Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

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Recommended reading for anyone with low blood pressure that they want to skyrocket with a quick infusion of words. This was my first exposure to Chomsky and I’m not a fan of his short sentence writing style, but the ideas behind the words are worth it. This edition consists of two essays, one detailing the history of propaganda and one outlining what a journalist from Mars would think about our reporting of the war on terror.

First modern propaganda campaign in the U.S. was Wilson’s push to get an extremely pacifist nation to enter WWI, cue the Creel Commission which succeeded in six months in turning the public’s mind toward war. Buoyed by this, the public relations industry expands to attack (and create) the Red Scare and anti-labor sentiment by turning the public against the strikers by pushing the idea that the strikers are causing trouble and disrupting “Americanism.” This Mohawk Valley formula was applied all over the place and mobilized people in favor of “vapid, empty concepts like Americanism. Who can be against that? Or harmony? Or yellow ribbons? Who can be against that? Anything that’s totally vacuous.” The point of good propaganda is to create a slogan that nobody will be against.

The journalist from Mars essay was a lecture given at NYC’s Town Hall in January 2002 pointing out the hypocrisy of the U.S.’s attack on Afghanistan and drawing parallels to atrocities committed by the U.S. in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Painful to recognize that we’re a part of this unthinking propaganda machine that simply accepts the role of the U.S. as bully in the world.