to it."
A confused person will stay stuck within the corporate-dominated system, because creating new options requires mental clarity. Confusion also causes numbness and political passivity.
Frank Rich's "Twilight Zone" experience of the media's ignoring the butterfly ballot story, and June Jordan's sense that African-Americans have become invisible, are normal, healthy responses to the corporate media's lying about reality. When the people see one reality with their own eyes, and simultaneously the corporate media denies that reality, the effect is hallucinatory.
People need truthfulness about politics in order to operate powerfully in the world. Truth is one of psychologist Abraham Maslow's "meta-needs." It has always been a high priority for the world's spiritual and philosophical thinkers. Factual information is a necessary foundation in order for ordinary Americans to set priorities for political action and organize accordingly.
A high priority concern might be weighing corporate interests against the public interest. Another priority might be clearly deciding what our values are. Corporate spokespeople sometimes try to blur the distinction between, for example, good-versus-harmful effects on the environment, or good-versus-harmful health care proposals.
Some corporate spokespeople claim terms such as "good" or "truth" or "justice" can only be vague, misleading "weasel words," despite the fact that philosophers from Aristotle, to the various Enlightenment-era philosophers, to today's best political thinkers have used such terms freely, and have helped clarify their meaning.
For example, the dialogues of Plato explore the meaning of the word "justice." Harvard Professor John Rawls has said, "A just basic structure will be one which produces a proper distribution of prospects of obtaining primary goods, such as income and health care."
How do we define "good" or "harmful" for purposes of the subject at hand? Let's just play with possible working definitions, for the sake of argument. Those options which are "good" could be defined as options that promote health, safety and well-being for the largest number of people, in a kind, egalitarian manner, without discrimination against race, sexual orientation, religion or lack of religion.
Those options which are "harmful" might be defined as ones that destroy health, safety and well-being for large numbers of people in order that corporations can increase their profits, without regard for kindness, egalitarianism, and with (at times) discrimination based on race (as during the Florida election debacle, racial profiling, etc.), sexual orientation, religion or lack of religion.
Are there gray areas within those definitions? Yes. Are there complexities, and is there room for debate? Of course. However, the lines between good and harmful; right and wrong; public health and public detriment are not as blurry as many corporate spokespeople would have us think ... or, more precisely, would "confuse" us to think.
Most of our founding fathers, Jefferson and Paine among them, didn't want the people confused. Jefferson said repeatedly that democracy could work only if the electorate were "fully informed." He said, "I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome direction, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion."
Thomas Paine, in "The Rights of Man," urged "education for one million and thirty thousand children," saying that "the poor laws, those instruments of civil torture will be superceded" by an informed public given a modicum of "comfortable provision" by government.
Paine also wrote that as a result of a better informed and educated public, and of government's providing some assistance for the poor, "The hearts of the humane will not be shocked by ragged and hungry children, and persons of seventy and eighty years of age begging for bread. The dying poor will not be dragged from place to place to breathe their last ... The poor as well as the rich, will then be interested in the support of government, and the cause and apprehension of riots and tumults will cease."
Pop-propagandists such as Rush Limbaugh and his many clones often say, in their usual Orwellian style, that government assistance for the poor actually hurts the poor. Never mind that the Limbaugh types also generally claim to be of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It's interesting to contrast their "screw-the-poor" comments with those attributed to Christ, such as, "What you do for the least of these, you do for me," or with a typical Hebrew proverb, such as, "When a needy man stands at your door, God stands at his side." And, of course, to corporate mouthpieces such as Limbaugh, agnostic or "pagan" humanists (such as Thomas Paine) who might suggest assisting the poor don't count at all.
Limbaugh clone and radio talk show host, Neal Boortz, has said, "That bum sitting on a heating grate, smelling like a wharf, is there by choice. He is there because of the sum total of the choices he has made in his life." ("The Terrible Truth About Liberals," Longstreet Press, 1998.) Boortz implies people are never poor due to being laid off from a job by a corporation that moved offshore in order to pay slave wages; or due to sudden overwhelming medical bills; or, least of all, due to flaws within the corporate-dominated system itself.
Boortz also says this country is a republic rather than a democracy. He claims that the view that this country is meant to be a democracy is an "insidious idea planted by the Left, by liberals anxious to expand the role of government and their own power." Limbaugh often says the same about democracy, and such antidemocratic views have been popular among many right-wing groups in recent years, just they were in Nazi Germany.
The fact is, America is not merely a republic, but a democratic republic. This country has a strong democratic lineage. The above comments by Jefferson and Paine have to do with enhancing American democracy. Activists who worked toward civil rights, women's rights, labor rights and many other social causes, have helped strengthen democracy within the nation.
In parts one and two, we showed that Hitler and his propagandist, Goebbels, worked to dismantle democracy. They accomplished their goal in part by using PR spin, in order to confuse the people and convince them that democracy wasn't good for them. Through propaganda, Goebbels created a national "Twilight Zone," making the Jewish people invisible, marginalizing dissenters and rendering potential activists powerless.
Somehow, it has turned out that corporate America's PR spin has also taken aim against democracy, confused the people, created a national "Twilight Zone," made ordinary Americans (especially Jewish and African-Americans) invisible, marginalized dissenters and rendered potential activists powerless.
Ordinary Americans have been rendered at least so powerless that we have not yet found a way to persuade our elected representatives to enforce laws that would curb corporate excesses when it comes to polluting the environment; to create legislation that would give this country affordable pharmaceutical drugs or a good health care system; or to bring back the Fairness Doctrine or create similar new legislation, so that our nation's news media is not entirely corporate-controlled.
In a Showtime movie aired this week, Varian's War, the lead character (played by William Hurt) helped bring around 2,000 artists and intellectuals to America, to escape the Nazi Holocaust. A character played by the actor Alan Arkin described the Nazis as "destroying everything they do not understand, which is everything that makes life beautiful and sweet and pure."
Corporate polluters, health care opponents, and illusion-makers, probably don't understand that they are contributing to the destruction of (almost) everything that makes life beautiful, sweet and pure. However, it is up to ordinary Americans with clear vision to toss a little light on the subject. In our proposed working definition of "good," working to preserve the beautiful, sweet and pure things in life has to figure in somewhere. It is a better way to spend a life than screwing the poor, plundering the earth and grubbing for corporate profit.
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