` Columbia Journal - Campbell Creates Propaganda Machine
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Campbell Creates Propaganda Machine

BY HUBERT BEYER - In 1921, the famous American journalist Walter Lippmann said that the art of democracy requires the "manufacture of consent."

The equally famous, albeit more controversial Noam Chomsky, champion of America's left, calls it propaganda.

"In totalitarian societies where there's a Ministry of Truth, propaganda doesn't really try to control your thoughts. It just gives you the party line. It says, 'Here's the official doctrine; don't disobey and you won't get in trouble. What you think is not of great importance to anyone. If you get out of line we'll do something to you because we have force.'" Chomsky says.

"Democratic societies can't work like that, because the state is much more limited in its capacity to control behaviour by force. Since the voice of the people is allowed to speak out, those in power better control what that voice says -- in other words, control what people think. One of the ways to do this is to create political debate that appears to embrace many opinions, but actually stays within very narrow margins. You have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions--and that those assumptions are the basis of the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, the debate is permissible."

Gordon Campbell, the Premier of all British Columbians, must have read Chomsky because he's hell bent for leather to implement a government communications apparatus that will do his bidding along the lines of the old lefty's warnings.

The premier is in the process of firing about 270 public servants working in what is loosely called government communications. The premier, it appears, is blaming them for getting out the wrong message about his New Era government.

In an interview with the Vancouver Sun's Craig McInnes, the premier said he wants to "stop" the campaigns of misinformation, although he later said he meant "counter" said campaigns.

By misinformation, the premier refers, for example, to the popular belief that his government is cutting funding in the areas of health and education. Wherever does the public come up with that idea.

Here is how the premier will stop or counter all that pesky misinformation: First he will get rid of the 270 or so public servants whose job is to covey information to the public. Next, he will hire information people not as public servants but via cabinet appointment.

Can you spell POLITICAL FLUNKIE? As public servants, information officers were responsible to us, the public. As political appointments, they answer to their masters, namely Campbell and his government.

I can't recall the number of times Campbell, while opposition leader, attacked the NDP government for having politicized the public service. While that claim was true, it must also be said that the politicization of the public service began a lot earlier.

No government before, however, placed responsibility for information entirely in the hands of political hacks. George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, isn't impressed with Campbell's idea of getting information to the public.

"The premier promised a non-partisan, non-political public service. Now he's telling the people of British Columbia that the information they are going to get about what government is doing is going to be filtered through Liberal hand-picked spin doctors that frankly should be paid for by the Liberal party, not the taxpayers of British Columbia," he said.

He's right. The premier did promise a non-political communication system. He even hired a person, Irene Chanin, to oversee that process, but according to the premier it didn't work. So Chanin was transferred to the B.C. Buildings Corporation, where she still receives her deputy minister's salary.

That leaves the premier free to create a propaganda machine entirely under his control, a politician's dream come true.

And he complains about the media sending the wrong message to the public.

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