When I diverted a defunct nonprofit to support producing a monthly tabloid on poverty issues, "propaganda" was an issue I needed to be entirely clear about. We didn't do it. We did advocacy; we published educational material. We made no claim to be "objective" in a field in which the pretense of Objectivity serves mainly to serve the propaganda purposes of people and institutions which can well afford to hire their own propagandists -- but instead practiced what Terry Messman of AFSC's 'Street Spirit' called 'justice journalism.'

Truth is a central virtue of the Quaker movement; if (as human beings) we can't possibly avoid being somebody's fool, we need to be God's fools -- whether or not we recognize that name to mean the spiritual Power our deepest self calls us to serve. We aren't given God's omniscience; but we can avoid fooling others or letting the Powers of this world imprison our vision... as in the vast majority of cases, they have done and will continue to attempt.

Resistance to those Powers... Everyone isn't called to active resistance; and certainly we are not called to try to use their methods: secrecy, deception and violence -- in our zeal to resist. The form of resistance which even the aged, tired, and retired can practice -- is to seek out the samizdat sources of scruffy truth, examine even these critically -- but turn our time & attention away from slick sources of public manipulation.


Anne referred me to this video this morning. It can't do justice to theological truth; but as a State of the World it says things every Friend needs to know:


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So is "propaganda" something true Friends would not engage in, in your lexicon?


Is it the opposite of "plain speech", like cosmetics are the opposite of something we value?

I understand that Friends create their own namespace, as distinct from the Catholic one.  No problemo.

We were discussing PR in an earlier thread as I recall:


"Speaking truth to power" is an important meme in Quakerism cite Bayard Rustin.

We're in the realm of "connotation" versus "denotation" perhaps?

I've suggested Friends who don't wish to proselytize and don't want to use the word "outreach", might settle for "advertising" instead, why not?

Yes, "advertising" has the potential to be smarmy and deceitful, not to mention tasteless.  Exactly. That's precisely why I prefer it to something more euphemistic.  We're far from infallible in our efforts.

I treat "propaganda" the same way, and would gladly serve as a Minister thereof for brands I truly favor.

I am speaking of manipulation as opposed to persuasion. Persuasion doesn't rule out emotional appeals, but these had better be based on something close to the typical courtroom 'truth, whole truth, nothing but' standards, as these are intended to be followed...

I appreciate these distinctions. 

However so much in life is not really about argument or 'proving a case' no? 

A tourist attraction, seeking tourists, might go with billboards... or not.  Either way, it's not a "judge 'n jury" thing.  No "bearded one" swoops in at the end of the day, to say who's naughty and nice in every picture.

I may have shared this already, an old favorite: 


I'd say the on-display "propaganda skills" (media savvy) of the artist-musicians, framing their subject (behavior control through television), is at least equal to those "in camera".

Where is the line between propaganda and art?  Do we always find one?

Here's a youthful Youtuber doing his level best to see through the veil:


It's by learning "the deceitful arts" of TV-making that one comes to appreciate their use and abuse potential.  Like with stage illusionists...

The ethic of Penn & Teller (whom I respect) is:  be up front about being an illusionist, don't take advantage of gullibility even as you seek to amaze (people love a good magic show).  That's commendable, however that rule gets broken in wartime, all the time.

When you present yourself publicly as a source of information on certain subjects, there are obligations.

Particularly in wartime, there are obligations. Fulfilling these may entail worse consequences than a career setback. But there always have been journalists -- Bernard Fall comes to mind; no doubt there are many I don't know of -- who came through. Other war correspondents hung around headquarters to transcribe the briefings given out by the US military. Fall, who'd been there since the orginal French colonial war, continued to go out into the field and report on what 'we' were actually doing to the country. Eventually a land mine got him; but it's better to die practicing journalism than to have a career as a purveyor of illusions and deceptions.

Terry Messman heard from a number of people that the major psychiatric institution in the East Bay region (across the Bay from San Francisco) was being negligent and abusive with people sent there for examination and/or treatment; Oakland routinely sent anyone they picked up as mentally ill to this place -- where, far more often than ever should happen in a well-run facility, people died in restraints, tied to guerneys in public hallways.

Messman was not the first reporter to suspect malfeasance by the operators; he was however the first to publish an article pointing out the conditions there. Fairly soon afterwards, a team of lawyers representing the hospital in question showed up at the AFSC building and asked to speak to his supervisors. The lawyers threatened to sue; his supervisors told them to go ahead. The lawyers left dissatisfied; and within a short time the major newspapers in the area were publishing their own stories. The County stopped sending people to this place; and the end result was that it closed.

Messman's standards are not the same as those observed by the mainstream news sources anymore.

I enjoy your stories. 

Oregon is famous for One Flew Over... by Ken Kesey, who was far from crazy about the movie version with Jack N. 

From my perspective, Dr. Hawthorne was a kind-hearted man (how I project him), but he was gone well before my time, no overlap in "mortal coil space" (or "meat space" as geeks sometimes call it). 

As I understand it, Salem (Oregon's capital after Oregon City) contracted to have a first state mental hospital here in the neighborhood, hence its informal name: Asylum District (named for Asylum Avenue, now Hawthorne Blvd.).

Eventually, Dr. Hawthorne's facility closed and moved to Salem proper, setting the stage for the aforementioned Cuckoo's Nest story (we had a festival about that whole literature; I learned a lot, forgot a lot).

Regarding journalism as a profession, I appreciate it comes with ethics and values.  What kept eroding the official 911 story was each professional group, starting with high rise architects but not ending there, felt its intelligence had been insulted (and it had).  A Friend in our Meeting, a physics teacher [1], felt likewise insulted, and so on.

Lets just remember that "propaganda" is used by generals too, like that fake army, looked real from the air, that was intended to deceive Hitler, shift attention away from Normandy.  This is a fully declassified story by now. 

I was with a vet, the dad of a college classmate, who'd served in that operation when it first bubbled up in the news. He felt relieved, as now the story was something he felt he could share about (this would have been in the 1980s sometime).  I'm sure we'd find Youtubes galore. 

I also heard they put general Patton in charge, which pissed him off.

Journalists are not above being fooled, none of us are.  It's that all of the time / some of the time thing.  As USers, we're trained to stay vigilant, but then illusionists say "watch closely now..." and still, we don't always figure it out.  I'm in the dark plenty.  Omniscience was never my forte.

[1] David Chandler, look him up on Youtube, a dedicated math teacher too (as I said, we're in the same Meeting).

There are people who believe they need to practice war. Since fairly early on, there have continued to be Friends falling prey to the same delusion.

If someone can find it proper to kill people, then they ought to feel it relatively proper to lie to them... but that is, after all, the way people get fooled into killing each other in the first place.

That nice general stands up and lies through his teeth, waving 'information' manufactured by a corrupted 'intelligence' agency; and soon his boss feels able to get away with mass murder against a tiny rival nation; as indeed it seems that he could and did.

The US has been on a steady diet of war propaganda for a long time now: everywhere enemies, everywhere suffering peoples in need of US bombs to make their lives better.

It sells advertising; it sells wars; but how long can people nourish themselves on this?

Let's see. Your argument is that we can practice the art of making videos intended to promote nice things and circulate these in a limited way,

and hence we should have no misgivings at the professional use of similar technology -- by a few companies which effectively dominate the public's sources of information -- for everything from selling children tooth-rotting cereals & beverages to imposing economic/political attitudes and ideologies on the minds of adults while their attention is visually-capured and their critical faculties are temporarily suspended...


Technologies typically have unforeseen effects, from the introduction of codices around the start of the Christian era to the intensive use of printing to produce pamphlets around George Fox's time. The mass use of radio made Goebbels a wildly-successful shaper of the public mind; since then the insidious appeal and attention-seizing power of television has enabled his successors to take power he would have envied.

Publically circulated art forms generally work to glorify and strengthen the dominant powers of society. There have been exceptional periods, where the onset of literacy among an unsophisticated population has utterly destablized societies: The England of Cromwell's day, 18th Century France, Czarist Russia... but more typically the ruling powers of a nation have the wit to enlist the new technologies in their service.

I could probably raise the money to "publish" a book online, even sell hard copies or virtual ones to anyone who heard of me & wanted to read it. But would-be authors seek out & pay agents to get their work into actual publication -- promotion by a company that's gained a significant market-share of the public's attention. The fact that I don't have that doesn't stop me from writing; but I recognize the significant difference.

I think my argument is more along the lines of:  given Quakers forsake the power of the sword (outward weaponry) it doesn't follow they also relinquish the power of the pen (more psychological). 

The power of the pen is mightier, yes, but only if one deigns to wield it.

The rest of your meditation focuses on questions of distribution and relative influence.  Remember underdogs of all stripes may gain an advantage precisely for their David vs. Goliath profile. 

I'd add that anonymous writing is sometimes the ticket i.e. being known as "an author" is not the only way to get one's writing into circulation, if writing is your bag.

For me, it's more like "do I want to do bill boards for my tourist attractions or not?"  I'm not good or evil either way, it's more a business decision.

Key-shifting everything to some "morality scale" is boring to me in that it over-glorifies the human soap opera.  Termite mounds are just what they are, not full of good and bad termites, right?  Could that be Chicago from some angle?

I think I speak for most of us in that I tend to despise billboards as a medium, for their tackiness.  On the other hand, they can liven up a landscape that's already dreary, much as murals can. [1]

When it comes to countering the powers that be, I celebrate subversives such as Banksy.[2]  I see the art colonies using many of the same skills used by the obnoxious companies with an agenda of addicting kids to sugar, adults to fat and anti-depressants. 

The art colonies supply anti-bodies, help show us ways to fight back.

If Quakers might contribute to the flow of anti-bodies, while at the same time help us construct more well-designed memeplexes (an alternative to the military-industrial), more power to 'em. 

That's more my position.  Like that media stunt with the Golden Rule [3] sailing it straight towards the Pacific test site, where the weapons testers were eager to study new pathologies relating to fall-out, very Nazi in their attitudes.

That was a Quaker at the helm, though he'd been in the service.  He gave up his security, his pension, to register his loyalty to a country in the process of being hijacked.  Lots more in my journals.

[1] a mural taking shape in our neighborhood (Asylum District, Hawthorne Blvd)


[2] Banksy:  http://viola.bz/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Rickshaw.jpg

[3] Golden Rulehttp://www.friendsjournal.org/the-golden-rule-shall-sail-again/

If I'm talking about Godzilla taking a stroll through Tokyo, and you want to talk about the pet turtle in your bathtub, that's very sweet but we aren't on the same page.

I published a monthly newspaper and carried a press pass from the police department; but I couldn't afford to imagine that I was wielding the power of the local daily, let alone the mind-numbing power of the media that sold us the Vietnam War, Ronald Reagan, the Clintons and the Bushes and all the various Wars-on the American public has swallowed over the last half-century.

My biggest customer bought a paper every day from her favorite vendor, and used it to reline the bottom of her ferret cage. I like to think her ferret had something worth a respectful reading.

When I was still a math teacher at a Catholic school in Jersey City, I had dreams of the Web, used the word "hypertext" thanks to Computer Lib / Dream Machines by Ted Nelson.  I knew that would be my element, should it appear, and it did, and it was. Everything I published to the Web became world-readable overnight.  Sure, only a small elite was using the Web at first.  Nowadays, that "elite" includes the corner pizza joint.

Sure, I later wrote for and even edited Asian-Pacific Issues News, a paper publication that we traded around the Pacific Rim for other papers (Japanese were worried about a Fukushima happening, Pacific Islanders about the aftermath of being nuked), but mostly I've written for the Web, starting with Synergetics on the Web in the 1990s.  I was also the first webmaster for the Buckminster Fuller Institute (BFI.org), unpaid but you can bet it went on my resume.  People into that kind of thing know I'm a big turtle in that tiny bathtub. Not hard to Google me.

Sometime before that (1980s), I was warning such as Bill Bradley in Congress (another Princeton alum) to watch their radar for the n8v American "Global Data Corporation" more Goliath-like than any they'd seen, complete with Youtube (I didn't call it that) and using general systems theory (GST) instead of "whiteman" econ.  I'd eat Godzilla for breakfast someday, just you wait. Hah hah. I was pretty bold in those days.

Of course only a nut case would think the Grunch of Giants (giant supranational corporations) were theirs to program.  Bucky Fuller was such a nut case.  His sidekick Ed, later my friend, was with the CIA before he retired when I knew him [1], which probably explains a lot.

Nowadays I'm sharing Synergetics in higher education, including with Quaker schools (e.g. Earlham).  The unit-volume tetrahedron is a breakthrough.  If you're an engineer for NASA or IBM, your kids will know about it already, but the goal here is to reach out to refugee camps etc., so that we don't have another generation of know-nothings such as yourselves.  Steve Jobs was from a Syrian immigrant family, we've probably all learned that.  I took a Synergetics Folio (printed in Singapore) to Cairo back when Fuller was still alive. I shared the same material with Hedron (here in Portland), the other day.

My resume also includes Food Not Bombs and working closely with Occupy Portland.  FNB is an anarcho-syndicate type operation so I'm not saying I was a "leader" (oxymoron), just played a part in everyday logistics, which kept me healthy, pulling two vegetable trailers behind the bicycle.  FNB eventually created its own food tent at OPDX given most USers eat like slobs and don't have much self-discipline.  They're amateurs.  We're elitists. :-D

[1] Ed helped run Project Mockingbird and yes, he was good at mocking.  He said I was good at "techno-invective" and wasn't sure where that'd take me (I've toned it down since those days), but he thought I was skillful in any case. http://grunch.net/archives/171

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