Saturday, June 12, 2010

Stephen Harper Claims That "It is the Absolute Right of the State to Supervise the Formation of Public Opinion"

A CULTURE OF DEFIANCE: History of the Reform-Conservative Party of Canada

"Why should you have the slightest difficulty in adjusting the trend of what you write to the interests of the State? It is possible that the Government may sometimes be mistaken—as to individual measures—but it is absurd to suggest that anything superior to the Government might take its place. What is the use therefore of editorial skepticism? It only makes people uneasy." Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda & Public Enlightenment, Nazi Germany(1)

It would appear, dare I hope, that the Canadian media is finally waking up, and fighting back against Harper's attempt to not only silence the press but manipulate public opinion.
A few weeks ago, many journalists nodded knowingly at this Tweet by Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn. "My Friday giggle... a spokesperson who emails me 'on background' and then says: I can't answer your question." It's a bit of gallows humour about a problem that began as a minor annoyance for reporters working on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and has grown into a genuine and widespread threat to the public's right to know. (2)
From Time Magazine 1933 concerning Joseph Goebbels: He held in his thin, knob-knuckled hands last week a new National Press Law making it a crime to practice journalism in Germany except as a licensed member of a nationwide closed shop. The law covers "all persons who take a share in forming the mental contents of any newspaper or political periodical through the written word or pictures." (1)

From the Ottawa Press Gallery:

Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the flow of information out of Ottawa has slowed to a trickle. Cabinet ministers and civil servants are muzzled. Access to Information requests are stalled and stymied by political interference. Genuine transparency is replaced by slick propaganda and spin designed to manipulate public opinion. The result is a citizenry with limited insight into the workings of their government and a diminished ability to hold it accountable. As journalists, we fear this will mean more government waste, more misuse of taxpayer dollars, more scandals Canadians won't know about until it's too late.

It's been four years since Harper muzzled his cabinet ministers and forced reporters to put their names on a list during rare press conferences in hopes of being selected to ask the prime minster a question. It's not uncommon for reporters to be blackballed, barred from posing questions on behalf of Canadians. More recently, information control has reached new heights. Access to public events is now restricted. (2)

From Time Magazine 1936:
Because Adolf Hitler's speeches may be used to prove almost anything, the Nazi Commission of Inspection of Nazi Literature announced that Hitler's speeches may not be quoted in print hereafter without the Commission's express permission. Hearing that the rebellious pastors of the German Evangelical [Lutheran] Church plan to print and circulate privately their unanswered protest to the Reichsf├╝hrer against practically everything going on in Nazi Germany, the Gestapo (secret police) raided Confessional Synod offices, lugged off typewriters, mimeograph and printing machines. (3)
We are now one "lugged off typewriter" away from the Gestapo:
Photographers and videographers have been replaced by hand-out photos and footage shot by the prime minister's press office and blitzed out to newsrooms across Canada. It's getting tougher to find an independent eye recording history, a witness seeing things how they really happened -- not how politicians wish they'd happened. .. Those hand-out shots are, unfortunately, widely used by media outlets, often without the caveat that they are not real journalism. In the end, that means Canadians only get a sanitized and staged version of history -- not the real history. (2)
From 1934 Time Magazine:
Perhaps Germany's Minister of Propaganda & Public Enlightenment, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, compelled the publication of a report in Berlin newspapers last week that a Nazi anatomist had discovered the precise cause of cancer. At least that is what scientists who respect Wilhelm von Bremer of Berlin's State Biological Institute would like to believe ... When he read the Berlin news, Professor Francis Carter Wood, director of Columbia University's Institute for Cancer Research and editor of the American Journal of Cancer sneered: "This is all rot. There's nothing to it. Plenty of this sort of stuff is coming out of Germany just now." (4)

From the Ottawa Press Gallery:
Meanwhile, the quality of factual information provided to the public has declined steadily. Civil servants -- scientists, doctors, regulators, auditors and policy experts, those who draft public policy and can explain it best to the population -- cannot speak to the media. Instead, reporters have to deal with an armada of press officers who know very little or nothing at all about a reporter's topic and who answer tough questions with vague talking points vetted by layers of political staff and delivered by email only. (2)
The point is that Canadians really have no idea who or what this government is. We have no idea what they are really doing and we have no idea who Stephen Harper is:
Adolf Hitler in repose can look as flaccid as a circus fat lady, but so far as the German people know he never rests from his heroic labors, dashes constantly up and down the Fatherland in multi-motored planes, never smokes and subsists wholly on fruit, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products... In unlacing this straitjacket of a national inferiority complex no Nazi has helped Adolf Hitler so much as the taut, vivid, sometimes hysterical, little man whom all Germany knows as "The Doctor," famed Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, now Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. To an amazing degree Herr Hitler and Dr. Goebbels possess in common the trick of talking to grown Germans as if they were children ... (5)
We are not children and Stephen Harper is certainly not our father. We need to see him in repose .. in a natural light that will allow us to pass judgement based on information, not manipulation and spin. Because for the record, Adolf Hitler was NOT a vegetarian (6). He hate mounds of sausages and the only time he went off them was when his doctor would say "Adolf you are eating too many mounds of sausages". But Germans never knew that. "Journalists aren't looking to judge the policies of the Conservative government. Rather, we want to ensure the public has enough information to judge for themselves." (2)

One time girlfriend of Leo Strauss (who is deemed to be the father of the neoconservative movement), Hannah Arendt, herself a respected political philosopher, once questioned whether Nazi Germany was in fact a full totalitarian dictatorship, since it depended so heavily on a "certain societal consensus". Their success depended on directing and exploiting public opinion, and they did it masterfully. (7)

So is Harper a dictator or simply a master of directing and exploiting public opinion?

But not everything Harper does is based on Goebbel's brilliance. There is another master of manipulation that we are all familiar with.
The Bush White House's media operation was top flight. His handlers often arranged for him to strike heroic-looking poses. The trip to the USS Lincoln was one of their well-plotted attempts at image enhancement. When Bush delivered a speech at Ellis Island on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant lights and floated them in the New York Harbor, so the Statue of Liberty, appearing behind Bush, would be illuminated just right. When tornadoes struck the Midwest in May 2003, Bush stood stoically in the Missouri rain—without an umbrella—and expressed his concern. With water running down his face, he also defiantly vowed to bring to justice the terrorists that had recently blown up several compounds for Westerners in Saudi Arabia and killed eight Americans. "They understand the visual as well as anybody ever has," Michael Deaver, Ronald Reagan's chief image man, told the New York Times. (8)
I'm not sure who's worse.

Sources:

1. Foreign News: Consecrated Press, Time Magazine, October 16, 1933

2. How to Lift the PM's Muzzle: Under Stephen Harper citizens' right to know has been smothered. Journalists must take a stand. By Helene Buzzetti and Press gallery colleagues, The Tyee, June 11, 2010

3. GERMANY: Tyranny, Time Magazine, August 03, 1936

4. Medicine: Cancer Rot, Time Magazine, September 17, 1934

5. GERMANY: WE DEMAND!, Time Magazine, July 10, 1933

6. Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover, By: Ryn Barry, Pythagorean Books, 2004

7. The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda, By: David Welch, Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-203-93014-2.

8. The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception, By David Corn, Crown Publishers, 2003, ISBN: 1-4000-5066-9, Pg. 313

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