excerpts from the book

Propaganda, Inc.

Selling America's Culture to the World

by Nancy Snow

Seven Stories Press, 2003



President Woodrow Wilson, 1907

"Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty [spelling]!! of unwilling nations be outraged in the process."


In his 1953 State of the Union message President Dwight Eisenhower observed,

"A serious and explicit purpose of our foreign policy [is] the encouragement of a hospitable climate for investment in foreign nations."

With unfailing consistency, U.S. intervention has been on the side of the rich and powerful of various nations at the expense of the poor and needy. Rather than strengthening democracies, U.S. leaders have overthrown numerous democratically elected governments or other populist regimes in dozens of countries ... whenever these nations give evidence of putting the interests of their people ahead of the interests of multinational corporate investors.

Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democracy

"The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy."

As of 1995, the United States had more public relations professionals (150,000) than reporters (130,000). Academics like Mark Dowie estimated that about 40 percent of what we consider "news" was generated directly by public relations offices.

Senator William J. Fulbright writes in his 1966 book, The Arrogance of Power

"Intolerance of dissent is a well-noted feature of the American national character."

The pursuit of truth, as a form of political action, is inherently disruptive, anti-authoritarian, and dangerous to those content with the way things are.

Walter Lippmann calls the public the "bewildered herd"

"They are expected to simply go along with the program and not trouble themselves with political or economic decision making.

In his book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann said that

"... the public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and roar of a bewildered herd. Only the insider can make decisions, not because he is inherently a better man but because he is so placed that he can understand and can act. The outsider is necessarily ignorant, usually irrelevant, and often meddlesome."

The "bewildered herd" ... is seen as the target audience of the commercial mass media through tabloid news, professional sports, and popular television.

The USIA uses "national security" and "democracy" interchangeably with "free enterprise" and "the free market." Economic prosperity is defined as "expand exports, open markets, assist American business, and foster sustainable economic growth." "Democracy" means a system in which business interests and their government allies make political decisions that run the free enterprise system of private profit and public subsidy, i.e. the military-industrial complex. The people are permitted to endorse the decisions of their leaders by voting occasionally, but otherwise are not expected to meddle in the affairs of the private/public partnership. This neoliberal model of market democracy is not based on a participatory ideal of politics but on one in which the public's role is minimized, and transnational (and thus publicly unaccountable) private interests carry out political and economic decision-making. Economic prosperity becomes narrowly defined as that condition by which corporations can function free of any government regulation of their bottom line while relying on government intervention in the form of tax breaks, corporate welfare, and related business assistance.

... we are growing up in a society today where big government is being downsized while the power of global corporations is concentrating and coalescing across national boundaries ...

... our top elected official, and our two dominant political parties rarely criticize the growing power of large corporations because they are bankrolled by them.

... our major broadcast media are advertising-supported and profit-driven.



A citizen-based diplomacy places civic-mindedness and civic activism at the center of our body politic by emphasizing human rights, human security, and environmental and cultural preservation. The current body politic emphasizes economic theories, glorifies the free market, and reduces the role of citizens to occasional endorsers of winner-take-all options. A new body politic takes into account the interests and concerns of citizens affected by global policymaking. Public opinion polls consistently show support for demilitarization and a shift in foreign policy from arms sales and exports to economic and social justice. A new body politic demands that its government resist efforts by military contractors and lobbyists to look for new markets for their wares, and pressures government to convert a military-dependent economy that benefits a few large conglomerates to a self-sustaining energy-efficient economy that benefits all.

Foreign policy is no longer the exclusive domain of economic and military elites. Just ask Jody Williams, U.S. coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a coalition of over 1,000 organizations in 60 countries which worked with receptive governments to redefine international norm and international law. Williams attributes the campaign's success to working outside the bounds of major institutions like the United Nations where the anti-landmine campaign had stalled and to building networks with citizen groups and smaller pro-ban countries. The Nobel Committee readily admitted that its decision to award the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize to Jody Williams and the ICBL was designed to pressure superpowers like the United States, Russia, and China to sign an international treaty banning the use of antipersonnel landmines. That plan seemed to partially work. President Boris Yeltsin immediately announced that Russia would become a signatory to the international treaty. When President Clinton did not call to congratulate the American Nobel laureate, Williams understood why: "The message we've been sending this administration for the past few years is that they are on the wrong side of humanity. He knows what our message is. I would say the same thing to him on the telephone as I've said to him on TV. " Jody Williams never got a call from President Clinton, but the parents of septuplets in Iowa did.

Mass-based local movements, citizen deliberation and debate put pressure on government and corporate elites to open the political process. That pressure can reshape foreign policy to cut current cold-war levels of military spending, convert military research and development initiatives to domestic social needs, stop arms bazaar NATO expansion, shift from a unilateral military presence abroad to a multilateral response, and place human rights instead of expanding markets at the forefront of foreign policy.

Despite the end of the cold war, foreign assistance continues to mean assisting countries in death and destruction in the form of weapons and ammunition. The United States is the world's remaining superpower, not only in economic and military strength, but also in arms trafficking. As long as foreign assistance remains defined by arms transfers, less developed countries that are in transition to democracy will remain vulnerable to military forces working with repressive governments that systematically violate human rights. Real foreign assistance would provide technology and resources to help grassroots organizations document human rights abuses on video and the Internet, report abuses in a timely fashion to news services, facilitate internal and international communication, and link their efforts to worldwide social movements.

A citizen-based diplomacy challenges the secular economic god, "growth," its outmoded measure, GNP, and the myth of "free trade," which continue to dominate global economic policy despite irrefutable evidence that global human activity is destroying natural resources and creating inequalities both here and abroad. Redefining progress from growth to quality of life reveals that two-thirds of the world's people are still marginalized in the new global economy and the gap is widening between rich and poor in developed and less developed countries. Citizens must hold governments and corporations accountable for the inequities of the marketplace instead of hearing only of its virtues.

5. REDIGNIFY WORK AND LABOR. Economic globalization tends to define work and labor in employer terms: "flexible labor markets" where workers accept unconscionably low wages and dismal working conditions, or how work affects only the bottom line. A citizen-based diplomacy places work and labor at the center of the global economy debate, addresses economic anxiety in families and the workplace, and puts pressure on governments and their corporate patrons to promote an adequate living wage, safe working conditions, and a progressive tax structure based on individual or institutional ability to pay.

Take the example of the global citizen campaign against the Nike corporation. This highly profitable multinational corporation walked out on the American shoe industry. Nike does not have a single shoe factory within the United States, abandoning higher-wage American workers and their families for low-wage undemocratic countries like China, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Despite its feel-good, "Just Do It" corporate motto and well-publicized support for women in sports, Nike exploits women and children in labor camp conditions where pregnant women are routinely fired and women lose fingers in rushed assembly lines. So far Nike has been able to protect its good corporate citizen image by spending over $978 million in worldwide advertising in 1996 and flaunting its multimillion dollar endorsement contracts with popular sports figures like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. But efforts by progressive members of Congress to engage Nike C.E.O. Phil Knight in improving his labor practices overseas and expand his manufacturing to U.S. communities may apply some extra public pressure for Nike and like-minded corporate citizens to "just do the right thing."

A civic-based democracy supports reform movements to reduce the amount of private money in politics in the short-term and public financing of elections in the long-term to eliminate the need for elected public servants to be professional fund-raisers. Citizens are concerned that candidates spend most of their time chasing after big money and that well-qualified but under-funded candidates don't have a real chance of being elected. A clean money campaign reform approach is the most sweeping option available for citizens to reclaim their democracy from the reigns of private industry. It would, among other things, provide voluntary public financing for qualified candidates, ban the use of soft money (unregulated large money donations), provide free and discounted TV time for candidates who agree to spending limits (even President Clinton called for that in his 1998 State of the Union address), shorten the campaign season, and require full electronic disclosure. Such a system has already passed by ballot initiative in Maine and in the Vermont state legislature and similar measures are underway in dozens of U.S. states. The public financing option places citizens at the center of democratic debate and would likely lead to real democracy measures like civilian monitoring of military and intelligence budgets, an independent judiciary, and broader avenues for citizen redress and involvement in the political and economic decision making process.

The national commercial television networks have been less than vigilant in exposing how corporate money is corrupting American politics. The print media have done a better job in tracking fat cat contributions to both dominant parties, but the "Big Five" broadcasters (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN) have not been beating their drums in support of campaign finance reform. Why? Because they have a direct conflict of interest in the story. The national networks profit handsomely from the corrupt political process that drives campaigns. Most of the big money given to candidates running for national office ends up being spent on television ads and media consultants. In the 1996 elections, the top 75 media markets collected $400 million to run political ads. It would be against these media moguls' interests to support reforming a system that lines their corporate purse. The owners of the Big Five (Disney; Westinghouse; GE; Murdoch's News Corporation, Inc.; and Time-Warner) are themselves major campaign contributors and corrupters of the current system, funneling millions into the soft money accounts of the Republican and Democratic parties. The returns on their investment are billions in tax breaks, direct subsidies, and other government "thank yous."

My home state of New Hampshire, which hosts the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, celebrates a retail approach to politics where candidates win support at family dinners and coffee klatches. But even homespun New Hampshire is not immune to the broadcast gag rule on campaign finance reform. When magazine magnate Steve Forbes ran for president in 1996, he made a formidable showing in New Hampshire. Forbes's sales agent was the only network affiliate in the state, ABC's WMUR in Manchester, which received over $600,000 from Forbes in the months prior to the February primary and reported Forbes's comings and goings like personal infomercials. Altogether the presidential candidates purchased $2.2 million in political advertising for one broadcast station that dominates the New Hampshire market, an amount which exposes the myth surrounding the intimacy of the New Hampshire primary. Television is the main messenger of politics these days and it's not telling the whole story.

A civilian-based diplomacy supports noncommercial, nonprofit, and publicly-subsidized media to counteract the corporate-controlled, for-profit, private media that dominate political discourse; and works to place media control, ownership, and lobbying at the center of public policy debate. Democracy cannot function or survive without a sufficient medium by which citizens remain informed and engaged in public policy debates.


What all of us have witnessed over the last two decades is a growing concentration of power and wealth in fewer hands. Non-commercialized space for public gathering is shrinking, while public participation in politics is being handed over to private wealth. This private wealth is in turn dominating our public welfare, our public lands, our public airwaves, our pension trusts, all of which are legally owned by the people, but not controlled by them. This is not democracy. This is a plutocracy, where debate is defined by narrow margins that leave certain longheld assumptions about foreign policy and democracy unchallenged. If we the people remain spectators or a "bewildered herd" we can expect a continuation of corporate-state collusion.

A true democracy requires struggle for economic and social justice in citizen initiatives. It is my hope that progressive organizations will move beyond single-issue priorities, turf wars, or internal struggles to build one strong and united movement that casts a wide social safety net to stop our political and economic decline and realize a global civic society that values genuine democracy.



Nancy Snow is Assistant Professor of Political Science at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. She is Executive Director of Common Cause/New Hampshire and serves on the Board of Directors of the Cultural Environment Movement {CEM). She thanks Herbert Schiller, Michael Parenti, Robert Klose, and Nancy Harvey for their comments on earlier drafts.

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