It’s no secret that 90% of American media is owned by just 6 corporate conglomerates, and it’s also no secret that the media is used by political and corporate propagandists as a tool to reach deep into the hearts and minds of the masses. Mainstream newscasts are a staged version of reality, and as world events continue to rise in pitch and fervor, so will the propaganda, so it’s imperative to brush up on critical thinking skills as a defense against falling into group-think and mass-hysteria.
The great irony here, though, is that it is precisely through the power of media that people will awaken to the deceit happening in the media. By and large the programming that makes it to our eyes and ears is produced to support an agenda, but, even amongst the corporate programs there are genuine voices of reason and truth.
So, how do you tell the difference between a voice of truth and voice of deceit?
The fog of the propaganda war is sure to thicken in the coming months and years, so here are 10 absolutely critical points to ask yourself when consuming mainstream media.
This checklist was submitted by one of our readers, George L. Humphries, who brings a lifetime of experience in military and law enforcement to bear on the issue of propaganda.
Questions I routinely ask myself while reading or viewing. And I ALWAYS pay attention to the masthead and the credits!
1. Who is the author – nationality, ideology and political affiliation, religion, affinity group, related experience base, and education? Who are this author’s friends and promoters? Where, by who, and possibly why is this author normally published? Are other publications by this author parallel, or do they take a different angle entirely – and if so, why?
2. Unstated underlying value assumptions. What values does the author assume the audience shares, and upon which the author builds the thesis? Do you share these values? Does the author in fact share these values, or are they used merely to sell copy or manipulate the reader to a desired attitude or conclusion? What symbols does the author use?
3. Is the author attempting to ‘frame an argument’? What alternative frameworks for the argument occur to you? Why might the author attempt to frame the argument in the way provided, and exclude from identification, acknowledgment or general acceptance other frameworks? Is the author’s thesis merely a preemptive counter-accusation?
4. Does the author’s mistrust of one government extend to all governments, or does the author forgive the sins of a particular nation’s regimes and ascribe to them an overwhelming benign humanitarian sensibility? What are the shear points in the logical development of the author’s thesis – does the author jump from one well-developed line to an undeveloped one to engage you in the pre-drawn conclusion, hoping you won’t notice or object to the somersault en route?
5. Does the author appeal to your intellect, your emotions, or both? Does the author subliminally propose that all civilized, educated, right-thinking people of the social elite think a certain way, thereby suggesting that your attitudes should fall in line? Does the author recruit you for the ‘Heavenly Host’ by appealing to ‘common’ religious values? Does the author appeal to your sense of justice and proportionality? Does the author appeal to your spirit of humanity? Does the author wave the flag? What does the author’s peripheral vision include, and what does it exclude? What does the author’s cognitive dissonance miniaturize, and what does it enlarge?
6. What gimmicks does the author use to characterize individuals or groups? Does the author use hyperbolic comparisons to historical figures such as Hitler or Jesus? Does the author try to make a case through guilt by association or guilt by dissociation, or innocence by association or innocence by dissociation? Does the author damn with faint praise or edify through shallow criticism? Does the author tear down and trivialize individuals through cheap, pseudo-comic references to personal habits, modes of dress or accent, and then compound these with unfair, grotesque analogies? Does the author use the unsubstantiated words of others, great or terrible, to reference an individual’s character or lack thereof? From where and from whom does the author draw expert witnesses and citations, and do you agree with these sources? Are sources footnoted or substantiated in some way? Might a citation be the old propagandist’s trick of referring to an item carefully placed elsewhere just for that purpose?
7. What themes can be identified? For this author, who or what is good and who or what is bad? What is the author’s litmus test and bottom line, and do you share it? What alternative does the author wish us to identify and support, even if it is not outlined in bold terms?
8. What is the author’s agenda? What, if anything, does the author want us to believe when we have finished reading or viewing, or what action if any would the author like us to take? Remembering that the best propaganda is the truth, and the second best propaganda is 99% truth as a vehicle to propel a 1% lie, does this article fall into either of these two categories? What piece of information might be the 1% lie?
9. Does the author recommend military action? What other conflicts has the author supported, and what other conflicts has the author opposed? What military service, if any, does the author have, and for which nation? Does the author want to put one nation’s blood and treasure in harm’s way for the benefit of a client state? Is the author still fighting a past war? If so, which one, and what side is taken? From your point of view, which conflict should the author be fighting, and from what side?
10. If the author was a paid agent of (foreign) intelligence services(s), who might be the author’s paymaster(s)?
– George L. Humphries