Historical Propaganda

I’ve been thinking about the post I wrote last night, having a day to mull it over led me to ponder historical propaganda. A bitter pill is much easier to swallow with a little sugar. Human nature predictably wants to be on the winning team, and feels much better believing action was justified. Gathering support for unpleasant responses, or defending distasteful action, becomes a lot easier when coated with the right amount of careful presentation. It doesn’t take a genius to understand which buttons to push when outrage, sympathy, or fear justifies the end result.

I was only three years old when the Cuban missile crisis took place, obviously I can’t write as to news reports during October of 1962. I can however remember learning about it in school; being certain that not once did I learn that America had missiles stationed in Turkey within striking distance of Moscow. I was taught the crisis was America’s response to the Soviet Union placing missiles in post revolution, socialist Cuba – practically in their back yard. The Soviet Union agreed to stand down when America agreed to remove their missiles from Turkey. Clearly a lot happened in between but my point is – U.S. missiles aimed at Moscow from bases in Turkey never made it to my history lessons.

Think back a few years to the Weapons of Mass Destruction fiasco giving the Bush administration public justification for the Iraq war. Poppycock swept under the bridge once images of American tanks rolling into Baghdad aired 24/7 on news networks and Saddam Hussein was extracted from his “spider hole”.

How about the great Mississippi flood in the 1920’s. African American share croppers forced at gunpoint into work camps along the levees. Held against their will, forced to fill sand bags in a futile attempt to stop the river, while white plantation owners were evacuated to safety. Edgar Hoover, appointed to investigate allegations of brutality made a back room deal with share-croppers – if they kept quiet, and voted for him in his upcoming bid to become president, he would give them land of their own. We all know that never happened.

Pulling a few examples off the top of my head wasn’t intended as anything other than a gentle reminder – human nature is what it is – far from rocket science, my ponder grows from the realization things have changed. Propaganda has become considerably more complicated; where once the church or government held tight to the reigns of opinion, media has entered the ring with a vengeance. Propaganda used to serve a purpose; it kept people blissfully unaware, while controlling and channelling reaction.  Now news and social media fan the flames; where once a singular propaganda served a nation, we now dial into the propaganda of choice.

The situation is far too confusing for a majority of people to handle. Sadly unable to make the distinction between “fact” and “opinion”, propaganda is out of control. Once upon a time it was simple; right or wrong we were served a single message for the good of us all. Irresponsible doesn’t begin to describe the “information” game we’re now playing.

Some Foxy News

I used to tune into Fox News every once and a while when I needed a laugh. As time passed it wasn’t funny any more. Somewhere around Hurricane Katrina I was able to snap out of it. Not certain whether Greta Van Susteren’s holier than thou attitude , Geraldo Rivera’s grandstanding, or Glenn Beck reporting that ” the only Katrina victims shown on television were the scumbags”, were responsible for my decision to never again stoop to that level. All I know is by the time officials remembered thousands of people stranded inside the convention centre – Fox News had made me so angry I wanted to scream.

It’s difficult to pin-point when news media took on an agenda. I come from an era when the six o’clock news covered stories of the day. Reporters investigated, researched, and sought the truth. I’m aware enough to realize it wasn’t all roses, yet  had considerable faith in words printed in the newspaper and reports on television. It would have been unthinkable to tune into a particular station based on political or religious beliefs. The news didn’t work that way – at least it never used to.

Today we listen to what we want to hear, and because it’s “news” take it as the truth. I’ve heard of CNN being referred to as  “communist news network”, and in the same breath a declaration that Obama is a Muslim. The Bill O’Reilly’s and Glenn Becks of this world become superstars – their editorial opinion taken as truth. Today’s news preaches to the choir; a captive audience feeding on the egos of puffed up front-men, all for the sake of the bottom line – advertising dollars.

News stations have become irresponsible, biased, and quite frankly – dangerous. Scratch the surface and find cartoon characters spewing nonsense – they know who’s listening, and what they want to hear. Ponder the realization that their words are taken as gospel. Fox News being the worst of the bunch, as this clip from the Daily Show aptly points out.

Might I suggest to anybody feeling the urge to repeat “news” taken from Fox….



My carefree little dance party took on a mind of its own when I started pondering Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot – a Canadian singer-songwriter successful in the 60’s and 70s for his folk rock ballads -If You Could Read My Mind, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and Sundown to name a few – became radio standards.

I’m not sure what triggered my nostalgia button, in truth I only began to appreciate him much later in my life; long after the glory years, AM radio hits, and wobbly albums turning on my parents hi-fi. Instrumental versions of his tunes played to elevators and shopping malls without the slightest twinge of “oh to be young again”. Without question I changed the radio station when If You Could Read My Mind assaulted me.

Without warning I stumbled upon a dub version of Sundown. I was smitten, as in holy crap, this is amazing. Research led me to a 2011 show by CBC television. How did I miss this! Cover Me Canada gave participants the choice of covering iconic Canadian songs. Black Velvet by Allannah Myles, Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane, Run to You by Brian Adams, and Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot. Audition tapes were submitted based on those four songs, ultimately 9 bands were chosen to compete in 9 episodes for the $100,000 grand prize.

It really doesn’t matter who won, the point is I discovered scores of audition tapes for the show. Band after high school band interpreting Sundown. I’m still smiling, a big Cheshire cat grin from ear to ear. Who knew Gordon Lightfoot kicked ass, and that everything old is new again. It’s times like these that make me proud to be Canadian.

Below is a link to one of my favourite auditions, followed by the link to “dub” Sundown that started this ponder in the first place,



What The Frack

Fracking is the name given to the process of fracturing underground shale to release natural gas. This is achieved by drilling wells and pumping them full of high pressure water and chemicals. Hundreds of nasty chemicals; methanol, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid to name a few go into the fracking liquid. In a year, the approximately 500,000 gas wells in America  require 72 trillion gallons of water, and 360 billion gallons of chemicals. Of this, only half is recovered – pumped or taken by tanker trucks to open pit pools, and left to evaporate. The concentrated sludge is then “disposed of” by burying it in the ground. Not biodegradable; groundwater is compromised every step of the way. Well water in close proximity to fracking operations have up to 20% higher concentrations of Methane. Hundreds upon hundreds of claims are on record; reporting increased sensory, respiratory, and neurological illnesses.

Regulations for fracking vary widely from state to state. Naturally more lenient in areas favourable to production of natural gas. New York state has 10 fracking bills on the go, as well as a moratorium on fracking until 2015 – Texas on the other hand, has half heartedly introduced a number of bills, but none have made it into law. The Obama administration introduced a proposal this May to look at drilling on public land as well as mandatory disclosure of chemicals used. Even if it became law it would only apply to federal land.

Aside from a scene in the first Ghostbusters movie when the character from the EPA shut down the containment unit, I hadn’t given the Environmental Protection Agency much thought. Feeling rather sheepish, it didn’t take more than 5 minutes of scratching the surface on fracking to shatter my naive perception that EPA walked the straight and narrow. The EPA has been taken to court numerous times by individuals as well as states. The state of California sued the EPA for failing to consider  or consult on the effect shale fracturing has on people and the environment before issuing fracking licences to gas companies. According to the author in the link below; the EPA has a policy of “sue and settle” – in effect agreeing in principal with allegations against current regulations or poor practices of gas companies. These “friendly” negotiations settle out of court – completely cutting out any input from residents, businesses, or landowners. Back room deals become law, then it’s business as usual.


Ponder the EPA not monitoring methane levels in groundwater or stepping in to force regulations regarding location of gas wells in relation to populated areas or sources of drinking water. Think about all that water being used to concoct a chemical soup while crops wither and families are forced to leave their homes because of poisoned wells. Consider “big oil” out of control, interested only in stock prices and their bottom line. What the frack!


Feeling Passive Aggresive

There are dozens of interesting topics rattling around my head, topics of interest without the slightest whiff of politics or religion. My practical side is screaming at an oblivious passive aggressive streak rearing it’s ugly head. Last night I received a comment on one of my posts; I’m not going to say which one, or name the author, but will quote an excerpt…

“Because Obama’s faith, or lack thereof, interferes with our lives. Initially he claimed to be Christian then he went to visit some foreign country and bowed deeply to the Prince who was Muslim. They hugged. If Obama was a ‘Christian’, he would not have bowed. His deep bow indicated submission and respect to that leader. In essence dragging out country with him. Muslims do not hug anyone but other Muslims.
Then Obama claims that he is Muslim. His accent is quite good when using their words, so it’s not something foreign to him. Yet this past Easter, while addressing his audience he says…”as we Christians”, including himself. Either the man can’t make up his mind what religion he is, or he thinks we are too stupid to know you cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim.
He has put Muslims in numerous aspects of the government, military and businesses. That way, when Obama is out of office, there will be other Muslims to take over.”

My apologies – I simply can’t help myself – I’m a nice person who should be sensible by letting it go. That said, who can blame me for a clip of George Bush holding hands and  kissing King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Cover Songs #2

The flip side to stumbling upon a great cover of a song you love is the amazing version of a lame, stinky song that made the bile rise into your mouth. John Travolta and Olivia Newton John singing You’re The One That I Want from Grease is enough to make me chuck. Angus and Julia Stone performing the same thing spreads a grin from ear to ear – go figure.

Pondering Cover Songs

Every once and a while I stumble upon a great cover of some song I love. “Covering” another artists music is tricky; especially if the song is well known, or the artist has a unique voice or style. Tribute bands can scrape together a living playing rock for booze fuelled patrons in bars across the country; most likely decent musicians, but lacking the creativity or inexplicable quality to set them apart.

Often the most appealing “covers” are those performed by an artist who simply plays “tribute” by singing something from their heart and soul. No pretention, no mimicking, no effort. It’s no secret Neil Young is one of my favourite artists, I would place him at the top of my list. This lovely cover of Old Man by Elen Wendt put a smile on my face.