Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Pollution and Propaganda

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Aug 27, 2007

Originally posted on Half an Hour, August 27, 2007.

Responding to Barbara Fister of ACRLog

I think it is unreasonable to vilify China for hiding environmental data when the American government is doing the same.

American government officials have engaged in a years-long campaign to deny global warming, a campaign that involved misleading and false research reports, funding for lobby groups posing as scientific agencies, and much more.

The United States has still not signed onto a global environmental treaty, preferring instead to preserve its polluting industries, the very ones it now criticizes China for running. Had the U.S. signed onto Kyoto, it might have had grounds to argue. However it did not, and in fact was its most vocal opponent.

The U.S. media has been engaged in a systematic campaign to discredit China for the last couple of years, and this article is another episode in this course of propaganda.

We've been subjected to a whole series of articles asserting that China has poison in its products and that Chinese exports are unsafe. Why now? Nothing in China has changed, and if anything its products are better than ever.

Although the New York Times apologized after the onset of the Iraq War for shamefully passing along government propaganda as news, it seems evident from articles such as this that nothing has changed.

As for the tradition of access to data and academic freedom in the United States, I would suggest that it's time for a good examination of what is actually happening.

To a large degree, academic output in the United States is driven by funding, and this funding frequently has an overt commercial agenda. There is no shortage of reports of research data being altered or suppressed in order to satisfy the demands of corporate sponsors.

There has also been a series of incidents where professors are harassed and even fired because of their political views. I read about the latest of these, the firing of Norman Finkelstein, just this morning.

In corporate offices and classrooms, access to a great deal of online content is blocked, only some of which is even arguably offensive. Criticism is stifled through the threat of lawsuits and copyright actions.

Access to the media in the United States is limited through an effective stranglehold over the industry by a small number of conglomerates. These agencies limit the perspectives offered and offer Americans a distorted view of the world. While corporate and political advertising is effectively unlimited, attempts by agencies such as Adbusters to buy commercial time have been blocked.

It is very evident from my perspective that Americans live in an environment where the news is tightly managed, where scientific data is manipulated, where academic freedom is abridged, and where an ongoing stream of propaganda manipulates the citizenry in a manufactured climate of fear.

Incredibly, Americans throughout all this continue to trumpet the virtues of their free press, and even more incredibly, their environmental record.

The world's major polluter always has ben, and continues to be, the United States. The statistics are available but you can be sure they are barely accessible to, much less known by, the average American.

Update: as of 12:00 this comment no longer appears on the ACRLog website. Presumably it has been deleted. Update Aug. 28 - barbara Fister comments (see below): "I checked with others at the blog - none of us saw your comment and we can't see any record of it. Please feel free to add your comment, since we welcome them." I submitted a second time; it does not appear on the site.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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