We’re being duped at every turn. No wonder we don’t know where to turn.
Half of the time that we think we’re watching news reports, we’re really watching video news releases prepared by public relations firms for organizations promoting their own agendas, and that includes the Bush administration. What we are led to believe are news reports are really propaganda.
There is, at least one voice in the PR industry who is calling attention to this unethical practice. Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the world’s largest independent public relations firm, blogs the following, as he refers to an article published in the NY Times:
“Under the Bush Administration, the federal government has used a well-established TOOL of public relations; the pre-packaged, READY-TO-SERVE news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations…” It is a world where all participants benefit…Public relations firms secure government contracts worth MILLIONS of dollars…”In three separate opinions in the past year, the Government Accountability Office has held that government-made news segments may even constitute improper covert PROPAGANDA…” An FCC decision in year 2000 states that “Listeners and viewers are entitled to know by whom they are being PERSUADED…” (Note that the capital letters are my own so that you get the full effect of the words being used).
Edelman goes on to say:
What can be done? Let’s start by revealing the size of our US government contracts. We have heard in the media that PR agencies are receiving $250 million from the US Government each year to promote its programs. I’m skeptical of this number. At that level, Government contracts would constitute 10% of the fees of the top ten agencies in the world. At Edelman, our fees from the US Government (we have one account, from the US Department of Commerce to promote travel to the US from the UK) are $400,000, out of our global total of $240 million in fees. I understand from another top-ten firm that they only have 3% of its fees from Government contracts. So a useful first step toward transparency is to end the mystery of size of fees by having each firm reveal total spending by US Government-related accounts.
VNRs are produced for the government by private contractors and the State Department’s Office of Broadcasting Services, the Agriculture Department’s Broadcast Media and Technology Center, and the Defense Department’s Pentagon Channel, among others. We’ve been criticizing VNRs used as propaganda for more than a decade. For example, our 1995 book Toxic Sludge Is Good For You described how VNRs were used to sell the first Bush administration’s Persian Gulf war.
The New York Times editorial (repeated in Truthout.org) lays it all out:
As documented this week in an article in The Times by David Barstow and Robin Stein, more than 20 federal agencies, including the State Department and the Defense Department, now create fake news clips. The Bush administration spent $254 million in its first four years on contracts with public relations firms, more than double the amount spent by the Clinton administration.
Most of these tapes are very skillfully done, including “interviews” that seem genuine and “reporters” who look much like the real thing. Only sophisticated viewers would easily recognize that these videos are actually unpaid commercial announcements for the White House or some other part of the government. Some of the videos clearly cross the line into the proscribed territory of propaganda, and the Government Accountability Office says at least two were illegally distributed.
I wonder how much Hitler spent on his propaganda machine?
And then there’s the propaganda aimed at keeping the white boys off the front lines:
“The U.S. Army is adjusting its marketing pitch to minorities as the war in Iraq hurts recruiting efforts among Hispanics and, especially, African-Americans,” reports Advertising Age. Leo Burnett is the Army’s lead marketing agency, with Cartel Creativo doing Hispanic, and Muse Cordero Chen & Partners and Vital Marketing Group doing African-American, outreach. The Army will “maintain a minority presence in general-market advertising, craft minority-specific messages,” and “focus Spanish-language messages at parents and ‘influencers.'” Political science professor Peter Feaver expressed skepticism, saying, “If the problem is Iraq, there’s not much in the short run that the Army recruiters can do.”
“Outreach” in this case is just another word for propaganda.
Wal-Mart’s television commercials are propagandizing really hard to off-set what everyone knows is really going on — that women employees are concentrated in lower-paying jobs, are paid less than men on the same job, and are less likely than men to advance to management positions? These gender patterns persist even though overall women have more seniority, lower turn over rates, and higher performance ratings in most Wal-Mart positions than their male counterparts.
And that’s just Wal-Mart’s Little Picture. In the Big Picture:
The giant retailer’s low prices often come with a high cost. Wal-Mart’s relentless pressure can crush the companies it does business with and force them to send jobs overseas. Are we shopping our way straight to the unemployment line?
Wal-Mart wields its power for just one purpose: to bring the lowest possible prices to its customers. At Wal-Mart, that goal is never reached. The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don’t change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year. But what almost no one outside the world of Wal-Mart and its 21,000 suppliers knows is the high cost of those low prices. Wal-Mart has the power to squeeze profit-killing concessions from vendors. To survive in the face of its pricing demands, makers of everything from bras to bicycles to blue jeans have had to lay off employees and close U.S. plants in favor of outsourcing products from overseas.
“You won’t hear anything negative from most people,” says Paul Kelly, founder of Silvermine Consulting Group, a company that helps businesses work more effectively with retailers. “It would be committing suicide. If Wal-Mart takes something the wrong way, it’s like Saddam Hussein. You just don’t want to piss them off.”
It’s a killer American capitalist success story. Read it and weep.
And then start paying a lot closer attention to how we’re all being hoodwinked every time we turn around.
Especially watch how Dumbya tries to hoodwink us into believing that he’s not making every effort to undermine Constitutional checks and balances. Watch as Senator Harry Reid fights the good fight, pointing out the fallacies and dangers of the Republican effort …to use extraordinary parliamentary tactics allowing the Republican majority to rubberstamp the handful of nominees already rejected and all future Bush nominees.
Keep an eye on that effort of Bush to do still another endrun around the law of this land.
And as Factcheck.org so clearly reminds us, Bush’s propaganda machine is still churning out lies about Social Security:
In a new TV ad, Progress for America exaggerates the true state of Social Security’s finances by comparing it to the Titanic. The ad claims the system will go “bankrupt” if nothing is done and that we must rescue the program “before it hits the iceberg.” Actually, neutral experts predict the system can pay between 70 and 80 percent of currently scheduled benefits even if the Trust Fund is exhausted, which isn’t predicted to happen for another 37 years, at least.
The ad also touts Bush’s plan for “voluntary personal retirement accounts” as though that would improve the system’s finances. But even the White House now acknowledges that individual accounts alone do nothing to fix the system’s long-term financial shortfall.
I’m not sure how we Americans can keep ourselves from being hoodwinked over and over again by all of those working so hard to turn this country into something it was never meant to be so that they can reap one kind of out-of-whack profit or another.
Checking these non-partisan sites can help us to keep our eyes open:
and also www.truthout.org
It’s that price of freedom, right?
We’re being duped at every turn. No wonder we don’t know where to turn.