Expertly using "experts": leftist media organs selectively use so-called experts to propagandize the masses on behalf of a statist agenda. (Expert Opinion).
But such propaganda is not so easily detected when artificial, media-approved credentials cloak its authors. The selective use of "experts" by media organs serves as a powerful and common vehicle for propagandizing the masses on behalf of a statist agenda, largely because this propaganda can be disguised as impartial scholarly research or science.
Perhaps the best-known recent case demonstrating how the mass media gives wide credibility to leftist radicals as knowledgeable "experts" us the case of Professor Michael Bellesiles, author of Arming America. Bellesiles claimed in his book that the Founding Fathers did not really regard the right to keep and bear arms as a right, and that few Americans during colonial and frontier days owned firearms. Supposedly based on more than a decade of research into colonial era probate and other court records, Bellesiles published his book to effusive praise from within the media. "Bellesiles deflates the myth of the self-reliant and self-armed virtuous yeoman of the revolutionary militias," said Edmund Morgan in the prestigious New York Review of Books. "He has the facts.... [N]o one else has put them together in so compelling a refutation of the mythology of the gun." Kirkus Reviews called the book "a timely and powerful text." Bellesiles was similarly lionized by the news and broadcast media, who seized on the sens ational allegations and made him a frequent guest on radio and television news and talk shows. Columbia University even awarded him the prestigious Bancroft Prize for his research.
The only problem was that the research was falsified. After pro-Second Amendment groups asked for the documentation, it soon became apparent that no research existed. In one case, a large number of the probate records cited by the author had been destroyed in a 1906 flood, making it impossible for him to have researched them as he claimed. Columbia University eventually withdrew its Bancroft Prize, and Bellesiles resigned under pressure from his tenured position at Emory University in Atlanta.
The mass media was quick to seize on Bellesiles' work, for a very important reason: The story, despite its fantastic assertions, fit perfectly with the media elite's own ideological biases and agendas.
Radical Left on "Radical Right"
Another variation of the tactic used by the media is to cover up strong ideological bias on the part of so-called experts. "Will antigovernment and millennialist types see the new reach of federal intelligence as yet more proof of conspiracies?" a June 18, 2002 Christian Science Monitor "news" article asked of conservative opposition to new federal surveillance powers under the Homeland Security Act. With the exception of an anonymous posting to an Internet newsgroup, author Brad Knickerbocker failed to cite any "antigovernment or millennialist" sources as evidence. But he did cite various so-called experts to support his thesis: "It's already happening, but should really take off in the next week or so," says Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, an organization in Somerville, Mass., studying right-wing and paramilitary movements. "Take a look at apocalyptic Christians..., patriots such as the John Birch Society, anti-Semitic conspiracists blaming it all on Mossad [Israel's intelligence agency] and t he Jews, neo-Nazis who combine anti-Semitism with revolutionary-right goals," says Berlet. Extreme anti-Semitism -- along with the view that people of color are "subhuman" or "mud people" -- is the ideological basis of such groups as the Aryan Nations and other adherents of Christian Identity. But it's not just extremist militias, hate groups, and neo-Nazi skinheads who are influenced by such prejudice.
Why would Berlet unfairly juxtapose the patriotic John Birch Society, which opposes racism, with neo-Naziism and other racist philosophies? (Berlet does not say the JBS is racist, of course, but he undoubtedly intends to create that impression.) Moreover, why would the Monitor article quote Berlet without also quoting any of the "extremists" that the article is supposedly about? Could it be that Berlet has an ideological axe to grind -- an axe that fits the Monitor's own ideological agenda?
Berlet has a radical past that the article omits completely. Berlet served as a staff member of the National Lawyers Guild, which was described in a congressional investigation as the "foremost legal bulwark of the Communist Party, USA." He published articles in the Communist Guardian newspaper of New York, CIA traitor Philip Agee's Covert Action Information Bulletin, and left-wing publications such as In These Times, Mother Jones, Tikkun, and Utne Reader. Berlet also served as an investigator for the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party and conducted workshops for the radical Institute for Policy Studies.
Despite his extreme leftist credentials, or perhaps because of them, Berlet is on the Rolodex of most figures in the Establishment media who carry out journalistic floggings of anything conservative. Berlet has appeared live on ABC's Nightline, NBC's Today Show, and CBS's This Morning, and has written for Establishment newspapers such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Chicago Sun-Times.
The news media repeatedly portray Berlet (and the small tribe of his hard left "anti-right expert" kin) as disinterested academic experts, even though radical leftists like Berlet and his fellow "experts" spend their lives actively fighting against the American right.
One of the most blatant examples of an "expert" with media-sanitized credentials is Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich has a long resume of leftist activism. He was a founding member and president of Zero Population Growth and has won awards from leftist standbys like Common Cause, the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth, World Wildlife International, the United Nations, and the American Humanist Association. Though a tenured professor of population studies at Stanford University, Ehrlich has a long history of making unscientific ecological predictions. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Ehrlich warned: "In the 1970's the world will undergo famines -- hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." In an article the same year for the radical magazine Ramparts, Ehrlich forecast a hellish environment within 10 years. "By September 1979, all important animal life in the sea was extinct," he wrote. "Large areas of coastline had to be evacuated, as windrows of dead fish created a monumental stench."
Ehrlich's predicted global catastrophe required fascistic governmental solutions. Ehrlich suggested in The Population Bomb that "some sort of compulsory birth regulation would be necessary.... One plan often mentioned involves the addition of temporary sterilants to water supplies or staple food. Doses of the antidote would be carefully rationed by the government to produce the desired population size."
Despite his lengthy green-left credentials and his terrible track record as a prognosticator, NBC contracted with Ehrlich in 1990 to produce a 12-part series on global ecological issues for NBC News. NBC cast the radical professor as a disinterested scientist dispassionately explaining global warming and environmental issues. Ehrlich was later nominated for an Emmy Award for his TV propaganda and received a five-year MacArthur Foundation fellowship. PBS subsequently made him the subject of a puff-piece documentary.
Contrast Ehrlich's treatment with that of serious scientists, such as Sherwood Idso, S. Fred Singer, Richard S. Lindzen, and Patrick Michaels. All of them have been tarred as mere tools of big business for their skepticism regarding catastrophic global warming. An article in the Washington Post for May 25, 1997 dismissed Michaels and others as irrelevant and hopelessly compromised. "Deep-pocketed industry public relations specialists have promoted their opinions through every channel of communication they can reach," the article charged. It went on to smear Michaels and the other scientific skeptics over alleged "industry ties," such as corporate-sponsored research grants, which supposedly tainted their credibility.
The media's use of experts is one-sided across a whole spectrum of issues. Local media professionals often call on familiar leftists to lend credibility to sundry elitist priorities supported by media liberals. National Establishment media figures often turn to Establishment-anointed authorities from the rolls of the Council on Foreign Relations -- the Establishment power house to which many prominent national media figures belong. These ideological fellow travelers have their credentials sanitized so that they will most readily be accepted by their audience. But those who disagree with media preconceptions will be ignored whenever possible, and when they can't be ignored their credentials, credibility, and political or business affiliations will be called into question.
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|Author:||Eddlem, Thomas R.|
|Publication:||The New American|
|Date:||Feb 10, 2003|
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