Friday, December 28, 2012

Proprietary information is, by definition, a conspiracy Duuh

A conspiracy is when two or more people communicate or act in a manner that affects others. Usually when we think of conspiracy we’re thinking of something that benefits the well being of the conspirators at the expense of the public; or perhaps it could be done for ideological grounds; but when it comes to proprietary information we’re usually talking about business so this is generally for profit. 

(This was first posted on Open Salon in March of 2011; it is just as aplicable today.)

In business there are generally speaking at least three groups of people participating, the business owners, the working class and the consumers. Most proprietary laws are designed to ensure that only the business owners have access to all the information they need to make good decisions. In addition to these three groups there are also a variety of other groups including organizations that are created to protect the environment, the health of the public, animal rights, child labor etc.; for the most part these groups have very little political power or rights to access the information they need to participate in democracy.

Proprietary information is supposed to protect innovation for the benefit of the inventor but it has wound up being used mainly to cover up just about everything the business community does to hide fraud and even criminal activity. This ranges from the very simple and seemingly trivial to much more important things. A simple thing might be the possibility that they increase the percentage of water in a bottle of shampoo to increase profits; for the consumer this is trivial and after it happens a few times it is annoying but it doesn’t seem like a big deal. This hardly seems like something to worry about until you consider the fact that this type of behavior is happening in every industry across the board; the cumulative effect of all these little things adds up to big profits for the corporations and big losses for the consumers.

In larger examples it is used to hide the safety problems for many industries including the oil and nuclear industries. The disasters including the Gulf oil spill and the recent Japanese nuclear disaster are partly a result of the fact that proprietary information is routinely used to keep just about anything and everything that might influence the profits of industry secret. Without access to proprietary information the public has no way of knowing how safe anything is. These are just a small example of the problems made public additional ones include the Goodyear tire problems that were exposed twelve years ago, the Toyota acceleration problem exposed more recently and many other disasters that are routinely exposed then swept under the rug and forgotten without any action to change or even discuss the extreme proprietary laws we have.

One of the most widely publicized incidents of misuse of proprietary information was when Jeffery Wigand blew the whistle on B&W for their research into manipulating nicotine as well as research in how to manipulate children and market to them. The tobacco companies went even farther and used their attorneys to conduct a large amount of their business when they thought they might not be able to rely on proprietary laws alone so they could also rely on attorney client privilege. Neither of these are supposed to cover criminal activity but in practice they almost certainly do. They even sued or threatened to sue anyone who would broadcast the information Wigand revealed. This information was revealed anyway but only just barely; and there are many other things that haven’t been revealed about many other industries.

Proprietary information is also being used to conduct an enormous amount of research that affects the public; in many cases they don’t even ask the public when they conduct research on them. The pharmaceutical companies presumably do ask permission when they conduct their drug trials in the USA, many of the more dangerous trials are probably done elsewhere, but they don’t provide more information that they have to. When it comes to advertising and marketing research for the most part they don’t ask at all. They are essentially studying how to manipulate the public in secret. This is true even when it comes to researching little children as Juliet Schor reported in “Born to Buy.” Corporations are literally teaching children to begin researching each other and marketing to each other starting at a younger age all the time and a large amount of this is kept secret due to proprietary information but they couldn’t keep all of it secret.

For the most part the government routinely declines to pass laws to protect the public from liability in many cases instead they pass many laws that the public isn’t aware of to protect the corporations right to conduct one scam after another.

No sincere democracy would ever allow these extreme proprietary laws to be passed; if the public was truly involved and informed about these laws they would never stand up to scrutiny. There needs to be a serious discussion about this subject and this discussion shouldn’t be controlled by the Mass Media which is owned by the same corporations that are benefitting from these laws. The current laws are not designed to protect the privacy or rights of the majority of the public; instead they are designed to enable the corporations to get away with as much as the public will stand idly by and tolerate.

The traditional Mass Media often describes conspiracy theorists as a bunch of whacko’s and in many cases some of them are but they routinely throw the credible ones into the same category to discredit them by association and they often use ridicule to dismiss them. However in some cases, when it suits their purposes they seem to use the real definition of a conspiracy. The difference seems to be how much political power the target has; if the target has power the conspirator is ridiculed if not the conspiracy may be accepted with little or no scrutiny. The honest way to address the issue involves sorting through the details and checking the facts.

update: Is it a conspiracy to expose conspiracy?

While searching the internet about the association between proprietary information and conspiracy I found several pages that seem to indicate that the primary association involves conspiracy to steal proprietary information; they don’t as I have indicated acknowledge the obvious fact that proprietary information is by definition is a conspiracy. Instead they seem to imply that the bigger problem is people that steal proprietary information. The cases that I found at the top of the search for “Proprietary information conspiracy” excluding this blog didn’t involve people that were charged with stealing proprietary information for the purpose of exposing it to the public; however the same principles and laws could just as easily be used for that purpose. Instead there were a couple articles about people that were charged with allegedly stealing proprietary information for the purpose of making a profit off of it in a new company or selling it to another company. This is what is generally referred to as corporate espionage. Even though this may not seem to directly impact the public it almost certainly does one way or another. First of all court costs have to be paid one way or another and on top of that the tax payer has to pay the lawmakers that make these proprietary laws in the first place. I would hope that the court costs are being charged to the businesses that benefit from these proprietary laws; however I doubt it; which would make this a clear case of corporate welfare if the tax payer has to pick up the tab to protect corporate secrecy. Even if the tax payer doesn’t have to pay for the court costs they almost certainly have to pay for this secrecy in one way or another. This is probably the bigger problem since the laws are designed to ensure that the public doesn’t know what is going on as well as the business competitors they claim to be protecting it from. In fact in many cases proprietary information is much more easily available to the competitors than the public. In order to determine whether or not this information involves fraud or a danger to the health of the public, as indicated previously, the public has to have access to the information. We are relying on the business community to decide what information they can keep secret and these laws could just as easily be used to cover up fraud; in fact that is exactly what they are being used for.

A couple of the sites that I located include TCW sues former investment chief Gundlach, alleging conspiracy and theft and McCann Investigations: Discovering Conspiracy in Due Diligence with Computer Forensics; these involve stealing information for personal gain. The following quote from McCann investigation may sum op the way the business community portrays it; “One of the most common acts of conspiracy against a company is the exporting of proprietary information. This could be by a departing sales person who is stealing a client list. Or it can be an employee leaving the company to start their own business and copying proprietary files. Most recently, there was a Wall Street Journal article about a Goldman Sachs ex-programmer was sentenced to 8 years for stealing a confidential source code for a high speed trading program.” They don’t consider the best interest of the public at all and in the case where someone is put in jail for eight years this is almost certainly at the expense of taxpayers. Another site includes a description of the Economic Espionage Act; A TOOL FOR FIGHTING ECONOMIC ESPIONAGE: Federal Law Criminalizes Misappropriation of Trade Secrets and as indicated in my blog about Obama suppressing education and protecting corporate secrecy he would like to strengthen these laws according to the ADMINISTRATION’S WHITE PAPER ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ENFORCEMENT LEGISLATIVE RECOMMENDATIONS (PDF may take a minute to download). These laws are being made with little or no input from the vast majority of the public. Also another site indicates that this is creating a vast industry which has to be paid for one way or another, “Conspiracy” Clauses in Software Contracts. The public may not have to directly pay for these businesses that sell their services to other industries; however the industries that pay for it have to recoup their investment one way or another and that inevitably much come from the public one way or another.

However, as indicated in the opening comment, that isn’t the biggest potential problem. These laws and the assumption that people involved in stealing this information are potentially guilty of criminal conspiracy could just as easily be used against those that are exposing information, often involving activity that is or should be illegal, for the benefit of the public at large. This has almost certainly been done in the past and in many cases many people that may have wanted to expose unethical activity may have been deterred by them. Examples where either these laws or similar ones have been used for this purpose include, Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Wigand, Bradley Manning and others. They have as indicated previously, also made it much more difficult for people like Juliet Schor to investigate activity that is clearly detrimental to the health of children. By presenting the right of corporations to conduct their activity secret, even when it involves infringing on the right to privacy of the rest of us or corrupt activity, almost as a divine right they are enabling those with access to this information to manipulate and defraud the rest of us with impunity. They’re also portraying those who would expose this type of activity as the criminal conspirators; which should be considered highly inappropriate to any rational person. They repeat this over and over again as if proprietary information is not the same as a conspiracy by avoiding any sincere attempt to provide definitions to the two and allow scrutiny of them in an open and high profile forum and they have potentially implied that those that would expose criminal activity are the criminals instead of the other way around. The government is using laws about proprietary information to control the distribution of information that the public needs in order to make important decisions in a similar way to the way they use copy right laws as discussed in copyright violators are thought criminals. This seems like something out of 1984

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is strength
Conspiracy is not conspiracy
Exposing conspiracy is conspiracy

While preparing to repost this I came across the following speech from Charles Darrow that was made close to a hundred years ago and thought it was worth quoting from; and the whole speech is worth reading as well.

Industrial Conspiracies by Clarence S. Darrow

I feel very grateful to you for the warmth and earnestness of your reception. It makes me feel sure that I am amongst friends. If I had to be tried again, I would not mind taking a change of venue to Portland (applause); although I think I can get along where I am without much difficulty.

The subject for tonight's talk was not chosen by me but was chosen for me. I don't know who chose it, nor just what they expected me to say, but there is not much in a name, and I suppose what I say tonight would be just about the same under any title that anybody saw fit to give. ......

The Steel Trust has not been hurt. They are allowed to go their way, and they have taken property, which at the most, is worth three hundred million dollars and have capitalized it and bonded it for a billion and a half, or five dollars for every one that it represents, and the interests and dividends which have been promptly paid year by year have come from the toil and the sweat and the life of the American workingman. (Applause). And nobody interferes with the Steel Trust; at least, nobody but the direct action men. (Laughter and applause). The courts are silent, the states' attorneys are silent; the governors are silent; all the officers of the law are silent, while a great monster combination of crooks and criminals are riding rough-shod over the American people. (Applause). But it is the working man who is guilty of the industrial conspiracy. They and their friends are the ones who are sent to jail. It is the powerful and the strong who have the keys to the jails and the penitentiaries, and there is not much danger of their locking themselves in jails and penitentiaries. The working man never did have the keys. Their business has been to build them and to fill them.

There have been other industrial conspiracies, however, which are the ones that interest me most, and it is about these and what you can do about them and what you can't do about them that I wish to talk tonight.

The real industrial conspiracies are by the other fellow. It is strange that the people who have no property have been guilty of all of the industrial conspiracies, and the people who own all the earth have not been guilty of any industrial conspiracy. It is like our criminal law. Nearly all the laws are made to protect property; nearly all the crimes are crimes against property, and yet only the poor go to jail. That is, all the people in our jail have committed crimes against property, and yet they have not got a cent. The people outside have so much property they don't know what to do with it, and they have committed no crime against property. So with the industrial conspiracies, those who are not in trade or commerce are the ones who have been guilty of a conspiracy to restrict trade and commerce, and those who are in trade and commerce that have all the money have not been guilty of anything. Their business is prosecuting other people so they can keep what they have got and get what little there is left.

But there are real industrial conspiracies. They began long ages ago, and they began by direct action, when the first capitalist took his club and knocked the brains out of somebody who wanted a part of it for himself. That is direct action. They got the land by direct action. They went out and took it. If anybody was there, they drove them off or killed them, as the case might be. It is only the other fellow that can't have direct action. They got all their title to the earth by direct action. Of course, they have swapped it more or less, since, but the origin is there. They just went out and took possession of it, and it is theirs. And the strong have always done it; they have reached out and taken possession of the earth.

A few men today can control all the industry and do control all of the industry of this country. A dozen men sitting around the table in a big city can bring famine if they wish; they can paralyze the wheels of industry from one end of the United States to the other, and the prosperity of villages, cities and towns, and the wages of its people depends almost entirely upon the wills of a dozen men. complete speech

A conspiracy is when two or more people communicate or act in a manner that affects others.

Sometimes it really is a conspiracy.

60 Minutes report on Wigand’s whistle blowing
“How Corporations Prey on Our Children” by Gary Ruskin
Article on how corporations research and manipulate children by Juliet Schor
Excerpts from “Born to Buy” by Juliet Schor

For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Jill Stein for Senate!!!

Photo source

Jill Stein could and has done a much better job addressing many of the most important issues than either the corporate media or the political establishment in the past. With the increased strength of the alternative media steadily growing we could have an opportunity to gain more influence at local elections thanks to the momentum brought about by her presidential campaign, despite the refusal of the corporate media to cover her properly. She hasn’t made this decision yet but if she does she will need all the support she can get to overcome the propaganda from the establishment.

With John Kerry as a shoe-in for Secretary of State according to most sources the mainstream media is beginning to line up candidates that they consider acceptable; as usual this is being limited to those with reputations that the political establishment and owners of the corporate media approve of and they can be counted on to limit the discussion on many issues. This currently includes Ben Affleck, Ted Kennedy Jr. and Scott Brown. They can be counted on to repeat these names over and over again to convince the majority of the public that they are the only “viable” candidates.

They can be counted on to present anyone that challenges the views of the two parties that continue to ignore the best interest of the vast majority of the public in favor of the best interest of the campaign contributors.

There may be another option this time if enough people put an effort into it at the grass roots level and we take advantage of the support that Jill Stein gained during the presidential election.

It may not seem like much but she is much better known in her home state after running against Mitt Romney twice, for governor and president and the latter election has given her national recognition which could be helpful even in local elections.

We keep telling ourselves that this is a democracy; or at least that’s what the commercial media tells us; but the vast majority of the public has little or no say in who is nominated for any given office. Instead the commercial media which has been consolidated into six corporations that dominate the vast majority of the media that is able to reach the entire nation repeats the same old trick over and over again.

And most people fall for it over and over again.

And the most important issues continue to be ignored or they’re only presented in a manner which doesn’t challenge the elites too much. We now have a routine where one party seems so extreme that we have to do every thing we can to stop them but the other “viable” party is constantly becoming more like them and the commercial media isn’t trying to report the news at all instead they’ve replaced it with an enormous amount of hype about how all the people involved are ready to run us over the “cliff.”

With the recent storm in New Jersey and more before and since then that the traditional media hasn’t been covering adequately it should be increasingly clear to many people that we can’t simply rely on the traditional establishment to make these decisions for us.

Whether the issue is the environment, Single Payer Health care, sincere opposition to war based on lies, or fair treatment for the majority of the public economically the vast majority of the candidates that the corporate press presents to us don’t do more than give us a token amount of support while alternative candidates like Jill Stein that have been ignored by the corporate media have done a much better job addressing the issues.

Her Web site still provides plenty of information about her campaign and she is still active in trying to inform people about the issues; so if she decides to run she’ll have a good start assuming that people don’t accept the corporate propaganda again and rule her out simply because the establishment hasn’t authorized her as a “viable” candidate.

If we wait for them to authorize a candidate that actually represents the majority and stands up to the oil companies then we will have to wait until there is much more damage done to the environment; and perhaps it is too late to repair it in a fashion that would sustain or society as we know it.

I have also compiled a list of the debates that Jill Stein attended in Could alternative debates be a game changer? clearly they didn’t turn out to do so in the presidential election but they could give her campaign a good start if she decides to run. It will also be necessary for as much grass roots support for her campaign as possible starting as early as possible. I have also provided more information about her in A closer look at Jill Stein and Jill Stein supports Constitution unlike Romney and Obama if anyone is interested.

Also she could potentially get a lot of support from organizations like 350.Org that recognize how important it is that we act now and media outlets like Democracy Now and many other outlets.

If we want a real democracy then the people have to decide on the candidates that we choose and we have to have our say in the issues that are discussed.

Edit February 12 2013: Since I first posted this Scott Brown has bowed out and most of the best known Republicans have bowed out. Keith Ablow has announced that he would run for it if he could win unopposed and this became a big joke. He bowed out when it became clear that at least two poorly known Republicans would run. This looks like a given seat that is virtually uncontested by the Republican Party. They seem to be putting up a token candidate and avoiding having a fanatic like Keith Ablow run by putting up token candidates that have little or no chance of winning.

This shouldn’t be the way a democracy works; the public should be entitled to choose between a variety of candidates and the political establishment shouldn’t be able to screen the candidates that we can consider.

Jill Stein hasn’t commented on running but she would present a much better choice than the ones that are routinely presented to the public by the political parties who don’t address most of the issues that their financial supporters don’t want to address. Whether Jill Stein runs or not we should give serious consideration to running candidates from the grass roots level and how to get them the attention they need to become viable. Part of this should involve exposing the incompetent coverage being presented by the commercial media and encouraging people to seek alternative sources.

If Jill Stein runs she could bring attention to this cause; if she doesn’t other methods need to be made to do this.

In the long run we need much more reform including Election reform that enables the majority to control the election process and hear from all the candidates not just the ones that collect the required amount of bribes thinly disguised as campaign contributions; but in the short term it would help an enormous amount to have a candidates in a major office that truly addresses many of the most important issues.!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Continued withholding of solutions in Clackamas and Newtown

There were two more major shootings last week and as far as I can tell the traditional media continues to do a seriously inadequate job of covering the causes of this and how we can do something to prevent future shooting. This isn’t because we don’t have the information available to understand what causes these shootings and how to prevent them; we do; or at least we have much better research than the traditional media reports about on a regular basis. This is the latest in a series about Inadequate coverage of causes of massacres; in the previous posts about several other shootings I have indicated that there are plenty of research about many of the major contributing causes of these shootings and the belief that they can be prevented or made much less likely if these causes are reviewed and taken into consideration when it comes to making many important decisions.

Many of the pundits in the traditional media often try to give the people the impression that either there is no way to understand what causes these shootings or there is one and only one cause of them and once they debate any given potential cause they argue about it in the same manner over and over again without coming to any conclusions or changing anything; and they decline to even cover many of the most important potential causes at all.

This impression is false and it doesn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny if scrutiny is applied.

It is far more reasonable to assume that there are multiple causes to these tragedies and to sort them out accordingly and this is what many more informed researchers do; but they have little or no access to the mass media. The information that they do provide is available to the public; but not in a high profile manner; therefore only those who know what to look for and where have access to it or those who obtain it from others who help bring it to their attention without help from the traditional media. These researchers provide an enormous amount of evidence to indicate that there is no one single cause and they provide plenty of peer review with the work behind it so that people can sort through the details and find the most credible explanations.

As far as I can tell four of the most important contributing causes to these massacres are escalating violence that begins with child abuse; inadequate gun control laws that prevent those that are prone to violence or emotionally unstable from getting their hands on guns easily and kill many more people instead of just one or two; media violence that is saturating the airwaves; and inadequate coverage of the solutions that could potentially prevent these problems if we acted on them. There may and almost certainly are additional contributing causes which should be covered but these contributing causes are almost certainly among the most important and they could go a long way to preventing these tragedies from happening again if they were covered better.

The escalation of violence starting at an early age is almost certainly the most important contributing factor and yet it is the one that receives the least amount of attention, of the causes that I cited, from the corporate media, with the possible exception of the fact that they don’t cover many of the most important aspects properly; when you have centralized control of the corporate media in the hands of six corporations they can’t be trusted to police themselves. One of the most reliable sources that is under-covered on this subject and does a great job explaining this is the late Alice Miller who wrote “The Roots of Violence are NOT Unknown,” (additional resources listed below, including some of my own blogs on this subject). There has actually been a great deal of improvement on this since Alice Miller first began writing about the subject and some of her comments may not account of that but this wasn’t due to much if any help from the traditional corporate media or the political establishment; in fact if anything it was in spite of their coverage of the subject.

Since I went into this in my past blogs on the subject and other researchers that have done more work than me have also done so and their work can be found in the links below I’ll limit this to a brief description on this topic even though it is the most important aspect. Violence escalates starting at a very early age, often with the early use of corporal punishment to keep children in line and teach them to behave and often believe what they’re told from their parents. This tends to escalate to bullying later in life, hazing in high school or college, violence as an adult including domestic violence that involves teaching children the same methods of child rearing those parents were brought up with. This leads to a situation where the beliefs of one generation are passed on to the next and it often does little to correct the mistakes and much to prevent them from being corrected, quickly at least.

To put it simply when people are abused they get angry and when it starts at an early age when children are in the process of developing it has a much larger impact that lasts a life time even if these feelings are suppressed for fear of further retaliation from the adults who abuse them. This also has an indirect impact on the other three leading contributing causes since people prone to violence are much more likely to be attracted to guns or violent media and they’re more likely to learn how to accept what they’re told by authority figures, or in this case the traditional media and political system, in stead of doing their own research.

photo source

At least gun control is getting a significant amount of attention now after these disasters but it doesn’t lead to action to address this even though the majority of the public seems to support reasonable gun control. This doesn’t mean that most people support taking guns away from everyone as the NRA routinely tries to imply, of course. However there is good reason to believe that these tragedies would be much less severe if it wasn’t so easy for anyone to get their hands on guns including automatic guns with large clips that can kill an enormous amount of people quickly. The gun show loophole that is discussed widely makes the current gun laws a bad joke. They virtually guarantee that anyone with emotional problems of any kind or the people we refer to as terrorists can get as many guns of any kind as they want. The claim that we don’t need more gun laws but more enforcement of existing gun laws is just as bad of a joke since this loophole ensures that even though there are plenty of gu laws in existence they don’t matter thanks to the loophole.

The more guns they sell to unstable people that go on violent rampages the more panic there is about violence from those that think that buying more guns is the solution to the problem and there is little if any effort to inform them, in a rational manner, that this isn’t the most effective manner of solving their problems. The NRA has plenty of rights to free speech, which I don’t dispute, but the most credible critics have little or no access to the commercial media to refute them; instead we keep getting the same old demagogues that distort the issues and appeal to emotion. They may not do this as bad as the NRA but they still do it and this leads to a situation where they have people arguing and accomplishing little or nothing. Regardless of how the debate is being accomplished the result is the same, an arms race that leads to many more guns and higher profits for the gun manufacturers at everyone else’s expense. When you consider the fact that the gun manufacturers are apparently financing the NRA this is clearly crime profiteering and innocent people routinely pay the price; in this case it was children. (sources: “Blood Money How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA” Violence Policy Center PDF and “Does the NRA Represent Gun Manufacturers or Gun Owners?” by Lee Fang the Nation The fact that the NRA is being financed by the gun corporations doesn’t seem to get much coverage from the traditional media which is collecting the money they spend on advertising.

Then why doesn’t this change?

Clearly it seems to have a lot to do with an incredibly dysfunctional political system and a media establishment that enables it to continue in this manner. This is why I have no doubt that we should have serious Election reform that is controlled by the public and enables them to control the interview process of their candidates and choose their own grass roots candidates instead of the ones chosen for them by the political establishment. It would also do a great deal of help to have greater reliance on ballot questions, possibly including a national ballot which should be made available. I attempted to make this clearer when I asked What is your ballot question?

The discussion about media violence is made even worse because the people that control the information that the vast majority of us hear about the subject are the media which is providing all that violence and they have little or no accountability about the subject and have proven so repeatedly. Recently they have started discussing it once again which is more than they have done regarding the escalation of violence from an early age but it is seriously incompetent and they will almost certainly forget it as quickly as they started covering it as they have in the past. A large amount of that coverage tends to indicate that they feel that calls to cut down on violence in the media re a call for censorship; yet they decline to cover many other things including the research on media violence that is available in the academic world. This means that they’re trying to convince many members of the public to develop their views based on an incomplete set of facts and without the best research available.

The following is a brief quote from one of those research reports; there are many more where that comes from.

Media Effects: A History, and a Response to History

Have you come away from a horror movie feeling ―pumped up‖ after seeing the young heroine outwit the serial killer at the end? Do you have children who like to play ―action‖ video games? Have you noticed how excited they are for the next half hour or so after they’ve finished playing? Perhaps you’re wondering if there’s a science to this that can analyze and predict our reactions to violent media. The answer is yes, and no.

The kind of physiological arousal described in the examples above is one reaction to violent media which many psychological research studies have documented. In addition, forty to fifty years of ―media effects‖ research has revealed a wide range of both short- and long-term effects which violent media content can have on consumers. The Center for Media Literacy’s Beyond Blame violence prevention curriculum asks students to reflect on four common effects of media violence*

Acting aggressively
Being less willing to help someone in trouble
Desiring more and more media violence
Being more afraid of the outside world

Most of the research--as well as public discussion--about media effects tends to focus on consumption of violent entertainment. The research behind the final effect on this list takes into account the likelihood that people watch a significant amount of television programming, including television news coverage, which exposes viewers to live footage and other depictions of violent events. A Report on Media Violence PDF

This report and many others was produced by The Consortium for Media Literacy; if you take a closer look at this and some of their other studies on the subject as well as additional studies from other sources it should be clear that media violence has some impact on violence in real life although it is hard to determine exactly how much and it is difficult to find direct scientific evidence that isn’t subject to debate; therefore it will be necessary to look at this with reasonable discretion.

If these movies were rare occasions or if they were balanced with an adequate review of how media violence could impact real violence I suspect it would be highly unlikely that they would have much any impact on violence at all but that isn’t the way it is. The fact that they don’t provide coverage of many other subjects in the traditional media including education about the potential for media violence to escalate to real violence, or at least not in an effective manner, could make this fit the definition of propaganda as it is presented to many people. This wouldn’t apply to those that do their own research but the vast majority of the public doesn’t do this. Propaganda is most effective when it is repeated over and over again and opposing views aren’t presented. In the case of media violence their isn’t always pressure for people to watch it all the time except for the commercials that promote it to people nonstop, which actually should be considered propaganda since it isn’t balanced by commercials to present other views.

However there are many people that become obsessed with it and seek it out anyway. These people are the ones that are the most receptive to the constant advertising for these violent movies or video games for that matter. Modern video games should be considered as important if not more important than violent movies especially since many people that grew up before they became so advanced aren’t even fully aware of the nature of modern videos. These videos aren’t at all like the space invaders or pin ball machines that many of us grew up with instead they are much more graphic and enable the player to actively participate in the violence. Many of these same video games are also used by the military to desensitize their soldiers and enable them to become more effective killers when it comes to fighting wars. In some cases the mass shooters have also been soldiers that were trained to kill although the two most recent incidents aren’t included in that but apparently Jacob Tyler Roberts who carried out the shooting at Clackamas Town Center was interested in joining the military. People who are prone to violence are often much more likely to be interested in the military although many of the most unstable are often screened out; in fact one of the Columbine shooters was rejected by the military for this reason while Roberts was apparently rejected for other reasons.

If the military use these video games to desensitize and train people to be more effective at killing, at least when they’re told to it is hard to imagine how a good argument for this not being a contributing factor can be made. Furthermore just because they try to train people to kill when and only when they’re supposed to doesn’t mean they actually do limit their killing to those circumstances.

And another issue that should be considered when it comes to media violence is the fact that the coverage of these shootings could potentially add even more to the media violence. This doesn’t mean that they should stoop covering it of course; but it should be kept in mind when they decide how they’re going to cover it. Ideally they should consult with the experts that research the media violence and at least get some suggestions on how to present this news without adding to the media violence more than necessary but they don’t even do that. Instead they use their usual tactics trying to hype this up for the maximum amount of ratings and drama. This should be consider crime profiteering. They’re more concerned with providing more opportunities for their advertisers than they are with informing the public about how they can avoid this more effectively. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing this consciously but when they have two or more conflicting motives, in this case selling ads and informing the public about prevention, then they could lead to preferential treatment to the one that has the higher priority and they could alter their coverage without fully acknowledging it ore realizing their doing it.

The fourth issue that I cited is closely related to the third; while they provide an enormous amount of coverage of violence and much more in their programming the traditional media provides little if any access for people that know much more about how to minimize violence by treating it before it escalates. Instead they provide their own “experts” most of which aren’t nearly as competent as some that are willing and able to provide information but they can be counted on not to address issues that are against the ideological beliefs of those that control the six corporations that own the vast majority of the media outlets. People who get little or no coverage like Barbara Coloroso, Philip Greven, James Garbarino, Murray Straus, Joanne Scaglione and many others know much more about preventing violence than the so called experts that the traditional media present like Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew whop are both incompetent; or at least I think this conclusion will hold up if a closer look is taken and more credible sources are allowed to have their say in the corporate media. This doesn’t mean that they should ban their own experts if they think they deserve some air time then it would be reasonable but when they completely withhold coverage from many others they’re censoring the vast majority of the so called experts.

One of the people that they have presented as an expert on these issues in the past is David Cullen, cited as the leading source of research on the Columbine incident, who has even denied that bullying led to this incident and down played the possibility that violence escalates starting at an early age. He has even continued to do this when presented with an enormous amount of evidence to the contrary but those who try to present this evidence aren’t allowed access to the traditional corporate media to present their case. In all fairness he has acknowledged that bullying is a serious problem which should be addressed but by downplaying or denying the connection to escalating violence and Columbine he makes it seem like a much lower priority.

He wrote, in his book on the subject, "There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence it was a problem at Columbine High." (p.158) I had an opportunity to ask about it with him in his own blog a couple years ago on Open Salon and I didn’t find that he was willing to acknowledge some facts that I considered incredibly simple including one statement about how one of the victims admitted that they teased him and that he thought it was the justifiable way to handle the situation. This conversation was at Half our kids admit to bullying—the worse part and Enough school shooters; Time to face depression For what it’s worth his claim that the researchers that I cited didn’t personally investigate Columbine turned out not to be true although I didn’t know it at the time; one of the sources, Barbara Coloroso lives in Littleton Colorado and lectures on the subject although she has to compete with James Dobson who is much more popular in that area; or at least he was before Columbine. The depression that Dave Cullen cites as a problem is a legitimate concern but the cause of depression often has many sources including putting up with bullying or child abuse. Also one of the “experts” he cited was Robert Hare who I took a closer look at since this conversation and found that he was also significantly incompetent and that he was involved in several law suits about people either suing him or him suing others in some cases to suppress research that was critical of his work. If this was unjustified he could have responded to it by refuting it with a rational argument instead of suing to prevent the reporting of the criticism. I covered this more in Children Psychopaths? And Mitt Romney’s Bullying History.

Fortunately there is one notable exception that I have found only after searching for it through Google. James Garbarino has apparently written an opinion piece for CNN, How a boy becomes a killer, which provides some good insight on prevention. Unfortunately this has received very little attention and I almost certainly never would have heard of it if I didn’t Google it; the following are a few excerpts from the article.

How a boy becomes a killer

(CNN) -- Twenty children and six adults killed in a town in Connecticut. Why? As someone who listens to killers as an expert psychological witness in murder cases, I have spent much of the last 20 years trying to understand how and why young men kill, maim and attack others.

Killings like those in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and Virginia Tech are always met with expressions of shock, anger and sadness. These are understandable first reactions, but in the long run they accomplish nothing.

So long as the discussion does not move beyond labeling these events "senseless violence," horrors such as these never move us closer to a place of deeper understanding. Greater understanding is crucial because understanding leads to more peace and less violence through preventive action. All the crime scene investigations in the world will not do this. ......

How do we go about this process of "making sense," not as a way of excusing but as a path to understanding and preventing violence? We start by recognizing that many young Americans (and other young people around the world) develop and carry with them a kind of moral damage, which I have come to call "the war zone mentality." .....

There is no one cause. It is as if they are building a tower of blocks, one by one, that can get so high it falls over, with innocent people dying. These building blocks can be found in a dangerous neighborhood or a school rife with bullying. They can be found through the Internet and mass media: the many, many web sites and videos that promote paranoid views of the world and validate violent action in retaliation.

They can be found in pervasive and intense playing of video games, the hands-on virtual violence that desensitizes young people to proxy killing. These games become a psychological pathway to real killing by dampening impulses of compassion and altruism.

They also come from a culture that supports access to lethal weapons: the crazy availability of guns like the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle used by Adam Lanza that are, in effect, weapons of mass destruction when turned against children at school, or moviegoers in a theater or shoppers at a mall. These weapons have no place in civilian life.

But moral damage and a misperception of reality usually are not enough to lead to murder. The typical killer is emotionally damaged and has developed mental health problems, perhaps exacerbated by being bullied and rejected by peers, or abused and neglected at home. He might be suffering from profound sadness, depression, despair, self aggrandizement and narcissism. ....... Complete article

Furthermore there is plenty more good material from some of these researchers which isn’t getting much attention whether it is from James Garbarino or other researchers who don’t get nearly as much attention as the less qualified researchers that the traditional media present. On top of that on the rare occasions where they mention some of the more credible researchers they criticize them without giving them an opportunity to respond and often by taking them out of context; this was done on at least one occasion to James Garbarino in a small book, “On the Issues: Media Violence” where a representative of the traditional media had an opportunity to present her case and critics that didn’t include the most qualified critics provided a response that left an enormous amount uncovered.

Another notable exception in the congress might be Carolyn McCarthy who has been pushing for more reasonable gun control laws since she was first elected and on top of that she has also been introducing legislation, H.R. 3027, to reduce or eliminate corporal punishment at least in schools. This is important for more than one reason. First of all it means that she is trying to address multiple contributing causes which is what needs to be done to solve the problem. It will also be necessary to do more to inform the public about other ways that abuse and bullying lead to escalating violence but this is an important start.

Another important issue is whether they rush to pass legislation in the heat of the moment without thinking things through. There has been an enormous amount of talk about how they have to act now, right away while the public is still putting pressure on them to do something. This is at best a second rate way of solving problems. If this is the only way to get solutions passed in the short term then we might have to do it this way; but when people rush things through they often come with unintended consequences.

Naomi Klein author of the “Shock Doctrine” described how ideologues and corporations have been using this tactic for years. The basic idea is that when a disaster happens and people aren’t prepared the person with ideas prepared ahead of time can rush in and offer solutions with long term conditions that benefit them. She has also suggested that this could be done to usher in progressive improvements. This may be true but it should be done with caution. With people like Carolyn McCarthy who have been thinking things through for a while there is a better chance for this to succeed if they watch out for any things that others try to slip into the bills while it is being rushed through.

In the long run we really should have a system that doesn’t need to wait for a disaster to pass legislation. We already have that system when it comes to the agenda that is promoted by campaign contributors. They plan things well in advance in many cases; what we need is a system where the public actually has a chance to control their own government as we’re often told we already do. This would require media reform and election reform where people from different points of views have a much better opportunity to get their ideas across to the majority of the public instead of allowing the political system and the mass media to be controlled by the same relatively small percentage of the public.

If the media is controlled by a small number of people that only present those that adopt their own beliefs then it is no wonder that they don’t do much if anything to inform the public on how to prevent further disasters.

One thing that the media did point out was Barack Obama’s response to the shootings and Rachel Maddow reminded her audience of his past responses to these shootings Friday after it first happened; unfortunately this didn’t receive nearly as much coverage as Barack Obama’s speech where he shed tears and said he wouldn’t allow this to continue. In one of his past speeches on the subject he talked about how this was happening over and over again and that it was faced with the same response and eventually forgotten without action. Then he promised that he would stay right on it this time and he wouldn’t let that happen again.

He didn’t stay on it at all.

Now after it happened again he made another speech where he shed tears and made similar promises. In fact, for the most part, the rhetoric sounds almost the same as it has in the past except that there seems to be a little more willingness of some of the democrats to support stronger gun control. The support of this from Barack Obama seems to be minimal and reluctant even though he no longer has to face reelection which is supposedly what politicians are most motivated by. None of these Democrats or members of the traditional media have done much if anything to give more credible researchers an opportunity to present their views on how to prevent violence before it escalates.

For the most part the people that are presented to us as “leaders” don’t actually do much if any leading at all; instead they come up with an enormous amount of rhetoric and, in many cases, take credit for the improvements that others do despite the lack of leadership from politicians. This should be all the more reason why we need to do more to chose our own leaders instead of allowing the corporate media to select who is “viable” or not based primarily on how much they collect in campaign contributions and their access to power.

Even a relatively quick look at the shooters and the circumstances surrounding them could give some indication as to what led up to these shootings; although it would be appropriate to be cautious about coming to final conclusions about things without further investigation. The fact that Adam Lanza’s mother was so involved with guns should raise some serious questions. Several articles clearly indicate that there were some signs of what was to come including, Nancy Lanza feared son, Adam, was ‘getting worse’; told friend ‘he was burning himself with a lighter’ and that she was 'losing him' and Sandy Hook elementary school gunman Adam Lanza learned to shoot from his gun-collecting mom.

The exact reasons behind this tragedy and many others will not be fully understood until more time is allowed to investigate it but judging by past tragedies it is possible to do much more to learn what the most common causes are and prevent them before the last minute. The assumption that we should be arming teachers and selling bullet proof back packs as viable solutions to these problems is downright insane; or at least they should be considered insane by most rational people. The fact that many people seem to think that this is a rational response is further evidence of how the corporate media and the political system has been misinforming the public for a long time.

As I said, for the most part politicians don’t lead at all, at least not with the current system.

If this problem, and many others, are going to be solved then many more members of the public are going to have to take the initiative; and they’re going to have to plan on doing so on a semi-regular basis, at least until we have major electoral and media reform. Even then it will be necessary for many more members of the public to remain informed and active at least to some degree.

If you think this post has  constructive value feel free to recommend, cite or reply as you see fit; thank you.

The following are some articles, web sites and books about some of the contributing causes for those of you who are interested.

“The Roots of Violence are NOT Unknown” and accompanying articles by Alice Miller
Free on-line copy of “For Your Own Good” by Alice Miller and additional information including at least one other free book on the subject.
Excerpts from “The Truth Will Set You Free” by Alice Miller
Home page for Barbara Coloroso, an internationally recognized speaker and author in the areas of parenting, teaching, school discipline, non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliatory justice.
Home page for Murray Straus, includes articles and several free on-line books on the subject.
Excerpts from “Spare the Child” by Philip Greven
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
“The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions” at American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
“Violence in the Media - Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effects” at American Psychological Association
“The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children” at AllPsych Online

The following are some of the Blogs I have written in the past on preventing violence before it escalates:

Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence?
Child abuse and bullying link in study long overdue,
a Public relation campaign for child abuse prevention;

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The usual speeches and censorship in Aurora

(This was first posted on Open Salon July 23, 2012; since then the way the media covers these stories hasn’t improved. This will be followed up soon by a new post about the two recent shootings in Oregon and Connecticut.)

Here we go again, in the same old routine, which even includes the fact that many of us seem to call this the same old routine. A year and a half ago I wrote about what I called Unacknowledged Censorship in Arizona; the following is how I opened it up:

For better or worse the people with the violent rhetoric aren’t being censored in the Mass Media; however the academics with rational solutions that actually work are; and few people seem to have noticed it.

Generally speaking there are two groups speaking loud and clear in the media who don’t address the most important issues; and at least one other group that receives virtually no attention but they do know how to address the problem and dramatically reduce violence; however they are being ignored in the Mass Media.

The groups that are receiving attention fall into the usual categories as described by the media, the right wing conservatives and the left wing liberals. The left claim that the rhetoric is a major contributing factor and it should be toned down or censored. Most of them aren’t calling for complete censorship as far as I can tell but they are asking for more civility. The right wing are accusing the left of trying to completely censor them even though that isn’t what they’re doing; and in at least a few cases they are calling for censorship of the left, often saying the left shouldn’t make claims without evidence. Neither one of these high profile groups are addressing the vast majority of research available from the academic community that has studied this subject. This research actually does demonstrate some of the “evidence” that some of these people are asking for…… Full article

At the time the primary focus of the debate was the violent rhetoric in the political debate by many people like Sarah Palin. There was also discussion about gun control as there should have been but there was little or no discussion about what is almost certainly the leading cause of violence, whether it is mass murder or more common domestic violence and other crimes. There is no one cause for these social problems as the media often implies; instead it is virtually guaranteed that there are multiple causes contributing to them; and I have no doubt that one the most important ones if not the most important contributing cause is child abuse which often escalates to bullying and other forms of violence. This is confirmed by many researchers
including Alice Miller, Murray Straus, Barbara Coloroso, Philip Greven and many other credible researchers some of whom I have provided links to below for further information. Additional contributing causes almost certainly include the easy availability of guns and violence in the media as well as the rhetoric that was being discussed during the previous shooting.

None of these are discussed nearly as well as they could and should be in the traditional media or by the political establishment.

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney gave speeches on Friday immediately after the shooting and have followed up with more since then; they both talked about how this is “evil” and “senseless” and they both called for “prayer.” During tragedies like this there is almost always a call for “leadership” but the political speeches never seem to include a sincere effort to review the most relevant research into the root causes of violence so that they can find the most effective way to prevent future incidents.

Does “leadership” mean telling the public what they want to know so that they can make them feel good and get their vote?

Or does it mean leading them in the right direction so that the biggest problems can be solved in the most effective way possible?

Judging by the typical behavior of most politicians it clearly means the first. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had a tragedy and it won’t be the last. Politicians know this and so do political scientists and they also know that it is a time where people behave based on emotion so if a politician handles it right they can gain an advantage without doing much if anything to address many of the most important issues. I have no doubt that they have prepared general speeches or guidelines that can be altered in minor ways so they don’t seem quite the same but that they appear to address the issue and portray themselves as caring and able to feel the pain of the people.

This is standard operating procedure!

This standard operating procedure doesn’t involve a serious discussion by either the politicians or the mass media about the most effective way to solve problems especially if it impacts the agenda of the political establishment or the small number of people that control the mass media which this does.

There is little or no discussion about how child abuse and bullying escalates to create more violence or how violence in the media may have some impact on violence in real life or how it might have other social implications.

All of this is almost if not entirely censored from the media or political discussion.

Fortunately there is some discussion about gun control although it isn’t nearly as good as it could be or should be. I have no doubt that reasonable gun control almost certainly would have some impact on violence and it may be the difference between a few murders and a much larger disaster involving mass murder as many people have pointed out. Contrary to what the NRA would have us believe there is no attempt to take away all guns just reasonable control and the vast majority of the public seems to support it according to many polls. I haven’t looked them up but whenever I hear them talk about polls about whether the public supports background checks to makes sure violent felons, terrorist, and mentally ill people shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns the majority seems to support it and they also support bans on high capacity clips that could make the difference between mass murder and a few killings.

Few of the major candidates for any office spend much if any time discussing this; one of the few exceptions is Caroline McCarthy who was elected on this issue after she lost her son and husband in a subway shooting.
The reason this happens is because the NRA has a massive lobbying campaign to prevent any rational laws and they have a large following of single issue voters that only vote on guns and many of them are very susceptible to the kind of propaganda put out by people like Ted Nugent. This is also helped by the corrupt campaign system that enables well financed special interest groups to gain an advantage when it comes to buying propaganda campaign ads that are extremely distorted and are often not checked by the corporate media that provides much less coverage to politics than they used to, or at least much less investigation even if they have as much if not more rhetoric.

But at least this gets some coverage.

The escalation of violence starting with child abuse and the impact of media violence hardly gets any coverage at all; and on the rare occasions where they do manage to get some coverage they present it in a distorted manner. When it comes to murders that have been abused they often have someone ready to yell “that’s no excuse” if they acknowledge that it happened at all; ignoring the fact that whether it is an excuse or not shouldn’t be the main point. The main point should be if they recognize the causes they can do much more to prevent future incidents.

The sources linked below cover this more and I have covered this much more in other blogs, which are listed on the left, so I won’t go into too much details about it on this blog even though I think it is the most important contributing factor. However in this case violence in the media may have more of an impact on the incident at hand or at least in the way people are responding to it. I don’t know much about James Holmes and whether or not he was abused or impacted by how much media he watched since the coverage of this is limited and it isn’t being prevented well but I suspect that it is virtually guaranteed that there will be more about how he has suffered from some form of abuse or dysfunctional upbringing before it is done. Otherwise it would be unprecedented and worthy of more investigation to finds out what the root causes are since most if not all other incidents like this have turned up such evidence in the past.

One of the reasons why violence in the media may be more important in this cases is because the incident took place in a fantasy Batman movie theater and judging by a lot of the coverage of it I suspect many people thought it was part of the show and I suspect there should be some investigation about whether some of the audience members are having a hard time telling the difference between reality and fantasy. Even if they aren’t there are almost certainly many other people around the country that spend an enormous amount of time watching the violent media coverage of many incidents and violent TV programing that watch little else and probably do.

This is almost certainly much more likely due to the fact that they have allowed the media to be concentrated in the hands of a small amount of people that put out an enormous amount of violent programming without allowing much if any discussion on how it impacts social behavior. This is especially important with the rapid development of technology over the past twenty years.

Indications of this may have been in the coverage of this incident if you look closely; there have been several people that seem to have been amused by all the coverage of this and happy to be receiving attention by the mass media. One of the photos that were shown over and over again showed a couple grieving and in the background there was someone with a big grin on her face; when showing this photo on the second day this person was edited out. This is just one of the people that seem to think of this as an exciting event that is amusing not a disaster that should be avoided in the most effective way possible. In all fairness this may be taken out of context and there is almost certainly an explanation for what happened at the time that the photo was taken but there are probably some incidents where they’re more concerned about being part of one of the biggest stories in the media as well. Many people love being the center of attention and being able to tell the story about what happened.

Another thing worth considering is the way one person in her lower twenties responded to what happened; she was talking about how she didn’t know he was a “bad guy” at first but then when he started throwing things in the theater she knew he was a “bad guy.” This seemed like an extremely simplified description of what happened and I can’t help but wonder about whether the reason this person responded in this manner might have been because she was too caught up in fantasy movies. I don’t know this for certain but with the non-stop playing of this type of movies all the time with little or no serious educational material in the mass media many people may not have any other source for their information and they may think this is the appropriate way things happen.

Judging by most of the action films that are playing all day every day someone that was obsessed with them and didn’t watch anything else might get the idea that these kind of bad things happen and that the only way to deal with them is to have a “good guy” come in at the last minute and save the day.

If this is what some people obsessed with the wall to wall action films watch all the time it might be all they think about and they may have a hard time separating it from reality. There has been an enormous amount of social research into this but it hasn’t been presented to the majority of the public and quite frankly I haven’t read most of it so I can’t say exactly what it indicates but it surely is worth more attention. However after reading a significant amount of research on certain types of social research there is no doubt that this research exists and it is well known within the academic community. In fact studying human behavior and presenting the results to only a small percentage of the public is standard procedure; which means that, among other things those that are up to date with the research can use it for their advantage including political ads and marketing and the majority of the public may not even realize that they’re being manipulated.
Instead of doing all this research to benefit the majority of the public it could and often is used for the benefit of those that want to use it for psychological manipulation.

This isn’t necessarily primarily a conspiracy in the strictest sense of the word; a lot of this isn’t even kept completely secret which would preclude the claim it is a conspiracy. However some of the things that lead up to their decision making process are what they call “proprietary information” or a “trade secret” which would fit the description of a conspiracy. In most cases this wouldn’t involve something dramatic as the fringe conspiracy theorists claim; instead it may involve the authoritarian thinking of those in power and the fact that they base their decisions on ideology and profit with little regard for the best interest of the public. This type of research is presented in many academic journals but it isn’t presented to the majority of the public and only those that know where to look for it can take advantage of it. This is helped by copyright laws that slow down the distribution of an enormous amount of educational material and ensures that only those that pay for it can have access to it.

To make matters worse many members of the public don’t want to hear this.

They prefer to think of many of the people that bring them together as heroes and that they’re rising from disaster. I don’t know how to put this in a nice manner but there are no heroes that completely saved the day; there may be some people that prevented it from getting worse but they didn’t do the things that could have prevented from happening at all and they can’t bring back the people that died.

They’ve been led to believe that the course of action that they follow after every disaster is part of the solution; if this was true then they wouldn’t be happening over and over again. The latest tragedy was followed by a memorial service and a call for “solidarity” according to one of the pundits and many people seem to be complying. Unfortunately this call for “solidarity” doesn’t seem to include much if any discussion about how to prevent this from happening again any more than it did after the Columbine shooting or the Youth With a Mission shooting or any other shooting whether they were in Colorado or elsewhere. Instead, for many, they seem to involve solidarity behind prayer rituals and political speeches and rallies saying that they will overcome. Most of this wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t involve a lot of denial of the cause of the shootings as well.

According to many reports including a book written by Brooks Brown three years after the Columbine incident many people were unwilling to acknowledge the relation between Columbine and the bullying that preceded it. In fact a more recent story that came out during the coverage of Aurora briefly mentioned one of the victims and the trouble that he had coping with it and it mentioned that he had emotional problems and at one time threatened to commit violence against one of his relatives the way it was committed against him. This was dismissed as the result of the trauma from Columbine without controversy but the possibility that it might be similar to the way Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris reacted after being the victim of bullying wasn’t considered; in fact he briefly mentioned that they killed people that did nothing wrong to them. In many cases that was true, I’m certain, but this seems to imply a denial of the bullying that preceded the Columbine incident or many of the other stories that surrounded it.

During the “solidarity” at the memorial service they may all seem happy but this is ignoring the fact that they’re not addressing many of the most important issues that impact this event and could enable people to learn how to prevent it from happening again.

I don’t want to upset people more than they are already upset but without addressing these problems they won’t go away.

The review of these causes could be viewed as good news since it indicates that there is a cause for all these shootings and we can find it and prevent them but in order to do that many people will have to face facts that they don’t like, including the fact that if people were more willing to address these problems ten or twenty years ago then they would have been much more able to reduce the chance that many of these incidents would have happened in the first place.

The following are some articles, web sites and books about some of the contributing causes for those of you who are interested.

“The Roots of Violence are NOT Unknown” and accompanying articles by Alice Miller
free on-line copy of “For Your Own Good” by Alice Miller and additional information including at least one other free book on the subject.
Excerpts from “The Truth Will Set You Free” by Alice Miller
Home page for Barbara Coloroso, an internationally recognized speaker and author in the areas of parenting, teaching, school discipline, non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliatory justice.
Home page for Murray Straus, includes articles and several free on-line books on the subject.
Excerpts from “Spare the Child” by Philip Greven
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
“The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions” at American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry
“Violence in the Media - Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effects” at American Psychological Association
“The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children” at AllPsych Online

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crime Profiteering: another day, another school shooting

There was another school shooting in Ohio last Monday.

(This was first posted on Open Salon March 5, 2012; since then the way the media covers these stories hasn’t improved. This will be followed up soon by a repost of the shooting in Aurora in July and a new post about the two recent shootings in Oregon and Connecticut.)

"He chose his victims at random," prosecutor David Joyce said. "This is not about bullying. This is not about drugs." Source: USA Today “Prosecutor: Shooting suspect chose victims at random” This story was first published on the day of the incident, although updates may have been added later. I suspect that the conclusions that the prosecutor came to after no more than a brief investigation will almost certainly turn out to be flawed but I have no way of knowing for certain without further investigation any more than he may have.

According to an AP/Boston Globe article there are conflicting reports about whether or not he was bullied. ‘Fifteen-year-old Danny Komertz, who witnessed the shooting, said the gunman was known as an outcast who had apparently been bullied. But other students disputed that. “Even though he was quiet, he still had friends,’’ said Tyler Lillash, 16. “He was not bullied.’’’ (1 dead, 4 wounded in Ohio school shooting) This isn’t enough investigation to come to final conclusions but it is enough to know that a prosecutor should not be trying to jumping to conclusions and making statements that could affect the investigation.

A 16-year-old Tennessee boy faces a first-degree murder charge in the fatal stabbing of his principal. The Washington Post

A semi-well-kept secret is the fact that we have the knowledge to educate the public about how to prevent these types of incidence or at least make them much less likely.

This secret is well kept from the majority that relies on the Mass Media and the establishment for the most of their information. It may also be a well-kept secret for people who obtain their information from prejudicial sources.

However it isn’t a well-kept secret for a small minority of the public that does some of their own reading and looks up information from reliable sources that do good research and show the work to explain how they came to their conclusions.

These researchers are for the most part not welcome at the corporate media, although some of them get extremely rare and brief appearances on TV.

Once again we have a major school shooting and the Mass Media is focusing an enormous amount of attention of it but, as usual, they refuse to acknowledge the fact that there are many good academics that know a lot about what causes this and how to prevent it. This isn’t something simple that can be presented in a thirty second story but there is much more educational material than the corporate media or the political establishment is willing to provide the public.

The Mass Media has the best position possible to inform the majority of the public about many of the most important issues and how to address them but thanks to legislation that has been passed over the last fifteen years as well as legislation that goes back decades it is now in the hands of a for profit institutions that are motivated almost entirely by profit that they can receive from selling advertising.

I have written several Blogs explaining how the child abuse leads to escalating violence later in life including bullying including Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence? and Child abuse and bullying link in study long overdue, and one recommending a Public relation campaign for child abuse prevention; they include sources that have done more research than I including Project No Spank; so I’m not going to go into that too much hear. The problem is that the establishment and the Mass Media goes into the same routine every time another incident like this happens and it pretty much always involves jumping to conclusions without adequate research; an effort to argue about what the right punishment should be after the fact; and appeals to emotions without much if any productive discussion about solutions. They do have plenty of discussions about what they present as quick easy solutions but they don’t address the enormous amount of research being done by credible academics and they often attempt to imply that there is one and only one cause to these problems that will lead them to the solution.

One example of this is the attempt to study the effect of media violence on children. When they present this to the public they attempt to imply that some believe it is the only cause while the opposition claims they’re calling for censorship. No credible researcher that I know of would call this the only cause, or even the leading cause, but there are many that indicate that it could and probably is a significant contributing cause.

The bigger problem is the fact that while the Mass Media accuses the critics of violence in the media of calling for censorship they’re simultaneously practicing censorship by declining to give the best academic sources a chance to present their case. Furthermore, as far as I can tell, most of the critics aren’t calling for complete censorship at all; instead what they’re trying to do is to convince the mass Media to give them more time to present their work to the public.

To put it bluntly the implied case being made by the Mass Media is that if they aren’t allowed to have total control over the information that is given to the public it is censorship; and that the rest of the public should have no right to address the country as a whole instead they should only be allowed to communicate with a small percentage.

The Mass Media spends an enormous amount of effort trying to present material to the public that may or may not be influenced by how many advertisements they can sell to people that want to profit from conducting business that is almost never as fair as they attempt to present it to the public. This means the decisions on what does or does not get aired to the public is based almost entirely on what enables the corporations to sell more deceptive advertising. This essentially means that the truth, as presented by the Mass Media or corporate propaganda machine, is for sale. Those with the best academic work and the best interest of the public take a distant back seat to those that have the most money to buy propaganda or advertising. (If there is any doubt about the fact that the mass media has turned into a propaganda machine and that other outlets are being used for this purpose as well I have included several additional sources to back it up below.)

Sincere and concerned citizens aren’t always the best target audience for this type of marketing, especially if they’re well educated and consumer savvy about the deceptive marketing techniques that the mass Media uses.

This may be why the Mass media rarely if ever provides much if any material that could be good for educational purposes; it isn’t nearly as profitable as providing crap!

Demagoguery that can help sell ads to people that responds to appeals to emotions.

Rational educational material targets people that might be less inclined to fall for those deceptive ads.
The picture above is the typical way that our society is starting to handle many of our biggest problems; they ignore the problem until it escalates until it is so serious that they feel the need to send in well-armed SWAT teams to handle the problem with overwhelming force. They become so accustomed to using this tactic that they often do this even when there is no need for it, like when they send in armies of well-armed men using mostly what they consider non-lethal weapons to suppress the Occupy Wall Street protesters without making any sincere attempt to find out what their grievances are and address them.

This appears very dramatic and those that don’t know any better might be infatuated by it and it is accompanied by many other activities that are repeated over and over again that have nothing to do with addressing the true causes of these problems. In this case there was live coverage of the court arraignment the next day on the so called news channels which probably should be called corporate propaganda channels. They also spend a lot of time showing the students grieving and a figure who appeals to their emotions, often quite sincerely. In this case there was another coach that presumably had the best of intentions presented to the public who probably did a good job comforting his students after the fact; however it would have been much more helpful if they also had some academics explain to the public more about how to prevent these disasters or at least make them much less likely.

Nancy Grace, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Jeanine Pirro, who spends a lot of her time flirting with her guests and the audience, and even Dog the Bounty Hunter all get an enormous amount of air time along with many other demagogues who often refer to themselves as victim rights advocates; however despite the fact that they appeal to the emotions of the victims they do little if anything help educate the public about how to avoid the crimes that make them victims in the first place. Few people would doubt the fact that Dog the Bounty Hunter is a sincere advocate for victims’ rights or interested in the best interest of society but when that is all many people watch and they don’t have much if any access to more rational educational material, even by choice, this constitutes propaganda.

However much more qualified academics that actually can provide educational material about the contributing causes to this violence like James Garbarino, Barbara Coloroso, Philip Greven, Murray Straus and many others are almost completely banned from the Mass Media. By educating the public about the true causes of these crimes and how to address them they prove that they are the real victim rights advocates, although they don’t feel the need to promote themselves that way.

The Mass Media does provide what they call their own experts like Dr. Phil McGraw, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Jeff Gardere; at best these experts decline to provide the best advice possible compared to many other more credible academics. Jeff Gardere is the lowest profile of these three but he doesn’t seem to say anything of any importance as far as I can tell from the occasions that he has appeared on TV. Dr. Phil and Dr. Drew have much more air time including their won shows but they seem more like demagogues that are playing to people emotions. They don’t provide the public with a good explanation about how violence escalates from early abuse like Philip Greven, Murray Straus, Alice Miller and other more qualified academic sources. During his show about “UnGodly discipline” Anderson Cooper actually managed to do a better job at that in one of the rare occasions that they do cover this material but even that wasn’t nearly as good as it could and should have been. In many cases when someone actually does indicate that it might be partially because of the abuse that the perpetrator endured as a child there is often someone who yells with emotions something like, “that’s no excuse” which effectively dismisses that idea and no one follows up by saying that it may not be an excuse but it might be a partial explanation. If this did happen then the public would understand better how to change things so that this will be less likely.  
The simple result is that we have a Mass Media that has turned into a Mass fraud institution selling useless crap to people that have little or no critical thinking skills. If you educate people about the fact that a commercial for something like Gold from Rosland Capital doesn’t actually provide a product or service that improves the quality of life, and they have a lot of expenses including the commercial and the extras that they claim are “free” that have to be paid for from the revenue they receive from sales; which means that it is one hundred percent fraud, then they won’t buy and the mass media doesn’t make money selling ads. This is just one of many examples of the fraudulent advertising on TV; in fact I suspect that if you took the time to review random commercials that you could probably find something deceptive or misleading about every single one of them. I know I haven’t seen one in a long time, if ever, that I couldn’t find a flaw in. the simple truth is that they’re purchased by people who want to maximize their profits and they don’t do that by telling people what the flaws in their products or that you may be able to accomplish your goals more effectively; they do it by spinning the truth to their advantage or outright lying and relying on the complacency of the public.

Several academics including Robert McChesney author of “Rich Media, Poor Democracy” and “The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” wrote about the history of how academics originally tried to have some access to the media and that they had very little success. For decades they weren’t completely shut out of the Mass media but they always took the back seat to the corporate interests due to the powerful lobbying of the corporate media. In the past few decades the academic sources that are the most sincere have lost almost all of the opportunity that they once had to address the public on any given subject.

This means that no matter what the mass Media is reporting on whether it is violence in schools or wars or the destruction of the environment it may be influenced subtly or more blatantly by the excessive reliance on money from advertisers. In the case of violence in schools it is harder to see but in other cases it may be much more blatant like the fact that the oil companies are providing an enormous amount of public relation propaganda on TV but the sincere environmentalists are absent; although the oil companies do have the opportunity to present the views of people they choose that pretend to be environmentalists for public relations purposes.

The problem is the same when it comes to coverage of the political debates which is controlled almost entirely by the mass media and the corporations in this country. The institutions that previously provided some alternatives have been seriously eroded or shut out of the Mass Media; for example the League of Woman voters no longer sponsors the debates nor do they or anyone else that isn’t controlled by the corporations have much if any influence over the debates as they’re presented to the majority of the public. There are alternatives for those that use alternative media but they can’t out vote those that may be heavily influenced by the corporate propaganda machine.

Crime Profiteering isn’t limited to the Mass Media it is also taking place in other businesses like home security and private prisons. In the case of Home security there are plenty of ads on TV about how people who can afford it can buy security systems that protect their property implying that this is the most effective way of addressing the problem of crime. In the short run for those that can pay it may help but it is much more expensive to protect people from crime than it is to address the social causes that cause it for society as a whole and this is designed only to protect the privileged and increase the division between the haves and the have nots. It also results in gated communities where those within the communities are ignorant about the rest of society and don’t base their decisions on the best interest of society including themselves based on an accurate perception of reality.

In both cases of Private Prisons and home security the corporations have an incentive to ensure that the problem of crime isn’t solved since the public would no longer have the need for their services. Yet they both have more powerful lobbies than the sincere citizens who aren’t making profits or donating to campaigns. And unlike the majority of the public the security companies have plenty of chances to get their commercials on the air.

The propaganda isn’t limited to TV either; the corporations are making an enormous amount of progress in their attempts to increase their presence in schools as well. In the late eighties Channel One (blog about Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds”) began providing advertisements in schools that children were required to watch and Susan Linn author of “ Consuming Kids” reported on the enormous amount of advertising corporations are directing to kids both in and out of school and how it is detrimentally effecting their critical thinking skills. Cities and town are also increasingly relying on charter Schools especially in poorer areas where parents can’t afford better options as well. These Charter Schools are almost certainly not doing as good a job as the Mass media attempts to make it appear and at least one recent study indicates that they may be doing worse than traditional schools. This particular study indicates that “More than one quarter of the charter schools have significantly more positive learning gains than their traditional public school counterparts in reading, but their performance is eclipsed by the nearly half of charter schools that have significantly lower learning gains.” This is just one of many studies but they almost certainly don’t measure everything; anyone that is familiar with the way these types of studies are done should understand that there are almost always flaws and that they need to be studied and verified in multiple ways to be certain. A more thorough search on Google for more studies will turn up many more conflicting results; however a familiarity with the way many studies have been done in the past by business and political organizations should be enough to indicate that if some of these ideologues have the opportunity to present studies that may have subtle biases to support their cause they probably will and already have. One clear indicator of the effectiveness of these Charter Schools can be made by using basic sense if you consider the fact that introducing profit organizations and recognizing their history on many other institutions including Channel One should raise doubts about the incentive they have to increase profits at the expense of the children or use the opportunity to impose their ideological beliefs on the children.

With Channel One many schools have recognized that they aren’t working out very well and they are on the decline but Charter Schools and other forms of advertising to children continue to rise and presumably if sincere people become complacent Channel One may attempt to reverse this trend. Barack Obama seems to be one of the leading supporters of these Charter Schools which will almost certainly not turn out to be any better than Channel One.

Recent reports in Barack Obama’s home town now run by his ally Rahm Emanuel indicates that Noble schools a Charter School that they support is now raising an enormous amount of money by charging students for infractions like “bringing chips to school” and “not looking a teacher in the eye.” This should raise some serious doubts about their priorities. There have been attempts to argue that this could actually be good for their learning; I have reviewed an enormous amount of authoritarian material on similar type’s or child rearing which indicates that even if there is some truth to this it probably comes at a high cost that influences their critical thinking skills.

This type of incentive plan should be especially troubling in schools that are already treating disenfranchised children that may be prone to violence. If troubled children are reading about more school shootings and they see that their teachers are more concerned about imposing fines than educating then it might be a matter of time before one of these students uses this as an excuse to carry out another school shooting. Instead of doing things to try to antagonize children they should be trying to find better ways to fund these schools properly and reduce the chance that this might happen. It is clear enough that this is much more common among low income schools where children have less opportunity to get ahead. The biggest problems with the schools almost certainly can’t be solved by introducing more incentive for corporations to gain more profits out of the schools and possibly use the opportunity to impose their own ideology as well.

Another indication of the possibility that this is part of a larger effort intentional or not to maintain class differences is the a recent story about Tanya McDowell being sentenced to twelve years in jail for enrolling her children in school while she was homeless; they referred to it as “theft of education.” It is becoming increasingly clear that maintaining class differences for the benefit of those that are already rich and powerful and their decedents are more important than educating children or solving problems with violence, education or anything else for the vast majority of the public.

The traditional establishment has overwhelmingly indicated that they can’t be trusted to fix the problems that they’re creating, including Barack Obama who is supporting the Charter School efforts and remains silent about many of the other important issues even those that affect the minorities that he is supposed to represent. One of the most vocal critics and advocates of the advertising to children and many other social injustices has been Adbusters which has also supported the Occupy Wall Street movement; however they don’t have much opportunity to address the majority of the public since the Mass media is unwilling to present their views fairly. The Fox has even attempted to make it seem like they’re costing the tax payers millions of dollars in cost that it takes to keep them under control. Imagine if someone broke into your house and you caught them red handed and they called the cops and the cops arrested you at tax payers’ expense; would you consider that your fault that the tax payers had to pay for your arrest. The police costs that the tax payers have been paying for run into the millions but the amount that the corporations have been stealing, through various types of white collar crime, runs into the hundreds of billions or more likely trillions and yet they don’t go to jail; instead the protestors that are trying to draw attention to it are thrown in jail and blamed for the much smaller cost!

The stupidity and insanity is enough to make anyone’s head spin if they can keep up with all the details!
For some sources on propaganda see the following sources or rely on additional research of your own if you’re so inclined:

“Rich Media, Poor Democracy” Robert McChesney Third World Traveler excerpts
“Rich Media, Poor Democracy” Robert McChesney Amazon excerpts
Scribd “The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” Robert McChesney Synopsis
“The problem with the Media: U.S. communications politics in the twenty first century” Robert McChesney Amazon excerpts 
“Boxed in: the culture of TV” By Mark Crispin Miller
Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds,” Channel One Indoctrination of Kids (My blog review plus excerpts and additional links)

See also the complete series on inadequate coverage of causes of massacres.