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It may sound absurd to some, but there is such thing as centrist propaganda:

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1492


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There is a notion -- widely believed in the mainstream media -- that while there is propaganda of the left and propaganda of the right, there is no such thing as propaganda of the center. In this view, the center doesn't produce propaganda, it produces straight news. Mainstream journalists typically explain: "We don't tilt left, we don't tilt right. We're straight down the middle of the road. We're dead center."

When mainstream journalists tell me during debates that "our news doesn't reflect bias of the left or the right," I ask them if they therefore admit to reflecting bias of the center. Journalists react as if I've uttered an absurdity: "Bias of the center! What's that?"

It is a strange concept to many in the media. They can accept that conservatism or rightism is an ideology that carries with it certain values and opinions, beliefs about the past, goals for the future. They can accept that leftism carries with it values, opinions, beliefs. But being in the center -- being a centrist -- is somehow not having an ideology at all. Somehow centrism is not an "ism" carrying with it values, opinions and beliefs.

Center Not "Dead": It Moves

The journalistic center is not inert. It moves. It shifted slightly leftward in the mid-'70s in the wake of Watergate when reporters were allowed greater latitude for independent inquiry. In the '80s the journalistic center veered strongly rightward.

The two main establishment papers -- the New York Times and the Washington Post -- are the primary propaganda organs of the center, though editorially they've tilted rightward throughout the '80s. As soon as Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in 1981, for example, both papers began promoting White House charges that the Soviets were the primary source of terrorism in the world. Despite some conservative positions, however, the two papers are best seen as organs of the (corporate) center.

The centrists in TV news have also been tilting rightward. FAIR's study of Nightline, perhaps TV's most influential news show, found a conservative slant toward "experts" from the white, male establishment. The left was generally excluded. Nightline's four most frequent guests were all Reagan sympathizers: Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, Elliott Abrams and Jerry Falwell. MacNeil/Lehrer's guest list seems even more conservative and elite than Nightline's -- which is why the National Conservative Political Action Conference voted MacNeil/Lehrer "the most balanced network news program." According to The Progressive (7/87), co-anchor Jim Lehrer dislikes wasting time interviewing critics from peace or public interest groups, whom he refers to as "moaners" and "whiners."

But instead of belaboring the point that the centrist media are currently tilting rightward, I'd like to address some elements of centrist news propaganda that are somewhat constant.

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Centrist propaganda can sometimes contain blunt social criticism -- especially of someone else's system. A news story in the New York Times (7/23/89) on political discontent in Japan carried this headline: "Trembling at the Top: Japan's Ruling Elite Faces a Fed-Up People." The Times, which has little trouble identifying a "ruling elite" in Japan, has never been able to discern such an elite in the U.S. in all its voluminous reporting on our political-economic system.

According to centrist propaganda, not only is the U.S. without a "ruling elite," the U.S. is also without an "empire" -- unlike other countries. The big bad Soviet Union has an empire. Lowly Vietnam has an empire. In the thousands of mainstream news stories we've seen on the Nicaraguan revolution, never once has it been counterposed to "Washington's empire." In the New York Times, "U.S. imperialism" is one of those dubious concepts that only appears between quotation marks.

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In foreign coverage, the key signature of centrist propaganda is the portrayal of the U.S. as mediator or peacemaker. If rightist propaganda sees the U.S. caving in to Communism and terrorism around the world, and leftist propaganda sees the U.S. subverting governments and Third World movements in the interests of a corporate elite and blind anti-Communism, then centrist propaganda sees the U.S. going around the world doing good, mediating in the cause of peace.

No matter what the facts are, on the pages of the New York Times, the U.S. is forever waging peace. If the Times had chosen a "person of the year" in 1988, it would have been Reagan's Secretary of State, George Shultz. Describing Shultz in a news headline (New York Times, 2/21/88) as the "Lonely Peacemaker," the Times portrayed him and the U.S. as crusaders for peace from Southern Africa to the Middle East to Central America.

In Angola, where the U.S. (along with South Africa) spent years arming the guerrillas of Jonas Savimbi, that fact went down a Times memory hole, as the paper portrayed the U.S. not as a major party to the bloody conflict, but as the main force for peace.
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Originally posted by HonestBrother:
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Originally posted by MBM:
One could even argue that most left and right propoganda is actually centrist here in America. Our left and right are really center left and center right.


Are we finally conceding that there's not much difference between liberals and conservative? ... Big Grin


No, we're acknowledging that the comparative differences here are nothing like some European parliamentary systems where, say, fascists and communists serve in the same government. I just don't understand the "there's no difference" argument. We operate within one system, but there are quite meaningful differences within the parties in that system. Honestly, I'm not quite sure how one could argue otherwise. 15

If nothing else, there are "haves" and there are "have nots". Each operate from quite different worldviews.
quote:
Originally posted by MBM:
One could even argue that most left and right propoganda is actually centrist here in America. Our left and right are really center left and center right.


True, a lot of the "left" in America is mostly center-left. But FDR is the only of two "center-left" president we've ever had in America (the other was Lincoln who was further to the left). Every other president was either center (a couple) or the right to some degree. The media usually leans in whatever direction the presidency or Congress is leaning. But the two times when there were center-left presidents, the press was still further to the right than they were because the congress always was.

I'd say that America leans much further to the right than it ever does left.

quote:
The journalistic center is not inert. It moves. It shifted slightly leftward in the mid-'70s in the wake of Watergate when reporters were allowed greater latitude for independent inquiry. In the '80s the journalistic center veered strongly rightward.


All American presidents were either clearly to the right or center-right, there were a couple of centrists and two center-left ones (FDR and Lincoln). The media is the same way. The media is usually either center (most of the time when it's center, it still has a slight right bias), or clearly to the right. It's hardly even biased to the left unless it's non-mainstream.
quote:
Originally posted by MBM:
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
quote:
Originally posted by MBM:
One could even argue that most left and right propoganda is actually centrist here in America. Our left and right are really center left and center right.


Are we finally conceding that there's not much difference between liberals and conservative? ... Big Grin


No, we're acknowledging that the comparative differences here are nothing like some European parliamentary systems where, say, fascists and communists serve in the same government. I just don't understand the "there's no difference" argument.



I never said there was "no difference" .... I've conceded from the beginning that were differences ... what I said was that there is "not much difference" .... which to my mind is saying something very different ...
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:

I never said there was "no difference" .... I've conceded from the beginning that were differences ... what I said was that there is "not much difference" .... which to my mind is saying something very different ...


Well, again, I certainly respect your opinion but I posted a list of things that demonstrate what - in my eyes - constitutes significant difference. Just because there may be points in time where there is bi-partisan agreement on an issue does not mean that there is "not much" difference generally between the parties. Again, the U.S. and the Soviets were allies in WW2 - not because they were politically aligned forever and ever amen, but because their interests converged at that moment. Both parties can support the system that we live in yet fundamentally disagree on how to operate within that system.

Does Ted Kennedy = Trent Lott? If not, why not and what does that say about the parties that house them?

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