Tag: public relations

Group Wisdom

Democracy is a discursive process, where citizens discuss public issues and social challenges. Whether they gather in their local church, school, or online, it is the discussion of ideas and events that enables them to arrive at group wisdom–something we see in the jury system.

Through letters to the editor, and comments on news stories and editorials, this exchange of ideas and perspectives facilitates the examination of beliefs and values, leading to clearer understanding. Sometimes, by reexamining what we think we know to be true, we discover that we were mistaken.

In today’s media of recycled press releases posing as news, there is a lot of propaganda, but little journalism. This creates a lot of heat, but little light.

Habitual opinions in this social environment–created by public relations (PR) marketing firms–are thus commodities, acquired in the same manner as other consumer goods. These competing commodified narratives are consequently similar to rival cheer-leading squads, espousing slogans for their team.

In The Creation of Discursive Monoculture, I discussed how the power elite (Wall Street) controls public consciousness through their ownership of the PR firms serving government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex. As a result, all narratives, including those on social media, serve Wall Street.

To break free from the narratives of privatized mass communication, that now dominates public opinion, we have to break free from financial and psychological dependence on handouts from Wall Street–whether in the form of foundation grants from the power elite, or in the form of paid advertising and PR.

Otherwise, Wall Street will continue to set the civil society agenda, and consolidate social engineering through social media, leading to an environment where nothing of importance is ever discussed in public. What I have described as ‘a world of make believe’.

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The Creation of Discursive Monoculture

The Creation of Discursive Monoculture

By Jay Taber

The creation of discursive monoculture—intended to dominate all discussion of vital issues—is the result of a strategy by the power elite to prevent counter-power narratives from entering mainstream consciousness. Through hostile takeovers of government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex, the financial sector in the last decade has accomplished what official censorship and political repression could not: totalitarian control of social media, and the mobilization of progressives in support of neoliberal fascism.

As I noted in Preventing Discursive Monoculture, the financial sector capture of media, academia, and civil society indicates a future of diminishing consciousness—a future where fantasies about political power enable the murder of Indigenous activists and unembedded journalists with impunity. More recently, in A World of Make Believe, I elaborated on the fact that privatized mass communication now dominates public opinion to such a degree that all public discussion of vital issues is choreographed by PR firms.

In Controlling Consciousness, I observed that the donor elites that set the civil society agenda benefit from Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness, allowing them to fabricate news, as well as to integrate advertising with government propaganda. In order to maintain credibility, the non-profit PR firms subservient to the power elite, i.e. Avaaz, need to first establish a noble reputation, often using the tried-and-true method of poverty pimping—an effective and largely undetected tool in the art of social engineering.

As I remarked in R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe, under the neoliberal model of global conquest, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International function as stage managers for the power elite in choreographed productions where neoliberal heroism can be enacted. These constructed events–that urge neoliberal military interventions in countries like Mali, Burundi, Libya and Syria—then draw in civil society as participants of moral catastrophe, where they actually become complicit in crimes against humanity.

The ulterior strategy of Avaaz as the ‘Great White Hope’ in other venues, subsequently allowed this social media marketing agency to easily herd so-called progressives to line up behind the neoliberal imperial campaigns in Libya & Syria–where Avaaz literally designed and managed the PR campaign for NATO and the US–in order to present the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra as the good guys in ‘white helmets’. Networked psychological warfare (Netwar) is not hard to grasp; it just isn’t discussed anywhere, making Communication: The Invisible Environment.

 

Jay Thomas Taber is a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, INSiGHT Journal, and Public Good Project. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com

Fog of War

In Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex, Patrick Henningsen reveals ‘perception management’ by the NGO sector as ‘co-marketing’ of foreign policy objectives of the US State Department, Pentagon and NATO. As Henningsen notes, leading human rights organizations — such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch — “have become virtual clearinghouses for interventionist propaganda”.

Says Henningsen, in the Balkans, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen — where they supported regime change — “NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France”. To successfully frame geopolitical narratives on which these NGOs derive their fundraising campaigns, the lucrative revolving door between NGOs, government and media “converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance”.

Underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations, these organizations have well-developed links “leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex”. Blinded by the fog of mass media and bombarded with faux moral imperatives, public opinion is led by these NGOs into supporting western-backed rebels and terrorists “under the banner of ‘human rights’.”

 

Controlling Consciousness

The role of public relations (PR) in producing ‘discursive monoculture’ is currently in vogue with communication scholars. As an instrument of social control, the goal of PR is to dominate discourse, and to keep out alternative views.

Using PR, the donor elites in the US — MacArthur, Ford and Open Society foundations — set the civil society agenda. Human rights indicators — set by governments, NGOs and civil society — thus reflect the interests and bias of ‘the power elite’.

Access to communication technology and services is one obstacle to democratic renewal; overcoming the obstacle of communication gatekeepers requires that they be recognized as such. There are no neutral players in the netwar of ideas about privatization.

Consumers remain largely unaware that investigative journalism in mainstream media is extinct. Corporate and government public relations agents have filled the void with propaganda posing as news.

Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness is based on five components: ownership of media, fabrication of news, integration of advertising with state propaganda, financing of foundations and brokerages, and co-option of NGOs and grassroots groups.

FURTHER READING

Charms of Naomi: the Mystique of Mass Hypnosis

Communication: the Invisible Environment

A Culture of Imbeciles

Dependence Limits Strategies

Distorting Reality

Illuminating Private Equity

The Point of Protest

Welcome to Netwar

Illuminating Private Equity

Privatization of everything we know and need, for the enrichment of elite private equity investors, is not commonly understood. Many understand that consolidation and deregulation have allowed large corporations to control media and information, but few comprehend how the ultra wealthy have destroyed accountability, transparency and the public interest in broadcasting, radio, digital and print news production and distribution.

In The Rise of Private Equity Media Ownership in the United States: A Public Interest Perspective, Matthew Crain investigates private equity takeovers (1999-2009) in the media sector, and explains how private equity firms function in the financial landscape. Focusing on profit maximization strategies and debt burdens imposed on acquired companies, Crain observes that private equity firms and consortiums pose a challenge to effective media regulation, that is distinct from the corporate media ownership model.

Corporate media rarely discussed the American aristocracy and how their agenda affects society. Consumers blame banks, but they have no idea how financial institutions are used by private equity traders to constantly replenish aristocratic wealth at our expense. They have little awareness of where that wealth came from, and almost never discuss the continuity of aristocratic theft from the public treasury over the last two centuries. Crain’s analysis can thus be considered a primer on the impact of reckless private equity investing, using inherited wealth and investment banks to cannibalize the economy.

Able to evade or avoid regulation associated with publicly traded stocks, private equity firms and consortiums — using holding companies and investment banks — have conducted immense leveraged buyouts that literally ruin companies. Through debt burdens, asset liquidation and wholesale employee termination, the private equity firms enable cash extraction that has imperiled mainstream media, leaving a hollowed out shell, where replacement of journalism by public relations is commonplace.

As Cain notes, democracy requires public spheres, of which the media system is a core institutional component. Private equity takeovers in the media sector — especially broadcasting, cinema, cable, telecommunications, digital and print publishing — imposes qualitative changes to media firms by these high-stakes investment groups that, “raises issues of adherence to standards of journalistic ethics and values.” Once the cash has been extracted, the social value of media firms as democratic institutions is structurally undermined.

As Crain observes, “Fewer reporters and editors make it easier for public relations firms to place unaltered messages into the news.” “Moreover,” says Crain, “growing pressure to turn a profit on journalistic production contributes to ongoing problems of commercialization of news, especially regarding the blurring distinction between editorial and advertising content.”

“Private equity firms,” remarks Cain, “are fundamentally non-transparent in their basic structure…Whereas publicly traded companies are legally obligated to periodically file extensive financial information with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including detailed accounts of all holdings and subsidiaries, private firms are not subject to such financial disclosures.” This, says Crain, is “antithetical to the public interest obligations of the media sector.”

Wag the Dog: Campaigns of Purpose

In 1997, Robert De Niro and Barry Levinson produced a movie called Wag the Dog, a fictional film about a Washington-based PR firm — days before a presidential election — “that distracts the electorate from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood film producer to construct a fake war with Albania.” The film was released one month before the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the bombing of Sudan by President Clinton.
Some might also recall the false testimony by a Kuwait Royal Family member about Iraqi human rights abuses — part of a campaign created for $11 million by US PR firm Hill & Knowlton on behalf of Citizens for a Free Kuwait (a front for the Kuwait Government) — that was used by the Pentagon to justify the 1991 invasion of Iraq, otherwise known as the Gulf War. As noted at Wikipedia,
Among many other means of influencing U.S. opinion (distributing books on Iraqi atrocities to U.S. soldiers deployed in the region, ‘Free Kuwait’ T-shirts and speakers to college campuses, and dozens of video news releases to television stations), the firm arranged for an appearance before a group of members of the U.S. Congress in which a woman identifying herself as a nurse working in the Kuwait City hospital described Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators and letting them die on the floor.[88]
The story was an influence in tipping both the public and Congress towards a war with Iraq: six Congressmen said the testimony was enough for them to support military action against Iraq and seven Senators referenced the testimony in debate. The Senate supported the military actions in a 52–47 vote. A year after the war, however, this allegation was revealed to be a fabrication. The woman who had testified was found to be a member of Kuwait’s Royal Family, in fact the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S.[88] She hadn’t lived in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion.
The details of the Hill & Knowlton public relations campaign, including the incubator testimony, were published in John R. MacArthur‘s Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (Berkeley, CA: University of CA Press, 1992), and came to wide public attention when an Op-ed by MacArthur was published in The New York Times. This prompted a reexamination by Amnesty International, which had originally promoted an account alleging even greater numbers of babies torn from incubators than the original fake testimony. After finding no evidence to support it, the organization issued a retraction. President Bush then repeated the incubator allegations on television.
The Pentagon statement claiming a buildup of Iraqi forces on the Kuwaiti border were later also shown to be false, as evidenced by satellite images acquired by the St. Petersburg Times.
This type of choreography was used again in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, known as the Iraq War, when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell — waving a vial of fake anthrax and displaying mischaracterized photos — testified before the UN Security Council that the Pentagon had proof weapons of mass destruction were being manufactured by Iraq. Exposure of this fraud in the New York Times by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson led to the leaked identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame (Wilson’s wife) by Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby.
Libby was subsequently convicted on federal charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. An investigation after the invasion showed Iraq’s WMD program had ended in 1991. Despite all the claims made by Powell being discredited at the time by US and UN agencies, the momentum generated by Powell, Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld led to a war currently in its eleventh year.
Now, it turns out this scenario has repeated itself in the US campaign leading up to the 2011 bombing of Libya. The western-financed destabilization that became the Syrian Civil War is presently in its fourth year.
In 2014, the New York public relations firm Purpose created a campaign to rally international support for the Syrian “humanitarian intervention.” A euphemism for armed aggression by the US and NATO in places like Libya, this Syrian campaign in 2012 was backed by the New York lobby Avaaz, which in turn set up communications support for the so-called Syrian resistance.
In 2012, Avaaz was allegedly implicated in sponsoring fabricated videos of civilian massacres, to back deeper foreign intervention in Syria. YouTube video links of phony reporting by Avaaz associates are available in this blog report.
The CEO of Purpose, Jeremy Heimans, is a co-founder of Avaaz. His associate, David Madden — a World Bank and UN Development Program consultant — is co-founder of Purpose, Avaaz and MoveOn.
Avaaz was created in part by MoveOn, a Democratic Party associated PAC, formed in response to the impeachment of President Clinton. Avaaz and MoveOn are funded in part by convicted inside-trader and billionaire hedge fund mogul George Soros.

Amnesty International (a shill for US wars) supports the Purpose Syrian campaign.