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Spin: The Media's Crocodile Death RollErsun Warnke Salem-News.com Business/Economy Reporter
As with a crocodile attack, the best hope for survival is to get out of the spin before you drown and get onto firm ground.
(EUGENE, Ore.) - Crocodiles kill their prey by dragging them into the water and drowning them as they eat. When crocodiles twist their powerful bodies in order to rip off chunks of flesh and limbs, this is called the Death Roll.
Experts say that the best hope of surviving a crocodile attack is to remain on land, where the beast tires more easily, and cannot take advantage of its ability to hold its breath longer than its prey.
Organized propaganda campaigns, generously referred to as "spin," operate in the same way.
The purpose of spin, and all propaganda, is to make the victim believe a lie. An organized propaganda campaign snatches its victims from dry land, and drags them down into a sea of spin, attempting to drown them in lies and disinformation. Once the media begins its death roll, logic, reason, and truth are torn away from the victim like so many chunks of flesh as they slowly suffocate in the watery grave of spin.
Propaganda is a continual feature of life in America. We call it advertising or public relations these days because the word propaganda developed "negative connotations" after World War II. As always, when your conduct results in horrendous outcomes, the answer is to change the name and the rationale for your conduct, not change your conduct. At least that is how propagandists think.
It is important to recognize that the existence of propaganda implies necessary relationships between the propagandist and the victim. The propagandist starts out with the objective of lying to the victim.
Consequently, there is an assumption of superiority and inferiority between the propagandist and the victim. If the propagandist succeeds in convincing their victim of their lies, then this is a "proof" of their superiority.
Stripped of their reason and rationality, the propagandist's victim or prey is reduced not only to animal level, but even lower. Animals are complete and self-sufficient without rationality and reason. A human being, when stripped of rationality and reason, is wounded, incomplete, and dependent. An animal can survive without rationality. Human beings cannot.
The relationship between a propagandist and their victims is thus the same as the relationship between predator and prey, or more precisely, the relationship between a crafty carnivore and a herd of bewildered animals.
In a herd, the loudest and most obnoxious of voices are the ones that draw the most attention, drowning out all others.
Consequently, "controlling the conversation" through mass repetition of messages is a crucial element of propaganda.
The modern media, with thousands of television channels, websites, newspapers, magazines, and radio stations is the megaphone through which propagandists control the conversation of society. While this vast array of media outlets creates an illusion of diversity, in actuality, all of these thousands of media outlets are owned by only a few corporations.
The idea of corporate identity obscures the actual reality of corporate ownership. In a capitalist society, the shareholder is the ultimate owner, so a single shareholder or group of shareholders may control any number of corporations. The illusion of competition and diversity created by a proliferation of corporate entities can be used to conceal collusion, consolidation, and monopoly of ownership and control.
When the media megaphone is put to use, a propaganda message is broadcast across every outlet, saturating the public discourse.
The false diversity of modern media dramatically enhances its effectiveness as a propaganda tool. By creating thousands of media outlets, all with specifically targeted audiences, it is possible to take a single propaganda message and reshape it to yield optimal results for each audience.
The niche targeting of media outlets based on culture, gender, age, and ideological divisions not only enhances the effectiveness of propaganda messages, but also sews the seeds of confusion and conflict in society.
Propaganda messages, by definition designed to undermine rationality and reason, almost always use emotional and irrational instinctive responses to undermine a victims rationality. The targeting of propaganda messages at different groups using conflicting emotional and irrational ploys makes it even more difficult for people to engage in rational discussions because any two people approaching a subject will be coming at it from two conflicting irrational viewpoints.
With these observations on the basic fundamentals of modern propaganda in mind, I would like to give an example of the media death roll in effect.
On May 26, 2010 Rolling Stone published an article entitled Wall Street's War with the subtitle "Congress looked serious about finance reform – until America's biggest banks unleashed an army of 2,000 paid lobbyists." rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/96712
The article detailed how banks and investment companies, working through Harry Reid and Chris Dodd and with the support of the White House, unleashed a wave of corruption in order to counter regulatory reform.
According to the article, efforts to audit the Federal Reserve, regulate derivatives, establish meaningful oversight for consumer lending, and create new reserve requirements for banks engaged in risky speculation were all gutted as a result of collusion between senior Democratic and Republican Senators working hand-in-hand with Wall Street and the White House.
This article was well sourced and full of useful information concerning regulation that applies to people's bank accounts, loans, pensions, investments, and jobs. In other words, this article was actual news which could have real value for people reading it.
Chances are you haven't read it or heard about it. I hadn't.
On June 22, 2010 Rolling Stone published an article that you may be more familiar with. This one was entitled The Runaway General and had the subtitle "Stanley McChrystal, Obama's top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House." rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236
This article starts out with the assertion, unsupported by even the anonymous quotes in it, that the "real enemy" of the commanding general in Afghanistan is "the wimps in the White House," and by extension, the President. This is utter nonsense, like much of the other b.s. in the article.
All in all, the article is little more than a selective diary of McChrystal's daily routine, buttressed with anonymous quotations from the sewing-circle talk of his underlings. Assuming that all of the anonymous quotes are true, they add up to nothing.
An "adviser" to McChrystal may be the guy who served him breakfast in the morning. "Sources" can be anyone from a janitor on up. The whole article is based on nothing more than the trivial gossip that everyone exchanges in the course of a day as they go about their jobs.
This is the basis on which Rolling Stone accuses a General of treasonous conduct with the end result of a massive upheaval in the command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
On this foundation of sand thousands of media outlets and commentators built their "spin" of the supposed conflict between McChrystal and Obama. Why is it that a story like The Runaway General gets so much play, and has such a profound influence on policy? Certainly it is not a matter of substance.
The crucial difference between Wall Street's War and The Runaway General is that one article was left to die in obscurity while the other was trumpeted to every corner through the media megaphone. The fact that the McChrystal article is absolute rubbish was totally irrelevant. It served a propaganda purpose, so it could be used to push an agenda.
Whatever the ultimate agenda is behind trashing McChrystal, trashing Obama, creating divisions within the military, between the military and civilian command, and destabilizing the command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, you can be sure that this agenda is not a positive one.
The propagandists have already got us in the Death Roll with this story, and they have successfully torn off a few chunks of flesh. As with a crocodile attack, the best hope for survival is to get out of the spin before you drown and get onto firm ground.
Salem-News.com Business/Economy Reporter Ersun Warncke is a native Oregonian. He has a degree in Economics from Portland State University and studied Law at University of Oregon. At a young age, his career spans a wide variety of fields, from fast food, to union labor, to computer programming. He has published works concerning economics, business, government, and media on blogs for several years. He currently works as an independent software designer specializing in web based applications, open source software, and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.
Ersun describes his writing as being "in the language of the boardroom from the perspective of the shop floor." He adds that "he has no education in journalism other than reading Hunter S. Thompson." But along with life comes the real experience that indeed creates quality writers. Right now, every detail that can help the general public get ahead in life financially, is of paramount importance.
You can write to Ersun at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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