Viewer Report: Fox News as Falun Gong

3:27 a.m., Pacific Standard Time.

Author sits sorting Korean War documents in the full brunt of the Fox News broadcast glow: exposure is thus achieved to the tail end of Glenn Beck, most of O’Reilly.

No techno music or cello arpeggios to drown down the magnetism.

Beck pastiche: Patriotic men profess attachment to no political party, stirring the masses toward a Christian nation.  Texan preachers near cotton fields demand return to founding father’s principals.  Old men demand an end to the communistic thought of people in power.   A veteran in D.C. for a “tea party” bellows into a microphone that he fought for the freedom of the people in South Vietnam.  The young man with slightly gay spectacles and a microphone asks “Are you an angry mob?” before being tossed back to the studio.  Correspondents in the field speak openly of their rage.  No specific aspect of the legislation in Congress is discussed.  Beck urges peaceful change, laughs at the normalcy of protesters, then finally hates on misuse of the flag for political purposes.  The last moment actually endears.  He hates his own logo! Ah yes, change is on the way, via the cherubic apostle of Ephesians.

O’Reilly impressions: I realize that Obama is a poor advocate of his own plan when O’Reilly becomes the first voice to articulate the benefits of covering everyone (e.g., much less expenditure on expensive emergency care for the uninsured).  Maybe O’Reilly is really an independent as he professes? The non-partisan veneer quickly falls off like a mask of peace from MacArthur in a North Korean cartoon.

George Stephanopulous quickly gets manhandled and sandwiched, after which an angry author demands that we remember the horror and anger and leaping bodies of 9-11.  (Right, what a great idea — maybe a tatoo of people jumping out of a burning building in a city I love to my core would prove my Americanness?  Suddenly I am sympathetic to Japanese who want to forget the war.)  And that Obama’s surge in Afghanistan doesn’t impress him in the least.

O’Reilly reminds us that he will be paired with angry 9-11 book man in a special 9-11 twin-billing editorial in the New York Post.  (At the mention of this rag, I suddenly miss it, feeling the rattle and tug of the N train to Queens, smelling the black ink of the Post, and I long for a Dunkin’ Donuts crumbling down the chute amid the acrid mixture of all things New York.)

Then things get really interesting.  Up until now we have had points of view, but now the broadcast veers into propaganda.  O’Reilly cuts to video (having used as “outro tease” material three times now) of two Fox actors posing as a pimp and prostitute in an ACORN office in Baltimore.  Not suprisingly, their fake premise resulted in footage of a black woman talking about prostitution which ends up on Fox.  Since the actors were posing as sex workers looking to buy a house and evade taxes, it seems awfully strange to be accusing ACORN rather than FOX of impropriety, but then again the purpose was served.  The equation remains.  ACORN=scofflaw blacks; and someone on a subsequent Van Jones/William Ayers broadcast will close the loop on ACORN=Obama=Chicago corruption.

Fortunately Fox decides not examine what actually happens in BALTIMORE, which is, I am sad to say, basically a very deep shithole of a city with serious and systematic problems.  I was there as a shocked boy at age 12, shuttled between the vast and endless ghetto and Baltimore Symphony music director David Zinman’s mansion.  And then we sang Mahler’s 3 Symphony in Meyerhoff hall and regained our Viennese-style boyhood.

As for Fox and the ACORN story: at least O’Reilly and Obama are on the same page here, e.g., don’t talk about heroin, crack, or foreclosures in Baltimore.  That would be unpleasant.

Then platinum blond anchor/editorialist  Megan Kelly shows up to pump more life into the ACORN story, asking “Why wouldn’t every newscast in the country be showing this?”  Uh, because it’s two FOX news ACTORS posing as a pimp and a prostitute?  And we should be shocked and surprised when the ACORN worker tries her best to take them seriously IN BALTIMORE?  Completely absent from the story are basic things like, say, statistics about average income in black neighborhoods in Baltimore or prostitution (and its connection to income and/or drug addiction in that city).

Statistical breakdown of females on the broadcast: (4) blonde caucasian female commentators, each employed by FOX, indignant with militant patriotism and assumed to be credible; (1) black female, employed by ACORN and assumed to be in league with prostitutes, drug dealers, and the (communist) President of the United States.

Why does the FOX-ACORN propaganda war remind me so much of the CCP-FALUN GONG propaganda war? Because it does.

Although I start to have a droozy flashback to Bigger Thomas in Native Son (where we have real white bourgeois Marxists trying to help out a benighted black man in 1930s Chicago), FOX just keeps on rolling, preventing me from forming a complete thought.   The show after O’Reilly delves even deeper into the pimp/prostitute ACORN video from Baltimore!  Investigative non-reporting at its best.  Then the story becomes about ACORN’s accusations of “lies and distortions” coming from FOX.

My Falun Gong hypothesis holds.

Falun Gong adherent and Global Times faux-journalist Wang Wenyi accosts Hu Jintao in the White House Rose Garden, 2007

Falun Gong adherent and GlobalEpoch Times faux-journalist Wang Wenyi accosts Hu Jintao in the White House Rose Garden, 2007

Like Falun Gong, FOX News disciples are anti-communist -- Tea Party in Madison, Wisconsin, April 2009 (via Reform-Dem)

Like Falun Gong, FOX News disciples are anti-communist and hate authoritarianism -- Tea Party in Madison, Wisconsin, April 2009 (via Reform-Dem)

Nazi Propaganda and Fox News

In researching a previous post, I became curious about the following image used by Glenn Beck in his bizarre equation of President Obama’s health care legislation with Nazi eugenics policies:

Nazi Propaganda

Nazi Propaganda

To summarize: Beck fought back tears as he related how this specific image caused him a great deal of personal pain, on the grounds that the hand of the disabled man in the Nazi poster reminded him of his daughter’s own hand. (As Beck revealed in a spectacular play for sympathy, and as a means of establishing his emotional investment in the issue, his daughter suffers from cerebral palsy.)

Because I am a university professor who partially makes a living analyzing wartime propaganda, and because I am always looking for reasons to use German, I did some research about the image used by Beck.

I found that the Fox Network does not simply pull up Nazi propaganda from the past to impugn Obama, the network actively manipulates images to make them even more racist than even the Nazi propagandists intended.

The image in question was originally published in Germany in 1938 as an two-pronged advertisement. First, the image and text point out (and Glenn Beck is entirely correct in this particular characterization) that disabled citizens cost the tax-paying public money, and then questions the need for such expenditures. But the second message, in large type on the bottom half of the image, is in fact the main point: “Read ‘Neues Volk [New People]‘, the monthly publication of the Ministry for Racial Politics of the Nazi Party.”

A copy of the original image is held in the German Historical Museum in Berlin as part of an exhibit on euthanasia. Generally speaking, when we look at art or propaganda, we need to ask ourselves about the context in which it was viewed. Unfortunately it remains unclear to me if the advertisement was a stand-alone poster which an average German would see on the street in Berlin in 1938, or a one-page advertisement in Neues Volk or other Nazi periodicals. (The museum describes it as a “Werbplakat,” which can mean both “advertisement” or “poster.”)

But that is beyond Beck’s portfolio. He’s fine so far; he hasn’t gone over the line yet.

Here’s the problem:

Here is how the image looks on the German Historical Museum website and the associated, somewhat clearer image on Wikimedia Commons, which is almost certainly where Beck got it, unless he sent a staffer to Berlin to snap a photo:

EnthanasiePropaganda

Compare the above image, the original, with the one used by Fox News and Glenn Beck. On examination, it is obvious that the Fox News graphics staff decided to whiten the face of the disabled person in the poster and darken the face (though not the hands) of the nurse behind him.

Let’s put this in the context: The host of a nationally syndicated television show goes on the air, raises parallels between Obama’s health care proposals and Nazi euthansia, and does so with the accompaniment of a Nazi propaganda image. Not only does the host explain the meaning of the propaganda (and accurately so), he makes a deeply emotional appeal identifying himself and his family with the man pictured in the image, the man seated in front of a doctor/nurse figure who is, presumably, going to put the disabled man to death. The subtext here is that Obama, representing the state, is going to put “undesireables” to death if the new system is implemented. And what better way to drive this point home than to darken the face of the doctor/nurse/custodial figure in the Nazi propaganda, closing the circuit fully?

I’m stumped and dismayed by this and would like to hear some explanation from Fox News as to why this is encouraged or allowed. Obviously Glenn Beck is more intelligent than this, and some flimsy explanation will be made about the graphic, or I and others will be accused of stirring up racial paranoia. No. I simply saw a discrepancy in the images and, given the context, I think it speaks of one subtle piece of a much larger and broader effort by Fox News and others to heighten perceptions of Obama both as some kind of incipient dictator and as racially and nationally something “other.” And the facts bear this out.

This is no small feat. Someone who is able to heighten racism in Nazi propaganda has got to make a serious effort; like turning an amplifier from 10 to 11, there is usually no way to amplify Goebbels, but Fox has succeeded in this particular case.

Why do I think this is important? Today I write from Bismarck, North Dakota, the state where blazing through the night in my Hyundai west on I-94, I was regaled by conservative talk show host Cunningham who immodestly calls himself “A Great American” and who complains that any criticism of President Obama now risks being labeled as racist.

That’s fine, Mr. Cunningham, and other more intelligent conservative writers have made a similar point.

It’s just when people on your side start putting blackface on Nazi propaganda while talking about eugenics and Obama, it sort of wrecks the whole notion of neutrality and brings me down. Let’s have an honest, factual debate about health care, the wars, and everything else, but don’t resort to making Nazi propaganda even more racist than it actually was. That’s odious.

One final note on the image: Fox and Glenn Beck might have been alerted to the image from an editorial by conservative Pamela Hennessy, a Fox News guest who used an unedited version of the Nazi advertisment in a 2006 editorial about the Terry Schiavo case.

Nazi Propaganda, East Asian Dictators, and Glenn Beck

Today I spent some time leafing through a solemn black notebook filled with sketches made primarily in the stacks at the University of Washington Suzzalo Library, reminding myself that not all good research is immediately digitized.

Suzaalo Library, U. Washington, Seattle

Suzaalo Library, U. Washington, Seattle

Notes from a Jackson School lecture

Notes from a Jackson School lecture

Sometimes it takes a few months before a certain concept can swim down to the bottom of one’s consciousness and take root.After all, in the intervening time between the initial scribble and the considered return, new experiences are had which illuminate old notes freshly.

For instance: one casually turns on a cable-equipped television in the United States in August 2009, and is assailed by programming on a major network of what amounts to gross historical distortion, hate speech, incitation to violence, and the unrelenting equation of the country’s first African-American president with the genocidal German Chancellor Adolf Hitler.

(Having once thought this line of thought to be too obviously ridiculous or self-referential for anyone to take seriously, I found in a conversation with a fellow hard-working American in the Long Beach Airport bookstore that there are people out there who eager lap up the above line of reasoning. Moreover, these poor people will sloppily and readily interchange Adolf Hitler with his existential foe Franklin Delanoe Roosevelt in deciding upon historical parallels for our current president.)

It does seem awfully odd to be lectured by someone who speaks neither German nor holds a graduate degree about how the Obama years are simply a replay of the Weimar era in Germany. Wouldn’t that make G.W. Bush the Kaiser of a defeated state? In these weird historical comparisons, Bush is somehow absent: only Obama holds the match to the Reichstag when “the future crisis” occurs.

Incessantly arbitrary distortions of the past and marshalling of pure hatred for the head of state make Fox look worse than Xinhua. This is pure propaganda, reminiscent of an anti-Japanese paroxysm in North Korea or China (on guard against a fascist revival!), but directed within. Why is it necessary to torpedo any semblance of rational debate by implying that the President of the U.S., sworn to protect the country and uphold the constitution, is a foreign communist engaged in some sinister plot to revive the Holocaust? It’s just not funny anymore: We are losing face as a country because of jackasses like this.
In any case, Hitler was my the brain thanks to the propaganda trust at Fox, and my own foolish curiosity to see just what some Americans were watching as “news.” (Apparently meeting Fox news anchor E.D. Hill face-to-face in May 2007 at Hiram College, the same one who later analyzed Obama’s greeting of his lovely wife after his acceptance speech in St. Paul was “a terrorist fist jab,” and basically hearing her call for an invasion of Iran while Christianizing China wasn’t adequate for me.)

Hitler Reflects on East Asia

Last spring, in search of references to Japan in World War II, I spent a couple of hours taking notes during the reading of transcriptions of Hitler’s monologues at his headquarters [Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Fuhrerhauptquartier (Hamburg, 1980)].

Hitler recalls a moment in his adolescence when he first identified with Japan (watching Chechen children weep in his classroom with hatred for Russia, recalled in a conversation of 21 September 1941) and goes on to spell out a few clichéd ideas about Japan’s role in race war. He likens the Japanese to the Dutch as “a people of small capitalists” who therefore “do not wish for a National Socialist revolution” (conversation at Wolfsschanze, 31 December 1941).

“]Adolf Hitler visits an exhibition of Japanese art in Berlin, September 1939 [Source: Bundesarchiv, Berlin]

Adolf Hitler visits an exhibition of Japanese art in Berlin, September 1939 [Source: Bundesarchiv, Berlin

But perhaps most interesting in our current condition is Hitler’s expressed notion of states and charismatic leaders. At the end of a long rant on the night of January 3 which extended into the early hours of January 4, 1942, Hitler identified himself with the Japanese emperor. Noting that the state religion in Japan centered around the emperor, Hitler asserted that the state had to be personified by an individual: “Die Volksfuehrung under die Stadtsfuehrung muessen in einer Person indentifizierst sein!”

We see the same form of hero-worship running though German culture in the late 1930s; even enunciations of German praise for Chiang Kai-shek centered around this notion that an individual could incarnate the will of the nation. And Chiang ate it up, as we can see in his China’s Destiny.

And this notion of a state cult centered around an individual suddenly took on more clarity for me in the light of another essay I have been turning over recently, one by Brian Myers.

North Korean Dictatorship and the Shadows of Imperial Japan

In his recent work, Myers argues that likening the North Korean state system with its imperial Japanese predecessor yields an understanding greater than simple comparison to a Stalinist system or South Korean dictatorships. We really need not take juche seriously, he notes, because the North Koreans themselves do not really take it seriously. What we ought to pay heed to instead is the racial and racist aspects of North Korean nationalism, and these clearly are rooted in Japanese ideologies of the past rather than supposedly race-neutral Stalinism, for instance.

If the violent and paranoid wing of U.S. public opinion which is not wholly encompassed by the Republican Party is able to do so, they might take a closer look at North Korea through this prism. President Obama is a democrat with a small “d,” which is to say he is a consensus-builder, not some supreme dictator. To liken Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler or Kim Jong Il is to diminish the historical lessons of the Second World War and to grossly underestimate the sickness of totalitarianism which is afflicting the DPRK. Reinstating the old bracket of tax deductions for Americans making over $250,000 per year is not the equivalent of Mao’s killing 700,000 landlords, etc.

It is almost as if, lacking a monarch, the desire of some individuals to be controlled by some strong hand has been thrust upon Obama in the Jungian phenomenon of transference. And the desire to rail against state power, repressed during the war whoops and drowned out like speech while stealth bombers fly over the World Series of the Bush years, has somehow returned.

Citations:

Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Fuhrerhauptquartier (Hamburg, 1980).

Brian Myers, “Ideology as Smokescreen: North Korea’s Juche Thought,” Acta Koreana Vol. 11, No. 3 (December 2008): 161-182.

E.D. Hill, Commencement Address at Hiram College, Ohio, May 12, 2007.

Foreign Ministry [Auswaertiges Amt] Files, Inventar 64, German Bundesarchiv, Berlin.

Coda: Someone inculcated with propaganda might watch this clip and recall that (unlike Hitler) Kim Il Song was also great with kids. I would prefer to take it for what it is, a good conversation between two citizens of different ages about the state of education in the U.S.