Proper American Propaganda

As of 2013, the US government ended their long time law banning domestic propaganda (RT). However, has propaganda ever stopped? And, is this just an aggressive attempt to increase the already overwhelming amount of propaganda already swelling within the media? Here is a quote from former CIA Director William Colby (1973–1976), “We control probably 90% of the important people in the media.” Many sources point out that the mainstream media have always been a source of propaganda, the tool used to persuade and guide the public in making their opinions and decisions on important issues.

Personally, I’m more concerned that it distracts people from reflecting too deeply about major issues not paraded about by the media. One need only attend a football game that shows support for the troops by advertising military might, to see the juxtaposition of propaganda and entertainment. By suspiciously disguising manipulative propaganda within media as part of entertainment, government and corporate intentions have direct influence over decision-making and actually help shape society.

The part of society that chooses to entertain itself with all kinds of media is the commodity of what they view. Media gains increased advertising opportunities with every major rise in viewership; therefore, the viewers are the market, thus they become a product of entertainment and vice-versa. Dallas Smythe focused on this idea of an, “invisible triangle” between broadcasters, advertisers, and audiences. His journey led him to conclude that the audience is a commodity of media. A person need only get a few million views on YouTube to integrate into that, “invisible triangle,” whether they want to or not. The media is like a massive hungry alligator pit, the more audience you throw at it, the more it will ask for.

Media arrives in numerous forms, and each form brings a unique style of propaganda with it. Littered throughout pure entertainment for many years now, it’s part of everyday life. When “media tycoon William Randolph Hearst believed America needed a strongman”, he chose Franklin D. Roosevelt to fill the role of president (Goldberg). By backing Roosevelt with his powerful media, and financing a movie called ‘Gabriel Over the White House’ that brandished a strong FDR like character to be the hero, he achieved his goal in getting FDR elected and the New Deal passed. Quoting FDR, he said this about the movie, “I think it is an intensely interesting picture and should do much to help.” Hollywood’s many examples of inserting propaganda have proven it exists as part of a propaganda machine.

Go ahead and YouTube World War II era’s Warner Brother’s cartoons to see war propaganda at work. Several recent movies come to mind that embellish the truth about war and glorify it, such as “Lone Survivor” and “American Sniper.” Many critics of such films have stated that, “it’s the work of war propaganda, and I have to agree with them” (Seth Rogan). Well Seth, I reason in one form or another, propaganda consistently lives within war and battle movies where Americans are the ultimate victors. Go Murricah!

Noam Chomsky, of MIT University, feels that most media coming from news sources and Hollywood are acting in an attempt to direct a mass audience. Chomsky uses terms such as, “elite media” to categorize sources such as the New York Times and CBS. Where their goal, he states, is to cater towards privileged managers of the political system. All these people, regardless of their profession, “are involved in organizing the way people think and look at things” (Chomsky). The major news sources, such as the NY Times, tell the lower sources what they’re supposed to write about, and in doing so, it keeps the sources that cater towards smaller crowds’ in-line with a greater predefined social order.

Chomsky goes on to state that, “the real mass media are basically trying to divert people” but why?

It keeps them from dealing with the elite people who run the system. These people are the aforementioned privileged individuals. The lower mass media he speaks of has a way of making people overly concerned with professional sports and celebrity news. In effect, these distractions keep people from taking active knowledge based roles in the political process.

A great example of how complex the propaganda goes is one told by Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Bernstein. He stated that back in 1977, the CIA conspired with over 400 American journalists to carry out assignments. Some of these people weren’t even true journalists, they were agents masquerading as such types. These types of journalists would gather intelligence and recruit foreign nationals. Those who became nationals were under direct control of the CIA in their own countries. Later, some became propped up dictators who made generous deals with American industry.

All the big news sources worked with the CIA at the time and likely still do in some capacity. These include the New York Times, CBS, Time Inc., Miami Herald, Newsweek magazine, the National Broadcasting Company, the American Broadcasting Company, The Associated Press, Reuters, and the New York Herald-Tribune. With all this in mind, the idea of propaganda being used in media to sway people’s decision-making isn’t so surprising.
 Johnnie Manzaria and Jonathan Bruck of Stanford University state that; every form of media uses propaganda to, “influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.” They feel there are ten steps to analyzing propaganda, however, most people are not aware of these steps and don’t have the time to take notice of them. Because of this, most people are susceptible to having their opinions shaped by unrecognized propaganda.

Within Manzaria and Bruck’s paper, they discuss several case studies, including one dealing with France and Pakistan simultaneously acquiring atomic weaponry. At this time, the western media reported on both countries, demonizing Pakistan, while glorifying France.

Using propaganda for non-nefarious reasons, such as FDR’s revitalization of the USA, served a great purpose, however it’s still used to manipulate people’s mindsets. Overall, I feel this act is wrong. What’s to keep a power-monger from using propaganda in ways that are atrocious, such as making the public support a wrongful war? History has proven what happens in these cases, the debacle in Vietnam and Cambodia, or more recently, the Iraq war. Even looking at the CIA’s past propped up dictatorships in the Congo or Iran gives insight into how propaganda creates insanely horrible conditions when people have an unfettered lust for power and resources.

Imagine doing away with propaganda while increasing people’s knowledge about politics and world affairs. Humanity could make positive changes in the current direction of society as a whole. It would take a rather large combined effort by a good portion of the population, regardless of location, to make this happen. However, this would not only create a more unified world, but in taking these efforts, it would also create a more peaceful one.