Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 11, 2010

Oily Propaganda By Any Other Name…

Pelican struggling in Louisiana

In the past month, I’ve seen or heard “damage control” commercials for Toyota, General Motors, large investment firms, British Petroleum, Wal-Mart (in the wake of  female employees’ first-round victory  in their discrimination class action suit), and Israel (in the wake of unprecedented attacks on a Palestinian humanitarian aid ship).

 These were not interviews or debates with CEOs or paid spokespeople, but commercials — no different than those run by politicians or soap salesmen. And I’m not even listening or watching very closely, being in “summer mode” and tuning out most media in favor of birthday parties, exercise, and family time.

Add to this the story from last week about McDonalds’ 12-million piece recall of cadmium-laced Shrek children’s glasses, which got very little press, and the picture becomes clearer still. Multinational corporations (and yes, I intentionally include Israel in this category) can make massive, criminally negligent mistakes, knowing full-well that by spending enough money, they will play upon America’s short attention span and capacity for denial, to gradually sweep their little “oops” under the rug. 

Pumping apologies and positive spin counter-attacks into the media stream is like water gradually wearing down and smoothing a rock in a river. Except the corporations have resources the size of Nigara Falls, compared to my little garden hose.

In the above situations, the spirit of Ronald Reagan lives on, for the far-reaching errors above are not “accidents”, but the obvious outcomes of deregulation begun by Reagan in the 1980s (in the name of reducing government spending… Ha!  his budget deficit was the biggest in history, followed closely by President W’s). Since then, nobody’s been minding the store.

Speaking of  W, I caught a fun three-person debate on Larry King the other day involving Oliver Stone (director of the “W” movie, as well as the current documentary on Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez). In the studio with Stone was a legendary and unpredictable independent, former governor Jesse Ventura, and on-camera elsewhere was arch-conservative Rep. Connie Mack of Florida.

Ironically, it was Ventura, not Stone, who brought up the role of mainstream media as failed watchdogs, abdicating their responsibility because they too are large corporations with a lot to lose by telling the truth. Stone just sat back a few minutes and smiled, while Mack spouted vague, uninformed propaganda about Chavez (basically “Socialism equals evil”), and Ventura countered by asking Mack if he’s met the man, or looked into his policies and successes. Mack had nothing specific to defend his stance — whereas Jesse had met Chavez, and wants every American high school senior to see Stone’s movie –not to learn of Chavez primarily, but to learn of the evolving partnership between the media, corporate entities, and politicans.

Here’s a link to a useful four-minute segment:

It must be true. I saw it on tv!


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