Propaganda & Freedom

Statue of LibertyThe Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was concerned about the antagonistic effect of propaganda on our freedom. In 1937 Violet Edwards, educational director of the IPA, summarized its purpose:

There are three possible ways to deal with propaganda. You can suppress it, meet it with counter-propaganda, or analyze it and try to see how much truth there is in it. We are going to analyze it.

The IPA believed there were four aspects of freedom inherent in our constitution republic “set forth or definitely implied in the Constitution and federal statutes.”

1. Political—Freedom to vote on public issues; freedom of press and speech to discuss those issues in public gatherings, in the press, radio, motion pictures.

2. Economic—Freedom to work and participate in organizations to promote better working standards and higher living conditions for the people.

Strong-arm activity by unions makes it necessary to include freedom not to work or to participate in any organization.

3. Social—Freedom from oppression based on theories of superiority or inferiority.

Our politically correct world makes it necessary to include differences of beliefs and opinions.

4. Religious—Freedom of worship.

The IPA  wording is far too narrow. This was written over sixty years ago, and I doubt the IPA anticipated the extent of change that would occur among many groups and authorities in their attitudes toward religion, especially Christianity. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” and that goes far beyond freedom of worship. Our free exercise of religion means that we are free to live out and express our beliefs in any and every area of our life and in all aspects of our life. The IPA also included the phrase “with separation of church and state,” but I’ve excluded it because it is not in the First Amendment.

In a later IPA publication, “The Fine Art of Propaganda; A Study of Father Coughlin’s Speeches,” the editors, Alfred McClung Lee and Elizabeth Briant Lee, wrote:

With all such general freedoms and the specific freedoms implied by them are associated definite responsibilities. Thus, with freedom of the press goes the responsibility for accuracy in news and honesty and representativeness in editorials.

The majority of the press has forgotten any role or responsibility it has in guarding our freedom. The other week I heard Dana Perino state that the the press is to represent the people to the President. The media has used their powerful platform, however, to represent us or to report the news factually, but to present the news for the purpose of shaping public thinking. I’ve seen various ideas on how to prevent this. NewsBusters and Breitbart’s Big Journalism are two groups that report on bias and conflict of interests in the media. Suggestions have been made to encourage conservatives to go into journalism or to boycott newspapers and magazines.

Some of these options are only available to a few, but there is one thing we can all do: Refuse to have our thinking shaped! I’ve been writing on propaganda because it’s an option I have to encourage people to push back on the media’s attempt to conform Americans to their ideology.

The Lees described propaganda as positive or negative according to its effect.

Because the action sought by a propagandist may be beneficial or harmful to millions of people, it is necessary to focus upon his activities the same searchlight of scientific scrutiny that the scientist invites. This requires a considerable effort. We all have a tendency to make a virtue of defending opinions or propagandas that apparently fit in with our own opinions and of opposing as vigorously any others. But socially desirable views and proposals will not suffer from examination, and the opposite type will be detected and revealed for what it is.

Propagandas which concern us most are those which alter public opinion on matters of large social consequence-often to the detriment of large sections and even the majority of the people….

When does a propaganda conform to democratic principles? It conforms when it tends to preserve and extend democracy; it is antagonistic when it undermines or destroys democracy.

“What is truly vicious,” observed the New York Times in an editorial on September 1, 1937, “is not propaganda but a monopoly of it.” Any propaganda or act that tends to reduce our freedom in discussing important issues-that tends to promote a monopoly of propaganda-is antidemocratic….

Some of the devices now so subtly and effectively used by…propagandists are as old as language. All have been used in one form or another by all of us in our daily dealings with each other.

Propagandists have seized upon these methods we ordinarily use to convince each other, have analyzed and refined them, and have experimented with them until these homely devices of folk origin have been developed into tremendously powerful weapons for the swaying of popular opinions and actions.

In Illusion For Power I wrote that the word propaganda has become tainted after its use during the 20th century, and so I defined it as a planted lie designed as a means to the end of power. We may not be able to immediately change the onslaught of bias and manipulation from politicians and media alike, but we can grow in our discernment and ability to perceive the reality of words and deeds. We can learn to demonstrate and explain to others how to sort through truth and lies with wisdom and logic. It is vital for the well-being of our country that we learn to do so in order to be enabled to withstand the use of propaganda to cause division through contempt and hate, and to stampede our emotions and coerce us by fear that results in letting our liberties be undermined.

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Welcome to the many new readers here this past week. Thank you for taking the time to read this series!  Understanding propaganda is no longer be something only to be learned to pass a civics test, but is an indispensable guardian of our freedom. There is more to come, so please check back in!
Violet Edwards, “Propaganda Analysis: Today’s Challenge,” ALA Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 1, Part I (January, 1940), p. 8. Published by: American Library Association.
Article Stable URL:
The Fine Art Of Propaganda; A Study of Father Coughlin’s Speeches” by The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Edited by Alfred McClung Lee & Elizabeth Briant Lee, and published in 1939 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York via Phil Taylor’s Web Site, The Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK.
Majestic Liberty Large photography by BigMacSC99: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported


Selling The Public On Death Panels

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.

Remember during the health care debate in 2009 when Sarah Palin was openly derided for writing about rationed care and daring to use the phrase ‘death panel‘? Obama dismissed her concerns as a rumor, but Governor Palin substantiated her claim and pointed out her opinion wasn’t unique. Here’s one reference she included:

Even columnist Eugene Robinson, a self-described “true believer” who “will almost certainly support” “whatever reform package finally emerges”, agrees that “If the government says it has to control health-care costs and then offers to pay doctors to give advice about hospice care, citizens are not delusional to conclude that the goal is to reduce end-of-life spending.

Go to J. E. Dyer’s post, Obamacare: The propaganda and lobbying machine revs up, that I reblogged yesterday. One of the PR firms she tracked was Ogilvy, which will

…handle the PR promotion of “comparative effectiveness” data on medical procedures, one of the key tasks for its contract with HHS to set up the Obamacare “publicity center.”

Let’s look at some cuttlefish-spurted ink.

First of all, what is the name of the Obamacare bill? Is it something straightforward in its description, such as Nationalized Health Care? No, it’s the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words…

Will it protect patients? Will it be affordable? From the information and analysis coming out, the answers are no and no.

Look at another phrase: comparitive effectiveness. What does that mean? If you follow one of J. E. Dyer’s links, you can read this from the Heritage Foundation:

One element of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is the advancement of “comparative effectiveness research” (CER)….defined by the Institute of Medicine as “the generation and synthesis of evidence that compares the benefits and harms of alternative methods to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor a clinical condition or to improve the delivery of care”….The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has created a quasi-governmental entity, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), to advance CER and its use by doctors, patients, and others….

Being able to compare treatment options and pick the best, most cost-effective ones sounds ideal—in theory. Real-life applications of CER, however, can and often do take a different form….

While PCORI uses the term “patient-centered,” its findings will not necessarily be used to promote patient-centered care. The institute was originally named the Comparative Effectiveness Research Institute, but the name was changed because of the controversy that this clear assertion of its intentions created.

There is a reason why some phrases are called Orwellian!

Heritage goes on to say:

CER use in the U.K. has been a far cry from what is implied by the rhetoric used to promote PCORI. Rather than focusing on the individual needs of patients, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) uses comparative and cost-effectiveness information to limit options as a budgetary tool.

Just yesterday my husband pointed out this article in the Daily Mail: Now sick babies go on death pathway: Doctor’s haunting testimony reveals how children are put on end-of-life plan.

Sick children are being discharged from NHS hospitals to die at home or in hospices on controversial ‘death pathways’.

Until now, end of life regime the Liverpool Care Pathway was thought to have involved only elderly and terminally-ill adults.

But the Mail can reveal the practice of withdrawing food and fluid by tube is being used on young patients as well as severely disabled newborn babies….

The investigation, which will include child patients, will look at whether cash payments to hospitals to hit death pathway targets have influenced doctors’ decisions.

Senator Jim DeMint’s office offers this blunt description of comparative effectiveness research:

In short, comparative effectiveness research is what the government uses to analyze various healthcare treatments and outcomes to determine what kind of care government-run healthcare programs will pay for. Or, to put it more succinctly, how the government will ration care.

The post also states that part of the Ogilvy PR campaign will be to “establish virtual centers on the websites WebMD and Medscape.”

What kind of company is Ogilvy? Liberty News Network has a telling quote.

While movements to educate or drive awareness about social issues are vital, affecting the components of personal behavior — our attitudes, our motivations, our abilities, and more — can push people toward actions that matter: the routine purchase of socially responsible goods and products or the use of or engagement with socially conscious services. Actions like those — and hundreds of others — lead our world toward better results for individuals, society, and business.

This is a utopian claptrap translation of coercion, with a PR campaign to sell it softly to you. In high school we use to laugh at pretentious phrases like these. Whether or not the words are written to delude or written by the self-deluded, the intent is serious.

In Tiger At The Gates, Jean Giraudoux contrasted two faces of war—the beautiful face of Helen of Troy, and the face on the backside of a baboon, “scarlet, scaly, glazed, framed in a clotted filthy wig.” That’s a public relations campaign to sell the public on death panels; it is a façade designed to sell the public evil as good.

Related Posts:
1. Propaganda’s Assault
2. The Planted Lie
3. Illusion For Power
4. Masters of Words
5. Posters Of A Thousand Words
6. The ABC’s of Propaganda Analysis
7. Obamacare: The propaganda and lobbying machine revs up

Cuttlefish: Gbaddorf, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Ink: Hannes Grobe, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
Links to the Heritage Foundation, Senator Jim DeMint and Liberty News Network via