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TransCanada Corporation – Kings of the Keystone Pipeline: Global Power Project, Part 10

TransCanada Corporation – Kings of the Keystone Pipeline: Global Power Project, Part 10

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at Occupy.com

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TransCanada Corporation describes itself as “a leader in the responsible development and reliable and safe operation of North American energy infrastructure.” Beginning in 2005, the company announced plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approved the full pipeline project, stating that it was in the “public interest” to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast in the United States.

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Alberta through six U.S. states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, said the project would “improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”

As opposition to the pipeline project increased — and dramatically so in the wake of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill — Girling stated, “There is no way we could have ever predicted that we would become the lightning rod for a debate around fossil fuels and the development of the Canadian oil sands…The pipeline itself is routine. It’s something we do every day. It will be a safe pipeline.”

Canada’s National Energy Board, however, said that TransCanada had failed to meet safety standards for its pipeline within Canada. While the company “considered itself compliant,” a former TransCanada employee blew the whistle on TransCanada’s “culture of noncompliance” of environmental and safety regulations that posed “significant public safety risks,” and referred to the company’s approach as “organized crime.”

In the United States, TransCanada has been suing American citizens who refuse to allow the pipeline to cross their property, threatening to confiscate their lands through the application of “eminent domain,” which allows for the confiscation of private property if “it is judged to serve a larger public good.”

The U.S. State Department was responsible for undertaking an “environmental assessment” of the pipeline to determine whether or not it would be approved. Declassified documents revealed an intense lobbying effort by TransCanada with the State Department, including several officials with the company holding multiple meetings with high-level State Department officials.

TransCanada has hired multiple lobbying firms and individuals, many of whom have direct ties to the Obama administration. This potentially even includes ties to Obama’s personal lawyer as well as to a former campaign adviser. In the first half of 2013, TransCanada spent nearly half a million dollars lobbying the United States on the Keystone project.

In 2013, the Canadian government announced its intentions to fund a massive $16 million PR campaign for the Canadian oil and energy industry in the United States, with a “key part” of the funding going toward promoting the Keystone project. This is part of an agenda decided in March of 2010, when officials from the Canadian federal government and the Alberta government met with oil and gas industry CEOs to discuss “upping their game” in promoting the tar sands.

By 2013, there were roughly 48 different groups lobbying the U.S. government on the issue of the Keystone project, and all but two appeared to be lobbying in favor of the project. While a good deal of the promotions for the project emphasized that it would create thousands – and potentially tens of thousands – of jobs, these jobs were almost exclusively temporary, and the State Department’s own assessment noted that the actual number of full-time jobs that would be created by the pipeline would be 20.

Then, in early March of 2013, the State Department released a 2,000-page draft report assessing the environmental impact of the Keystone project. The State Department had contracted the writing of the report to “experts” who had previously worked for TransCanada. In fact, TransCanada even paid the consultancy firm to write the report, which was subsequently considered an official government document of the State Department.

Not surprisingly, the Canadian government and the oil industry praised the report, while environmentalists and climate scientists criticized it as “deeply flawed.” Both the EPA and the Department of Interior have subsequently slammed the report as “insufficient” and “inaccurate.”

The government of Canada has, for years, been writing laws and implementing major policies at the direct suggestion of the oil industry, and has increasingly been demonizing those who protest against the policies, especially indigenous and environmental groups.

The Canadian government has been increasingly equating protest groups with “terrorists,” and Canada’s spy agencies have been providing information about protesters directly to energy corporations, and even infiltrating such groups in an effort to disrupt their actions. TransCanada provided training information to police agencies across the U.S. in which they refer to anti-pipeline protests as “terrorism.”

Meet the Elites at TransCanada Corporation

Russell K. Girling is the president and CEO of TransCanada and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), an interest group that consists of Canada’s top 150 CEOs and was the main driving force behind corporate treaty projects like NAFTA. Girling is also a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council and the U.S. Business Roundtable, as well as being a board member of Agrium Inc., an agribusiness conglomerate. Girling was also the co-chair of the City of Calgary 2012 United Way campaign.

Derek Burney, who sits on the board of TransCanada, is a senior advisor to the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, chairman of the international advisory board of GardaWorld, a member of the advisory board of Paradigm Capital, and a member of the board of governors of Ottawa Hospital. Burney is the former chairman of the board of CanWest Global Communications Corporation (formerly Canada’s largest newspaper conglomerate) from 2006 to 2010, former president and CEO of CAE Inc. (1999 to 2004), former chairman and CEO of Bell Canada (1993 to 1999), and was the former lead director of Shell Canada from 2001 to 2007.

On top of that, Burney was the Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993, following two years serving as chief of staff to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in which time he was a pivotal figure involved in the negotiations of NAFTA. Burney was also the Prime Minister’s personal representative to the G-7 Summits between 1990 and 1992. He is the chancellor of Lakehead University, and was the head of the Conservative Transition Team in 2006 for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after which time he was appointed to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (2007 to 2008). Burney is a distinguished alumni of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and is a member of the distinguished advisory council of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

Richard E. Waugh is a member of the board and CEO of The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), a director of the International Monetary Conference (IMC), an international meeting of bankers, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the largest and most influential international banking lobbying group. Waugh is also a member of the Council of the Americas, a member of the international advisory council of The Americas Society, a board member and chair of the Canada advisory board of Catalyst. He is also a member of the advisory councils of the Schulich School of Business at York University, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, as well as being the former campaign chair for the United Way of Toronto, and the current co-chair of the Canada-Brazil CEO Forum.

Members of the board of TransCanada sit on the boards of multiple other energy and oil companies, media conglomerates, military contractors, banks, interest groups and think tanks, as well as having served in top government positions. The elites at TransCanada have the connections to push the Keystone pipeline down the throats of North Americans, to destroy the environment, and make a handsome profit in the process.

As Utah Phillips once wrote, “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

 

The Propaganda System That Has Helped Create a Permanent Overclass Is Over a Century in the Making

The Propaganda System That Has Helped Create a Permanent Overclass Is Over a Century in the Making

Pulling back the curtain on how intent the wealthiest Americans have been on establishing a propaganda tool to subvert democracy.

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

Originally posted at AlterNet

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Where there is the possibility of democracy, there is the inevitability of elite insecurity. All through its history, democracy has been under a sustained attack by elite interests, political, economic, and cultural. There is a simple reason for this: democracy – as in true democracy – places power with people. In such circumstances, the few who hold power become threatened. With technological changes in modern history, with literacy and education, mass communication, organization and activism, elites have had to react to the changing nature of society – locally and globally.

From the late 19th century on, the “threats” to elite interests from the possibility of true democracy mobilized institutions, ideologies, and individuals in support of power. What began was a massive social engineering project with one objective: control. Through educational institutions, the social sciences, philanthropic foundations, public relations and advertising agencies, corporations, banks, and states, powerful interests sought to reform and protect their power from the potential of popular democracy.

Yet for all the efforts, organization, indoctrination and reformation of power interests, the threat of democracy has remained a constant, seemingly embedded in the human consciousness, persistent and pervasive.

In his highly influential work, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, French social psychologist Gustav Le Bon suggested that middle class politics were transforming into popular democracy, where “the opinion of the masses” was the most important opinion in society. He wrote: “The destinies of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.” This was, of course, a deplorable change for elites, suggesting that, “[t]he divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.” Le Bon suggested, however, that the “crowd” was not rational, but rather was driven by emotion and passion.

An associate and friend of Le Bon’s, Gabriel Tarde, expanded upon this concept, and articulated the idea that “the crowd” was a social group of the past, and that “the public” was “the social group of the future.” The public, argued Tarde, was a “spiritual collectivity, a dispersion of individuals who are physically separated and whose cohesion is entirely mental.” Thus, Tarde identified in the growth of the printing press and mass communications a powerful medium through which “the public” was shaped, and that, if managed appropriately, could bring a sense of order to a situation increasingly chaotic. The newspaper, Tarde explained, facilitated “the fusion of personal opinions into local opinions, and this into national and world opinion, the grandiose unification of the public mind.”

The development of psychology, psychoanalysis, and other disciplines increasingly portrayed the “public” and the population as irrational beings incapable of making their own decisions. The premise was simple: if the population was driven by dangerous, irrational emotions, they needed to be kept out of power and ruled over by those who were driven by reason and rationality, naturally, those who were already in power.

The Princeton Radio Project, which began in the 1930s with Rockefeller Foundation funding, brought together many psychologists, social scientists, and “experts” armed with an interest in social control, mass communication, and propaganda. The Princeton Radio Project had a profound influence upon the development of a modern “democratic propaganda” in the United States and elsewhere in the industrialized world. It helped in establishing and nurturing the ideas, institutions, and individuals who would come to shape America’s “democratic propaganda” throughout the Cold War, a program fostered between the private corporations which own the media, advertising, marketing, and public relations industries, and the state itself.

‘A Genuinely Democratic Propaganda’

World War I popularized the term “propaganda” and gave it negative connotations, as all major nations involved in the war effort employed new techniques of modern propaganda to mobilize their populations for war. In the United States, the effort was led by President Woodrow Wilson in the establishment of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) as a “vast propaganda ministry.” The central theme of the CPI was to promote U.S. entry into the war on the basis of seeking “to make a world that is safe for democracy.” This point was specifically developed by the leading intellectual of the era, Walter Lippmann, who by the age of 25 was referred to by President Theodore Roosevelt as “the most brilliant man of his age.” Lippmann was concerned primarily with the maintenance of the state-capitalist system in the face of increased unrest, resistance, and ideological opposition, feeling that the “discipline of science” would need to be applied to democracy, where social engineers and social scientists “would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.” For this, Lippmann suggested the necessity of “intelligence and information control” in what he termed the “manufacture of consent.”

Important intellectuals of the era then became principally concerned with the issue of propaganda during peacetime, having witnessed its success in times of war. Propaganda, wrote Lippmann, “has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” A leading political scientist of the era, Harold Lasswell, noted: “Propaganda is surely here to stay.” In his 1925 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann wrote that the public was a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who should be maintained as “interested spectators of action,” and distinct from the actors themselves, the powerful. Edward Bernays, the ‘father of public relations’ and nephew of Sigmund Freud got his start with Wilson’s CPI during World War I, and had since become a leading voice in the fields of propaganda and public relations. In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” Modern society was dominated by a “relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses,” and this was, in Bernays’ thinking, “a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.” Bernays referred to this – “borrowing” from Walter Lippmann – as the “engineering of consent.”

For the leading intellectuals and social engineers of the era, “propaganda” was presented as distinctly “democratic” and as a necessity to the proper functioning of society. John Marshall of the Rockefeller Foundation focused on what he called the “problem of propaganda” and sought to create, as he wrote in 1938, a “genuinely democratic propaganda.” Marshall pursued this objective through the Rockefeller Foundation, and specifically with the Princeton Radio Project in the late 1930s under the direction of Hadley Cantril and Frank Stanton, though including other intellectuals such as Paul Lazarsfeld and Harold Lasswell.

In 1936, Marshall wrote that the best way to expand the use of radio and film was for the Rockefeller Foundation to give “a few younger men with talent for these mediums an opportunity for relatively free experimentation… men interested primarily in education, literature, criticism, or in disseminating the findings of the social or natural sciences.”

In 1939, with the war in Europe under way, the Rockefeller Foundation had organized several conferences and published several papers on the issue of mass communication, directed by what was called the Communications Group, headed by Marshall and other Foundation officials, and with the participation of Lasswell, Lazarzfeld, Cantril, and several others. Early on, the Communications Group noted that with “an increasing degree of [government] control… in regard to all phases of communication, such as in the schools, the radio, the films, the press, and even eventually in all public discussion,” it was necessary to arrive at a consensus – among the “experts” – as to what role they should play as the state expands its authority over communication. Sociologist Robert Lynd took a page from Lippmann and wrote that a “goal” of experts in communication should “be that of persuading the people that there are many issues too complicated for them to decide, which should be left to experts.” One other participant commented on Lynd’s suggestion: “Mr. Lynd feels we need a restructuring of democratic action in terms of the capacity of different groups of the population and an abandonment of the American idea of the responsibility and capacity of the man on the street.” In 1940, John Marshall wrote:

In a period of emergency such as I believe we now face, the manipulation of public opinion to meet emergency needs has to be taken for granted. In such a period, those in control must shape public opinion to support courses of action which the emergency necessitates… No one, I think, can blame them for that impulse.

In a 1940 memo for the Communications Group, Marshall wrote that, “We believe… that for leadership to secure that consent will require unprecedented knowledge of the public mind and of the means by which leadership can secure consent… We believe… that we gave available today methods of research which can reliably inform us about the public mind and how it is being, or can be, influenced in relation to public affairs.” The memo concerned some officials at the Rockefeller Foundation, noting that it could be misinterpreted and that such research should be careful about becoming a mere tool of the state, with one official noting: “Public opinion and vested interests are… violently opposed to such a development which would be labeled as fascist or authoritarian.” Another official suggested that the memo “looks to me like something that [Nazi propaganda chief] Herr Goebbels could put out with complete sincerity.” While one Foundation official referred to the memo as resembling “the methods by which democracy has been destroyed,” he added that, “finding out regularly and completely what the mass of the people feel and believe and think about things and policies is a necessary part of the modern democratic process.” Marshall and the Communications Group refined their approach from a more overt authoritarianism of “one-way” communication between the state and the population, to a more Lippmann-centered concept of “manufacturing consent” and what has been referred to as “democratic elitism.” In the final report of the Communications Group in 1940, it was noted that two-way communication between the government and population was essential, as without it, “democracy is endangered,” and that it was required for the population to give “consent.”

Frank Stanton, along with Hadley Cantril, was one of the co-directors of the Princeton Project since its inception. As Michael J. Socolow wrote in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Frank Stanton had “devoted much of his life to understanding the cultural, social, and psychological effects of the mass media.” Stanton was the president of CBS from 1946 until 1973, during which he “proved to be an effective corporate strategist” and “a skillful political operator,” not least of all because he “collaborated closely with the U.S. government, performing propaganda tasks during the Second World War and the ensuing Cold War.”

Stanton’s first job was in the advertising industry, beginning in 1929 and cut short by the market crash, though Stanton maintained that advertising “was the greatest thing since sliced bread.” In school, Stanton studied business administration and psychology, being particularly influenced by John B. Watson, the developer of behaviorism, who himself went to go work for an advertising agency. Throughout his own life and career, Stanton viewed himself as “a behaviorist, a social scientist valuing the application of psychological technique across a variety of human endeavors.”

Behaviorism was a brand of psychology which emerged in response to the development of the field by social scientists seeking to make “scientific” what was previously the realm of philosophy and spirituality, drawing in political scientists, economists, sociologists, and others. The field of psychology had become more prominent following World War I, after having proved its worth to power interests in mobilizing, manipulating, and studying populations and their perceptions. In 1929, the president of Yale, James Agnell, announced the creation of the Yale Institute of Human Relations (IHR), with a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Agnell explained that the IHR was “directly concerned with the problems of man’s individual and group conduct,” out of which the purpose was “to correlate knowledge and coordinate technique in related fields that greater progress may be made in the understanding of human life.”

The IHR helped facilitate the rise of behaviorism in psychology, as in the 1920s and 30s, social unrest was a growing problem, and so psychologists attempted to promote themselves and their field as a possible solution to these problems, as a “scientific psychology” – or “social psychology” – could “be instrumental for attaining democratic social order and control.” Such a theory was based upon the view that the individual was not well “adjusted” to a rapidly changing environment, and therefore, with the help of psychology, the individual could be “adjusted” successfully. Of course, the notion that there is something inherently problematic with society and the social order (and the hierarchy upon which it was built) went unquestioned. In other words, it was not society which needed to “adjust” to individuals and the population, but rather the opposite. Psychologists and Yale’s Institute of Human Relations would promote themselves as the solution to this complex problem. Behaviorism was thus concerned with environmental and behavior control in human relations. This influenced not only Frank Stanton, but other key officials who were involved in the Princeton Radio Project, including Paul Lazarsfeld.

Frank Stanton eventually got a job at CBS following some research he had done on radio audiences and had sent to CBS headquarters. In 1935, Stanton was the third employee hired by CBS for the research division, concerned largely with the ability of advertisers to sell to radio listeners. As Stanton explained in 1936, the contribution of psychology to radio research “should be largely one of technique,” adding: “It isn’t enough to know what programs are heard and preferred. We want to know why they are listened to and liked, and furthermore, we want to quantify influence.” Weeks later, Stanton – with the suggestion of Hadley Cantril – wrote a draft memo of a research proposal for the Rockefeller Foundation, out of which would come to Office of Radio Research at Princeton.

The Princeton Radio Project, established with Rockefeller funding and directed by Paul Lazarsfeld, Cantril, and Stanton, focused on studying the uses and effects of radio communications upon the population, and almost exclusively led to the field of mass communications research. Theodor Adorno, a critical theorist whom Lazarsfeld invited to join the Princeton Radio Project ran into several problems during his research with his associates. Lazarsfeld brought Adorno into the project hoping that he could bridge the gap between American and European approaches to research. Adorno, however, sought to understand not simply the effects of radio in mass communications, but the role played by the “researcher” – or “expert” – in the social order itself. This put him in direct conflict with the project and its philosophy. For Adorno, wrote Slack and Allor, “not only the processes of communication but the practice of communication research itself had to be viewed critically.” Reflecting upon his experience some decades later, Adorno wrote that, “there appeared to be little room for such social research in the framework of the Princeton Project.” He noted: “Its charter, which came from the Rockefeller Foundation, expressly stipulated that the investigations must be performed within the limits of the commercial radio system prevailing in the United States.” Thus, “the system itself, its cultural and sociological consequences and its social and economic presuppositions were not to be analyzed… I was disturbed.”

Shortly after World War II and into the 1950s, the U.S. State Department became increasingly interested in the subject of propaganda, or what was termed “information management” and “public diplomacy.” Television was of particular interest in promoting American state interests, specifically those defined by the Cold War. Francis Russell, the director of the State Department’s Public Affairs (PA) division from 1945 to 1953, noted that “propaganda abroad is indispensable” in the Cold War, but that the State Department had “diligently cultivated the concept of PA as a service to the American people, a place where the public can come to obtain information.” He explained his worry that, “if the American people ever get the idea that the same high-powered propaganda machine” used abroad was “also at work on them, the result will be disaster fir both the domestic and overseas programs.” The role of the PA was not in a censorship bureau, but as a dispenser of “information,” to which the media – largely privately owned – would use as a consistent source for reporting, re-printing press releases, and seeking official sources for comment. Edward Barrett, another top official in the PA division, later noted: “We really tried to stick to the truth and tell nothing but the truth, but we didn’t always tell the whole truth.”

Nancy Bernhard, writing in the journal Diplomatic History, explained this contradiction aptly: “While Americans defended commercial broadcasting because it was free from Communistic government control, commercial broadcasters voluntarily collaborated with the government information services in the name of anticommunism. “Free” broadcasters volunteered as a virtually official information agency.” It was no surprise, then, that government “information programs” used the specific talents of corporate tycoons in the media world, bringing in talent from networks, advertising agencies, public relations agencies, and marketing bureaus. The State Department established a number of “advisory boards” to monitor its “public affairs” operations, largely made up of industry and corporate officials. Among the influential board members was Frank Stanton.

When Eisenhower came to power, a new agency was created to handle information and cultural programs previously undertaken by the State Department, the US Information Agency (USIA), established in 1953. In attempting to create a terminology to describe the activities of the USIA and its relationship to foreign policy goals – without using the obvious term “propaganda” – the term “public diplomacy” was commonly used. Frank Stanton, who left CBS in 1973, subsequently chaired a research report by the prominent American think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in 1975, entitled, International Information Education and Cultural Relations – Recommendations for the Future. The report recommended “that the international information and cultural programs [of the U.S. government] deserve all possible support in the years ahead, that they have demonstrated their success and are therefore an exceptional investment of government energy and the taxpayer’s dollar.”

While head of CBS, Stanton developed relationships with American presidents, whose Cold War strategies he would help promote through his network. When Kennedy became president, he offered Frank Stanton the job as head of the United States Information Agency (USIA), which Stanton declined (though recommended the appointment of Edward R. Murrow, a prominent journalist with CBS, whom Stanton had no lack of problems with). In fact, in 1958, Edward R. Murrow delivered a speech before the Radio-Television News Directors Association in which he “implicitly indicted Stanton” for the way in which he managed CBS, stating: “The top management of the networks… has been trained in advertising, research, or show business… by the nature of the corporate structure, [these managers] also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this.”

Stanton developed a reputation as a trustworthy propagandist for the Cold War, but was not unwilling to flex his own power when confronted with state power, such as when President Lyndon Johnson, angry at specific coverage of Vietnam on CBS, called up Stanton and stated, “Frank, are you trying to fuck your country?” Stanton refused to budge on his coverage under pressure from the president. Yet still, he remained a propagandist, and even participated in the CIA’s program to infiltrate the domestic media, with general knowledge of the Agency’s program with CBS, though according to one CIA agent involved in the matter, he didn’t “want to know the fine points.”

Stanton, however, was ultimately a corporation man. Not only did he help in the development of the government’s official propaganda systems, but he was a key figure in the promotion of the “corporatization” of news and information. Thus, for Stanton, “information management” was not simply to be done in the interests of the state, but also – and arguably primarily – in the interests of corporations. In Stanton’s own words, “since we are advertiser supported we must take into account the general objectives and desires of advertisers as a whole.” Stanton was not the only executive to voice such views, as one executive at NBC as early as 1940, declared, “we should make money on our news.”

The ‘Social Control’ Society: A Background to ‘Democratic Propaganda’

One of the primary institutions of social control is the educational system. For primary and secondary educational institutions, the original objective was to foster a strong sense of national identity, bringing a cohesive world view to the development of a national citizenry, and thus, to establish a system of social control. For university education, the original and evolving intend had been to develop an elite capable of managing society, and thus, to produce the controllers and technicians of society, itself. As the modern university underwent a major transformation in late 19th century America, it sought to apply the potential of the “sciences” to the social world, and thus, in a society undergoing rapid industrialization, urbanization, poverty, immigration, labour unrest, and new forms of communication, the “social sciences” were developed with an objective of producing social engineers and technicians for a new society of “social control.”

The major industrial and financial elites had a direct role to play in the transformation of this educational system, and a substantial interest in the ideologies which would emerge from them. As Andrew Carnegie wrote in 1889, at the top of the list of “charitable deeds” to undertake was “the founding of a university by men enormously rich, such men as must necessarily be few in any country.” It was in this context, of robber barons seeking to remake education, that we see the founding of several of America’s top universities, many of which were named after their robber baron founders, such as Stanford (after Leland Stanford), Cornell (after Ezra Cornell), and Johns Hopkins, who owned the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

This new class of industrialists, who emerged out of the Civil War in America, “challenged the position of the old propertied, pre-industrial elite. This struggle crystallized in particular around the reform of the educational system that had legitimated the old elite’s domination.” The modern university was born out of this struggle between elites, with the old educational system based upon religious and moral values, “and the making of gentlemen,” while the “new education” focused on “the importance of management or administration” as well as “public service, [and] the advancement of knowledge through original investigation.”

John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1891, and the President of the University, “initiated a new disciplinary system, which was enormously influential.” Ultimately, it “led to the formation of the department structure of the American university, which was internationally unique,” and was later exported around the world “with the help of American foundations.” This disciplinary system consisted of separating politics from economics (rejecting the notion of “political economy” and its “ideologies”), as ideology was “deemed unscientific and inappropriate in social sciences and political scientists have increasingly seen their function as service to the powerful, rather than providing leadership to populist or socialist movements.”

Nicolas Guilhot wrote in the journal Critical Sociology that since “social reform was inevitable,” these industrialists “chose to invest in the definition and scientific treatment of the ‘social questions’ of their time,” and subsequently, they “promoted reformist solutions that did not threaten the capitalistic nature of the social order,” and instead constructed a “private alternative to socialism.” Social control was not simply seen as the means through which a society – as it exists – could be maintained, but more often sought to preserve elements of that society (such as its hierarchical structure, the position of the elites) through periods of profound social change. In this sense, the question was “whether the processes of social control are able to maintain the social order [hierarchy] while transformation and social change take place.”

The United States was viewed “as the laboratory for the study of transitional society in the framework of a rapidly changing social structure,” and therefore, at a time when sociology was being established as an intellectual and academic discipline, “the United States could be viewed as a microcosm of social change and disorder.” The sociologist Edward A. Ross was the first to popularize the concept of social control in the American Journal of Sociology in 1896 and 1898, and later in his 1901 book, Social Control. Ross “viewed individuals as objects of society’s domination,” and suggested that society had to establish order “by channeling the behavior of its members into orderly relations.” Ross, largely influenced by Gabriel Tarde, did not believe that individuals were rational, but rather, that they would need to be “controlled” in one fashion or another. As some sociologists lamented in the 1920s, “all social problems turn out finally to be problems of social control,” and “the study of society was the study of social control.”

Sociology largely emerged from the University of Chicago (founded by John D. Rockefeller), with the world’s first department of sociology founded in 1892. The sociologists who rose within and out of the University of Chicago made up what was known as the “Chicago School of Sociology.” The school developed the most influential sociologists in the nation, including George Herbert Mead and W.I. Thomas, two scholars who had profound influence on the development of the concept of “social control,” and sociologists became “reform-oriented liberals, not radical revolutionaries or conservative cynics.”

The American Journal of Sociology was founded out of the University of Chicago by Albion Small, who was the head professor of the department of sociology, and became the editor of the journal for thirty years from 1895-1925. Between 1915 and 1940, the University of Chicago was the dominant force in sociology in the United States, and “the dominance of the Sociology Department was representative of the social sciences at Chicago during that period.” The school was largely made the center of not only sociology, but many areas of the social sciences, due to funding from outside sources, namely the major philanthropic foundations created by the Robber Baron industrialists in the early 20th century. The foundations became, in effect, engines of social engineering and perhaps the most effective institutions in the application of social control in modern society.

The Foundations of Social Control

The new industrial elite accumulated millions and even hundreds of millions by the end of the 19th century: Andrew Carnegie was worth roughly $300 million after he sold Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan in 1901, and by 1913, John D. Rockefeller was estimated to have a personal worth of $900 million. In the late 1880s, Rockefeller met Frederick T. Gates, a minister, educator, and administrator in the Baptist Church when they were negotiating the founding of a new university, which resulted with a pledge of $600,000 from Rockefeller to found the University of Chicago in 1889. At this time, Rockefeller hired Gates as his associate in charge of Rockefeller’s philanthropic ventures. Gates became central in inculcating the notion of “scientific benevolence” within Rockefeller’s philanthropies. As Gates wrote in his autobiography, “I gradually developed and introduced in all his charities the principle of scientific giving.” Gates advised Rockefeller to form a series of “self-perpetuating” philanthropies.

The circumstances in which the Rockefeller Foundation emerged are notable. In 1913, a coal strike began at a Colorado mine owned by the Rockefellers in the small mining town of Ludlow, where roughly 11,000 workers (mostly Greek, Italian, and Serbian immigrants) went on strike against the “feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies.” Repression quickly followed, culminating in what became known as the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, with the Rockefellers hiring the National Guard to attack the strikers and destroy their tent city, machine gunning the crowd and setting fire to tents, one of which was discovered to have housed eleven children and two women, all of whom were killed by the fire.

The Congressional Walsh Commission was founded to investigate the activities which led to violent labour repression at the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company in Ludlow, though the scope of the Commission was expanded to study philanthropic foundations themselves. The Commission’s founder, Frank P. Walsh, explained:

…the creation of the Rockefeller and other foundations was the beginning of an effort to perpetuate the present position of predatory wealth through the corruption of sources of public information… [and] that if not checked by legislation, these foundations will be used as instruments to change to form of government of the U.S. at a future date, and there is even a hint that there is a fear of a monarchy.

In 1916, the Walsh Commission produced its final report, the Manly Report (after the research director, Basil M. Manly), which concluded that the foundations were so “grave a menace” to society, that “it would be desirable to recommend their abolition.” Frank Walsh referred to foundations as “a menace to the welfare of society.”

As the Walsh Commission began their work, the Rockefeller Foundation sought to join forces with other major corporate leaders to advance their formation of ideology, and attended a conference “held between representatives of some of the largest financial interests” in the United States. This conference resulted in two approaches being pushed forward in terms of seeking to “educate the citizenry in procapitalistic ideology and thus relieve unrest.” One view was the interpretation that the public was provided with “poor quality of facts and interpretation available on social and economic issues.” Thus, they felt there was a need for a “publicity bureau” to provide a “constant stream of correct information” targeted at the lower and middle classes. The Rockefeller Foundation agreed that a publicity bureau was a good strategy, but added that what was also needed was “a permanent research organization to manufacture knowledge on these subjects.” A publicity bureau would “correct popular misinformation,” while a research organization would study the “causes of social and economic evils,” though of course avoiding problematic considerations of institutional analysis or radical critiques. They were instead to focus on “disinterested” and “detached” studies of social problems, portraying themselves as scientists and technicians for society, focused on reform and social control.

Rockefeller interests quickly undertook both strategies. While the Foundation was engaged in the manufacture of ideology (which specifically states that it is “non-ideological,” meaning that it supports power), the corporate arm of the Rockefeller empire hired the first public relations man, Ivy Lee, a Progressive era journalist. The Foundation hired the Canadian labour expert, William Lyon Mackenzie King (who would later become Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister) to manage “labour relations,” promoting “company unions” over “autonomous unions,” thus undermining the freedom of labour to organize and oppose the social order as a whole, bringing them firmly within the corporate-state ideology and institutions.

Ivy Lee, for his part, attempted to undertake “damage control” for the Rockefellers, who were widely despised at the time, acting as a PR man, disseminating communiqués to media and educators attempting “to cultivate middle-class allies.” His efforts at stemming animosity toward the Rockefellers following Ludlow failed, but for years he continued to present “the human side of the Rockefellers,” earning him the rather unfavourable nickname “Poison Ivy.”

While Lee’s specific efforts were unsuccessful, the ideas behind them continued to grow and evolve. Two major social engineering projects were underway: one, the manufacture of ideology, largely the initiative of philanthropic foundations (and the social sciences), and the other, public relations as a modern form of propaganda. Both of these social engineering projects were designed to ensure social control through social engineering, and both were to have a profound impact upon both the definition and function of modern “democracies.”

Through the educational system, the social sciences, philanthropic foundations, public relations, advertising, marketing, and the media, America and the industrialized states of the world developed a unique and complex system of social control and propaganda for the 20th century and into the 21st. It is imperative to recognize and understand this complex system if we are to challenge and change it.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, with a focus on studying the ideas, institutions, and individuals of power and resistance across a wide spectrum of social, political, economic, and historical spheres. He has been published in AlterNet, CounterPunch, Occupy.com, Truth-Out, RoarMag, and a number of other alternative media groups, and regularly does radio, Internet, and television interviews with both alternative and mainstream news outlets. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, Research Director of Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and has a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

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“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

“It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.”  – Bill Clinton, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, 5 September 2012

In case you were unaware, Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention on the evening of September 5, which, the media tells us, revealed Clinton’s “special gift”[1] to “give a boost to Obama’s middle-class hero image.”[2] The speech has been hailed as Clinton’s “come back,”[3] and a “spirited defense” of Obama..[4] The “rock star,”[5] Bill Clinton, received heaps of praise from celebrities who endorsed his speech, and it’s obviously very important that the public know what Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, and Alicia Silverstone think of the speech, so lucky for us, the media tells us. It was, “fantastic… common sense,” that Clinton was “up there teaching,” and “breaking it down.”[6]

But it’s also important that the public receive more ‘expert’ analysis from political commentators and reporters, so CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer explained that he had been watching Clinton since 1992 when he was CNN’s White House correspondent, and that, “[t]his may have been the best speech I have ever heard Bill Clinton deliver,” while GOP strategist Alex Castellanos proclaimed, “This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama.” Brit Hume on Fox News (“fair and balanced”) said that Clinton, “is the most talented politician I’ve ever covered and the most charming man I’ve ever met… No one in my view can frame an argument more effectively than he can.” Anderson Cooper shared his wisdom and analysis, explaining that, “[t]he level of detail in the speech was quite surprising… and yet there was a personality.” Chris Matthews on MSNBC chimed in, “I wouldn’t want to be the guy fighting Bill Clinton if the issue is Barack Obama.” But of course, there was some “intelligent criticism” of the speech within the media, so it wasn’t all praise. For example, John King of CNN noted that the speech could “use an editor,” because as various other critics noted, it was “too long.”[7]

So what exactly did Bill Clinton say that was so inspiring and praiseworthy? Well, he went up on stage, and for fifty minutes, successfully achieved the highest degree of hypocrisy possible. His speech could not have been better constructed if it had been written by a public relations firm, itself. And perhaps it was. After all, it’s not that the Clinton’s don’t have a cozy relationship with public relations firms, as Burson-Marsteller, the most prominent PR firm in the United States, ran Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign in 2008.[8] The firm is venerable and highly respected, and has built a very prominent resume of individuals and institutions it has represented, such as Ceausescu in Romania, the Saudi royal family, the Nigerian government when it wanted to discredit claims of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentine dictatorship which killed roughly 35,000 of its own people, the Indonesian government as it committed genocide in East Timor (ultimately eliminating a third of the entire population while Bill Clinton armed it to do so). Burson-Marsteller also represented Union Carbide following the Bhopal gas leak that killed 15,000 people in India, among other reputable clients.[9]

Controlling the “Bewildered Herd” of “Ignorant and Meddlesome Outsiders”

I mention the public relations industry, because elections are essentially run by the PR industry, and public relations is the officially-sanctioned term for “propaganda.” It is no small coincidence that the founder of the public relations industry, a man named Edward Bernays, also happened to have literally written the book on Propaganda (1928), in which he wrote, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” He added: “it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” Naturally, explained Bernays, this is merely “a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.”[10]

Bernays of course had experience. In 1917, he was asked by President Woodrow Wilson to join the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda agency created by the government to rally the American population to support entering World War I, which was popularly perceived at the time as “a rich man’s war.” The CPI was highly successful, and the American people went to war. Bernays and the other propagandists who were involved were so impressed with their manipulation of the public during war-time, that they felt they could do it during peace time as well. Thus, after the war, Bernays soon founded one of the first PR firms in the United States. Walter Lippmann, the most influential intellectual in the United States at that time, encouraged President Wilson to create the CPI, and even suggested the concept of “making the world safe for democracy,” which became Wilson’s “idealistic” democratic vision for the world, still discussed in political science today. Lippmann and other intellectuals of the era recommended using social scientists and other intellectual elites to undertake “systematic intelligence and information control” as a “regular organ of popular government.” This was what Lippmann called the “manufacture of consent.”[11]

Lippmann wrote that, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, another leading political scientist of the era, wrote that, “[p]ropaganda is surely here to stay.” In his 1922 book, Public Opinion, Lippmann wrote that for the “manufacture of consent,” society needed “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories” which would distribute “disinterested” information to journalists, governments, businesses, and the society at large. This essentially is the function of think tanks and PR firms. The term “disinterested” is used to refer to the concept that the information and ideas are not shaped by emotional, irrational, or utopian concepts like “morality” or “ethics,” they are simply facts without a perceived ideology.[12]

In his 1925 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann defined democracy for the modern state-capitalist system, which would not only be firmly entrenched within the United States, but exported around the world. Lippmann was quite emphatic: “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny.” That “tyranny,” of course, was the public interfering in the affairs of the state. Lippmann wrote that, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling of a bewildered herd.” Referring to the public as “interested spectators of action,” Lippmann explained that, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors,” designed in such a way that the rulers of society – the corporate-financial elite and the intellectuals that serve them – would be able to continue controlling society with “the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” What Lippmann recommended in 1922 as the “manufacture of consent,” Bernays recommended in 1923 as “the engineering of consent.” Engineering consent, Bernays later wrote in 1947, “affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.” He explained: “When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.”[13]

Presidents and politicians are products of public relations. We are presented with officially sanctioned concepts of democracy, politics, and ideology. We are subsequently given a ‘choice’ between – usually two – different accepted views. This is called “balance.” The difference between the views are primarily tactical, but the fundamentals remain the same. Thus, no matter the political party in power, war and empire are on the agenda, but different views can proliferate on the tactics and assessment of the results of imperial policies. Imperialism itself cannot be questioned, or even acknowledged; it’s simply accepted. The same goes for serving the interests of the corporate and financial elite, which of course are the main actors in determining foreign imperial policy itself. Imperialism and war for the benefit of a parasitic economic and financial elite, however, is not something which the public could openly accept, so we are given different words, definitions, and mythologies of our society and its policies, so that the “invisible governors” – as Bernays referred to them – may continue to “manufacture consent” to the system; thus maintaining ‘social order’, which means to maintain the social hierarchy of power.

Idealistic Democracy in the Land of Simplistic Hypocrisy

When we discuss Woodrow Wilson as president, we give warm and boisterous praise to his “enlightened” vision of “democratic idealism.” In fact, so consistent and engrained is our officially sanctioned respect for Woodrow Wilson’s profound vision, that it was given a special name: “Wilsonian idealism” or “Wilsonian liberalism,” to “make the world safe for democracy.” It was conceived of as a kind of “internationalist” vision for world order predicated on “international cooperation and integration,” countering political realism which viewed the international arena as one of anarchy where states act in their own self-interest.[14]

Wilson of course, was not concerned with acting in “self-interest,” because he had an enlightened vision of “liberal idealism.” No doubt it was this “idealism” upon which Wilson based his invasions and occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, literally sending the Marines into the Parliament to disband it at gunpoint, killing tens of thousands of Haitians and crushing a liberation struggle in the country-side, and re-writing the constitution to allow American corporations to control the resources and buy land. In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt, another democratic “idealist” president, was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Haitian occupation (which began in 1915 and lasted until the Roosevelt administration in 1934). FDR took credit for writing the Haitian constitution, and claimed that he was responsible for “running several Caribbean republics.” Roosevelt referred to the Haitian occupation and his work on the new constitution as “an excellent piece of constructive work,” for which “the world ought to thank us.” He explained the common view of elites toward the general population – foreign and domestic – when he explained that in relation to Latin Americans, “You have to treat them like children.” The American media, with the New York Times at the helm, praised the ruthless occupation as a way for America to “advance” the Haitians, who were “a horde of naked niggers.” Wilson’s Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan reflected on his profound knowledge of Haitians when he stated, “Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.”[15]

Wilson occupied the Dominican Republic in 1916, the neighbouring country to Haiti on the island once called Hispaniola when Columbus landed there and eradicated the indigenous population. When the U.S. ended the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1924, a US-army trained commander, Rafael Trujillo, rigged the elections and became the country’s new dictator. President Hoover congratulated Trujillo on his “auspicious” victory. When FDR became president in 1933, he implemented his “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America, meaning that America would be a “good neighbour” to ruthless tyrants like Trujillo so long as they served American interests. During this time, Trujillo, America’s “staunch friend” – as one American businessman referred to him – murdered roughly 25,000 Haitians in Dominican territory in an effort to “purify” and protect the ethnic superiority of the Dominican race. The genocide, however, created bad publicity for America’s support of Trujillo, since it drew obvious comparisons to similar dictators of the same era in Italy and Germany. So FDR’s administration undertook a “massive public relations effort” for the Trujillo regime, which included having biographies written about Trujillo in which he was described as emblematic of “democratic” and “humanitarian” virtues.[16]

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton referenced all the good work he has done for Haiti, explaining that he was “honored” to have worked with both president’s Bush and Obama in Haiti through various crises in the impoverished country. He presented this as evidence of how he is not a divisive politician, but seeks to work “with Democrats, Republicans and independents,” and that they “focus on solving problems and seizing opportunities.”[17] Well, how is Clinton’s record in Haiti? Should this question not be asked?

After the American occupation of Haiti ended, a dynastic dictatorship emerged as father and son Duvaliers ruled Haiti with an iron fist, and US support. When the dictatorship could no longer be sustained, it collapsed in the mid-80s, and following a series of military governments, Haiti undertook mass democratic elections in 1990, through which a populist priest and practitioner of Liberation Theology (the view that the purpose of Christianity was to fight for and liberate the poor from their poverty and oppression), Jean Bertrand Aristide, became victorious in securing the presidency. Aristide campaigned on empowering the extremely poor peasant population, which infuriated the local economic elite, who called him “the devil,” as well as U.S. corporate investors, since he attempted to implement the rather radical policy of doubling the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This was obviously unacceptable and “irresponsible,” so in September of 1991, less than a year after being elected President, Aristide was deposed in a military coup. The CIA had formed close links with Aristide’s political opponents, and undertook a campaign to discredit him. Officially, the American government denounced the coup, though within days urged the military dictatorship “toward sharing power with the Parliament.” Economic sanctions were imposed, but quickly lifted in 1992 for the benefit of American corporations in Haiti as the State Department sought an “acceptable” political compromise. Aristide was pressured to sign an agreement that would allow him to “share” power and return to Haiti to continue the rest of his term as little more tan a figurehead.[18]

When Clinton came to power in 1993, his administration continued the process of negotiations aiming to bring Aristide into the “solution,” but only “when conditions permit,” and he agreed to share power with the US-favored candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who was installed by the military coup. Meanwhile, the military government had killed thousands of Haitian civilians who were Aristide supporters. When an agreement was announced with Aristide, the military government in Haiti – armed by the US – quickly accelerated its murderous campaign. The US negotiations with Aristide focused on the perceived “need” for Aristide to “share” power with the military, because the Americans – who created the Haitian military force during the first US occupation of the country – viewed it as a source of “stability.” However, the military government refused to have Aristide return and share power with him in any capacity. Thus, Clinton’s National Security Advisor Anthony Lake instructed his staff at the National Security Council (NSC) to construct “Haitian invasion scenarios.”  The United States, however, was a promoter of “democracy,” so it needed to install a “civilian” government, and not be seen supporting a ruthless military dictatorship so openly. Aristide was given advice by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), run by the U.S. State Department, as well as the World Bank and IMF, who “educated” Aristide on “suitable” economic plans for Haiti once he returned to power. It should be noted, however, that the CIA, several State Department officials, as well as several Democratic and Republican politicians felt it was a bad idea to return Aristide to power, and commonly referred to him as a “psychopath.” Obviously, someone would have to be a “psychopath” to attempt to raise the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.[19]

In 1994, Clinton invaded Haiti with 20,000 troops in what was called “Operation Uphold Democracy,” which not only re-installed Aristide to finish his term, but ensured that the coup leaders and perpetrators of atrocities were not held to account for their crimes, the result of a deal brokered by the “human rights” president Jimmy Carter, whom Clinton dispatched to Haiti in order to negotiate a deal with the military. The United States occupation forces handed over “control” of Haiti to a United Nations ‘mission’ of 6,000 soldiers in 1995, with US forces expected to leave in 1996, when Aristide’s term finished and he was replaced with a business-friendly leader. Though in 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, reassured the U.S. Senate that, “even after our exit in February 1996, we will remain in charge by means of USAID and the private sector.”[20]

This is called the “restoration of democracy.” While Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti to “restore democracy,” Obama sent 10,000 troops to Haiti to “restore order” following the devastating earthquake which killed several hundred thousand people who were living in the slums that were created through World Bank and IMF policies of austerity and structural adjustment, many of which were imposed during the Clinton administration. When Obama sent his troops to Haiti, he pledged that the “United States is in Haiti for the long haul.”[21] Indeed the U.S. has been invading and exploiting Haiti and punishing its population for over 200 years, so why stop now?

“The Price is Worth It”: How To Get Away With Murdering Half a Million Children

In his speech at the DNC, Clinton also praised Obama’s “successful end of the war in Iraq.” Clinton, of course, has had a great deal of experience when it comes to Iraq. After Iraq had stopped being a pliant U.S. puppet, George Bush Sr. waged a brutal war against the country, after which economic sanctions were imposed, lasting through the duration of the Clinton administration. The sanctions, in fact, began in 1990 before the first Gulf War, which destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country. Margaret Thatcher explained that the purpose of the Iraq war was to “destroy the entire military, and perhaps industrial, potential of that country.” The sanctions from 1990 to 2000 resulted in the deaths of roughly 1.5 million Iraqis, over 500,000 of which were children under the age of 12. The New York Times praised the sanctions as one of the “greatest successes” for the UN in Iraq. Three top UN officials who were sent to Iraq to monitor the sanctions and provide humanitarian assistance resigned in protest against the sanctions, explaining that they were causing immense harm to the civilian population. When Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 about the 500,000 children killed by the sanctions, Albright stated, “we think the price is worth it.”[22]

Obama of course, has learned a valuable lesson from Clinton, and imposed sanctions on Iran in order to punish the Iranian population. The day before Clinton spoke at the DNC endorsing Obama, the Financial Times reported that the US-imposed sanctions on Iran were having the predictable effect as they were hitting medical patients especially hard, as deliveries of medicine and raw material for Iranian pharmaceutical companies was either stopped or delayed, as “access to medicine has become increasingly limited.” One Iranian medical NGO official commented, “This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights.”[23]

However, these are exactly the intentions of sanctions. When Castro overthrew the U.S.-supported dictatorship in Cuba in 1959, Cuba became the primary enemy of the United States because, in the words of a 1960 National Intelligence Estimate, of Cuba’s “successful defiance of the U.S.” As the Eisenhower administration – and the Kennedy administration following him – designed and implemented harsh economic sanctions, top officials were quite blunt in their internal discussions about the effects and intent of the policies. Eisenhower noted that if the Cuban people “are hungry, they will throw Castro out,” since the “primary objective” of the sanctions, the president noted, was “to establish conditions which will bring home to the Cuban people the cost of Castro’s policies.” Kennedy administration officials explained that the sanctions – and the accompanying covert warfare – were designed to alienate “internal support” in Cuba to Castro’s government, “based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship,” which meant that US policy had to aim “to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government,” explained one State Department official.[24]

“It Takes Some Brass”: Serving the Corporate Consensus with the Politics of Poverty

The media outlet, PolitiFact, reported on Bill Clinton’s DNC speech, writing that the former president “received a hero’s welcome,” and then confirmed Clinton’s statements on the economy as “true.”[25] Well, what are some things that Clinton said about the economy? One thing Clinton stated was that, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics,” adding that, “poverty, discrimination and ignorance restrict growth.” He proclaimed that the Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it.” Clinton noted that the Republicans “want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts.” Clinton, while referring to a Republican politician, noted, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”[26] While the audience laughed, applauded, and cheered at that statement, the irony was lost on the fact that Clinton was doing just that: “attacking a guy for doing what [he] did.” Clearly, Clinton has “some brass” to not only do that, but to actually comment on that technique.

It’s truly an amazing exercise in absolute hypocrisy to see a man stand up in front of millions of people and blame Republicans for wanting to get rid of “pesky financial regulations” when his administration was largely responsible for getting rid of the most important “pesky financial regulations” – such as the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act – which Obama has obviously not even considered re-instating. The economic crisis – which is only going to get worse, since Obama has ensured that the next financial crisis will be much more severe than the last one – was not caused by a political party, it was caused by a socio-political and economic ideology that we call ‘neoliberalism.’ This ideology was and still is endorsed and promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike. So from Reagan onwards, every single U.S. president is responsible for creating and making the economic crisis worse, because they implemented policies which were designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. And when the system crashes, as it inevitably does, the government moves in to save the banks and financial institutions from their crimes, and hand the people the bill.[27]

Under Bill Clinton, the derivatives market exploded as financial institutions were deregulated, major mergers approved – creating what we now call “too big to fail” banks – which since Obama’s “economic recovery” are bigger and more dangerous than ever. Under Clinton, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historic lows and provided liquidity (money) to help build the housing bubble, with which Clinton’s unregulated derivatives market saw an explosion in speculation, not only allowing banks and hedge funds to help create the financial crisis, but also to profit from it, as Goldman Sachs did (which was Obama’s main campaign contributor in his 2008 election). Clinton’s administration had the Department of Housing and Urban Development pressure the mortgage giants – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – to provide mortgages to low-income borrowers, which helped build the housing bubble under an illusion of prosperity. The Glass-Steagall Act, which was put in place in 1933 in response to the Great Depression, was designed to prevent another Great Depression. So of course, banks like JP Morgan, Citicorp and others lobbied heavily to have it repealed (as a barrier to “growth”), and the Federal Reserve and Clinton’s Treasury Department responded to the demands of their constituents – the banks and corporations that they represent in government – by dismantling these “pesky financial regulations.” Thus, Alan Greenspan at the Fed, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers at the Treasury were among the key architects of the economic collapse, along with their constituents at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.[28]

So naturally, when Obama became president, it was important to appoint all the people who caused the crisis to positions in which they are responsible for solving the crisis they helped create. So Obama appointed Larry Summers to be his chief economic adviser, and of course, Timothy Geithner who previously served as President of the New York Federal Reserve, where he was appointed to that position by the major Wall Street banks he was to represent. Geithner was also a protégé of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin had since become an executive at Citigroup, rewarded for his work in dismantling “pesky financial regulations” and thus able to profit from the crisis he helped create. Summers had previously shown his propensity for “morally right and good economics” – as Clinton described it – when he was Chief Economist at the World Bank in 1991, where he wrote a secret memo advocating Western nations and corporations to dump toxic waste in poor African countries because by the time the effects of cancer emerge, statistically speaking, the population would already be dead because their life expectancy was so low. Thus, wrote Summers, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”[29]

Clearly, Clinton’s economic policies as president – and those of which he has endorsed in Obama’s administration – were a triumphant success for the dominant banks, financial institutions and corporations that own the government. Despite all the evidence of Goldman Sachs having engaged in repeated criminal activity in causing the financial crisis and profiting off of it (not to mention getting massive bailout funds from Obama), Obama’s [In]Justice Department recently announced that the U.S. government “will not prosecute Goldman Sachs.”[30] And of course not, why would Obama prosecute the bank that was his number one financial contributor in his 2008 election campaign. Though of course, it should be noted, that Obama’s 2008 campaign had some diversity among its top donors: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and UBS, among others. The financial institutions preferred Obama over John McCain in 2008, and it was a smart investment for them.[31] After all, Obama’s bailouts gave the banks $16 trillion.[32]

No surprise then, to see that Obama’s top campaign donors in 2012 include Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. And since the U.S. Supreme Court voted in January of 2010 to allow corporations to contribute as much money as they want to election campaigns – under “constitutional free-speech rights” – campaign spending has increased dramatically.[33] Thus, while Wall Street gave the Obama campaign $16 million in 2008, that number has soared during the current election, with the same contributors donating to Romney.[34] Among Romney’s current top supporters are Morgan Stanley, Bank of American, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, with Obama getting more support from Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others.[35] While Obama parades around calling Wall Street executives “fat cats,” Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $14 million from the “fat cats” through the end of April 2012.[36]

Clinton stated at the Democratic Convention, reflecting upon his economic policies of the 1990s, “We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing… [and] by 1996 the economy was roaring,” neglecting to mention it was a roaring bubble built upon speculation and debt. This, of course, received a thunderous applause for Clinton as he spoke, adding that President Obama “has laid the foundation for a new, modern successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.”[37] He had to repeat that part because people haven’t been “feeling it,” so it was important to remind them that current conditions are no basis for assessing the future. One must assess the future based upon pure “faith.” Hence, “you will feel it” is repeated despite all the policies that indicate otherwise.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general responsible for oversight of Obama’s bailout program, recently published a book entitled, “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street,” in which he wrote, “I had no idea that the U.S. government had been captured by the banks,” but this became clear as the bailouts were “setting the country up for potentially catastrophic losses.”[38] In his final report as inspector of the bailouts, Barofsky wrote: “The prospect of more bailouts will continue to fuel more bad behavior with potentially disastrous results.” In other words, the concept of “too big to fail” is an insurance policy for banks, telling them that the government will always be there to save them, and thus, they have no incentive to engage in safe financial practices, and are actually encouraged to continue making highly risky and speculative investments, paving the way for the next financial crisis at which time they will be bailed out again. Barofsky called the bailouts a “colossal failure,” under which the Treasury Department “made almost no effort to hold [the banks] accountable, and the bounteous terms delivered by the government seemed to border on being corrupt.”[39] Just more of Clinton’s “morally right and good economics,” no doubt.

“Free Trade” and Costly Poverty: A Bi-Partisan Consensus

Clinton of course, also implemented the NAFTA agreement, which is a protectionist corporate-dominated system of economic integration and exploitation between Mexico, Canada, and the US, undermining labour, de-industrializing the northern countries, exploiting the labour of poor Mexicans, and undertaking a concerted assault against the middle class. Thus, it is called a “free trade agreement,” though it consists of thousands of pages of rules and regulations expanding corporate rights and domination of the economy. This is perhaps what Clinton was referring to when he said that Democrats work towards “advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment” in order to provide “real opportunities” for “a strong middle class.” Those statements were of course met with thunderous applause and cheers.

Back during the 2008 campaign, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said that they would renegotiate NAFTA, and even suggested that the United States would pull out of the agreement. While campaigning, they made these statements at a debate in Cleveland, Ohio, where NAFTA is “wildly unpopular with blue-collar workers,” due to all the manufacturing jobs that were lost as a result of the trade agreement. Hillary Clinton stated that she would “renegotiate it on terms that are favourable to all of America.” Obama agreed with Hillary at the debate, stating, “I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right.” Obama said that he would “ensure that we actually get labour and environmental standards that are enforced… That is something that I have been consistent about.”[40]

The Canadian business and financial elite – and their mouthpieces in the media – immediately declared the sky to be falling as a result of presidential hopefuls suggesting to renegotiate NAFTA. It was leaked to the Canadian media that a senior member of Obama’s campaign team contacted the Canadian Consulate in Chicago to inform them that when Obama talks about renegotiating or “opting out” of NAFTA, “it was just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously.” In other words, he was just lying to get into power. The statements were made by Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s senior economic adviser during his campaign.[41] Goolsbee further informed Canadian officials that Obama’s stand on free trade during the campaign trail was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy,” and that Obama’s language “should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”[42] In other words, it is important to completely ignore everything Obama says while he is campaigning for president, because it is all lies meant to be consumed by the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” the voting public. It does not reflect the actual policies and plans of Obama, which the public is not to be informed of.

So why lie about NAFTA? In Ohio, where the pledges to renegotiate NAFTA were made, the trade agreement led to the loss of roughly 200,000 manufacturing jobs, while the U.S. as a whole lost some 3.1 million jobs between 1994 and 2009 due to NAFTA, which also led to a trade deficit with Mexico and Canada that was $9.1 billion in 1993, and has since risen to $138.5 billion in 2007. During the presidential campaign, national polls revealed that 56% of the American population was in favour of renegotiating NAFTA. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of people had marched in opposition to NAFTA, demanding renegotiations, and in Canada, 61% of the population favour renegotiation.[43]

Public opinion polls are extensively studied by the public relations industry and political strategists, who advise politicians during their campaigns (and once they take power). Because public opinion is in favour of renegotiating NAFTA, the rhetoric of politicians must reflect public opinion, so that the politicians are viewed in a good light and get the votes they need to get into power. However, because politicians are put in power to serve the interests of corporate and financial institutions, it can only remain as rhetoric, because renegotiating is against the interests and desires of the economic and financial elite, who are, after all, the major financial contributors to electoral advertising campaigns. So public opinion must be studied so that it can be used to manipulate the public – “the engineering of consent” – but then it must also be immediately undermined and dismissed, so that policy does not actually follow public opinion. Rather, public opinion – to the best degree possible – must be influenced to follow policy.

Raymond Chretien, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and nephew of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (who implemented NAFTA in cooperation with Bill Clinton), said in November of 2008, just following Obama’s successful election, that Obama “will likely find a way to back off his election campaign promise to renegotiate” the agreement, adding, “once in power in January, once apprised of what is at stake here,” meaning, massive corporate profits, “I doubt very much that he will want to reopen that.”[44] Within less than a month of becoming president, Obama stated that his promise to renegotiate NAFTA “will have to wait”; forever, no doubt.[45] Kind of like closing the torture camp at Guantanamo.

So apart from just lying about trade agreements to get into power, what is Obama’s actual record as president on trade agreements? Negotiations were begun under the Bush administration in 2008 for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and of course, since the difference between Obama and Bush was one of rhetoric, the negotiations continued in the same manner: secretly.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been working for over three years on a massive so-called “trade agreement” behind closed doors, with input given only to 600 corporate lobbyists who have had access to the draft deal and negotiations, which have otherwise been kept secret from the public. Just part of Obama’s promised “transparency,” no doubt. The agreement includes the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, among others. Roughly 133 Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Obama demanding access to the “secret texts” of the trade deal, with public interest groups warning that millions of jobs could be lost as a result of the agreement.[46]

While it is called a “trade agreement,” only 2 of the 26 chapters in the TPP have to do with trade, with the majority of the rest dealing with establishing corporate rights, protections, privileges, as well as constraints on “pesky” government regulations. Among these new “rights” and “privileges” for corporations (who obviously do not have enough rights and privileges as it is) include more job offshoring, protections to allow monopolies to raise prices, as well as new corporate controls established over natural resources. The deal also includes threats to food safety, land use, environmental protection, energy use and control, as well as a special chapter on “copyrights” which includes a massive threat to Internet freedom, which was previously stalled in Congress with the attempted Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Obviously, dismantling Internet freedom through a corrupt institution like Congress failed due to public pressure, and thus, Congress is still too influenced by the “meddlesome and ignorant outsiders,” so it’s better that such an agreement be negotiated in secret with 600 corporations.[47]

Documents from the deal have been leaked, which is the only way that any of this information has become public. When the documents were leaked, it was reported that the Obama administration “intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations.” In the documents, it was revealed that Obama’s administration has emerged as a very strong advocate “for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.” In other words, the already ineffective and almost-useless and toothless environmental, financial, and labour protections that exist are simply unacceptable to the Obama administration and the 600 corporations Obama is taking his orders from. The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic US laws regarding protections for the environment, finance, or labour rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.[48]

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama stated, “We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; [or] require the privatization of our vital public services.” I suppose that was somewhat true, since technically it isn’t a “bilateral” agreement, but rather a “multi-lateral” agreement. Referring to the changed rules for medication – which would allow companies to increase prices and control monopolies over life-saving medications, as well as prevent poor countries from developing cheap alternatives – the U.S. manger of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, stated, “Bush was better than Obama on this.” The agreement would of course grant similar rights to American corporations in the other countries of the TPP agreement, thus, it serves as a profitable and exploitative bonanza for all multinational corporations involved, and of course, all the populations from the countries involved will suffer as a result. The “international tribunal” which would dictate the laws of the countries would be staffed by corporate lawyers acting as “judges,” thus ensuring that cases taken before them have a “fair and balanced” hearing, as in, fairly balanced in favour of corporate rights over… everything else. The TPP deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby in the United States, as well as by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as fast as possible.[49]

Public Citizen is the organization that published the leaked document, a public research institution whose director, Todd Tucker, stated, “The leaked document… shows that in all of the major respects, this is exactly the same template that was used in NAFTA and other agreements that President Obama campaigned against,” and noted that the TPP has provisions that allow other countries to join in the future, potentially becoming a new “global trade agreement, larger than NAFTA.”[50] The American Prospect reported on the TPP leaks, writing that, “the TPP now threatens a slow-motion stealth attack against a century of progressive domestic policy,” though it’s hardly slow-motion, and the policies that exist can hardly be said to be “progressive,” but nonetheless, all the little concessions granted to the demands of the “bewildered herd” of “interested spectators” were simply too much to bear for corporate dominance. Gary Horlick, a former U.S. trade official who had spent four decades involved in trade deals, stated, “This is the least transparent trade negotiation I have ever seen.” In fact, participants in the negotiations and discussions have to sign a memorandum of understanding which forbids them from releasing any “negotiating documents until four years after a deal is done or abandoned.” In short, Obama’s TPP is a “corporate coup.”[51]

The objective with the “unprecedented secrecy” in the negotiations is to have the deal signed before the elections. As the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk noted, “I believe … that we have very faithfully operated within the spirit of the Obama administration to have the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could.” Though he explained what he meant by “as we possibly could,” when he added that, “there’s a practical reason” for all the secrecy: “for our ability both to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise, that we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality.” In other words, the secrecy is necessary because if people knew what we were doing behind closed doors, they would oppose it, and the deal would be stopped. Yes, that is very “practical.” When asked if he would release a draft text of the agreement, Kirk replied that it was too early to do that, “there will be a time, once we have agreed on text, that we may – as we have with other agreements – be able to release that.” In other words: “maybe, and by maybe, I mean… nope!” Meanwhile, other nations don’t want to be left out of such an ambitious and “prosperous” trade agreement, as Japan, Canada, and Mexico have been lobbying to be included. But this would require the three countries to implement changes to their already-existing policies which would allow them to even be considered to enter the TPP. In other words, even Mexico doesn’t meet the required standards of desirable corporate exploitation and domination to be considered.[52]

All the secrecy is very important, because as public opinion polls show, the entire population is adamantly opposed to these types of negotiations. An opinion poll from 2011 revealed that the American population has – just over the previous few years – moved from “broad opposition” to “overwhelming opposition” to NAFTA-style trade deals. A major NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from September of 2010 revealed that “the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree,” with 86% saying that outsourcing jobs by U.S. companies to poor countries was “a top cause of our economic woes,” with 69% thinking that “free trade agreements between the United States and other countries cost the U.S. jobs,” and only 17% of Americans in 2010 feel that “free trade agreements” benefit the U.S., compared to 28% in 2007. A Democratic Party polling firm revealed that 45% of voters were much more likely to support a Democratic candidate if the candidate pointed out how their opponent supported various “free trade agreements” negotiated by George Bush. The same polling agency revealed in 2010 that Americans do not feel “warmly” towards corporations and banks, with only 29% of voters feeling “warm” toward corporations (compared to 13% among non-voters), and 12% of voters felt “warm” toward banks (compared to 16% among non-voters). These are lower ratings than those for Obama, Sarah Palin, the GOP, Democrats, Newt Gingrich, the NRA, labor unions, and much more. Polling showed that voters who vote for Democrats cited “job offshoring” as “the most important issue facing the country,” and felt that Republican support for offshoring was the “most important reason to not vote Republican.”[53]

The extensive polling, which politicians are well aware of, reflects a view that citizens look at corporations and banks unfavorably, and that issues of “free trade” and “job offshoring” feature extremely high in their concerns, and whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the population is overwhelming in opposition to “free trade” agreements. So, the lesson from all this research on public opinion is not to change the policy to meet the demands of the public, but rather to change the discussion. So “free trade” agreements are simply not discussed, hence the enormous secrecy behind the TPP. Since corporations and banks are viewed so unfavorably, you simply remove them from the discussion. After all, it is the corporations and banks that the politicians are there to serve, and you don’t want to bad mouth your bosses in public too much or too loud (unless it’s “just campaign rhetoric”). Thus, when it comes to blaming the economic crisis on someone, the discussion must be simplified to an absurd little fairy tale in which you remove facts from reality, and create an image and establish a political discourse in which it was either: a) the Republicans did it, or b) the Democrats did it. By framing the discourse at this very basic, black and white manner, you immediately divide people against each other, instead of uniting them in opposition to the banks and corporations which control the politicians and the government. This is done for obvious reasons. You can’t expect a parasite to help you find a way to get rid of parasites. That’s why public relations was invented.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs jobby-jobs, jobby job-jobbin… Jobs.” – Every Politician Ever

When politicians blather about, they almost always mention this magical word called “jobs.” They usually state that their intention is to “create jobs” or that they have already “created jobs.” This is taken as a testament to their tireless work on behalf of the population that elected them. Jobs are good. So if politicians create jobs, they are doing good… right? Well, what if the word “jobs” meant something different when politicians say it? Perhaps, it would be helpful to seek a definition, so that we can translate political language and understand what is really being said. After all, if you only speak English, and you’re listening to someone who only speaks Spanish, you might recognize a couple of words now and again, but ultimately, you need a translation in order to understand what is being said. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out in countless public speaking events, when politicians say “jobs,” what they mean to say is, “profits.” Perhaps this is worth investigating, no?

First, we must ask some basic questions. Why are jobs important? Because they provide a means of living, of earning income, and thus, generating wealth and prosperity for all. That’s the story, anyway. But essentially we can deduce that jobs are important because they provide income, which we depend on to live. So, if we are to talk about jobs, we have to talk about income.

In June of 2012, the OECD – an international organization of economists representing 34 of the wealthiest countries on earth – released a report noting that the United States is facing “record long-term unemployment, income inequality and lack of investment in education and innovation.” The report noted that for the U.S., “income inequality and relative poverty are among the highest in the OECD.” Only Chile, Mexico, and Turkey rank higher among OECD nations in terms of income inequality. The chances of staying poor are higher in the U.S. than in Europe. As Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD and former State Department official Richard Boucher explained, “If your parents are poor, the chances are you are going to stay poor.” As the comedian George Carlin once said, “It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it.” The OECD report also noted, “the ongoing tide of foreclosures will continue to put downward pressure on house prices.” Just more of that “economic recovery” that we are told we are experiencing. Long-term unemployment in the U.S. is especially bad, with 40% of the unemployed – that’s officially 5.3 million Americans – have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. As the report also noted: “Although the middle class have seen their taxes remain roughly constant, or slightly increase, average income taxes have significantly declined for the most wealthy, especially the 1% top earners.”[54]

In 2008, the average household income for the top 1% was $1.2 million, though the percentage is highly skewed, as entry to the top 1% starts at $380,000. The share of total national income going to the top 1% reached an 80-year high in 2007, of 23.5% (and 17.6% in 2009 as the financial market deflated). For the top 0.1%, the inequality is even more pronounced. Their share of total income for the United States was 12.3% in 2007, sinking to a “still disproportionate” level of 8.1% in 2009 with the financial crash. Though this is a general trend in most countries of the OECD nations, it “began sooner, and has gone further, in America.” Increasingly, those who are within the top 1% work in finance, a trend which has increased faster than any comparable business between 1979 and 2005. In 1979, 8% of those within the top 1% worked in finance; in 2005, 13.9% of those in the top percentile worked in finance. For the top 0.1%, in 1979 roughly 11% were in finance, and in 2005 roughly 18% were in finance. The last time that income inequality was even comparable to the present day situation was during the Great Depression.[55]

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said in June of 2012 that the United Sates is “no longer the land of opportunity” and “the ‘American dream’ is a myth.” As he detailed in his newest book, The Price of Inequality, “America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial economies.” This inequality will only widen in the coming decades, he warned, because the lack of mobility makes it a reinforcing system, and America will become a two-class society: “People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It’s an ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil.” Stiglitz, however, said there was a solution: eliminating “corporate welfare” and policies that “create wealth but not economic growth.”[56] In other words, instead of just creating profits for the few, focus on prosperity for the many. However, all U.S. administrations – whether Democrat or Republican – have done the exact opposite.

Between 1979 and 2006, the share of national income that went to the top 1% doubled, while the top 0.1% have amassed a larger share of the national income than at any other point on record. Between 2009 and 2011, the S&P500 (the stock prices of the top 500 companies) went up by over 80%, while median household income declined by more than 10%. While the bottom 50% of Americans own 2.5% of the national wealth, the top 1% own 33.8%. The bottom half of Americans own 0.5% of stocks, bonds, and other investment assets, while the top 1% own 50.9%. As of 2007, the top 1% had 5% of the debt, while the bottom 90% had 73% of the debt. Tax rates for the richest Americans are almost the lowest they have ever been. Productivity of workers has increased exponentially since 1947, but inflation-adjusted wages have remained flat for the same period of time. Between 1990 and 2005, the average pay for a CEO increased by 300%, and corporate profits have doubled, while pay for “production workers” (labour) has increased by 4% and the minimum wage has dropped. In 1970, the top CEOs earned 45 times as much as the average worker; in 2006, the top CEOs earned 1,723 times as much as the average worker. America has more income inequality than Egypt, India, China, Russia, and Iran. This inequality is further strengthened when you examine the generational divide. Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of people under the age of 35 has dropped by 68%, while seniors have gotten 42% richer. Adjusted for inflation, in 1984, the median wealth of someone under 35 was $11,521; in 2009, it was $3,662.[57]

Now we get to the actual subject of “jobs,” of which Clinton spent so much time discussing in his speech at the DNC, that Democrats are better at creating “private-sector jobs” than Republicans, which was met with thunderous applause, and endless articles in the media explaining how “right” he was. Well yes, the “private sector” has added some jobs. This led Obama to say in June that the private sector was “doing fine.” When this created a public relations problem for Obama, he later clarified that it is “absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.” He added: “If you look at what I said… we’ve actually seen some good momentum in the private sector… record corporate profits… so that has not been the greatest drag on the economy.”[58] Indeed, this is partly true. In May of 2012, the largest 500 corporations (the Fortune 500, as they are called) reported record-breaking profits, with ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart in the top spots. Further, “the combined earnings for the Fortune 500 corporations rose 16% from 2010 to a record high of $825 billion in 2011.”[59] As profits increase, the pay for CEOs increases too, jumping just 6% in one year.[60] In June of 2012, the Federal Reserve revealed that between 2007 and 2010, Americans saw their wealth plummet by 40%.[61] So, Obama was correct in saying that we have seen “record corporate profits,” but incorrect in saying that this was not a “drag on the economy,” as it rapidly accelerates income inequality, which, quite directly, creates a drag on the economy, to say the least.

While the private sector has been adding jobs, the public sector has been cutting them, at both the state and federal level, which has been hitting black Americans the hardest.[62] This has been a significant “drag” on economic growth (it’s called “austerity”), and it is a growing trend, and will continue regardless of whether a Democratic or Republican politician is in office, because it is what is demanded by the economic and financial elite and neoliberal ideology: which dictates “austerity” and “structural reform” as a response to a crisis. When you translate those words, you get “impoverishment” and “exploitation.” This leads to “growth,” which means “profits.” Just like the word “jobs” also often means profits.

When Obama created his “Jobs and Competitiveness Council,” he asked 26 CEOs to form a group to advise the president on how to “create jobs.” The council was headed by Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, but also included other “job creators” like the CEO of American Express.[63] And who better than the CEO of General Electric to lead the charge on “job creation”? After all, General Electric has cut significant amounts of American jobs, so naturally, it’s a logical choice from which to appoint a “jobs czar.” Between 2000 and 2009, the number of Americans employed by GE declined from 162,000 to 134,000, a general trend which saw U.S. multinational corporations reduce their domestic American workforce by 2.9 million people in the past decade, while increasing their overseas workforce by 2.4 million. When Obama appointed GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt as “jobs czar,” President Obama stated that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”[64] Indeed, it “takes” undermining labour, worker exploitation, deregulation, offshoring, job insecurity, and government subsidy for corporations. In fact, the ten largest companies on Obama’s “jobs council” have shed over 91,000 jobs since 2009, with General Electric contributing 19,000 job losses to that number.[65]

So, if we do translate the word “jobs” into the word profits, then things tend to make more sense. After all, Obama appointed Immelt as his “jobs czar,” after Immelt cut 19,000 U.S. jobs but helped GE make record profits, and not only that, but GE does not pay any taxes, and instead, claims billions of dollars in tax benefits.[66] Thus, it makes more sense to think of Immelt as the “profits czar” who was put on Obama’s “profits council” to “create profits.” When you translate political language, everything suddenly makes much more sense, because it becomes comprehensible and logical. It just also happens to be rather monstrous and corrupt and infuriating, but that’s why political language is constructed: to not be properly understood. Thus, it was perfectly understandable for Bill Clinton, who implemented NAFTA which led to massive job losses, declining wages and standards of living, increased debt, offshoring, but also immense corporate profits, to explain in his speech that, “we need a lot more new jobs,” but pointed out what a good record Democrats have for “creating jobs.” Indeed, General Electric and Goldman Sachs would agree.

Public Relations Shapes the Debate

Since the economy is a disaster, it is very important to properly shape the discourse on economic issues, most especially during a political advertising campaign, otherwise it would be difficult to maintain any legitimacy. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is a public opinion research and strategic consulting firm that often works with the Democratic Party. Essentially, it is the Democratic Party’s public relations organization. In June of 2012, James Carville, a long-time Democratic Party political strategist who was the lead strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign, produced a research report along with other top political strategists for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The report was entitled, Shifting the Economic Narrative, which suggested that the “prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders” are “vulnerable” in regards to the economic situation. In other words, the Democratic rhetoric and talking points on the economy don’t have much legitimacy. The report wrote that Democrats face an impossible situation in the elections “if we do not move to a new narrative,” or, to construct a new story. This would mean to change the story to “one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.” The report stated that voters “know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand,” thus, the narrative must shift to discussing “the plans for making things better.” While noting that the Democrats were losing voters on the economy, the report added that the same voters were still leaning toward the Democrats “because Romney is very vulnerable,” since “[t]hey do not trust him because of who he is for and because he is out of touch with ordinary people.” The report noted that the result was that, “it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope.”[67]

What voters “want to know,” wrote the report, was that Obama “understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.” It doesn’t matter whether or not this is true, of course, but just that people believe it, and that they “want to know” it. The report noted that it had conducted several focus group research studies on college-educated voters who are ‘independents’ or ‘weak partisans,’ meaning that they only somewhat align with a particular political party. The research was revealing: while most had jobs, they had lower wages and fewer benefits which has left them struggling to pay for groceries. For non-college graduates, the situation is even worse, largely dependent upon food stamps and with many expressing that they feel as if they live in the 1900s where “you’re just slave labour.” Young people also have a disproportionate struggle, and are increasingly moving back home with their parents. Even in affluent suburbs people are “struggling with new realities,” such as “stagnant incomes, pay cuts, and layoffs.” Wile bills go up, paychecks either remain stagnant or go down, and this is most keenly felt in the cost of groceries, gas, cable bills, and medical insurance. These voters, the report suggested, “are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction,” with “no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country.” These people, stated the report, “actually have a very realistic view,” and thus, “the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward.”[68]

While most of these voters support Obama, “they say it cannot get worse and you have to believe it will get better.” The “optimism” is predicated on the basis that “this has to be rock bottom,” which the report defined as “pessimistic optimism.” The type of “leaders” they are looking for are those “who understand the uncertainty and can lead a way forward.” While the Obama campaign talks about “jobs gained,” wrote the report, “it gains no support beyond 2008 Obama supporters.” On the economy, Romney supporters typically cannot say anything positive except that he is “not Obama.” However, many voters would still choose Romney over Obama when it comes to the economy, but when forced to choose between the two on the whole, “many of the Obama voters work to figure out a way to support him, though it lacks the kind of emotion and rationale that would drive engagement.” In other words, support for Obama tends to be driven more by the fact that he is “not Romney.” In the words of the report, it was that Obama was “the evil you know” and the “lesser of two evils.” While the patience of voters on Obama was “wearing very thin, they still want to believe in him.” All the ideas of voters that support Obama “center on what he should do – not what he has done.”[69] In other words, support is maintained in false hope.

In terms of “shifting the economic narrative,” the research report suggested that, “the strongest message was one focused on the future of the middle class – with minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face.” Thus, the election needs to be about the “future of the middle class.” Two-thirds of those who partook in the focus groups responded positively to this message of helping the middle class, and they reacted well to references of the Clinton era economy (when their wealth was constructed on an illusion of debt and consumption). Ultimately, the report suggested that the best advertising campaign for the Democratic Party and Obama in particular was to “connect on a pocketbook level” and “commit to the programs voters rely on most,” such as Medicaid, Social Security and foodstamps. This rhetoric has “the capacity to be very powerful, particularly when the offer on the other side is suspicious and weak.”[70]

This “shifting message” was well received in Bill Clinton’s speech, where he talked about moving people “out of poverty [and] into the middle class,” and warning people that the Republicans will “hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold.” That phrase, in particular, hit all the right points of discussion as suggested by the Democratic Party’s polling agency: to talk about the middle class, to protect the poor, and to focus on “the future.” That is why, as Clinton was finishing his speech, he said that, “If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining… you have to vote for Obama.”[71] Or that Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class.” Or that Republicans want to cut programs “that help the middle class and poor children,” which, of course, is true. But the statement neglects the problematic context that while Democrats may not necessarily “cut” these programs (though again, the evidence of this is scant, but let’s imagine as a hypothetical), the Democrats do continue to create the social conditions in which the middle class and poor struggle more, and thus, become more dependent upon various programs of support. It’s sort of like saying that, “After my opponent beats you with a stick, he won’t let you have a bandaid… But after I beat you with a stick, I at least give you a bandaid.”

Brand Obama: No ‘Hope’ in Hell for ‘Change’

Since the public relations industry runs election campaigns and a good deal of public politics, it only makes sense that the industry itself acknowledges this fact. When it came to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, the public relations and advertising industry were completely ecstatic. Before even being elected president, Obama won the Advertising Age’s “marketer of the year” award for 2008, winning the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and other industry representatives at the annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers. Obama’s campaign of “hope” and “change” beat Apple for the coveted prize that year. The Vice President of Rodale marketing solutions stated, “I honestly look at [Obama’s] campaign and I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers.”[72]

At the Cannes Lion International Advertising Awards in June of 2009, the Obama campaign claimed two of the top awards at the prestigious international advertising and public relations industry awards. His campaign won the Titanium grand prix award, for which the criteria is an advertising campaign that is “provocative, challenges assumptions and points to a new direction.” For example, “hope” and “change.” The Titanium award, according to the organizers at the Cannes ceremony, “celebrates work that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.” The other coveted prize that the Obama advertising campaign received was the Integrated Lions award, referring to a campaign that uses three or more media, such as the press, Internet and television, which is “high standard and state-of-the-art.”[73] One advertising executive commented, “They turned (political advertising) from being one dimensional to something the whole country could contribute to. It was a fantastic idea.” Another advertising executive stated, “it was effective. You couldn’t ignore it. There will never be a political campaign that doesn’t use these tools.”[74]

That same month, Obama’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs received the Public Relations Professional of the Year award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “for his groundbreaking use of new communications techniques and technologies, as well as successful delivery of campaign messages to a broad electorate.” The chairman and CEO of the PRSA, delivered the award to Gibbs, stating, “Robert Gibbs and his team revolutionized the way presidential candidates speak to voters by engaging best practices in current communications techniques and technologies,” adding: “He transformed static, one-way messaging into a dynamic dialogue to engage an expansive electorate like never before.” Upon accepting the award, Gibbs explained that his campaign had to “focus on the message of change being communicated by our candidate… we knew our success depended on our ability to stay focused on that message and relay it honestly and consistently to people across the country.”[75]

“You Have to Treat Them Like Children” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Whether Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, they are all parasites, whose purpose is to manipulate the public into granting them the “consent” to govern, while they govern for the benefit of corporations and banks to plunder, exploit, and profit at the expense of the population, both at home and around the world, which is often facilitated through war, coups, repression of liberation movements, genocide, and impoverishment. To these people, the public – you and I – are nothing but a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who must be kept as the “interested spectators of action.” The more talented a politician is at “manufacturing consent,” the more praise he or she gets from the media, and thus, from the public, itself. It is important to expose the spectacle of “public relations politics” so that we can look underneath the surface of power, and understand the real functions and structure of our society, and thus, we can be more capable of changing it. To take a quote from Bill Clinton out of context when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, “It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.” When he said this, he was referring to the views of Republicans, but the quote is revealing of Clinton’s arrogance and indeed, his talent as a manipulator of the public mind, because it applies precisely to a public relations event like the Democratic National Convention itself: “a lot of people believe this stuff.”

It seems that it is time that people now place their beliefs in more tangible, factual, and logical realities. As children, we were told fairy tales; as adults, we believe fairy tales. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt said of Latin Americans back in the early 20th century, “You have to treat them like children.” Well that applies to their view of the domestic population as well. Even though our political parasites continue to treat us like children, we have the choice – and the capacity – to act like adults. That means that we have to begin by dismantling the fairy tales that we believe in. Parents know that there comes a time when they must tell their children that there is no Santa Claus, and while this reality may be difficult for the children at first to accept, they are able to deal with that reality, and intellectually evolve and mature beyond it. People as a whole have the same capacity. Whether or not we utilize that capacity is entirely up to us, because our politicians have no interest in doing so, nor will they. It is up to us to dismantle the mythology ourselves.

The most effective way to do this is to take a very practical and logical first step of applying the same standards to our own society that we apply to others. In other words, instead of pointing to the crimes of state-sanctioned “enemies,” instead of blaming either Republicans or Democrats for all the woes of society, one must engage in social self-reflectionand apply the exact same method of inquiry into the ideas, individuals and institutions of our “enemies” as we do to our own ideas, individuals, and institutions.

I think it’s relatively safe to assume that most people would not want a mass murderer as a close friend, but for some reason, millions of people cheer and applaud mass murderers as their leaders. This obviously has no basis in logic. If mass murder is wrong and immoral, those who commit it or participate in it are also immoral. When someone has clearly demonstrated their capacity for immorality – and their willingness to commit mass atrocities – as Clinton, Bush, and Obama all have, it does not make any logical sense to support these people on other claims of “morality” such as: gay rights, family values, abortion, etc. These are designed specifically as issues which limit the political discourse, which remove any discussion of empire, war, mass murder, genocide, corruption, impoverishment, the dismantling of rights and freedoms, torture, assassinations, coups, exploitation, environmental devastation, surveillance and the construction of a police state apparatus. These divisive issues, which in a functioning democracy would have been solved almost immediately, are designed to facilitate a back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats, to distract the “bewildered herd” with only a few acceptable issues of discussion. Thus, anyone who raises other issues, of much greater relevance, ends up sounding like a Martian; they are perceived as suffering from some sort of “fringe” insanity. But insanity is not “fringe,” insanity is very much mainstream.

If, by chance, issues like war are raised in the political discourse – and most especially during advertising campaigns (which we commonly refer to as “election campaigns”) – then the critique of war policies are themselves confined to an “acceptable” discourse: either the war was a “success”, or it was a “tactical failure.” This implies, immediately, that the objectives of war are always inherently good, because if we wage war, it must be with good intentions. The morality of war – and the reality of empire – are not to be questioned.

When Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he referred to the Iraq war as a “distraction” for which he would make “tactical adjustments.” He wrote that the Iraq war was a “strategic blunder.”[76] That “strategic blunder” led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 2003 and 2008.[77] Yet, Obama was given praise for his “enlightened” critique of the Iraq war.

We must apply very basic standards of human decency to those who parade about as our leaders and saviors. An enormous amount of effort is put into preventing people from assessing political leadership in a logical, coherent, and rational manner. That is what the public relations industry does. Politicians are products to be marketed, bought and sold, and like most modern products, they fall apart quickly and have to be replaced. We have to begin questioning our political consumption patterns, otherwise we won’t change them, and it is glaringly obvious that what we have, simply isn’t working.

Watching Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention reminded me of why I don’t watch political speeches. The man stood up on stage for nearly an hour, and talked about how he cared about what poor families will do if the Republicans come to power, that Obama has fixed the economy, and he even felt it necessary to literally state, “Look, I love our country so much,” just in case you had any doubts. Clinton reached divine levels of absurdity and double-think when he stated:

If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American dream is really alive and well again and where the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace and justice and prosperity in this highly competitive world, you have to vote for Barack Obama.[78]

Considering that none of those fantasies exist under Republicans or Democrats, let alone Clinton or Obama, I will simply end with my favourite quote from Clinton during his speech: “a lot of people believe this stuff.” Let’s hope not for long.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Ryan Lizza, “Clinton’s Speech: The Power of a Hug,” The New Yorker – News Desk, 6 September 2012:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/09/bill-clinton-convention-speech-the-power-of-a-hug.html

[2]            Konrad Yakabuski, “Clinton gives a boost to Obama’s middle-class-hero image,” The Globe and Mail, 5 September, 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-election/clinton-gives-a-boost-to-obamas-middle-class-hero-image/article4522804/

[3]            David Giambusso, “Congressman Pascrell: Bill Clinton’s speech tonight is ‘his comeback’,” The Star-Ledger, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/bill_clinton_hits_the_stump_fo.html

[4]            Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, “Bill Clinton offers forceful defense of Obama’s record,” The Washington Post, 5 September 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bill-clinton-will-highlight-convention-tonight/2012/09/05/f6d5dcf2-f797-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_story.html

[5]            Mark Gollom, “Obama turns to ‘rock star’ Bill Clinton to boost support,” CBC News, 5 September 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/09/05/democratic-convention-clinton-obama.html

[6]            Natalie Finn, “Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention: Celebs React to Teleprompter-Busting Speech,” E! News, 6 September 2012:

http://ca.eonline.com/news/343617/bill-clinton-at-the-democratic-national-convention-celebs-react-to-teleprompter-busting-speech

[7]            Rebecca Shapiro, “Bill Clinton Media Reactions: Pundits Praise Former President’s DNC Speech, Some Criticize Length,” Huffington Post, 6 September 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/bill-clinton-media-reactions-dnc-speech_n_1859892.html

[8]            Rachel Maddow, “’The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Thursday, August 2nd, 2012,” NBC News, 2 August 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48492324/ns/msnbc-rachel_maddow_show/t/rachel-maddow-show-thursday-august-nd/#.UDXF-ERQhgA

[9]            Josh Halliday, “Burson-Marsteller: PR firm at centre of Facebook row,” The Guardian, 12 May 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/12/burson-masteller-pr-firm-facebook-row

[10]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.

[11]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 18 January 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/01/18/power-propaganda-and-purpose-in-american-democracy/

[12]            Ibid.

[13]            Ibid.

[14]            Bruce Cummings, “Trilateralism and the New World Order,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 1991, page 206.

[15]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Punishing the Population: The American Occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 21 February 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/02/21/punishing-the-population-the-american-occupations-of-haiti-and-the-dominican-republic/

[16]            Ibid.

[17]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[18]            Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, “”Disobedient” Generals and the Politics of Redemocratization: The Clinton Administration and Haiti,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3, Autumn 1997; David Malone, “Haiti and the international community: A case study,” Survival, Vol. 39, Issue 2, 1997; Scott Turner, “The Dilemma of Double Standards in U.S. Human Rights Policy,” Peace & Change, Vol. 28, No. 4, October 2003.

[19]            Ibid.

[20]            Ibid.

[21]            Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, “U.S. Mulls Role in Haiti After the Crisis,” The New York Times, 17 January 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/world/americas/18policy.html

[22]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[23]            Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Sanctions take toll on Iran’s sick,” The Financial Times, 4 September 2012:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/43abcb36-f5cc-11e1-a6bb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz25dqZrNTh

[24]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[25]            Molly Moorhead, “Bill Clinton’s night at the Democratic convention,” PolitiFact, 5 September 2012:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/sep/05/Bill-Clinton-Democratic-convention/

[26]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[27]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Great Global Debt Depression: It’s All Greek To Me,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 15 July 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/07/15/167/

[28]            Ibid.

[29]            Ibid.

[30]            Reuters, “Justice Department will not prosecute Goldman Sachs, employees for Abacus deal,” Reuters, 9 August 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/09/us-usa-goldman-no-charges-idUSBRE8781LA20120809

[31]            Andrew Clark, “Bankers and academics at top of donor list,” The Guardian, 8 November 2008:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/08/barackobama-wallstreet-bankers-campaign-donations-goldmansachs

[32]            Tracy Greenstein, “The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-reported,” Forbes, 20 September 2011:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/traceygreenstein/2011/09/20/the-feds-16-trillion-bailouts-under-reported/

[33]            James Vicini, “Supreme Court permits no limits on state campaign funds,” Reuters, 25 June 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/25/us-usa-campaign-court-idUSBRE85O0P520120625

[34]            Jonathan D. Salant, “JPMorgan Employees Join Goldman Sachs Among Top Obama Donors,” Bloomberg, 21 March 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-20/jpmorgan-employees-join-goldman-sachs-among-top-obama-donors.html

[35]            Greg Giroux and Jonathan D. Salant, “Obama Outspends Romney 2-1 With $43 Million in Funds for Ads,” Bloomberg, 21 July 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-20/obama-raises-45-9-million-in-june-to-33-million-for-romney-1-.html

[36]            Peter Nicholas and Daniel Lippman, “Wall Street Is Still Giving to President,” The Wall Street Journal, 3 July 2012:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303933404577500810740985338.html

[37]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[38]            Jackie Calmes, “Bad Banks, Big Bailouts and Bruises,” The New York Times, 24 July 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/books/bailout-by-neil-barofsky.html?pagewanted=all

[39]            Deborah Solomon, “Neil Barofsky, the Democrat Taking Digs at Obama,” Bloomberg, 12 July 2012:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-12/neil-barofsky-the-democrat-taking-digs-at-obama

[40]            AP, “Clinton, Obama threaten to withdraw from NAFTA,” CBC News, 27 February 2008: http://www.cbc.ca/world/usvotes/story/2008/02/27/debate-nafta.html

[41]            CTV, “Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada,” CTV News, 29 February 2008:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/obama-campaign-mum-on-nafta-contact-with-canada-1.279448

[42]            Michael Luo, “Memo Gives Canada’s Account of Obama Campaign’s Meeting on Nafta,” The New York Times, 4 March 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/politics/04nafta.html

[43]            Laura Carlsen, “Obama Reaffirms Promise to Renegotiate NAFTA,” Huffington Post, 12 January 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-carlsen/obama-reaffirms-promise-t_b_157316.html

[44]            Canwest News Service, “Obama not likely to renegotiate NAFTA, ex-diplomat says,” Canada.com, 13 November 2008:

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=ae15ed12-326f-4187-8cd1-85ceef892b9a

[45]            Michael D. Shear, “NAFTA Renegotiation Must Wait, Obama Says,” The Washington Post, 20 February 2009:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/19/ST2009021903268.html

[46]            Donna Marykwas, “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations creating ‘NAFTA on steroids’,” The Examiner, 24 August 2012:

http://www.examiner.com/article/secret-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-negotiations-creating-nafta-on-steroids

[47]            Lori Wallach, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway,” AlterNet, 29 June 2012:

http://www.alternet.org/story/156059/trans-pacific_partnership%3A_under_cover_of_darkness%2C_a_corporate_coup_is_underway?page=0%2C0

[48]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[49]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[50]            Josh Eidelson, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Larger than NAFTA?,” Salon, 14 June 2012:

http://www.salon.com/2012/06/14/trans_pacific_partnership_larger_than_nafta/

[51]            Lori Wallach, “A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance,” The American Prospect, 13 March 2012:

http://prospect.org/article/stealth-attack-democratic-governance

[52]            Doug Palmer, “Secrecy needed in trade talks: USTR Kirk,” NBC News, 13 May 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47405479/ns/world_news-americas/t/secrecy-needed-trade-talks-ustr-kirk/#.UEldH0RQhgA

[53]            PC, “Unfair Trade Deals Becoming Even More Unpopular, U.S. Polling Shows,” Public Citizen: www.citizen.org/documents/polling-memo-july-2011.pdf

[54]            Ewen MacAskill and Dominic Rushe, “OECD says US economy is recovering but income inequality problematic,” The Guardian, 26 June 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/26/oecd-us-economy-income-inequality

[55]            “Income inequality: Who exactly are the 1%?” The Economist, 21 January 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21543178

[56]            Aaron Task, “The ‘American Dream’ Is a Myth: Joseph Stiglitz on ‘The Price of Inequality’,” Yahoo! Finance, 8 June 2012:

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/american-dream-myth-joseph-stiglitz-price-inequality-124338674.html

[57]            Gus Lubin, “23 Mind-Blowing Facts About Income Inequality In America,” Business Insider, 7 November 2011:

http://www.businessinsider.com/new-charts-about-inequality-2011-11#

[58]            Leigh Ann Caldwell, “Obama backtracks on comments that private sector is doing “fine”,” CBS News, 8 June 2012:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57449822-503544/obama-backtracks-on-comments-that-private-sector-is-doing-fine/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

[59]            AFP, “Fortune 500 smash profit record; Exxon back on top,” AFP, 7 May 2012:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gbj6XIng0Cu2YL2nn9uBvWN74EgA?docId=CNG.3b6426af1a176d2c5108891890072a79.101

[60]            Christina Rexrode and Bernard Condon, “Record profits for big companies spur 6% rise in CEO pay,” Seattle Times, 25 May 2012:

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2018290135_usceopay26.html

[61]            Ylan Q. Mui, “Americans saw wealth plummet 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, Federal Reserve says,” The Washington Post, 11 June 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans-wealth-dropped-40-percent/2012/06/11/gJQAlIsCVV_story.html

[62]            Timothy Williams, “As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks Are Hit Hardest,” The New York Times, 28 November 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/us/as-public-sector-sheds-jobs-black-americans-are-hit-hard.html

[63]            Zachary Karabell, “The White House and Jeff Immelt on Jobs: Compelling, Infuriating or Simply Irrelevant?” Time Magazine, 15 June 2012:

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/06/15/the-white-house-jeff-immelt-and-jobs-compelling-infuriating-or-simply-irrelevant/

[64]            Zachary Roth, “With jobs czar under fire, new data confirm offshoring trend,” Yahoo! News, 19 April 2011:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/jobs-czar-under-fire-data-confirm-offshoring-trend-155235152.html

[65]            Susanna Kim, “10 Largest Companies on Obama’s Jobs Council Lost 91K Jobs,” ABC News, 12 October 2011:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/10-largest-companies-obamas-jobs-council-lost-91000/story?id=14714319#.UEmh3kRQhgA

[66]            David Kocieniewski, “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether,” The New York Times, 24 March 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?pagewanted=all

[67]            Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert, “Shifting the Economic Narrative,” Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 11 June 2012:

www.democracycorps.com

[68]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[70]            Ibid.

[71]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[72]            Matthew Creamer, “Obama Wins! … Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year,” AdAge, 17 October 2008:

http://adage.com/article/moy-2008/obama-wins-ad-age-s-marketer-year/131810/

[73]            Mark Sweney, “Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards,” The Guardian, 29 June 2009:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/29/barack-obama-cannes-lions

[74]            Theresa Howard, “Obama Campaign Takes Top Ad Prizes,” ABC News, June 2009:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Politics/story?id=7947528&page=1#.UEk6zURQhgA

[75]            PRSA, “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Receives Public Relations Professional of the Year Honors From PRSA,” Reuters Press Release, 5 June 2009:

http://pilot.us.reuters.com/article/2009/06/05/idUS121576+05-Jun-2009+BW20090605

[76]            Barack Obama, “My Plan for Iraq,” The New York Times, 14 July 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14obama.html

[77]            “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey,” Reuters, 30 January 2008:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130

[78]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

NOTE: The following article is the documented transcript from the second episode of a new podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People with Andrew Gavin Marshall,” hosted by BoilingFrogsPost.com. The information within the article is an extracted sample from a book being written and funded through The People’s Book Project.

Listen to the podcast HERE.

One central facet to the development of the modern institutional society under which we live and are dominated today, was the redefining of the concept of ‘democracy’ that took place in the early 20th century. This immensely important discussion took place among the educated, elite intellectual class in the United States at that time, and the consequences of which were profound for the development of not only American society and democracy, but for the globalization that followed after World War II. The central theme that emerged was that in the age of ‘mass democracy’, where people came to be known as “the public,” the concept of ‘democracy’ was redefined to be a system of government and social organization which was to be managed by an intellectual elite, largely concerned with “the engineering of consent” of the masses in order to allow elite-management of society to continue unhindered.

The socio-economic and political situation of the United States had, throughout the 19th century, rapidly changed. Official slavery was ended after the Civil War and the wage-slave method of labour was introduced on a much wider scale; that is, the approach at which people are no longer property themselves, but rather lend their labour at minimal hourly wages, a difference equated with rental slavery versus owned slavery. While the system of labour had itself changed, the living conditions of the labourers did not improve a great deal. With Industrialization also came increased urbanization, poverty, and thus, social unrest. The 19th Century in the United States was one of near-constant labour unrest, social upheaval and a rapidly growing wealth divide. And it was not simply the lower labouring classes that were experiencing the harsh rigors of a modern industrial life. One social critic of the era, writing in 1873, discussed the situation of the middle class in America:

Very few among them are saving money. Many of them are in debt; and all they can earn for years, is, in many cases, mortgaged to pay such debt… [We see] the unmistakable signs of their incessant anxiety and struggles to get on in life, and to obtain in addition to a mere subsistence, a standing in society… The poverty of the great middle classes consists in the fact that they have only barely enough to cover up their poverty… their poverty is felt, mentally and socially, through their sense of dependence and pride. They must work constantly, and with an angry sense of the limited opportunities for a career at their command.[1]

As immigrants from Europe and Asia flooded America, a growing sense of racism emerged among the faltering middle class. This situation created enormous tension and unease among middle and working class Americans, and indeed, the industrialists who ruled over them. Yet many in the middle class viewed the lower class, which was increasingly rebellious, as well as the immigrant labourers – also quite militant – as a threat to their own standing in society. Instead of focusing primarily on the need for reorganization at the top of the social structure, they looked to the masses – the working people – as the greatest source of instability. Their approach was in attempting to preserve – or construct – a system beneficial to their own particular interests. Since the middle class survived on the backs of the workers, it was not in their interest as a class to support radical workers movements and revolutionary philosophies. Thus, while criticizing those at the top, the call came for ‘reform’, not revolution; for passive pluralism not democratic populism; for amelioration, not anarchy.

This is what became known as the ‘Progressive Movement’ in American history. Influential journalists became leading ‘Progressives,’ and prominent social thinkers and social critics began further analyzing and arming the journalists with reformist ideas. The middle class was itself a major audience for progressive journalists. They acknowledged the need for social change and reorganization, and pushed for a method of achieving such change through the rational approach of ‘social science’ and “social evaluation.”[2] One of these leading progressive journalists, Edward Bellamy, wrote a book in 1888, “Looking Backward,” in which he argued that, “it would be the force of public opinion – opinion bolstered by the instrument of reason – that would perform the task of remaking the world for the benefit of all humanity.” Thus, “an informed and intelligent ‘public’ would be the agency through which a new historical epoch would be initiated.”[3]

This progressive form of journalism came to be known as “muckraking,” a term coined by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906, as this reform-oriented investigative journalism “began to reshape the discourse of public life,” driven by increasing discontent over governmental and corporate corruption.

The notion of “the public” was born in the eighteenth century Enlightenment, fused with the notion that the public was a rational body of persons, able to comprehend, identify and organize facts, premised on – as philosopher Jürgen Habermas articulated – the “informed, literate men, engaged with one another in an ongoing process of ‘critical-rational’ debate.” Thomas Jefferson reiterated such notions, suggesting that, “the creed of our political faith” rested at “the bar of public reason.” Progressive journalism gave profound emphasis to the promotion of facts and “social documentation.”[4]

Mass circulation media had changed the nature of “the public” in the late 19th century. In particular, the newspaper industry grew, and like with other industries between the 1880s and World War I, “financial consolidation and technological innovation combined to alter the character and scale of big-city and small-town journalism,” as newspapers became big business. Thus, news was becoming ‘standardized,’ and the growth and business of magazine publishing followed suit.[5]

Yet, the proliferation of mass media was of a dual nature. While more people were able to gain access to more information from more places simultaneously, there was also the development of a trend in the emergence of a “public” increasingly defined as “spectators,” no longer active participants in the ‘public square,’ but observers from afar, in their geographically segregated middle class.[6]

As the first decade of the 20th century drew to a close, and World War I drew nearer, a new concern was increasingly developing among the ‘Progressive’ movement and its ideologues and journalists. While continuing to push for reform, there was a growing rumbling and sense of revolution brewing from below, among the working class people. This concern increasingly moved to the forefront among Progressive intellectuals, who saw their own class and social conceptions threatened by the grumbling masses trapped in poverty beneath them. Perhaps the most influential intellect of the early 20th century was a man named Walter Lippmann, a Harvard graduate who joined with Progressive publicists and had even joined the Socialist Party in 1910. By 1914, however, Lippmann had turned from his socialist inclinations, and wrote the well-received Drift and Mastery, which prompted Teddy Roosevelt to refer to Lippmann as “the most brilliant man of his age,” at just 25 years old. Lippmann’s principle concern was with the notion of the people ruling:

Ongoing middle-class hostility toward big business – once understood as a constructive catalyst for social reform – had now become, to Lippmann’s increasingly conservative mind, an inadvertent stimulus of social disintegration. As attacks on the practices of big business mounted and an increasingly militant working-class movement challenged the very concept of privately held wealth, Lippmann became more and more alarmed… In a country once “notorious for its worship of success,” Lippmann wrote, public disfavor was being heaped “savagely upon those who had achieved it.”[7]

Lippmann held the muckraking journalists increasingly responsible for this change on social perception, in which social unrest “threatened to spin out of control.” Lippmann described what he saw as an atmosphere of “accusation,” largely aimed at big business, which he viewed as “a collective psychological malady, a dangerous condition of paranoia, that, unless checked, posed a greater danger to society than the excesses of wealth.” Society was a pot on the verge of boiling over. As Lippmann wrote:

The sense of conspiracy and secret scheming which transpire is almost uncanny. “Big Business,” and its ruthless tentacles, have become the material for the feverish fantasy of illiterate thousands thrown out of kilter by the rack and strain of modern life… all the frictions of life are readily ascribed to a deliberate evil intelligence, and men like Morgan and Rockefeller take on attributes of omnipotence, that ten minutes of cold sanity would reduce to a barbarous myth.[8]

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt gave an interview with the New Haven Register in which he lamented that the excesses of big business, coupled with the challenge of muckraking journalism, was creating a deeply precarious situation, in which, “sooner or later, unless there is a readjustment, there will come a riotous wicked, murderous day of atonement.” Thus, a “search for order” had come to dominate the minds of the once-reformist intellectuals of the day. As Stewart Ewen wrote in his excellent book, PR! A Social History of Spin:

Progressives looked for new strategies that might be employed to contain this impending social crisis. In this quest, a growing number turned toward the new ideas and techniques of the social sciences, hoping to discover foolproof instruments for diagnosing social problems and achieving social stability… To Lippmann and a growing number of others… the social sciences appealed less in their ability to create an informed public and more in their promise to help establish social control.[9]

Lippmann felt that the “discipline of science” would need to be applied to democracy, and that, “social engineers, social scientists, armed with their emerging expertise, would provide the modern state with a foundation upon which a new stability might be realized.” Thus, explained Ewen:

[N]ovel strategies of social management and the conviction that a technical elite might be able to engineer social order were becoming increasingly attractive… Accompanying a democratic current of social analysis that sought to educate the public at large, another – more cabalistic – tradition of social-scientific thought was emerging, one that saw the study of society as a tool by which a technocratic elite could help serve the interests of vested power.[10]

One of the most important works of this period was the 1895 work by French social psychologist, Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, in which he analyzed the changing nature of politics from being middle class oriented to transforming into popular democracy in which “the opinion of the masses” was becoming the most important opinion in society. Le Bon wrote that, “The destinies of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.” He lamented that, “the claims of the masses are becoming more and more sharply defined, and amount to nothing less than a determination to destroy utterly society as it now exists,” and that, “The divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.” The “crowd,” postulated Le Bon, was only able to ‘react’ and was driven not by logic or reason, but by passion and emotion.[11]

An associate and friend of Le Bon’s, Gabriel Tarde, expanded upon this concept, and articulated the idea that “the crowd” was a social group of the past, and that “the public” was “the social group of the future.” The public, argued Tarde, was a “spiritual collectivity, a dispersion of individuals who are physically separated and whose cohesion is entirely mental.” Thus, Tarde identified in the growth of the printing press and mass communications, a powerful medium through which “the public” is shaped, and that, if managed appropriately, could bring a sense of order to a situation increasingly chaotic. The newspaper, Tarde explained, facilitated “the fusion of personal opinions into local opinions, and this into national and world opinion, the grandiose unification of the public mind.” A German sociologist named Ferdinand Tonnies argued that the newspaper became a channel through which one faction of society could “present its own will as the rational general will.” Thus, “objective reality” was in actuality, managed and controlled. The press, in this case, as the “organ of public opinion” could be a “weapon and tool in the hands of those who know how to use it and have to use it… It is comparable and, in some respects, superior to the material power which the states possess through their armies, their treasuries, and their bureaucratic civil service.”[12]

One of Walter Lippmann’s most influential teachers at Harvard, Graham Wallas, wrote that, “Organized Thought has become typical.” Thus, the idea of “the public” – malleable to suggestion, organized and controlled – came to manifest a type of ‘solution’ to the problem of “the crowd” – irrational, emotionally driven, and reactive. While the crowd was irrational, the ‘public’ could be reasoned with.[13]

One individual who was greatly influenced by these ideas was a man named Ivy Lee, a newspaperman who graduated from Princeton in 1898, and had come to offer his services to major industrial executives as one of the first corporate public relations practitioners. In 1916, he told a group of railroad executives that, “You suddenly find you are not running a private business, but running a business of which the public itself is taking complete supervision. The crowd is in the saddle, the people are on the job, and we must take consideration of that fact, whether we like it or not.” Thus, Lee felt that it was essential for the business community to “manufacture a commonality of interests between them and an often censorious public to establish a critical line of defense against the crowd.”[14]

Ivy Lee defined the job of public relations persons to that of a “news engineer,” and described himself as “a physician for corporate bodies.” The aim was to “supply news” to the press and the public so as to “understand better the soundness of a corporation’s policy or perspective.”[15]

One notable event was what came to be known as the Ludlow Massacre. The Colorado coal strike began in September 1913, in which roughly eleven thousand miners (mostly Greeks, Italians and Serbs) went on strike following the murder of one of their organizers. They went on strike against the Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation, which was owned by the Rockefeller family, and against their low pay, horrible living conditions, and the “feudal domination of their lives in towns completely controlled by the mining companies.” The strikers were immediately evicted from their shacks in the towns, and subsequently set up tent colonies, when the Rockefellers hired gunmen (using Gatling guns and rifles) to raid the tent colonies. The Colorado governor called out the National Guard (whose wages were paid by the Rockefellers), and raided the colonies. On 20 April 1914, the largest tent colony at Ludlow, housing over one thousand men, women and children, was machine gunned by the National Guard, with the strikers firing back. When the leader of the strike was called up to negotiate a truce, he was shot dead, and the machine gun fire continued, with the Guard moving in at nightfall to set fire to the tents. The following day it was discovered that one tent included the charred bodies of eleven children and two women. This became known as the Ludlow Massacre.[16]

The Rockefeller Foundation emerged in this era, and became immediately interested in the ‘construction of knowledge’ as a means to defending the interests of the Rockefeller Group and capitalist society as a whole. The Rockefeller Foundation secretary, Jerome Greene, identified “research and propaganda” as a means to quiet social and political unrest. It was felt that “public opinion on the labor question could be shaped through the foundation in order to counter leftist and populist attacks on both the Rockefeller business enterprises and on capitalism.”[17]

Following the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, a government commission – the Walsh Commission – was appointed to study the issue, and the Rockefeller Foundation began preparation for its own study.[18] As the Walsh Commission began their work, the Rockefeller Foundation sought to join forces with other major corporate leaders to advance their formation of ideology, and attended a conference “held between representatives of some of the largest financial interests” in the United States. This conference resulted in two approaches being pushed forward in terms of seeking to “educate the citizenry in procapitalistic ideology and thus relieve unrest.” One view was the interpretation that the public was provided with “poor quality of facts and interpretation available on social and economic issues.” Thus, they felt there was a need for a “publicity bureau” to provide a “constant stream of correct information” targeted at the lower and middle classes. However:

The Rockefeller representatives at the conference proposed an alternative strategy of public enlightenment. Although they accepted the usefulness of such a publicity organization, they also wanted a permanent research organization to manufacture knowledge on these subjects. While a publicity organization would “correct popular misinformation,” the research institution would study the “causes of social and economic evils,” using its reputation for disinterestedness and scientific detachment to “obtain public confidence and respect,” for its findings. And, of course, the research findings could be disseminated through the publicity bureau as well as other outlets.[19]

While the Rockefeller Foundation sought to manufacture ideology in response to the Ludlow Massacre and industrial relations in general, on the corporate side of the matter, the Rockefeller group employed the ideas of an emerging field of public relations, and specifically utilized the talent of Ivy Lee, one of the first PR men in America. Lee’s efforts were employed in “damage control” for the Rockefeller name, which was highly despised by the general public in the early 20th century. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. hired Ivy Lee on behalf of the Rockefellers to “secure publicity for their views.” What Lee did for the Rockefellers initially was to produce a series of circulars entitled, “Facts Concerning the Strike in Colorado for Industrial Freedom,” which were sent to “public officials, editors, ministers, teachers, and prominent professional and business men,” in an attempt “to cultivate middle-class allies.”[20]

Based around the concept that “truth happens to an idea” – a famous phrase of Ivy Lee’s – his bulletins were operating on the basis that “something asserted might become a fact, regardless of its connection to actual events.” As Lee explained to the Walsh Commission in 1915, in regards to his definition of ‘truth’: “By the truth, Mr. Chairman, I mean the truth about the operators’ case. What I was to do was to advise and get their case into proper shape for them.”[21] When asked the question, “What personal effort did you ever make to ascertain that the facts given to you by the operators [the Rockefeller group] were correct?,” Lee responded: “None whatever.” As Lee stated to a grouping of railroad executives in 1916:

It is not the facts alone that strike the popular mind, but the way in which they take place and in which they are published that kindle the imagination… Besides, What is a fact? The effort to state an absolute fact is simply an attempt to… give you my interpretation of the facts.[22]

With World War I, the term ‘propaganda’ became popularized and took on negative connotations. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson established the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI) as a “vast propaganda ministry.” The aim of the CPI was to build support in the public for the war, and such an effort was especially challenging in the face of significant anti-war sentiments and potential resistance. This potential was especially ripe in immigrant communities, cramped in urban ghettos and lost to the failed promises of “opportunity” that drew them to America in the first place. Before U.S. involvement in the war, “working-class and radical organizations, pacifists, anarchists and many socialists, maintained that this was nothing but a ‘rich man’s war’.”[23]

It was not only in America that working class sentiments were extremely anti-war, but in Britain and other major nations as well. To add to this situation, in 1917, Russia was in the midst of revolution, leading to the exacerbation of fears on the part of many leading intellectuals and social analysts that revolution was possible anywhere. Thus, many of these analysts and intellectuals had begun lobbying President Wilson “for the establishment of an ideological apparatus that would systematically promote the cause of war. One of these analysts was Arthur Bullard, a leading Progressive, who had been a student of Wilson when the president had been a history professor at Princeton.” Bullard advocated a strong wave of publicity for the government in promoting the war, to “electrify public opinion.” Bullard thus suggested the formation of a “publicity bureau” for the government, “which would constantly keep before the public the importance of supporting the men at the front. It would requisition space on the front page of every newspaper; it would call for a ‘draft’ of trained writers to feed ‘Army stories’ to the public; it would create a Corps of Press Agents,” and to organize a propaganda campaign aimed at making the struggle “comprehensible and popular.”[24]

Walter Lippmann, who was the most respected and influential political thinker of that era, wrote a private letter to President Wilson supporting Bullard’s recommendation, adding that the chief aim of such an agency should be to promote a vision and advertise the war as seeking “to make a world that is safe for democracy.” According to Lippmann, war necessitated the nurturing of “a healthy public opinion.” The President asked Lippmann to develop a plan for the specifics of such an agency, for which Lippmann developed a grand strategic vision, mobilizing communications specialists, and the motion picture industry. Thus, in April of 1917, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was formed, whose membership included the secretary of state, the secretary of war, and the secretary of the navy, as well as a civilian director, George Creel, a Progressive journalist. Creel, who had been central in the original generation of Progressive writers and publicists, had developed an extensive list of contacts and understood well “the importance of public opinion.” Thus, as Stuart Ewen wrote, “When war was declared, an impassioned generation of Progressive publicists fell into line, surrounding the war effort with a veil of much-needed liberal-democratic rhetoric.”[25]

As the concepts and ideas of “public opinion” and “mass democracy” emerged, the dominant political and social theorists of the era took to a debate on redefining democracy. Central to this discussion were the books and ideas of Walter Lippmann. With the concept of the “scientific management” of society by social scientists standing firm in the background, society’s problems were viewed as “technical problems” intended to be resolved through rational professionals and experts. Scientific Management, then, would be applied not merely to the Industrial factories to which the concept was introduced by Frederick Taylor, but to society as a whole. Lippmann took it upon himself to describe the role and means through which “Scientific Management” could be applied within an industrial democratic society. Lippmann felt that the notion of an “omnicompetent, sovereign citizen” was “a false ideal. It is unattainable. The pursuit of it is misleading. The failure to produce it has produced the current disenchantment.” Further, for Lippmann, society had gained “a complexity now so great as to be humanly unmanageable.” Thus, there was a need, wrote Lippmann, “for interposing some form of expertness between the private citizen and the vast environment in which he is entangled.” Just as with Frederick Taylor’s conception of “scientific management” of the factory, the application of this concept to society would require, in Lippmann’s words, “systematic intelligence and information control,” which would become “the normal accompaniment of action.” With such control, Lippmann asserted, “persuasion… become[s] a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government,” and the “manufacture of consent improve[s] enormously in technique, because it is now based on analysis rather than rule of thumb.”[26]

Thus, arose the panacea of propaganda: the solution to society’s ailments. “In a world of competing political doctrines,” wrote Lippmann, “the partisans of democratic government cannot depend solely upon appeal to reason or abstract liberalism.” Henceforth, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, a leading political scientist and communications theorist in the early 20th century, wrote that: “The modern conception of social management is profoundly affected by the propagandist outlook. Concerted action for public ends depends upon a certain concentration of motives… Propaganda is surely here to stay; the modern world is peculiarly dependent upon it for the co-ordination of atomized components in times of crisis and for the conduct of large scale ‘normal operations’.” In other words, propaganda is not merely a tool for times of war and crisis, but for times of peace and stability as well; that propaganda is the means and method through which to attain and maintain that stability. Lippmann added to the discussion that, “without some form of censorship, propaganda in the strict sense of the word is impossible. In order to conduct a propaganda there must be some barrier between the public and the event.”[27]

In 1922, Lippmann wrote his profoundly influential book, Public Opinion, in which he expressed his thoughts on the inability of citizens – or the public – to guide democracy or society for themselves. The “intellectuality of mankind,” Lippmann argued, was exaggerated and false. Instead, he defined the public as “an amalgam of stereotypes, prejudices and inferences, a creature of habits and associations, moved by impulses of fear and greed and imitation, exalted by tags and labels.”[28] Lippmann suggested that for the effective “manufacture of consent,” what was needed were “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories,” employing the social scientific techniques of “disinterested” information to be provided to journalists, governments, and businesses regarding the complex issues of modern society.[29] These essentially came to be known and widely employed as think tanks, the most famous of which is the Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921 and to which Lippmann later belonged as a member.

In 1925, Lippmann wrote another immensely important work entitled, The Phantom Public, in which he expanded upon his conceptions of the public and democracy. In his concept of democratic society, Lippmann wrote that, “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny,” and to prevent this from taking place, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”[30] Defining the public as a “bewildered herd,” Lippmann went on to conceive of ‘public opinion,’ not as “the voice of God, nor the voice of society, but the voice of the interested spectators of action.” Thus, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors.” This new conception of society, managed by actors and not the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” would be constructed so as to subject the managers of society, wrote Lippmann, “to the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.”[31] In case there was any confusion, the “bewildered herd” of “spectators” made up of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” is the public, is we, the people.

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud and former member of Woodrow Wilson’s wartime propaganda machine, the Committee on Public Information (CPI), was another ‘actor’ who played his part in redefining democracy in the age of public opinion. In his 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays explained how the ideas of individuals could be shaped into mass opinions through the use of propaganda and ‘public relations.’ Known commonly as the “Father of Public Relations,” Bernays, returning from the post-War Paris Conference in 1919, believed quite strongly in the idea that if propaganda could be used effectively in times of war, it can and should be used effectively in times of peace.

In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote an article for the American Journal of Sociology entitled, “Manipulating Public Opinion: The Why and the How.” Public opinion, explained Bernays, “is the thought of a society at a given time toward a given object; broadly conceived, it is the power of the group to sway the larger public in its attitude.” Bernays was also influenced not simply by his own experiences in the wartime Committee on Public Information, but also by his uncle, Sigmund Freud’s ideas which regarded people as irrational and driven by subconscious emotional desires. With such a conception of the psychology of individuals and groups, Bernays and others felt that people must have their beliefs and opinions shaped by others, others who presumably are the exceptions to the rule regarding the emotionally driven irrational mind. Reflecting this belief, Bernays wrote: “Public opinion can be manipulated, but in teaching the public how to ask for what it wants the manipulator is safeguarding the public against his own possible aggressiveness.”[32] Today – claimed Bernays – the swaying of public opinion “is one of the manifestations of democracy that anyone may try to convince others and to assume leadership on behalf of his own thesis.”[33]

Bernays’ attempt to present the manipulation of public opinion as a “manifestation of democracy” crudely neglects the reality of those who have access to the apparatus and mechanisms that sway public opinion, itself. If that apparatus, which it largely is, is confined to the upper class of society, is that not a bastardization of democratic ideals? Bernays further explained:

The manipulation of the public mind… serves a social purpose. This manipulation serves to gain acceptance for new ideas.[34]

Bernays described the nature of propaganda, explaining that one major experiment on the manipulation of public opinion concluded that “attitudes were often created by a circumstance or circumstances of dramatic moment.” Thus, Bernays explained, “very often the propagandist is called upon to create a circumstance that will eventuate in the desired reaction on the part of the public he is endeavoring to reach.”[35] In other words: problem, reaction, solution. Create a problem to incur a specific reaction for which you provide a desired solution. For the propagandist, “analysis of the problem and its causes is the first step toward shaping the public mind on any subject.”[36] Bernays wrote:

This is an age of mass production. In the mass production of materials a broad technique has been developed and applied to their distribution. In this age, too, there must be a technique for the mass distribution of ideas. Public opinion can be moved, directed, and formed by such a technique. But at the core of this great heterogeneous body of public opinion is a tenacious will to live, to progress, to move in the direction of ultimate social and individual benefit. He who seeks to manipulate public opinion must always heed it.[37]

Bernays later wrote on the development of the public relations industry, of which he was a central and pioneering actor. “Public relations,” wrote Bernays, was “a relatively new profession, and its practitioner, the professional counsel on public relations, serve a constructive function in our complex, free society.” He elaborated: “public relations came about because organized activity, which depends on public support, needed a societal technician to counsel it – the counsel on public relations.” This, Bernays felt, was vital to a “democratic society”:

New and faster means of communication and transportation furthered the growth of the profession. Social science research increased understanding of human behavior. The greater complexity of the society and the overlapping and interwoven network of communications that hold it together almost made the evolution of the new profession inevitable.[38]

As Bernays explained, “[i]n a democratic society almost every activity depends on public understanding and support,” and thus, he concluded, this can only be brought about “by public education, persuasion, and suggestion by effective public relations. This profession makes it possible for minority ideas to be more readily accepted by the majority.” He referred to this as “the marketplace of ideas,” but neglected to explain that, like other markets, this one, too, is rigged. His conception of “democratic society” is very much an elitist view of democratic society, articulated best by Walter Lippmann in seeking to “engineer the consent” of the public, which was viewed as irrational and incapable of true democracy. Reflecting on his 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays discussed the concept of the “manufacture of consent,” a term coined by Walter Lippmann but which Bernays was eager to present as his own. He stated: “I refined the approach and called it the engineering of consent”:

In the engineering of consent, determination of goals is subject to change after research about the relevant publics. Only after we know the state of public opinion through research can we be sure that our goals are realistic.[39]

In 1947, Bernays re-examined his support for propaganda in a democratic society, writing that:

Today it is impossible to overestimate the importance of engineering consent; it affects almost every aspect of our daily lives. When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.[40]

Naturally, it seems, “efficiency” is held in high regard as an objective of social planning and thus, an aim of society itself. As such, “effect” is often left by the wayside, as in: the effect of an “efficient” modern society is secondary to the actual efficiency of it. Thus, if the effect of a modern society is dehumanization, so long as that process is “efficient,” social planners may view it as desirable, present it as “functioning,” and see whatever means which bring it about as “valuable contributions.” But then, it must be conceded, the ‘desired effect’ for social planners is always social control. Regardless of the human or dehumanizing effects of such a system, if the result is “order and control,” and so long as this is achieved “efficiently,” the system functions well.

In 1928, Edward Bernays wrote a book entitled, Propaganda, which later became used by infamous propagandists such as Hitler’s propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels. On the first page of his book, Bernays wrote, and it is worth quoting at some length:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.[41]

These ideas, among many others, have had incredible influence on the philosophy, actions, intentions, and perceptions of not only American society, but the world at large. They spurred on the development of the consumer society, along with other projects of social engineering that have, through the course of the 20th century, been focused on the application of social control. It is fundamentally though the notion of “engineering consent” that we have come to the point where so few are able to control so much, leaving little to nothing for the vast majority of the world’s people. This elite intellectual discussion which took place in the early 20th century came to define democracy not only for America, but the world as a whole. Thus, we have a new understanding when it comes to our leaders expressing their desires and objectives of spreading democracy around the world. In short, they seek to “engineer consent” on a much larger, grander scale than ever before imagined. It is the globalization of social engineering which we are witnessing in the modern era, and its origins lay in the discernable past.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He is also the host of a podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People” in cooperation with BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), page 42

[2]            Ibid, pages 44-46.

[3]            Ibid, page 46.

[4]            Ibid, pages 49-50.

[5]            Ibid, pages 50-54.

[6]            Ibid, pages 58-59.

[7]            Ibid, pages 60-61.

[8]            Ibid, pages 62.

[9]            Ibid, pages 63-64.

[10]            Ibid, page 64.

[11]            Ibid, pages 64-66.

[12]            Ibid, pages 67-71.

[13]            Ibid, pages 71-73.

[14]            Ibid, pages 74-75.

[15]            Ibid, pages 76-78.

[16]            Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper Perennial: New York, 2003), pages 354-355.

[17]            Robert F. Arnove, ed., Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Indiana University Press: Boston, 1980), page 67.

[18]            Ibid, page 68.

[19]            Ibid, pages 69-70.

[20]            Stuart Ewen, PR! A Social History of Spin (New York: Basic Books, 1996), page 78.

[21]            Ibid, page 79.

[21]            Ibid, pages 80-81.

[22]            Ibid, pages 104-105.

[23]            Ibid, pages 104-105.

[24]            Ibid, pages 106-107.

[25]            Ibid, pages 108-109.

[26]            Frank Webster and Kevin Robins, “Plan and Control: Towards a Cultural History of the Information Society,” Theory and Society (Vol. 18, 1989), pages 341-342.

[27]            Ibid, pages 342-343.

[28]            Sidney Kaplan, “Social Engineers as Saviors: Effects of World War I on Some American Liberals,” Journal of the History of Ideas (Vol. 17, No. 3, June 1956), pages 366-367.

[29]            Sue Curry Jansen, “Phantom Conflict: Lippmann, Dewey, and the Fate of the Public in Modern Society,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies (Vol. 6, No. 3, 2009), page 225.

[30]            Walter Lippmann, et. al., The Essential Lippmann: A Political Philosophy for Liberal Democracy (Harvard University Press, 1982), page 91.

[31]            Ibid, page 92.

[32]            Edward Bernays, “Manipulating Public Opinion: The Why and the How,” American Journal of Sociology (Vol. 33, No. 6, May 1928), page 958.

[33]            Ibid, page 959.

[34]            Ibid.

[35]            Ibid, pages 961-962.

[36]            Ibid, page 969.

[37]            Ibid, page 971.

[38]            Edward Bernays, “Emergence of the Public Relations Counsel: Principles and Recollections,” The Business History Review (Vol. 45, No. 3, Autumn 1971), page 296.

[39]            Ibid, page 297.

[40]            Edward Bernays, “The Engineering of Consent,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (Vol. 250, Communication and Social Action, March 1947), page 115.

[41]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.