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Propaganda 101: Manufacturing and Misrepresenting Sources

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This week you can probably expect a big push in the media for the cynically misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check), on which I've written before. One element of that push which will be getting coverage is an article by Seth Michaels on the AFL-CIO Now blog which heralds the fact that:

A coalition of major investors who oversee more than $750 billion in assets is joining the fight for workers’ freedom to form unions by asking major corporations what they’re doing to protect and enhance the ability of workers to form unions.

Wow, that sounds pretty serious. That's a lot of investment money. It must mean that stockholders and important players on Wall Street are really concerned about making sure that unions can bully workers into joining by taking away their right to a secret ballot.

In fact, stockholders and major investment groups have not actually taken leave of their senses and decided it would be great to further burden businesses with rapacious union interference in our current harsh economy. What you actually have here is a classic example of how propagandists can use seemingly legitimate sources to support their positions, creating the impression of a popular movement or widespread support where it does not actually exist.

In the article there is a link to a press release from Domini Social Investments which further heralds this letter which has been sent to various Fortune 100 companies in support of EFCA by a group of "major institutional investors" controlling $757 billion in assets.

The effort here is to create an impression of widespread support in the financial community for Card Check. The core deception in this propaganda effort is that the letter is actually signed by a very limited group dominated by investors controlled by or closely associated with the unions promoting the legislation. The major signers of the letter are actually mostly international union pension funds or organizations representing union pension fund managers. Also signing the letter are a variety of specialty investment groups which invest in "socially responsible" businesses (unionized businesses), but they control only a small fraction of that $757 billion in assets and they are on the list mainly as a smokescreen for the union-controlled investment groups who hold the vast majority of the assets referred to.

In fact, the top signer on the list and the one with the largest assets is the AFL-CIO Employees Staff Retirement Fund, so the AFL-CIO is using their blog to promote this letter from "a coalition of major investors" without bothering to point out that they themselves are the major investors in question. Everything in the article is true as written, but the appearance that the unions have found major allies in the investment community for Card Check is entirely deceptive. The progressive angels of Wall Street who have joined them in their fight turn out just to be the unions themselves in a not very clever disguise.

What's more, the letter itself is hardly the clarion cry for EFCA which the AFL-CIO would have you believe. The letter actually makes an effort to look like it originates with the UNPRI a United Nations labor practices workgroup. The letter also does not actually endorse EFCA in any way as the AFL-CIO website suggests, but actually just solicits companies for their input on various labor issues. The letter says clearly:

Please note that, although individual investors represented in this letter may have taken a view on the legislation, the group as a whole has itself not formulated an official position.

In reality the UNPRI and perhaps even many of the signers of the letter don't actually support Card Check at all. The letter also describes what policy towards unions and workers rights ought to be:

The freedom to form or join a union of one’s choice or not, and to bargain collectively for the terms of one’s employment, are fundamental human rights that we as global investors recognize and respect.

Who could disagree with that statement? It's broad enough that almost anyone would sign off on it, and would apply to the position of those who oppose the EFCA as well as those who support it. In fact, the main argument against Card Check is that it limits worker freedom to join unions by taking away the secret ballot which protects their free choice. So it could very well be that many of the signatories oppose the EFCA; it's certainly true that the group as a whole has not taken a position on it and the letter is not an endorsement of it.

The letter actually seems to originate with a company called Boston Common Asset Management which, like many of those signing the letter, is a strange amalgam of investment firm and advocacy group. They're a worker-owned collective which manages "socially responsible" investments, but which seems to devote more of its time to lobbying for and promoting various left-wing causes. This business model raises all sorts of questions, such as where they get the money to fund their advocacy work and how much of their customer base and revenue comes from union sources. Adding to my suspicions is that what appears to be the draft version of a similar letter to selected congressmen clearly originated on the AFL-CIO site, suggesting that these letters are being written by the union and passed on to these other groups for publication. Further research may turn up more evidence, but looking at the websites of these "social investing" groups I find it hard to believe that they could attract a great deal of money from legitimate private investors. My naturally suspicious nature makes me wonder whether any of the groups signing the letter represent anyone other than domestic and international union interests.

What this example shows us is that when you have enough money and resources you can effectively generate your own news. Your shills issue a letter, you then hail that letter in your own publicity as a newsworthy event, you misrepresent it to make it seem more significant than it is, and then with any luck, the compliant media picks up on it. With the letter released on Thursday, we'll see if that happens this coming week.

Meanwhile, in contrast with the score of shills advocating Card Check in this letter, 3100 businesses have sent their own letter to Congress opposing the passage of EFCA.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    The American Medical Association and The American Bar Association are both very powerful unions. Does this story affect them? Oh, I hope not being that they are interfering with our already hurting economy by blocking lower fees being charged by all their members. Oh that’s right silly me, the important “players” on Wall street have all the money they need to pay their personal health and legal bills in this failing economy; they have ours!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Except, Jeannie, it’s not politically correct to call them unions because they’re professionals. “Union” is a dirty word, remember, and these illustrious organizations are squeaky clean.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Humor this early? Roger look at the culture section, is there a problem today? I am trying to find someone in editing to e-mail me about my pending article

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You might have to wait. I just responded to yours.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I’ll check your article out Jeannie. Remember, editors need to sleep and work too.

    As for lawers and doctors organizations, they commit plenty of abuses of their own kind and ought to be appropriately regulated, but they are not unions in the normal sense, since most of their members are not what we would consider “labor” but in many cases business owners. If they functioned more to protect the interests of residents and interns and legal clerks and junior associates rather than established professionals then they would be more like unions.

    Dave

  • Cannonshop

    #1 Except, you know, unlike Union Carpenters or Unionized Engineers, you can be arrested for practicing medicine without the AMA’s approval, and the same for practicing law without the ABA’s approval.

    The word you’re mistaking for “union” is “Guild”.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Guild or Union if it wasn’t for the American labor movement you wouldn’t be business owners you would be servants, most of you anyway. The way I look at it Rush wouldn’t have a mic in front of him he’d have a serving tray…

  • jamminsue

    Jeannie, it actually started long before there was an America. The Guilds started in the time of early Christianity. (http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/richardson.guilds. You are very right, they are the basis of freedmen. And, yes, the Bar Association, the AMA are powerful organizations based on the Guild idea. Like everything else, “absolute power corrupts absolutely”

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Thank you

    look what jamminsue found :)

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    #9 look under encyclopedia medieval Guilds
    see

  • Baronius

    Jeannie, what does the history of guilds have to do with the current legislation?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    You know what? Those guilds members were a greedy lot. Not like unions at all. They did have one thing in common though, they looked out for each other…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Well maybe if we had a history lesson we would all be able to understand each other. It all boils down to money in this country and it amazes me how little every one bitches about how much is being spent on war, but the thought that American workers could form unions without having to hide from corporate paid union-busters and signing secret ballots, oh that would cost America too much money. ” a really long sentence! “

  • Baronius

    You object to secret ballots?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Yes! you should be able to organize without fear of losing your jobs.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    1. Strengthening penalties for companies that coerce or intimidate employees trying to form unions and bargain.
    2. establishing mediation and binding arbitration when the employer and workers cannot agree on a first contract
    3. Enabling employees to form unions when a majority signs authorization cards
    These are three very good reasons to pass the act through the House.
    union- busting is a huge shadow industry today and they work virtually unregulated. They are in a sense “thugs.”

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    In my area of the country we have manufacturing companies churning out product in buildings built at the turn of the century with deplorable environments for the workers health and barley paying a living wage. Where is OSHA you might say? well, that’s what we all say.

  • Clavos

    You know what? Those guilds members were a greedy lot. Not like unions at all.

    Now, THAT is FUNNY!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jeannie,

    You’re outnumbered four to one. Save your strength.

  • Baronius

    Jeannie, your first two points seem reasonable. That third one will increase intimidation from unions, not decrease intimidation from management.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    “In fact, the main argument against Card Check is that it limits worker freedom to join unions by taking away the secret ballot which protects their free choice.” (page 2)

    Clarify. Whose argument? That whole paragraph is muddled.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    #26 What’s in this argument for you? Do you own a company? and Where do you live?
    what’s with this?
    {With all the thuggery going on in unions}

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Sorry, but I have to go watch ED right now he’s pro-union!

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna
  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Jeannie,

    With all respect to Dave’s editorial integrity and writing ability, this is not Dave’s best effort, which is why perhaps it encouraged muddled thinking.

    Dave, I think you would do us all a far greater service to enlarge on your original article, again explaining pros and cons, rather than doing another propaganda piece. It really is difficult to tell who the good guys are and who are the bad guys – not by virtue of what you’re telling us who’s who – but the convoluted plot. And the only reason I’m even commenting here is only to help Jeannie out of the muddled waters. Otherwise, I’d run away from this thread like a devil from holy water.

    I’m out, Jeannie, lest I become excommunicated.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    See the faces of Americas workers!#32

    We are not asking for corporate welfare! we are asking for work…with respect and a contract…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    now I want to go finish watching ED!

  • Clavos

    The completely misnamed Employee Free Choice Act, which will allow unions to bully dissenters into voting for union representation against their wishes, is the subject of raging discussion on the day the Administration ensures the layoffs of 20,000 more union employees by forcing Government Motors (a subsidiary of the Obama Motor Car Company) into bankruptcy.

    The irony is boundless.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Come on, Clavos. The bankruptcy was imminent. GM couldn’t be saved.

  • Clavos

    And?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    So it wasn’t the government that brought it about. In fact, they should have stayed out of it. But you’re suggesting the Feds are responsible for job loses.

  • Clavos

    Didn’t say it was, did I? The administration did implement it.

    But, that wasn’t even my point.

  • Clavos

    And they ARE responsible for the job losses brought on by the bankruptcy; they took on that responsibility when they forced their way into control of the company.

    It’s their watch now.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’ve got your point, I think. The timing. And yes, it’s a helluva time to be pressing with this legislation when companies struggle to stay alive. I could respond to that.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    #40

    Right, too. Except I couldn’t care less about those fat cats. The UAW was anathema. Gave all unions a bad name.

  • Baronius

    Jeannie, this is pretty straightforward. Anti-union voter intimidation can only work in the lead-up to a secret ballot. When the worker actually votes, it’s private. There is no privacy in the card check system, so unionizers can apply pressure. What you’re saying may or may not be propaganda, but it’s no better than sloganeering.

  • Bliffle

    Fernando asks:

    “Why do american laws not provide protection for business owners and investors to hire and fire who they want when they want?”

    Well, actually, they do!

    How does it work? Let me give you two examples:

    1-For example, if you are, say, an engineer working for a company, perhaps a startup, and you have a five year vesting plan for your 500,000 share stock option (100,000 per year), and suppose that the company booms after 2 years (largely due to your efforts) and then they fire you!

    What happened? Well, the boss made a canny analysis that you have vested 200k shares with the stock now at $50/share that you have made $10million on your vesting plan and that you stand to make another $15million (at least) on the remaining 300k shares over the next 3 years. That means that you are earning (in addition to your puny salary) $5million per year!

    “Wait a minute”, the boss says. “I can hire all kinds of engineers for $100k/year salary, and I can even offer them options vesting plans at 5k shares per year, thus reducing my outflow of capital from $5million/year to $250k, at NO COST.

    Therefore, the logic dictates that the boss fires you.

    You go to a lawyer and protest. You claim that the value you built into the product should A) insure your future employment so you can finish your vesting plan, and B) increase the stock value to $200/share over the next 3 years, so that you are getting screwed out of not just $15million but $60million!

    Then the lawyer (your lawyer) tells you the sad news: “Employment is an ‘at will’ agreement between employee and employer and may be terminated at any time by either party, without notice or severance”.

    You’ve been well and truly farked. (And now you know why ball players demand “no cut” contracts).

    But you are persistent. You sue. And after 2 years of hard work gathering depositions and perfecting your case you finally get into court, whereupon the judge declares: “The court is reluctant to interfere in the rights of employers: case dismissed”.

    Farked again.

    Now, you may ask: “where in the Constitution does it declare that judges be reluctant to interfere in the rights of employers?” Nowhere.

    “Where did the US congress pass a law saying ‘don’t interfere in the rights of employers’?” Nowhere.

    You figure it out.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Jeannie are you in here?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    She was a while back.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    ty Roger. Ships in the night.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Very good and detailed analysis, Bliffle. I wonder what Dan Miller might say.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    CLAVOS #35 #40 and any other bull you guys can come up with tonight is not going to work. Now I couldn’t get here fast enough to fight you on this!
    GM was TOP HEAVY and they should have brought the EV1 to the market place We would be on top now! and they wouldn’t be in BANKRUPTCY! I’ll be right back with more!
    I hope

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

         The one thing I keep hearing over and over about GM’s trouble is “legacy costs.”  Those American union workers gave the best part of their lives to that company and now that they are “bones” and enjoying a far from “golden” retirement the company wants concessions from the union to reduce their health care and pensions. How about this scenario instead.
         The front office stops spending money on say lobbying, huge bonuses and a myriad of company functions such as trips to expensive resorts, catered lunches, dinners and other perks only afforded the cream of the organization.  This only seems fair when so many are laid off and out of work with no hope of returning in this economy; and where is the electric car?
         GM and all the American car companies have really missed the mark on this one.  Now that financial bankruptcy looms in the not so distant future GM needs to pull out all the stops on this one and offer America a viable electric vehicle so we can  finally wean ourselves off the tet of the big oil cash cow!      
        

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Cindy, What’s going on? Why did you ask me that?

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Jeannie,

    Hi. I wanted to answer your question. I don’t think you need to put an address anywhere to look at either of my blogs.

    I’m not sure which blog you meant and why it required an address.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Alright guys don’t get all upset over #51 :)

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Cindy, I don’t have a Twitter account anymore…I just got rid of it

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    Oh you where talking about twitter. I am not sure why they want your address.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    See you tomorrow, guys. Give them hell, Jeannie. I’ll still say that even the workers aren’t immune to greed. And when everyone thinks only of number one, there’s no longer any kind of solidarity. We are loosing a country, Jeannie. Just think about it a little.

    Good night to both of you.

  • Fernando Escobar

    Bliffle…you left a key fact in your argument…

    The employer spends hundres of thousand of dollars defending his right to hire and fire who and when they want to!

    Plus your story is bogus…look at Cicso, Microsoft etc…..people who make money for a company are more times that not rewarded…

  • Fernando Escobar

    Bliffle…you left OUT a key fact in your argument…

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ Jeannie Danna

    Good night :)

  • Baronius

    Jeannie, you say that you keep hearing about legacy costs. Well, not on this thread. Here, we keep talking about card check, and no one’s talking about legacy costs. If you want to “fight us on this”, please fight us ON THIS and don’t change the subject.

  • http://twitter.com/tolstoyscat Cindy

    …people who make money for a company are more times that not rewarded…

    Almost everyone that makes money for a company is outright robbed. A small group of privileged workers are like the ‘house negros’ who keep the ‘field negros’ in check.

    You can find the people who make the money for the company on the production lines.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    What you all seem to be missing here is that this is NOT an article about Card Check, and for what it actually is, it’s not “muddled” even if some of the readers can’t quite grasp what the article is about.

    This article is about propaganda and specifically about how a group which wants to promote an agenda can make it look like they have lots of support and are leading a movement by manufacturing the appearance of support by drawing primarily on their own resources.

    I already wrote at length about the problems with Card Check, and those problems remain true. But I think it’s also important to take note of the underhanded tactics which the unions are using in their efforts to promote a program which a recent poll shows is opposed by 74% of voters and even a majority of union voters.

    Unions are losing this fight because people can see that card check is fundamentally unfair and they are getting desperate. This propaganda effort is a sign of that desperation.

    Dave

  • Fernando Escobar

    Dave,

    It seems that the propaganda is also being supported by the prounion anti capitalist administration in the whitehouse. Obama has promised the unions that he will have this bill passed this year.

    So now that our education, financial and manufacturing system have been taken over by the government whats next? Subway? McDonalds? the local farmers market?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “Unions are losing this fight because people can see that card check is fundamentally unfair and they are getting desperate. This propaganda effort is a sign of that desperation.”

    Which people, Dave? You haven’t made that clear at all. It’s nothing other than the usual struggle between conflicting interests – that of business, on the one hand, and the unions on the other. Nothing new, really. It’s been going on for years. And propaganda, you well should know, isn’t always a sign of desperation – just an ordinary tactic that both sides have been known to use to their own advantage. So you do seem to be projecting on that score at least.

    I stated earlier that were you to couch this debate in terms suggested by Clavos (see above) – in terms of the timing, that is, given that our future, both of business and the workers, is very far from certain – I would have been far more receptive to your argument. But you didn’t.

    Consequently, I have no choice but to consider the argument on its own terms – the rights of business vs. the rights of unions; and in that respect, the argument is less convincing. The National Labor Board (and I did have experience with it more than once) is but a mouthpiece, not a very effective way of settling disputes. But more to the point, as far as I can see, you’re far from having established that the Card Check legislation would be detrimental to the workers (as you claim); the intent is precisely the opposite.

  • Doug Hunter

    Unions are just another form of wealth redistribution, something democrats are huge fans of. In a competitive situation they simply destroy the industry they are in. In a noncompetitive environment they drive up the cost for everyone else. Everyone pays more taxes so that unionized and subsidized transportation operators can make $80K/year for a job plenty of people would do for $30-40K.

    The only logical outcomes for more unionization in the US is lower profit margins which equal less wealth in the country and wealth actually flowing out, decreased competitiveness in the few exports we have leading to even lower manufacturing base, increased cost inside the country (inflation), and decreased buying power for non union workers. The benefit is that a select few workers who haven’t managed to kill off their industry yet get overpaid.

  • Doug Hunter

    The same goes for CEO’s.

  • http://fraudwar.blogspot.com ed dickson

    Dave,

    Very interesting article and perspective. I’m afraid you are right, we have reached the age where news and political agendas are marketed like Pepsi and Coke were in the not too distant past.

    Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware).

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I’m all for rebuilding the economy, Doug (parts of your #63 and #64). My main objection to the legislation in progress is the timing.

  • Fernando Escobar

    I am confused…why do some in here want the government to regulate the income of private citizens?

    If I take my money and start a company and desire to pay the president or myself $1,000,000 a year and the receptionist $23,000 – there is nothing illegal or immoral. Where does the constitution give Washington or anyone else (unions, etc) the right to “get into” my business?

  • Doug Hunter

    Fernando, because without any rules a single or small group of entities will monopolize all wealth. Say there were no rules in regards to your imaginary business.

    What if Warren Buffet was the owner of the water or electrical utilities in your area and simply cut you off and forced you to sell to his conglomerate? What if he buried you in bogus lawsuits you had to pay tens or hundreds of thousands to defend against? What if he opened a business like yours and set his price at half the cost of production?

    You would either have to close your business or operate at a loss. Your millions would run out in a few months and you would be forced to sell while the loss would hardly put a dent in his billions. All he would have to do is put you into a lose-lose situation which there are many means of doing. Even if he lost ten times as much as you, you would run out of money first. Once you went bankrupt he could simply raise prices back to a profitable level. Are you for government regulating Warren Buffett’s ability to make a profit in the manner I described?

    The government has a necessary duty to establish some framework and legal playing field for businesses to work within. Union policy is a portion of that. There are plenty of reasons to oppose unions, but the idea that the government should not be regulating businesses and industry is crazy.

  • Fernando Escobar

    without any rules?

    Have you ever owned a business?
    Have you every hired an employee?
    Have you ever had to make the choice of either not paying your morgage and laying off a women your moms age?
    Have you ever been self employed trying to make a buck?

    Every morning I see our President…spending away my retirement, my sons education and retirement, spending millions on going to broadway shows and taking pleasure rides over lower manhattan…while bailing out unions and companies that deserve to be out of business!

  • Fernando Escobar

    GM Anoounces Buyout Packages

    GM is offering $20,000 cash and a $25,000 car voucher to production workers who decide to retire with their benefits.

    For skilled-trades workers, the cash portion of the retirement package is $45,000 with the same car voucher.

    For those not eligible to retire, GM also is offering more cash to walk away and sever all ties with the company, along with the $25,000 car voucher.

    Employees with less than 10 years could get $45,000. Those with at least 10 years but less than 20 are being offered $80,000. For those with 20 years or more, it’s $115,000.

    These buyouts are insane! No one not even doctors, lawyers or other highlt paid profession get 100k to walk away with 20 years PLUS a big pension and healthcare package!!!

  • Doug Hunter

    #69, Yes to all except the third question. The rest I have no disagreement with. I’m just explaining why it is necessary for government to have some say in business.

  • Fernando Escobar

    Thanks Doug…I guess there has to be some sort of balance. However we are in a very dark period in the history of capitalism.

    Eventual good trumps evil and the current administrations efforts will evetually be reversed. Even the most strident Obama supporters are having “What the F–K moments at least once a week.

    Back to Daves article…watching the news and reading the papers shows how the liberal media propaganda is at an all time high.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Labor and Management deadlock:

    Boston Globe. Case in point.