Citizen Action Monitor

Crisis in American democracy: Part 2 – Cynical PR manipulation of public’s attitudes and opinions

No 334 Posted by fw, November 11, 2011

“Can a society whose political system functions in accordance with the self-serving strategies of big business call itself democratic? Is limited, programmed public participation occurring every few years worthy of such an esteemed categorization? Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics provides startling answers to these questions – reinforced by an increasingly bleak political climate – and makes a case for social organization free from tyrannical institutions of any variety.”Phil Fava

The above passage is from Phil Fava’s introduction to a powerful documentary film by Jonathan Shockley, Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics, based on the 1995 theoretical ‘thriller’ by Thomas Ferguson, a professor at UMass Boston.

Why Ferguson and Shockley’s Work Is So Important

As Fava explains in the above excerpt from his review of the film, Shockley’s purpose in making the documentary is to “make a case for social organization free from tyrannical institutions of any variety.” My purpose in preparing this multipart series of posts is to serve Shockley’s aim by providing a TRANSCRIPT of substantive sections of Shockley’s 77-minute video. These audio, video, and textual posts are intended to deepen the lay person’s understanding of Ferguson’s theory.

Part 1 of this 11-part series provided a teasing introduction to Tom Ferguson’s academic tome and Jonathan Shockley’s documentary film’s adaptation of the book. All subsequent posts will follow the same format — An identical, complete 77-minute video of Shockley’s documentary film will be embedded near the top of the post. Posted immediately below will be my time-indexed transcripts of individual sections of the video — including subheadings, external links and text highlighting. The time indexing will facilitate switching from the text to its related place in the video. Of course, users have the option of watching the complete 77-minute video at one sitting.

This post, Part 2, considers the methods business leaders have used, and continue to use, to manipulate and control workers, thereby deliberately undermining democratic processes and institutions.

Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Politics a documentary film by Jonathan Shockley


0:00 — <Screen text> – “Until industrial feudalism is replaced by industrial democracy, politics will be the shadow cast on society by big business.” —John Dewey

18th Century — Business masters are already exploiting subservient workers

Adam Smith, The Wealth of NationsNarrator

    • The interest of the dealers in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public.
    • They have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public.
    • We rarely hear of the combinations of masters though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines that masters rarely combine is as ignorant of the world as of the subject.
    • Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit but constant uniform combination not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate.
    • It is not difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions have the advantage in a dispute to force the other into a compliance with their terms.
    • The masters, being fewer in number, can combine much more easily while the man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations has no occasion to exert his understanding for removing difficulties which never occur.

1:27 <Scene of many women climbing a hill> Narrator — And so they came, the women. They came from sink town in the hills beyond. From other mining camps came ten, twenty, thirty miles away. Women we have never seen before. Women who have nothing to do with the strike. Somehow they heard about the women’s picket line and they came.

Early 20th Century – Emergence of PR industry to manipulate public attitudes and opinions

1:56 <On screen: women marching on the picket lines> Noam ChomskyBusiness leaders and elite intellectuals recognized that the public had won enough rights so that they can’t be controlled by force. So it would be necessary to turn to control of attitudes and opinions. These were the days when the huge public relations industry emerged in the freest countries in the world – Britain and the United States, where the problem was most severe.

Example of typical propaganda pitch

2:20 <On screen animation of three men carrying US flag> Narrator – As long as we keep the foundation of our business systems strong we shall be able to maintain and improve the way of life our forefathers conceived and established. And on this foundation of freedoms continue to build a better life for themselves and their fellow man in the world of tomorrow.

PR’s favorite images – happy, industrious, loyal — and words — ‘harmony’, ‘Americanism’

2:57 <On screen illustrations, photos and film clips> Noam Chomsky – The basic idea is to present a picture of the world that looks kind of like this — There’s us, a big happy family in the community. The honest workmen going off every morning with his lunchbox. His loyal wife who’s making the meals and taking care of the kids. The hardworking executive who’s toiling day and night in the interests of his workers and the community. The friendly banker who’s running around looking for people to lend to and do on and do forth. That’s us, you know, and we’re all in harmony. ‘Harmony’ was a big word. We’re in harmony. We’re all together. It’s Americanism.

Propaganda warns us about the ‘bad guys’ – union organizers, communists, anarachists

You might take a look at that word ‘Americanism’. It’s an unusual term. It’s the kind of term you find in totalitarian societies. So, like in the Soviet Union, anti-Sovietism was considered the gravest of all crimes, you know. And the Brazilian generals had some concept like that – anti-Brazilian. And then there’s those bad guys out there who are trying to disrupt our harmonious lives – like that union organizer is probably a communist or an anarchist anyway. And probably un-American and he’s trying to, you know, destroy all these wonderful things we have. And we’ve got to band together kick him out.

4:14 <On screen – animated cartoon> Narrator — When anybody preaches disunity, tries to pit one of us against the other through class warfare or religious intolerance, you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives. And we know what to do about it.

4:35 <On screen illustrations, photos and film clips> Noam Chomsky – We have to defend their way of life against this. A lot of religion gets thrown in. They went after everything – the workplace, the schools, the churches, even sports leagues were organized. The main purpose as you look through the whole, you know — you look at the movies and that kind of thing – there were two big things: One, of course, is to demonize unions because they’re a democratizing force so you’ve got to get rid of them. They’re one of the ways, the main way in which poor people can get together and do something, become participants, not spectators. So they had to be demonized.

How the right-wing deviously gets the public to “demonize government” while simultaneously protecting their own interests

And the other thing that was a little more tricky was to demonize government and to create what’s now called a mood of anti-politics. And that’s a little tricky because remember these guys need a powerful a powerful state in order to protect them. That’s why Gingrich and the Heritage Foundation want to increase the federal budget. They’re not cutting it, they’re increasing it. But they’re increasing the parts that feed them like the Pentagon system. That goes up. And the other part of the state security system. The prison system, goes up. Those go up. Everything that goes to people goes down. So you had to create a mood of anti-politics which leaves a very powerful interventionist state that makes people hate the federal government. And the reason to make people hate the federal government is it has a defect. It’s not that the government isn’t bad, but the things that they’re worried about are not what’s bad. What they’re worried about is what’s good. The government has a defect, namely it’s potentially influenceable by the population. Now private corporations don’t have that defect. There’s nothing you can say about the GE management. But you can do something about the federal government policies and that defect for good Madisonian reasons has to be gotten rid of. They have to create a mood of anti-politics where everything is blamed on the federal government and you don’t notice the real power behind it. You’re not supposed to read the Fortune 500 issue so …

Corporate money ‘buys’ elections with an ROI of pro-business policies – which brings us to Tom Ferguson’s seminal work

6:26 <Clip from Democracy Now> Noam Chomsky…once again the election was essentially bought. Nine of ten of the victors outspent their opponents. Obama of course outspent McCain. We don’t have final records yet from the final results, but they’re probably going to be pretty much like the preliminary results a couple of months ago, which showed that both Obama and McCain were getting the bulk of their financing from the financial institutions. And for Obama, law firms, which means essentially lobbyists, that was about over a third a few months ago – final results will probably be the same. The distribution of funding has, over time, been a pretty good predictor of what policies will be like. For those of you who are interested, there’s very good scholarly work done on this by Tom Ferguson of UMass Boston what he calls The Investment Theory of Politics, which predicts the – which argues essentially that elections are moments when groups of investors coalesce and invest to control the state.


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