excerpts from the book
The Last Days of Democracy
How Big Media and Power-Hungry
Government Are Turning America Into a Dictatorship
by Elliot D. Cohen and Bruce W.
Prometheus Books, 2007, paperback
More than three-quarters of US adults rely on local TV news, and
more than 70 percent turn to network TV or cable news on a daily
or near-daily basis, according to a January 2006 Harris Poll.
Before the first Gulf War, a propaganda spectacle took place courtesy
of Hill and Knowlton. This company helped create a national outrage
against Iraq by recounting horrifying events supposedly caused
by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait. A young woman named Nayirah claimed
in congressional testimony and before a national audience that
she saw "Iraqi soldiers come into the [Kuwait] hospital with
guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators.
They took the babies out of the incubators, and left the babies
on the cold floor to die." What the public was not told was
that Nayirah was the daughter of Sheikh Sand Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait's
ambassador to the United States. The public also wasn't told that
her performance was coordinated by the White House and choreographed
by the US public relations firm Hill and Knowlton on behalf of
the Kuwait government.
Dutch journalist Willem Oltman at the International Campaign Against
US Aggression on Iraq - Cairo, Egypt
The Nazi's called us [Dutch resistance
movement during World War II] terrorists, Now as the US invades
and occupies other countries you do the same thing [to Iraqis
resisting the US occupation].
London Times (May 1, 2005) reported the contents of a leaked memo
[the Downing Street Memo] recording the minutes of a July 23,
2002, meeting between Tony and his inner circle of advisers seven
months before the US-led invasion -of Iraq.
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through
military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and
WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts
were being fixed around the / policy." The memo also stated,
"It seemed clear that Bush / had made up his mind to take
military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the
case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and
his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or
Iran." Nevertheless, "If the political context were
right, people would support regime change," explained Blair.
And, according to the London Times, "a separate secret briefing
for the meeting said Britain and America had to 'create' conditions
to justify a war."
There is little doubt why mainstream corporate media didn't report
[the Downing Street Memo] initially and then soft-pedaled it afterward.
This was no mere oversight, nor was it a simple case of shoddy
reporting. It was part of a systematic takeover of a formerly
free nation by a politico-corporate machine that speaks only in
empty rhetoric about freedom and democracy. What this colossal
machine really cares about is money ...
The media was conceived from the start to be an adversary of government,
to serve as a watchdog of the people, but this noble guardian
of democracy has lost its teeth and has now become a docile lapdog
of government. White House press conferences have become coffee
klatches with pp restaged questions and even fake journalists
infiltrating the press corps to advocate for government. The press
secretary himself has become a parrot for the government, not
an impartial liaison. Mainstream corporate media routinely wine
and dine politicians and take them on vacations just to make headway
with corporate lobbies. Official government spokespersons become
the final arbiters of the truth as budgets for investigative reporting
are scrapped and infotainment replaces hard news. Stories are
killed, "edited," buried, or otherwise sanitized to
conceal important details. Editorials slanted to the beat of government
policy are passed off as "breaking news." Prepackaged
"news" produced for the government by public relations
firms has been seamlessly knitted into the nightly news of local
network affiliates and passed off as "real news."
The mainstream media is complicit in deception every time it passively
reports what it hears from officialdom as if it were the truth.
The mainstream media (MSM) is now the mouthpiece for government
deception and manipulation of reality to advance its own agenda.
editor Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch, director of the Project on
[F]ar from defending the Constitution,
President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the
document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs
and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view
of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes
* a federal government empowered to regulate
core political speech-and restrict it greatly when it counts the
most: in the days before a federal election;
* A president who cannot be restrained,
through validly enacted statues, from pursuing any tactic he believes
to be effective in the war on terror;
* A president who has the inherent constitutional
authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist
activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional
protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration
of the war on terror-in other words, perhaps forever; and
* A federal government with the power
to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten,
to marriage, to the grave.
The president appears to believe that
he is the ultimate arbiter of what's legal and what's illegal...
[u]nder this sweeping theory of executive power, the liberty of
every American rests on nothing more than the grace of the White
The corporate media behemoths are in the pocket of the Bush administration.
These giant corporations ) routinely spin off an intricate, seamless
politico-corporate / media web of deception. As a result, the
mainstay of the daily American news diet is quite literally a
paid political / announcement. Instead of protecting against abuses
of government power by keeping us adequately informed, these companies
have become complicit in destabilizing and undermining our freedom
and democracy. They have sold out the public trust to turn a profit.
No longer can Americans trust the MSM to keep a watchful eye on
Top five media companies in broadcast TV, radio, and cable/satellite
Ranking Broadcast TV Radio Cable/Satellite
1 Fox/News Corp Clear Channel Comcast
2 CBSIViacom Infinity/Viacom DirecTV/News Corp
3 NBC/General Electric Entercom Time Warner
4 Tribune Company Cox Echostar
5 ABC/Disney ABC/Disney Charter
With very few exceptions, the front men and women of the mainstream
media (MSM) - the radio and TV talk show hosts and pundits - are
company employees who are willing to toe the corporate line in
order to keep their jobs... the net result of such media line
toeing is the mass dissemination of government propaganda and
deception - all to the beat of what's in the company's best financial
David Letterman to Bill O'Reilly
I have the feeling that about 60 percent
of what you say is crap.
Bill O'Reilly about a ballot measure passed by 60 percent of San
Franciscans opposing military recruitment at public colleges and
"[I]f Al Qaeda comes in here and
blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going
to say, look, every other place in America is off-limits to you,
except San Francisco .... You want to blow up the Coit Tower?
Ann Coulter, attacking a group of widows who lost their husbands
in the 9/11 attacks and who have been critical of Bush's handling
These broads are millionaires, lionized
on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as
celebrities and stalked by griefarazzis. I've never seen people
enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.
With few exceptions, talk show hosts and news anchors of the
major broadcast TV, cable TV, and radio networks, resemble high-priced
hookers. For their millions, they have sold our their journalistic
integrity - if they ever had any.
Article 1 of the Statement of Principles of the American Society
of Newspaper Editors, titled "Responsibility,"
The primary purpose of gathering and distributing
news and opinion is to serve the general welfare by informing
the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of
the time. The newspapermen and women who abuse the power of their
professional role for selfish motives or unworthy purposes are
faithless to that public trust. The American press was made free
not just to inform or just to serve as a forum for debate but
also to bring an independent scrutiny to bear on the forces of
power in the society, including the conduct of official power
at all levels of government.
According to the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional
Journalists, under "Seek Truth and Report it"
[J]ournalists should be honest, fair and
courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information
... [and they] should be free of obligation to any interest other
than the public's right to know.
According to the Code of Ethics of the Radio-Television News Directors
"[radio and television journalists
should not] accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who
might seek to influence coverage"
"[radio and television journalists
should] present the news fairly and impartially, placing primary
value on significance and relevance."
journalist Norman Solomon
[D]eceptive propaganda can only succeed
to the extent that journalists are gullible - or believe that
they must pretend to be - while encouraging the public to go along
with the charade.
The journalist who works for a news organization that engages
in deceptive practices but refuses to accept culpability for the
deception is just a coward.
Stephen Colbert at the White House correspondents' dinner (2008)
I believe in this president. Now, I know
there are some polls out there saying that this man has a 32 percent
approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the
polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics
that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality
has a well-known liberal bias.
Stephen Colbert at the White House correspondents' dinner (2008)
I believe the government that governs
best is the government that governs least. And by these standards,
we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.
The conventional wisdom is conventional
for a good reason. There has been a concerted effort by individuals
and groups variously associated with corporate interests to make
this the conventional way of thinking about corporations.
Many things are reported in the news but
few are explained. Little is said about how the social order is
organized and for what purposes. Instead we are left to see the
world as do mainstream pundits, as a scatter of events and personalities
propelled by happenstance, circumstance, confused intentions,
bungled operations, and individual ambitions - rarely by powerful
The decline in critical thinking as a result of the intrusiveness
of marketing in our lives serves a political function: it allows
those in power to reshape our way of looking at the world without
the fear that we will catch on.
One of the most dangerous influences of the media on our decisions,
and one of the most tragic, is their tendency to desensitize the
public to the horrific nature of war and violence. In the hands
of the MSM, war has become a "political necessity" devoid
of the human tragedies that in more sensible times make war a
last, desperate resort.
Details of America's wars are primarily provided by the Pentagon
rather than reporters on the ground. Vague, tactical information
wrapped in patriotic rhetoric is systematically disseminated by
an assortment of generals, and on the rare occasion that a serious
question is posed by a journalist, the answers are almost always
qualified by the assertion that details cannot be revealed because
of national security issues.
Our view of the world and of ourselves determines the range of
choices we envision, and the corporate media are bent on constraining
and restricting that view in the interest of maximizing profit.
Kevin Baker, "Stab in the Back", Harpers magazine, 2006
Every state must have its enemies. Great
powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes
must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that
a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why,
though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become
the sustaining myth of modem American nationalism. Since the end
of World War II it has been the device by which the American right
wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility
for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its
tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular
but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed
as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate
America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of
Edward Bernays, "Propaganda"
The conscious and intelligent manipulation
of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important
element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen
mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which
is the true ruling power of our country."
... In theory, every citizen makes up
his mind on the public questions and matters of private conduct.
In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse
economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question,
they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything.
We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift
the data and high-spot the outstanding issue so that our field
of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our
leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept
the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public
You will not likely wake up one day to find that democracy in
America has finally come to an end. There will not be any breaking
news to this effect. More than likely, you will still hear the
usual regurgitations coming across the MSM (mainstream media)
and you may even hear an occasional report that seems critical
of a government policy. But you will not likely find out how unfree
you really are unless you step out of line and challenge the politico-corporate
puppeteers who pull the strings. For the majority of Americans
who never realize that they are at the other end of those strings,
life will seem pretty much the same as ever. That, we think, would
be the biggest tragedy.