Analysis of the
Media's Use of Techniques in Public Persuasion

A Media Awareness Project


For Goodness' Sake

Posted by Alicia, Roar Correspondent on October 7, 2011 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (24)

Good day. Welcome to the inaugural dose of musings penned by Roar’s resident New Yorker. I am honored to have been invited to add my perspective to this project; thank you for reading. Initially, I had planned on discussing my experience commemorating 9/11, especially as a New Yorker who was in the city that day. The gist of the piece was going to focus on how I had avoided most press coverage to allow for a more personal reflection; how, at odds with what the fear mongering talking heads often suggest, 9/11 actually illuminates the essential goodness, not depravity, of most people. After all, the events that day were so shocking because they were, in fact, shocking. However, the Occupy Wall Street protests, both those held in New York City and the offshoots held elsewhere, and the coverage of them demand more immediate attention for a whole host of reasons, not least of which includes how little immediate attention was metered out to them by the mainstream media. At first. Additionally, much of the coverage of both political events shares a certain deficiency: an attempt to create more easily marketable narratives populated by two-dimensional heroes and villains.


In fact, perhaps the latter helps to partially explain the belittling tone of much of the first media coverage. It is not news that many have been hit very, very hard by this demented economy. Nor is it news that people are scared and furious. Yet there was a downright eerie dismissiveness and assumption of novelty with which the majority of corporate media approached the Occupy Wall Street protests up until just the past few days. That is, the scant press coverage that existed prior to the availability of images of the police using pepper spray on protestors or arresting hundreds of protestors last weekend at the Brooklyn Bridge. Not surprisingly, apparently Law and Order! was considered far more tantalizing than Peaceful Free Speech! Furthermore, the protesters were frequently caricaturized as poorly informed young people who lacked consensus on any goal beyond their desire to document themselves. Leveling criticism at the fairly universal hyper-self-consciousness of us all in this era of instant digital documentation was considered acceptable journalism.


This deserves a wagging finger, if not several. While it is true that their demands vary and the particulars of their goals remain somewhat nebulous, the sincerity of the protestors’ frustration links them not only to each other, but to the rest of the populace. Americans are a diverse, not always cogent bunch. Rabblerousing has always played a role in the development of our democracy. The variegated nature of the complaints cements, not attenuates, the significance of the Occupy Wall Street protests.


Additionally, as institutions unto themselves, major newspapers have a vested interest in advertising their superiority to the print and online information disseminated by such an amorphous group. Let me say this as a disclaimer: I wholeheartedly believe in the necessity of a professional class of journalists. However, certainly the do-it-yourself spirit of modern communications has created a distinctly different intellectual choreography of undeniable import. The protestors’ paper and web videos have their place not despite, but because they exist outside of the status quo and its rigidity. Perhaps it was easier to attempt to lame the Occupy Wall Street enthusiasm rather than to match its spontaneous footwork.


Lastly, despite the group’s diversity, the news media, nonetheless, tried to fit it with a ready-made nomenclature of Good or Bad, Respectable or Laughable. We are all accustomed to a superhero vernacular. Frankly, the 99% versus 1% encapsulated in their “I am the 99%” mantra also plays on the Us versus Them mentality at-large, even though on the surface it specifically refers to the oft-touted statistic regarding who holds the most power in this country. However, vast socioeconomic inequity still exists within that 99% in regards to everything from quality of education to job opportunities to access to health care and so one; the whole gamut.


Maybe what the 99% really represents is a group of people who share a desire for social mobility and a guaranteed decent standard of living, reasonable expectations in market-based economic systems, when they are not left unchecked and a social safety net is in place. (The latter, by the way, is why the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is so relevant to economic recovery.) Nowadays, many people can barely scrape by, and even those who are doing okay financially still have a family member, friend, or neighbor, or several, who is or are not. The real unemployment rate, if one factors in the percentage of people who are underemployed or who have simply given up on finding employment, hovers somewhere around the 20% range. Regardless of political bent, most reasonable people find this utterly unacceptable and want to know what or who to blame. Political dysfunction is a fair answer. After all, a functional government is one that serves to effectively mediate the prickly rivalry between political realism and ethics in such a way so that the former does not just swallow the latter whole like a snake eating a robin’s egg. When so many people are genuinely suffering, something has gone terribly awry. In our midst, there are some snakes with very full bellies.


A vital, free press maintains its stewardship role in part by holding the government accountable to this mediation role. That is why the dismissive tone of the initial major media coverage was disheartening. It lessened the perceived legitimacy of the protestors’ ails and their participation in the democratic process.


However, now that major unions have joined the ranks of the protestors, the tone has shifted immensely. The protests have been discussed with seriousness in a number of traditional sources that now consider the generality of the Occupy Wall Street message a point of strength, not an embarrassment. Political strategists are contemplating how to best finagle the Occupy Wall Street energy into 2012 election wins. Even though the Occupy Wall Street protestors have openly stated they do not wish for their decentralized structure to morph into the top-down power structure of the traditional unions, certainly the solidarity between the groups has increased their visibility and influence. After all, suddenly, an advantage to be had has been sensed, and everyone wants to know just how to tap into that advantage. Peacefully camping out indefinitely in a park can no longer be written off as foolish.


Which brings me to what may be the greatest significance of both the Occupy Wall Street protests as distinct events unto themselves and what they symbolize for the country, as a whole: the protestors have, in fact, remained peaceful. Despite the horrifically high rates of unemployment, of health insurance coverage lapses, of foreclosure, of sheer bewilderment, these citizens are not rioting. They are holding signs. They are sleeping in a park. They blocked a bridge, but did not cause, nor attempt to cause, damage to it.


If only, for goodness’ sake, the mainstream media would also focus on this.


The this being the bedrock of democracy: goodness, itself, and the essential goodness of most people.

The meaning behind NBC's edit of the Pledge of Allegiance

Posted by Roar of the Bewildered Herd on June 25, 2011 at 4:34 PM Comments comments (0)

The year is 1930. Students stand at their desks facing the American flag holding up their right arm straight forward with a slight incline towards the ceiling and they recite, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The hand over the heart did not replace the Bellamy salute until Italian fascists and Nazi’s started using the same salute as Americans. It was changed when Americans were being associated with Nazi’s. The words ‘under God’ were not in the pledge of allegiance until 1953. The people spoke out against the use of the Bellamy salute and the people demanded that ‘under God’ be added to our nation’s pledge of allegiance. Who was behind this change depends on who tells the story, but one thing was certain. The people exercised their right to be heard and to make a change.


Fifty-seven years later, Sunday, June 19th 2011, the US Open begins with a short video of school children reciting the pledge of allegiance being intercut with the military raising the American flag. However, this time - while their hands were over their hearts, they recited the words, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation with liberty and justice for all.” The words ‘under God’ and ‘indivisible’ were edited out, not once but twice, indicating it was intentionally edited out. Immediately, people took to their mobile devices, jumped on Twitter and tweeted their outrage. Within minutes, millions of people were talking about NBC’s intentional edit of the words ‘under God’ during the pledge of allegiance. They did not mention the word ‘indivisible’, just the words ‘under God’. Before the end of the broadcast, NBC announced that it had made a mistake and that they did not mean to offend anyone. However, the damage had already been done and the media made it an issue of politics. FOX made it an issue of the left leaning media’s agenda trying to remove God from our hearts and CNN made it an issue of just making a giant mistake about political correctness going too far.


Something that was not mentioned was why NBC tried to capitalize on a patriotic association with a golf tournament. What does watching a game of golf have to do with patriotism? Could this be an example of persuasion, making people feel that if they don’t watch golf, they’re not patriotic? It makes me think about the way supporting our troops is used to associate one with supporting the administration’s policies, which has nothing to do with supporting our troops. The one amazing thing that has come from all this is the importance of the people to speak out for what they believe and the importance of our mobile devices as tools to connect with others and exercise their democratic rights to make change. It’s clear how important it is to exercise your right and use the tools we have at our disposal to make change. It’s unfortunate that when you go to the Internet and watch the Fox broadcast about this fiasco, you have to watch a commercial about the AT&T and T-Mobile merger first. It’s ironic that the merger, which will most likely take away your ability to exercise your right as quickly and swiftly as it did on Sunday, is being advertised before the story of the NBC edit is even mentioned. Why is this story about connecting patriotism and golf not recognized as something inappropriate and manipulative? Why is a commercial for the AT&T and T-Mobile merger not being recognized and spoken about as WRONG? It seems everything is falling in line with Alex Carey’s idea that Corporate Propaganda is used by Corporate Power to protect itself from Democracy. If Net Neutrality is abolished, then Corporate Power will get its way. The corporate giant will control what is important information and what is not. It is Corporate Power that will allow the speed of information to be transferred from mobile device to mobile device. Do you think that the ‘under God’ NBC edit would have gone unnoticed? Roar of the Bewildered Herd thinks it would have. That is why we must ask these questions and stay the course of protecting our most important democratic tool of all time - the wireless Internet.

Choice of Words

Posted by Roar of the Bewildered Herd on March 9, 2011 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (5)

Why use the phrase 'government takeover'?


If you ask Frank Luntz, a political analyst, it's quite simple. Luntz's specialty is “testing language and finding words that will help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate.” So what emotions are evoked when you say 'government takeover'? First, is it positive or negative and why so? Today, choice of words is more important than one might think, because by deciphering the word choice, the true meaning of what is being said can be found. If someone says 'government takeover', how does right and wrong get associated with whatever the agenda might be?


Let's take health reform for example. Big business simply does not want it; however, it seems that every living citizen does. What are the real facts of health reform? Not many people truly know. Just use the phrase 'government takeover' combined with the phrase 'health reform' and now it becomes an issue of patriotism and not necessarily socialism. The agenda is no longer about the facts of health reform; it’s about a feeling of not being patriotic if you choose to support it.


Take another example with the phrase, ‘support our troops.’ Does it mean to support the soldiers battling overseas or does it mean to support the administration’s decision to go to war, without any clear just reason? Again, it has to do with choice of words. The true message of what is being said and the true agenda is being laid out for you, however, it’s hidden in the word choice of the speaker. This goes for both democrats and the republicans, the advertisers selling coke cola, the news pushing the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the preacher pushing the word of a certain god.


So what is really meant when the word ‘government takeover’ is associated with net neutrality? Is a fear being applied to the reform of the internet? Are you a socialist for voting for reform of the internet? Who is pushing this agenda and for what purpose? Who gains from this mind-set being introduced? Does big business speak for the people? If so, does big business have the people’s best interest in mind?

Labor Unions

Posted by Roar of the Bewildered Herd on February 16, 2011 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (2)

When you hear the word STRIKE, what comes to mind? Is it a picture of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters? Is it a group of Coal Miners with signs, picketing in front of their company? Perhaps you might picture the 1994-1995 Major League Baseball strike? Whatever the image is, more frequently than not, a negative connotation comes with the word STRIKE. Even the word UNION tends to be viewed wearily among much of the public, particularly through mainstream media. Why do you suppose that is? Why was the ‘union’ to blame for almost destroying America’s car manufacturers just a few years ago? Since the turn of the century, the business community has vilified workers’ unions? Except, isn’t a labor union supposed to be an example of a true Democracy? Then why would the business community aim to destroy the image of unions?


How many films have depicted the union as a positive force that represents the people in a positive way? Films like On the Waterfront, Salt of the Earth, Blue Collar, Silkwood, Hoffa, and October Sky depict the union as an evil entity out to take advantage of the everyday worker. Even the recent documentary, Waiting for Superman, about the ills of the public school system, places blame on the teachers’ unions preventing the privatization of the public school system in the United States. However, in reality it seems that it is the companies themselves that are out to take advantage of the worker and the only important goal is to increase profits. What company have you heard of that puts people before profits? What Board of Director is more concerned with the workers than with the fiscal quarterly earnings? If you can think of more than a handful in our corporate driven economy, please let us know. In the meantime, let us explore the scientific method used by the business community to demonize that which threatens their control over the population of workers.


Alex Carey discusses this precise idea in his book, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy. He refers to NAM, National Association of Manufacturers, as using a formula in 1934 called the Mohawk Valley formula, which was created by James Rand of the Remington Rand Corporation. It was written in pamphlet form and it described how a company can use certain techniques to break any strike, threat of a strike or union disturbance. According to the Labor Relations Bulletin of the National Association of Manufacturers, and later outlined by Benjamin Stolberg in the Nation on August 14, 1937, elements of the techniques mentioned are:


1. When a strike is threatened, label the union leaders as "agitators" to discredit them with the public and their own followers. Conduct balloting under the foremen to ascertain the strength of the union and to make possible misrepresentation of the strikers as a small minority. Exert economic pressure through threats to move the plant, align bankers, real estate owners and businessmen into a ‘Citizens' Committee’.


2. Raise high the banner of "law and order", thereby causing the community to mass legal and police weapons against imagined violence and to forget that employees have equal rights with others in the community.


3. Call a "mass meeting" to coordinate public sentiment against the strike and strengthen the Citizens' Committee.


4. Form a large police force to intimidate the strikers and exert a psychological effect. Utilize local police, state police, vigilantes and special deputies chosen, if possible, from other neighborhoods.


5. Convince the strikers their cause is hopeless with a "back-to-work" movement by a puppet association of so-called "loyal employees" secretly organized by the employer.


6. When enough applications are on hand, set a date for opening the plant by having such

opening requested by the puppet "back-to-work" association.


7. Stage the "opening" theatrically by throwing open the gates and having the employees march in a mass protected by squads of armed police so as to dramatize and exaggerate the opening and heighten the demoralizing effect.


8. Demoralize the strikers with a continuing show of force. If necessary, turn the locality into a warlike camp and barricade it from the outside world.


9. Close the publicity barrage on the theme that the plant is in full operation and the strikers are merely a minority attempting to interfere with the right to work. With this, the campaign is over — the employer has broken the strike.


The remarks seem similar to the techniques used by a government to stop a coup d'état or a local sheriff to shut down a civil rights movement or break up a G8 summit demonstration. Can we see any of these techniques used today? How similar is the Mohawk Valley formula to the seven basic propaganda devices created by the Institute of Propaganda Analysis (IPA) in 1937?


If a correlation of technique to persuade is found between the Creel Commission in 1917, The Mohawk Valley Formula in 1934, The Institute of Propaganda Analysis in 1937 and the creation of Mass Communication Studies in the 1940’s, then perhaps a better understanding of Democracy, Corporate Power and Corporate Propaganda with its seamless interconnectivity to persuasion can be exposed and perhaps be more transparent.

What is the Internet's Role in a Democracy?

Posted by Roar of the Bewildered Herd on January 30, 2011 at 7:02 PM Comments comments (76)

According to Alex Carey, the Australian social psychologist who "pioneered the study of corporate propaganda", the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of Democracy, the growth of Corporate Power, and the growth of Corporate Propaganda as a means of protecting Corporate Power against Democracy.


Assuming that the advent of newspaper, radio and television were for the sole purpose of pushing the corporate agenda forward, and the consolidation of the media was necessary to assure the corporate agenda, would the deregulation of the Internet, as we have seen it with radio and cable in 1996, be necessary to continue with this agenda? If so, how does this affect Democracy? Is the Internet as important to Democracy as we are stating it is?


These are just a few questions that we will answer in our effort to investigate the effects of Corporate Propaganda on our global society. Our goal is to foster a healthy debate on how media is assimilated and encourage communities to support a neutral broadband network that continues to allow access to muliple media outlets.  We will be discussing several topics weekly that incorporate the different mediums of propaganda and how they are used to persuade the public, or more appropriately stated by the late Walter Lippmann, "the bewildered herd."  Visit our Resources link to learn more about the history, studies, and theories behind propaganda.