W. H. Auden:
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had everything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
Ben Bagdikian (1987):
By now, the corporations that dominate our media, like alcoholic fat cats, treat this situation as theirs by right . . . Their concept of a diversity of views is the full range of politics and social values from center to far right. The American audience, having been exposed to a narrowing range of ideas over the decades, often assumes that what they see and hear in the major media is all there is. It is no way to maintain a lively marketplace of ideas, which is to say it is no way to maintain a democracy.
Johnny Cash (The Autobiography):
By the time I actually recorded [Bitter Tears] I carried a heavy load of sadness and outrage; I felt every word of those songs . . . I expected there to be trouble with that album, and there was. . . . when it was released, many radio stations wouldn't play it. . . . The very idea of unconventional or even original ideas ending up on "country" radio in the late 1990s is absurd.
Indoctrination is to democracy what coercion is to dictatorship . . . In a totalitarian society, the mechanisms of indoctrination are . . . transparent . . . Under capitalist democracy, the situation is considerably more complex. The press and the intellectuals are held to be fiercely independent, hypercritical, antagonistic to the "establishment," in an adversary relation to the state. True, there is criticism, but a careful look will show that it remains within narrow bounds. The basic principles of the state propaganda system are assumed by the critics. . . . An independent mind must seek to separate itself from official doctrine, and from the criticism advanced by its alleged opponents; not just from the assertions of the propaganda system, but from its tacit presuppositions as well, as expressed by critic and defender. This is a far more difficult task. Any expert in indoctrination will confirm, no doubt, that it is far more effective to constrain all possible thought within a framework of tacit assumption than to try to impose a particular explicit belief with a bludgeon. It may be that some of the spectacular achievements of the American propaganda system, where all of this has been elevated to a high art, are attributable to the method of feigned dissent practiced by the responsible intelligentsia.
Democracy, taken in its narrower, purely political, sense, suffers from the fact that those in economic and political power possess the means for molding public opinion to serve their own class interests. The democratic form of government in itself does not automatically solve problems; it offers, however, a useful framework for their solution. Everything depends ultimately on the political and moral qualities of the citizenry."
George Garlin (Brain Droppings, 1997, pp. 112-3):
Keep in mind, the news media are not independent; they are a sort of bulletin board and public relations firm for the ruling class--the people who run things. Those who decide what news you will or will not hear are paid by, and tolerated purely at the whim of, those who hold economic power. If the parent corporation doesn't want you to know something, it won't be on the news. Period. Or, at the very least, it will be slanted to suit them, and then rarely followed up.
Enjoy the snooze.
In March 1987, I decided to run for president. . . . In the speech in which I declared my candidacy, I focused on global warming, ozone depletion and the ailing global environment and declared that these issues--along with nuclear arms control--would be the principal focus of my campaign. Little did I know that even a more seasoned and experienced candidate than myself would have had a difficult time keeping his campaign focused on issues that were considered exotic at best by pollsters and political professionals. The columnist George Will, for instance, described my candidacy as being motivated by "a consuming interest in issues that are, in the eyes of the electorate, not even peripheral. These are issues such as the 'greenhouse effect' and the thinning ozone." . . . [Yet] even though I came to downplay [the global environment] in my standard stump speech, I continued to emphasize it heavily in my meetings with editorial boards throughout the country. But the national press corps, reflecting the consensus of the political community, resolutely refused to consider the global environment as an important part of the campaign agenda. For example, the day the scientific community confirmed that the dangerous hole in the sky above Antarctica was caused by CFCs, I canceled my campaign schedule and gave a major speech outlining a comprehensive proposal to ban CFCs and take a number of other steps that would address the crisis of the global atmosphere. The entire campaign went into high gear, alerting the press, staging the speech, distributing advance copies of the text, and generally promoting the event. The result was that not a single word was written in any newspaper in America about the speech or the issue--as a campaign issue--even though the scientific finding was, as I had expected, front-page news throughout the world.
In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalistic democracies--the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.
Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it.
In their propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization--the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manipulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these techniques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.
Thomas Jefferson (1807):
Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time.
Alva Myrdal (1982):
Both superpowers have succeeded in making a deep imprint on the beliefs and attitudes of people everywhere. Public debate and political thinking have become largely a product of manipulation. It is harder and harder for facts and knowledge to break through the false beliefs. The end result is a profound web of misconceptions . . . . At the heart of the arms race are a series of assumptions that are simply false. But in the super-powers, on the national media, those fundamentals are rarely questioned. Our hope lies in challenging them.
Editors and reporters are not as free and independent to invite a variety of opinions as they might think. They are free to say what they like only as long as their bosses like what they say. They are free to produce what they want if their product remains within acceptable political boundaries. You will have no sensation of a leash around your neck if you sit by the peg. It is only when your stray that you feel the restraining tug.
Upton Sinclair (The Brass Check , 1919):
"The social body to which we belong is at this moment passing through one of the greatest crises of its history, a colossal process which may best be likened to a birth. We have each of us a share in this process, we are to a greater or less extent responsible for its course. To make our judgments, we must have reports from other parts of the social body; we must know what our fellow-men, in all classes of society, in all parts of the world, are suffering, planning, doing. There arise emergencies which require swift decisions, under penalty of frightful waste as suffering. What if the nerves upon which we depend for knowledge of this social body should give us false reports of its condition?"
"I was determined to get something done about the Condemned Meat Industry. I was determined to get something done about the atrocious conditions under which men, women and children were working the Chicago stockyards. In my efforts to get something done, I was like an animal in a cage. The bars of this cage were newspapers, which stood between me and the public; and inside the cage I roamed up and down, testing one bar after another, and finding them impossible to break."
"Can you blame me if I am pursued by the thought of how much we could do to remedy social evils, if only we had an honest and disinterested press?"
"American journalism is a class institution, serving the rich and spurning the poor."
"We define journalism in America as the business and practice of presenting the news of the day in the interest of economic privilege."
"When the masters of industry pay such sums for a newspaper, they buy not merely the building and the presses and the name; they buy what they call the "good-will"--that is, they buy you. And they proceed to change your whole psychology--everything that you believe about life. You might object to it, if you knew; but they do their work so subtly that you never guess what is happening to you!"
"The story of what the newspapers did to American radicals in this crisis [WWI] would be unbelievable--if you had not read the rest of this book. Thus, for example, the case of Bannwart, a Boston pacifist, one of a committee which called upon Senator Lodge to protest against the declaration of war. Senator Lodge lost his temper and struck Bannwart in the face; and all over the country went the report that Senator Lodge had been assaulted in his office by a pacifist! The Senator became a national hero; the Boston newspapers printed columns and columns about the incident, and when Bannwart called upon the Senator to admit the truth, he not only refused to admit it, but gave out for publication many telegrams congratulation him upon his heroism. no newspaper would publish Bannwart's side, and he was helpless for two years, until his suit for damages was about to come up in court; then the Senator gave way, and admitted in writing that he had struck the first blow. . . . the "Transcript" buried this apology of Senator Lodge in a remote
Adam Smith (1776):
Among all the excuses which are alleged to Charon for not entering readily into his boat, he [David Hume] could not find one that fitted him; he had no house to finish, he had no daughter to provide for, he had no enemies upon whom he wished to revenge himself . . . "Upon further consideration" said he. . . . "I might still urge, Have a little patience, good Charon; I have been endeavoring to open the eyes of the Public. If I live a few years longer, I may have the satisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of the prevailing systems of superstition." But Charon would then lose all temper and decency. "You loitering rogue, that will not happen these many hundred years. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for so long a term? Get into the boat this instant, you lazy, loitering rogue."
Alice Stone Blackwell:
"In my suffrage work, I learned beyond question that the news coming through the great press agencies was colored and distorted; and if this has been done on one subject, it has doubtless been done on others. A good many women, I think, learned a wholesome distrust of press reports during the suffrage struggle."
Alexis De Tocqueville (Democracy in America):
In America the majority raises very formidable barriers to the liberty of opinion: within these barriers an author may write whatever he pleases, but he will repent it if he ever steps beyond them. Not that he is exposed to the terrors of an auto-da-f'e, but he is tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority which is able to promote his success. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before he published his opinions he imagined that he held them in common with many others; but no sooner has he declared them openly than he is loudly censored by his overbearing opponents, whilst those who think without having the courage to speak, like him, abandon him in silence. He yields at length, oppressed by the daily efforts he has been making, and he subsides into silence, as if he was tormented by remorse for having spoken the truth.
The editor of a newspaper cannot be independent, but must work with one hand tied behind him by party and patrons, and be content to utter only half or two-thirds of his mind . writers of all kinds are manacled servants of the public. We write frankly and fearlessly, but then we "modify" before we print.
One of the causes of unhappiness among intellectuals in the present day is that so many of them, especially those whose skill is literary, find no opportunity for the independent exercise of their talents, but have to hire themselves out to rich corporations directed by Philistines, who insist upon their producing what they themselves regard as pernicious nonsense. If you were to inquire among journalists in either England or America whether they believed in the policy of the newspaper for which they worked, you would find, I believe, that only a small minority do so; the rest, for the sake of a livelihood, prostitute their skill to purposes which they believe to be harmful. Such work cannot bring any real satisfaction, and in the course of reconciling himself to the doing of it, a man has to make himself so cynical that he can no longer derive whole-hearted satisfaction from anything whatever. I cannot condemn men who undertake work of this sort, since starvation is too serious an alternative, but I think that where it is possible to do work that is satisfactory to mans constructive impulses without entirely starving, he will be well advised from the point of view of his own happiness if he chooses it in preference to work much more highly paid but not seeming to him worth doing on its own account. Without self-respect genuine happiness is scarcely possible. And the man who is ashamed of his work can hardly achieve self-respect.
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