Flyby News Home - Flyby News Archives - Casinni NoFlyby - Flyby Links

Flyby  News

"News Fit to Transmit in the Post Cassini Flyby Era"

Intl. Day Against the Weaponization of Space * Propaganda for a Declining Democracy

07 October 2001

Please support the international campaign to protest against the weaponization of space on October 13, 2001. The Bush administration plans to break-off from its commitment on international disarmament treaties that the US signed and employ space-based weapons within about six months from this November.*

This issue, too, is about the propaganda wars. Item 2 is a story about the self-censorship of major American news organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, to withhold the results of its recount of ballots cast in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. Item 3 is an article describing an overview of the propaganda machines now in overdrive, as the US leads the world into a new war with weapons of mass destruction poised to be incorporated.

* For information on the Bush "Deadline on ABM Treaty," see Flyby News Archives posting:,85288,

In consort with the International Day to Protest the Weaponization of Space

F l y b y N e w s

P r e s e n t s

Written and Narrated by Karl Grossman

Tuesday, October 9, at the Brattleboro Library,
Main St, Brattleboro, VT; 7pm


Wednesday, October 10, at Amherst College's
Campus Center Theater, Amherst, MA; 7pm

Discussion will follow the 29 minute video on local Actions planned
on the Town Common in Amherst, MA beginning at 1:00 P.M. on October 13
on the International Day to Protest the Weaponization of Space

1) International Day to Prevent the Weaponization of Space
2) New York Times, Washington Post suppress media recount of Florida vote
3) Propaganda Machines Go Into Overdrive During Times of Strife


1) International Day to Prevent the Weaponization of Space

Join the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space with hundreds of other Organizations on October 13 to protest the Bush administration's plans to extend the arms race into outer space, with expensive, ineffective, and harmful to the environment, technology-weapon development that would default against international disarmament treaties for peace and add a new level of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We must create the political movement that can stop the funding of research and development for Star Wars.

The following is from Bruce Gagnon, coordinator for the Global Network, regarding after the September 11 attack:

"I've heard from several folks who wonder if our plans for October 13 are still on. The answer is yes, yes, yes. Now more than ever. Bush and Congress are moving money in truck loads to the Pentagon and aerospace industry for Star Wars research and development..

It is my feeling that our October 13 Int'l Day of Protest to Stop the Militarization of Space needs to be broadened to include the coming reality of war preparation. I strongly suggest that where possible our actions try to incorporate the following:

Oppose preparations for war. Revenge and the likely killing of more innocent people will only fuel the fires of hatred and terrorism U.S. "control and domination" of space or the Earth below only creates more global instability Deployments of Theatre Missile Defense (TMD) in the Middle East and Asia will escalate tensions and conditions for war in those regions. Cuts in social security and other social spending programs are likely results of massive military expansion..

In times like this we must all show great courage. Our views might not appear popular as the public casts about looking for answers and revenge. But in fact many people will respond positively to our call that violence begets more violence. Our October 13 actions should be used to convey this message.


For a list of over 250 October 13 Endorsers and about 100 sites where actions are planned see:

For more information on October 13 and beyond, contact:

Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 90083
Gainesville, FL. 32607
(352) 337-9274


2) New York Times, Washington Post suppress media recount of Florida vote
From the World Socialist Web Site []
By Barry Grey
25 September 2001

A consortium of major American news organizations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, has decided to withhold the results of its recount of ballots cast in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. The consortium had planned to publish its report this week, and although its decision to suppress its own findings has received virtually no media attention, the reason is made clear in a September 23 column by New York Times Washington bureau chief Richard L. Berke.

In a column that enthusiastically welcomes the dissolution of all political opposition in Washington in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, Berke writes: "Until September 11, the capital was riding a historically partisan period, with leading Democrats still portraying their president as ‘appointed' by the Supreme Court. In a move that might have stoked the partisan tensions—but now seems utterly irrelevant—a consortium of new organizations, including The New York Times, had been scheduled this week to release the results of its ambitious undertaking to recount the Florida presidential ballots. (That has been put on hold indefinitely)."

In other words, the Times and its counterparts in the consortium have decided to conceal from the American people facts damaging to the Bush administration's claims to political legitimacy. They are doing so for the express purpose of suppressing dissent and bolstering the president as he prepares to take the American people into war and makes sweeping attacks on their civil liberties.

This act of self-censorship is entirely in keeping with the overall response of the media to the events of the past two weeks—a response that in coming years will be widely seen as among the most shameful episodes in the history of American journalism. Neither in the broadcast nor the print media is there any attempt whatsoever to examine the claims of the Bush administration. All statements emanating from the White House and the Pentagon, even those known to be lies, are presented to the public as good coin.

What "now seems utterly irrelevant" to Berke is the fact the very government which is committing the population to a war of undefined duration and dimensions, with all of the tragic consequences this entails, was installed through the suppression of votes and judicial fiat. Berke voices his own cynicism toward the theft of the 2000 election when he writes: "The indecisiveness of last year's election gave the nation a civics lesson, but one that lent itself to snide jokes, not grave consideration."

This attitude, so crudely expressed and brazen in its contempt for democratic principles, cannot come as a surprise to anyone who has seriously considered the trajectory of news reporting in the US over the past decade. It says a great deal about the role of the media and the
outlook that pervades editorial offices and network news bureaus.

The media, however, does not exist in a void. Its degeneration reflects more profound tendencies within society and the political system.

The suppression of the Florida recount, and the Times' justification for it, exemplify the role of the media as a de facto organ of the state. Journalists like Berke, who occupy prominent positions within the media establishment, no longer conceive of themselves, even remotely, as protectors of democratic institutions and the rights of the people, with a responsibility to inform and educate the public so that it can assert its interests in opposition to those who wield power.

One component of bourgeois democratic institutions in the US was the traditional conception of the press as the "Fourth Estate," an independent force that served as a check on the power of the state. This notion, often enough expressed more in the breach than in the observance, and always attenuated by corporate control of the media and the innumerable ties that existed between the media establishment and state agencies, including the CIA, has now been thoroughly eroded and repudiated. Today, media operatives overwhelmingly, and as a matter of course, conceive of their task as the defense of the corporate elite and the state, as against the right of the people to know.

The debasement of the US media can be traced in relation to the great political convulsions of the past 30 years. During the Vietnam War and the Watergate crisis, major news organs such as the New York Times and the Washington Post played a significant role in exposing the lies of successive administrations, culminating in the exposure of the criminal and authoritarian actions of the Nixon administration. In the aftermath of Watergate, however, there was a determined campaign to bring the media more tightly to heel, to which the media succumbed with relatively little resistance.

Today it is all but inconceivable that the Times would publish anything comparable to the Pentagon Papers, or the Washington Post anything like the series of exposures that ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Already by the time of the Iran-Contra crisis of the mid-1980s, the element of press cover-up for the unconstitutional actions of the Reagan administration far outweighed that of serious investigation and exposure. With the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the media assumed the role of conduit for the propaganda handed down by the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon. The networks and the press submitted with barely a whimper to unprecedented restrictions on the reportage of battle preparations and the actual conduct of the war. To this day, the American media have not revealed the number of Iraqis killed and wounded in that uneven slaughter.

In the 1990s the role of the media assumed an even more pernicious form. Leading newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post lent their prestige to the series of scandals mounted by the Republican right to destabilize the Clinton administration. They
became sounding boards for a thoroughly anti-democratic conspiracy by extreme right-wing forces to remove an elected president from office.

Berke's newspaper, the Times, played a particularly vile role. Times reporter Jeff Gerth lent credibility to the anti-Clinton machinations of unreconstructed segregationist elements, Christian fundamentalists and sections of the Republican leadership with his series of articles in the early '90s on the Whitewater affair—articles based on little more than speculation and rumor. The Times later embraced the Monica Lewinsky scandal and unswervingly depicted the sex-based witch-hunt led by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr as a legitimate investigation, downplaying Starr's attacks on civil liberties. In this manner the Times legitimized the political conspiracy that culminated in the impeachment of Clinton.

Within weeks of Clinton's acquittal by the Senate, Gerth and the Times were at it again, publishing a series of witch-hunting articles against Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee. These tracts provided a platform for sections of the Republican Party that were simultaneously seeking to create a Cold War-style hysteria against "Communist" China, and brand Clinton as a traitor, who supposedly traded nuclear secrets to the Chinese government in return for campaign contributions in the 1996 election. The biased and sensationalist character of Gerth's reporting was exposed when the federal case against Lee collapsed. In the end, the Times was compelled to issue a public apology.

The political wars of the 1990s revealed the profound erosion of American democratic institutions. The Republican Party had been largely taken over by extreme right-wing and fascistic forces, and the Democratic Party had proven itself incapable of opposing their attack on democratic rights.

In the 2000 election, the outcome of this protracted political decay was expressed in a fundamental break with democratic traditions and procedures. The Republican Party, with the tacit support of the media, set out to steal the presidential election, and with the aid of the right-wing majority on the Supreme Court, succeeded. It met with no serious resistance, either during or after the theft of Florida's electoral votes, from the Democrats.

The 2000 election demonstrated that within the American ruling elite, including both capitalist parties and the media establishment, there exists no significant constituency for the defense of democratic rights. The decision of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major news outlets to suppress the results of their Florida recount underscores this fact. It demonstrates that the break with democratic forms of rule that occurred last year was irrevocable.

Now, as the Bush administration hurtles toward war and launches an unprecedented drive to strengthen the police powers of the state and dismantle democratic safeguards, the Times and the rest of the media hail the suppression of political opposition and the de facto establishment of one-party rule as a positive good.

The American people must take heed: the ruling elite is well on the way to establishing an authoritarian, anti-democratic state.

No serious resistance to such a course will emerge from within the political establishment. That must come from a politically united and independently organized working class movement, fighting with its own party on the basis of a socialist program committed to the defense of democratic rights.

For original posting and related links, see:


3) Propaganda Machines Go Into Overdrive During Times of Strife
[Published on Wednesday, October 3, 2001 in the Toronto Star]
The Art of Persuasion

by Vinay Menon

Propaganda - most simply, information used to persuade a group - is as old as civilization. The Aztecs used it to rationalize human sacrifice. Alexander the Great understood its symbolic power and had his image etched on coins. But propaganda has always been most crucial during periods of conflict and war.

So today, with advertising and other forms of modern persuasion ubiquitous, how do leaders slice through the muddled cacophony and target citizens with messages?

"The whole notion of propaganda now is up for grabs," says Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University. "In this age of 24-hour news and spin, where there is constant coverage, propaganda has come out of the closet and it really lives among us every day."

If Thompson is right, what does this mean to the "War Against Terrorism," which seems to be moving toward a more active phase in Afghanistan this week?

Unlike past military efforts, the White House has warned the new war will unfold with "unprecedented secrecy." Though it's now a cliché, it is important to remember truth is often the first casualty of war.

Ironically, says Thomas DeLuca, a political science professor at Fordham University in New York, the sheer magnitude of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks created a temporary "propaganda-free zone" because people were simply horrified by the visceral images.

For days there were no television commercials. Almost all news coverage was devoted to the story. The entire world seemed to collapse into the deepening tragedy.

"This is an unprecedented event in U.S. history," DeLuca says. "There has never been an attack like this. Concentration on this event is highly focused. People want the president to have a plan, to reassure them, to be straightforward.

"So George Bush will have an enormous benefit as his words cut through the propaganda that is usually around us."

Anthony Pratkanis, professor of psychology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and author of Age Of Propaganda: The Everyday Use And Abuse Of Persuasion, agrees. But he says in the weeks ahead, as collective shock begins to ebb, Bush will be faced with a number of daunting challenges.

"If Bush wants to maintain and sustain the effort, the emotional propaganda will be okay for a short war, but in the long term he needs to deliver persuasion. He needs to form consensus and argue with substance, not slogan."

That seemed to be the case recently, as Bush addressed U.S. Congress. As cameras rolled and politicians and lawmakers frequently wobbled to their feet, and to thundering applause, Bush delivered a rousing, evocative speech.

But the raw emotion and patriotism that has since bloomed atop the rubble in New York and Washington is not necessarily beneficial to anybody in the long run, says Nancy Snow, assistant director with the Center for Communications and Community at UCLA. "A `war mentality´ needs to be decontextualized. It needs to be very clear, black and white, good guys versus bad guys," says Snow, author of Propaganda Inc.: Selling America's Culture To The World.

"So you end up with a single enemy, with slogans like `Wanted: Dead or Alive,´ ones that simplify the issues. Bush is using an `everyman´ approach to what is actually a very complex problem, burdensome in a historical and economic context."

And this simplification, whether deliberate or not, can cloud fundamental issues. In times of conflict, things are not always as they appear.

Before the Persian Gulf War, for example, the world gasped with reports that Iraqi troops were yanking sick babies from hospital incubators and leaving them to die on the floor during the invasion of Kuwait. The "dead babies" account was repeated hundreds of times, in the media and in speeches by U.S. leaders, who were now clearly on a war footing. Other reports - that Iraq had amassed thousands of troops along the Saudi Arabia border - were also used to convince the public that military action was necessary.

Both of those reports proved incorrect, but not until the war was over.

Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, says the Persian Gulf War took traditional propaganda to a new level as U.S. authorities controlled the flow of information in the media and expanded the lexicon of military euphemisms. Cruise missiles. Smart bombs. Collateral damage. Safe bunkers. Hard targets. Hit ratios. Surgical strikes. To western television viewers, the war must have appeared essentially bloodless.

John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's magazine and author of Second Front: Censorship And Propaganda In The Gulf War, says he believes the war on terrorism will unfold with even more secrecy and censorship. "Already we have a kind of `ahistoricality´ setting in," he explains. "Nobody here is talking about some very important issues. You´re simply not allowed to discuss the history of American foreign policy."

Such discussions are seen as unseemly, morally ambiguous, and steeped in preposterous and offensive anti-Americanism. The issue, to many, is simple good versus evil.

Says Jacobs: "The whole notion of propaganda raises a larger question: How do you control and manage press reports and the information that is reaching the general public?"

During the uprising in Germany, as the Nazis gained power, Josef Goebbels was able to impart nationalist rhetoric and manufacture consent through selective advertising, state-produced films, and elaborate, orchestrated public events. (Adolf Hitler also asked Leni Reifenstahl to film the Nazi Party's annual rally in Nuremburg. Her film, Triumph Of The Will, is now considered a
seminal exercise in fascist propaganda.)

Decades later, Slobodan Milosevic created "demo networks" - ragtag groups of unemployed youth that would optically boost the size at rallies held for Serbian nationalism. More recently, Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile U.S. Authorities are calling the prime suspect in the recent attacks, has filmed several training videos. As tools of propaganda, the grainy, disjointed footage is used to mollify moderates and recruit new soldiers for the Holy War. (During its bloody war with Russia, Afghan rebels were given camcorders to record their triumphs.)

In totalitarian states, persuasion is straightforward. Citizens are simply told what to believe and how to behave. But in democratic nations, governance has nuance, inextricably tethered to divergent principles of individual freedom and mass control.

As scholar Noam Chomsky says: "Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism."

In this context, says Pratkanis, where propaganda is concerned, governments realize the importance of the media. "The mass media is now the primary place where we have political discussions. So one of the keys to effective political leadership is being able to control the news media's agenda. That agenda is not necessarily how you are talking about something, but what you are talking about."

In the war against terrorism, he says, there have been a number of examples where U.S. Authorities announced, "they were planning to release" certain information in the future. This allows the media to run a story about the "future release" of information, rather than the information itself.

"This war will be a challenge for democracy itself," Pratkanis predicts. "Because democracy thrives when everything is in the light of day. Now democracy in the United States will require a high degree of trust."

And trust is a commodity in rapid decline. The Internet, decades of independent research, and the rapid evolution of alternative media has created a population that is much more sophisticated in its ability to recognize and decipher propaganda - irrespective of the source.

"Audiences throughout the world are constantly becoming more exposed to the latest in international mass media entertainment, they are better trained, more aware, often more cynical," notes Oliver Thomson, author of Easily Led: A History of Propaganda.

Randall Bytwerk, a professor of communication at Calvin College in Michigan, author and a foremost expert in propaganda, says: "Propaganda, and the control of public opinion, becomes harder when you lack control over the images."

This proved to be the case in Vietnam, where public support suddenly dipped as the horrifying images of war were broadcast back home. "Vietnam was a turning point because there were reporters all over the place," Bytwerk says.

In the stormy, post-Vietnam years, the U.S. has taken a cautious approach to war. (In fact, the number of firefighters and police offices who died during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center is more than the total military personnel who have fallen in combat since the 1983 invasion of Grenada.)

Given the global scope of the new war, and the potential repercussions, Garth Jowett, a communication professor at University of Houston, says Bush has to be very careful in the propaganda he uses.

"I fully expected a propaganda onslaught that was going to be totally irrational. But as I understand it, there was an internal conflict within the Bush administration in terms of what kind of message to give the American public."

Jowett says many people have compared the attacks with Pearl Harbor. But the analogy is problematic. In that case, there was a clear nation-state enemy. And it's important to remember, he adds, that most Americans did not see footage of the Japanese attack for almost a year.

"In terms of propaganda, those visual images (of planes striking the World Trade Center) could not be matched by any other imaginable images," says John Lampe, chair of the Department of History at the University of Maryland. "In fact, if there is any propaganda campaign at play at all, it is to prevent the violent, stereotypical response we have seen domestically in the past."

Lampe is referring to the threats and attacks that have been leveled at Arab-Americans and Muslims throughout North America. The violence, including suspected murder, has raised the specter of the Japanese internment camps during World War II.

As Jowett notes: "Bush has to maintain the public's confidence that the government will actually do something. But he also doesn't want to get the public so riled up so that they are running out murdering their own citizens."

And as Bush said during his speech to Congress: "I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends."

First Lady Laura Bush went on 60 Minutes recently to discuss the importance of solidarity and urge Americans to not attack their fellow citizens. And during the recent celebrity telethon, America: A Tribute To Heroes, a number of stars, including Will Smith and Muhammad Ali, urged tolerance.

Similarly, this week, U.S. Authorities have scrambled with messages about the safety of air travel - even though Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has remained closed (it will open partially tomorrow). And a number of experts have also started appearing on television telling Americans their country is prepared for any biological attack, even though other non-government sources warn the opposite is true.

"We are an action oriented culture," Snow says. "We are not an introspective culture.

``And that´s where the sloganeering and jingoism comes into play."

``We are almost given a script and walking papers in terms of how we are supposed to respond."

Copyright 1996-2001. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited

Flyby News is a free electronic news service regarding peace in space, human rights, indigenous, and environmental issues.

Email address: