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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Social money -- in Germany

Germans, of all people, know what heinous crimes are committed by big money, big banks, big corporations.

If you think THE EURO is anti-social, what do you think the US Dollar does?

Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 14:09 GMT

Germans take pride in local money
By Tristana Moore BBC News, Magdeburg, Germany

The next time you venture out for lunch in Magdeburg, check what kind of loose change you have in your wallet.

Urstromtaler currency
The local banknotes are issued at a rate of 1:1 to the euro

Like any other city in Germany, the normal currency here is the euro. But bizarrely, they also have another currency in circulation: the Urstromtaler.

Before you doubt its existence, it is not "Monopoly" money - it is very real. At a jewellery shop in the city centre, Gerfried Kliems explained how people use the regional currency.

"It's quite simple," he said. "The money you spend stays in the region. When I accept Urstromtaler in my shop, I then have to see how I can spend the local banknotes. You get to know everyone who's participating in this project, and at the end of the day, you have a good feeling about life."

More than 200 businesses are using the regional currency, including shops, bakeries, florists, restaurants. There is even a cinema which accepts Urstromtaler.

'Local boost'

Frank Jansky, a lawyer, launched the regional currency in Magdeburg. "We are fostering links with businesses in the whole region and through the contacts that we develop, we are supporting the domestic German market," he said.

"All the businesses have signed contracts, and it's official. We have our own banknotes and we have an issuing office in the city centre."

At the Urstromtaler "central bank" in Magdeburg, which is no larger than a small office, the banknotes are issued at a rate of 1:1 against the euro.

The banknotes have a time limit and lose value after a certain date, so people are encouraged to spend their money quickly.

Campaigners argue that the currency can help boost the local economy.

"Everyone who uses the regional currency develops a social network. People get to know each other," said Joerg Dahlke.

"It's also good for the environment, as you are not buying goods from big supermarket chains who import their goods. Instead you are buying products from regional producers," he said.

It is easy to dismiss the regional currency as a gimmick, but supporters take it very seriously.

"We are disillusioned with the euro, as it doesn't bring many benefits to the local community," said Joerg Dahlke. "But at the same time, we don't want to get rid of the euro completely.

"Our regional currency runs in parallel to the euro. Of course, we still need the euro for big purchases," he explained.

Residents can choose to pay one-third of their purchase in the local currency, and the rest in euros, or sometimes they can pay for their purchase entirely in Urstromtaler.

The phenomenon is not limited to the state of Saxony-Anhalt.

'Social money'

Regional currencies have sprung up all over Germany.

According to Professor Gerhard Roesl, author of a report commissioned by the Bundesbank, there are at least 16 regional currencies in Germany.

"The regional currencies are not really a threat to the Bundesbank, although technically they are illegal and could pose a problem. The Bundesbank tolerates the local currencies, which are regarded as a kind of 'social money'," said Mr Roesl.

Frank Jansky and representatives of other regional currency projects are lobbying the federal government to introduce a change in the law.

"The Bundesbank is keeping an eye on what we are doing. Regional currencies are still in a legal grey area. But there are other comparable financial schemes, like 'miles and more', which also pose a challenge to the status quo," said Mr Jansky.

"We are supporting our regional economy and culture, which will benefit future generations."

And in case anyone thinks it's an old-fashioned system, they have now launched an online banking system for the regional currency in Magdeburg.

In lands of the euro, a growing number of local currencies

ROSENHEIM, Germany: Christian Gelleri, with his straightforward manner of speech, rumpled suit and home office, hardly resembles the polished central bankers whose every breath captivates financial markets. But just as Jean- Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, lays claim to the title "Mr. Euro," Gelleri can plausibly call himself "Mr. Chiemgauer."

Gelleri runs an organization that issues an alternative currency, known as the chiemgauer, that consumers in the region southeast of Munich use to buy everything from pizza to haircuts to rugs. Designed to foster the production and consumption of local products and services, the chiemgauer takes aim at the reigning central banking orthodoxy that pumping more cash into an economy accelerates inflation and eventually harms growth.

"When people use the chiemgauer, the apple juice producer sells more bottles and the cheese maker sells more cheese," Gelleri said. "In theory, this is not supposed to happen, but the fact is it does."

While more than 300 million people in Europe use the euro to buy life's essentials, a small but growing number — concentrated in the German-speaking world — use a proliferating species of currencies with names like chiemgauer, urstromtaler, landmark, kirschblüte and kann was.

Issued by private organizations, these currencies are probably better understood as vouchers — pieces of paper that can be redeemed for goods and services at specific regional businesses that have agreed to accept them.

By having charitable organizations sell them at a profit for euros, the organizations create an incentive for people to obtain them in the first place — on top of harnessing an altruistic desire to buy locally in an era of globalization — and businesses that accept can tap into a new vein of customers.

But they also typically include a feature aimed at jarring users into spending them more quickly than they would euros. In the case of the chiemgauer, the notes lose 2 percent of their value each quarter if people do not spend them in time.

Inspired by a long-dead German theoretician, Silvio Gesell, the currencies mine a hoary conflict in economics — usually pitting the mainstream against subversive outsiders — about whether paper money is a neutral medium of exchange whose purchasing power should be scrupulously guarded, or an instrument that could be manipulated to fulfill capitalism's untapped potential.

The contrast with the thinking behind the euro is stark. The ECB was given legal independence so that it would be free to pursue tough anti-inflation policies and stop politicians from embarking on ill-advised experiments in using monetary policy to spur Europe's economy.

This independence periodically grates on European politicians, and seldom more so than now.

In December, Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate in the French presidential election this spring, opened an attack on the ECB and Trichet, saying that she wanted to make the bank "subject to political decisions." That prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany last week to voice "great concern" about criticism of the bank's independence.

Yet almost more than anywhere else, Merkel's own country has witnessed the rise of currencies like the chiemgauer since 2001 that embrace a theory that is probably more Royal than Merkel.

Regiogeld, a German association for alternative currencies, currently tracks 21 such types of money in circulation in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with an additional 31 in preparation. Gerhard Rösl, an economist with the University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg, has also located similar experiments in Denmark, Italy, Scotland, Spain and Italy.

According to the Bundesbank, the German central bank, these alternative currencies are legal, provided they do not resemble the euro. But they are not legal tender like the euro and are unlikely to challenge the official currency shared by 13 European nations.

Rösl recently published a paper estimating the overall value of the currencies in Germany at €200,000, or $260,000, a drop compared to the trillions of euros in circulation. In a statement this week, the Bundesbank said that "only a very strong increase in these currencies would it disturb monetary policy."

Though their users emphasize that regional currencies complement the globally accepted euro, the money does embody a theoretical challenge to the common currency.

Gesell, a German émigré to Argentina and socialist activist, argued that money that sits in a bank was like dead weight on an economy, because it was accruing interest rather than being spent to fire consumption and production. Gesell proposed that money automatically depreciate over time — that is, inflation should be hard-wired into the currency — to generate an incentive to spend quickly.

The chiemgauer, named after the region around Rosenheim when it was created in 2003, follows this thinking.

To obtain chiemgauers, the roughly 1,000 users register with Gelleri's organization and get a bank card that resembles any other. At about 40 sites around the region, they can draw chiemgauers at the rate of one per euro, and spend them at roughly 1,000 businesses.

The chiemgauer depreciates at a rate of 2 percent per quarter, so Gelleri helped build in other incentives to persuade people to swap their euros for it. Schools, music clubs and elder-care associations, for example, sell chiemgauers and earn a 3 percent commission.

Users can also convert chiemgauers back into euros with the organization that issues them, for a 5 percent fee. If they overshoot the quarterly deadline for devaluation, they can purchase tiny stickers corresponding to the percentage lost which are affixed to the notes to restore them to their full value.

The currency's structure nurtures a psychology of spending to increase what economists call the "velocity of money." That way, even though the total amount of money in circulation may not rise — because euros get swapped for chiemgauers — the economic activity generated rises.

Alfred Licht owns a small family business in weaving rugs in Rosenheim, and estimates he has accepted 8,000 to 10,000 Chiemgauers over the past two years. He began accepting them as a way to lure customers who are interested in regional products. He spends them on medication, shoes and the occasional beer in a local tavern.

"I could hardly tell you how many I take in because I pass then on as fast as I can," Licht said.

Gelleri, a 33-year-old former economics teacher, contends that the statistics bear out the anecdotes. While the euro money supply turns over about seven times a year, the supply of chiemgauers does so at three times that rate.

Orthodox economists do not dispute that the chiemgauer's velocity outstrips the euro's, but they contend that people will logically draw fewer chiemgauers to protect themselves against the automatic devaluation. Rösl, the Regensburg economist, jeeringly calls the chiemgauer "schwundgeld" — "disappearing money" — to drive home his point.

"Yes, people spend the money more quickly," Rösl said. "But this money is expensive, because it loses value, so people are bound to hold less of it than they would otherwise."

Advocates like Gelleri say they believe they are doing more than simply putting Gesell's theory into practice. They are blending it with charitable work and support for the region.

The chiemgauer has earned money for the charitable organizations that sell the actual paper money for a fee — roughly €37,000 since 2003. And it has filled the coffers of Rosenheim's merchants and farmers.

Jürgen Wemhöner, a retired retail manager who estimates he spends several hundred chiemgauers a month, said the currency's appeal was that it supported the locals who accepted it. That seems to matter very much to people in Rosenheim.

"This currency gives small villages and regions a chance to survive," Wemhöner said.

But can a currency really do that for the Chiemgau region?

A central banker like Trichet might argue that prosperity comes from biting the bullet. Europe might suffer job losses and bankruptcies as it weathers globalization, but it will do well in the long term. The chiemgauer embodies an answer that is very different.

"With a little creativity we can avoid this suffering that we allegedly have to go through," Gelleri said. "The key is to do this intelligently, and we think it works."

Germans promote use of local currencies

BERLIN --A 10-euro bill buys a fine organic Riesling at the Alles Fliesst wine shop in Berlin's bustling Kreuzberg neighborhood. Or, as some regular customers do, you can hand the cashier something else: 10 locally printed Berliners.

Same goes for a jar of cinnamon honey, 4.20 euros or 4.20 Berliners, at the organic grocery upstairs, and for an espresso, 2.30 euros or 2.30 Berliners, across the street at the Cafe V vegetarian cafe, with its red ceiling, old chandelier and pipe-smoking clientele. The waitress even takes her tip in Berliners.

The Berliner, issued by a local environmental group, is one of around 20 local currencies that have begun circulating over the past five years in Germany. Concern about the impact of globalization and distant multinational corporations on their communities and locally owned businesses is one of the motivations behind making local money that will stay at home, community activists say.

About 10,000 Berliners have been issued -- printed by the Bundesdruckerei, the privatized former state printer, which also produces euros for Germany's central bank -- and they're accepted in 190 Berlin shops, many of them in Kreuzberg, a stronghold of Berlin's counterculture and the environmental Greens Party.

The Berliner is issued by the Gruene Liga, or Green League, environmental organization, at the wine shop, a cafe, a church, and a local alternative school. One Berliner costs one euro, and the League keeps the euros in the bank so shops that get Berliners from customers can turn them in for euros.

But the shops get only 95 cents back for each Berliner, with 3 percent going to local causes such as children's farm, a playground, and a church program for teens overcoming drug problems. Two percent funds a slightly better exchange rate to spur people to buy larger amounts of Berliners such as 50 or 100.

Activists have compared the slice taken by the issuer to the fees credit card companies charge -- the price paid for winning the business. Berliners come only in ones, fives and tens, so uneven sums can mean change in euros.

The principle behind a neighborhood currency is that it will be spent to support locally owned businesses and strengthen the community, said Suzanne Thomas, who leads the volunteer-run Berliner project.

"My outlook would be that you should obtain as many of the things you need every day from the local region, because if I have small shops in the street where I live, this adds to the quality of life," she said. "I can walk out the door and get what I need and not drive to some super shopping center."

She said the currency isn't a protest against the euro notes and coins, which some people blame for higher prices on some goods and services after they were introduced in 2002: "We think you should have both in your pocket, euros and Berliners."

The practice of locally issuing micro-currency has been catching on in Germany since 2001, when the Roland was issued in Bremen. It has been joined by the Carlo in Karlsruhe, the Cherry Blossom in Witzenhausen, and the Chiemgauer -- one of the largest with more than 400 participating businesses -- in Bavaria's Chiemgau region; others have popped up in Basel, Switzerland and in Schrems, Austria.

The practice itself isn't new. Alternative or counterculture communities such as the Christiania hippie enclave in Copenhagen and the Damanhur group in outside Turin, Italy, issued their own money years ago. The Web site lists many different examples of currencies meant to be used alongside national currencies the world over.

In Germany, local notes equal to $388,000 have been issued, according to Regiogeld e.V., an association of regional currency issuers -- infinitesimal compared to the amount of euros in circulation and so small that it can't affect the euro's value, the Bundesbank says.

Even multi-culti, green Kreuzberg isn't exactly awash in Berliners.

At the Cafe V, owner Inci Cemil, 25, said the cafe might take in 10 Berliners a day. "We don't get any added profit, but we wanted to take part in the project," he said.

He said the Berliner could help boost local business such as the organic grocery, a valued neighbor where the cafe gets pasta, flour and bread. "I think people in Kreuzberg tend to support each other," he said.

A key feature of the Berliner -- and several other regional currencies -- is that it expires after six months and can be exchanged for a new one -- but minus 2 percent. That pushes people to spend it quickly and give an added kick to the local economy.

That idea, dubbed "schwundgeld," or "depreciation money," is based on the writings of Silvio Gesell, a German social and economic theorist who died in 1930. A 2006 analysis for the Bundesbank argued that the schwundgeld idea is seriously flawed and that the local currencies are economically inefficient.

Nonetheless, the Bundesbank said in a statement that the local notes do not violate German law so long as they are not intended to replace legal currency and don't look like a banknote.

People use the community-issued currency to support a cause, Gerhard Roesl of the Regensburg University of Applied Sciences wrote in his 63-page Bundesbank analysis. "These currencies offer a chance for the holder to demonstratively support the local region and to make a statement against globalization," he wrote.

He noted that several have appeared in German areas with low unemployment: "There, it seems, people can afford the luxury of 'disappearing money' more than in structurally weak areas."

On the Web:

big read:

Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler

in short... Money is a fraudulent INVENTION, see the EASY EXPLANATION by way of this video:

Money as Debt

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

the Jewish lobby

Balfour - King David Hotel - ethnic cleansing - nuclear terrorism ...

Do Zionists Run America?

by Allen Ruff

James Petras, The Power of Israel in the United States
(Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2006)
190 pages, $16.95 paperback.

Widely known as an expert in Latin American history and social movements, and a prolific critic of U.S. imperialism, James Petras has ventured forth in his latest book The Power of Israel in the United States, and several recent essays on the same theme, as a modern-day exorcist eager to take on a cabal currently holding in its grasp the very course and direction of the nation.

According to Petras, it's the so-called "Zioncons" (his term) at the helm in Washington, along with the coordinated network of pro-Israel political action committees comprising "the Jewish lobby," and a broad array of "dual loyal" operatives, scads of money in hand, who control the media and public opinion, call the shots in Congress, curtail academic freedom, divert the labor movement, and prevent the antiwar movement and authentic "progressives" from setting a truly democratic domestic and foreign policy agenda.

In his writings on Latin America, Petras has incisively analyzed the material causes and corporate interests behind the U.S. drive for domination. When it comes to the Middle East, it's a different story: To hear Petras tell it, the reason the United States is in Iraq, and threatening Iran, is that it has been thoroughly infiltrated and "colonized" by the agents, direct and indirect, of a new "hegemon" ascendant on the global scene -- the state of Israel -- a new superpower that has managed, through well-heeled access and unprecedented political clout, to subvert, bend, and shape public opinion, the political terrain, and the course and direction of the most powerful country in world history.

If corporate power decisively determined policy, Petras argues rather sketchily, the oil industry's interests would dictate a more balanced if not "pro-Arab" tilt. (What's really so hard about supporting Israel and the Arab oil kingdoms at the same time?) Thus Petras would have us believe that Israel calls the shots entirely in this country on anything to do whatsoever with U.S. policy in the Middle East. The tail, according to Petras, clearly and undisputedly wags the dog.

The Lobby

There's a strong undercurrent here of an appeal to a far-from-savory American nationalism, which seems very strange coming from a veteran revolutionary anti-imperialist. Yet the argument is important, because variants of Petras' argument have had adherents on the Left. And there's an empirical case to answer: Few who have examined the question would dispute the immense lobbying power of the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and a host of other related and well-coordinated pro-Israel organizations.

Sadly, among many basic errors in this poorly edited book, AIPAC is misidentified as "American Israel Political Action Committee" -- AIPAC in fact is not a political action committee per se, but an umbrella funding source for a variety of PACs -- and it's weirdly implied that AIPAC is tax-exempt, which as an overtly political lobby of course it's not (although the related American Israel Education Fund is).

A number of prominent names are misspelled, most egregiously former CIA director George Tenet who's rendered as "Tenant"; a nonexistent "Union of Reform Jews" is mentioned, possibly a reference to the Union for Reform Judaism, but it's impossible to tell for sure.

Such mistakes could be corrected, but the quality of the analysis is hardly better than the editing. This is a real shame, because the poisonous effect of AIPAC is a genuine political problem, and any attempt to confront "The Lobby" or intelligently discuss U.S. Middle East policy brings immediate denunciation and retribution, as witness the vicious recent attacks on Jimmy Carter for his book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, or professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt for their study "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy."

Many, including a sizeable sector of Jews critical of the Zionist project, recognize the disproportionate influence of pro-Israel support within the Democratic and more recently (in alliance with the Christian religious right) the Republican parties, or within organized labor. Some left critics have even made an effort to point out the influence of Israel's backers in the dominant media, Hollywood, the academy, and elsewhere.

What sets Petras' work apart, first off, is his dropping or blurring of distinctions. The terms "Jewish lobby," "Israel lobby," and "Zionist lobby" are used interchangeably. Others, at least on the Left, have worked to mark the important distinction between Jews, as Jews, regardless of their differing ideologies, and those supporters of Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, who actively promote and support Israel's racist and expansionist practices. Petras facilely drops that distinction. (In an apparent attempt to deflect criticism, he states that he is justified in using the term "Jewish lobby" since that is what the Israelis use when discussing political support in the United States -- as if adopting the Zionist movement's cynical appropriation of all things Jewish serves any progressive purpose.)

What makes the use of the term an issue is the fact that Petras then lapses into the well-worn dual-loyalty discourse, using such language as "Israel Firsters," "colonizers," and "colons" to describe Israel's multi-layered and well-situated support system in the United States. To talk about "the Jewish lobby" in one breath and to then speak of strategically-placed Israeli agents, operatives, and Zionist infiltration in another is to suggest that American Jews generally are to be viewed as disloyal, suspect, untrustworthy, not what they seem.

Elements of the far right have always done this kind of thing. Such sloppy use of language lumps makes it seem as if Jewish-American opinion is monolithic in support of Israel, which is precisely one of the falsehoods that the Left needs to demystify.

There are some points of interest in the book. One chapter is devoted largely to the FBI's purported discovery and quiet post-9/11 dismantling of an Israeli spy network operating in the United States, briefly reported by Fox News and then disappeared from view. Leaving aside Petras' peculiar affection for the FBI's patriotic devotion, one would like to know more about this; but the trail seems to have turned cold.

Zioncons In Control?

Petras' argument is multi-layered. Largely ignoring a lengthy and specific history regarding the U.S. imperial agenda in the Middle East that extends back at least to mid-World War II (originally built around controlling oil and displacing Britain as the leading imperial power), he tells us that support of Israel and Israel alone defines U.S. policy in the region.

He asserts that the invasion and occupation of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with oil, and that the oil industry actually stood firmly opposed to Bush administration actions. Sidestepping any discussion of U.S. attempts to gain and maintain strategic control over the region and its resources, he argues that Israel's strategically placed "Zioncon" operatives in the White House and Pentagon (mostly gone at the time of this writing) took this country to war simply and solely out of a desire to crush Israel's major regional adversary, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, to advance Israel's imperial ambitions.

A fair amount of space in the book lays out what Petras describes as the "Zionist power configuration" or ZPC, in the United States -- "a complex network of interrelated formal and informal groupings, operating at the international, national, regional and local levels and directly and systematically subordinated to the State of Israel, its power holders and key decision makers."

Reaching from the "Zioncons" in the Oval Office and Pentagon and through a Congress bought and paid for by "pro-Israeli Jews" (36), and extending throughout most of the dominant media and the major trade unions, this network of "overseas expatriates" and "colonizers" or "colons" reaches right down to "the lawyers' boardrooms and doctors' lounges" (37) and "pro-Israel Jews disproportionately represented in the financial, political, professional, academic, real estate, insurance and mass media sectors of the American economy" (40).

Describing the response of those present at an AIPAC conference in Washington in May, 2004, Petras tells us that the pledge of unconditional support to Israel given by Congressional leaders and the two major Presidential candidates "[evoked] the bloodthirsty cheers of investment brokers, dentists, doctors, lawyers -- the cream of the cream of American Jewish society" (71).

The book goes after columnist Seymour Hersh, accusing him of covering up the role of the Zioncons in driving U.S. war policy -- a particularly absurd argument, given that the most prominent of the Jewish neoconservative militarists, Richard Perle, had to resign as an officer of a military advisory board following Hersh's exposure of him (to say nothing of Hersh's authorship of the definitive work on Israel's super-secret nuclear weapons program).

Petras also spends a whole chapter attacking dissident foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky, asserting that "[Chomsky's] analytical virtues are totally absent when it comes to discussing the formulation of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, particularly the role of his own ethnic group, or the Jewish pro-Israel lobby and their Zionist supporters in the government" (168). The substance of his critique of Chomsky's actual argument doesn't go much beyond this kind of abuse.

At one point, in relation to a passage critical of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's failings in regard to Israel, Petras goes so far as to mention, in a note, that the man's wife is Jewish!

Seeing them as complicit, Petras also goes after Jews on the Left and in the anti-war movement:

The leaders of the peace movement, both Jews and non-Jews alike, reject any effort to include Israel's genocidal war against Palestine for fear of alienating the "public" (read the major Jewish organization) and the self-styled progressive Jews, who are ever protective of everything Jewish -- even war crimes. Worse still, with few rare exceptions, the "progressive" Jewish critics of the war and Israel are forever and adamantly determined to avoid criticizing the role of powerful Zionist policymakers in the government, their ties to Israel and the significant support they receive from the major Jewish organizations. . . . The tragic myopia or perverse refusal of Leftist Jews to face up to the prejudicial role of the major Jewish groups promoting the Israel First policy . . . substantially undermines their and our efforts to secure peace and justice in the Middle East and to forge a democratic U.S. foreign policy. (56-57)

In short, as Petras would have it, the "progressive" Jews within the antiwar movement are an impediment to peace and an enlightened foreign policy!

False Populist Appeal

If one were to believe James Petras' explanations for U.S. war and intervention in the Middle East, then all this country might need to set it back on the track and restore it as a force for "freedom" and "justice" in the world would be to have a purge of not only the top layers of our government, now seemingly hijacked and under the sway of a corps of well-placed and influential agents of a foreign power, but virtually every key institution -- the media, the academy, the various think tanks, the military, the academy, the medical and law professions. As Petras phrases it in the very last sentence of this insidiously twisted jeremiad, it's time to "move ahead and decolonize our country, our minds and politics as a first step in reconstituting a democratic republic, free of entangling colonial and neo-imperial alliances."

Could anything possibly be more worthless than arguing over whether Richard Perle or James Petras is a better American patriot?

If it is hard to imagine a leftwing scholar of Petras' stature writing this kind of thing, one might also ask why anyone should even bother examining such a work. Partly, it's important precisely because of the fact that Petras is widely known and read in some quarters. His numerous books and hundreds of articles critical of U.S. imperialism in Latin America and elsewhere, and his critiques of neoliberal globalization, have garnered him a significant audience in the Global South.

Unfortunately, his current book may be taken up there and elsewhere as some seemingly worthwhile analysis of how and why the United States does what it does in the world. It may also be seized upon as documented "proof" of "the anti-Semitism of the Left." It might conceivably be taken up by elements of the far right, already convinced and not needing to be told, but always receptive to more "proof" of Jewish machinations and conspiracies.

More ominous, perhaps, the book will certainly seem attractive to numbers of unevenly developed and unschooled radicals, disenchanted youth and others already opposed to war and occupation abroad and assaults on civil liberties and increasing authoritarianism at home. It may contribute to miseducating and disorienting a movement that needs a serious, trenchant and materialist critique of imperialism and of Zionism.

To understand what seems to have led Petras into this blind alley, it may be worth looking at the remarkable recent renascence of various forms of populism -- left, right, and just plain confused -- with its illusory solutions to real problems. Grounded in vague notions of "the people," joined in opposition to some oligarchy or "plutocracy" of usurpers at the top, populism as an ideology is often backward-looking, filled with demands to regain a declining status and position and calls to "take back our lands/nation/democracy/republic."

While populism certainly has had its contradictory progressive and democratic edge, typified in our own period by anti-corporate demands of the Green party and other forces in the global justice struggle, populism has also had a reactionary side appealing to social groups bypassed and buffeted by economic forces beyond their control -- a nativist, xenophobic and racist side, a penchant for conspiratorial theory and a related quest to exorcize evil cabals, rid the country of outsiders and/or their domestic agents, and reclaim "the republic." This retrograde side of populism is evidenced above all today in ugly anti-immigrant racism.

In some weird way, however, Petras seems to think that such instincts can be turned in a progressive direction if the "Zionist Lobby" is targeted as an alien force imposed from the outside on American society. The true and ugly reality of The Lobby -- fundamentally a home-grown outgrowth of U.S. imperialism, not a foreign body parasitic upon it -- is lost.

For the simple reason that it illustrates just how far astray one might go in search of answers in these troubled and dangerous times, The Power of Israel in the United States should be examined as a case study of what happens when even a prominent left intellectual abandons a clear class-based, anti-imperialist understanding of politics.

Allen Ruff, historian and long-time Madison political activist, author, staff member at Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative and radio voice on WORT (89.9fm, Madison), is a founding member of US Out Now, the Madison Area Peace Coalition, Jews for Equal Justice, and a member of Solidarity. This essay also appears in Against the Current 128, May/June 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

USA newspapers are PR outlets, no exceptions.

A fascinating quote about U.S. media, from a surprising source:
The American press is overwhelmingly owned and operated by Republicans who fix the rules of U.S. political debate. And I use the words "fix" advisedly.

It is a press that has generally grown comfortable, fat and self-righteous; and which with some noteworthy exceptions voices the prejudices and preconceptions of entrenched wealth rather than those qualities of critical inquiry and rebellious spirits we associated with our noblest journalistic traditions.

It is a press that is generally more concerned with the tax privileges of any fat cat than with the care and feeding of any underdog.

It is a press that sanctimoniously boasts of its independence and means by that its right to do what its Republican owners damn please.

The press used to be regarded as a public trust, not a private playground.
Who said that? Michael Moore? Noam Chomsky? Hugo Chavez? Find out after the cartoon ...

That illuminating quote was made 50 years ago by James Wechsler, editor of The New York Post.

Hard to think of a time when the Post -- or most of our country's major media -- were considered part of a "journalistic tradition" marked by "critical inquiry and rebellious spirit."

The quote is from an address Wechsler delivered in 1957, cited in J.E. Gerald's useful book The Social Responsibility of the Press (1963).

Here's another interesting quotable from the 1950s, this one from Robert Hutchins in his book Freedom, Education and the Fund (1956):
Of course we have a one-party press n this country, and we shall have one as long as the press is big business, and as long as people with money continue to feel safer on the Republican side.

Global Warming (52k)

Editorial cartoon

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Cartoon by Tony Auth, Philadelphia Inquirer

Editorial cartoon

Editorial Cartoon by Clay Bennett, Christian Science Monitor on Blair to Step Down

Editorial Cartoon by Ann Telnaes, CWS/CartoonArts Intl. on Blair to Step Down

Editorial Cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post on In Other News

Editorial Cartoon by Joel Pett, Lexington Herald-Leader, CWS/CartoonArts Intl. on Nigerian Election Compromised

Editorial Cartoon by Jeff Danziger, CWS/CartoonArts Intl. on Bush Still the Decider

Editorial Cartoon by Tom Toles, Washington Post on Bush Still the Decider

Editorial Cartoon by RJ Matson, Cagle Cartoons on Surge Continues in Iraq

Editorial Cartoon by Pat Oliphant, Universal Press Syndicate on Questions Remain Regarding Shootings

Sunday, May 20, 2007

USA media -- a perverse institution

What doesn't make the news

May 18, 2007 04:30 AM --

WINDSOR – Lucky the Ambassador Bridge is jammed with trucks. Otherwise, would-be media revolutionaries might storm it armed with digicams and laptops, ready to take on the corporate gatekeepers of news and information.

Here at the University of Windsor, where some 300 scholars, students and media guerrillas are revisiting Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky's groundbreaking "propaganda model" on the eve of its 20th anniversary, the talk is of how to take back the public agenda and make it serve the public interest instead of the corporate bottom line.

As Sut Jhally of the University of Massachusetts put it in his galvanizing keynote speech, the "absences'' are what hurt.

"What doesn't make it in (the news) is more important than what makes it in," said the executive director of the Media Education Foundation.

In Herman and Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, the authors proposed their propaganda model as a way of understanding how the mass media "filter" the news through five sieves.

Stripped down for purposes of, as Chomsky would say, typical media "concision," they are: ownership interests, advertiser concerns, the nature of journalists' sources, flak (or negative feedback) and ideology.

No recent failure of the media has been more spectacular than that during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when they marched in lockstep to promote the weapons of mass destruction lie.

Few journalists ventured outside the Pentagon for their information. Those that did and dug up contrary evidence, or lack of it, were confined to back pages, marginalized or scorned.

The facts underreported because of media filters "are the inconvenient and larger truths that the Herman-Chomsky model forces us to confront and challenge,'' said Valerie Scatamburlo-D'Annibale, an associate professor here.

(For the record: The Star was the only major metro daily in Canada not to back the war on Iraq. It has however endorsed the Canadian "mission" in Afghanistan.)

Noting that both the New York Times and Washington Post eventually apologized for their shoddy reportage, Herman said, "The ink had hardly dried when they were doing the exact same thing with Iran."

This is why New York-based Danny Schechter of talked of media "war crimes." He cited historical examples of indictments of media – from Tokyo Rose after World War II to radio stations in Rwanda.

Reminding his audience that the Nuremberg trials were really about "crimes against peace," he said, "We have the right to demand accountability.

"This is a story about crime, collusion and complicity between media and government."

Hyperbolic, perhaps. But a case could be made.

Here's the thing: Unlike, say, during the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, this time the media are entwined with the government as ground zero for protest.

Activists are working to change how the media cover stories. Among them, Toronto's Isabel Macdonald, who in Haiti opened some journalists' eyes to the 2004 overthrow of the democratically elected Aristide government – a coup the Paul Martin government backed.

"Manufacturing Consent changed how (younger) generations saw media as a target for dissent," observed Judy Rebick, a lifelong Canadian activist and founder of

In fact, said Colin Sparks of the University of Westminster in London, England, "The mass media are not only the enemy, but also the battleground."


Hard-Wired for Moral Politics:

Neuroscience and Empathy

by Gary Olson
May 20, 2007

The official directives needn’t be explicit to be well understood: Do not let too much empathy move in unauthorized directions.

Norman Solomon

The way we are educated and entertained keep us from knowing about or understanding the pain of others . . .

—Robert Jensen

The nonprofit Edge Foundation recently asked some of the world’s most eminent scientists, “What Are You Optimistic About? Why?” In response, the prominent neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni, cites the proliferating experimental work into the neural mechanisms that reveal how humans are “wired for empathy.”

Iacoboni’s optimism is grounded in his belief that as these recent findings in experimental cognitive science seep into public awareness, “. . . this explicit level of understanding our empathic nature will at some point dissolve the massive belief systems that dominate our societies and that threaten to destroy us.” (Iacoboni, 2007)

Only five years earlier, Preston and de Waal predicted that science is on the verge of “an ultimate level description that addresses the evolution and function of empathy.” (Preston, 2002)

While there are reasons to remain circumspect (see below) about the progressive political implications flowing from this work, a body of impressive empirical evidence reveals that the roots of prosocial behavior, including moral sentiments like empathy, precede the evolution of culture. This work sustains Noam Chomsky’s visionary assertion that while the principles of our moral nature have been poorly understood, “we can hardly doubt their existence or their central role in our intellectual and moral lives.” (Chomsky, 1971, 1988; 2005)

The emerging field of the neuroscience of empathy parallels investigations being undertaken in cognate fields. Some forty years ago the celebrated primatologist, Jane Goodall, observed and wrote about chimpanzee emotions, social relationships, and “chimp culture” but experts remained highly skeptical. Even a decade ago, scientific consensus on this matter was elusive, but all that’s changed. According to famed primate scientist Frans B.M. de Waal “You don’t hear any debate now.” In his more recent work, de Waal plausibly argues that human morality—including our capacity to empathize—is a natural outgrowth or inheritance of behavior from our closest evolutionary relatives. It’s now indisputable that we share moral faculties with other species. (de Waal, 2006; Kropotkin, 1902; Trivers, 1971; Katz, 2000; Gintis, 2005; Hauser, 2006)

Following Darwin, highly sophisticated studies by biologists Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson posit that large-scale cooperation within the human species—including with genetically unrelated individuals within a group—was favored by selection. (Hauser, 2006, p. 416) There were evolutionary (survival) benefits in coming to grips with others.

If morality is rooted in biology, in the raw material or building blocks for the evolution of its expression, we now have a pending fortuitous marriage of hard science and secular morality in the most profound sense. The details of the social neuroscientific analysis supporting these assertions lie outside this paper but suffice it to note that it’s persuasive, proliferating, and exciting. (Jackson, 2004 and 2006; Lamm, 2007)

That said, one of the most vexing problems that remains to be explained is why so little progress has been made in extending this orientation to those outside certain in-group moral circles. That is, given a world rife with overt and structural violence, one is forced to explain why our moral intuition doesn’t produce a more ameliorating effect, a more peaceful world. Iacoboni suggests this disjuncture is explained by massive belief systems, including political and religious ones, operating on the reflective and deliberate level. These tend to override the automatic, pre-reflective, neurobiological traits that should bring people together.

Thus a few cautionary notes are warranted here. The first, then, is that social context and triggering conditions are everything because where there is conscious and massive elite manipulation, it becomes exceedingly difficult to get in touch with our moral faculties. As Albert cautions, circumstances may preclude and overwhelm our perceptions, rendering us incapable of recognizing and giving expression to moral sentiments (Albert, n.d.; and also, Pinker, 2002). For example, the fear-mongering of artificially created scarcity may attenuate the empathic response.

The second is Hauser’s (2006) observation that proximity was undoubtedly a factor in the expression of empathy. In our evolutionary past “there were no opportunities for altruism at a distance” and therefore the emotional intensity was/is lacking. This can’t be discounted but, given some of the positive dimensions of globalization, the potential for identifying with the “stranger” has never been more robust. For examples of help extended to strangers that wasn’t available in our evolutionary past, including blood donations, Holocaust rescuers, adoption, and filing honest tax returns, see Barber (2004).

Finally, as Preston (2006-2007; and also, in press) suggests, risk and stress tend to suppress empathy whereas familiarity and similarity encourage the experience of natural, reflexive empathy. This formidable but not insurmountable challenge warrants further research into how this “out-group” identity is created, reinforced, and its influence diluted.

The concept of empathy was first discussed by the German psychologist Theodore Lipps in the 1880s. He introduced the term “einfuhlung” (in-feeling) as a way of describing one person’s affective response to another person’s experience.

Empathy is not synonymous with compassion, shared suffering or sympathy with another’s pain. Limited to the former, one would be paralyzed by “over-identification” and the inability to distinguish oneself from the other’s distress. At a minimum, it requires being able to grasp another’s feeling state, to put oneself in the place of another. This necessitates making a distinction between self and others by employing the cognitive capacity for detachment in order to act on that perception. (Hardee, 2003)

We know from neuroscientific empathy experiments that the same affective brain circuits are automatically mobilized upon feeling one’s own pain and the pain of others. Through brain imaging, we also know that separate neural processing regions then free up the capacity to take action. As Decety notes, empathy then allows us to “forge connections with people whose lives seem utterly alien from us.” (Decety, 2007) Where comparable experience is lacking, this “cognitive empathy” builds on the neural basis and allows one to “actively projects oneself into the shoes of another person,” by trying to imagine the other person’s situation. (Preston, in press) Empathy is “other directed” and recognizes the other’s humanity. But, again, why the disjuncture? What can we expect from this potentially transforming synthesis?

Hauser, as I read his exposition of a “universal moral grammar,” posits a more neutral or benign process at work. Given a moral grammar hard wired into our neural circuit via evolution, this neural machinery precedes conscious decisions in life-and-death situations. However, we observe “nurture entering the picture to set the parameters and guide us toward the acquisition of particular moral systems.” At other points he suggests that environmental factors can push individuals toward defective moral reasoning, and the various outcomes for a given local culture are virtually limitless. (Hauser, 2006) For me, this discussion of cultural variation fails to give sufficient attention to the socioeconomic variables responsible for shaping the culture.

Cohen and Rogers, in parsing Chomsky’s critique of elites, note that “Once an unjust order exists, those benefiting from it have both an interest in maintaining it and, by virtue of their social advantages, the power to do so.” (For a concise but not uncritical treatment of Chomsky’s social and ethical views, see Cohen, 1991.)

Clearly, the vaunted human capacity for verbal communication cuts both ways. In the wrong hands, this capacity is often abused by consciously quelling the empathic response. When de Waal writes, “Animals are no moral philosophers,” I’m left to wonder if he isn’t favoring the former in this comparison. (de Waal, 2000)

One of the methods employed within capitalist democracies is Chomsky and Herman’s “manufacture of consent,” a form of highly sophisticated thought control. Potentially active citizens must be “distracted from their real interests and deliberately confused about the way the world works.” (Cohen, 1991; Chomsky, 1988)

For this essay and following Chomsky, I’m arguing that the human mind is the primary target of this perverse “nurture” or propaganda, in part because exposure to certain new truths about empathy—hard evidence about our innate moral nature—poses a direct threat to elite interests. That is, given the apparent universality of this biological predisposition toward empathy, we have a potent scientific baseline upon which to launch further critiques of this manipulation.

First, the insidiously effective scapegoating of human nature that claims we are motivated by greedy, dog-eat-dog “individual self-interest is all” is undermined. Stripped of yet another rationalization for empire, predatory behavior on behalf of the capitalist mode of production becomes ever more transparent.

Second, for many people, the basic incompatibility between global capitalism and the lived expression of moral sentiments may become obvious for the first time. (Olson, 2006, 2005) For example, the failure to engage this moral sentiment has radical implications, not the least being consequences for the planet. Researchers at McGill University (Mikkelson, 2007) have shown that economic inequality is linked to high rates of biodiversity loss. The authors suggest that economic reforms may be the prerequisite to saving the richness of the ecosystem and urge that “. . . if we can learn to share the economic resources more fairly with fellow members of our own species, it may help to share ecological resources with our fellow species.” While one hesitates imputing too much transformative potential to this emotional capacity, there is nothing inconsistent about drawing more attention to inter-species empathy and eco-empathy. The latter may be essential for the protection of biotic communities.

Third, learning about the conscious suppression of this essential core of our human nature begs additional troubling questions about the motives behind other elite-generated ideologies, from neo-liberalism and nationalism to xenophobia and the “war on terror.” Equally alarming for elites, awareness of this reality contains the potential to encourage “destabilizing” but humanity-affirming cosmopolitan attitudes toward the faceless “other,” both here and abroad. In de Waal’s apt words, “Empathy can override every rule about how to treat others.”

Finally, as de Waal admonishes, “If we could manage to see people on other continents as part of us, drawing them into our circle of reciprocity and empathy, we would be building upon rather than going against our nature.” (de Waal, 2005) An ethos of empathy is an essential part of what it means to be human. We’ve been systematically denied a deeper and more fulfilling engagement with this moral sentiment. I would argue that, paradoxically, the relative absence of widespread empathic behavior is in fact a searing tribute to its potentially subversive power.

Is it too much to hope that we’re on the verge of discovering a scientifically based, Archimedean moral point from which to lever public discourse toward an appreciation of our true nature, which in turn might release powerful emancipatory forces?


Dana Dunn, Marco Iacoboni, Kathleen Kelly, Stephanie Preston and Joel Wingard provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. Thanks, per usual, to Mickey Ortiz.


Gary Olson, Ph.D., chairs the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. He may be reached at:

References Cited

Albert, M. (n.d.) “Universal Grammar and Linguistics,”

Barber, N. (2004) Kindness in a Cruel World. New York: Pantheon, pp. 203-231.

Chomsky, N. (1971) Human Nature: Justice versus Power, Noam Chomsky debates Michel Foucault.

Chomsky, N. (1988) Language and Problems of Knowledge: The Managua Lectures. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chomsky, N. (2005a) “What We Know,” Boston Review (Summer)

Chomsky, N. (2005b) “Universals of Human Nature,” Psychotherapy and Psychomatics, 74.

Chomsky, N., Herman, E. (1988) Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. New York: Pantheon.

Cohen, J., Rogers, J. (1991) “Knowledge, Morality and Hope: The Social Thought of Noam Chomsky,” New Left Review, 187, pp. 5-27.

Decety, J. (2006) “Mirrored Emotion,” Interview, The University of Chicago Magazine, 94, 4, pp. 1-9.

de Waal, F.B.M. (1996) Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Primates and Other Animals. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

de Waal, F.B.M. (2006) Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

de Waal, F.B.M. (2005-06) “The Evolution of Empathy,” Greater Good, Fall-Winter, pp. 8-9.

Gintis, H., Bowles, S., Boyd, R., and Fehr, E. (2004) “Explaining altruistic behavior in humans,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, pp. 153-172.

Gintis, H., Bowles, S., Boyd, R., and Fehr, E. (2005) Moral Sentiments and Material Interests. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hardee, J. T. (2003) “An Overview of Empathy,” The Permanente Journal, 7, 4, pp. 1-10.

Hauser, M. D. (2006a) Moral Minds, New York: Harper Collins.

Hauser, M. D. (2006b) “The Bookshelf Talks with Marc Hauser,” American Scientist,

Iacoboni, M. (2007) “Neuroscience Will Change Society,” EDGE, The World Question Center.

Jackson, P. L., Meltzoff, A. N., and Decety, J. (2004) “How do we perceive the pain of others?” Neuroimage, 125, pp. 5-9.

Jackson, P. L., Rainville, P., and Decety, J. (2006) “To what extent do we share the pain of others?” PAIN, 125, pp. 5-9.

Jensen, R. (3/20/02) “The Politics of Pain and Pleasure.” Counterpunch.

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Kropotkin, P. 1972 (1902) Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution. New York: New York University Press.

Lamm, C., Batson, C., and Decety, J. (2007) “The Neural Substrate of Human Empathy: Effects of Perspective-taking and Cognitive Appraisal,” Journal of Cognitive Neural Science, 19: 1, pp. 42-58.

Mikkelson, G. M., Gonzalez, A., and Peterson, G. D. (2007) “Economic Inequality Predicts Biodiversity Loss,” PLoS ONE 2 (5):e444.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000444.

Olson, G. (2005) “Scapegoating Human Nature,” ZNet, 11/30/05.

Olson, G. (2006) “Graduates face choice between love or ‘selling out.’” ZNet Commentary.

Pinker, S. (2002) The Blank Slate. New York: Viking.

Preston, S. and de Waal, F.B.M. (2002) “Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases,” Behavior and Brain Sciences, 25, pp. 1-72.

Preston, S. (2006-2007) “Averting the Tragedy of the Commons,” SHIFT, 13, pp. 25-28.

Preston, S., Bechara, A., Damasio, H., Grabowski, T. J., Stansfield, S. M., and Damasio, A. R. (in press) “The Neural Substrates of Cognitive Empathy.” Social Neuroscience.

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Trivers, R. (1971) “The evolution of reciprocal altruism,” Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, pp. 35-57.



Manufacturing indifference: searching for a new ‘propaganda model’

by Danny Schechter, Media Channel

Twenty years ago, a professor of finance at the Wharton School in Philadelphia and a far better known professor of linguistics at MIT set out to come with a way to explain how our media really works.Rather than offer a case study of coverage of one issue, or an analysis of this or that flaw or media “mistake,” they set out to try to make sense of the way the media functions as a “system” what rules govern the behavior of media institutions in reporting on crisis abroad. They didn’t call it a theory because they believed they were not being speculative but factual.

They came up with what they called a “model,” not of journalism, but of propaganda.

The ambitious book, since revised, explained their “Propaganda Model.” It’s called, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. It became a best seller among a public angry with the news we are getting and popular with media students worldwide who saw that there was now a systematic way to analyze media performance in a structural way. It’s still in print and still provoking controversy.

The author’s names are Edward Herman, and Noam Chomsky, both considered intellectual heroes and heavyweights among generations of rebels and critics worldwide.

At the same time, despite the many scholars who have validated it. even with some nit picks, their “model” is ignored in most journalism schools and newsrooms because its real focus is on the powers behind the media and how they shape it to serve their own interest.

Many of the mainstream journalists who even know about it dismiss it as a “conspiracy theory,” even though Chomsky is a well-known critic of conspiracy theorizing. (This is like that old joke in which someone says they are an “anti-communist” only to be told, “I don’t care what kind of communist you are.”)

This past week, I spoke at a conference in Canada, not the US of course, where its impact is widely appreciated, still debated and updated. Still, there was only one mainstream corporate journalist there, Antonia Zerbisias, the always insightful media columnist of the Toronto Star who explained the “model’s focus on the “filters” that much news has to pass through.

“Stripped down for purposes of, as Chomsky would say, typical media “concision,” they are: ownership interests, advertiser concerns, the nature of journalists’ sources, flak (or negative feedback) and ideology.”

In a talk to a conference plenary, Zerbisias smiled before pronouncing that the model is “true.” There it is- a media veteran said it!

True-but not necessarily up to date in this new ever changing media era of diverse technologies, major outlets losing audience and credibility, increasing top-down control by conglomerized monopolies, vast information available on the internet, increasing media production by citizens and media makers, and growing disenchantment with a media that does more selling than telling.

Of course, media outlets have an ideological orientation that usually conforms with the interests of their governments. Journalists who challenge it are often marginalized, ignored or fired. I have documented that in my books and film WMD about the deplorable media coverage of the Iraq war. I am not the only one to argue that there was complicity and collaboration between a servile press corps and the Bush Administration that we both cheerleading for war.

There are two other aspects to this that needs to be examined including top-down coercion as when politically motivated moguls like Rupert Murdoch or Silvio Berlusconi or Conrad Black buy a media outlet and discharge journalists with whom they disagree.

There has just been a worrisome recent development at the one media outlet in the world known for its independence, AlJazeera where a new board has been named with a gutsy independent journalist replaced as managing director by a former Ambassador to Washington. You just know what that will result in-Foxeera, was the formulation coined by one reader.

In some countries, media dissenters are jailed or even killed. That’s why it was suggested at the conference that the title Manufacturing Consent today should be modified for “Manufacturing Compliance.” Increasingly governments don’t care what people think at all– or if they consent-just that they go along with the program by hook, crook or club. Most prefer that we don’t vote at all. That’s why elections are treated as sports events. The non-voters increasingly outnumber whose who cast ballots.

Even more distressing is the tend towards the depoliticalization of politics through the merger of showbiz and newsbiz to assure that much of the media agenda is noisy and negative, stripped of all meaning: superficial, often celebrity-dominated with little in-depth explanatory or investigative journalism. They would rather market American Idol as the American Ideology. To them, the only “hegemony” in Canada is its beer and hockey.

The people who run our media are, after all, in the end, promoting a culture of consumption, not of engaged citizenship. They want eyeballs for advertisers, not activists to promote change. The sound-bytes presented as substance are there for entertainment, not illumination. It’s heat, not light, all the way

So truth be told, the real propaganda in an era where with more pundits than journalists, is less real coverage. It is pervasive and invisible at the same time-omission more than commission. They want to dumb us down, not smarten us up. They foster passivity, skepticism and resignation. Forget beliefs of any kind-just buy, buy, buy. Why even use deception when distraction works just as well?

Yes, the lack of coverage of East Timor that Noam Chomsky railed against was atrocious, as is today’s war coverage. but so is the absence of reporting on the devolution of democracy and much of the suffering in our own country.

Perhaps the more appropriate title in what Detroit calls a “new model year,” is “Manufacturing Indifference.”