One of the most popular and controversial books ever written about the roles and influence of mass media in contemporary history is Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988) by world renowned linguist, author, philosopher and political activist, Noam Chomsky and co-author, Edward Herman. In it, the authors show through various well-documented and well-researched case studies how the dominant elite in our society use the mass media as a tool to control, regiment and condition the public minds. The authors also excoriate the mass media for their behavior and performance on how they cover the news around the world which can be exemplified in the conclusion of the book: “In contrast to the standard conception and usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth, independence of authority and defense of justice, in their actual practice they inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society. The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering out information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises…They determine, they select, they shape, they control, they restrict – in order to serve the interests of dominant, elite groups in society. ”
The central argument of the book is based on what they call a “PROPAGANDA MODEL,” an analytical framework that attempts to explain the performance of the mass media, particularly the US media, in terms of the basic institutional structures and relationships within which they operate. And although the book is a blistering assessment and scathing animadversions on the US mass media by showing how propagandistic they are, a large portion of the book vividly depicts the current state of the Philippine Media. After all, our mass media have modeled themselves after the Americans’ but, unfortunately, we Filipinos tend to take everything to extremes which oftentimes borders on irrationality and stupidity. An eloquent example of this was the intrusive and blow-by-blow coverage of our mass media in the hostage crisis that happened recently at the expense of the lives of foreigners who came here to enjoy their vacation in spite of our bad image abroad.
The recent hostage crisis highlighted not only the lack of discretion and incompetence of the Philippine Media but also the destructive forces they have blatantly shown through the years that contributed to and exacerbated our political instability, economic stagnation, and public uproar against the previous administration. They did this well by fabricating a lie and demonizing a competent leader they perceived as a threat to their hegemony and existence as a powerful force in society by using effectively the tools of propaganda. And for the past few months, we have witnessed too how the Mainstream Media wielded their power through continuous bombardment of propaganda before, during and after the presidential election.
I will make my case here to show how the Philippine Media can destroy our country and dash the hopes of our impoverished countrymen into smithereens. I have rummaged through several articles and had read books in the past that showed in details how propagandistic mass media are in a democratic society and how they wield their power and inculcate wrong values to the people and, unfortunately, those books and articles seemed to describe the Philippine mass media.
Philippine Mass Media – Vectors of Anti-Intellectualism, Anti-Rationalism and Public Ignorance
On February 17, 2008, Washington Post columnist Susan Jacoby wrote an insightful article about the “dumbing down of America” with her assertion that America has become a “nation of dunces” where anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and public ignorance pervade in every fabric of the society that can contribute further to grave national problems. In it, she argues that there are three important factors and anti-intellectual forces that afflict America, to wit: First and foremost among the vectors of anti-intellectualism is the proliferation of video that leaves no room for contemplation and logic. The decline of book, newspaper and magazine reading which is pronounced among the young, but it continues to accelerate and afflict Americans of all ages and education levels. The second important anti-intellectual force in American culture is the erosion of general knowledge. And the third and final factor in the American dumbness is not the lack of knowledge per se but the arrogance about the lack of knowledge (she cites one survey finding that one in five American adults, according to National Science Foundation, thinks that sun revolve around the earth). The ignorance of such thing is one thing but the alarming number of people who smugly concluded that they don’t have to know such things in the first place. She calls it anti-rationalism which is, according to her, “a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse.”
That same year, her book, The Age of American Unreason was published and became a New York Times bestseller. Miss Jacoby, author of nine other books that includes Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (2004) and Alger Hiss and the Battle for History (2009), states that America now is afflicted “with a powerful mutant strain of intertwined ignorance, anti-rationalism, and anti-intellectualism.” In it, she explains that anti-intellectualism in any era can best be understood as a complex of systems with multiple causes, and the persistence of symptoms over time possesses the potential to turn a treatable, livable condition into a morbid disease affecting the entire body politic. She argues that it is certainly easy to point out a wide variety of causes—some old and some new—for the resurgent American anti-intellectualism of the past twenty years. First and foremost among the vectors of anti-intellectualism are the mass media. On the surface, she continues, “today’s media seem to offer consumers an unprecedented variety of choices—television programs on hundreds of channels; movies; video games; music; and the Internet versions of those products, available in so many portable electronic packages that it is entirely possible to go through an entire day without being deprived for a second of commercial entertainment. And it should not be forgotten that all of the video entertainment is accompanied by a soundtrack, usually in the form of ear-shattering music and special effects that would obviate concentration and reflection even in the absence of visual images.” What Miss Jacoby finds alarming though is that it is not television was designed as an enemy of active intellectual endeavors but that the media, while they may not be actually the message, inevitably reshape content to fit a form that subordinates both the spoken and written word to visual images. In doing so, the media restrict their audience’s intellectual parameters not only by providing information in a highly condensed form by filling time—a huge amount of time—that used to be occupied by engagement with the written word. Miss Jacoby also lambasted George W. Bush for being “unashamed of and even quite proud of his parochialism and intellectual limitation” and that he rarely read newspapers because that would expose him to ”opinions.” She also blamed the public for the outcome of the US Presidential Election in 2000 with these words: “If Bush’s election was not a measure of conscious anti-intellectualism on the part of voters, it was certainly a measure of the public’s indifference to demonstrable mental acuity and knowledge as standards for presidency.”
Susan Jacoby’s Age of American Unreason is not the only book that tackles the pervasive anti-intellectualism in America. Russell Jacoby chronicled the disappearance of the public intellectuals in America and wrote about “the endemic anti-intellectualism of American society” in The Last Intellectuals. Former Vice-President Al Gore’s very insightful, informative and thought-provoking 2007 book, The Assault on Reason became number one in New York Times Best Seller list (his book covers a wide range of subjects that include not just politics, history, religion, environment but also psychology, neuroscience, immune system, evolutionary biology and many others). This provocative book provides a detailed information and historical analysis into the political and cultural vicissitudes in America that caused the decline of reason among the voting public. In it, Mr. Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, activist, political icon, public intellectual and bestselling author, argues that faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves fairly and wisely by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—was and remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise, he asserts, is now under assault.
In the introduction and few chapters of his book, he blames the sensationalist for-profit mass media for the decline of reason in America and singled out the television as the major factor for the rapid deterioration of reason and logic because, he contends, it is not a meritocracy of ideas where the people can participate and have a two-way conversation. He explains that the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation. Individuals receive, but they cannot send. They absorb, but they cannot share. They are constant motion, but they do not move themselves. There is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation. Television stations and networks are completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens. Al Gore also contends that “the consent to be governed” in the presidential election has now become a commodity to be purchased by the highest bidder and “to the extent that money and the clever use of the electronic mass media could be used to manipulate the outcome of the election, the role of reason began to diminish.” He also argues that voters are now often viewed mainly as targets for easy manipulation by those seeking their “consent” to exercise power and what passes for a national “conversation” today is usually a television monologue consisting of highly sophisticated propagandistic messages. The potential for manipulating mass opinions and feelings initially discovered by commercial advertisers is now being more aggressively exploited by a new generation of media Machiavellis.
The media, he contends, play a major role and contribute to the anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and the dumbing down of American people. His frustration and dismay in the 2000 Presidential Election Debate was also mentioned with regards to his “theatrical sighs” that became controversial in the first debate with George W. Bush that created an impression on nationwide television that for his viewers outweighed whatever positive benefits he might have otherwise gained in the verbal combat of ideas and substance. Americans tend to romanticize the past, he writes, and that there was golden age when reason reigned supreme and banishing falsehood and demagoguery from the deliberation of the American self-government. He also quotes Abraham Lincoln who, according to him, is the greatest American President: ”Reason—cold, calculating, and unimpassioned reason—must furnish all materials for our future support and defence. Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for Constitution and laws.” One of his major concerns at the time of the writings of the book was the saturation of TV news that had no appreciable impact on the state of the Republic like the bizarre false confession of a man who claimed to have been present at the death of JonBenet Ramsey—the six year old beauty queen whose unsolved murder many years ago was responsible for another long-running obsession. Like Ramsey, there was the Michael Jackson and Robert Blake trial, the Laci Peterson tragedy and the Chandra Levy tragedy. And of course who can’t forget Britney and KFed, and Lindsay and Paris and Nicole. Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch and married Katie Holmes who gave birth to Suri.
He also argues that radio, the Internet, movies, cell phones, iPods, computers, instant messaging, video games and personal digital assistant vie now for our attention, but he asserts that television still dominates the flow of information in modern America. And as Dan Rather put it, “television news has been dumbed down and tarted up” and that the purpose now of television news now is “glue eyeballs to the screen” in order to build ratings and sell advertisings. Mr. Gore also mentions the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart when he visited CNN’s Crossfire: “There should be a distinction between news and entertainment. It really matters. The subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: It leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.”
But perhaps the most important book ever written about the history of anti-intellectualism in America is Anti-intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter that won him the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction in 1964. This well-known book provides a very detailed information about the history of anti-intellectualism in the United States. As a matter of fact, even Susan Jacoby mentioned in her book that Hofstadter’s book had a tremendous impact on her and it inspired her to write her own. According to Hofstadter, his book was conceived in response to the political and intellectual conditions of the 1950’s. During that decade, the term anti-intellectualism became a familiar part of national vocabulary of self-recrimination and intramural abuse. In the past, he asserts that American intellectuals were often discouraged or embittered by the national disrespect for mind. He laments the fact that anti-intellectualism in various forms continues to pervade American life and he referred to “the qualities in our society that make intellect unpopular.”
Two weeks after Barrack Obama won the presidency, New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof wrote Obama and the War on Brains and describes Obama’s election as a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual. The Harvard-educated and Oxford law graduate was one of the few journalists who wrote that the result of the election will be a “step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life.” Kristof also lashes out at President Bush for adopting anti-intellectualism as administration policy, repeatedly rejecting expertise (from Middle East experts, climate scientists, and reproductive health specialists). An intellectual, writes Kristof, is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals read classics, even when no one is looking, because they appreciate the lessons of Sophocles and Shakespeare that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions. And he contends that Obama, an Ivy League-educated law professor who has favorite philosophers and poets, exults in complexity. And although he criticized George W. Bush for being uninterested in ideas, he praised him for being smart in the sense of remembering facts and faces (Noynoy, on the other hand, does not only disdain complexity but is also very poor in remembering facts and is also known for distorting facts and figures that was very evident in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) address. And yet, his supporters have the gall to compare him to Barrack Obama who is considered as one of the most intellectual leaders in the world today).
Later that year, Susan Jacoby’s revised and updated post-election edition of The Age of American Unreason was published and she lauded Barrack Obama not only for his intellect and track record but also for his promise to restore science and reason in public policy making.
Susan Jacoby, Richard Hofstadter, Russell Jacoby and Nicholas Kristof all mention that one of the most prominent examples of anti-intellectualism in the history of the United Sates happened in the 1950’s when Adlai Stevenson, the suave, articulate and debonair former governor of Illinois lost twice to Dwight Eisenhower in 1950s.
And while I agree with what they wrote about the endemic anti-intellectualism in America, I personally do not agree that Adlai Stevenson was intellectual in the real sense of the word. Although he was known for his oratorical prowess and had the airs of an intellect, many historians including Michael Beschloss reported of his disinterest in books and that he “could go quite happily for months or years without reading a book,” according to Dr. Thomas Sowell. But the intellectuals and the intelligentsia during his time depicted him as the quintessential intellectual and that image lived on. Creating a positive image of a candidate is another propaganda technique which I will explain and elaborate later.
The anti-intellectualism in America that these intellectuals are harping about is nothing compared to the chronic and pervasive anti-intellectualism in the Philippines that are further exacerbated by the Philippine mass media. In the United States, you can still find a lot of very informative and educational TV shows. On the other hand, the TV shows in our country are teemed with telenovelas with sleazy characters and game shows that further dumb down our already ignorant populace. Even a prominent and one the very few highly respected journalists in our country who passed away a few years ago lamented that TV programs in the Philippines are mostly entertainment fare. He continues, “Information is given short shrift and most talk show programs hosts are ignorant, insipid and imbecilic and that red-hot issues with deep intellectual roots are not taken up at all… Gossip is the favorite fare, one-liners, a verbal slash or two, flicks of the camera where certified idiocy of face after face is held with wondrous awe. Often media, particularly television, tilt toward entertainment when it should be compelled by the muses of journalism, to weave more webs of more analytical information, documentaries, and historical narratives. It should intelligently discuss issues, issues, issues.”
The Propaganda Tools of the Philippine Mass Media
The anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism that pervade in the Philippine mass media are just some of the destructive forces in our country. For several decades now, Public Intellectuals in different era have voiced out their concerns about the dangerous power of the mass media. And those of you serious thinkers who had a chance to devour intellectual goodies like Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion – A Classic in Political and Social Thought, Edward Bernays’ Propaganda, Gustave Le Bon’s The Crowd—A Study of the Popular Mind, Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society, Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of the Mass Media and his latest opus, Media Control – The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, will definitely have a better understanding on the new roles of the mass media and how they wield and abuse their power.
The remarkable writings of these past and present intellectual giants describe the influence and power of the Philippine media. Lippmann, Bernays, Le Bon and Chomsky explored the spectacular achievements of propaganda. Sowell, on the other hand, explained in details how the mass media fabricate a lie, filter reality, suppress the facts, use verbal cleansing and create fictitious people. Susan Jacoby and Richard Hofstadter both expounded the pervasive anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism and public ignorance caused by the mass media.
Here are some of their assessment, insights and observations on the roles and influence of the mass media:
1. Among other functions, the media serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them. The representatives have important agendas and principles that they want to advance, and they are well positioned to shape and constrain media policy. This is normally not accomplished by crude intervention, but by selection of the right-thinking personnel and by the editors’ and working journalists’ internalization of priorities and definitions of newsworthiness that conform to the institutions’ policy.
2. In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of dominant elite.
3. The whole point of good propaganda is that you want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against and everybody’s going to be for like Americanism… Who can be against that? Or harmony. Who can be against that? Or yellow ribbons on facebook, twitter, and other websites after the death of former president Corazon Aquino. Who can be against that? Or the campaign slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” or “Simula ng Pagbabago.” Anything that is totally vacuous, says Noam Chomsky. Any weak-minded person would fall for that. But there are issues, Chomsky argues, “Do you support our platforms? Do you support our policies? But you don’t want people to talk about that issue. That’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about. That’s like harmony. We’re all together, empty slogan, let’s join in, let’s make sure we don’t have these people to disrupt our harmony. That’s all very effective. And of course it is carefully thought out. The people in the media and public relations industry are not there for the fun of it. They are doing work.”
4. Propaganda bears the same relations to education as to business or politics. It maybe abused. It maybe used to over-advertise an institution or candidate and to create in public mind artificial values. There can be no absolute guarantee against its misuse.
5. The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of social interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.
6. Nowadays the successors of rulers, those whose position or ability gives them power, can no longer do what they want without the approval of the masses, they find in propaganda a tool which is increasingly powerful in gaining that approval.
7. Propaganda requires a permanent network of communication so that it can systematically stifle reflection with emotive and utopian slogans.
8. Commonly reporters see the world through an ideological prism that reinforces popular views based not on objective observation and fact but on emotion.
9. The degree of objectivity with which news is presented is a central issue. Because reporters and editors are human beings, complete objectivity is unattainable, and the substance of news stories and the prominence given to them will inevitably reflect bias. The problem becomes acute when bias becomes policy, and the newspaper or television pursues an ideological “line” that confounds objectivity and may reinforce both prejudice and error.
10. The masses have never thirsted after truth… Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.
Creating a Fictitious Image of Hoover, Stevenson and Truman
In Intellectuals and Society (2008), Thomas Sowell, PhD, states that filtering and slanting can create not only fictitious facts but also fictitious people. This is obvious in the case of totalitarian dictatorships, where mass-murdering tyrants are depicted in official propaganda as kindly, wise and all-caring leaders of their people, while all those who might oppose the dictator at home or abroad are depicted as the lowest sorts of villains. But something very similar can happen in free, democratic, nations without any official propaganda agency, but with an intelligentsia bent on seeing the world in particular way. In it, he argues that in the modern history, fictitious person can be created through the systematic use of propaganda. According to him, the most striking example in twentieth-century America of a fictitious persona being created for a public figure, without any conscious coordination among the intelligentsia, was that of Herbert Hoover.
Sowell continues his detailed narration into how the mass media created a fictitious image of Herbert Hoover in Optional Reality in the Media and Academia:
“Hoover’s misfortune was to be the President of the United States when the stock market crash of 1929 was followed by the beginning of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Had he never become a president, Herbert Hoover could have gone down in history as one of the greatest humanitarians of the century. It was not simply the amount of money he donated to philanthropic causes before he became president, but the way he risked his own personal fortune to rescue starving people in Europe during the First World War that made him unique.
Because of the blockades, destruction, and disruptions of the war had left millions of people across Europe suffering from hunger, or even starving, Hoover formed a philanthropic organization to get food on them on a massive scale. However, realizing that if he operated in the usual way, by first raising money from donations and then buying the food, people would be dying while he was raising money, Hoover bought the food first, putting his own personal fortune at risk if he could not raise the money to pay for it all. Eventually, enough donations came in to cover the cost of the food but there was no guarantee that this would happen when he began.
Hoover also served as head of the Food Administration in Woodrow Wilson’s administration during the war, where he apparently sufficiently impressed supporters of another member of the administration – a rising young man named Franklin D. Roosevelt – which these FDR supporters sought to interest Hoover in becoming the Democrat’s nominee for president in 1920, with FDR as his vice-presidential running mate. However, only the latter came to pass, with Roosevelt being the running mate for Democratic presidential candidate James M. Cox, who lost in 1920, while Hoover went on to serve as Secretary of Commerce under Republican Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.
So much for the real Herbert Hoover. What whole generations have heard and read about is the fictitious Herbert Hoover – a cold, heartless man who let millions of Americans suffer needlessly during the Great Depression of the 1930s because of his supposedly doctrinaire belief that the government should leave the economy alone. In short, the image of Hoover depicted by the intelligentsia was that of a do-nothing president (Well, according to Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics and New York Times bestselling author of The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008,”Most economists, to the extent that they think about the subject at all, regard the Great Depression as a gratuitous, unnecessary tragedy.” He also contends that if only the Federal Reserve hadn’t defended the gold standard at the expense of the domestic economy; if only officials had rushed cash to threatened banks, and thus calmed the bank panic that developed in 1930-1931; then the stock would have led only to a garden-variety recession, soon forgotten. But he also blames Hoover for not trying to balance the budget in the face of the economic slump.” – ANQ). According to this view—widely disseminated in both the popular media and in academia, as well as repeated at election times for decades – it was only the replacement of Hoover by FDR that got the federal government involved in trying to counter the effects of the Great Depression. The falsity of this picture was exposed back during the Great Depression itself by leading columnist Walter Lippmann, and the falsity was confirmed in later years by former members of Roosevelt’s administration, who acknowledged that much – if not most – of the New Deal was simply a further extension of initiatives already take by President Hoover .
Herbert Hoover was quite aware — and proud – of the fact that he was the first President of the United States to make getting the country out of a depression a federal responsibility. ‘No President before had ever believed there was a government responsibility in such cases,’ he said in his memoir.’ As President, Hoover responded to a growing federal deficit during the depression by proposing, and later signing into law, a large increase in tax rates – from the existing rate of between 20 and 30 percent for people in the top income brackets to new rates of more than 60 percent in those brackets.
None of this, of course, means that either Hoover’s or FDR’s interventions were helpful on net balance, nor is that the point, which is that a completely fictitious Herbert Hoover was created, not only in politics but in the writings of the intelligentsia. For example, the fictitious Hoover cared only for the rich – whose taxes the real Hoover more than doubled, taking more than half their income. The fictitious Hoover was unconcerned about ordinary working people but the real Hoover was praised by the head of the American Federation of Labor for his efforts to keep industry from cutting workers’ wages during the depression.
The intelligentsia of the times created the fictitious Hoover, and the intelligentsia of later times perpetuated the image. In 1932, Oswald Garrison Villard, editor of The Nation, said that President Hoover failed for lack of sympathy. A New Republic editorial said of Hoover: ‘He has been the living embodiment of the thesis that it is the function of the government not to govern.’
In politics as well, the fictitious Herbert had the same image – and that image lived on. As late as the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan was characterized by the Democrats’ Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill as “Hoover with a smile” and, when Reagan’s Secretary of the Treasury defended the administration’s economic policies in a statement to Congress, Democratic Senator Ernest Hollings said, “That’s Hoover talk, man!” – even though Reagan’s tax cut policy was the direct opposite of Hoover’s tax increases. Even the 2008 financial crisis provoked a New York Times columnist to express fear that the 50 state governors would become ’50 Herbert Hoovers.’ In short, Hoover’s image was still politically useful as a bogeyman, decades after his presidency and even after his death.
One of the signs of the great sense of decency of Harry Truman was that, a month after he became president in 1945, he sent a handwritten letter to Herbert Hoover, inviting him to the White House for the first time since Hoover left in 1933, to seek his advise on food aid to Europe after the disruption of the Second World War. Hoover was both surprised by the letter from President Truman and moved to tears when he met with Truman in the White House. Later, Truman’s appointment of Hoover to head a commission to investigate the efficiency of government agencies enabled this much-hated man to regain some public respect in his later years and shake off some of the opprobrium that went with the intelligentsia’s creation of a fictitious Herbert Hoover.”
Sowell also contends that fictitious positive image can of course be created, not only by propaganda agencies in totalitarian regime but also by intelligentsia in democratic countries. No politician, Sowell goes on to say, in the past two generations was regarded by intellectuals as more of an intellectual than Adlai Stevenson, the suave and debonair former governor of Illinois who twice ran for the President of the United States against Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. The New York Times called him “the best kind of intellectual.” Yet Stevenson “could go happily for months or years without picking up a book,” according to noted historian Michael Bechloss, among others who reported Stevenson’s disinterest in books.
Meanwhile, no one thought of Harry Truman as an intellectual, although he was a voracious reader, whose fare included heavyweight books like the works of Thucydides and Shakespeare, and who was “a president who enjoyed Cicero in Latin – someone who was able to correct Chief Justice Fred Vinson when Vinson quoted in Latin. However Adlai Stevenson had the rhetoric and the airs of an intellectual, and Harry Truman did not. Many among the intelligentsia regarded the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.
Creating a Fictitious Positive Image of Noynoy/The History of Modern Propaganda
The unfair and biased reportage in favor of Noynoy before, during and after the election and even after the botched hostage drama that happened recently by the mainstream media led by oligarch-owned ABS-CBN and Philippine Daily Inquirer and their continuous upholstering, refurbishing and aggrandizement of his already tattered image abroad vividly reminds me of the same techniques and methods used by the Creel Commission AKA Center of Public Information or CPI (named after the former Denver Post columnist George Creel, a muckraker who spearheaded the first modern-day propaganda of the Wilson administration) established by President Woodrow Wilson through Executive Order 2549 on April 13, 1917 to “turn a pacifist population into a war-mongering population.” Actually, the majority of the people at that time was extremely pacifistic and saw no valid reason to become involved in European War. In Media Control –The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, Noam Chomsky explained that the Wilson administration was actually committed to war and had to do something about it. When they established the Creel Commission, they were able to succeed, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans from limb to limb, go to war and save the world. Among those who participated actively and enthusiastically, Chomsky continues, were the progressive intellectuals, people of the John Dewey circle, who took great pride in having shown that what they called “more intelligent members of the community” namely themselves, were able to drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism. The means that were used were extensive. For example, there was a good deal of fabrication of atrocities by the Huns, Belgian babies with their arms torn off, all sorts of awful things that you will still read in history books. Much of it was invented by the British propaganda ministry, whose own commitment at the time, as they put in their secret deliberations, was “to direct the thoughts of most of the world.” But more critically they wanted to control the more intelligent members of the community of the United States, who would then disseminate the propaganda that they were concocting and convert the pacifist country to wartime hysteria. And it taught a lesson: State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and no deviation is permitted from it, can have big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.
But prior to World War I, propaganda was rarely used in English, except by certain social activists and close advisers of the Vatican, according to Edward Bernays in his classic book Propaganda (1928). He said that the word propaganda tended not to be the damning word we throw around today. The word had been coined in 1622, when Pope Gregory XV, frightened by the global spread of Protestantism, urgently proposed an addition to the Roman curia. The Office for the Propagation of the Faith (Congregatio de propaganda fide) would supervise the Church’s missionary efforts in the New World and elsewhere.
Among the Progressive intellectuals who rallied to President Wilson’s efforts were Herbert Croly, John Dewey, Clarence Darrow, Upton Sinclair, and most importantly, Walter Lippmann, who was the dean of American journalist and the one who coined the phrase “manufacturing of consent” which was to “condition the public mind about agreement on the part of the public for the things they didn’t want by the new techniques of propaganda.”
Another important figure in the Creel Commission was Edward Bernays, Father of Public Relations and nephew of Sigmund Freud. It was Bernays who coined the phrase “engineering the consent” which was a scientific technique of controlling, conditioning, and regimenting the public minds. Under the tutelage of his intellectual hero, Walter Lippmann, and through the guidance of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, and Gustave Le Bon, author of The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind as well as the one who expounded the theory on “crowd psychology”, he pioneered the scientific techniques on how to condition the public minds. In The Assault on Reason, Al Gore states that Bernays adapted the revolutionary insights of his uncle to create the modern science of mass persuasion—based not on reason, but on the manipulation of the subconscious feelings and impulses. Bernays, father of public relations, left Austria long before the Nazi rise to power and immigrated to the United States, where he transformed commercial advertising and began a similar transformation of political transformation. One of Bernays’ first breakthroughs involved his work for the American Tobacco Company, when he interviewed psychoanalysts to discover the reason women in the 1920s would not smoke cigarettes. Upon hearing their view that women of the era saw cigarettes as phallic symbols of male power and thus inappropriate for women, Bernays hired a group of women to dress and act as suffragists. They marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue in a parade for women’s rights and upon passing new photographers pulled out and lit cigarettes, proclaiming them torches of freedom. The strategy worked to break women’s resistance to cigarettes. But prior to that, he was heavily involved in selling the war to the American people.
So how did they manipulate, condition, and regiment the public minds?
In Public Opinion — A Classic in Political and Social Thought, Walter Lippmann describes every detail on how they accomplished this herculean and monumental task. According to him, a rough estimate of the effort it takes to reach “everybody” can be held by considering the Government’s propaganda during the war. Remembering that war had run over two years and a half before America entered it, that millions upon millions of printed pages had been circulated and untold speeches had been delivered. Mr. Creel, Lippmann writes, had to assemble machinery which included a Division of News that issued more than six thousand releases, had to enlist seventy five thousand Four Minute Men who delivered at least seven hundred and fifty five thousand, one hundred and ninety speeches. Boy scouts delivered annotated copies of President Wilson’s addresses to the householders of America. Fortnightly periodicals were sent to six hundred thousand teachers. Two hundred thousand lantern slides were furnished for illustrated lectures. Fourteen hundred and thirty eight different designs were turned out for posters, window cards, newspaper advertisements, cartons, seals, and buttons. The chambers of commerce, the churches, fraternal societies, schools, were used for channels for distributions… Probably this is the largest and the most intensive effort to carry quickly a fairly uniform set of ideas to all the people of a nation.
In Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell describes the propaganda techniques used by these members of the intelligentsia. He contends that the Committee on Public Information, aptly described as “the West’s first modern ministry of propaganda” was created and run by Progressive George Creel, who took it as his mission to turn public opinion into “one white-hot mass” of support for the war, in the name of “100% Americanism,“ with anyone who “refuses to back the President in this crisis” being branded “worse than a traitor.” And, he continues, while the public was being propagandized on a mass scale – by tens of millions of pamphlets and with “war studies” created in high school and colleges, for example – a Sedition Act was passed which forbade “uttering, writing, printing, or publishing any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the United States government and the military. The ultimate irony was that all this economic, political, and social repression was justified as part of a war in which “The world must be safe for democracy” – a goal which itself was far removed from the ostensible cause of American military involvement, German submarine warfare.
The Modern Tools of Propaganda
The propaganda machine used by the Creel Commission and its marketing strategies were pursued by Hitler (remember the Big Lie technique that he coined in Mein Kampf?) and other notorious leaders such as Goebbels, Mussolini and Stalin.
Al Gore points this out in The Assault on Reason: “In 1922, less than five years after the armistice that ended World War I, Joseph Stalin was named general secretary of the Communist Party in the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the new leader of the Fascist Party in Italy, Benito Mussolini, was named prime minister of a coalition government. A half year earlier, Adolf Hitler had been named chairman of the new National Socialist Party in Germany. All three would require several years to consolidate their power. Each one mobilized support for his malignant, totalitarian ideology by using the powerful new medium for mass communication that also debuted on the world stage in 1922: radio.
All three relied materially on propaganda delivered over the radio to engineer total state control over all political and economic power. Whatever their doctrinal differences the result was the same in all totalitarian regimes: The freedom and rights of the individual were totally eliminated. Without the introduction of the radio, it is doubtful that these totalitarian regimes would have commanded the obedience of the people in the manner they did. As Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, would say later, ‘It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio….The radio is the most influential and important intermediary between a spiritual movement and the nation, between the idea and the people.’”
Similarly, Italian historian Gianni Isolla, studying Mussolini’s consolidation of power, wrote, “Broadcasting was born in Italy under Fascism, and Fascism used it, right from the beginning, for propaganda.
The scientific techniques used by the Creel Commission to turn “a pacifist country into a war-mongering populace” which were pursued by Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and many wartime leaders are not at all different from what the Philippine mainstream media used on how to condition, manipulate and regiment the public minds before, during and after the presidential election. Well, maybe the techniques now are more state-of-the art and sophisticated, with television, internet, instant messaging, text messages, and oodles of money being invested into their own puppet named Noynoy, but it’s still pretty traditional.
The mainstream media shamelessly trampled and disgraced their “sacrosanct” profession by having the gall and effrontery to suppress the truth and create a fictitious image of Noynoy as a modern-day hero who is capable of performing herculean task in weeding out poverty and graft and corruption that afflict every fiber of our society and at the same time demonizing the previous administrations as well as instilling fear into the hearts and minds of the citizenry of a possible worst-case scenario if other candidates would emerge as winners in the last presidential election. Al Gore referred to this tactic by the media and the puppetmasters as employing the “language and politics of fear” in order to make the people more irrational and illogical without “regard to the evidence, the facts, and the public interest.” The mainstream media took up the cudgels on behalf of Noynoy who’s one of the most incompetent, mediocre and least qualified candidates in the last presidential election and disregard the competence, leadership, track record and intelligence of the two most competent candidates (i.e., Richard Gordon and Gilberto Teodoro, Jr.). They threw encomiums and sang paeans and hosannas to a mediocre leader that represents the Oligarchy who is in cahoots with the oligarch-owned mass media. The media are totally aware that millions of Filipino people are mostly ruled by emotions and impulses and not by knowledge-based reason, analytical reflection, critical analysis and logical thinking. They used the most effective medium of propaganda that is available now: television. They know the weaknesses of the overly sentimental and emotional Filipino and took advantage of it. The gullible citizenry was hoodwinked by the mainstream media because many of the Filipino people are not ruled by logic and reasons. By using television as an effective medium of propaganda, the media were able to manipulate public opinion and were able to systematically stifle even the reason and logic of the well-educated people.
And that’s another disturbing and laughable argument put forth by the mindless minions and supporters of Noynoy — his appeal not just with the ordinary citizens but also with the highly educated people. This is, of course, a weak argument if we know and carefully read the history of mankind and if we are aware of the fact that these well-educated people used their education in the past to advance their twisted ideology. What we need instead, according to Al Gore, is a well-connected citizenry.
In The Assault on Reason, he contends that in an age of propaganda, education itself can become suspect. Education, he continues, is necessary but insufficient. He argues further: “A well-educated citizenry is more likely to be well-informed citizenry, but the two concepts are entirely different, one from the other. It is possible to be extremely well-educated and, at the same time, ill informed or misinformed. In the 1930s and 1940, many members of the Nazi Germany were extremely well-educated—but their knowledge of literature, music, mathematics, philosophy simply empowered them to be more effective Nazis. No matter how educated they were, no matter how well they cultivated their intellect, they were still trapped in a web of totalitarian propaganda that mobilized them for evil forces. When people are subjected to ubiquitous and unrelenting mass advertising, reason and logic begin to seem like they are no more than handmaidens for the sophisticated sales force. And now that these same techniques dominate the political messages sent by candidates to voters, the integrity of our democracy has been placed under the same cloud of suspicion.”
And in today’s world, he continues, while education is important, it is now connection that is the key. A well-connected citizenry is made up of men and women who discuss and debate ideas and issues among themselves and who constantly test the validity of the information and impressions they receive from one another—as well as the one they receive from the government. No citizenry can be well informed without a constant flow of honest information about contemporary events and without a full opportunity to participate in a discussion of the choices that the society must make.
The mass media effectively used all the propaganda tools available (radio, newspaper, text messages, internet, television, etc.) at the moment and now that he’s a leader of an impoverished nation, the entire world will have an opportunity now to see before their very eyes what kind of leader he is. The television and other propaganda tools used by the media helped to propel him to the presidency but there’s no escape now from the eyes of the global community of what he really is: an incompetent and mediocre leader. Al Gore also asserts that the electronic media and printing press were effectively used to indoctrinate millions of people in Germany, Italy, Russia, China, Japan and Spain that made them blind, deaf and dumb. And this is what the yellow media used effectively to manipulate public opinion that made them illogical, irrational, and stupid. The mass media made people believe that Noynoy is the modern-day messiah that will bring us glory and prosperity.
The Great Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, wrote this in Twelfth Night: “A great leader is born great, or he has greatness thrusts on him along the way, or he learns to be great.” Noynoy Aquino was born mediocre and he has mediocrity thrusts on him along the way.” The hostage crisis was an opportunity for him to show the world if he’s really a leader made of sterner stuff that the media have been trying to portray him. But it only validates the truth that he really is unfit for the presidency. Now that he is the president of the Philippines, there’s no escape now from the eyes of the world especially now that he fumbled and bungled the first major crisis that rocked his Administration. He will be scrutinized now more than ever because he succumbed to the pressure by devious politicians with hidden agenda to run for the presidency even if he never ever possessed the qualifications of a true leader.
The New Marketplace of Ideas, Reason and Truth
Fortunately for all the enlightened people and thinking segments of our society, we now have the internet by which the people can share fresh ideas and can discuss all the relevant issues that dog our society without a single iota of fear that we will be muzzled by the Philippine government the way they muzzle the oligarch-owned mass media.
In The Assault on Reason, Al Gore expressed his belief that internet will be the new marketplace of ideas that was abundant when the printing press was the medium of communication. He continues, “Internet is perhaps the greatest source of hope for reestablishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. The ideas that individuals contribute are dealt with, in the main, according to the rules of meritocracy of ideas. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to the universe of knowledge.”
In the conclusion of the book, the author also mentions that reason is under assault by forces using more sophisticated techniques: propaganda, psychology and electronic mass media. Yet people are beginning to use their own sophisticated techniques: Internet, online organizing and blog. He contends that blogs are now beginning to serve as a check and balance on inaccurate information conveyed by the mass media. And the growing distribution of short video clips over the web is creating more confidence that television will be seen as a transition medium between the age of print and the age of internet. An important distinction to make is that the internet is not just another platform for disseminating the truth. It’s a platform for pursuing the truth, and decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services.
And that is exactly what the AntiPinoy.com is propagating and fighting for: ideas, facts, logic, reason and truth; the bloggers here fearlessly and painstakingly pursue the truth and expose not only the ills of our government but also the cultural backwardness in our society. In other words, the AntiPinoy.com is not only a marketplace for new and fresh ideas but also a platform for disseminating and pursuing the truth and propagating the knowledge-based reason that is terribly missing in the mainstream media. As Edward Murrow, the intrepid journalist during the time of McCarthyism, once said: “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.” Sad to say, The Age of Unreason in the Philippines is further exacerbated by the Philippine mass media that needs to be exposed by the right-thinking people before it leads us to more mayhem and destruction.