Welcome Maria Armoudian, and Host Spocko.

Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World

Host, Spocko:

Yesterday I was sitting on my brother-in-law’s deck in sunny Santa Barbara reading Maria Armoudian’s new book, Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World. I was incredibly grateful for the sun because the first three chapters are grim. She covers the media’s role in the Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust and the Bosnian war. Thankfully I could look up and see hummingbirds after every chapter. Then she moved onto where the media worked constructively by aiding the peace process in Northern Ireland, rebuilding democracy in Chile, bridging ethnic divides in South Africa, improving the lives of women in Senegal –by changing the attitude toward female genital cutting (FGC), and boosting transparency and democratization in Mexico and Taiwan.

As much as I did not want to dig into the atrocities in Rwanda, Germany, Bosnian and the former Yugoslavia, it is important to not look away and to understand the media’s role in these deadly conflicts. Armoudian, who is a fellow of the Center for International Studies and a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, shows the similarities in how the media was used and abused by the various governments as well as by powerful people. She is also the host and producer of a radio show called “The Insighters” on KPFK and WPRR.

These tragedies don’t suddenly happen with no warning. The steps that are taken are frighteningly parallel to steps we see in the media today in the United States. Will we end up like the people in the former Yugoslavia? Can we learn from the media in Burundi, neighboring Rwanda, who helped avert genocide?

As a Vulcan-American, what I found fascinating were the steps the media took in these various countries. For example, in Germany their media propaganda campaign worked because of:

  1. dire social and economic conditions
  2. a corrosive web of misinformation
  3. emotional appeals
  4. a pervasive and authoritarian message and ideology that grew through control of mass media and public space.

Good thing we don’t see any of there here in the US!

In Rwanda we see how broadcasters persuaded and organized Hutus to carry out genocide against the Tutsis through messages of hate, fear and “noble” lies” They were told they must kill the Tutsis in order to establish a authoritarian democracy, aid development, emancipate the “victimized” Hutu race and end Tutsi domination. Tutsis, they claimed, were rising to victimize Hutus as they had historically done and, therefore, the Hutus must kill “them” before they kill “us.”

The kill “them” before they kill “us” was the part of the story that I didn’t know about, and I worry about how that is the next step in the process here in America. Armoudian opens the book with the story of Jim David Adkisson the Unitarian Universalist Church shooter and his desire to kill “every Democrat in the Senate and House, the one hundred people in Bernard Goldberg’s book,” and “everyone in the mainstream media,” Adkisson admitted, “This was a hate crime: I hate the damn left-wing liberals.”

Where did he hear this hate coming from? He was an avid reader and listener of Michael Savage, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.

I found the steps where people were dehumanized and false information spread by the media especially troubling. What surprised me was that broadcasters at Rwanda’s Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) was they were widely listened to, even by Tutsis, because of its popular music, entertainment, commentary and what was believed to be breaking news.

Being a typical American, my knowledge of these tragedies was limited to international newspaper reports and the occasional movie and cultural event like “Free Mandela” concerts. What the book does is provide a closer look at not only the media’s power to divide people but also provides examples of how the media can come together to heal a nation.

The story of Studio Ijambo in Burundi was especially inspirational, where Hutu and Tutsi journalist, writers, producers and broadcasters worked together to dispel rumors, stereotypes and hate messages that permeated Burundia.

Because I’m an activist and not an academic or journalist, I found the book very useful to not only understand how the the media was controlled and manipulated but also how we, as part of a new media landscape, can fight against people whose job it is to spread disinformation.

82 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Maria Armoudian, Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World”

BevW August 21st, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Maria, Welcome to the Lake.

Spocko, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:00 pm


spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:00 pm

My first question has to do with parallels in the media you found in the tragedies in Rwanda, Germany, Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia.

The first was the dehumanization of the “other” — we are all familiar with that one, but what were the additional parallels?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I’m quite happy to be here

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:00 pm

There are several elements that come together for this sort of atrocity

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:01 pm

First of all, most often, mass killings don’t occur without some sort of socioppolitical difficulty.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Sociopolitical problems create an opportunity for solutions but also for disasters

BevW August 21st, 2011 at 2:02 pm

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and number you are replying to and helps for everyone in following the conversation.

(Note: If you’ve had to refresh your browser, Reply may not work correctly unless you wait for the page to complete loading)

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:02 pm

When extremists are able to control the messages, they often don’t discuss–maybe because they don’t see– the larger contexts.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:03 pm

and they blame one group for the problems, even though these groups did not alone cause the problem

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:04 pm

so for example, in Rwanda, the Hutus blamed the Tutsis for the problems of Rwanda. In Nazi Germany, the Nazis blamed Jews (and others) for their economic collapse. And in the former Yugoslavia, the groups blamed each other, with a lot of blame placed upon the Bosniaks.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I call these “blame frames”

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:04 pm

They simplify the situation, but they are inaccurate portrayals

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:05 pm

In these frames, often you also see a selective use of history.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:05 pm

that are “cherry picked” to make a case against the other. And in worst case scenarios, they portray the “others” as evil or subhuman.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I found the ‘blaming one group for the problem” interesting but also how when one group took an act by a single individual (or small group of individuals) and then the message was blown up into a story that “The Jews are going to kill us all” or “The Tutsi’s killed the President they are not going to kill everyone!”

Suzanne August 21st, 2011 at 2:06 pm

welcome maria and thank you spocko for hosting today’s salon.

maria, i’ve not had the pleasure of reading your book yet so forgive me if you answer this question in the book but… what can we do to prevent this kind of media manipulation advocating hate speech?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:08 pm
In response to spocko @ 16

Yes, this is part of the “genocidal frame”. So two parts here that are important: One is that fear is generated– that the others will come get us, or ruin something important to us, if we don’t destroy them first. The other is that destroying them becomes part of a “grand” cause.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:11 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 17

Hi SUzanne, I think this is the KEY question. I think there are many places where we have to look. One is systemic–within the journalistic institutions, one is within the policy bodies, and one is with the public itself. . . the problem today is that the Internet has NO gatekeepers. And much of the hate speech is getting circulated there. I added to this answer below. . . can you see it?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:14 pm

We want to protect free speech but prevent hate speech. We need to use all of the tools in our toolbox. If we are journalists ourselves, we need to approach this from the institutions of media> I advocate for journalists to form an organization, a body that they can use to continue improving journalism for the 21st century. And to communicate with each other, protect the principles of responsible, ethical journalism, and institute a process for monitoring transgressions. . . . The latter part can be like the State Bar for lawyers or the Medical Boards for doctors

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:16 pm

But if we are not part of the journalistic institution, we can call attention to this by advocacy to policymakers and to our own circles, particularly when we know the concrete consequences of hate speech. For example, the Norway shooter, he learned much of his framing from the Internet.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 17

Suzanne, one thing that I noticed was that one way to ameliorate avocation of hate speech has to do with the way that media is structured. In some countries where media was in opposition to the status quote the government just seized the media. In countries where it is a capitalist base the powerful just bought the media (hmmm, what countries could those be? *cough* News Corp *cough*). consolidation is a huge problem.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:18 pm

The most important thing we can all do is to reframe issues within the broader contexts that help us to understand the true nature of our sociopolitical situations and shared humanity.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Maria: Could you talk about Studio Ijambo in Burundi? What was it? How was that set up? Who was behind it and why do you think it was so effective?

Suzanne August 21st, 2011 at 2:18 pm

yes i can see it and thank you for answering my question. i know spocko has done a lot of work exposing hate speech in radio and suffered a lot of pushback from the corporate owners of the station.

are you also experiencing corporate media pushback for your book?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 25

So far, the corporate side of media has said very little, possibly ignoring the book, BUT that said, it only comes out in two days. . . so not sure yet what might happen.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to spocko @ 24

Studio Ijambo was an amazing project funded by a Washington DC based group called the Search for Common Ground. There, they created new media in which before somethign could be broadcast, one journalist from each side had to report together and agree on the final story. This countered the rumor-mongering of others and started to build trust among Burundians. They also refused to report statements of officials when they doubted their veracity or when they advocated violence. And they aired programming that helped people to better understand the roots of the conflict and each other. Ijambo grew into other projects, including a forum on which experts and community members joined in to really engage each other & thoroughly understand issues to resolve them together. . . . Through this process, transformations occurred. for example, for years, one ethnic group member could not rescue a member of another ethnic group without being marked as a traitor and slated to be killed. BUT through these programs, people started admitting that they were rescuing people of the other side and being acknowledged ON the AIR as heroes. . . soon, the meaning of hero & traitor changed. . . so that rescuing someone from the other side meant you were a hero.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:24 pm

. And they aired programming that helped people to better understand the roots of the conflict and each other.

Please Talk a bit about that programming. And please tell me about the radio dramas.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to spocko @ 28

Hi Spocko, I added a bit to the first answer above about the radio forums. But the radio dramas were really fascinating. Essentially, these programs used characters dealing with human issues that Burundians faced but they didn’t disclose the ethnicity of the character, so people began to relate to the characters and hoped for the positive resolution . . . not knowing if the person was Hutu or Tutsi. And within the stories, they got to see themselves and the issues in a different light, helping them to understand, through fiction, what was happening to their own communities.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I didn’t address it in my intro, but you also include a chapter on the media and Climate Change. I happen to know someone who feels it is his “job” to spread disinformation about climate change. Can you talk about some of the organizations and specific processes that the media is manipulated by corporations to discredit science and what is being done to combat that?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to spocko @ 22

Spocko . . . Consolidation is really the enemy of diversity in thinking. It is not good for democracy or society because of how it limits what is available. BUT there are big problems with media’s purpose being exclusively profit. Which we see with News Corp. . . Rupert Murdoch acknowledges climate change and News Corps has actually done as much if not more than any other media company to reduce emissions. SO WHY do they deny climate change to their audiences? This is the quesiton . . . and I think it’s because they like to use outrage to attract audiences.
There’s more to this, of course. Remember Climategate, which was the stealing of personal emails and taking them out of context to try to portray scientists as manipulative. That itself was a manipulative process. Journalists could have checked this out before printing, broadcasting this material. . .

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I’ve got to be honest and tell you that I was freaked out and creeped out by the female genital cutting (FGC) in Senagal yet that was one of the bigger success stories about the media changing attitudes. Please tell me more about why that worked and how the method they used differed from other methods that might have been suggested to stop the practice?

bigbrother August 21st, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I remember lorries filed with victims hauled to remote grave sites and lined single file to have their skulls crushed with clubs. Seems like 25 years ago. The American news media treated it rather passe.
For theologians to be the gatekeeper of humanitarian values does not work. The autocratic authoritarian media sets value system based on religious principals.
Kindness might work but it us trumped by greed, power and predjudice.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to spocko @ 30

There is a large array of organizations created to merely create “doubt” about science and scientists. They’ve been at it since the cigarette companies tried to avoid protective laws. What they do is generate papers, videos and slick presentations to argue against science. They look good and professional, but the problem is that they are unscientific. AND most of the public aren’t told this. What media professionals failed to do was to separate teh scientific material and research scientists from the people who were merely employed to create this doubt. Because scientists are trained to be circumspect and to accept criticism and challenge, it was really no contest. . . the media gave the deniers–not research scientists, not peer reviewed–equal footing to the real scientists.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to spocko @ 32

I think this is an example of social activists working with media to cause profound social change. FGC is a 4,000-year practice. It was held to be sacred, so much that girls who were not “cut” were considered unfit for the community and shunned. It was “social death.” But a handful of women in a village in Senegal–when they began to understand that the practice was in contradiction to things they cared about–their girls’ health, democratic decisions & human rights–they began a campaign. They framed it within these principles, and media did follow them, using these principles. It was a “no blame” frame. Nobody was wrong here. It was just not fitting within the concepts we cared about. So while the activists went from town to town, holding “celebrations” as the communities renounced or abolished the practice, the media followed them, reporting on each one, until there was a tipping point. Here, 10 years later, the practice was so unacceptable that people were shunned for “cutting” their girls. . . A complete reversal, nearly.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 33

Until we generate a culture where these things are unacceptable and not permittable under any circumstance, we will be facing other such horrors. There are peaceful societies, so we know that humans are not, by nature, always goign to kill each other. . . But this “culture” development is part of what media do–we all are part of it–But media help us to say what is acceptable. I’m not sure which case you are referring to though. Please let me know.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:46 pm

In your climate change chapter you talk about a Nov. 2009 story where two top scientists, Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson and UC- Davis’s Marc Delucchi, calculated how to power the entire world with renewable energy. They were the cover story of the scientific journal Scientific American,yet the climate =change deniers and “Climategate” pushers ruled the headlines.

I think I know several of the reasons why this is. You mentioned. “Because scientists are trained to be circumspect and to accept criticism and challenge, it was really no contest. . . the media gave the deniers–not research scientists, not peer reviewed–equal footing to the real scientists.”

But having worked with Scientists I also know their aversion to and dislike of anything that hints of “marketing” and conflict.

Is anything being done to help them understand the media frames that they use and how to either use them or create stories that push through their standard stories and use of sources?

shekissesfrogs August 21st, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Hi Ms. Armoudian, did you find instances where the west had taken operational control of the media and pushed these sectarian messages?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to Suzanne @ 17

I want to add to this a bit, as I’m typing, I’m thinking. I think fundamentally, people want the same things. But we are sort of trained to think in terms of “good guys” and “bad guys” and that’s why the frame of the extremist is effective. In reality, there are some really bad actors. But most of them really think they are combatting the “bad guys” arising from some of the same emotions. I think we can also build by example, online communities that connect to other online communities and build cultures, share ideas that work in elevating humanity, learning from each other like this.

litbrit August 21st, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Maria, one of the big problems in modern-day news coverage of political events–and even world affairs–is the incessant need to play nice and give equal weight to all “sides” (even when one comes from a place that is fact-based and the other is simply making stuff up), to follow some list of rules that must have been formulated well after I’d graduated from J-school.

When ideology and belief systems are given the same “face time” as hard, scientific data–and the media misuses the dread word “controversy” about matters that have actually been settled by science, law, or both–we remain in one spot as opposed to moving forward to a more knowledgeable, actionable place. Thus, instead of having the collective will of the nation behind addressing, say, climate change, we have this faux controversy for everyone to conveniently get mired in and do nothing.

How can writers address this, and how can real pressure be brought to bear on the networks and publishers responsible?

athena1 August 21st, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about Glenn Beck?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:54 pm
In response to shekissesfrogs @ 38

Do you mean the US? The US has an international communication division that does push its own messages throughout parts of the world. . . but I don’t hear so much “sectarian”. I think it’s mostly a pro-US message trying to persuade in that way.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to athena1 @ 41

I have thoughts on Glenn Beck . . . I think he makes a lot of money. I don’t know if he believes his own stories. I have watched/listened to a few of his programs and found many of them to use “blame frames,” with inaccuracies throughout.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I want to move to questions about the US since that is where I currently reside. There is a concept that “We can be the media” and to an extent that is true, but I also understand that establishment media still have a reach and power that is undeniable.

I think that part of their reach comes from the ways that they constantly tell their stories. They will choose to do a story of conflict instead of analysis. They will go to the same old sources.

What are the standard frames they use and how can people who want to “be the media” either use those for their own purposes or find outlets to provide analysis and facts?

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to litbrit @ 40

Several things: I think journalists and others supporting great journalism should form new models, particularly a cooperative type of media like the one in Mexico that was exposing government abuses and presenting alternatives. There is power in numbers, and we need alternatives to challenge the status quo journalism. It’s happening slowly with models like nonprofits. But we need to do more. Through a joint media–which can be connected to institutions like universities–we can inform, educate, about both the issues we wish to frame more accurately AND the problems in journalism today.
The universities need to revamp their journalism schools as well to prevent this false balance. The scientific community should help with this. We know there aren’t two sides to, say, gravity. There is no pro and con to burglary, etc.
And BTW, with new media, this can be done internationally, across borders, and can connect with other organizations.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I of course have LOTS of thoughts about Glenn Beck :-)

One of the thing that people often say is, “Do they believe what they say?”

I finally came to the conclusion that people were asking that question because they didn’t WANT to believe that the broadcaster could be that cruel, stupid, racist or bigotted. It came from a desire to believe that people are good and that they are just saying these things, “for the money”

I realized that I don’t care if when they get home they are nice to their kids and don’t talk about hating on Muslims at dinnerpartiers. What I DO know is that they say it on the air.

Glenn Beck has willfully misinformed millions. He has used a number of the steps that Maria outlined her her book. He has demonized the left. He has worked to help people think of us as not human. The polarization of the country happens because people like Beck, Savage, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and lesser lights like Lee Rodgers, Melanie Morgan and Brian Sussman here in the Bay Areas work 24/7 to turn fellow humans into traitors, enemies and “the other”.

Now some of my friend think we should do to them what they do to us, but that would involve making the polarization greater. I have other ideas.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to spocko @ 44

Spocko, I responded a bit to litbrit@40 on some ideas. . . First of all, I thnk we should constantly harp on REJECTING Blame frames. Every time we hear one, we should make it clear that it is inaccurate and tweet it all over. And they are prevalent. I think real stories are very important. It’s one way that we relate to each other– real experiences of people. This humanizes politics. The other is that antagonisms can subside if we don’t perpetuate them. This is the hardest part. But when we have to teach students of all political persuasions, we have to learn to communicate. Questions are good for this: For example, “Why do you think that?” Broader contexts, offering the missing pieces, avoiding stereotypes, even for those who are “the other” for us. I also think we should focus a bit more on where we agree and on where we have common ground and less on where we have conflict. There is so much polarization that it makes it very difficult to resolve the country’s problems.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:14 pm
In response to spocko @ 44

I also think that through places like FDL we are already building communities. We can expand them–through communities, neighborhoods, institutions–but these things take time to build and going outside of our comfort zones.
And the models of media matter. The Guardian does great work because it is a Trust with a specific purpose of great journalism. Another model that has not been expllored is a university-based media that shares knowledge with society– especially if we can do it inter-university. There are resources, knowledge there and a reach that can trump the purely forprofit media in a pretty quick way.
Once people get a taste for deeper thought, they want more. They get hungry for answers, and superficial frames no longer suffice.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Can you talk about how you saw word choice changing in the media and what that meant in places like Bosnia and South Africa?

Is there anything that WE can do to facilitate word choice and changing how words are used?

(As a side note I want to mention how I was very careful to always use the phrase violent rhetoric when talking about what I heard on right wing talk radio, vs. hate speech. I did this for a number of reasons, primarily because the right started to misdefine hate speech but also because the phrase hate speech has a legal connotation that I didn’t want to muddy.

I’m very pleased to see the phrase violent rhetoric being used consistently on the left by folks like Media Matters.)

Allison Hantschel August 21st, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Hi Maria,

What would be a way to influence journalism education so that these things don’t persist? US journalism schools seem determined to take the path of encouraging the least amount of controversy possible. How can we make better young journalists?


shekissesfrogs August 21st, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Now some of my friend think we should do to them what they do to us, but that would involve making the polarization greater.

Thats sure the truth, I think a lot of us have been surprised by democrats willingness to get down into the mud pit and use the same tools. I see it all the time.

I think that climate denialists could be framed with the denial of carcinogens in cigarettes.
And these “hate frames” like “liberalism is a disease” which I saw at Megan McCains site, when she twisted up one of Janes posts and took it out of context . It’s pure hate speech and it goes unchallenged.

You given me something to think about.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:21 pm

yes, especially the word “terrorist”. In South Africa, the ANC members were essentially called terrorists. Same in Northern Ireland for the Irish Republican movement. It’s a word that stops communication. When we hear this kind of language, that stops the dialogue. So in the US media, espeically on the shock jock circuit, we hear a lot of ugly language–calling liberals cancer or a pestilence or that idea. And this language generates resentment, anger, and hate toward whatever the group is being targeted. They imply meanings that throw down a division between the “good” and the “bad.” ONe thing we can do is to avoid using the same language. So for example, I saw a talk aobut the police abuses that occurred in San Francisco by some leftists, but they used extremist language, calling it “police terrorism.” WHy would we adopt that language? It lumps all police as “terrorists,” and while there are serious problems in policing, this is again inaccurate, emotive language that demonizes all police, even the ones who are trying to do good work.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:24 pm
In response to spocko @ 49

What we need to do is REFRAME things in the way that we want to see the world.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:25 pm

It looks like I responded to the wrong Q on the wrong line. . . did I?

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:27 pm

I know that I’m often “activated” by the ugly language that is coming from the right. They do it on purpose. Part of my wants to get sucked in. “I’m going to call that jerk up and give him a piece of my mind!”

That if course is EXACTLY what they want. So I went over their head to what they really care about. Their advertisers. Money. If I had called up the right wing radio all pissed off and argued with them they would win. They win because they “got my goat” also they “win” because I’m not really a good debater (unlike my buddy Mike Stark). So I worked to take the “heat” out of them. And how is that done? By appealing to the people who care more about money than “heat” on a talk radio show.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t call them out for their misinformation, but I want to do it in a way where they don’t control the venue and in a way that they care about.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Depends on where you sit in society. Can you be part of a group that creates a model that supercedes the others? Teaching by example is very powerful. Can you teach critical thinking to young people in some form? Do you have friends that are journalists with whom you can discuss a possible journalism organiztaion that will improve itself? Remember that professions that can harm people all have ethics bodies. Doctors, lawyers. But journalists don’t, and they should.

maa8722 August 21st, 2011 at 3:30 pm

It’s a good thought piece, but I’m still not sure what the author is an activist in.

Is this more about media practices at large, or specific ethnic conflicts, or the eternal philosophical left-right ideological tiff? There are plenty of inconsistencies available which could prove inconvenient in any of those.

George Orwell had warned us about the coming technological ease in conscripting public support for one cause or another while keeping the public selectively informed to serve an agenda. It’s an old message which warns us of things nowadays which are even worse than Orwell had imagined. Yet Orwell wasn’t an ideologue from either the left or right.

Media sources being agenda driven claimants isn’t anything new. The four part checklist cited for Germany applied to Napoleon as well.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:33 pm
In response to maa8722 @ 57

Author is more of an academic than an activist, but I”m interested in building a better humanity by building a better media. We have the tools of communication with the INternet to do profound things–reflect back to Tunisia as an example. . . . Yes, political leaders have always sought to persuade or manipulate or cajole. But when journalists are onto this and societies can think critically, it is less likely that we are led off the cliff.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:35 pm


shekissesfrogs August 21st, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Related to the west, or the governmental promotion of sectarian or biased media, The US State Dept. has just given MEMRI a $200,000 grant. They push the pro-Israeli, anti-palestinian line and have been caught mistranslating videos. Any thoughts about how to combat this?

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:35 pm

One of the groups I advised http://www.hatehurtsamerica.com/
worked the same process on Michael Savage and cost him 18 advertisers and one million dollars in revenue. Color of Change and Angelo (@stopbeck) also used the process of alerting advertisers of the violent rhetoric that is coming out of these people.

In the US with a corporate driving mass media, we need to use financial leverage. When the right wing wanted to have an impact on media they used the government (specifically the FCC). (The right wing used the government to make radio and broadcast TV a regulated medium. That’s right, they got the government to demand TV and Radio censor themselves. The media set up seven second delay and the FCC imposed fines.)

I know that the right wing wanted to say that they left will censor them by bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. That is untrue, the only one who is suggesting that is the right wing. This projection of the right wing’s actions onto us is something that I saw in Marie’s book in Rwanda, Germany, Bosnia and Yugoslavia. They say that we are going to “get them” yet they are the ones who are doing the work.

There is a reason that there are 500,000 fines for obscenity but no fines for people to talk about killing other humans (specific humans even) on the broadcast radio.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to shekissesfrogs @ 60

THis is among one of the MOST difficult current issues because Palestinians have been portrayed so negatively for so long, again with a blame frame that does not show the wider historical contexts that help people understand all of the conditions that are occurring. But we have to find ways of communicating in a persuasive way about the realities of the situation in the Middle East. And among these realities is that someone may be benefiting from the continued conflict . . . People are scared and fear motivates a specific set of reactions. So more information is better. More context, more history, more framing that incorporates the shared struggles and commmon humanity. Offer more solutions, more peacemakers, more ways out.

bigbrother August 21st, 2011 at 3:39 pm

(Rawanda Buruni Hutus were trucked away as i remember.)

The United Nati0ns was created… “whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace” wiki
I was in Kenya in 1970 and tribalism prevented the humane ditribution of food and medicine.
I like the media approach and the project you were part of.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to maa8722 @ 57

Personally I’m an activist, not an academic. I probably did a poor job of characterizing Maria’s book. She very clearly covered the role of media in the Rwanda genocide, the Holocaust and the Bosnia War. She also showed the positive role they played in Burundi, Ireland, and South Africa and Chile.

I didn’t even really mention their role in Mexico and Taiwan.

For me, understanding what happened helps me when I’m designing activist activities. Next week I’m leading some non profit seminars on how to create videos that tell a powerful story using town halls as a starting point.

Maria’s book, and the discussions of media frames is helping me.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to spocko @ 61

I think alerting advertisers is really important–just showing them what is happening. So very good! Now, if we can just get their audiences to see it for what it is. It takes a lot to get someone to hate their neighbor or “make a monster of the man you know personally.” Emotions are very powerful tools. Blaming others for what you are about to do is not new either. And it might be worth engaging some astute law professors to help us to articulate these arguments with the lines that will protect us from hate speech without hampering free speech.

Kelly Canfield August 21st, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Hi there – sorry to be late to this thread.

Maria what’s an example of the most egregious framing you’ve run across in your work?

bigbrother August 21st, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Low information listeners are a problem. They buy the BS.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to spocko @ 64

I used the positive examples to show how others have done it under MUCH more difficult circumstances than what we face. The journalists and activists in Burundi, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Taiwan, Mexico faced much harsher conditions than we face now. . . not to mention Tunisia and Egypt. so if they can do it, we can do it.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:50 pm

But what we want to avoid is what happened in Chile before the coup, which is that no one could talk w/each other anymore because reasonable people who had once really liked each other were so angry at “the other side” that there was no reasonable resolution. And chile was genteel culture, long-standing democracy. “it couldn’t happen there”.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I also think it’s important to note that so many of these situations were places where people really believed “it couldn’t happen.” I really think we have to find a way to counter the polarization here. Congress is now the most polarized congress in 150 years. How will we ever do the country’s business if we cannot talk w/each other & only seek to destroy each other politically?

BevW August 21st, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Maria, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the Media.

Spocko, Thank you very much for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Maria’s website/radio show and book

Spocko’s website

Next week’s salons
Ellis Cose / The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage

Terri Spahr Nelson / The Moment I Knew: Reflections from Women on Life’s Defining Moments

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Interestingly when I was working with the EFF there had some free speech lawyers who always put themselves in the shoes of defending the most horrific things that Savage, Beck or others said. I went to the FCC guidelines for speech on the air and found that there were very few cases where they would call out a radio host for inciting violence. It looked like the only way that the host could be called out for inciting violence was if they were personally at a rally and said, “Bob. go over there and kill that specific woman, the one in the red shirt.” And then the woman did it.

On the other hand the right wing is more than happy to use the law and their megaphone to shout about anything that hints of violence from the left. They also use the government and technology. See the recent shut down of Bart’s protest. I wonder if that had been a Tea Party Protest if they would have shut it down? The establishment still thinks that the left are the ones who will get violent. Yet the right has the guns and they have been behind the McVey bombing and numerous shootings.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 66

I found common elements in what we call the genocidal frame–Rwanda, Nazi Germany, Bosnia– blame, subhuman or evil depictions, a “grand cause,” “kill them before they kill us”, emotional appeals and selective use of history. Here in the US, we don’t have the genocidal frame used but we do have the blame elements and some of the subhuman or evil depictions. “Nazis” are a term that have been used across conflicts and on some of the shock jock programs even in the US. It has no value and shuts down all discussion. It is used to prevent reasonable debate about real policy.

shekissesfrogs August 21st, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I can’t help but believe that is what is driving this, our demagogues in congress. They jumped in the last few weeks though and it became obvious to a lot more Americans.

bigbrother August 21st, 2011 at 3:57 pm
In response to bigbrother @ 63

It was the opposite my bad sorry the Hutus did the killing.I just could not imagine such hatred.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 3:59 pm


One of the strategies that oppressive regimes and their media supporters used was the scapegoating of an individual act of violence and applied that act as if it had come from millions.

Here is my fear. Someone on the left will snap (instead of the usual right winger snapping weekly) the right will use that event as if it is happening from millions and that they need to suppress the left).

So if a non right wing non muslim attacks a wall street type that will became an excuse to shut down all sorts of protests and speech.

We saw something like this happen in Germany and in Rwanda, I fear it happening here and I know from the way the right pushed the “Black Panther a the voting booth” they are just looking for an event or opportunity

shekissesfrogs August 21st, 2011 at 4:04 pm
In response to spocko @ 72

Yet the right has the guns and they have been behind the McVey bombing and numerous shootings.

I don’t think that right or left is the proper way to look at this.
The way I understand it, the rightwing typically supports government power – think brownshirts or blackshirts, that is why they don’t do much about them.

Conservatives represent old money and power and the status quo or a return to their former glory at the top of the heap.

Timothy McVeigh was anti-government. True anarchists and libertarians are also anti-government, so he could also be referred to as existing on the left.

Liberals believe that government should solve problems and don’t mind if its big and powerful. These labels don’t really define us correctly.

spocko August 21st, 2011 at 4:09 pm
In response to shekissesfrogs @ 77

These labels don’t really define us correctly.

Yes. Of course when they don’t like the government that has the power–Obama. That is a problem for them. Hard to support a government where they hate the top guy.

One thing that interested me from the book was the level of infiltration that the military and government had in the media in various other countries.

I often wonder if Fox News and AM radio is plenty for the right.

Maria Armoudian August 21st, 2011 at 4:12 pm

A temporary sign off but I’ll be back to respond some more. . . thank you all so very much for your intelligence & thoughtfulness. Can’t wait to talk more.

maa8722 August 21st, 2011 at 6:10 pm
In response to shekissesfrogs @ 77

I’d agree that labels aren’t of much use.

For example a lot of overlap exists from left to right in libertarianism; however, it’s too often seen without asking the question, freedom to do what? That’s where the left/right differences would appear.

Also, what is it about the right wing supporting gov’t power? Usually not, I think. They often fear a strong central gov’t unless, per chance, it is on some specific errand they agree with (e.g., DOMA, creationism to be taught in school, perhaps military and conscription, etc.). In some exceptional cases the concept of a strong but toxic gov’t suddenly gets thrown out. It might be more useful to scrutinize the exceptions rather than the usual rule of paranoia in order to psych out these folks, no?

Old money and old power are ambidextrous, I think, and not just from the right as you suggest. There would be an element of moneyed opportunism trumping this or that political ideology, which itself becomes little more than a convenience or a vehicle. I have in mind Philadelphia and Boston, about as old as they get and with plenty of money. Two peas in a pod. There are others as well.

shekissesfrogs August 22nd, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to maa8722 @ 80

Old money and old power are ambidextrous, I think, and not just from the right as you suggest.

No, I said conservative.
I got this from Corey Robin:

[C]onservative ideas are born out of social cataclysms—the French Revolution, abolition, the Russian Revolution, the New Deal, the 1960s—in which people with power lose power. Real concrete power: over peasants, slaves, workers, blacks, wives. Conservatism, strange as it may sound, is the voice of the dispossessed: the aristocrats, masters, employers, whites, and husbands who’ve had their power taken away from them and want it back.

I’m just starting to read his book, “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin.”

Some of these people have no interest in limiting or controlling social values like religion, sexual behavior or birth control. That’s why they’ve come over to the Democratic Party in increasing numbers.

maa8722 August 22nd, 2011 at 5:00 pm
In response to shekissesfrogs @ 81

Oops! My bad!

I re-read your post. Sorry I had indicated you thought old money/power was just about the right. So I think we actually agree.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post