How Much Propaganda Does The Government Dump On Us?

A lot more than we think. Listening to the radio every day there are a constant stream of Ad Council ads that are just plain Government propaganda, to say nothing about the ones that come directly from Government agencies directly.  In a way this stuff is useful because it tells us what the government is concerned about that we are doing and not doing.  For instance all those ads to “feed the pig” are just telling us that the savings rate in the US is too low and the government isn’t getting the taxes from  people saving their money.  We aren’t “feeding the pig.” Of course the government could cut taxes on savings, but they would never do that.

Then there’s the more subtle forms of propaganda, like this.  For whatever reason many people seem perfectly fine with passing the government’s crap as if it’s their own, parroting it word for word.  This program is slightly more subtle than the “pajama boy” campaign, but not much more.  It’s just a way to “nudge” us into believing that we are thinking right when we follow the government’s dictates.

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/575/transcript

Act Three. The Spy Who Didn’t Know She Was A Spy.

Marion Leary

Hello?

Ira Glass

Hey, is this Marion?

Marion Leary

This is.

Ira Glass

I reached one of those everyday citizens, Marion Leary. She’s a medical researcher in Philadelphia.

Ira Glass

Did you know that you have been perpetrating covert propaganda on behalf of the United States government?

Marion Leary

I did not know I was perpetrating covert information. What are you referring to?

Ira Glass

I’m referring to a tweet you made on the 29th of September where you said, “Clean water is important to me. I support EPA’s efforts to protect it for my health, my family, and my community.”

Marion Leary

OK.

Ira Glass

Do you recognize that tweet at all?

Marion Leary

I’d have to go back. It sounds like something I would tweet, though. I support clean water.

Ira Glass

OK, here’s what this is about. The Government Accountability Office says in its ruling that because of social media, there is a whole new way that federal agencies can mess up when they communicate with the public.

And the EPA messed up with a campaign where they went out on social media and they told the world, OK, we’re proposing a new rule to keep pollution out of drinking water. That part of it was actually totally fine.

Where the EPA got into trouble was when they said to the public, if you like our new proposed rule, send out a tweet with this wording. And the wording they suggested was exactly what Marion and hundreds of other people used.

And the problem with was that while the EPA’s original message was clearly labeled as coming from a federal agency– it had the EPA log, it had EPA’s– the message Marion sent out, and all these other people sent out to their friends and followers, those messages didn’t make clear that the EPA was behind the whole thing.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez is the GAO lawyer who oversaw the drafting of this ruling for the GAO.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez

So even though EPA had written the message, it was written in such a way– it said, “I support efforts,” for example, “for clean water,” or “I support EPA’s efforts.”

The public, in that sense, would not be able to tell that EPA wrote this message. And so that’s a problem. Because the whole purpose of the covert propaganda prohibition is to make sure that when the government is providing information, it needs to clearly identify itself as the source.

Ira Glass

She says it’s as if a government agency hired a spokesman to go on TV and talk up its programs, but the spokesman never revealed to anybody that he was being paid by the agency. He just acted like everything he was saying, praising the policies, were just beliefs that he had come to, on his own, just his personal opinion.

Which of course, make sense. But what complicates it is that for Marion, the woman who I talked to from Philly, and probably for lots of people who repeated the EPA’s message verbatim, they agreed with the message. It was their personal opinion. Nobody paid them. Nobody made them tweet.

Marion Leary

If it was something that I didn’t agree with, then I probably would be very upset about that. But I chose to retweet that. I agree with the importance of clean water. I’m an EPA supporter.

Ira Glass

What I’m getting from this conversation is you don’t care that you were covert propaganda. You don’t give a damn.

Marion Leary

Not really. Propaganda does sound ugly. But it is a person who promotes or publicizes a particular cause. And I think social media, in general, but Twitter especially– gives a platform to anybody to be able to be a propaganda-ist.

So then I guess I would call myself a propagandist. I don’t know if I’d call myself a covert one.

Ira Glass

Well, I think the covert refers to the fact that you’re hiding your very close association with the federal government of the United States of America. You’re hiding the fact that you are just their puppet, doing their bidding.

Marion Leary

I’m definitely not the government’s puppet doing their bidding. So on that claim, I would dispute that. But definitely, I could see myself putting out some good propaganda around issues that I think are important for everyone.

Ira Glass

I like how over the course of this phone call, you’ve gone from having no idea about the propaganda to being a little horrified by it. And now you’re embracing it.

Marion Leary

Well, it took me a while to catch up.

Ira Glass

Let me just ask you, have your feelings about Joseph Stalin changed over the course of this brief phone conversation?

[LAUGHING]

Marion Leary

They have not.

Ira Glass

In case you’re wondering, the head of the EPA not be doing prison time for breaking this federal rule, nor will President Obama, nor will Marion. The likely penalty is that the EPA will have to return the money they spent on this social media campaign to the United States Treasury.

And they’ll have to issue a report basically admitting that they were wrong, which is unclear if that’s going to happen. The EPA says that it does not agree with the GAO ruling. They declined to be interviewed. But a spokesperson told us this is not over.

Of course, the federal government uses everyday citizens to disseminate its messages all the time. And it doesn’t get called propaganda. When a fourth grade teacher explains the food pyramid and does not tell the class that it comes from the USDA and HHS, that is not against the law. When your doctor suggests a flu shot and doesn’t mention that she’s just parroting the official line on flu shots from the CDC, she is not a covert propagandist.

And the difference between those things and what the EPA did is actually one very specific detail. The GAO lawyer, Edda Emmanuelli Perez, says that detail– the EPA suggested the exact words that it wanted people to tweet. And it was misleading.

Edda Emmanuelli Perez

When you look at that message, it says I support EPA’s efforts you know, to protect my health, et cetera. The I in that sentence sounds like it’s that person, from whose account the messages is being generated.

But that sentence was written by EPA. And they crafted the message and got someone else to say it for them.

Ira Glass

Are there federal rules against overt propaganda?

Edda Emmanuelli Perez

I’m not aware of any.

Ira Glass

You heard that right. It may be illegal for the EPA to do what it did. But overt propaganda– spin, obfuscation, lying, overstating evidence– when it’s done by the president, when it’s done by members of Congress, they would actually have to defraud the United States government, or like, an official would need to commit a high crime worthy of constitutional action, to get in trouble. Overt propaganda– that’s just politics.

 

There’s a reason that this kind of is illegal.  It’s just hiding the fact that the campaign is top down from the government and these people are just parroting what the government wants.  Of course the government does this because if they just came out and pushed for fresh water programs people would know where the agenda was coming from and probably act accordingly.  By using a twitter campaign the government can make it seem as if there is a real problem that government needs to solve rather than a bunch of bureaucrats making stuff up to keep their jobs.

 

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7 comments

  1. Pingback: Instapundit » Blog Archive » A LOT: How Much Propaganda Does The Government Dump On Us?…
  2. The Butcher · December 24, 2015

    Reblogged this on pundit from another planet.

    Like

  3. penneyvanderbilt · December 24, 2015

    Reblogged this on Ancien Hippie.

    Like

  4. Larry Larson · December 24, 2015

    Government-sponsored AstroTurf. Nothing new here. It’s how we ended up with campaign finance ‘reform’ and banning incandescent light bulbs. Somebody in government gets an idea (in the case of light bulbs it was planted by GE and Phillips) and then starts a ‘grassroots’ movement.

    Only one way to stop it: make government so small that it doesn’t matter…which is never going to happen in my lifetime without, say, an asteroid hitting D.C.

    Like

  5. Ron Norman · December 24, 2015

    A law was passed this way within the last decade, it wasn’t found out until after the legislation was passed that it was a consortium of lobbyists who had put up the plan and money to make it happen. The whole of Congress got sucked into a position that cost the American Tax Paper a lot of money and jobs. Just might have been that light bulb deal that was mentioned by Mr. Larson

    Like

  6. Neshobanakni · December 24, 2015

    “Feed the Pig” is not government propaganda. It’s paid for by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

    Like

    • jccarlton · December 24, 2015

      And the ad council. It’s still propaganda to cover up the fact that between the Fed and Treasury, saving money is a losing game.

      Like

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