Friday, November 28, 2003

At least she's honest 

Some courses in universities are "stealth ideological propaganda": Most leftists accuse mainstream economists of being "apologists for capitalism" (indeed, our one "old" institutionalist* in the department had for many years a bumper sticker reading "Subvert the Dominant Paradigm", odd insofar as his views are the dominant paradigm at SCSU). Much of what gets taught in the humanities nowadays is little more than leftist pap to those observers on the right. But sometimes the stealthiness of the ideology just comes out plain. On a flyer found on my wing today:
Weapons of Mass Deception: Propaganda and the U.S. Media


Spring 2004 (other course info omitted by me)

Because the U.S. has a "free press" in that it is not government-owned, Americans are tempted to assume that they can rely on finding "all the news fit to print" from our mainstream media. Why is it, then, that our press is so poor at plaing the "watchdog" role that is needed to keep our system healthy? In what ways are journalists pressured to serve as "stenographers" who simply report what government officials say without investigating their claims?

In this course, you'll examine ways in which the Power Elite, the Oval Office, and the CIA manipulate the mainstream media, and will explore the vested interests which allow them to do so. You'll compare reports in "mainstream," "alternative" and international media, and learn how to interpret competing perspectives. We'll focus especially on the role of propaganda in times of war, including the 1991 Gulf War and the current conflict in Iraq.

Where to begin? This is a course taught in theSocial Science rubric. The catalog description of this course is:
+SSCI 204. Themes in the Social Sciences
Selected interdisciplinary social scientific tools will be applied to a special interest area such as death and dying, poverty, the scientific revolution, the new American Indian. May be repeated once, but general education credit may be received for only one theme. 3 Cr. F, S, SUM.
So I am not at all sure how this particular rendering of the course applies to that course, but the course description is loose enough that they probably will claim some relevance. That + in front of the course title indicates it is a course one can take for distribution credits in the general education program, so that one could take this in lieu of, say, an intro course in psychology or western civilization.

Another common trait: Note that there are six quotation pairs. "All the news fit to print" is appropriate, of course, as a quote of the flagstaff of the NY Times, but both the title and the quotes on "free press" indicate that the instructor has already assumed the outcome of his/her investigation of the press. They have been indicted, found guilty, and sentenced to a life of being referred to as "mainstream", with quotes to emphasize derogation.

The capitalization of Power Elite is interesting, as is the inclusion of the CIA as manipulators of the press. Leftist critics tend to treat the media, and in particular local TV media, with utter contempt, subject to easy manipulation. How is that to be proven? And how is it that we are taught "how to interpret competing perspectives"? Is disagreement with the instructor's preferred perspective, clear from this course description, going to be treated well in the classroom? Or will he be marked down for being manipulated by the Power Elite? ("Power Elite")

*note: There's a big distinction between old and new institutional economics.