Tag Archives: propaganda

Coca Cola vs. the Grand Canyon

Thank you Marion Nestle.   I saw this yesterday but was too disgusted to write it up. Dr. Nestle is on point here:

I’m always saying that food company donations and partnerships to health and environmental Good Causes end up doing more for the companies than the recipients. Money always talks. Accepting corporate donations comes with strings that create conflicts of interest.

The latest evidence for these assertions comes from the Grand Canyon’s efforts to get plastic water and soda bottles out of the park. These account for a whopping 30% of its waste.

According to the account in today’s New York Times, Coca-Cola, one of the park’s big donors, convinced the National Park Service to block the bottle ban.

Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his superiors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled.

via Food Politics » Coca-Cola v. Grand Canyon: donations come with short strings.

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Filed under capitalism, nature, propaganda

Making terrorist (headlines)

Fascinating series of articles about FBI informants in Mother Jones.  One of my favorite quotes so far:

Here’s how it works: Informants report to their handlers on people who have, say, made statements sympathizing with terrorists. Those names are then cross-referenced with existing intelligence data, such as immigration and criminal records. FBI agents may then assign an undercover operative to approach the target by posing as a radical. Sometimes the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there’s an arrest—and a press conference announcing another foiled plot.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because such sting operations are a fixture in the headlines. Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.

via The Informants | Mother Jones.

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When mockery becomes fuel: Bachmann

Presidential politics might be America’s greatest spectacle.   Matt Taibbi writes a nice rant on Michelle Bachmann in the new Rolling Stone.  The piece is an enjoyable introduction into the legacy of irrationality presented by the now-presidential candidate.  I’m interested in a paragraph on page two, where Taibbi talks about how mockery and disagreement are used as a fuel to turbo-charge her desire to win.

Snickering readers in New York or Los Angeles might be tempted by all of this to conclude that Bachmann is uniquely crazy. But in fact, such tales by Bachmann work precisely because there are a great many people in America just like Bachmann, people who believe that God tells them what condiments to put on their hamburgers, who can’t tell the difference between Soviet Communism and a Stafford loan, but can certainly tell the difference between being mocked and being taken seriously. When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people don’t learn that she is wrong. What they learn is that you’re a dick, that they hate you more than ever, and that they’re even more determined now to support anyone who promises not to laugh at their own visions and fantasies.

via Michele Bachmann’s Holy War | Rolling Stone Politics.

It is a good insight.  The question is how to politically challenge these kinds of thinkers without giving them more ammunition?

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Filed under communication, learning, propaganda

Propaganda: facebook vs. google

Propaganda impedes the ability of the viewer/listener to distinguish who is making the message.  Facebook hired a P.R. firm (Burson-Marsteller) to plant semi-bogus stories about privacy concerns in the media.  Here is the Guardian on this trickery:

Suspicions in Silicon Valley were aroused earlier this week when two high-profile media figures – former CNBC tech reporter Jim Goldman, and John Mercurio, a former political reporter – began pitching anti-Google stories on behalf of their new employer, Burson-Marsteller. The pair consistently refused to disclose the identity of their client.

Goldman and Mercurio approached USA Today and other outlets offering to ghost write op-ed columns and other stories that raised privacy concerns about Google Social Circle, a social network feature based on Gmail.

In their pitch to journalists, the pair claimed Social Circle was “designed to scrape private data and build deeply personal dossiers on millions of users – in a direct and flagrant violation of [Google’s] agreement with the FTC [Federal Trade Commission]”.

Facebook’s cover was blown when Burson-Marsteller offered to help write an op-ed for Chris Soghoian, a prominent internet security blogger. Soghoian challenged the company’s assertion that Social Circle was a privacy threat and accused them of “making a mountain out of a molehill”.

Soghoian was stonewalled by Burson-Marsteller when he asked them who their client was. He later published an email exchange between himself and Mercurio.

Cordasco said on Thursday: “Now that Facebook has come forward, we can confirm that we undertook an assignment for that client.

via Facebook paid PR firm to smear Google | Technology | guardian.co.uk.

Offering to ‘ghost-write’ stories is fairly common in P.R. circles.  A casualty of the 24-hour news cycle, many reporters and editors are on constant copy hunts.  The lengthy time given to reporters to fact check has mostly disappeared instead replaced with quick internet searches.  Corporations (and their public relations mouthpieces) can offer to write the whole article in journalistic prose and then offer the article to a well-known pundit (or a beat reporter).

For those reporters on the grind — it is like a sudden snow-day off from school —  you are freed from the responsibilities of actually reporting.  But of course for those of us who still wish that mass media was actually reflecting accurately what someone SAW this is a tragic development.

But of course, the tendrils of internet companies (and google in particular, the medium by which many 0f us do our own ‘fact-checking’) quietly re-adjusting written history is a terrifying possibility.

Internet barriers presented by nations (China for instance) quickly become comfortable to the citizens. Evan Osnos wrote a fascinating essay describing his conversations and observations on a Chinese tour of Europe.  When he asks one of his fellow tourists if they used Facebook, he comes up with this reflection.

I asked Promise if he used Facebook, which is officially blocked in China but reachable with some tinkering. “It’s too much of a hassle to get to it,” he said. Instead, he uses Renren, a Chinese version, which, like other domestic sites, censors any sensitive political discussion. I asked what he knew about Facebook’s being blocked. “It has something to do with politics,” he said, and paused. “But the truth is I don’t really know.” I recognized that kind of remove among other urbane Chinese students. They have unprecedented access to technology and information, but the barriers erected by the state are just large enough to keep many people from bothering to outwit them. The information that filtered through was erratic: Promise could talk to me at length about the latest Sophie Marceau film or the merits of various Swiss race-car drivers, but the news of Facebook’s role in the Arab uprisings had not reached him.

via Chinese Citizens on Tour in Europe : The New Yorker.

It isn’t so much that any citizen of any nation censors themselves to protect the nation, but we swim in so much state-oriented media that it would be impossible to know what we don’t know.  Those elements that are forbidden to us, must be inaccessible for a good reason.

In this context, we should probably argue that corporate media filtration is more dangerous than national media filters.  As Osnos points out, people can circumvent national information barriers, but it is trickier to outwit google or facebook.

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Filed under human rights, media, propaganda