Friday, March 27, 2015

Occupy Wall Street “Kool-Aid” anyone?

About a week ago Mary Beth Hicks author of “Don’t let the kids drink the Kool-Aid” did an interview on Fox news about how her book could explain the Occupy Wall Street movement, implying that the people that are running it are trying to indoctrinate children.


(This was originally posted on Open SalonOctober, 28, 2011)

OK, sorry that was uncalled for; it was a clear appeal to emotion and ridicule which I have criticized in the past and it isn’t the proper way to address a situation like this. Instead it should be debunked properly and rationally. This is a classic case where at least two sides accuse the other side of being manipulative and in order to sort out the truth it may be necessary, at times, to sort through the details. This pattern of behavior was already old when both the Pope and Martin Luther were accusing each other of being the Anti-Christ five hundred years ago. However some of the propaganda that Fox and their allies are putting out is just so bad I have a hard time avoiding a little ridicule.

As I have indicated in the past it is often necessary to check the facts and trust the simplest ones that can be verified independently. One of the first problems that might be worth considering is the use of the term “Kool-Aid” to imply indoctrination without considering how this works. This is clearly a reference to Jim Jones’s cult; however it wasn’t the Kool-Aid that was the problem with his cult it was the indoctrination, coercion and manipulation tactics. By using this analogy it enables them to turn indoctrination into something more complex without explaining the details that can be confirmed and recognized easily. Confusing the issue is one of the most common manipulation tactics used by many propagandists. There have been many people that have created lists of fallacies, or what I have called manipulation or indoctrination tactics; in fact I have made my own list which is included in some links below. These are relatively simple and they enable the reader to verify the principles which they can understand instead of relying on the credibility of the source. Ironically if there is a problem with real Kool-Aid it is probably a nutritional one that has more to do with feeding children too much sugar; and Mary Beth Hicks has indicated that she is opposed to what she calls the “Food Police.” Like many conservatives she seems to believe that the government shouldn’t provide people with accurate information about nutrition which they often imply is forcing choices on people; yet they have no objection to the enormous amount of deceptive advertising by the corporations which isn’t subject to nearly as much scrutiny and is leading to an epidemic of obesity.

The misrepresentation of the Occupy Wall Street protests isn’t limited to Mary Beth Hicks of course; in fact it is being done by a large portion of the Mass Media, in some cases even by those that are attempting to appear sympathetic to it. Fox news is one of the most blatant and Geraldo Rivera’s recent special about it and the way it was advertised is a major example of how they’re distorting the perception of it. In fact the promotional ads may be worse than the show itself because they were repeated over and over again without scrutiny which is one of the most common forms of indoctrination. The promotion they kept repeating mentioned that some people say that the Occupy movement is being used as some kind of a pleasure park after dark implying there were some sexual orgies or something. I didn’t watch the actual show in its entirety and many other people also probably missed it but they may have seen the promotions numerous times and it may have given them an impression about the Occupy Wall Street Movement that was negative which is the way propaganda is intended to work. When I did surf past a portion of it Geraldo was talking to people about the missing baby Lisa which has little or nothing to do with the Occupy Wall Street movement. This is just one of the many stories that they’re overplaying for the wrong reasons to distract from more important issues that can be addressed if they handle them properly. Not that I think a missing baby is unimportant but she is one of many missing or abused children and this can be greatly reduced by addressing many of the social problems that lead to these problems which may be one of the things that some of the Occupy Wall Street protesters want to change. He then went on to provide a few stories that were actually good but these almost certainly won’t be repeated often by Fox and he gave an opponent of the movement to speak who made a very bad case that he treated equally. This one is the type that Fox is much more likely to repeat over and over again.

One of the most important thing isn’t what they do report but what they ignore. In many case they may simply ignore many of the people that make some of the best and simplest cases that express legitimate grievances which people would clearly understand. This could include complaints about the use of Sweat shop labor abroad to make cheap goods that force local workers to compete with virtual slaves, the destruction of the environment, the selling of shoddy merchandise by oligarchies that have suppressed real competition and many other things; Many people including myself have addressed these issues in other blogs etc. but the Mass Media pays little or no attention to many of these issues. Fortunately there are plenty of good books about some of these subjects which go into the details that are necessary but they receive little or no promotion from the mainstream publishing companies. Some of them, including “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich and “No Logo” by Naomi Klein, are available on the internet for free. Others that have done a significant amount of research into the way advertising to children “Born to buy: the commercialized child and the new consumer culture” by Juliet Schor; “Harvesting minds: how TV commercials control kids” by Roy F. Fox and "Consuming Kids" by Susan Linn; these aren’t available entirely online that I know of but they can be found along with other books on the same subject in many good libraries. I suspect that a close look at these books will clearly indicate that they provide much more rational information about how children are indoctrinated; however it will take more time to read them and sort through the details. True research takes fact checking while indoctrination often involves repeating the same things over and over again without scrutiny. This doesn’t mean that they will have all the facts right and that people like Mary Beth Hicks will have them all wrong of course. In fact many propagandists use pieces of the truth to help make their propaganda seem credible and even the best researchers make occasional mistakes.

While the manipulation by Fox is quite blatant and easy for most people to recognize the propaganda by other more credible media outlets is more subtle and harder to recognize and it is often mixed in with some very credible reports that raise some legitimate issues. MSNBC has done their share of this. At times commentators like Chris Mathews and Dylan Ratigan come out in favor of the protests but they often mix in some reporting that downplays the movement or distracts from the most important issues. Dylan Ratigan has done some good reporting with his campaign to get money out of politics; although even this might need a little refining; however he has also done one story about what he called “Occupy the Media” which I initially thought might be a new protest against the media for not covering the Occupy Wall Street movement adequately. However it turned out to be about his speculation about the possibility that the media was to preoccupied with the Occupy Wall Street movement and that the public might not be that interested. They also had another story where he had a guest talking about how the protestors were egging on the police and that was why they made the violent arrests in Oakland. This wasn’t accompanied by any video or source for this claim. At a point where everything is now being video taped this should be easy to come by and when the claims are against the establishment they’re generally cautious about not reporting on something like that without confirmation since the establishment has access to lawyers and a history of pursuing libel cases against people that make disputed claims against them often even when the claims against the establishment are true. They are rarely as concerned about citing hard evidence when reporting on the poor or protest movements. In many cases it is necessary to look closely to find the subtle biases for some of these reporters.

Surprisingly Sixty Minutes hasn’t mentioned it at all; which is common for many other portions of the Mass Media. This show has deteriorated dramatically in the last ten or fifteen years. This deterioration may have begun with the major controversy over the Jeffery Wigand story in the nineties which was almost canceled. They did finally get it on the air and presented it is a failed attempt to censor the news and they attempted to give the consumers the impression that the reporters stood up to the censors and therefore they could still be trusted. However a close look at the news they have covered since then clearly indicates that this would be a mistaken assumption. When there was a lot of noise about censorship they made an attempt to patch their reputation together again but as soon as the reporting on the censorship stopped the reporting gradually deteriorated. Now they don’t even seem to play new stories more than half the time; instead they have much more repeats than they used to and the stories they do still cover are much less important. There has been plenty of time for them to do some research into this, which is the biggest story of the day but instead they continue covering one less important story after another. This includes a full hour on Steve Jobs who died weeks after the Occupy Wall Street movement yet they were quick to do an in depth review of his life. It also included a report on the Egyptian protests which didn’t even make a passing mention of the fact that they’re now happening in America too. Fortunately the internet is paying much more attention to this; in fact even if you just consider OS alone the Occupy Wall Street author tag has grown to eleven pages of blogs in just five weeks and several more are added each day. Many of these are clearly much better than what the Mass Media is reporting.

This should be considered over whelming evidence of the fact that we need major media reform as well as reform of Wall Street. This shouldn’t involve censorship at all but the elimination of censorship and propaganda that is taking place. This doesn’t mean that those who control the media should be completely shut out but they shouldn’t have total control of it and many more voices should be heard from the Mass Media. The government has given them virtual monopoly rights over the airways by giving them licenses to control all the airways and banning micro broadcasting in most cases. This is blatant corporate welfare. In return for those licenses they should be required to allow a much more diverse set of views on the Mass Media; or better yet the licenses should be given to a much more diverse group of people. Or if there aren’t enough spectrums to go around they could be rotated so that more people would have a turn to get their views across. Instead what we have is a situation where a miniscule percentage of the population has overwhelming control over all the Mass Media. The fact that we have dozens if not hundreds of channels available on cable doesn’t change this when you consider the fact that they’re all controlled by the same small percentage of the public.

The following are a list of web pages that provide several descriptions of fallacies or indoctrination tactics. They include at least one that I believe was written by someone who has times turned around and used them for her own purposes but she still provides a good list of recommendations and if you understand them it is easy to sort though the details and avoid being manipulated. I have explained more about her in a previous blog about Corruption or Bias in the American Psychological Association:

(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

FOX runs the risk of losing a good percentage of its audience by not embracing the Wall Street movement. Many right wingers are cheering it on and some are even participating in it. If people use well thought out rebuttals to Murdoch and Ailes propaganda FOX will appear as the writhing maggot in the minds of its viewers that it really is. This is a good start nice job Zachary.

Jack Heart October 28, 2011 04:42 PM

Lyn, I saw that and liked it as well; however it made the reporters out to be heroes and the moment the spotlight was off they gradually allowed the quality of their future reporting to deteriorate. As long as the viewer is cautious not to give these reporters brownie points that they now clearly don’t deserve I would also recommend it.

Jack, I get the impression that you’re right about right wingers joining the movement especially in the south. I got the impression that some of the activities in the Occupy Atlanta protest may have involved people that were blindly following their leaders; even if it is for the right cause this is at best a second rate solution and it needs to be followed up with an education movement to enable these people to think for themselves, assuming some of them are actually blindly following their new, or old, leaders. Then they won’t need their leaders to debunk Fox; they can do it themselves.

zacherydtaylor October 29, 2011 10:43 AM

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
--sinclair louis

"One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas."
--victor hugo

occupy party reaches critical mass/seismic effect--now what?

vzn October 29, 2011 10:44 AM

VZN, those that run the system aren't trying to understand; the message should be directed towards the majority that is more sincere, as I suspect you know.

zacherydtaylor October 29, 2011 11:33 AM

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