Propaganda 101 – The Tight Focus Media

A few years ago I attended a function for a controversial political figure who was being targeted by Latino rights groups for his hard-line stance on immigration rights. I wanted to hear what this boogeyman said and make up my own mind about him.

When I got there in addition to the crowd attending the event, the driveway of the hotel was jammed with television trucks from all of the major Los Angeles television stations as well as a large number of national Spanish language stations.

Few of them were covering the event inside. Rather they were focused on a small crowd of perhaps 20 protesters outside. It was a symbiotic relationship. The media were there for the protesters. The protesters were there for the media. 20 news crews were broadcasting this protest into the living rooms of millions of Spanish-speaking families along with the 11:00 o’clock news on every major English language channel in Los Angeles.

By the look on the screen when I got home that night, one would have thought there were hundreds of outraged protesters. In fact, it was only when the klieg lights came on that it was anything but a very casual affair. The protesters joked and smoked with the news crews and reporters, and then went home before the event ended. They had made their point and sent their message to the masses.

Yesterday morning, it was reported that MSNBC had altered another video of a Romney/Ryan rally showing the Republican candidates in an unfavorable light.This is the second time the network has been caught.

On September 22, the major media including the networks, the Wall Street Journal, and other outlets reported a crowd on 18,000, Obama’s largest yet, in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, the BMO Harris Pavilion where it took place seats only 5,000, and video images taken by attendees showed large swathes of empty seats. The video from the major media naturally was tight focus.

It’s an old trick from the 60’s. Visual media feeds off of motion and noise. It’s the shiny object theory. It is also a pack of lies.

This morning, the ombudsman for the Washington Post challenged the paper to recognize its left-wing bias and a recent Pew poll found that only 46 percent of the population feels that the news coverage of the candidates by the media is fair.

When the Obama administration tried to enlist the National Endowment for the Arts to develop a media campaign to promote the President’s health care bill, it was not the mainstream media but alternative media that blew the whistle on a clear violation of the law.

Camera phones and iPads are challenging the received narrative. Breitbart, the bete noir of the Left repeatedly caught the farce on video, shutting down ACORN and “exposing” the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. It wasn’t that the major media had no interest in these stories. They didn’t fit the political narrative, so they said nothing. Same thing with the John Edwards scandal. It was the National Enquirer that broke the story. A major presidential candidate was cheating on his dying wife and engineered a criminal coverup, and the media knew and said nothing.

The decisions on what to report, and what not to report, and how it is framed are made by a handful of editors and executives, almost all of whom have cast aside any measure of objectivity.

But when there is a clear pattern of propagandizing for one side or the other, a Rubicon of our freedoms has been crossed. A fair and impartial press is vital to our democracy. The media themselves claimed that people sitting at home in their pajamas were creating a false narrative but today, it is those same citizen journalists who have been catching the media in their lies.

There is a growing cry against this propaganda machine but sometimes it is hard to find since the machine is intent on self-preservation. But when 46% of the audience no longer believes what it reads in the paper or sees on TV, the death knell has rung.

Punch Sulzburger died yesterday. He was an iconic figure to many in the East Coast media posse. But he and his successors failed to realize that by catering to a left-wing audience they lost 50% of their subscribers in a nation that is relatively moderate.

The propaganda machine is self imploding while it blames free content and 100 other causes other than its own alienation of its audience. Propaganda works when it is government subsidized but not in a capitalist economy.

We may differ on our ideas, but we cannot afford to differ on the facts.

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Obama’s Imperial Presidency

Much was made back in the days of Richard Nixon of his aggregation of power to the White House. His was the first “Imperial Presidency” according to the intelligentsia at the time and Arthur Schlesinger made it official.Nixon was said to be assuming the powers of a dictator or king: the power to declare war; the power of the purse; and the power of immunity from legislative oversight.

Much has been made of the assumption of power by the executive branch since. Most recently George Bush was accused of this after 9/11 when the Patriot Act was passed by Congress. Opponents of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq used the term repeatedly despite Congressional approval and U.N. Resolutions. Helen Thomas was relentless in her criticism equating the imprisonment of Jose Padilla, a Taliwannaban, to the gulags of Soviet Russia and the internment camps of World War II. Ms. Thomas implicated the Supreme Court as well, who approved Bush’s measures when challenged by an activist Leftist bar.

And today, we have a president who has arrogated more power to his agencies and the White House than any in history, and the media and the Leftist bar are utterly silent.

Consider the use of Executive Orders:

Theodore Roosevelt      3

Others to FDR              None

FDR                              11 through the Great Depression & World War II

Truman                          5

Eisenhower                   2

Kennedy                        4

Johnson                        4

Nixon                             1

Ford                              3

Carter                           3

Reagan                        5

G.H.W. Bush               3

Clinton                        15

G.W. Bush                 62

Obama                     135

Consider that Obama created an unprecedented separate bureaucracy from his Cabinet level agencies and departments run by “czars” for banking, the auto crisis, Afghanistan, AIDS, the Border, Climate, Domestic Violence, Drugs, Green Jobs, Guantanamo and on and on. These czars are nominally accountable to the various departments but decision-making power rests with them and in the White House. Obama has emasculated the  structure of our government, and yet no one has said a word.

A number of the agencies and departments, including and especially the EPA, the FDA, The Department of Agriculture, and the department of Homeland Security have arrogated powers never legislated to themselves such as climate change, industry regulation, and even transportation safety.

When the White House began to use the National Endowment for the Arts as a propaganda tool for his health care bill, enough scorn and criticism was rained down to quickly snuff what was an almost Orwellian use of governmental power.

Much more serious was the president’s decision to go to war in Libya. Executive Order 13566 declared Libya an extraordinary threat to the United States despite no act of war and in coordination with the United Nations Resolution 1973 which called for the protection of the Libyan people. Congress was informed, not consulted.

The law is, ever more, what the President says it is. As as expressed by Lewis Carroll so well,  “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

And this is the root of the issue. At a time when there are bitter divides and when the policy battles are fought in the courts there has been no middle path. The aggregation of power in the Presidency has become fundamentally un-Constitutional no matter which party is in power.

The aftermath of 9/11 saw an accelerated use of executive power during an asymmetrical war with no rules. To institutionalize those powers permanently will be a final blow to the division of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

America’s Epic Fail in the Middle East

Today the president addressed the United Nations General Assembly, apologizing for a film no one saw and condemning the wave of violence across the Middle East without somehow addressing the anger and tribalism that is the root cause.

He spoke forcefully for human rights and against the tyranny of censorship. The response was positive, but we are still left with a policy in tatters. Instability reigns and the clouds of war ebb and flow with every day’s news. First Syria. Then Iran. Then Libya. And in the background always Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Mohammed Morsi has accumulated even more power than his predecessor, Mubarak, in the name of democracy, but we know not what his intentions are. We have gone from being close allies with Egypt to some amorphous, ill-defined relationship not through actions of state but through poorly worded presidential news bites using ill-advised language.

In Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, our country’s word has lost meaning because of a disengaged, unilateral policy towards the Arab Spring that ignored the advice and counsel of our allies. Today’s New York Times reports that the president has failed to build the relationships necessary to diplomacy, staying disengaged and aloof. His personal style has actually hurt our ability to influence events. This is not a good sign.

The Israeli – Palestinian situation has effectively become a sideshow. We ignore both sides even as the crisis with Iran escalates.

This afternoon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will speak to the General Assembly. At home he is deeply unpopular but still holds power because of his close alliance with the extremist faction. He is actively supporting the Bashar Assad regime in Syria not only with armaments but with troops as well. Iran has been fomenting unrest in Bahrain, the Gaza Strip and beyond.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban and their allies are simply counting the days until the departure of Western forces now while making life ever more difficult. They are reminding both our government and the Afghan people that they will be back once we are gone. In the background, the Pakistani government has all but declared war against western interests.

And yet this should never have happened. From 1979 onwards, the protector of the Ummah has been the United States. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, it was the Reagan government that organized support for the mujaheddin.

In 1983, 241 United States Marines were killed in a terrorist attack in Beiruit, Lebanon while trying to help establish peace during that civil war. 58 French paratroopers were killed that day as well. All of them peacekeepers.

In 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, it was the 82nd Airborne who were first on the scene in Desert Shield, protecting the Holy Places from the aggressor. Saddam’s goal was the domination of the richest oil patch in the world. he would have used this as a tool not only against the West, but against any opponent of his Baathist regime, which was virtually every other nation in the region.

Over 700,000 U.S. troops were involved in the Gulf War and 394 were killed. We went home afterwards except for some forces tasked to ensure that there were no further incursions.   After Desert Storm, the United States led the way in establishing the no-fly zones, which protected the Kurds in the Iraqi north.

It has conveniently been forgotten that Saddam Hussein had used weapons of mass destruction three times. The first in massive attacks reminiscent of World War I in his war against the Iranians; secondly against Israeli targets in the Gulf War; and lastly, against the Kurds in Northern Iraq. Twice he used nerve gas against his coreligionists.

In 1992 when war broke out in the former Yugoslavia, the United States once again supported a Muslim government in Bosnia. The Dayton Accords led to an independent Bosnia. American aircraft dropped food and supplies while “black” C-130’s dropped weapons.

At the same time, U.S. forces arrived in Somalia on a humanitarian mission (Operation Restore Hope)  to end a man-made famine caused by civil war between tribal militias. 43 Americans were killed and 143 wounded.

In Kosovo, U.S. troops once against guaranteed the peace. Just this week, Kosovo became the newest member of the international community of nations.

After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. forces in cooperation with the Northern Alliance expelled the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was among the most barbaric in history, brutalizing the Afghan people. We were greeted as liberators at the time.

In 2003, U.S. forces finally deposed Saddam Hussein with resistance collapsing within 30 days. We were once again greeted as liberators by most of the country. But then a vicious combination of jihad, civil war, and gangsterism was allowed to arise. There were no civil institutions, just as in Afghanistan. There was no reconstruction plan.

And as a result, 4,487 Americans have died to date in Iraq, the vast majority seeking simply to keep the peace. Close to $1 trillion has been spent. To achieve what?

The Maliki government is a corrupt alliance of Shiite interests, both secular and religious that is like its predecessor more concerned with looting the country’s resources than building civil society. The oppression of minorities continues and government leadership has aligned itself with Iran. In the north and other parts of the country a de facto sovereigntism has taken the place of a national government. The Kurdish regions are by most metrics independent in all but name.

In Iraq, the United States was recognized by almost all parties as the honest broker holding the divergent special interests both accountable and together. Behind the scenes and despite public pronouncements to the contrary, Iraqi politicians from all sides begged that the US remain as that balancing force. But our own politics, our leadership’s disengagement, and the desire simply to exit as soon as possible overruled the common sense answer.

One thing we have learned beyond doubt is the personal disengagement of the President. When General McKiernan begged for additional troops in Afghanistan he was fired. When General McChrystal requested the same, the administration waited for over 90 days to respond. Today’s New York Times describes the president’s disengagement with leaders in the region.

To a dangerous extent the president has isolated himself from events. To then misrepresent facts on the ground for political purposes such as the root cause of the assassination of Ambassador Stevens and blame an obscure video for the past two weeks of violence avoids and abets the complete failure of our government, not only in this administration, to deliver an effective message in the light of the facts.

We have fought more time for the basic rights of Muslims than for any other religion or people. We have gone to the aid of Muslims more times than for any other people. Even when supporting regimes that have been oppressive, we have acted in the interests of peace and the personal safety of the individual. The problem does not lie with the United States. It lies with the extremists. It lies with those who stay silent in response to the extremists.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. There is an unsteady awakening in the Middle East. The old leaders have been overthrown. But now what? Can the institutions of justice and human rights survive conservative Islam? What of the Copts in Egypt and the Jews of Baghdad and the Christians of Syria? What of the rights of women?

The United States has done its best to come to the aid of Muslim peoples. Trillions of dollars and cemeteries full of American and other foreign bodies have been filled trying to protect and preserve Muslims. There is nothing to apologize for.

But in the balance, 30 years of policy has been a failure. The Wahabbists were allowed to propagate their philosophy just as the Deobandists have done so. The result was Al Q’uaeda and fanatic violence in Pakistan.

The president’s lecture of the extremists this morning is symptomatic of our epic misunderstanding of the politics and psychology of the Ummah. The Koran was frozen in context in the 1200’s. Any reformation or reinterpretation is punishable by death.

This is a massive barrier to progress. But to deny that the rage is against the “other” is to deny what has been proven time and again.The state of conflict between Shiite and Sunni should be a clue to the underlying issues.

But all of the Arabists and all of the experts seek to define the issues through a Western prism and this is perhaps our greatest failure. Western understanding of the Middle East can go only so far and no further. The facts are pretty clear.

We tried to change the game in Iraq and Afghanistan and failed. We tried to stay ahead of the curve in Egypt and Libya, and we have failed.

We tried to simply keep coreligionists from killing each other and we failed. We protected Muslims from oppression and we failed.

We are destined to fail because we are not considered a source for the positive in any light. We are simply infidels to the majority, who have no say in their affairs. Our blood and our treasure and our good intentions have bought us little politically because we are both outsiders and have been disengaged.

Our presidents have hit the reset button so many times in the Middle East that it is broken. Politically and militarily we have spent the last four years disengaging ourselves. This will have had deeply negative consequences in the long term, but with few options now there is little we can do. We have backed ourselves into a corner.

 

The real meaning of the Camp Bastion attack

On 9/11, the Taliban, in an operation most likely planned and supported by the Pakistani military, executed their own version of a SEAL Team assault of Camp Bastion in the middle of the Afghan desert.

Camp Bastion was placed in a Godforsaken place so that no one could easily assault it. It is a huge, sprawling base with British, American and other ISAF compounds. From a few flights per day 18 months ago, the base now handles 600 missions per day ranging from helicopter assaults to resupplying COP’s to close air support to C-17’s flying in troops and logistics directly in from the UK or States. As Joe Biden would say, it’s a big f’ing deal.

So somehow a Taliban assault team of approximately 17 troops managed to blow a hole in the 30′ high double fencing, drive across the base to the U.S. Marine Harrier squadron’s area of operations, and then blow up most of that same squadron while killing its commanding officer and several others.

It was a one way mission regardless with 17 virgins at the end of the line, but it was textbook planning and execution that set it apart. Our military would have known this 30 minutes after the last shot was fired and people at Eighth & I and Quantico would be encountering severe gastroenterological problems passing large clay objects through their systems.

And yet our president and our media skipped over it like it never happened. No one from the White House met the coffins as they  arrived at Dover. They would just as soon forget it ever happened.

But the fact is that our enemy launched one of their most successful assaults on our forces on the anniversary of 9/11 and it’s like it never happened. Funny how that works with this administration. Orwellian, even.

There is no cry for retribution or even investigation. There has hardly been an acknowledgment from either the White House or the Pentagon. We knew where, generally, the mission was planned within 48 hours and perhaps even who planned it. This kind of operation has fingerprints all over it and the after action reports on our side would have been thorough.

This, combined with the assassination of our ambassador in Libya, was a coordinated effort by the Salafists to regain the initiative and instead we are entertained by commercials on Pakistani networks paid for by our embassy with the President and Secretary of State calling for reason with the crazies.

The enemy has the measure of our leadership and finds it perfectly suited to their agenda.We can expect more, and more daring assaults as the date for withdrawal draws near.  Sun Tzu and Machiavelli are bywords for strategy and tactics, and instead we have the My Little Pony School of Leadership at the highest levels.

The criticism of our nation’s policy in the Middle East is now coming from experts on all sides and yet the President and his sycophants have rather successfully covered up probably the worst week of the Global War on Terror in 10 years.Instead, it seems from his actions in the aftermath that he is pursuing his own global war on our own objectives.

The indecisiveness when General McChrystal begged for more troops for the Surge; the refusal to confront Pakistani complicity and support for the Taliban and their allies; even the almost complete refusal to pursue the narcotics traffic responsible for 95% of the heroin that scourges the West; how much more pathetic can it get?

The Camp Bastion attack is a symptom of what has been wrong with our strategy in Afghanistan for a very long time. From the withdrawal from engagement with the Afghan people to the sprawl and waste to the Pollyanna power point presentations and restrictions on engagement to the refusal to pursue the enemy to their safe havens, this is no way to run a war.

Wars are on or they’re off. There is little or no middle ground. This war has been on autopilot for a very long time and as troops die or come home missing limbs, our leadership has failed both their trust with them and with ourselves completely.

What is really going on in Egypt?

The demonstrations have died down for the moment, but Friday, demonstration day, is only a few days away. If you follow the Middle East, the demonstrations usually follow Friday’s prayers at the mosques, when the more outspoken mullahs perform like Elmer Gantry in stirring religious and political fervor at times.

Unlike in the West, religion and politics are deeply intertwined, whether it is the opposition in Syria or Hezbollah in Lebanon or the nascent Salafist movement in Egypt. The crowds stream from the mosque and into the streets and things start burning and people get hurt.

The anger began in earnest when Khaled Abdullah, known for his incendiary television sermons against Christians and secularists, demanded justice and retribution. Al Nas, the satellite television station from which Abdullah broadcasts, was originally founded  by businessman Mansour bin Kadesh broadcasting music and entertainment, but became first a Sunni outlet, and then later a Salafist station broadcasting across the Middle East. The pot began stirring on September 8 with Abdullah’s first rants. On September 11, he was joined by Mohammed al-Zawahiri, the brother of Ayman, leader of al Q’aeda. Ayman had issued a call for revenge for the death of Abu Yahya al-Libi, AQ’s operational commander,  at the wrong end of an American Hellfire missile.

Last weeks riots began on 9/11, if you didn’t notice and were in my opinion nothing to do with an obscure Youtube video. The timing is self-explanatory much as Jay Carney and Susan Rice would like you to believe otherwise.

Our Embassy in Cairo has been under daily assault by protesters. Now it turns out that many of them; the professional thugs and even the young and unemployed have been being paid £50/day ($8.50) in a country where that is a lot of money. Hundreds if not thousands of the protesters are being paid, and no one knows where the money is coming from. Saudi interests? The Gulf? Pro Mubarak factions?

The majority in Egypt are angry with the government and Muslim Brotherhood. Not for what you might think, but for not having done enough to stop the violence. But as elsewhere in the Middle East, it is dangerous to speak out, especially against the thugs.

The worst riots have occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. The focal point for American interest in Benghazi seems to have been a planned mission using a small protest as cover according to the latest reports. The timing has become obvious, but the links are still unclear.

What has become clear, though, is that this was not an accident. The majority of people in Egypt are just as concerned as we are. Invisible hands are moving the chess pieces and building upon the violence.

As the Pope visits Lebanon to pray for peace, itself a bold move, denial is not just a river in Egypt; it is our government’s policy.