Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Edward Bernays

Oy Vey! So, maybe we're overdoing it on the posting whole books, but we came across a doozy the other day and it is now up. We'll let the Noam introduce the author and the work:
[The] American business community was also very impressed with the propaganda effort. They had a problem at that time. The country was becoming formally more democratic. A lot more people were able to vote and that sort of thing. The country was becoming wealthier and more people could participate and a lot of new immigrants were coming in, and so on.
So what do you do? It's going to be harder to run things as a private club. Therefore, obviously, you have to control what people think. There had been public relation specialists but there was never a public relations industry. There was a guy hired to make Rockefeller's image look prettier and that sort of thing. But this huge public relations industry, which is a U.S. invention and a monstrous industry, came out of the first World War. The leading figures were people in the Creel Commission. In fact, the main one, Edward Bernays, comes right out of the Creel Commission. He has a book that came out right afterwards called Propaganda. The term "propaganda," incidentally, did not have negative connotations in those days. It was during the second World War that the term became taboo because it was connected with Germany, and all those bad things. But in this period, the term propaganda just meant information or something like that. So he wrote a book called Propaganda around 1925, and it starts off by saying he is applying the lessons of the first World War. The propaganda system of the first World War and this commission that he was part of showed, he says, it is possible to "regiment the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments their bodies." These new techniques of regimentation of minds, he said, had to be used by the intelligent minorities in order to make sure that the slobs stay on the right course. We can do it now because we have these new techniques.
This is the main manual of the public relations industry. Bernays is kind of the guru. He was an authentic Roosevelt/Kennedy liberal. He also engineered the public relations effort behind the U.S.-backed coup which overthrew the democratic government of Guatemala.
His major coup, the one that really propelled him into fame in the late 1920s, was getting women to smoke. Women didn't smoke in those days and he ran huge campaigns for Chesterfield. You know all the techniques—models and movie stars with cigarettes coming out of their mouths and that kind of thing. He got enormous praise for that. So he became a leading figure of the industry, and his book was the real manual.

—Noam Chomsky

Propaganda (1928) by Edward Bernays
(Chomsky's intro is repeated with the article).

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton says that if people want to find someone who regrets their vote for Iraq, there are a lot of other candidates. We're two years out to the election and while we're quite critical of the entire election process, we still vote, and the watchword for Clinton for the next two years will not deviate: she told us to look elsewhere and even if we were never going to vote for her anyway, we can only advise all people against the war to not vote for her as well. Even if she wins the primary.

In better news, if you are in the nyc region this weekend, the grassroots media conference is happening. Be there or be square.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

9/11 fantasists pose a mortal danger to popular oppositional campaigns

Rarely do we print a full article on the blog. This was too good to pass us (and by too good, we mean to say that we agree with it one hundred percent):

9/11 fantasists pose a mortal danger to popular oppositional campaigns
These conspiracy idiots are a boon for Bush and Blair as they destroy the movements some of us have spent years building

George Monbiot
Tuesday February 20, 2007
The Guardian

'You did this hit piece because your corporate masters instructed you to. You are a controlled asset of the new world order ... bought and paid for." "Everyone has some skeleton in the cupboard. How else would MI5 and special branch recruit agents?" "Shill, traitor, sleeper", "leftwing gatekeeper", "accessory after the fact", "political whore of the biggest conspiracy of them all".

These are a few of the measured responses to my article, a fortnight ago, about the film Loose Change, which maintains that the United States government destroyed the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Having spent years building up my leftwing credibility on behalf of my paymasters in MI5, I've blown it. I overplayed my hand, and have been exposed, like Bush and Cheney, by a bunch of kids with laptops. My handlers are furious.

I believe that George Bush is surrounded by some of the most scheming, devious, ruthless men to have found their way into government since the days of the Borgias. I believe that they were criminally negligent in failing to respond to intelligence about a potential attack by al-Qaida, and that they have sought to disguise their incompetence by classifying crucial documents.

I believe, too, that the Bush government seized the opportunity provided by the attacks to pursue a longstanding plan to invade Iraq and reshape the Middle East, knowing full well that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Bush deliberately misled the American people about the links between 9/11 and Iraq and about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. He is responsible for the murder of many tens of thousands of Iraqis.

But none of this is sufficient. To qualify as a true opponent of the Bush regime, you must also now believe that it is capable of magic. It could blast the Pentagon with a cruise missile while persuading hundreds of onlookers that they saw a plane. It could wire every floor of the twin towers with explosives without attracting attention and prime the charges (though planes had ploughed through the middle of the sequence) to drop each tower in a perfectly timed collapse. It could make Flight 93 disappear into thin air, and somehow ensure that the relatives of the passengers collaborated with the deception. It could recruit tens of thousands of conspirators to participate in these great crimes and induce them all to have kept their mouths shut, for ever.

In other words, you must believe that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their pals are all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful, despite the fact that they were incapable of faking either weapons of mass destruction or any evidence at Ground Zero that Saddam Hussein was responsible. You must believe that the impression of cackhandedness and incompetence they have managed to project since taking office is a front. Otherwise you are a traitor and a spy.

Why do I bother with these morons? Because they are destroying the movements some of us have spent a long time trying to build. Those of us who believe that the crucial global issues - climate change, the Iraq war, nuclear proliferation, inequality - are insufficiently debated in parliament or congress, that corporate power stands too heavily on democracy, that war criminals, cheats and liars are not being held to account, have invested our efforts in movements outside the mainstream political process. These, we are now discovering, are peculiarly susceptible to this epidemic of gibberish.

The obvious corollorary to the belief that the Bush administration is all-powerful is that the rest of us are completely powerless. In fact it seems to me that the purpose of the "9/11 truth movement" is to be powerless. The omnipotence of the Bush regime is the coward's fantasy, an excuse for inaction used by those who don't have the stomach to engage in real political fights.

Let me give you an example. The column I wrote about Loose Change two weeks ago generated 777 posts on the Guardian Comment is Free website, which is almost a record. Most of them were furious. The response from a producer of the film, published last week, attracted 467. On the same day the Guardian published my article about a genuine, demonstrable conspiracy: a spy network feeding confidential information from an arms control campaign to Britain's biggest weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems. It drew 60 responses. The members of the 9/11 cult weren't interested. If they had been, they might have had to do something. The great virtue of a fake conspiracy is that it calls on you to do nothing.

The 9/11 conspiracy theories are a displacement activity. A displacement activity is something you do because you feel incapable of doing what you ought to do. A squirrel sees a larger squirrel stealing its horde of nuts. Instead of attacking its rival, it sinks its teeth into a tree and starts ripping it to pieces. Faced with the mountainous challenge of the real issues we must confront, the chickens in the "truth" movement focus instead on a fairytale, knowing that nothing they do or say will count, knowing that because the perpetrators don't exist, they can't fight back. They demonstrate their courage by repeatedly bayoneting a scarecrow.

Many of those who posted responses on Comment is Free contend that Loose Change (which was neatly demolished in the BBC's film The Conspiracy Files on Sunday night) is a poor representation of the conspiracists' case. They urge us instead to visit websites like, and, and to read articles by the theology professor David Ray Griffin and the physicist Steven E Jones.

Concerned that I might have missed something, I have now done all those things, and have come across exactly the same concatenation of ill-attested nonsense as I saw in Loose Change. In all these cases you will find wild supposition raised to the status of incontrovertible fact, rumour and confusion transformed into evidence, selective editing, the citation of fake experts, the dismissal of real ones. Doubtless I will now be told that these are not the true believers: I will need to dive into another vat of tripe to get to the heart of the conspiracy.

The 9/11 truthers remind me of nothing so much as the climate change deniers, cherry-picking their evidence, seizing any excuse for ignoring the arguments of their opponents. Witness the respondents to my Loose Change column who maintain that the magazine Popular Mechanics, which has ripped the demolition theories apart, is a government front. They know this because one of its editors, Benjamin Chertoff, is the brother/nephew/first cousin of the US homeland security secretary Michael Chertoff. (They are, as far as Benjamin can discover, unrelated, but what does he know?)

Like the millenarian fantasies which helped to destroy the Levellers as a political force in the mid-17th century, this crazy distraction presents a mortal danger to popular oppositional movements. If I were Bush or Blair, nothing would please me more than to see my opponents making idiots of themselves, while devoting their lives to chasing a phantom. But as a controlled asset of the new world order, I would say that, wouldn't I? It's all part of the plot.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Victor Jara

On the train yesterday, I was overcome with emotion reading Joan Jara's moving story of the first days of the coup in Chile, saying good-bye to her husband for the last time, and claiming his body at the morgue. Victor Jara, a popular folk singer in Chile and member of the “Nueva canción Chilena”(New Chilean Song) movement, was clearly a wonderful and courageous man and his widow's writing manages, despite the best efforts of the forces of evil, to bring him back to life.
The coup in Chile was the direct result of American intervention. The absolute horror of it is difficult to convey, but in her words, we can begin to understand the sheer wall of fear and evil. Kissinger should be in prison. Three chapters are now on History Is A Weapon. We encourage you to read them:
Three chapters from Victor: An Unfinished Song by Joan Jara

Charles Horman, an American journalist, was also among the thousand rounded up and executed after the coup. His parents went down afterwards to look for him and his father wrote an amazing book, Missing, that was later turned into a haunting film starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek. If you get a chance to check either the book or the film, they're worth your time. I remember seeing the film when I was twelve or thirteen and reading the book soon after and just getting dazed. I'm always disturbed seeing Kissinger on shows like Jon Stewart.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Our letter to The New York Times' Public Editor

Dear Byron Calame,

Reading the piece this Sunday on Tariq Ramadan ("Tarig Ramadan Has an Identity Issue;" The Magazine 2/4/2007), I came across a sentence that I have often read in the Times. Though the wording may vary, the blatant contradiction is always irritating.
"The message not only provides educated European Muslims with a political cause but is also pushed with considerable success at such international leftist jamborees as the World Social Forum, where the world's antiglobalists meet."
Antiglobalists at international world meetings? There is so much wrong in these few words that it boggles the mind. There is a growing library of hundreds of books about the various movements present at the World Social Forum and I would ask that your writers, or at least your editors, skim perhaps the first few pages or maybe just a back cover of any of these books. Immediately you will find that we are anything but "antiglobal." We have groups like "globalise resistance." Go around the world and you will see that one of our icons is Che, a revolutionary Argentinean who led a revolution in Cuba, before going off to fight in Africa and Bolivia. We meet at international meetings like the World Social Forum precisely because we believe that humanity's solutions require a world conversation and transnational strategies. If you want "antiglobal," go talk to the militias hiding in their bunkers from phantom conspiracies or the minutemen bullying the border.
We are a movement that is opposed to the cutthroat system of capitalism and its mercenary perversion of the state. There is an argument that we have entered into a new phase of capitalism called "globalization," which we are steadfastly opposed to. Yet to reduce us to isolationists or "anti-globalists" is so wrong that it borders on deceit.
Please ask your editors to refrain from this foolish shorthand. If you want to go around labeling people as "antiglobalists," I have two candidates. The first is the U.S. government. They seem to love going to war with every other country around the world. Sounds Antiglobalist enough for me. The second is a bit closer to home. Your own Thomas Friedman wants us to believe that capitalism has made the world flat. Perhaps this is a bit of a stretch on "antiglobal," but, as we can see in this Sunday's magazine, apparently any clap trap can make it into the Times.

[History Is A Weapon]

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

An update

We were going to post something about rethinking activist strategies, but instead, we'll just strongly recommend Dan Berger and Andy Cornell's article Winning the (Anti) War and Rebuilding Political Imagination. But we think you'll be back. Why? Because we just posted the full text of George Jackson's Soledad Brother.

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