The Use of Lies and Propaganda by the Conservative Elite to Maintain their Wealth and Power

December 9, 2007

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I could have just as well replaced “conservative elite” with “Bush/Cheney administration” in the title of this post, and the point would have been virtually identical. The Bush/Cheney administration is in fact the perfect representative for the conservative elite in the United States. But since the issue is much larger than the Bush/Cheney administration, and since they are not running in the 2008 election (assuming we have one), I think it makes more sense at this time to speak more broadly of the conservative elite in our country as a whole (which includes all the Republican presidential candidates with the exception of Ron Paul), rather than limit the discussion to the Bush/Cheney administration.

Six months ago I posted an essay on DU titled “The Five Pillars of George W. Bush’s Republican Party”. The five pillars that I discussed in that post were:
 The economic royalists
 The militarists
 The propagandists and destroyers of our First Amendment rights
 The crooks
 The gullible

This post is, in part, a refinement of the concepts that I used in my previous post, with emphasis on how lies and propaganda are used to further conservative elitist goals. I noted at the time that there is a good deal of overlap between the five pillars, with many people participating in more than one of them.

However, it may be more useful to look at this in terms of goals, methods, and tools rather than simply as five pillars: The term “economic royalist” represents the goals of the conservative elites, which is the accumulation of wealth and power for themselves. The next three pillars that I listed represent methods. These include stealing and bribing their way to electoral victory, lying and propagandizing about their intentions and the intentions of their political opponents, invading and occupying other countries, and conducting a “War on Terror” where every means, no matter how hideous or evil, is considered justified in the cause of winning their so-called “war”. And last but not least, the gullible make up a large part of the base which they need to maintain their power.

THE GOAL OF THE CONSERVATIVE ELITES

Since the main goal of the conservative elite agenda in our country is to accumulate ever more wealth and power, an understanding of how they do this starts with a review of income inequality in our country over the past several decades:

A brief review our last century’s history of income inequality in the United States

Under the Reagan/Bush/Quail administrations of the 1980s and early 1990s, as with the current Bush/Cheney administration, income inequality in the United States increased tremendously. To put this in historical perspective we need to consider the following, described in economist Paul Krugman’s new book, “The Conscience of a liberal”.

1) Prior to the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt great income disparity existed in our country, with the top 1% of individuals accounting for 17% of annual income and the top 10% accounting for 44% of annual income. (And that’s not even counting income from capital gains, which create even greater income inequality.)

2) FDR, after ascending to the presidency in 1932, initiated a wide range of policies – collectively referred to as the New Deal – which had the effect of substantially reversing income inequality for the first time in U.S. history. These policies included: Progressive taxation; labor protection laws; and several policies to provide a social safety net for Americans and otherwise reduce income inequality, including the Social Security Act of 1935, the GI Bill of Rights, and the development of several policies to facilitate job creation.

3) FDR’s New Deal was so successful that it lasted for several decades, despite tremendous opposition from the conservative elites whose wealth had been reduced.

4) Beginning in the 1980s, right wing conservatives began to have success in dismantling the New Deal, such that today we have income inequality in our country that equals that seen in the pre-New Deal days.

Krugman describes how this has all translated into median family income levels, as shown in this chart, beginning in 1947, when accurate statistics on this issue first became available: Median family income rose steadily (in 2005 dollars) from $22,499 in 1947 to more than double that, $47,173 in 1980. Then, for the next 25 years, except for some moderate growth during the Clinton years, there was almost no growth in median income at all, which rose only to $56,194 by 2005 (85% of that growth accounted for during the Clinton years).

The stagnation of median family income during this period of time was accompanied by a tremendous rise in the wealth of a tiny proportion of our population. This is vividly described by Jack Rasmus, who points out that “More than $1 trillion a year in relative income is now being shifted annually – from roughly 90 million middle and working class families to the wealthiest households and corporations.”

The consequences have been devastating for the middle and working class and the poor: Today, 46 million Americans are without health insurance, which results in thousands of premature deaths every year, including thousands of infants; approximately 7 million Americans who want jobs are unemployed; 12% of American households lack adequate food; approximately 3 million Americans are homeless in any given year; and 37 million Americans are in poverty, while the poverty rate continues to rise under George W. Bush’s administration.

The use of lies and propaganda to transfer more wealth to the already wealthy

How did they do this? I noted above that the transfer of wealth to the wealthy came about largely through a reversal of FDR’s New Deal policies, beginning with the Reagan presidency and accelerating under Bush/Cheney rule. In addition, this is done through direct subsidies to wealthy corporations and deregulation – meaning among other things the relaxing or reversal of laws and regulations that protected worker health and safety and limited the right of corporations to pollute our environment. But how were they able to make these things acceptable enough to the American people that they would tolerate it? The answer of course is lies and propaganda.

Perhaps the biggest lie was “trickle down economics” – the wholly unsubstantiated theory that the creation of policies that increase the wealth of the wealthy will cause a wave of economic prosperity that will “lift all boats” and cause everyone to prosper in the long run. A simple look at the stagnation of median family income and the rising ranks of the poor in our country, concurrent with the accumulation of great fortunes by a tiny percent of our population, reveals that theory for the sham that it is.

Another trick is simply to provide names for bills which do the exact opposite of what the name implies. For example, pass a bill whose main feature is to deregulate pollution controls on corporations, and name it the “Clear Skies Initiative”. Or, in the name of “tax relief”, pass laws that reduce taxes almost entirely on the wealthy while driving our country into bankruptcy and creating the need to starve social programs which benefit the good majority of Americans.

Al Gore, in his book “The Assault on Reason”, describes the basic mode of operation of these conservative elites. Borrowing the term “Economic Royalist” from FDR’s 1934 Democratic Convention speech, Gore describes this group as those:

who are primarily interested in eliminating as much of their own taxation as possible and removing all inconvenient regulatory obstacles. Their ideology – which they and Bush believe with almost religious fervor – is based on several key elements:

First, there is no such thing as “the public interest”; that phrase represents a dangerous fiction created as an excuse to impose unfair burdens on the wealthy and powerful.

Second, laws and regulations are also bad – except when they can be used on behalf of this group, which turns out to be often. It follows, therefore, that whenever laws must be enforced and regulations administered, it is important to assign those responsibilities to individuals who… reliably serve the narrow and specific interests of this small group…

What members of this coalition seem to spend much of their time and energy worrying about is the impact of government policy on the behavior of poor people. They are deeply concerned, for example, that government programs to provide health care, housing, social insurance, and other financial support will adversely affect work incentives….

THE METHODS OF THE CONSERVATIVE ELITES

Since the methods that conservative elites use to maintain and increase their power would be repugnant to most people if they understood the truth behind the methods, those methods must be disguised as something that people can accept:

Legalized bribery disguised as “campaign contributions”

Bribery has been defined as “a crime implying a sum or gift given that alters the behavior of the person in ways not consistent with the duties of that person.” Since bribery of public officials usually requires a great deal of money, those who bribe public officials are almost always powerful and wealthy individuals or corporations – in other words, the conservative elite.

Bribery is technically illegal in our country.

However, largely due to the influence of the conservative elite, bribery of public officials by corporations is legal, as long as two fictions are maintained. The first fiction involves a practice called “money bundling”. That is where a corporation collects small donations of up to $2,000 from a large number of its employees and presents it as a package to a public official whose actions it wants to influence. This practice prevents technical violation of the McCain-Feingold cap of $2,000 on individual contributions, even though the good majority of individuals who contribute the money would never do so except for their felt need to please the corporate owners on whom their jobs depend. George Bush made good use of this practice in his presidential runs by awarding the designation of “Bush Pioneers” to those elites who contributed $100,000 and “Bush Rangers” to those who contributed $200,000.

The other fiction that must be maintained is that the money doesn’t influence the actions of the public official in the performance of his/her public duties. For example, the oil and gas industry contributed over $180 million to Congressional candidates since 1990, including many millions for the 2006 election. During this time, the 2005 energy bill gave out billions of dollars in tax breaks to the oil and gas industry, provided exemptions from the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and relaxed regulations against the consolidation of utility companies. In order for that to be legal we’re supposed to believe that the contributions had no role in influencing Congressional votes on the energy bill.

Stealing elections – disguised as free market efficiency and preventing “voter fraud”

In 2000: After George Bush’s brother, the governor of Florida, illegally disenfranchised tens of thousands of African Americans from the presidential election on the grounds that they were close computer matches to felons; after a Republican orchestrated riot in Miami-Dade County stopped the vote counting there; and after various other types of election fraud as well, five Republican Supreme Court “Justices” stopped the manual recount of the votes in Florida on grounds that had no Constitutional justification whatsoever, thereby declaring George W. Bush our 43rd President.

Here is evidence of vote switching fraud in national elections from 2002 to 2006; here is evidence of widespread election fraud in 2004; here is evidence of widespread election fraud in 2006; and we learned earlier this year that the Bush administration fired their federal attorneys for either refusing to investigate non-existent election fraud by Democrats or for pursuing too aggressively cases of election fraud perpetrated by Republicans. In fact, the main purpose behind the whole U.S. attorney firing scandal appears to have been the stealing of elections.

Why all this election fraud with so little investigation or even publicizing by our conservative corporate news media?

With respect to the 2000 election, we were told that the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of African Americans who were close computer matches of felons had to be done in order to stop “voter fraud”. To justify the stopping of the hand counting of votes that would have awarded Al Gore the presidency in 2000, we were told that the hand counting of votes was not reliable. For example, Mary Matalin explained (i.e. lied) on the Chris Matthews show that simply holding a cardboard ballot in one’s hands could produce marks which indicated the presence of an attempted vote.

With regard to the potential for electronic mediated election fraud, most conservative elites say that it is ok to have our votes counted by computers using secret vote counting code, with no means of determining whether or not the vote count is accurate. After all, these are private companies that supply the machines that count our votes. Therefore, it would be interfering with the “free market” to insist that the government conduct investigations or exert controls to ensure that the vote counting is accurate. Furthermore, machines are much more “efficient” at counting votes than are humans – or so goes the logic of the conservative elites.

Propaganda disguised as news

Largely because of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which relaxed monopoly restrictions on news media ownership, control of the news media in the United States has become much more concentrated in the hands of smaller and smaller numbers of extremely wealthy people and corporations.

As a result, to a large extent what now passes for “news” or serious “journalism” is instead more akin to propaganda with the purpose of delivering a message favored by the wealthy corporations and individuals who own our news media. Eric Alterman described this phenomenon in a recent article in The Nation. With respect to the so-called “mainstream news media”:

Its members consistently defer to conservative Republican Presidents with a history of deliberate deception, allowing them to define their terms… Its members invite Republican Congressmen, known to be not merely unreliable but delusional, to lie about Democratic Congressmen. When challenged, they reply that they cannot be bothered to discern the truth…

And to compound the problem, George Bush has made sure that the news we receive gets twisted in a variety of ways. In order control the news that Americans receive he has denied our First Amendment rights through the use of so-called First Amendment zones to prevent protesters from being heard, by denying access to journalists who criticize him, by threatening to jail reporters who criticize his administration, and by paying shills (with taxpayer dollars) to write government propaganda disguised as news.

Militant nationalism disguised as “patriotism”

War is a prime method that the Bush administration has used to funnel tens of billions of dollars to its cronies. Antonia Juhzs, in her book, “The Bush Agenda – Invading the World, One Economy at a Time”, explains that war with Iraq provided a bonanza of opportunities for Bush and Cheney’s already wealthy corporate friends and supporters. Juhasz explodes the myth that George Bush didn’t have a well thought out plan for post-conflict Iraq:

There was at least one clear plan – an economic plan – the blueprint for which was ready and in Bush administration hands at least two months prior to the invasion. The 107-page three-year contract between the Bush administration and Bearing Point, Inc. of McLean, Virginia, lays out the president’s economic agenda in Iraq. In return for $250 million, Bearing Point provided “technical assistance” to the U.S. Agency for International Development on the restructuring of the Iraqi economy to meet Bush administration goals…

Bearing Point wrote the framework to restructure Iraq from a state-controlled economy to one that guarantees “free markets, free trade and private property” – among other goals… to recommend changes to laws “that impede private sector development, trade and investment”… undertaking a “mass privatization” of Iraq’s state-owned industries.”

Bearing Point’s Draft Statement of Work, “Stimulating Economic Recovery, Reform and Sustained Growth in Iraq”, was completed on February 21, 2003. While it was not available to the public, I was made aware of the document…

The extent to which the Bearing Point contract sets out to transform the Iraqi economy is astonishing. The company specifies changes in every sector of the Iraqi economy… It even specifies propaganda tools to sell these policies to the Iraqi public.
Thus explains why George Bush and Dick Cheney lied us into war with Iraq. And it’s interesting to note that purposeful ignoring of relevant sections of our National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) played a crucial role not only in the Bush/Cheney plan to justify the Iraq War (by noting “claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium {i.e., yellowcake} in Africa are highly dubious.”), but threatens to do the same for the purpose of providing a justification for war with Iran as well.

It’s hard to understand how anyone could fall for this a second time (or a first time for that matter). Undoubtedly, the fear of being accused of being “unpatriotic”, as Republicans do whenever Democrats question their war motives, provides a major motivation to even Democrats to fall in line behind Bush war plans.

UP IS DOWN AND DOWN IS UP

You can get a pretty good idea of the truth by just translating everything the conservative elites say into the opposite. Yet, by slavishly and shameless sticking to their ridiculous messages, repeated a million times, they manage to convince a lot of people – that’s why I refer to much of their base as “the gullible”.

They have actually convinced a good many people, for example, that it is us liberals who are the “elite”, rather than them. Never mind that Republicans, until recently, had control of all three branches of government plus the news media. Never mind that wealth was one of the strongest predictors of voting for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. Liberals are “elites” because…. well, because conservative elites say we are.

They twist the word “patriotism” to make it mean support for the Bush/Cheney war agenda, or the war agenda of whatever conservative elite happens to be in power at the time. If “patriotism” is a virtue then it means concern for our fellow Americans or for the progressive ideals on which our country was founded. If it means what conservative elites imply it to mean, then there is no virtue attached to it, and it’s just plain evil.

With regard to the “culture of life” that George Bush and other conservative elites so often claim to live by, George Lakoff pretty well nailed that in his book, “Whose Freedom – The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea”:

So-called pro-life conservatives are typically in favor of the death penalty… They favor conservative policies that result in American having the highest infant mortality rate in the industrialized world… These deaths are a result of conservative policies against prenatal and postnatal care, universal child health insurance…, Medicaid…

If they were really pro-life… they would support programs for pre- and postnatal care, health care for all children, programs to feed and house the hungry and homeless, antipollution programs, and safe food programs. Instead, they let strict father morality dominate over issues of life – that the poor are responsible for their own poverty and that they and their innocent children should suffer for it, and that government should not interfere with corporate profits through public health regulations for clean air and water.
And Lakoff also pretty well nailed their ideology concerning freedom:

The focus of (George Bush’s) presidency is defending and spreading freedom. Yet, progressives see in Bush’s policies not freedom but outrages against freedom. They are indeed outrages against the traditional American ideal of freedom… It is not the American ideal of freedom to invade countries that don’t threaten us, to torture people and defend the practice, to jail people indefinitely without due process, and to spy on our own citizens without warrant.

In short, the success of the whole conservative elitist agenda depends upon making Americans believe that up is down and down is up. Once the smokescreen is cleared, their whole ideology is revealed for what it is – just an excuse to expand their wealth and power and do whatever they want, at the expense of everyone else.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389×2431676

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