Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Press and Other Forms of Propaganda

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When I picked out today's Quote du jour:

One cannot wage war under present conditions without the support of public opinion, which is tremendously molded by the press and other forms of propaganda.

from Douglas MacArthur, I don't recall if I noticed just how biting the last part of that quote was: "the press and other forms of propaganda".

Earlier in the week, in a conversation with a commenter, I brought up the instance of Dan Rather's infamous presidential interviews of 1988, of George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis.

First, Fake but Accurate Rather interviewed Gov. Mike Dukakis. Dan tossed him a softball with an extremely open ended question, "Tell us about the Massachusetts Miracle", which was essentially an invitation for Dukakis to give a stump speech. (Poor Mike, in the dustbin of history, doesn't even rate a spot in my current computer's Spell Check.)

The next evening when Rather interviewed Bush, it started with an ambush about Iran/Contra, along the lines of "When did you stop beating your wife?"

This particular ploy backfired when Rather's gotcha moment got George H. W.'s Irish up and Bush stood up to Rather's bullying tactics and scored points among the American people, whose views about journalists were bad, but could not then have predicted their 21st. Century lows.

Looking at the news as "propaganda", let's take a look at some of the other techniques they have used over the years. (This will by no means be exhaustive, just some of those things I have personally witnessed.)

One technique favored by our friends at CBS, was to let no good news stand alone. I recall one December, I believe it was 1997. The unemployment news was good:

The unemployment rate in the United States in 1997 was the lowest in 24 years

In December of '97, the unemployment rate was 4.9%, and that was a time before all the contortions modern presidents (*cough* Obama *cough*) go through to hide unemployment. "a record 64.1 percent of the population held jobs at the end of the year"..."U.S. businesses created 370,000 jobs" that December. Obama would kill for numbers like that!

So how was this good news handled during a Republican administration? Dan Rather would look into the camera and read the statistics in a rather (pun intended) flat monotone. And then, Dan would perk up. He had a story to tell, complete with videotape. After giving the American public the best possible news about unemployment, Dan would say something like, but things aren't so rosy for Joe Slobotnik of Bethlehem, PA. Joe's been out of work for two months and it doesn't look like there are going to be any presents under the tree for Joe's family this Christmas. (Cut to video of Joe's waif like sad eyed munchkins)

Follow the good news, "jobless rate at 24 year low", with a tear jerking, emotional piece to leave people emotionally spent, with the impression that wow, things ust not be all that great!

A similar technique was used in promoting or opposing any particular piece of legislation favored by dishonest, Left leaning MSM journalists (but I repeat myself!). As I recall, any news regarding legislation before Congress had both sides presented. The conservative or Republican position was represented by a statement, read by the news anchor, in his most professional, dispassionate fashion. The Democrat/ liberal side of the news was invariably presented by more than one proponent/opponent, who was shown on tape, giving their most impassioned arguments.

Technically, you got both sides, but practically, the most persuasive arguments were from those selected to have their arguments presented in the first person. And they were invariably liberals.

Last but not least, is a technique I first noticed in the print media. I'd see a story about some politician, and I would marvel at how they managed to find such an unflattering photo. At first, I dismissed it as "news photos, shot on the fly" rather than posed, but there were just so many of them...people caught with their eyes closed, mouths open, funny expressions on their faces, but what's the saying? Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times, it's enemy action. It was happening far too often to be coincidence or happenstance. There was a guiding hand behind the selection of the pictures used.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have adopted this rule of thumb for my own Photoshops. I may need to use a photo of someone, but I am by no means obligated to use the most flattering picture I can find. Liberals, you have sown to the wind, you shall reap the whirlwind.

I have taken journalism classes from the crusading editor and publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bruce Brugmann, and, although I have not seen it used there, I wouldn't be surprised if Alinsky's Rules for Radicals was required reading for advanced studies.

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