Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20: How to recognize propaganda in the news.

It's on B7 of the Moncton Times and Transcript. It's a big story. "Crisis-hit Europeans say Greece must knuckle  down with austerity like they did". For a start, the crisis-hit Europeans he refers to are a children's TV programmer, a salesman, a used-car salesman,  a retired school-teacher. and a middle-aged office worker standing in a line somewhere. That's five people.

The editor who wrote that headline might want to check google - 'Europe population' - it says there are more than five Europeans.

In fairness, the article does offer one person who disagrees with that analysis. He says that austerity will just send money out of Greece, and make the situation worse. But he's an economic commentator. So what does he know?

The background is  this. The Greek economy is dead in the water. The national debt is extremely high. Employment and under-employment are epidemic. Low, low wages, where they exist at all, are the rule. Greece, it is true, was spending beyond its means. So - this means the Greeks were spending beyond their means?

I have no doubt that professor Saillant and his kin would say so. Just as they blame New Brunswick's debt on the poor for living beyond their means. The reality is that it wasn't the Greeks who were living beyond their means. It was a corrupt government, giving welfare to banks and other billionaires to help them live beyond the means of everybody else. Just like New Brunswick.

Corrupt governments and billionaires are what have driven Greece into hopeless debt. And paying off the debt to their bank buddies won't help because that is money that will be taken out of Greece. And you don't revive a country by taking money out of it. - as New Brunswickers will learn - though not if they read just the Irving press.

The story also babbles in loaded language. Nations that chose austerity are the courageous ones because they "took it on the chin".  And, we are told, their economies are now growing like mad because of austerity. Why, in Spain, employment is now down to 23% (50% for those under 25).

Well, for a start, government unemployment figures are almost always misleading. If they are reported as 23%, it's a safe bet they're 40% or worse. It's also a safe bet that wages are way, way down and, worse, essential services no longer exist.

The story is written so as always to give the impression that most people felt austerity was the way to go, the only way.

This is a deliberately lying and misleading story. It begins with praise for countries that accepted austerity, that Greeks are just trying to "duck out".

An intelligent and competent news editor would have seen that story for what it is. (And maybe he did, because this is the kind of news story the Irving press commonly runs.)

For the last 40 years or so, we have watched uncontrolled capitalism run wild, effectively robbing billions all over the world. That's how a wage gap happens. That's how the very rich get richer as we get poorer. As that goes on, we will see ups and downs, by we will not ever see a recovery.

Meanwhile, let's get the headline straight. It should say "TV children's programmer, salesman, used care dealer and middle aged office worker standing in a line say Greece must practice austerity."

Meanwhile, if banks and other businesses go broke through illegal or unethical behaviour, no sweat. We'll   bail them out with our tax money and suffer a long recession so their boards and executives can give each other multi-million dollar bonusses - and their news media can tell us that we're spending too much on health and schools.

This story is either intellectually or morally corrupt. Perhaps both.

The following is a better account of what's going in this world. It was sent to me by organizers of a reunion for high school class I taught way back in the years when streets still had dinosaur crossings.

The billionaires who control a growing proportion of the wealth of the world use media resources that are available to them to structure and define the world we live in. They exercise control over how key decisions affecting all of us are made. Clear and practical solutions, to the challenge that non-billionaires face, given this reality, are described in the CBC The Current broadcast.

[End of notes]

Text accompanying the CBC The Current podcast

In a week where the U.S. President has signaled new taxes and fees on the wealthiest American individuals and corporations and where the financially and politically powerful meet in Davos, Oxfam is warning of growing inequality across the globe. Today we look at the implications of counting up the haves and have-nots.
Last night president Barack Obama acknowledged the perils of income inequality in his United States. For the rest of the world, many hope income inequality will find its way onto the agenda of the world’s power brokers gathering today in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.
And, armed with some eye-popping new statistics, Oxfam timed the release of a wealth-gap report this week to get maximum attention there.
According to the UK-based charity, soon just 80 individuals will have in their hands the same wealth as half-of-the-rest-of-the-world, combined. And the prognosis is for that enormous wealth gap, to just keep on growing.
John Young is the director of outreach for Oxfam Canada.
Not all economists will agree with Oxfam’s reading of the world’s inequality. And some may say that looking at wealth concentration is only looking at one part of a more complicated puzzle.
Ben Southwood is the Head of Research with the Adam Smith Institute in London, England, a libertarian free market public policy think-tank.
We’ve been talking about inequality on a global scale, but recent stats suggest that a similar trend is underway here in Canada, with a growing gap between the few who have a lot, and the many who have much less.
Andrew Jackson is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Broadbent Institute.
This segment was produced by The Current’s Sarah Grant, Naheed Mustafa and Julian Uzielli.

Related Links

[End of text at CBC website for Jan. 21, 2015 CBC The Current podcast]

Quotation within the text

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”

President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address 2015


The CBC podcast provides opportunities for a wide range of views – including a libertarian perspective – concerning the topic at hand. Additional articles addressing the topics include:
A Jan. 9, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “Growing up on Easy Street has its own dangers.”
A Jan. 23, 2015 Globe and Mail article, from the Associated Press, is entitled: “Diplomat was outspoken critic of U.S. policies.”
A Jan. 24, 2015 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “The rich do get richer. Why can’t the poor also get richer?”
A Feb. 1, 2015 CBC article is entitled: “Canada’s richest 1% aren’t the only ones prospering: Many people in middle brackets enjoy ‘remarkable income mobility'”.
A Jan. 25, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: “Majority of UK’s most influential had independent school education – survey.”
The latter article brings to mind a previous post:
Producers are energetic people who are really good at getting people to say yes, Sherry B. Ortner notes
A Feb. 6, 2015 Brookings Institution article is entitled: “Three Reasons College Matters for Social Mobility.” The Twitter message, that I came across, that highlighted the article, noted: “Why college access matters – it transforms the life chances of bottom quintile kids.”
Two Feb. 11, 2015 Brookings Institution articles address gentrification:
The Anti-Poverty Case for “Smart” Gentrification, Part 1
The Anti-Poverty Case for “Smart” Gentrification, Part 2

The net’s costs

A Jan. 17, 2015 Economist article is entitled: “Net costs: The internet causes inequality, selfishness and narcissism, according to a new book.”
In its review of The Internet is Not the Answer (2015) by Andrew Keen, the article concludes:
“The internet has certainly contributed to a gross increase in inequality in some areas of society. Yet the world is still in the middle of a technological revolution, and it is hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame. Unbridled techno-Utopianism shows only the revolution’s benefits, and is dangerously incomplete. It is handy, therefore, to have sceptics like Mr Keen around. But the depth of his distaste for it all risks missing the point by exaggerating the net’s many costs.”

Status Update (2013)

Previous posts have highlighted other research about the net’s costs and effects:
Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age (Alice E. Marwick, 2013)
Status Update (2013) focuses on the integration of market logics into social media

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4 Responses to CBC The Current: Income inequality shows the 1% will soon own 50% of all wealth, says Oxfam

  1. I’ve been writing about this in my blog now for some years. It really goes back to Ronald Reagan – who made a life of being a toady to big business. There’s quite a story just in that. He opened the way to an economic system that is inherently based on pure greed, and has no moral code whatever. We went through the same process in the great depression. In those days, most of us good much, much poorer but, despite rumours of stockbrokers jumping out of windows, the rich actually got richer right through the depression. And, yes, there are some very big consequences coming down the track.
    1. If the rich get much more of the money, what will happen to their markets? The poor can’t buy much.
    2. Despite the stories, the rich do not reinvest their wealth, and thereby create prosperity. The rich are in business to make money, not to give it away. Check any place which in dominated by the super rich – Central America, Congo – and there you will find unspeakable poverty and brutality. And our news media don’t report it. (How know that in the 1970s, the US led the Guatemalan army in the slaughter of three quarters of a million helpless Guatemala civilians of all ages? NFB has a documentary about it. But the slaughter never made the news – except for just one day in 1999 in the NYT. It didn’t even make New Brunswick news, though one of the victims was a New Brunswick lay missionary (they killed lots and lots of clergy) – and the lay missionary lies in a grave just fifteen minutes from where I am sitting. The head of the CIA who ran this was George Bush Sr.
    3. Free trade has made it worse by allowing big business to escape any controls or taxes it wishes to. Thank you, Brian Mulroney, you thieving bastard – and your dipstick wife. the latest free trade deals are even worse since they let business pollute and do whatever it wants.
    4. It has created massive poverty, even in the US. ( Pay no attention to official figures. They mean nothing.) The reality is that almost a quarter of all American schoolchildren live below the poverty line. The suffering is closely related to race. That’s why we’re watching the American social structure break down. That’s why fewer than half of American vote. That’s why US police are being retrained and re-equipped along miliitary lines – even with tanks and heavy machine guns. They are being prepared to fight – not crime – to fight the American people. And it’s close.
    5, This capitalism (which actually isn’t capitalism at all) has destabilized the whole world, and we are now very close to nuclear war.
    Remember “Where have all the flowers gone?” I can remember the girls at dances singing it. That was about Vietnam where nobody knows how many million innocent people were murdered. Ever wonder why? To establish democracy? Nope. In fact, US leadership helped the Vietnamese generals (on the US side) to murder the elected president, and appoint a series of military dictators. Ditto South Korea, which was a dictatorship when we got there, a dictatorship while we were there, and still a dictatorship for decades after. Ever wonder why our side killed at least a million and a half Iraqis? Plus people in Libya and Afghanistan? Ever wonder why Canadians died in Afghanistan?
    “When will they ever learn?” Or, more to the point, when will WE ever learn?

A front  page story tells us "Moncton MP still committed to events centre".  Who could possibly care what Robert Goguen is committed to? Certainly, Harper doesn't.

The front page has another story about the report on how we have treated native people. That's useful. But when do we start doing something about it? Or do we plan to just let this talk itself out?

The editorial is about - guess what? - the events centre.  And guess what? It's in favour of it.

Norbert's column is about---recycling. Here's a man who's not afraid to take on the tough subjects. Not a word on the Pope's encyclical on the climate. Of course, it was the  Pope. and his name is only Francis. If he had been Pope Irving, the TandT would have run a special edition, commenting (favourably) on it.

Think hard, Norbert. In effect, the Pope said that fossil fuel billionaires are immoral. And people who support them are immoral. No matter what your religion or demonination might be, that's quite a statement coming from a major religious leader. Maybe he should be invited to speak at the Irving Chapel (with special music) and coffee in the barn.

Brent Mazerolle's column is about - guess what? - yes, the events centre. And, guess what? - he's in favour.  That makes a score of 2-0 against the Pope for big story of the day.

The commentary by Gwynne Dyer is good - but guaranteed to offend nobody who matters in this province. That suggests to me something I have suspected for a while. The Irving press is choosing among Dyer's columns very carefully to make sure they don't buy one the boss might find offensive.

The last column in commentary is by - no surprise - a hack for the Fraser Institute - a  far, far right-wing think tank that's in favour of privatizing everything, and opposed to the very, very rich ever paying taxes or having to obey silly old environmental regulations. It pretends to be about home schooling. It pretends to be about education. It's not. (Nor is its research nearly as complete as it should be - and what's there is very carefully selected to produce the results the writer wants.)
This really isn't about education. Check the suggestions that public schools are inferior and always going on strike. This is really laying the ground for a pitch on privatizing education.

In Canada&World, there's a banner headline that federal polls show the NDP in the lead, with both the Liberals and Conservatives in decline. Nothing is guaranteed, of course. For example, Harper has changed voting rules in a way that will bar at least tens of thousands of Canadians from voting. The new rules make establishing one's identity and right to vote much, much more difficult, and even impossible for some. As well, the Liberals and, especially the Conservatives, have very big money for the campaign. The NDP doesn't.

But if those figures hold, they signify a rapid spread of rejection of and disillusionment with the two parties who have governed since 1867. In the US, this disillusionment has gone even further, showing itself in a refusal to vote at all.

In both cases, we are seeing breakdown of traditional political activity. In the US, it's dangerous because there is no alternative for the disillusioned. If you dislike government by greedy billionaires, they is not other party to vote for.  That's  why we are seeing more violence in the US. That's why the US is in real danger of a social breakdown.

My fear now is that most Canadians don't understand that very big changes, very big indeed, have to be made. The NDP is honest. It has some very capable people in it. But I very much fear it has moved too close to the centre to do what has to be done.  You don't hunt tigers with a BB gun.

On B4, is "Putin plots ways to bear with international punishment". Notice the choice of words. Putin 'plot's. The Harpers and Obamas of this world never plot. They plan. They study. Only evil people plot.

The second paragraph makes it  clear that western countries have placed economic sanctions on Russia because they have to retaliate for Russia's actions in Ukraine.  Gee. How come the West didn't place sanctions on the US when it illegally invaded Iraq and killed a million people? When it led the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Guatemala, when it (and Canada) illegally bombed  Libya, when it (and Canada) illegally invaded Afghanistan, when the US illegally has bombed and killed thousands of innocent people with drones?

And what Russian actions in Ukraine? It was the US that sponsored the overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine, and put into power a collection of international bankers and Naziis who are inflicting terrible hardship on the Ukrainian people.

And we know why Harper has intervened. He wants the Ukrainian-Canadian vote.

In any case, Putin's reaction to a western takeover of a country on Russia's border has been pretty mild.  Consider how the US would react if Russia overthrew the government of Mexico.

So far, the ones making threats and moving military forces into place have been the US, Britain and Canada (navy and instructors).

But this is the kind of loading of language one sees in almost all our papers.

By the way, whatever happened to the report on who shot down the civil airliner in Ukraine? That plane has been  examined by scientists now for over a year, scientists with all the resources they need.  How it was shot down was obvious in the first pictures that appeared. It had a rows of bullet holes on the wing and fuselage. That means it has hundreds of bullets in it. Those bullets would indicate who fired it? It's not hard. Why do we hear nothing?

I think I can guess why.
The Faith page is a disappointment, particularly because this week's correspondent made such a strong start in his first column. I think there's a good point in this one. But it's too vague to make much impression on readers.

In church announcements, we have the usual suppers, snacks - and a Gospel Jam Session. (Hold me back,)

But there is a very readable announcement from St. Paul's United Church in Riverview. This year is the 100th anniversary of CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training). The late   19th and twentieth centuries saw an explosion of youth groups. The biggest was Boys Scouts (along with Cubs, Rovers, Brownies, and Girl Guides). Many others were founded specifically for Anglicans or Baptists or  Roman Catholics. The CGIT, founded in Canada,was quite possibly the best of them all. It had its roots in Methodism and, to a degree, in Presbyterianism, and was especially prominent a little later in the United Church of Canada..

There's quite fascinating history of such groups, most focussing on the age of 12 when children became, you know, they became, well, I'm not afraid to say it out loud. It was about -   like - you know - s-e- and one more letter.
Most developed the children along lines that various interest groups wanted. So Boy Scouts were modelled on the army; Sea Cadets were created by the British shipbuilding industry to encourage spending money on building warships. Naziis in Germany and Communists in China formed  similar groups. And, Amazingly, there's a direct link between all those and Charles Dickens' novels, and "Alice in Wonderland".

But the CGIT was different. It's whole concern was the girls, and to help them, not to train them for somebody else's purpose.

Alas! Almost all of those groups have shrunk or even disappeared with post-war prosperity that meant kids had choices like movies and TV and then computers.  I don't know whether any CGIT groups still exist. But, in their day, they were the best.
Finally, an afterthought...

A wealthy man gave a speech to the Rotary Club and Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce. It's on A7. What are Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce about?  Essentially, they exist to prove to small business people and lower management that they are just the same, buddies in fact, of really big business. Yep. They're all part of the same group with the same interests. (In reality, that's not at all true. But people like the kid themselves.)  

They also like to kid themselves that they and big business just live to help the poor and needy - just a great bunch of guys who prove what a great bunch they are by kidding each other and by fining each other for wearing the wrong necktie, (laughter around the room).

And they really kid themselves by getting big business to speak to them because, well, if they're big business, they must be smart, right? And this speaker told them that just like them, he thinks of nothing but his duty to help others. He learned that because he listens eagerly to a young pop singer named Swift.

Did he have anything useful to say? No. So why did the Irving press cover it? Hey. He's rich.

(I've spoken to many a Rotary Club, and the occasional chamber of commerce.)

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