Subject: ON POST-ELECTION POLITICAL CULTURES IN AN
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Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
As the polar ice cap melts causing the current of the Gulf Stream to weaken to the point of changing the planet's climate, and as thousands of men, women and children in Eastern Europe and in the Middle East are contaminated by radioactive fallout from hundreds of tons of depleted uranium recycled by U.S. corporations to make ammunition for the U.S. military, and as a hundred thousand families mourn their dead in Iraq and some 13,000 American families embrace the mutilated bodies of the American soldiers back from Iraq, we turn once again to American political culture in the making . . . .
In item A. we take a critical look at the neo-conservative institute, Project
for A New American Century, and enter into the
realm of popular culture with a renewed interest in Dick Cheney's sexual
preferences. Mark Phillips, co-author of Trance Formation of America, delves
into a sordid history, which he admits has not been verified --it's Dick
Cheney's word against the prostitute who accuses him of attempted murder, and
much, much more. . . . Also, the criticisms of PNAC below links us to the bitting
political satire in an internet animation by Rod
In item B. we return to the academic analysis of mass media, by the late Herbert I. Schiller (author of
Information Inequality: The
Deepening Social Crisis in America) whose essay is this time presented in English, as was
requested by his former student, Brian Ritter of
Items C. and D.
are references to the
investigative reporter Gary Webb, author of Dark
Item E. is
again a piece of popular culture from Mark Phillips: the subject is "mind
control". Popular protest at the time of the French Revolution, writes
Our readers are invited to make their own judgements after reading these popular descriptions of the private lives of the U.S. political elite today and their supposed fascination with "The Most Dangerous Game", in which, it is assumed in American popular literature, we all play a role.
Finally, back in the scientific domaine, we have received from Professor Fred Lonidier, in item F., an academic analysis of the political economy of U.S. philanthropic foundations, most of which are oriented against socialism and are taking the necessary precautions to stabilize the economic and political inequalities between social classes in societies around the world.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Dirctor of Research
Project for the New American Century (PNAC): Cheney's Monstrous Scheme
by Mary Louise
(This text has been removed from our Bulletin # 165 and placed, more appropriately in the « rumeurs et délires » section of the CEIMSA web page.)
Brian Ritter :
Dear Professor Feeley,
I was an
student of Herbert Schiller's at UCSD. Your recent mailing of his article was
in the French language, without a complete copy of the English original. Your
American Studies students and colleagues might be interested in knowing that
there are many non-French speaking people in the
Would you please publish Herb's piece in English, too?
US as Global Overlord
Dumbing Down, American-style
by Herbert I. Schiller
(Professor Emeritus of Communication
For at least half a century the
global theatre has had one dominating actor -- the
Its supremacy is recognised
universally and with increasing resentment, to judge by the comment of a
British diplomat reported by the American academic Samuel P. Huntington:
"One reads about the world's desire for American leadership only in the
Yet how the world sees us may not be as revealing as how we see ourselves. How do those who live in this globally pre-eminent territory understand their own and their country's situation? Is it, in fact, so obvious to Americans, as they go about their daily routines, that they are part of a dominating global order? When, if at all, do people in this ruling core society express indignation at, or resistance to, the burdens their order imposes on others -- and often on themselves?
This is not an awareness that can be
taken for granted or that inevitably surfaces. Indeed, the far-reaching
enterprise of being the global overlord requires not indignation but support,
or at least acquiescence, from the 270m people who inhabit the home territory.
Until now this has been achieved in a complex way that uses heavy
indoctrination. It begins in the cradle with a system of selection and/or
omission of information that reinforces the enterprise's maintenance and
growth. Along with intense, though often veiled, efforts of persuasion, and
equally extensive exclusion of potential discordancies,
there is a graded arsenal of coercions that begin with admonition and end with
incarceration. There are almost 1.8m people in prison in the
These instruments of social control
have been remarkably successful in producing, if not enthusiastic believers, at
least general acceptance at home of the
One of the most effective means of keeping order in the ranks is definitional control -- the ability to explain and circulate the governors' view of reality, local or global. Its practice depends on a reliable national instructional system. Schools, entertainment, the media and the political process are enlisted. The basis of definitional control is the information infrastructure that produces meaning and awareness. When the infrastructure is performing routinely, it needs no prompting from the top of the social pyramid. Americans absorb the images and messages of the prevailing social order. These make up their frame of reference and perception. With few exceptions, this framework insulates most people from ever imagining an alternative social reality.
Take the use of the term
"terrorism". Terrorism at home and abroad has become a paramount
concern of the
Definitional control can also work
by omission. The annual issue of Time that features "the most
influential people in
Time's listing confers authority mostly
on service providers, not on the sources and wielders of genuine power. From
this list, readers can feel informed while actually remaining ignorant of the
realities of power in the
Such information in context, however, is precisely what definitional control is employed to prevent. Besides, there has emerged in recent decades a galaxy of information producers and analysts whose task is to shield the wielders of power from public attention. These are the same conservative institutes, research organisations and think-tanks (4) that prepare studies on legal, social and economic issues from a propertied and corporate perspective. This is to be expected, because the corporate sector is the source of their funds. These organisations turn out studies and reports that are given credibility in the national and local informational circuits. Rightwing think-tankers enjoy wide access to local radio and national television, and they quietly lobby local, state and national officials.
Yet these are visible structures of
ideology creation and dissemination. Far more effective, and not nearly as
visible, in achieving definitional control are the dynamics of the market
system itself, especially as they relate to the consciousness-creating cultural
industries. These industries have provided incalculable support to
Ninety-six per cent of the films
Canadians see and 80% of the magazines they read are foreign (in most cases
American) -- a fact that has not passed without comment in
American readers' familiarity with current world literature is no less abysmal. The international writers organisation PEN puts out an annual list of published book translations, from all the languages of the world. In any given year, the number of titles has not exceeded 200 to 250.
The situation is hardly different
as, far as news, is concerned. Television coverage of foreign affairs puts the
emphasis on breaking crises. Most of the messages and images of the world come
from still greater concentrated private channels, with the temporary exception
of the Internet. Given these arrangements, it is hardly surprising that most
Americans' knowledge of the world and its problems is less than microscopic.
"Weapons of mass distraction" is how scriptwriter Larry Gelbart described the functioning of the media system,
television in particular, in the
And what they are putting out
chooses most of its content for its entertainment value, in its quest for the
large audience. This situation is by no means confined to the
Yet national ignorance cannot be
accounted for solely by the trivialisation and
withholding of news. It has much deeper roots. The, structural foundation of
the media system, financed exclusively by those who can afford to buy time and
messages, assures a continuing cultural impoverishment of the audience, despite
the best efforts of a few talented people who have been trying for decades, to
promote a non-commercial culture. The giant corporations account for most of
the media's financial support, and it is their messages, $40bn worth annually
in television alone, that create the all-embracing commercial atmosphere in the
The commercial pummelling
of the American mind begins at an early age. The situation is so gross that Business
Week, a magazine not known for its hostility to the market economy,
published a cover story chronicling the targeting of the country's infants:
"At on Wednesday 5 May, a consumer was
born... By the time she went home three days later, some of
The cumulative effects of unbridled commercialism, however difficult to assess, are one key to explaining the impact of growing up, in the core of the world's marketing system. At the very least, it suggests unpreparedness for, and lack of concern with, the world that exists outside the shopping mall. Now radio, and to an increasing extent television, have been taken over, to express the views of a hard-line conservative element, supported by numerous foundations, that is against any form of social organisation, national or international.
One of the primary targets of these
extremist groups is government. The interventionist policies of the
In international affairs the public is exposed to ceaseless tirades from large sections of complicit media against the very idea of the UN. The invective penetrates the mainstream media as well. The result has been a decades-long campaign against the UN and related international bodies such as Unesco and the World Health Organisation. It is not that these bodies are above criticism, but that their functions are attacked as threatening and unnecessary, that the principles of international solidarity are condemned. And it is not only the UN and the international community that suffer. Americans turn away from their own weak and poor, and adopt the rationales of those who see no need for social protective networks.
The acceptance -- though there are
points of resistance -- of the American consumerist, privatised
model abroad strengthens the prevailing mind-set in the
Herbert I. Schiller
(Original text in English)
(1) Samuel P. Huntington, "The lonely superpower", Foreign Affairs, March-April 1999.
(2) Quoted by
(3) In particular by Madeleine
Albright, in a speech given at the National Press Club, Washington, on
(4) Serge Halimi, "Les 'boîtes à idées' de la droite américaine", Le Monde diplomatique, May 1995.
Scott, "Promoting its ideas, the Manhattan Institute has nudged
(6) Anthony DePalma,
"US gets cold shoulder at a Culture Conference", International
(7) Quoted in The New York Times,
(8) See Ignacio Ramonet, La Tyrannie de la communication, Galilée, Paris, l999.
(9) Business Week,
from Alexander Cockburn :
from GNN :
from Mark Phillips :
The Most Dangerous Game
from Professor Fred Lonidier :
Subject: Foundation support