July 1st, 2004

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10:47 am - from the comments, regarding Fahrenheit 9/11
05:24 am - Michael Moore
More of a question than a comment:

I have NOT seen the film. Hence the question: does it show two sides to each aspect of the film? (e.g.: if a soldier bashes his CO in one scene, does another soldier praise him in the next?) If it doesn't, then let's call it what it is: propaganda.
Propaganda is a type of communication designed to inculcate a certain set of values in the target without regard to educating or informing him - or even deliberately in opposition to informing or educating him. The War on Drugs is an excellent example of this type of communication; cf. Reefer Madness for a particularly specific example. See also FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) tactics.

Neutral reporting is another type of communication. The goal behind neutral reporting is to attempt to completely disregard the reporter's (and his editor's) own thoughts concerning an issue, reporting both sides equally as though each were equally valid. While an admirable goal, it's well worth noting that truly neutral reporting is an EXTREMELY difficult task, and that simply because a report is touted as, or even appears to be, "neutral" in no way invalidates the recipient's obligation to check its neutrality carefully. The natural tendency is to think of neutral reporting as a single repository of trustworthy information concerning both sides of an issue, but in fact it's better to think of it as a single repository of untrustworthy information about both sides of an issue - you can absolutely guarantee that the reporter (and editor) responsible has a bias, but you don't know for which side, whether they're honestly attempting to censor it or simply to subtly camouflage it, or whether or not they actually succeeded in doing so if they did attempt to censor their own bias.

Finally, we come to op-ed. Opinionated Editorial makes no bones about which side of a debate it is coming down on, but makes every possible effort to show the recipient how and why it got there. The primary goal is to educate and inform the recipient, but without pretense at neutrality - the assumption is that the recipient can (and will) do their own research concerning "the other side" for themselves. While an op-ed piece generally fails to inform you as to the other side of an issue and/or cannot be trusted regarding the other side, it does at least have the virtue of having the reporting and editorial staff's bias right out there in the open where you can inspect it.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is an op-ed piece, and a damned good one. There is no doubt that Michael Moore has an opinion of the Bush administration, about how it came to power, about its extremely dubious ties to the House of Saud and the Bin Laden family, and about how it has operated since coming to power. But it's very, very difficult to leave the theater not knowing more - a lot more - about the above topics than you knew going in, and Moore makes some compelling arguments. I definitely wouldn't label the film "propaganda".

Current Mood: pedantic
Current Music: Don Henley - Dirty Laundry

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture] From: sanguine37
Date: July 1st, 2004 - 09:40 am

If Michael Moore spent two hours just saying, "Bush is a corrupt jackass," then it would be propoganda. Instead he says, "here's what he's done, and what he continues to do. Here are the results. This might be why he does it. Look, isn't he a corrupt jackass?" That's op-ed.

Nearly all reporting is slanted. At least Moore doesn't lie about being neutral.

[User Picture] From: staringgoldfish
Date: July 1st, 2004 - 12:41 pm
Right, that's Fox' job.

Is it Fox' or Fox's? Those guys over there to the right of the Tsar.

Although, after listening to Stupid White Men on tape, I gotta wonder just when MM lost his marbles.

[User Picture] From: teapotdome
Date: July 1st, 2004 - 08:29 pm
Pedantry, level 2: The 'op' in 'op-ed' doesn't have anything to do with 'opinion,' as is commonly believed. The term comes from 'opposite (the) editorial (page)'—the place in newspapers where signed, opinionated articles are traditionally located.

From: (Anonymous)
Date: July 2nd, 2004 - 11:01 pm


I would suggest that the majority of what you said is accurate. However, I would say the following:

1. Propaganda is not done without regard to informing the person or group to which it is submitted. Your examples are accurate and precise, yet limiting. Many commercial ads seen on TV are propaganda. Propaganda, as defined by various dictionaries, in this case, Webster, is "the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person." By this generally accepted definition, a laundry detergent ad showing how well the detergent works and saying the detergent gets tough stains out of your fabrics is propaganda. It is helping the institution know as the detergent, so to speak. Nazis were heavy users of propaganda to say how good Schickelgrueber was and how evil the Jews were. Some of these ads, pamphlets, and leaflets related facts about Hitler and Jews. This is still considered propaganda. Yes, it may be Op-Ed as defined in Jimbo's response (albeit, teapotdome is correct, the origin of the phrase Op-Ed is Opposite Editorial); nevertheless, it still falls under the definition of propaganda. Propaganda is not designed to not give facts, it simply has the luxury of not having to do so. However, just because it has facts does not suddenly make it not propaganda.

2. Secondly, the concept of "neutral reporting" is a nice idea... in the land of Oz perhaps. Actually, it's a nice idea anywhere. Unfortunately, it's a fairy tale. There is no such thing as "neutral reporting." Having been in TV news for a few years now, I have not seen a reporter completely remove bias from a story short of saying,"So-and-so died. They were XX years old." To completely remove bias requires stating the facts and nothing else. This generally requires eliminating adjectives and adverbs. Even then, it may not be unbiased. For example, in a fairly recent story, a man named Asberry Wylder was shot twice and killed by North Charleston police after stealing meat from a local Piggly Wiggly. Witnesses say Wylder was beaten after being shot. Of the various people interviewed by local media, none gave identical accounts of how and where he was beaten. Also, two people interviewed by the local CBS affiliate who claimed to have seen "the whole thing" said Wylder never stabbed one of the police officers. In fact, as witnessed and confirmed by others at the scene, Wylder had stabbed the officer with a screwdriver, albeit the officer was stabbed in the chest area while wearing a Kevlar vest. These people may not have been trying to be neutral, but just reporting basic facts was too much for these folks. Another story recently in the news concerns the Stratford High School drug raid. Police said they felt the use of force, drug dogs, and drawn weapons, albeit at the "down and ready" position, was completely justified based on video tape of drug deals from the preceding week and based on weapons confiscated from students at the school in previous confrontations and incidents. Many parents of the students inside said the use of force was completely unnecessary. If you are familiar with the story, you may draw your own conclusions. If not, just search for Stratford High School. Certainly, something will come up concerning the raid. In any event, these are two instances where basic fact is not fact... it's opinion. Neutral reporting... nice idea... not practical in the least. This does not contradict the above statement about neutral reporting, just inserts my opinion on the issue.

3. Inculcate... the word means to teach or impress by frequent repetitions... an very, very rare poor choice of word for you Jim. Jimbo is an erudite man by any standard, and I do respect your ideas and opinions... just puzzled by that choice of word.

In any case, I cannot say what Moore's film is or is not as, again, I have not seen it nor do I plan to do so. I get enough of politics and such at my job.

Sui generis Deus gratia agere


From: cpf
Date: July 3rd, 2004 - 10:32 pm
"Hence the question: does it show two sides..."

Q. for the Q.er - Does the government either?

From: (Anonymous)
Date: July 4th, 2004 - 12:51 am

Responsiva II

The government did not just make a movie that was being discussed in this forum. However, since you did raise a question, the government does show both sides in our bilateral party system. Occasionally, it shows three or four sides thanks to the independent candidates. Whether or not those sides are prevalently shown is another matter, but they are shown.


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