"The manufacture of consent was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it is has not died out. Under the impact



"The manufacture of consent was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it is has not died out. Under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer possible to believe in the original dogma of democracy."—Walter Lippman, Public Opinion, 1932

When I read in The Los Angeles Times a few weeks back that Microsoft is undertaking a multimillion-dollar public relations campaign to deflect those nagging federal and state antitrust investigations, the first thing I did was reach for my copy of Taking the Risk of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty. Written by Australian sociologist Alex Carey (with a forward by Noam Chomsky), it is both a textbook of and warning about corporate-sponsored persuasion.

See end of article for related links.

Like DOS and Windows, Gates' PR campaign is not an original idea. He owes a debt to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the organization that—in its own act of plagiarism—utilized many of the groundbreaking PR tactics Woodrow Wilson's administration developed during World War I to achieve some of the 20th century's most significant corporate triumphs. Crushing the Great Steel Strike of 1919...eliminating price controls in 1946...winning approval of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947...distributing more than 18 million propaganda "comic books" to workers and students from 1946 to 1950—all were NAM's handiwork, according to author Carey. The ideal PR campaign, NAM's president declared in 1935, "is skillfully coordinated so as to blanket every media, and then it pounds its message home with relentless determination."

Gates started pounding on April 10, when quarter-page ads ("viewpoints") ran in Seattle's Times and P-I, Washington's Post and Times, and The New York Times. (In a tactic left-wing political scientist Michael Parenti calls "the greying of reality," the ad deftly avoided any mention of the antitrust investigations.) There's much more to come: Letters to the editor solicited from sympathetic corporate executives, Microsoft-funded opinion pieces by freelance writers, and columns crafted by "national economists" should start appearing in major newspapers and magazines soon.

In 1913, a similar assault by NAM drew a congressional investigation into its heavy-handed persuasion techniques (some of which Hitler adopted). What a congressional panel said about the NAM's propaganda blitzkrieg could just as easily be said about what Microsoft has undertaken 85 years later: "The aspirations of the NAM were so vast and far-reaching as to excite at once admiration and fear—admiration for the genius that conceived them, and fear for the effect these ambitions might have on a society such as ours."

From the Good News/Bad News Department

Forbes details the nationwide subsidy-sniffing endeavors of Nordstrom in its April 20 edition—calling Seattle's Pine Street scandal "outrageous" and "embarrassing," and exposing similar taxpayer-backed projects totaling more than $235 million in Fort Worth, Miami, Norfolk, Providence, St. Louis, and Scottsdale. Has "Capitalist Tool" Forbes suddenly become anti-corporate? Hardly. Right-wingers and libertarians are using Nordygate as ammunition in their war against the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which they want to eliminate so for-profit builders can enjoy complete control over lucrative urban-redevelopment projects.

Worth attending

Make giant puppets, play music, dance, eat vegan food, sleep under the stars, and otherwise let your spirit wander at the second annual Art & Revolution Convergence, May 15-17 on Camano Island. On May 18, hoist your puppets and join a procession through the streets of Seattle. This year's theme is affluenza - "the bloated, sluggish, and unfulfilled feeling that results from one's efforts to keep up with the Joneses." Info: 206-632-2954.

Loose change

Miramax Films is dedicating half the profits from Michael Moore's The Big One to scholarships for students and grants for nonprofit organizations. So far, 17 college-bound students in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, have received $1,000 awards....Fed up with domestic journalists hostile to their concerns, a group of Native American tribes this month flew international reporters to four reservations, including the Lummi Nation near Bellingham, to draw attention to continued oppression by the US government....Disney, hoping to expand operations into China, has tapped shill-for-hire Henry Kissinger to perform damage control in the wake of the release of Kundun, a Disney film highly critical of China's occupation of Tibet....In a recent award-acceptance speech at Harvard University, CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather confessed: "Most of us [in television], despite our best intentions, are practicing bad journalism.". . . Farewell to news conscience Fred Friendly, who quit CBS in 1966 after it refused to preempt an I Love Lucy rerun for a live Senate hearing on the Vietnam War—and who died last month at 82.

Related Links:

National Association of Manufacturers page


Lummi Indian Nation, National Sovereignty Day Vigil


Michael Moore's homepage


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