Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Propaganda on the Diane Rehm Show

Propaganda functions in many ways. One powerful way is through rules that dictate what can and cannot be said. These rules operate implicitly. One way the rules operate is by dictating who is an authority, that is, by designating who is allowed to speak.

We see this strategy operating today on the Diane Rehm show. In discussing skyrocketing food (i.e., commodity) prices, Diane's guest show a remarkable homogeneity of opinion. Speculation, in their opinion, has little, to no, role in causing skyrocketing food prices. Markets afford all parties equal opportunity so long as governments don't distort markets with subsidies. These "truths" are not contested on the show. The guests agree.

Here is my posted response to this homogeneity of opinion. I'm seconding the concerns raised by another listener, Susan (my links aren't live so you will have to paste into your browser):

I want to second Susan's concern about the lack of diversity in viewpoints in this segement on food prices.

Please see "The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It"

Harpers magazine has an article by Kaufman

Kaufman is not alone. I'm teaching a course on food and I have many articles and books on the perils of neoliberal governance of the world food supply, as dictated by trade policies such as NAFTA and organizations such as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank.

The caller who identified the role of the IMF and World Bank in dismantling food self-sufficiency in the developing world by dictating export oriented monocultural production was not addressed, but rather was dismissed by the guest who serves as an apologist for financial speculation.

I am extremely disappointed by the lack of diversity of viewpoints and wonder about hidden agendas' role in shaping this program's regime of truth...


  1. Do you have any recommendations on how to deal with propaganda dividing families? How do we reconcile the gap between truth and propaganda when it drives important cultural units, like the family, apart?

  2. This is a good question. I have experienced the same problem with close friends who have different party affiliations than we do in our family.

    I think the key is to identify all of the areas and issues upon which there exists agreement. Many times there exists considerable consensus on a variety of issues.

    The second strategy is to identify what factors are seen as barriers to change. Often people diverge in their evaluation of whether markets or governments or bad or good. I think one way of addressing this divergence in opinion is to sort out what is good and bad about each.

    So, for example, people who believe in markets agree that monopoly is bad and government should act to prevent monopolies. So, not all government functions are bad. Likewise, markets can provide innovation and encourage competition, which can be good. So, each side must be willing to look at the other's perspective.

    Lack of willingness to engage will of course cause this process to fail.


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