Propaganda shaping America’s minds. For 2014 resolve not to be fooled!

Summary:  More examples of our broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA), that makes it difficult for us to see the world clearly and take effective action. I increasingly believe this to be one of the major factors driving the death of the Second Republic, allowing construction of the Plutocratic New America on its ruins. Today we look at examples from the Right (but it afflicts both Left and Right). We can fix this with more skepticism, critical thinking, and shunning of those who lie to us.


The Truth is Out There


  1. The Death Spiral of Liberal States
  2. The bailout of GM was a failure
  3. Being on welfare counts as employed

These are widely circulated lies. I have seen them repeated by smart, educated people. We have to be as careful with what we believe as what we eat. America would be stronger if we had more info-vegans (i.e., highly skeptical people, who push-back against those who tell us lies).

(1)  The Death Spiral of Liberal States

“These 11 States now have More People on Welfare than they do Employed! And Surprise-Surprise!!! These States vote straight democrat ticket every election – living on the government plantation.”

A commonplace tale on Right-wing chain emails and blogs. Repeatedly debunked as false on several levels. See the analysis by the estimable Snopes (should be bookmarked on your PC), and another at PoliFact-Texas.

(2)  The bailout of GM was a failure

Many on the Right-wing continue to say this, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. See Dana Milbank at the Washington Post for the facts.

(3)  Being on welfare counts as employed

“One of the reasons the reported unemployment rate isn’t higher is that the State of California’s statistically considers all 1,427,000 welfare recipients to be “employed.”
— By Chriss Street at The American Thinker, 14 December 2013


The article Street links to provides no evidence for that astonishing assertion, because it is quite daft. There are two Federal surveys of employment:

  • The establishment survey, which asks employers about their workers. This obviously does not include people without jobs.
  • The Household Survey, which asks people if they have a job — and if not, are they looking for work. This will consider people on welfare as unemployed if they do not have a job and are not seeking work (e.g., if fully disabled).

Many people on welfare have jobs because even full time work at the minimum wage puts a family below the Federal poverty level (see Barry Ritholtz’s report), and hence eligible for some form of benefits (e.g., food stamps, Medicaid, cash).

7 thoughts on “Propaganda shaping America’s minds. For 2014 resolve not to be fooled!”

  1. FM:

    You dismissed my assertion that a return to the Fairness Doctrine for Radio and TV was most important to reducing the impact of this propaganda, on the basis the internet was as or more important. I think you are mistaken in that the internet is not the source of news that Radio and TV are, also much of the news delivered on the mainstream internet such as YAHOO or MSN can be made subject to the Fairness Doctrine.
    I think the need to present the other side of an issue each and every time it’s presented on Radio of TV will preclude the life of these undying lies.

    1. Choirboy,

      “You dismissed my assertion that a return to the Fairness Doctrine for Radio and TV was most important to reducing the impact of this propaganda, on the basis the internet was as or more important.”

      This article, and most of its ilke, are on the Internet. Print media is also big on Left/Right propaganda. Neither would be affected by such new regs.

      “I think you are mistaken in that the internet is not the source of news that Radio and TV are”

      Quite possible. I don’t use either media for news.

      “also much of the news delivered on the mainstream internet such as YAHOO or MSN can be made subject to the Fairness Doctrine.”

      Can you provide a citation for that astounding assertion. One that does call for repeal of the a First Ammendment. The basis for the Fairness Doctrine was public ownership of the airwaves, and the limited number of channels.

      “I think the need to present the other side of an issue each and every time it’s presented on Radio of TV will preclude the life of these undying lies.”

      I disagree on two grounds. First, as above, this will not affect the more important print and internet media. Second, and more important, people believe these things because they want to. The truth is out there, but we are no longer interested.

      I think back to my discussions in comments on the FM website. People believing that the Earth will become hot as Venus, run out of oil soon, that Keynes advocated running big deficits all the time, etc. I doubt I have affected any of these people in the slightest.

      The problem is us, not the the media.

      1. I think your response is correct, and at the same time depresses me. How have so many become so willfully ignorant? Why have they may be the better question.

      2. Choirboy,

        You touched upon this in your earlier comment, months ago. It was then as it is now, the big question. When we have an answer, I believe we will see a path to reforming America.

        When this changes, America will be well on the road to deep reform.

        How these things happen is not visible to me at this time. I have not a clue.

  2. Choirboy asks:

    How have so many become so willfully ignorant?

    One possible answer involves the self-sorting filtering effects of the internet. Those who celebrate the marvelous internet for its magnificent ability to deluge us with information neglect to notice that the internet can be easily set up via systems like RSS feeds and social networks so that a user sees only that information s/he wants to see.

    This effectively insulates people on both the left or the right from contrary opinions and prevents them from seeing information which would cast doubt on their beliefs.

    When we add in the toxic effect of mob psychology, in which anyone who persists in citing facts which damages a group’s beliefs gets labeled a “troll” and banned from the social network or the website or the forum or the IRC chatroom, and you have a recipe for a truly dangerous vicious cycle. True believers congregate in online forums and reinforce one another’s beliefs. Social psychology shows that group beliefs tend toward the most extreme beliefs of the individuals which make up those groups, so over time both right and left forums tend to become increasingly extreme in their beliefs: the right-wing groups start out thinking Obama is a mediocre president and end up believing he’s a Kenyan moslem fascist communist who plans to lock up every American in FEMA concentration camps. The left-wing groups start out thinking George W. Bush was a poor president and end up believing that America is on the verge of turning into a police state patrolled by fundamentalist Christian militias where dissent will get punished with summary execution and banks will open debtor’s prisons and bring back indentured servitude for credit card debt.

    The big disadvantage of the internet as opposed to one-to-many media like large television networks is that the internet sources of information can be filtered and programmed (using add-ons like Greasemonkey) so that even individual commenters’ statements can be filtered out if people find them uncomfortable. So, for example, someone viewing a forum about how 9/11 was allegedly caused by phaser beams from space aliens could easily set up hi/r browser to simply not show any comments critical of that belief system.

    This leads to a spiral of paranoia, self-delusion, and groupthink which ends with both the right and left running off the rails into fantasies of their own devising. A much better example than extreme climate change claims by left-wingers would be alleged dangers of nuclear power or the supposedly lethal side effects of genetically modified organisms. The evidence on both those issues is clear: coal-fired power plants have released far more radiation than all the American nuclear plants put together, because burning coal releases the particulates in the coal, and some of those particulates include trace amounts of radioactive uranium and thorium. In a similar fashion, there is no evidence whatsoever to support claims that genetically modified organisms lead to sterility, runaway cancer, or other diseases. In actual fact, almost all modern foodstuffs have been selectively bred over many centuries to the point where they are completely different from the wild strain. So we are already eating large numbers of genetically modified foods like corn (wholly different the original wild strains of maize) carrots (which weren’t even orange, originally), bananas (which are all clones of a particular banana variety), and so on.Yet none of the “frankenfood” protesters on the left seem to object to eating bananas or carrots or corn.

  3. I am on the right and I think the bailout of GM was a mistake. Not sure what term “failure” means, as bailout succeeded for those who oversaw policy. Normally when business fails, the US has a thing called bankruptcy when the debts are washed away and the business is continued, assuming it has value.

    Those on right would argue for normal bankruptcy. The counter is because of financial crisis GM could not obtain financing to see it through bankruptcy process (called “debtor in possession financing”, which is paid back first). That may or may not be true, but if true those on right would argue government should prove debtor in possession financing to enable GM to complete orderly bankruptcy (and be paid back ahead of all other creditors).

    This is not how it played out, as after providing financing, government “bought” GM out of bankruptcy and split stock between itself and unions (and did not allow union contracts to be cancelled as would happen in normal bankruptcy). The unions were put ahead of other creditors, and equal to government “debtor in possession” financing, with result taxpayer lost $13 billion.

    I don’t know value of stock unions got, but is clearly was in billions. My objection is to the political payoff to the unions, without which I doubt taxpayer would have lost money. Does that make bailout a failure?

  4. I’d like to comment on point number 2, the contention relating to the belief that the GM “bailout” was a failure.

    At the time, many readers might recall, I was so incensed at the Bush II Admin’s response (or adopted policy) regarding what’s now typically referred to as the “financial crises”, that I posted once on the subject and more or less dropped off the face of the internet. I didn’t, or more accurately felt I couldn’t, make public comments regarding the situation at GM early in Obama’s first term because I had a conflict of interest at the time. I was a senior partner in an EAM company doing business with GM in Latin America, and moreover my partners and I had been put in a bind by US Federal Prosecutors relating to our cooperation on a different GM scandal, which eventually led to us losing GM’s business and having to close that company.

    To begin, the question should not be: was the US Governments ‘bailout’ of GM a success or a failure, but rather: “Was the US Governments ‘bailout’ of GM necessary in the first place?” and/or “Did Congress and the Bush WH contribute significantly to management at GM deciding to enter into Chapter 11 when it did?”.

    Although I’m happy (and currently unrestrained by a conflict of interest) to go into exhaustive detail regarding the circumstances within GM and without that ultimately led to the declaration of Chapter 11, from the haphazard sale of Hughes, to the refusal of GM’s Board of Directors to sign off on GM’s financials under the SOX rules, to the move by Kerkorian and his cabal into GM, and the subsequent GUILTY PLEA he signed off on, and which the Federal Prosecutor in the case allowed to be SEALED (i.e. the details beyond his admission of guilt were, and will be made fully public). I think just the final couple of factors should be sufficient.

    At the time of the financial crises, many might have forgotten, Cerberus Capital had purchased Chrysler from the Germans, and was eager to see it turned around. Cerberus had a very incestuous relationship with the Bush II Admin, in fact Tony Snow had become a senior partner at Cerberus when he left the WH. Moreover Kerkorian’s scandal at GM had involved senior figures at the GM treasury, and many people, like myself, speculated that this confusion had exacerbated an existing capital flow problem within GM and between it’s various subsidiary’s in other parts of the world. Put simply, GM had $20 billion in cash available from overseas post-tax revenue that it didn’t want to pay 8% to the US government on to repatriate (GM has a sweetheart deal that frees them from the 40% Federal tax on overseas earning most companies have to pay).

    Whist negotiating with Bush admin regulators to find a way out of it’s short term capital problem, a certain faction within the Bush WH, advocating on behalf of Cerberus, inserted a sine qua non demand to the GM execs: Merge with Chrysler if you want us to play ball. This was a totally unreasonable and unacceptable demand, and would only have benefited Cerberus and the Bush insiders who were either already employed there, or who expected to be shortly. GM’s reply was very predictable. Even though the Bush Admin probably would have backed down if given the chance, GM’s corporate view (a very Detroit reaction to Washington shake downs), was to tell the Admin to go F#$@ itself, and that they’d go into chapter 11 instead. Which was a total PR disaster for the WH and the GOP in general.

    Into this mess ride the Democrats, and particularly Speaker Pelosi, who along with the Majority leader of the Senate and President Obama (who’d been mentored by the Senate Leader when he was a mere Senator), and they cannot resist the populist dog and pony show that was subsequently rolled out as grand political theater… as THEY had managed to escape almost ALL the blame for the crises they themselves helped create, and moreover had the auto industry execs by the balls, as the corporate leaders weren’t in any position to defend their actions as responses to unreasonable or cynical ploys by the Democrats (quite independent of the ploys of the Republicans). Remember all the fuss that was made over the CEO’s flying to Washington on Corporate Jets? Well when the CEO’s were being lambasted for this extravagance, Speaker Pelosi was herself demanding a fully equipped Military aircraft be assigned to her for her own exclusive use! lol.

    Moreover, Kerkorian’s political patrons had been Democrats, and the Clinton/Pelosi faction had had their own man, Bowles, on the Board of Directors at GM for the entire time the mess was unfolding (not to mention having undermined the GAO to the point of the Comptroller General resigning half way through his term in frustration at both sides). Yet none of this, nor the ruinous and untenable contracts with organized labor that’d been forced onto the big three, were subjects open to remark as the “bailout” unfolded, as at that point the CEO’s had to play the contrite PR role laid out for them while the politicians either postured or hid, depending on the fall out from the election.

    Again, i’m oversimplifying a much more complicated situation, but the bottom line is: If the point of the ‘bailout’ was to address the regulatory, fiscal, and legal problems that caused the mess in the first place, it was never intended to do any of that in the first place. The issue of double taxation for overseas corporate profit, which has already been taxed in the legal jurisdiction where is was generated, has never been addressed. The underlying reforms and regulation needed for the financial services industry were never, and have not been addressed, insuring that although US banks won’t repeat the sub-prime debacle, OTHER banks will. And etc.

    This said, it’d be pretty rich for Republicans to criticize the GM ‘bailout’, given the initial role played by Bush admin Republicans. As to the question of whether it was necessary in the first place, well… it’s moot. GM went into Chapter 11, and negotiated other undeclared terms with Democrats in the House, Senate, and WH. Lastly, with a VP from Delaware, the actual State of incorporation for GM, and the State with the corporate and business laws that continue to make it impossible for anyone outside GM (and a large majority of those INSIDE GM) to make heads or tails of GM’s ACTUAL financial condition… the chances that Washington is going to put an end to the Delaware loophole that causes such widespread confusion, misinformation, and questionable financial reporting across ALL of corporate culture in America, is… ZERO.


    A. Scott Crawford

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