Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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Conscience of a Progressive

Ernest Partridge

Chapter Eighteen:

The Right to Know:
Propaganda and the Media


When Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, he had been named an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal conspiracy. “Unindicted” because he could not be charged with a crime while President. Only the pardon of his successor, Gerald Ford, saved Nixon from criminal indictment.

And yet the Watergate scandal would likely have been contained, and Nixon would have completed his second term, but for the public outcry and the reluctant Congressional action, both activated by the disclosures of an independent and persistent media.

The right could have learned either of two lessons from Watergate: first, never again attempt such felonies from the White House, or second, the next time felonious activity is engaged in at the White House, make sure that the Congress and the media are under full control. Regrettably, the right and the Bush administration have learned and acted upon the second lesson.

Propaganda: Selling Lies like Cigarettes1

Politics according to the Vince Lombardi Rule:

The key insight into the right-regressive propaganda machine is a realization that it is completely unscrupulous – literally, without scruple. To these political operatives, Vince Lombardi’s rule applies: “winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing.”

Accordingly, if a violation of common decency, or even of the law, is counter-productive to a regressive candidate’s political campaign, only then might decency and the law be a constraint. Otherwise, anything goes, so long as it enhances the prospects of political success. Common decency and the law be damned.

The Law? Richard Nixon’s willingness to resort to perjury, illegal wiretapping and burglary to further his political ends, is well known. The GOP also violated the law in Florida in 2000, as tens of thousands of eligible voters were “purged” from the rolls, as hundreds of military ballots postmarked after the election were counted, and as the official recount of ballots in Miami-Dade County was interrupted and then cancelled, as the offices were besieged in the “yuppy riot” carried out largely by congressional GOP staffers.

Arguably, a Supreme Court decision cannot violate a law, since it validates laws. Even so, the consensus of legal scholars is that the December 12, 2000 decision, Bush v. Gore, is an absurd, incoherent and indefensible concoction specifically devised to enact a pre-ordained result: the selection of George W. Bush as President.

With such a history as this, can the public be assured that the “paperless” touch-screen voting machines, all manufactured by companies owned and controlled by Republican partisans, will accurately and fairly record the votes in the upcoming Presidential election?

Common Decency? Consider the distortions and lies that the right wing propaganda mill has fed the voters:

  • Dukakis vs. Bush I and the infamous “Willie Horton” ad. Horton, a Massachusetts prisoner, committed a violent crime while on furlough during Dukakis’s term as Governor. The ad does not point out that the furlough program was established during the term of Dukakis’ predecessor, a Republican.

  • In the 2002 Georgia senatorial campaign, Max Cleland was characterized as “unpatriotic” by his opponent, Saxby Chamblis. Cleland is a Viet Nam veteran who lost three of his limbs in combat. Chamblis dodged the draft during the Viet Name war.

  • In the 2000 Presidential campaign, Al Gore was slandered as a “serial liar” and a “self promoter.” Examples? He claimed, among other things, to have “invented the internet,” and to have “discovered the Love Canal toxic waste site.” In fact, the “lies” were made by the GOP campaign. Gore never made such claims, and one is hard-pressed to find any examples of deliberate lying in his public record.2

  • The outpouring of grief at the memorial for Paul Wellstone was denounced by the GOP as a “cheap political rally.”

  • In the crucial 2000 South Carolina primary campaign, John McCain, an authentic war hero, was smeared by a barrage of false accusations: that he is mentally unstable as a result of his experiences as a prisoner of war, that he fathered a black child, that his wife is an alcoholic, etc.3

Politicians who gain their offices through slander, election fraud, and lies, can be expected to continue such behavior once in office – and they do.

None of this behavior would be successful if the media reported and criticized it, and if the public repudiated it at the polls. But they don’t. Instead, the GOP campaign propaganda tests the limits, encounters little resistance and is rewarded by success, and so the limits of corrupt political campaigning are stretched ever further.

Accordingly, in the conditions of contemporary politics, Leo Durocher’s rule applies: “Nice guys finish last.”

Making the Case vs. Selling the Product.

Adlai Stevenson conducted his 1952 and 1956 campaigns with the slogan, “let’s talk sense to the American people.”

How noble! How high-minded! How naive!

Because much of the Democratic “brain trust” is drawn from the scholarly and legal professions, Democratic candidates and campaign managers are inclined to treat political campaigns as if they took place in a seminar room or a court room. They assemble their evidence and put it into a logical structure, and then proceed to “make their case.” Ho Hum!

Republican campaign strategists come from an entirely different place – the marketplace. Their methodology is that of the salesman: the candidate as “product,” and the voter as “customer.” Their commanding objective is to “make the sale,” by whatever means are found to be effective toward that end. They are utterly undeterred by qualms about committing fallacies or even about staying within the bounds factual accuracy and truth. “Salesmanship” has little interest in such concerns. “Facts,” as Ronald Reagan once said, “are stupid things.” Thus lying is just another weapon in their rhetorical armory, to be utilized whenever it is found to be effective.

In advance of their political campaigns, GOP “salesmen” examine comprehensively the public mind, through polling and focus groups. There they discover the “hot button” words, concepts, images and (less significantly) issues. With this information, they then target the emotions (in “the post-9/11 context,” primarily fear) , motives (security and economic gain), and self-image (hard-working, free, God- fearing) of the public, all this toward the objective of what Noam Chomsky describes as “the manufacturing of consent.”

Then the GOP campaign machine strikes early, defining their opponents and framing the contest, whereupon the Democrats find themselves constantly on the defensive. In addition, the Republicans resolve to “stay on the message” which they repeat and repeat and repeat, until the public perceives the repetition as proof – a tactic which has come to be known as “the big lie.”

Democrats also use polls and conduct focus groups, but primarily to discover public opinion concerning “the issues” – i.e., the economy, homeland security, health care, foreign policy, etc. Time and again, they discover that a majority of the public is “with the Democrats” on the issues. Time and again, the Republicans prove that the issues are of secondary importance to imagery and the public’s perception of the personalities of the candidates.

For example, in 1984, when the pollsters surveyed public opinion regarding the positions of the two parties on public issues, carefully excluding references to the candidates and the parties, on virtually every issue, the preponderance of public opinion was on the side of the Democrats. And yet in that election we were told over and over that it was “morning in America” (whatever that meant) and the smiling Gipper face was omnipresent on the TV screen. Reagan trounced Mondale. In 2000 election, the GOP image-makers successfully, albeit unfairly, portrayed Al Gore as untrustworthy, self-absorbed, aloof and cold. George Bush, on the other hand, was presented as a compassionate “straight-shooting” and “likeable” guy. Again, on the issues, a considerable majority of the public was on the side of the Democrats, as the voters might have noticed had they paid attention to the issues in the debates and the campaign. However, the media spin-meisters redirected public attention to the concocted caricatures of the candidates, which narrowed Gore’s margin of popular vote “victory” sufficiently to allow the GOP, with the aid of five Supreme Court justices, to steal the election and the presidency.

With Bush & Co. safely installed in the White House and his party in control of the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the mass media, the sales campaign continues – with manifest success.

How else is one to explain the endorsement by a large portion of the public of policies that clearly work against their interests. Among them:

  • policies that are designed to redistribute wealth “upward” from the poor and middle class to the wealthy

  • tax reductions for the wealthy that result in massive federal deficits, borrowing from the Social Security funds and threatening to bankrupt this most popular federal program along with other social services such as Medicare, Head Start, Americorps, etc.

  • enactment and enforcement of legislation, such as the USA PATRIOT Act, which directly violate Constitutional protection of citizen rights and privacy

  • policies that open up the national parks and other public lands to private exploitation, and that relax or abolish environmental regulations designed to protect the air, water, endangered species and ecosystems.

  • foreign wars that will gain them nothing while possibly costing the lives of themselves or their loved ones – wars that are ordered by individuals who stand to gain financially, and who themselves have managed to avoid military service. (“They had other priorities” as Dick Cheney put it).

Summing up, to the degree that the Democratic strategists approach political campaigns from the traditions of scholarship and the law, they perceive their task as that of “making the case” – i.e., their objective is to prove.

In contrast, the Republicans approach political campaigns from the perspective of the marketplace, and perceive their task as that of “selling the product,” which is to say the candidate. Their objective is to persuade – by any means available, so long as they can “get away with it.”

History tells us which approach has been more successful.

GOP-Speak and the Vindication of George Orwell.

The fundamental operating principles of right-wing and Bushista propaganda were clearly set forth in 1948 in "The Principles of Newspeak" -- an appendix to George Orwell's 1984.

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the [Party's] world-view and mental habits ..., but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of [the Party] - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words, and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings.... Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought...4

Orwell wrote this as a warning. The regressives have adopted it as a guidebook.

In Orwell’s Newspeak, words were corrupted by assigning them to their conventional opposites: “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” “Ignorance is Strength.” In the government of 1984, the military command is housed in The Ministry of Peace. The secret police and the torture chambers operate out of The Ministry of Love. And propaganda, including the rewriting of history, issues from The Ministry of Truth. Note in this regard that the organ of Soviet propaganda was named “Pravda.” English translation: “truth.”

The torture of the English language in the hands of the Bush Administration is scarcely less bizarre. A Bush Administration policy that will let loose the chain saws of the timber corporations upon our national forests is dubbed “healthy forests.” Another policy which allows increased power plant emissions into the atmosphere is called the “Clear Skies Initiative.” The military occupation of the once-sovereign nation of Iraq was accomplished under “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” And the USA PATRIOT Act abolishes citizen rights and protections of law in defense of which authentic patriots in our history pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, and often gave their lives.5

The right-wing corruption of the word “conservative” deserves special attention. Webster’s Unabridged defines “conservatism” as “the practice of preserving what is established; disposition to oppose change in established institutions and methods.” This scarcely describes a political movement that attacks our Constitutional rights, extends government surveillance of the private lives of citizens, curtails free expression, stifles free enterprise, rejects the accumulated learning of the sciences, decides national elections by judicial decree, violates treaties, and initiates wars with sovereign nations that pose no threat to us – and this list is incomplete.

Yet this right-wing faction insists upon calling itself “conservative,” and does so with such persistence, that even its left-wing and centrist opponents have thoughtlessly fallen into line and routinely refer to the radical right as “conservative.”

The radical right attack on the word “liberal” exemplifies Orwell’s warning that when a powerful political party takes control of a language, “a heretical thought - that is, a thought diverging from the principles of [the Party] - should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.”

In the hands of the radical right propagandists, the word “liberal” has come to signify hippies, socialism, moral relativism, political correctness, “tax and spend” big government, welfare cheats, “bleeding heart” giveaways to the unworthy, and so on. According to Ann Coulter, “liberals” (roughly half the population of the United States) are nothing less than “traitors.”6

Joe Conason counters this caricature in his book “Big Lies”

The most basic liberal values are political equality and economic opportunity. Liberals uphold democracy as the only form of government that derives legitimacy from the consent of the governed, and they regard the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights as essential to the expression of popular consent. Their commitment to an expanding democracy is what drives liberal advocacy on the behalf of women, minorities, gays, immigrants, and other traditionally disenfranchised groups.7

When a public opinion poll asks a sample of American citizens how they would label their political orientation, “liberal” generally comes in a poor third to “conservative” and “moderate.” However, when the “liberal” label is set aside and ordinary citizens are asked their opinions about such particular issues as Social Security, Medicaid, public education, the United Nations, voting rights, affirmative action, environmental protection, government regulation of commerce, reproductive freedom, etc., a considerable majority expresses support of these policies and issues which are, in fact, central to the liberal point of view. Thus it seems that although the American public endorses the content of traditional liberalism, the radical right has so successfully sullied the label “liberal” that it has become an effective political weapon of the right – like a piece of rotten fruit to hurl at an opposing candidate.

And so, in tune with the principles of Newspeak, the right has so corrupted political discourse that the political faction which advocates "reforms tending toward democracy and personal freedom for the individual" (Webster's), formerly designated as "liberalism," has now been deprived of its traditional name. And thus, lacking a name, it has become far more difficult to articulate and thus even think of and defend the "liberal" principles of such political giants as FDR, LaGuardia, Adlai Stevenson and Jacob Javitts, and Wendell Wilkie.

So now we see the rise of the label “progressive” in place of “liberal” – presumably, until such time that this label too is besmirched by the mighty media propaganda machine of the right.

Language and the social order.

A well-ordered and well-integrated society rests upon a foundation of shared meanings – a language with a rich vocabulary, capable of expressing novelties, relatively constant, but at the same time evolving through ordinary use, rather than political manipulation. Put simply, language functions best as a conservative institution.

However, as Orwell so clearly pointed out, political propaganda is destructive of this “conservative” function of language. Heedless of the cost in social disorder, right wing propaganda deliberately and willfully distorts language to serve the purposes of the party, of the faction, of the sponsor. This is no secret. In his GOPAC memo of 1994, Newt Gingrich candidly identified language as “a key mechanism of control.”

Propagandistic manipulation and distortion of political discourse is subversive of democratic government whether or not it is successful. If the “Newspeak” of the controlling party is uncritically accepted by the public, it becomes an instrument of control by that government. If it is rejected, the institutions of government and the rule of law are likewise rejected, and anarchy ensues.

Furthermore, a degraded political language can cause havoc in the society as it undermines clarity of ordinary discourse and with it the capacity of ordinary citizens to communicate. to trust each other, and thus participate in and sustain a democratic government. Civil society then dissolves as individuals retreat into themselves and are reduced from citizens to self-seeking consumers, and society is reduced to a mere marketplace – if that.

It is thus the urgent duty of the opposing party, civic organistions an educational institutions to restore to political discourse the clarity and order of a natural language – what Confucius called a “recitfication of names” – which is pre-requisite for open, intelligent and productive political debate.

From this analysis we may conclude that the lies of the Bush Administration, the Republicans and the radical right are not simply moral lapses added on the routine business of politics (though they are that too). Much more than that, the lies of the right issue from the very foundations of right-wing theory and practice. In an enterprise that prizes winning above all else, moral qualms about fair-play and truth-telling drop far down the list of priorities, and perchance off that list entirely. Right-wing campaign strategists feel no more obliged to tell the truth to the public than tobacco marketers feel obliged to publicize the health risks of their product to the teen-agers they are endeavoring to “hook.” Indeed, many of the advertising agencies that hawk cigarettes are enlisted to work for regressive political campaigns.

The Media Problem – and Some Proposals


Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?

John Milton, Areopagitica

Since the demise of "The Fairness Doctrine" in 1987, liberal and progressive opinion has almost completely disappeared from the broadcast media. Today, the mainstream media in the United States, once respected and envied throughout the world, has become a virtual propaganda ministry for the Bush Administration and the Republican Party. This is the compelling conclusion that an informed and unbiased observer must arrive at – a conclusion that is, in fact, reiterated by foreign journalists throughout the world.

Of course, the delusion of "liberal media bias" is promulgated by such individuals as Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and David Horowitz. But that delusion is itself an invention of the right-wing propaganda mill, quite incapable of surviving critical scrutiny.

The unrelenting media spin against the Democratic party and its candidates was clearly a major factor in the "election" of George Bush in 2000. (Of course, there were several independent factors which, had any been otherwise, would have resulted in a Gore victory.8  See "The Hijacked Election" ). And that spin continues to this day. For example, when Al Gore gave a major foreign policy speech in September, 2004, it was not broadcast by the network or cable channels. Nor was there conspicuous unbiased coverage in the print media. However, there was an abundance of denunciations by commentators and pundits. A sample: "dishonest, cheap, low, hollow" (Michael Kelly), "a disgrace – a series of cheap shots" (Charles Krauthammer), "an act of self-immolation" (William Bennett). And, of course, there were the usual irrelevant comments about Gore’s voice, posture and clothing, etc.

Similarly, as soon as a Democrat steps forward as a potential presidential candidate, he draws hostile fire from the media spinners: in the 2004 campaign, James Edward’s legal fees, John Kerry’s haircuts, Tom Daschle’s "whining," and so forth. In stark contrast, during the same election, cable television covered numerous Bush campaign speeches, without critical commentary. And it seems that every time Bush’s helicopter lands on the White House lawn, CNN is there to cover it.

However, my purpose in this essay is not to document and defend this indictment of American journalism. I have done so at length elsewhere.9  Instead, I wish to deal with a more urgent and practical issue: how are the progressives to deal with the one-party propaganda mill that is the American media.

It is a daunting challenge, for unless and until the media problem is effectively dealt with, little else can be accomplished. The establishment media is the dragon guarding the gate through which we must pass if we are to achieve a restoration of our democracy.

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with the media problem.

The Russian Solution: In my frequent visits to Russia (the first three during the Soviet era), I came to appreciate how a media in the complete control of a totalitarian government can, by "over-reaching," utterly destroy its own credibility. Virtually all intelligent and educated Soviet citizens (including members of the official nomenclatura), depended upon the Western press, the BBC, and the Voice of America, for accurate and unbiased news, not only about the "outside world," but also about events inside the Soviet Union. Pravda and Isvestiya were widely regarded as acceptable solutions to the chronic toilet paper shortage, but otherwise of little value. Gostelradio was regarded with comparable contempt.

The communist media lost its credibility by reporting domestic "news" that was clearly contrary to the experience of ordinary citizens, and international news that was contradicted by evidence that filtered through the "iron curtain." In addition, Soviet news and commentary was self-contradictory, incoherent and shrill. The Soviet peoples (about half of them ethnic Russians), though soaked in propaganda, were by and large, no fools. Well educated, well-read, and all-too familiar with the cruel and devious ways of despotism, they eagerly sought reliable information, and found it in "foreign" publications and broadcasts, despite desperate government efforts to prevent access to these media.

And so, when Mikhail Gorbachev loosened the lid of repression with glasnost and perestroika, the lid blew off and the communist regime was swept away. (Ronald Reagan had little to do with it. Instead, credit is due to Gorbachev and the Soviet people). It was as if seven decades of total government control of education and the media had never existed.10

After several decades of Soviet propaganda, savvy Russians acquired an appropriate contempt for their media. Americans, on the other hand, are not used to a captive "quasi-official" media, since many of us can remember the blessed days of the free, independent and diverse press and airwaves – the days when the media were graced with such luminaries as Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, Scotty Reston, I. F. Stone, and Walter Lippmann. In contrast, today we are bombarded with outright lies and slanders (e.g.,the "Whitewater" non-scandal, Gore’s alleged claims to have "invented the internet" and "discovered Love Canal," the alleged Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, etc.), whitewashes and coverups (e.g., Bush’s drug abuse, his failure to fulfill his National Guard obligation, the Harken securities fraud, Cheney’s business dealings with Saddam, Bush Administration involvement with corporate scandals such as Enron and WorldCom, etc.), media distractions from important public issues with trivial non-stories about missing teen-agers, celebrity romances, etc.

The American media have provided us with an abundance of self-discrediting material. By way of retaliation, these derelictions must be collected, documented, archived, and then kept persistently in front of the public awareness until the mainstream media either clean up their act or lose their credibility.

Loss of credibility was the well-deserved fate of the Soviet media. The American corporate media today, in their present condition, deserve no less than this.

Look Beyond the Borders. This response to the media problem is directly suggested by "the Russian Solution." It is a simple and easily discernable fact: some of the most accurate news and intelligent commentary about American politics comes from foreign sources that are readily available through the internet. Correspondents from Canada, England, Australia, France, and elsewhere that are assigned to the United States are not constrained by the media conglomerates that own and control our news. So check out the foreign press at The Smirking Chimp, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The London Independent, Le Monde, and so on. (Most foreign language sources have English editions). Send these media your messages of appreciation, and encourage them to present still more news for American readers. Let them know that we are aware that our media are failing us and that we are looking abroad for fair and accurate information. Who knows? Maybe the BBC or the CBC will set up a "Radio Free America" for us.

But above all, contact the American media and tell them that you have given up on them, and are looking abroad for your news sources. If the American media don’t clean up their act, we might evolve toward a situation similar to that in the Soviet Union, where discerning individuals ignored the state media, and looked to the Voice of American, Radio Free Europe, and the BBC for information about their own country. If such a condition becomes even a possibility, the American media, out of simple embarrassment, might attempt to restore some of its balance and integrity.

The remaining liberal voices. Of course, the American media are not a complete loss. Intelligent and informed dissent can be found in "the small magazines" such as The American Prospect, The Nation, The Progressive, and The Progressive Populist. All deserve support, and a subscription to any of these amounts to a cash contribution to the progressive movement. In addition, there are a few worthy columnists in the mainstream publications who struggle upstream against the rightward flow. They include Paul Krugman, E. J. Dionne, Michael Kinsley, Arianna Huffington, Eric Alterman and Joe Conason, among others. They too should be supported with letters to their editors and publishers. Finally, there is the internet – "the last refuge of the liberal."

The Boycott Option has been suggested by the readers of some progressive web sites. Here’s the drill: tune in to Fox News or Tim Russert or Rush Limbaugh, or whatever. Jot down the names of the sponsors, then tell said sponsors that you will not purchase their products as long as they support the wing-nuts. Frankly, while I am doubtful that this will do much good, it can’t do any harm. And who knows? It doesn’t take a flood of letters to make a difference. And if there is anything more important to the media folks than the party line, it’s the bottom line. The down side is that the "research" requires one to tune into right-wing cable or radio, and that’s asking a hell of a lot.

"Out-Foxing" the Right. Why not a progressive answer to Fox News? The idea has bounced around the progressive sites for several months, and is beginning to be heard now and then on the commercial media. While the Democratic party can’t match the GOP in campaign funds, it can nonetheless raise a tidy sum. Similarly, there surely must be numerous wealthy individuals who are acutely distressed at the direction this country is taking, and who might be persuaded to finance a progressive cable news channel. How about those "Hollywood left-wing celebs" (e.g., Streisand, Redford, Beatty, Baldwin, Sheen, among many others) that the right-wing pundits never tire of disparaging? Not only could they gather the necessary capital, but just imagine the talent that they could put on the screen! In addition, there must be a small army of talented journalists who either left or were forced out of the mainstream media, who would be eager to join the fight.

"Tactical Judo" and other schemes. Judo is the martial art that utilizes the strength of the opponent to one’s advantage. It has application to the media problem. Case-in-point: The Right has repeated ad nauseum the complaint that "you can’t trust the liberal media." That is a half-truth, which can be put to good use.. The truthful half is that "you can’t trust the media." The false half is that the media has a liberal bias. Very well, let’s take the truthful half and ride with it. The more the public believes that the media can’t be trusted, for whatever reason, the more the media will be motivated to restore its credibility by adhering once again to sound journalistic standards and practices.

Another approach: the media, having become ridiculous, should be ridiculed. Nothing will grab the attention of the mainstream media as much as a growing sense among the public that it is worthy of derision. A few artful lampoons of the work of such media whores as Bob Woodward, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Chris Matthews would go a long way toward discrediting the right-wing spin machine.

The Outflanking Maneuver. By this I mean, of course, the Internet. The trends appear to be promising. Recently I heard on C-SPAN that one-third of the population gets its news from the Internet, and one quarter from Newspapers. (No statistic given on broadcast media). Furthermore, half of American households access the internet. The internet trend is up, and newspaper circulation is down. Add to this the fact that the audience to the TV networks continues to drop. As the numbers continue to move away from the commercial media and to the internet, the media may begin to get the message that it might not be good business to offend the half of the population that votes for the Democrats.

However, a word of caution is in order. As the progressive opposition uses the internet to increasingly good effect, it becomes ever more likely that the regressive moguls will try to take it from us. There are moves afoot to "privatize" or otherwise control the internet. We’ll have more to say about this shortly.

In short, it is not necessary, desirable, or possible to transform the media into a mirror image of the right-wing propaganda machine that it is today. A return to the sort of media that put an end to McCarthyism, and later the Nixon Administration and the VietNam war, is all that is desired. The progressives control need not aspire to control or even dominance in the media, only fair access and honest investigative reporting. Give the public informed and responsible reporting, the presentation of evidence, open debate, and full disclosure, and the public will take care of the rest.

The essential message of this book is that the regressives, with the assistance of the corporate media, are taking our country in a direction that few should want to follow – toward oligarchy, despotism, ostracism in the world community, and economic collapse. Continuation of a one-party media is not in the interest of those who control and perpetuate that condition of the media. Whatever medley of tactics the progressives adopt as they confront the corporate media, they must never abandon the simple approach of appealing to the conscience and ideals of the publishers, editors, and working journalists, and invoking the honorable tradition of the free press, the First Amendment, the "fourth estate" which the founders of our republic insisted were indispensable to the politics of a free people.

Even though the American media today are subverting our freedoms and leading us to oligarchy, despotism and economic ruin, the progressive must deal with them more in sorrow than in anger. The media, with the power of the government they serve, can crush the progressives in a moment if they perceive them as "the enemy." And yet they require an audience – "the public" – to exist, and that is the progressives’ weapon. They should work with the media toward a restoration of the condition of honorable service to democracy and liberty, that had once made the American press the envy of the world


1.     Adapted from a Chapter with the same name in Big Bush Lies, Ed. Jerry Barrett, Ashland, Oregon: Riverwood Press, 2004

2.     Eric Boehlert, "Gore's too-willing executioners," Salon, (October 27, 2000), Molly Dickerson, "Who's lying, Gore or the media?" TomPaine.com, (October 8, 2000), and Robert Parry, "He's no Pinnochio," Washington Monthly, (April, 2000).

3.     Jake Tapper, "Getting Ugly," Salon, (November 14, 2000), and PBS, Online News Hour, "Showdown in South Carolina," PBS, (February 17, 2000).

4.     Orwell, George: 1984, (New York: Signet Classic, 1992), pp 246-7.

5.     Elaine Cassel, "The Bush administration and the end of civil liberties," CounterPunch. April 27, 2003, Jennifer van Bergen, "Repeal the USA PATRIOT Act," Truthout, April 1, 2002, and The Crisis Papers, "USA Patriot Act".

6.     Ann Coulter, "Treason :Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism," Crown Forum, 2003 (The full title says it all!)

7.     Joe Conason, Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth, Thomas Dunne, 2003, pages 2-3.

8.     See my "The Hijacked Election," The Online Gadfly

9.     See my "Following the Light" and "Night Falls on the American

10. For a fascinating conversation with some Russian students in 1995, see "What if America Loses its Voice?"
The Online Gadfly,

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .