Engineered Opinions; The Propaganda Machine Works… When it’s Turned On

Hypothesis: The Propaganda Machines works when it’s turned on. You can judge this by looking at opinion polls. You can look at opinions on issues that are or are not hot button issues, or you can look at opinions on issues that were not hot button issues but now are, etc, etc, etc. A predictable result is that opinions will more likely represent reality when propaganda efforts are not dedicated to misinformation, but when the machine is turned on and considerable resources are employed to spread distortions then we can expect some ignorant opinions to prevail.

Two writers, Noam Chomsky and Paul Street, frequently highlight how the American public is well to the left of the political and economic leadership in this country. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll that was conducted between February 12-15 of this year showed that the public feels that “officials in Washington” were “heavily influenced by special interests” (87%), were “mainly concerned about getting reelected” (86%) and were “out of touch with the average person” (81%). Only 22% found them to be honest.
It’s comforting that so many Americans are not clueless on our political system, but… Polls are funny things. They can tell us a lot even when a majority of the polled are completely detached from reality. And some polls show just that.

Israel and Palestine

In the February 1-3, 2010 Gallup Poll 63% of Americans said their sympathies lie with Israel with only 15% sympathizing with the Palestinians.
In a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll back on January 12-15, 2009 63% thought that Israel was justified in what they did to Gaza, with only 31% saying they were not justified.
What is worse is that 43% thought Israel used enough force while 14% thought they used too little. Compare this with an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll from January 6-12, 2009 where 57% said Hamas used “excessive” force.
In a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey on January 7-11, 2009 41% blamed Hamas for the “outbreak of violence,” leaving only 12% blaming Israel.
Considering my likely audience is well familiar with (if you’re not then you at least have a shit load of names to refer to) Norman Finklestein, Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe, Amira Hass, Edward Said, Uri Avnery, Stephen Shalom, Stephen Zunes, Robert Fisk, As’ad Abukhalil, Neve Gordon, Jonathan Cook, John Pilger and more, I won’t elaborate too much on how completely off base the American public is.
Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian land for decades, has continually carried out massive acts of aggression that dwarf the violence of their victims and has obstructed attempts to achieve peace in the region – all with lots of help from the U.S. Government. If it were not for our assistance in their crimes and snubbing of peace or vetoing UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions calling on them to adhere to international law this “conflict” would likely have been over a long time ago.
4 to 1 we sympathize with the aggressor and when they target civilian institutions and subject the Palestinian people to horrors we apparently don’t know about we think Israel used enough or too little force. In the aggression in Gaza Israel took the lives of nearly 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians while Palestinians took the lives of 9 people – 2/3 of them soldiers. Yet Palestinians were “excessive” in their use of force but Israel was not.
This is astounding. It will likely take more than reading the Goldstone Report to correct this. If only Oprah would include some Chomsky books on her book list.


For almost twenty years the UN General Assembly has been calling for the end of the illegal embargo the US has imposed on Cuba. The votes are like 170-something to 1. There is the world on one side and the US on the other. Since the US has a permanent seat in the UNSC and veto power, this one vote ends the discussion.
Again, those familiar with Chomsky’s work know a lot about the mid-19th century view of the US government on Cuba. The “ripe fruit” would eventually fall into our hands because the Monroe Doctrine says the Western Hemisphere is our area of influence.
[Note: Back in November 2006 Jose Ruiz, a spokesperson for the US Southern Command said the US would commence training of Latin American militaries with the excuse that China “has approached every country in our area of responsibility.” emphasis added]
Then came the Spanish-American War where the US fought to oust the Spanish under the banner of liberating Cuba (sound familiar, anyone?) but before the dust had time to clear the Platt Amendment was put into effect and Cuba was ripe for the taking.
This lasted until the late-1950s when the Cuban people revolted and overthrew the dictatorship/US-puppet. Ever since then the US government has been punishing Cubans for their spirit of independence. Terrorist programs, chemical and biological warfare, economic strangulation, political alienation, you name it and we have subjected them to it.
But, Cuba is no longer a popular topic in the news and the American people are able to think for themselves (just a little bit more than usual). They are not subjected to the media spin and the lobbyists who do the talk show circuit when it comes to Cuba.
And it shows…
A CBS/New York Times Poll back in April 22-26, 2009 showed that 67% felt the US should re-establish diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. 60% felt all Americans should be allowed to travel to Cuba.
In an ABC/Washington Post Poll from April 21-24, 2009 55% said the embargo should end.


Back in October 2003 (9th-13th) ABC News/Washington Post poll did a survey on healthcare. This is what they found:
  • 54% were dissatisfied with the system in the US
  • 37% felt ours was worse than Canada’s, with only 29% saying it was better
  • 79% felt coverage was more important than costs (17%)
  • 62% supported a “universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that’s run by the government and financed by taxpayers”
  • 57% supported it even if it limited doctors
  • 62% supported it even if it meant waiting lists for non-emergency treatments
Fast-forward to the Ipsos/McClatchy Poll done on November 19-22, 2009: 72% oppose the “creation of a single-payer system in which the government controls the entire health care insurance system.”
What the hell happened? In just six years American public opinion has flipped. Could it be that we have learned more about the system and the change is warranted? I can’t find any evidence of that. In fact in an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll done in February 57% said they knew “not very much” to “nothing at all” about the proposed reforms that most were opposed to. This is why the only thing I can think of is that “healthcare reform” is a hot button issue and has been subjected to a massive propaganda/disinformation campaign to malign single-payer, and keep it off the table for discussion. President Obama has snubbed it routinely. In his State of the Union speech he said if there were a way to increase coverage and bring down costs he would like to hear about it, especially from doctors (according to another poll most Americans value their opinions way above politicians and corporations on the matter – which is interesting since a majority of doctors and nurses organizations favor single-payer!!!). Dr. Margaret Flowers called his bluff and tried to deliver a letter to President Obama (via his staffers) but was not only turned away, but arrested.
The organization, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has posted on their website how the New York Times keeps single-payer out of discussions as well.
President Obama’s recent healthcare summit also refused to give a place for single-payer advocates like Dennis Kucinich.
So what does all of this say? While this is not the most scientific article ever written and could certainly be investigated further (and probably already has) I think it shows that one thing to be weary of when looking at opinion polls is whether the issue is being inundated with propaganda from the “special interests” we know our government is too influenced by. If the reality of the Israel-Palestine conflict is persistently misrepresented, or if insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists dominate not only Washington but radio and talk shows then we shouldn’t be surprised to see the success of propaganda campaigns. Billions of dollars wouldn’t continue to be spent on them if they didn’t have a proven record of success.
PostScript: On March 9, 2010 Z published this article by Anthony Dimaggio, Manufactured Dissent; Climate “Scandals” and the False Debate Over Global Warming

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