Saturday, March 17, 2012

Today's Propaganda

A whole raft of things today.

Let's start with the UC Davis "Pepper Spray Report." The judge hearing the matter in Oakland was expected to rule yesterday that the report could be released intact, but instead he decided to split the baby, ruling that the parts of the report (especially "Section 6" in which officers are named and their actions criticized) could be withheld until a final ruling, whenever that comes.

Both "sides" hailed the decision as a propaganda victory, but the public gets nothing out of the deal, as the judge also ordered that the attorneys for both "sides" decide among themselves what could and could not be released and when. Under those conditions, the Report can be sequestered indefinitely, which -- if I may be so bold as to opine on the matter -- is the point.

Over the years, the University of California has done a number of reports on police brutality against students and faculty on campuses and it's always the same: the reports are withheld until "emotions die down," and when they are released, interest has moved to some other issue, the reports are considered "fully" by UCPD and administrators, and little or nothing changes. The next time the students and their faculty allies get uppity, they get the holy shit beat out of them, and the cycle repeats. World without end. Amen.

Nevertheless, every report is hailed as a propaganda victory by both "sides". Clue: there are not "two sides," there's only one, and the primary interest of that side is to ensure that the troubled campus waters are not further roiled by the release of the report.

And so it is again.
The Afghanistan Massacre Wurlitzer continues with its concerto about the poor soldier who is accused (and now named) in the incident. Sympathy for him and understanding of his plight -- as a fourth deployment vet who didn't want to go, who has two lovely young children and who lives in a modern white house in the pine forests of Washington, etc., etc. -- is being whipped up at every turn. No other soldiers are even hinted at being involved, and the existence of Afghan reports of what happened and who did it are simply ignored. Not only do the Afghans have no voice in this matter, with the exception of Hamid Karzai, they no longer exist at all -- if they ever did. The murder spree has become a complete abstraction in the American media, with Pentagon spokespeople insisting that it will be "thoroughly investigated" while at the same time feeding the media endless streams of sympathetic tidbits about the one accused soldier, who -- from appearances -- has already been cleared of wrong-doing. "Bad things happen in war. Too bad, so sad."

And then there's this one, which kind of stuns me:

Some of us recall that in January, one of my favorite radio shows, "This American Life," presented a radio version of a dramatization of horrible labor conditions in Chinese plants that make Apple products, especially IPads and such. That show has been pulled from the archives, it seems, because it was not entirely accurate. In fact, it was a radio play, a one-man dramatic exploration of what was going on in Chinese plants that build Apple products. That's how it was presented.

Apple apparently complained, and Ira Glass then closely questioned the dramatist who acknowledged that it was a play (you damn fool!) and he did indeed take advantage of dramatic license to make his point. Yes? So?

Anyone who listens to "This American Life" should know that they are not getting literal truth or "journalism." They are getting what are usually very personal interpretations of events and feelings and all the rest of it. Each segment is a little drama that focuses on... something important to the segment's creator. It's story-telling, often at a very high level of creativity and accomplishment.

But the story about the labor horrors in Apple's Chinese production plants was apparently going "too far."

I'm stunned.

It's nonsense on stilts, but Ira Glass is going to spend the entire show this weekend "explaining" how they could have gotten it so wrong. What a crock. But then maybe Apple has "persuaded" them. They have ways, after all.

FURTHERMORE: Having now listened to this week's episode, I am infuriated with Ira Glass and "This American Life." I do not believe his oh so pious prattling about the untruthfulness of Michael Daisey. For Ira to say several times that if he sees and hears someone say something from the stage he assumes it to be "factual" -- unless it is plainly labeled as "fiction" -- is simply unbelievable. Surely he is not that naive. It's fairly obvious to me that TAL got a demand letter from Apple Legal and they did what they had to do, but I have a hard time believing that they had to smear Michael Daisey in the process. To then follow up their smear job with what amounts to a hagiography of Apple and its manufacturing practices from NYT writer Charles Duhigg just makes it all the more sickening. I wouldn't really like to see other episodes of "This American Life" subjected to the kind of scrutiny this episode got -- because it would simply destroy the program. I think Ira knows that, too.

What happened here shows just how powerful certain corporate interests are in this country, and how obvious their exercise of power can be.

Finally, an editorial regarding the Limbaugh Matter and the banned Doonsbury strip. What a frightful, confused mess. First they complain that Limbaugh did a bad thing by calling Sandra Fluke those two words. But equally bad, in their eyes, are the efforts of activists to get his show off the air. No, no, no! The radio stations that air his show should be convinced to air opposing view points, and if they don't do it, then the activists should go to Congress and lobby -- for however many years it takes -- to require that opposing viewpoints be aired!

On the other hand, activists are wrong to complain that Doonsbury is being "censored" when some papers won't run the current strip, because, as we know, only Government can "censor" (what complete crap) and what private businesses do is their own affair. If they decide not to run a particular story or comic strip story line, it's not "censorship" (yes it is!) it's just business.

But then, everything is, isn't it?


  1. Corey Robin has an interesting post on the power of civil society to achieve the agenda of the Overclass.

  2. If only government can censor, then how did Apple manage to get a dramatization of the Dickensian working conditions of their overseas plants suppressed on government radio. Government is obviously moving into the brand protection business these days.

    In modern America, only business can censor. (Or to be more correct, moneyed interests, rich individual have power too, apart from business.)

  3. Here's Daisey's own words on the subject:

    I stand by my work.

  4. Ira Glass is just not that stupid. He knows what a theatrical monologue is. In fact, I believe he has probably done one or more of them himself. Just saying.

    And for him to get up on his high horse about the strict journalistic standards of "This American Life," is laughable. David Sidaris comes to mind... one of the most popular TAL artistes... everything he says is absolutely factual? Puh-leese.

    This will bite him in the ass, no doubt about it.

    Meanwhile, I've got Daisey's script up in another window. It's the first time he's done a written script for one of his monologues. Interesting. And his instructions for using it say "The transcript is a theatrical blueprint which you can amend or change as you see fit. You are encouraged to use whatever is useful in this transcript from performing the entire piece verbatim, to editing it, to amending it in any way that furthers the needs of your particular production..."

    It's obvious -- it was obvious when I heard it on TAL -- that this monologue is not literally true, it is dramatically true, like nearly everything that TAL has presented for the last fifteen years.


  5. Alcuin, I've often said that Rupert Murdoch's business model is to outsource state propaganda, which he trades for political favors, which he uses to build his entertainment business empire.