Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Case for Discrimination

A lot of people have learned to associate discriminaton with one of several forms of bigotry. That type of discrimination is bad, no argument here. But there are other forms of discrimination that are skills we need to exercise and hone. The discriminating mind, for example, can be a wonderful blessing.

Today, up is down and night is day. The extremists have become really adept at sowing confusion and doubt through the use of spin. Most of us either don't recognize it and fall prey to it or we simply shrug it off. We shouldn't take it so lightly for spin and the spinmeisters are working very hard to get us to do their bidding.

An article appeared in this morning's Globe by John O'Sullivan who is described as a "senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington." Wow, not just any ordinary fellow but a senior fellow and from the Hudson Institute at that. Surely the Hudson Institute must be a really prestigious center of knowledge, right? Maybe, but probably it's actually a spin mill. Fortunately for O'Sullivan and Hudson, the Globe wasn't about to tell you that.

In his opinion piece, O'Sullivan contended that Israel is in a fundamentaly weak stragetic situation after the Lebanon fiasco and so "must win the next (war) convincingly and pretty soon." What's that? This guy is arguing that Israel ought to get into a war against some unspecified Arab nation(s) or movement(s), win that war convincingly and get the job done soon. When I read that I wanted to know a little more about this impressive-sounding Hudson Institute. Who were the people behind it and did they have a dog in this fight?

Well, the Hudson Institute, like most of these 'think tanks', has its own web site and lists its principals and their biographies. As I ran down the list I found myself looking at a pretty focused bunch of luminaries from the pro-Israel camp. A lot of them claimed to have expertise in Arab affairs. Perhaps but, if so, it was from a purely Israeli perspective.

Here's my point. If you read something from some institute or foundation and you're curious whether you're not being fed some pretty pointed propaganda, there are places you can go that will clear the haze. One of my favourites is www.sourcewatch.org which is run by the Center for Media and Democracy. It's really worth a visit. When you're there, be sure to click on their subsite PR Watch.

A huge amount of cash is pumped into these spin mills and it's all for one purpose, to manipulate you. They can't take the ballot out of your hand but with enough confusion, deception and distraction they have a decent chance of getting you to put your "x" right where they want it. Look at it this way: they wouldn't be pumping vast millions of dollars into this effort if they weren't getting a good return on their investment.

Politics has always been about choices. Invariably both sides can come up with good ideas, especially when they have to in order to win your vote. Politics is about debate, arguing and defending one's position as superior to the other guy's. Through this process we hope there emerges an informed electorate that can make the best decision for our country.

Spin seeks to corrupt that process and thereby undermine democracy itself. Spin works to create an uninformed, confused, sometimes angry, sometimes fearful electorate that will vote in the way the people who wield this weapon against them want them to vote.

Driving these moneychangers out of the temple is one of the greatest challenges facing our very democracy. If these creeps tried to buy your vote with cash, we'd put them behind bars. If they use more sophisticated techniques to achieve the same end they get away with it.

From globalization to global security and global warming, the spin machine is up and running furiously. Some of the problems that we're going to have to decide how to deal with in the coming years are enormous and we're going to need clear heads and informed minds to make the right choices. It's time we learned to pay more attention to the messenger and a little less to the message.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are manipulated too much by the media these days. We have to be reminded that we need to continue to question sources.