American Propaganda Is The Best

Save Her From Hun-Buy Liberty Bonds. From a photograph posed for by Miss Francis Fairchild, a 1918 debutante of New York - NARA - 533723Rosa Brooks writes in the unabashedly establishment journal Foreign Policy that American propaganda is the best. Well the inventor of propaganda, Edward Bernays, was American, after all…

My fellow Americans, you’re a pretty weird bunch of people.

I say this with love. But really, what’s up with your attitude toward government?

On both the left and the right, Americans oscillate between a peculiar, irrational deference toward the government and an equally peculiar, irrational suspicion of it. On the left, a touching faith in the federal government’s ability to solve domestic social problems (poverty, ill health, etc.) by spending money is generally coupled with an absolute conviction that when it comes to foreign policy and national security, everything emanating from the federal government is a tissue of lies, probably for the purpose of covering up a sinister imperialist conspiracy and/or destroying domestic civil liberties. Meanwhile, on the right, a touching faith in the absolute rightness and virtue of the military and the absolute need to pour additional tax dollars into national security is usually coupled with an equally deep conviction that when it comes to federal spending on domestic programs, the government is a) lying, b) incompetent, and c) determined to subvert our freedoms.

Of course, right and left occasionally find common ground in their shared conviction that the federal government is trying to control and brainwash us all.

Trust me, it’s not. It’s just not organized enough. And it’s just not interested enough. It’s got other things to do.

Nevertheless, this week saw yet another manifestation of our national paranoia about The Government. Late in 2012, Congress passed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, and in January 2013, President Obama signed it into law. The act repealed a Cold War-era prohibition on disseminating government information produced for foreign audiences inside the United States. As of July 1, when the repeal took effect, radio and TV programs designed for non-U.S. audiences, such as those produced by Voice of America, can now be re-broadcast in the United States.

The sky is falling! Left and right are temporarily united over the horror of “government propaganda” hitting the U.S. airwaves…

[continues at Foreign Policy]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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45 Comments on "American Propaganda Is The Best"

  1. Charlie Primero | Jul 20, 2013 at 8:40 am |

    That article is blocked with a sign-in popup.

    If her assertion is that American Propaganda is the best in the world, I would agree. American media only employs a tiny percentage of the world’s population, about 0.5M people out of 7,000M people in the world, but has a huge mind-influence over the majority.

    • Superior propaganda coupled with a failing secondary and post-secondary education system.

  2. Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 9:31 am |

    “Of course, right and left occasionally find common ground in their
    shared conviction that the federal government is trying to control and
    brainwash us all.

    Trust me, it’s not. It’s just not organized enough. And it’s just not interested enough. It’s got other things to do.”

    …m’kay…So besides exercising power over people, people in power are interested in……??????

    • Anarchy Pony | Jul 20, 2013 at 11:22 am |

      There’s no conspiracy or over arching goals, things just happen, didn’t you know that? Incredibly suspicious things that give credence to the idea that there are over arching goals, but totally innocuous and random things nonetheless… (Is there a shifty eyed emoticon?) ,’: /

      • The real big difference is one group things the gov’t is absolutely incompetent, and the other group thinks they are absolutely evil.

        Can’t they be a little of both? I find it hard to believe they are neither though.

        • Anarchy Pony | Jul 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

          Well sure. But in general people like to paint things as being either one thing or another.

          • hmm i just had an interesting thought involving occam’s razor as i mentioned below… this might get bizarre but bear with me.

            Each perspective (incompetance or evil) could be seen as attractors, where occam’s razor is the forcing function of the perspective. But when they get too close, you get a strange attractor, such that what actually -is- is not a constant but fluxuates between the two steady states in a chaotic manner.

            Thus maybe it possible that truth in this case could have a state determined by a strange attractor, and not a normal steady state point as all good rational reductionists would so desire. (maybe that’s why I’ve personally always thought occam’s razor was silly and limited in certain spheres, because I’ve known of strange attractors for a while now).

            I think I found Chaos.

          • Anarchy Pony | Jul 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

            Excellent work, Dr. Malcolm!

      • VaudeVillain | Jul 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

        Overarching goals with a singular conspiracy to achieve them? No, definitely not.

        See, the government isn’t a machine, it’s people, and people are notorious for simultaneously working together and actively undermining everything that others do.

        There are most certainly groups -within- the government that plot and scheme and cooperate, and some of them manage to do some truly horrific things; most of them are also hellbent on destroying one another.

        It’s not that the government isn’t evil or competent enough to mount a monolithic conspiracy, the problem is that the government is totally schizophrenic. To analogize, if the government is a man holding a knife to your throat, whatever ends up happening you can rest assured that he isn’t legally competent to stand trial… not exactly comforting, but there it is.

        • Larry Rosterman | Jun 29, 2014 at 9:57 am |

          Government is pretty much a tool of the elite as religion is. Multi million dollar campaigns etc. People are herded by a massive information system. Herd to work at 9 am to lunch home at 5 pm they herd. They herd to school (forced schooling). They herd back. Memorial day, Christmas etc. People are animals have the same functions as all other animals. They tend not to go against not popular opinion. They tend not to go against the herd. They love joining herds too. The internet is so closed off and spammed front to back with government information. Then theirs the one way news on the media filled with payees that will say what they should. If your old enough you will remember ABC, CBS, NBC. When they were the only ones around. Same facts always in conflict. With little digression. Little debate. Virtually the same news. Its the same today with just more of it. It was one way information. The internet has gotten like that. Well trained people.

    • smooth_operator | Jul 20, 2013 at 11:41 am |

      Freedom and democracy!

    • kowalityjesus | Jul 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

      the real conspiracy is the supernatural battle between good and evil. Feds are just useful media, and America is a particularly high-value target.

      • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

        I think that paradigm might ultimately be true but its rife with pitfalls! A lot of baggage needs to be unpacked…

        • Is there an opposite of Occam’s Razor?

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 2:45 pm |

            I think power is evil. I just think the concept itself is evil. And I think Jesus of the New Testament never used it. But then its complicated by the fact that people have used organized religion to take power.

          • Words are power. Jesus used words. Power is part of nature. Even if power is only being exerted on small scales such as, the power of command with language or the power of your mind over your body, it exists. I don’t define power as evil, but as pure potential. As long as power exists, evil will manifest, but so will good.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 4:42 pm |

            That’s not what I’m talking about. I am referring to powers and principalities inherent in institutions that coerce people to do things they wouldn’t normally do. I am talking about for example how left wing theologians such as Jaques Elull and Walter wink have written about the phenomenon.



            I am not talking about my ability to lift objects nor a waterfalls ability to generate electricity. I am talking about the coercion of large numbers of people by tyrannical power structures.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

            For example propaganda is a use of power. The alternative would be informing people an issue and respecting their right to make their own decision on the matter.

          • i’m talking in that batshit fractal sense, your mind tells your cells to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. And a mind can instruct your hands to build a house, or inject heroin. Its all the same to me. Power isn’t the problem, it is how it is used.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

            OK. “YOU” are the animating principle of your body. The parts of your body you instruct to do things are basically objects. They are meant to serve you.

            A leader looking at himself as the animating principle of an organization and all the living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings below him in the hierarchy as objects meant to serve his ends-that is evil.

            Its not the same thing. Seeing other human beings as objects to manipulate is not neutral it is always bad.

          • Is human organization evil? if not, what example of human organization is there with zero power influence? If there is none, then there is a contradiction somewhere.

            I’d be willing to accept a stance that human organization is evil, but i would disagree with it.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

            You’ve never decided anything by consensus before? If you and a group of friends all agree to see a movie together is it only because one in the group dominated all others in a test of wills?

            But all kidding aside, Constitutional egalitarian democracy as practiced by the Iroquois Confederacy of the Six nations aka “The Great Law of Peace” Is the best type of social organization I have seen. It heavily influenced the American Constitution. It guaranteed things such as, balance of power, checks on corruption, equal rights for women and a voice for all.

            History is bearing out its superiority as the oldest living constitution in the World.


          • Ahh deciding by consensus. Yes, it is a good thing. But what of the 1-49% of people who go against the consensus. How do you get them in line?

            You’ve given me a great example of bottom-up designated authority. At this point I think I’ve just been arguing semantics, but I would say that legitimate authority (what we all really crave, and what you used as an example) is still exercising power. I don’t think power is defined by illegitimate authority. (I also suspect you’re an assassin’s creed fan)

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm |

            Well, its not really. Indian Chiefs don’t have the kind of power people like Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, Monsanto executives exercise. We have massive structures of Centralized command and control. “The Great Law of Peace” allows for local diversity and self determination. It was too sophisticated for the European settlers and still too sophisticated for people to get their heads around today unfortunately. Yet, I think people want it in their hearts. A language barrier may have something to do with it.

            I don’t see it as the same thing at all. First of all it was a Gift economy, not a model of economic exploitation. Its basically a more egalitarian, more true from of representative democracy. What we have now is basically a population shut out of a political process that achieves everything through money, power, violence and propaganda.

          • “… don’t have the kind of power … ”

            Exactly my point. its still power, and I would argue that it is not the evil kind. Its held in check by things like accountability and faith in something that even could be called “The Great Law of Peace” with a straight face.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 20, 2013 at 7:46 pm |

            Its not power as I define it unless the chief causes the people to do things against their will. They really are the servants of the people using their wisdom to guide and ultimately carry out the will of the people.

            Western Civilization is about forcing people to make chess moves they don’t want to make. That’s basically what monopolistic Capitalism is about: Forcing people to do business with you even if they don’t want to. Think of Monsanto “Buy our soy bean seeds. You have no choice”

            That’s the kind of “leadership” diametrically opposed in the Great Law.

            “WAMPUM #19


            If at any time it shall be apparent that a chief of the League has
            not in mind the welfare of the people or disobeys the rules of the Great
            Law, the men or women of the League, or both jointly,
            shall come to the Council and scold the erring chief through his War
            Chief. If the complaint of the people through the War Chief is not
            heeded on the first occasion, it shall be uttered again and
            then if no attention is given, a third complaint and a warning shall be
            given. If the chief is still disobedient, the matter shall go to the
            Council of War Chiefs. The War Chiefs shall then take away
            the title of the erring chief by order of the women in whom the title
            is. vested. When the chief is deposed, the women shall notify the chiefs
            of the League through their War Chief and the Chiefs of
            the League shall sanction the act. The women will then select another of
            their sons as a candidate and the chiefs shall elect him. Then the
            chosen one shall be installed by the Installation

            When a chief is deposed, his War Chief shall address him as follows:

            “So you, …, disregard and set at naught the warnings of
            your women relatives. You fling the warnings over your shoulder to cast
            them behind. Behold the brightness of the Sun, and in
            the brightness of the Sun’s light, I depose you of your tide and remove
            the emblem of your chieftainship title. I remove from your brow the
            deer’s antlers which was the emblem of your position and
            token of your nobility. I now depose you and return the antlers to the
            women whose heritage they are.”

            The War Chief shall now address the women of the deposed Chief and say:

            “Mothers as I have deposed your chief, I now return to
            you the emblem and the title of chieftainship; therefore, repossess

            Again addressing the deposed chief, he shall say:

            “As I have deposed and discharged you, so you are no
            longer chief. The rest of the people of the League shall not go with
            you, for we know not the kind of mind you possess. As the
            Creator has nothing to do with wrong, so he will not come to rescue you
            from the precipice of destruction in which you have cast yourself. You
            shall never be restored to the position you once

            Then shall the War Chief address himself to the Chiefs of the nation to which the deposed chief belongs and say:

            “Know you, my chiefs, that I have taken the deer’s
            antlers from the brow of …, the emblem of his position and token of
            his greatness:”

            The chiefs of the League shall have no other alternative than to sanction the discharge of the offending chief.”

          • Sounds like a more efficient and poetic version of impeachment. They really did just copy, translate, and paste it all over and call it “The Constitution” didn’t they. Too bad we f’d it all up.

            I’m definitely sure our only disagreement is over the definition of power now; just semantics. I would call having a voice that is listened to by many completely voluntary people to be a kind of power, and one that is not coercive(which I would agree is a great defining factor of evil). If you don’t think that can be called power, then it doesn’t matter, they are just words. We pretty much see eye to eye otherwise.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 21, 2013 at 4:43 am |

            Ok, well that’s cool then. Yeah, the US Constitution is like a Rip off of this. They even had equal rights for women a thousand years before the Europeans got here. Women were like the electors. They elect the Chiefs.

            This famous Indian Joseph Brant, became a captain with the British Army and many Mohawks think he got too big for his britches. He started speaking for the whole tribe and after the British lost the revolutionary war he gave away all their territory in NY. So anyway the Mohawks don’t think that counts, because it violates their constitution. He wasn’t a Chief anyway. But the Whites treated him as a Chief because he was Harvard educated or something like that.

            So in 1974 some Mohawk warriors went down with guns and shit and took over abandoned Girl Scout Camp. Its about ten miles from where I live here. They said they were annexing it.

            So Mario Cuomo, then secretary of state, negotiated 600 acres way up North near Altona for them as a trust. So they never have to pay taxes on it. So they created this sustainable community. So these Mohawks bought another 1500 acres over the years and added to the land and didn’t pay taxes on that either. So then the town decided to auction it off for unpaid taxes. That was last year. All these dumb asses that bought the land are never going to get it. These Mohawks don’t fuck around. So this constitution is still in effect. Its the Oldest Living Constitution in the World.

          • kowalityjesus | Jul 20, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

            man have you ever heard about the ‘medeival’ Chinese empire? It was an empire based on tributes to vassals. It is completely counterintuitive to the capitalistic mind. Apparently they tried to prove that they were so great that they could afford to give elaborate gifts to acquaintances. Any analysis in a “Western” mindset will fall short.

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 21, 2013 at 9:54 am |

            which dynasty? chinese history, like egyptian, is dynastic. there is no ‘medieval’ era.

          • kowalityjesus | Jul 25, 2013 at 7:42 am |

            Yeah, that’s why I put it in single-quotes, its an entirely occidental turn of phrase. I mean the dynasty that took place somewhere about the 1300s or 1400s. I don’t have my books so I couldn’t give anything less nebulous. Its from Daniel Boorstin’s “The Discoverers,” which tells of an Emperor that started out sending search parties of massive armadas to find his missing son, and they ended up turning into diplomatic missions distributing fine, opulent gifts, I believe. Quite a remarkable story.

          • Calypso_1 | Jul 21, 2013 at 12:28 am |

            “… is it only because one in the group dominated all others in a test of wills?”

            Is one of the friends a sociopath? ; )

          • kowalityjesus | Jul 20, 2013 at 6:56 pm |

            what happens when you use words to exert influence over people to shun power?

          • Self reference and paradoxical contradictions, such as the culture known as the counter-culture.

          • kowalityjesus | Jul 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm |

            I guess at one point every philosophy was a counterculture.

          • Jesus would have been recognized as “evil” to the Romans and the Jews. Hence the reason the Pharisees made certain he was crucified, in loo of Barabas being released.

            It’s no miracle that people have used organized religion to take power, it’s a man made concept as well as Gods and Goddesses.

          • Ted Heistman | Jul 21, 2013 at 5:36 am |

            Well he was “evil” like Gandhi or Che Guevara, getting the slaves all stirred up. He wasn’t considered evil to all the Jews just the ones in bed with the Romans.

          • The Well Dressed Man | Jul 20, 2013 at 4:59 pm |

            Glenn Beck’s Chalkboard?

          • Anarchy Pony | Jul 20, 2013 at 5:04 pm |


        • kowalityjesus | Jul 20, 2013 at 6:57 pm |

          fucken amen

    • Lookinfor Buford | Jul 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm |

      Entrenching their power indefinitely.

  3. Has anyone seen video of termites building a nest? Lots of seemingly random behavior that doesn’t look like much when you focus on one individual termite but eventually an organized structure starts to form. I think government overreach is kind of like that, even if nobody wants to form some big-brother superstate it is always in everyone’s individual best interest to expand their control a little bit or to advocate for more power for their agency and then eventually we get these complicated bureaucracies that can make stuff like PRISM happen.

    Actually the fact that the government is so disorganized seems like it makes it MORE likely for this kind of thing to happen. A lot of self-interested disorganized people describes this kind of situation perfectly. The only way I could really see to guard against it is if everyone in government was on guard against this happening and committed together to remembering that even though say, more expansive powers for the NSA, is good for the NSA that doesn’t mean it is the right thing for our government as a whole with a mind to keeping citizens free.

    (I’m going to try to extend the original metaphor here so go ahead and ignore this last part if I miss the mark.) Of course, it would seem crazy for an ant to say “I don’t want a termite hive to pop up so we should be on guard against these termites randomly pushing pebbles around” There would undoubtedly be some other ants around to say “You silly reactionist fool! to think that a couple of termites pushing pebbles around could lead to something as nefarious as a hive! why, they are all so narrow minded and self-interested that they cannot see anything past their own noses, they are not even smart enough to conceive of the idea of a hive, there is nothing to fear from them.”

  4. denverover | Jul 21, 2013 at 9:17 am |

    I noticed that, subverting/perverting/stealing/destroying, our,
    civil liberties/freedoms/constitutional rights and/or protections, are a part of both scenarios, could it be that the PTB are doing exactly that, while directing some to one side of the fence and some to the other, leaving a few on the fence, just for equilibrium. Nah, they wouldn’t do that, would they?

  5. gustave courbet | Jul 21, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    To the author of this article, two words: Operation Mockingbird.

  6. Larry Rosterman | Jun 29, 2014 at 9:41 am |

    It’s funny I am writing on Discus. Which is probably the number one for comments. The government uses spambots on this thing. That’s my opinion anyway. Can’t be proven. However the internet defiantly looks like a closed loop. In my opinion they started really clamping down after the Iraq invasion. When the fact got out they had discovered the second largest oil fields in the world in Iraq. That came from another country. 9/11 has been washed out and not forgotten. Iraq seems to be justice for the victims of 9/11 and an invasion of a people that were doing nothing.

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