Recently the use of the political phrase "dog whistle" came to my attention while listening to the Sunday morning political talk shows. According to Wikipedia, "Dog-whistle politics" refers to political speechmaking or campaigning that uses coded language to signify one thing to the general public, while also signifying a different and more specific meaning to a targeted subgroup of the audience. The analogy is a reference to dog whistles, which emit an extremely high-frequency pitch that only dogs can hear, and humans can't. Political "dog-whistling" as a tactic of public persuasion can take a variety of forms.
On Monday, January 17, over one hundred brave souls trudged through several inches of Wisconsin snow to see Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) Senior Fellow on Health Care, visit Madison's Goodman Community Center as part of his cross-country tour signing Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving A
Media Matters uncovered another internal email sent out by Fox News' Washington, D.C. Managing Editor Bill Sammon which ordered Fox Network journalists to slant coverage of the climate change issue by "refrain[ing] from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question." The memo is inflammatory because the increase in global annual average temperatures over the last 50 years is a well-established fact.
Part one of a two-part article. (Go to part two).
Wikileaks recently published documents suggesting that PR spin helped determine the final outcome of the June 2009 Honduran coup. At the same time that a July 2009 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras to top government officials confirmed that the Honduran president's removal was illegal, professional lobbyists and political communicators were beginning a PR blitz, eventually managing to manipulate America into believing the coup was a constitutional act.
A poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org has found that the higher amounts of money flowing to the 2010 elections led to a more poorly informed public. The poll, titled "Misinformation and the 2010 Election: A Study of the U.S. Electorate," was the first conducted after a national election since the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money to influence U.S. elections. The poll found strong evidence that voters were significantly misinformed on many issues that figured prominently in the 2010 election campaign, including the stimulus legislation, the healthcare reform law, TARP, the state of the economy, climate change, campaign contributions by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President Obama’s birthplace. In most cases, increased exposure to news sources decreased misinformation, but exposure to certain news sources were found to create higher levels of misinformation. For example, people who watched Fox News almost daily were significantly more likely to hold beliefs that are not true, including that their own income taxes have gone up, that most scientists do not believe climate change is occurring, that most economists estimated the new health care reform law will worsen the deficit, that most Republicans opposed the TARP bailout, and that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and cannot legitimately serve as president.
The American Tort Reform Association, a front group for big chemical, tobacco, insurance, pharmaceutical and other companies whose products or pollution have been known to make people sick or kill them, has released its ninth annual "judicial hellholes" report which attacks judges and juries who hold their members accountable in court. This year's top "hellhole" is Philadelphia, which won in part due to its Complex Litigation Center, which was created exclusively to handle complex, mass tort cases like those regarding asbestos, hormone replacement therapy, nursing home litigation and suits against drugs like Avandia, Paxil, Phen-Fen and Risperdal. The Center's most recent cases involve pharmaceutical defendants who are being sued over birth control pills in the Yaz/Yazmin/Ocella mass tort. Plaintiffs allege that the pills caused injuries like pulmonary embolism, blood clots in the legs, heart attacks, strokes, gall bladder and kidney disease.
When I testified before Congress last year, I told lawmakers that if they passed a health care reform bill with an individual mandate but no public option, they might as well call their bill the "Health Insurance Profit Protection and Enhancement Act." Well, of course, that is exactly what Congress did, but they didn't change the name of the new law as I suggested. I was as upset as anyone that the public option was stripped out, but I nevertheless later said that Congress should still pass the bill because of the protections it contained against common predatory practices by insurers, like canceling breast cancer patients' insurance in the midst of treatment and refusing to sell coverage at any price to people with pre-existing conditions. The bill also expands Medicaid to encompass several million Americans who cannot afford to buy overpriced and often inadequate health insurance.
The anti-abortion group Personhood Colorado, now known as "Personhood USA," is once again pursuing a ballot initiative in Colorado -- Amendment 62 -- that would change the state's constitution to declare a fertilized human egg a human being.
We hear it everywhere this election season. Candidates, ads and TV pundits say we have "too much big government!" Virtually any attempt to regulate or tax any industry is a government intrusion into our lives. Candidates say they want less government. What's up with this ubiquitous, anti-government theme?
The "Government intrusion" argument is a powerful propaganda theme that has been around for a long time, and one that big businesses often use to manipulate public opinion. As with so many other corporate-derived propaganda tools, the anti-government theme originated largely with the tobacco industry, which has relied on it for decades to get its way in public policy.