Its first editor was Herbert Croly, whose 1909 book “The Promise of American Life” — Theodore Roosevelt read it, rapturously, during his post-presidential travels — is progressivism’s primer: “The average American individual is morally and intellectually inadequate to a serious and consistent conception of his responsibilities as a democrat,” so national life should be a “school.” “The exigencies of such schooling frequently demand severe coercive measures, but what schooling does not?” And “a people are saved many costly perversions” if “the official schoolmasters are wise, and the pupils neither truant nor insubordinate.”
Tetsuo Arima Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University
Tetsuo Arima writes: In Washington D.C., the capital of the United States, there is an attraction called the “Duck Tour.” It takes tourists on an amphibious vehicle to tourist spots on both sides of the Potomac River. As the vehicle nears the State Department building, the tour guide gives tourists a quiz. “Over there is the Voice of America, a network which broadcasts around the world. What is the only country that is not covered by this network?” When I participated in this tour, I was the first to raise my hand and answer, “America.” The tour guide made a sour face.
The U.S. government does not engage in propaganda toward Americans. Since the people choose representatives to form a government by democratic elections, the government should not lead its people to make wrong decisions by spreading propaganda. This is a basic principle of democracy. Countries such as China and North Korea, which do not practice democracy, control their populations with propaganda.
However, the U.S., which is a democracy, does engage in propaganda toward other countries. Even its allies are no exception. America, with huge “soft” power, has great influence on other countries, mainly through movies, TV programs, music and fashion, and also utilizes propaganda to the maximum extent. The tour guide must have been displeased because he realized I knew that.
Propaganda in the Information Age
We live in a highly digitized world today. The amount of information is growing exponentially, and many people believe unconditionally that more information is better. This is true if such information is true, unbiased and helps its recipients make sound judgments. But as the amount of information grows, so does the amount that is biased and false. In particular, in the borderless world of the Internet, if one continues to pursue related information, one can easily stray into propaganda sites established by various countries without knowing it.
Readers believe that such information is interesting and useful, but its creators take the trouble to translate and present it in an effort to plant certain ideas and images in the reader’s mind. They expend great time and money to do so. Even smallish businesses spend huge amounts of money on public relations and commercials, so it is natural that major countries bring together elite propagandists, organize powerful state agencies, and give them enormous budgets in order to spread propaganda.
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 29, 2016
VOA, mentioned above, is one of those propaganda agencies. In fact, it is modeled after the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC has a strong image as a reputable public broadcaster, but it is also known to spread propaganda, especially during wartime. Nonetheless, it did not spread rumors, praise its country unreservedly, or slander enemy countries, unlike state-owned media in non-democratic countries. The BBC reported news strictly based on facts, but achieved enormous impact by broadcasting only the facts that were convenient to its country and inconvenient to hostile ones.
Responsibility of the mass media
In China, a non-democratic country which controls its people with propaganda, news presented by China Central Television (CCTV), a broadcaster run by the Communist Party, should be regarded as propaganda whether it targets domestic or foreign audiences. Of course CCTV also uses language which makes its content really sound like propaganda. The problem in Japan is that the mass media frequently repeat such propaganda as part of their news. Read the rest of this entry »
“I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.”
On this day in 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was shot while making a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Roosevelt, who served as President from 1901 to 1909 was attempting to run for a third term for his Bull Moose Party. He lost the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson. He was shot by John Schrank, a mentally disturbed saloon keeper, who claimed he was told to kill Roosevelt by the ghost of former President William McKinley. Read the rest of this entry »
Ken Burns and the Myth of Theodore Roosevelt
Michael Wolraich writes: The Roosevelts, a new PBS documentary by director Ken Burns, presents President Theodore Roosevelt as a political superhero. In photo after photo, Burns’s famous pan-and-zoom effect magnifies Roosevelt’s flashing teeth and upraised fist.
The reverential narrator hails his fighting spirit and credits him with transforming the role of American government through sheer willpower. “I attack,” an actor blusters, imitating Roosevelt’s patrician cadence, “I attack iniquities.”
“For the most part, Roosevelt pursued ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ with Morgan and other industrialists in order to avoid litigation. The rapport was so warm that many of them contributed to Roosevelt’s 1904 election campaign.”
Though exciting to watch, Burns’s cinematic homage muddles the history. Roosevelt was a great president and brilliant politician, but he was not the progressive visionary and fearless warrior that Burns lionizes.
“Burns’s narrator describes how he proudly defied J. Pierpont Morgan but neglected to mention that he sued far fewer trusts than his conservative successor, William Taft.”
He governed as a pragmatic centrist and a mediator who preferred backroom deal-making to open warfare. At the time, many of his progressive contemporaries criticized him for excessive caution. The “I attack” quote, for example, came from a 1915 interview in which Roosevelt defended himself from accusations that he had been too conciliatory.
[Check out Michael Wolraich’s book “Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics” at Amazon.com]
Two Republican titans dominated Congress during Roosevelt’s presidency: Senator Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island, a suave associate of J. Pierpont Morgan; and House Speaker “Uncle Joe” Cannon, an irascible reactionary from rural Illinois. Rather than challenge their authority, Roosevelt cooperated with them to accomplish what he could. “Nothing of value is to be expected from ceaseless agitation for radical and extreme legislation,” he reasoned.
This Day in History: Sept. 14, 1901: Theodore Roosevelt is Sworn in as President After William McKinley is AssassinatedPosted: September 14, 2014
On this day in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as President of the United States upon William McKinley’s assassination. Roosevelt was 42 at the time, making him the youngest President until John F. Kennedy.
McKinley, who had been extremely resistant to accepting security measures, was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz about a week earlier in Buffalo, New York. Afterwards, Congress assigned the Secret Service the duty of protecting the President.
[a preview video of McKinley’s assassination from Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts]
Photo: Assassination of President McKinley. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
EW.com reports: Oscar winner and comedian Robin Williams died this morning at 63. While his publicist wouldn’t confirm that his death was a suicide, a rep did issue this statement. “Robin Williams passed away this morning. He has been battling severe depression of late. This is a tragic and sudden loss. The family respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
“There really are no words to describe the loss of Robin Williams. He was immensely talented, a cherished member of our community, and part of the Fox family. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and fans. He will be deeply missed.”
He had recently signed on to reprise his beloved role as Mrs. Doubtfire in a sequel to be directed by Chris Columbus, and was last seen opposite Annette Bening in the indie film The Face of Love. His sitcom The Crazy Ones premiered on CBS last fall, but was not picked up for a second season. Read the rest of this entry »
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) turns 106 years old today. Before the FBI was established in 1908, investigations went through the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice lacked internal investigators for years, and any investigators needed were often hired detectives or Secret Services personnel.
Attorney General Charles Bonaparte wanted more control over investigations and disliked pulling personnel from other places that didn’t report to him. Bonaparte appointed special investigative agents within the Department of Justice in early 1908 to circumvent this issue. On July 26 of the same year he ordered agents to report to their chief examiner. This date marks the establishment of the bureau.
Then-president Theodore Roosevelt and Attorney General Bonaparte both suggested the FBI become a permanent bureau before their terms were over. The FBI has indeed followed countless investigations since its establishment. Although in its early years the FBI tackled mostly financial crimes, it has investigated gangsters, mobs and acts of terror and continues to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
Today the magazine, whose birth was partly financed by a progressive heiress, Dorothy Payne Whitney, is owned by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. Warren, a scourge of (other) economic royalists and especially of large financial institutions, is a William Jennings Bryan for our time: She has risen from among Harvard’s downtrodden to proclaim: “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of derivatives.”
Before she sank to a senator’s salary, she was among the 1 percenters, whose annual incomes now begin at $394,000. Hillary Clinton recently made more than that from two speeches, five days apart, for Goldman Sachs, a prowling Wall Street carnivore that Warren presumably wants to domesticate. Between Warren, hot in pursuit of malefactors of great wealth, and Clinton, hot in pursuit of great wealth, which candidate would be more fun for the kind of people who compose the Democrats’ nominating electorate?
The Navy says tests have demonstrated a drone’s ability to integrate with the environment of an aircraft carrier.
The X-47B unmanned combat air system demonstrator was tested Saturday and Sunday during flight operations aboard the U.S. Theodore Roosevelt.
Today, we treat politics as a sport, but it’s really a conflict of ideologies between federalists and technocrats…
Bruce S. Thornton writes: The media and pundits treat politics like a sport. The significance of the recent agreement to postpone the debt crisis until January, for instance, is really about which party won and which lost, which party’s tactics are liable to be more successful in the next election, and which politician is a winner and which a loser. But politics rightly understood is not about the contest of policies or politicians. It’s about the philosophical principles and ideas that create one policy rather than another—that’s what it should be about, at least.
From that point of view, the conflict between Democrats and Republicans concerns the size and role of the federal government, which is no surprise to anyone who even casually follows politics. But more important are the ideas that ground arguments for or against limited government. These ideas include our notions of human nature, and what motivates citizens when they make political decisions. Our political conflicts today reflect the two major ways Americans have answered these questions.
Paradox of the Book: The Chaos of the Internet Makes Reading Easier
Thomas L. Jeffers writes: Plato is smarter than you. That’s how an experienced teacher once began a series of lectures on the Greek philosopher. And a good beginning it was, for it put students on notice that, as they read, their first duty was to attend and learn. Plato didn’t have the final word—there would be Aristotle, Epicurus, and others—but no one could enter that ancient conversation without conning the books.
Same with us, only we have a problem: Compared even with people half-a-generation back, we lack the necessary time and patience. We read plenty, but it’s mostly skimming online news and compressed Twitter or Facebook messages. What’s needed, David Mikics argues, is a return to the close-reading practices inculcated by teachers whose influence might be said to have peaked in the 1950s and declined in the late ’60s, with the shift to a politicized pedagogy. That shift changed the game, and many English departments now prefer the label “cultural studies,” not least because it allows them to jettison traditional poems and stories for the sake of TV, hip-hop, fashion ads, graphic novels, and comic books—whatever facilitates (as in “makes facile”) sloganizing about gender, race, and class.