Friday, February 20, 2009

Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land -- Part 2

New World Notes News
Volume 2, Number 8 -- February 24, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #53 -- February 24 & 27:

"The best, least biased presentation we have of all the
issues involved. A must-see documentary."

-- Chalmers Johnson

"Painstakingly stripping away the myths and inaccuracies
regularly passed off as truth by the U.S. media
, this
film not only reveals the motivations and methods of
those responsible for skewing the picture
, but also
manages to present the most concise and accurate account
of the history and implications of the Israeli/
Palestinian conflict
and the role that the U.S. has played
in the continuation of that conflict
that I have seen.

"This is a very important piece of work that challenges the
viewer to think twice before accepting a version of the
world that owes more to the special interests of a
powerful elite
than to any notion of freedom of the press."
-- Donna Baillie, filmmaker

New World Notes continues its radio adaptation of this fine documentary film. Although made in 2003, the film is--unfortunately--still timely and relevant 6 years later. (They missed the "Separation Wall"--of which more, below.)

If you missed Part 1 and wish to hear it now, you'll find a link at the top of this page. For a general introduction to the documentary, page back to the blog entry for Part 1.

Not auspicious: militant Zionist Rahm Emanuel--now White House Chief of Staff

Here's a handy outline of the whole shebang. (I was hoping that shebang was an Arabic word, but no such luck.) Original section titles are in boldface.

Part 1 (3 weeks ago):

1. Introduction to the Israel-Palestine conflict (since 1968)

2. American Media: Occupied Territory. The U.S. media's pro-militant-Zionist bias--it's not fair to the Israeli people to call it a pro-Israel bias--has several causes, including the economic interests of the U.S. media owners and the business elite they serve. Another cause is the very effective public-relations machine set up by the Israeli government in the 1980s.

3. P.R. Strategy #1: Hidden Occupation. U.S. news coverage routinely refuses to acknowledge that since 1968, Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank) has been under a harsh and illegal military occupation by Israel. Events in Palestine ought to be seen in that context.

Dalia says: "I drew my house, a tree, a Palestinian flag, Israelis, jeeps, two people,
a martyr and a sun." She wrote: "The sweetest flag is the Palestine flag, we hope
the situation is fixed soon, inshallah" (note by photographer Moomin13,; photo taken June 2006).

Part 2 (this week):

1. P.R. Strategy #2: Invisible Colonization. For decades, the government of Israrel has been illegally settling its own citizens in the Occupied Territories. The "settlements" it builds--modern suburban housing developments--claim an inordinate share of Palestine's scarce water and disrupt Palestinians' lives. A huge network of Jews-only roads, connecting the setttlements, destroys farmland, truncates property, and makes life even more difficult for Palestinians. All this is almost never reported in America.

CNN instructed its reporters to cease using the term "settlements" and to use the term "neighborhoods" instead (as in, “a neighborhood near Jerusalem”). When Secretary of State, Colin Powell instructed U.S. diplomats to say “Disputed Territories” instead of “Occupied Territories.” In the West Bank, the occupying authorities (with massive funding from your tax dollars) are imprisoning whole communities of Palestinians behind a huge Berlin-wall replica--later called a "security barrier" and now a "fence" (see photo, below).

2. P.R. Strategy #3: Violence In a Vacuum. A small percentage of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories see violence against Israelis as their only option in fighting oppression. While rightly condemning violent attacks against the innocent, the U.S. media never consider the causes of such behavior. So far as we're ever told, suicide-bombers (for instance) are motivated only by inexplicable neurotic hate laced with “anti-semitism.” (In quotes because Palestinians too are semites.)

Furthermore, the occupying military's frequent gratuitous violence against innocent Palestinians--for instance, killing people in urgent need of medical care by preventing ambulances from reaching hospitals--is never reported in U.S. mass-media. When an occupying soldier shoots--or calls in a rocket-attack upon--a citizen of the territory he is occupying, the event is commonly described as Israeli "self-defense" against Palestinian "aggression." (Noam Chomsky says, "Call it what you will, it's not 'self-defense.'")

Two views of Ramallah. Top: A woman protests. The building in the background
appears to be part of an Israeli settlement. Bottom: A Palestinian neighborhood,
January 2008 (photo by Moomin13). The North-Pole-y cap makes me wonder if
the snowman celebrates Christmas. Americans often express surprise when
informed that a sizable minority of Palestinians are Christians. I don't know where
the hell they imagine Bethlehem is located. Fifty miles east of Rome, maybe.
Maybe we should encourage TV news to report the religious preferences of
casualties. "Israeli warplanes attacked Palestinian targets, killing seven Moslems
and four Christians including a nun." Imagine! One hates to think that the average
U.S. TV viewer values Christian lives more than Muslim. One hates to think of
of things that are obviously true.

3. P.R. Strategy #4: Defining Who Is Newsworthy. When an Israeli occupying soldier is killed in Palestine, U.S. news often shows his picture; tells his name, age, and home town; shows his funeral; interviews his grieving family; etc. Nothing wrong with that, in itself. Meanwhile, "Israeli warplanes attacked Palestinian targets, killing 11 people" [real U.S. TV news report, from this week's installment]. The weather up next. . . .

At least they said 11 "people"! You gotta admire the astute word-choice, though. “Palestinian targets” sounds much more appropriate than “Palestinian homes, soccer fields, and houses of worship.” And “attacked”--perhaps conjuring images of the charge of the light brigade or of freedom-loving Yanks attacking the beaches of Normandy--sounds much more heroic than “dropped high-explosive bombs upon defenseless . . . ."

Note to “anti-semitism” hunters: The device on the dictionary’s cover represents the
national flag that represents the U.N. member-state of Israel. The balding figure
is a good likeness of that nation-state's former head of government, Prime
Minister Ehud Olmert (resigned September 2008). Next time I criticize Norway's
whaling policies, somebody remind me to patiently explain that--contrary to
appearances--I don't hate either Lutheran Christianity or the Nordic people!

Coming up in Part 3 (3 weeks from now):
1. P.R. Strategy #5: Myth of U.S. Neutrality
2. P.R. Strategy #6: Myth of the Generous Offer
3. P.R. Strategy #7: Marginalized Voices
4. Is Peace Possible?

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Up in the sky! It’s a wall! . . . It’s a separation barrier! . . .
No! . . . it's . . . Superfence! (Poster by Eric Drooker)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Radio-Great Revived: Mr. Jean Shepherd

In this week's installment, Shepherd talks a lot about Covington, Kentucky. Here it
is (foreground)--looking northwards toward the Ohio River and Cincinnati, Ohio.
(Click photo for larger image.)
Madison Avenue, where Shepherd lived,
runs from the lower-right corner to the river. Shep says he lived two blocks from
the river. Alas, the Wheel Inn diner appears long-gone. The round and surprisingly
gray twin towers of Procter & Gamble's world headquarters can be seen beyond
Cincinnati's red-and-white baseball stadium. Covington is a city of bricks--as are
its fellow river-towns Pittsburgh (upstream) and St. Louis (downstream).

New World Notes News

Volume 2, Number 7 -- February 17, 2009

This week in New World Notes, #52 -- February 17 & 20:

In contrast with George Carlin and Jello Biafra--both heard recently on this show--Jean Shepherd created humorous spoken-word-art that seemed almost devoid of political content. Theoretically, this isn't possible, but darned if I can figure out even what his political assumptions are.

He liked to show the foibles of Americans and of 20th-Century American culture. Did he want to change anything? I dunno. Did Picasso?

Said to be a good book on the subject.

For 21 years, late at night, he'd lean into a microphone at WOR radio in New York and deliver a loosely-structured 45-minute narrative. It sounded like a shaggy-dog story. Later you'd begin to see how every element of the story was beautifully connected. Well, lotsa elements were, anyway . . . including scripts for commercials that he was supposed to read verbatim but never did. I'll always remember a commercial he delivered for the French automobile brand Peugeot. It ended (approximately), "Don't even think of buying a car until you've had a chance to test-drive the new Peugeot. That's spelled P-O-O-J-O-E. Peugeot."

Covington at night. What could be more American than that sign?
Why is education good? Because it gets you money!

Covington night-life: admiring "mullets" at the Blue Moon Cafe.
See for more creative hair-styling ideas.

This week, NWN will play a substantial portion of Shepherd's broadcast of October 28, 1965. I don't want to spoil the story for you, so I'll give only some general listening advice. Two themes are important. The first is ordnance (e.g., hand grenades, guns, and whatnot). The second is that an event as you experience it seldom resembles the same event as the media depict it.

For me, the highlight is Shep's recreation of Covington, Kentucky, in the 1950s. Covington is a poorer, louder, and wilder version of genteel Cincinnati, Ohio--which lies just across the Ohio River. If you understand Covington, you understand America.

What sort of "roscoe" did Claire employ? In the 1950s, revolvers were much
more commonly used than semiautomatics, outside the military. I'm betting on this
period (1953) Smith & Wesson "Military & Police" model chambered in .38 Special.
Full-sized, yet compact enough to fit into a ladies' handbag.

Note: I had to discard about half of Shepherd's monologue. What remains amounts to a good introduction to Jean Shepherd's art; and Shepherd's show works well, as condensed. If you like it, why not try some in their original form? Radio Veronica (U.S.) has restored, and made available for free download, fourteen 45-minute episodes, here: NWN #52 is taken from Program #2 in this series.

Shepherd (left) visiting the studios of WITR, at the Rochester Institute of
Technology, fall 1968. An interview may be in progress.

A better essay than this one:

Musician Donald Fagen (left: click to enlarge), co-founder of Steely Dan, has written a subtle, complex, and very personal appreciation of Shepherd--who had played as large a role in Fagen's early adolescence as Mad magazine played in mine. It was the same role, too, and with the same qualities: sanity-preserving, reassuring, necessary, and ultimately flawed and inadequate. (Sounds a little similar to New World Notes, no?)

Fagen's writing abilities are on a par with his musical abilities. This fine essay should interest anyone who was a bright and alienated suburban kid or who is interested in Jean Shepherd's "word jazz"--as Fagen aptly names it (pace Ken Nordine). The essay is here:

This week's music:

  • Intro: Fiedler, Boston Pops, Bahn Frei Polka by Eduard Strauss
  • California Ramblers (?) with Jean Shepherd (vocals and kazoo), Sheik of Araby
  • Outro: Warren Zevon with Something Happens, Werewolves of London

Catch New World Notes (all times Eastern) . . .

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Valentine's Day Special / Marketing Diamonds

New World Notes News

Volume 2, Number 6 -- February 10, 2009

Radio note: As New World Notes approaches its first anniversary (February 12), it has been picked up by a third station: KRFP-FM 92.5 / Radio Free Moscow [Idaho] ( Radio Free Moscow is much like the two Connecticut stations that broadcast the show: WWUH-FM (West Hartford) and WHUS-FM (Storrs). It's 24/7, nonprofit, and dedicated to providing the community with "alternative" music and commentary.

I'm flattered and honored. And I'm having great fun telling everyone that the show is now nationally syndicated.

This week in New World Notes, #51 -- February 10 & 13:

Most of the Progressive, "alternative news and views" radio series are probably doing Valentine's Day (VD) shows this week. Probably half of them are focusing on the misery, exploitation, and pollution involved in manufacturing the chocolate in that Whitman's Sampler VD present.

Not us. We think VD should be a friendly, happy day. Instead of condemning Big Chocolate, we'll be celebrating those wonderful folks who run the world's most successful illegal monopoly, the Diamond Cartel--a.k.a. DeBeers.

"Men grow cold as girls grow old, / And we all lose our charms in the end.
But square-cut or pear-shape, these rocks won't lose
their shape:
Product-placement 'way back then!"

In fact, this program does not get into the misery, pain, war, and death created by the process of getting the diamonds from Africa's earth to the expensive VD present in your sweetie's ear lobes. (We should get to that sometime.)

Instead, we'll focus on what Edward Jay Epstein calls "the diamond invention"--and on the brilliant promotional scheme by which (beginning 1938) American ad agency N.W. Ayres made Americans associate a nigh-useless and far-from-rare mineral with enduring love, commitment, romance, and marriage. And persuaded Americans that this association was a venerable cultural tradition, not just a new marketing ploy.

Early 1950s?

N.W. Ayres and DeBeers also practically invented the cash cow of the diamond biz: the Diamond Engagement Ring (DER). And persuaded millions of Americans that a man who failed to purchase one for his fiancee wasn't worth marrying in the first place. (Europeans got on the DER bandwagon later and in smaller numbers.) How much should a man spend on that all-important ring? "Two months' salary" seemed about right to the agency and the Cartel.

"A diamond is forever."
Yep, N.W. Ayres invented that tagline too.

From DeBeers' recent "Seize the Day" ad campaign:
real (top) and parody (bottom) magazine ads.

At the same time we tell the story of DeBeers' never-ending battles to restrict the supply of gem diamonds and to keep prices high--come hell, high water, or (worse) a flood of new diamonds from the USSR.

Epstein wrote a book on the diamond business, The Diamond Invention. He distilled a good deal of the book into an article published in the Atlantic Monthly in February 1982. Lyn Gerry, producer and host of the Unwelcome Guests radio program, reads this very interesting and still-important article aloud (and much better than I could).

But what good would a VD show be without some romantic music?

Well, we'll find out. We will play more songs than usual, though. Two of them are Tom Lehrer parodies of romantic ballads; the third is--you should pardon the expression--a Kink-y love story. Not the cliche' boy-meets-girl plot-line. Rather, it's boy-meets- . . . er, . . . hmmmmmmm . . . . . . oh, what the hell!

Great tagline too: "It's Just a Rock." Like most parodies of DeBeers ads, this
one reveals the crassness underlying the poetic language of the original.

Links to online resources:

On the Web you'll find some classic "A Diamond Is Forever" magazine ads and a larger collection of parodies of various diamond ads. Most of the parodies are insightful, very funny, and too lewd to reproduce here! If you like that sort of thing, you could go to Google, select "Image" search, turn off the Safe Search anti-smut filter, and search for DeBeers diamond ad. I've reproduced in this blog entry a couple of rare and valuable clean parodies.

You'll also find Epstein's book, ( and Atlantic article (

This week's music:
  • Tom Lehrer, She's My Girl
  • Tom Lehrer, Wiener Schnitzel Waltz
  • Outro: The Kinks, Lola

Real jewelry ad from the Belgian couture house, Natan. Filled with self-referential
irony . . . both a parody of DeBeers ads and a distillation of the crude implicit
argument behind DeBeers' euphemistic prose . . . witty . . . sexy: Could this possibly
be more European? Don't even think of placing this ad in
The New Yorker!

Catch New World Notes . . .

East of the Rockies:
Tuesdays, Noon to 12:30 PM, WWUH-FM 91.3 (West Hartford) &
Fridays, 7:30 to 8:00 AM, WHUS-FM 91.7 (Storrs) &

West of the Rockies:
Saturdays, 4:00 to 4:30 PM, KRFP-FM 92.5 (Moscow, ID) &

Anywhere, Anytime:
Listen to or download any installment ... or subscribe to a podcast ... at A-Infos Radio Project:

More product placement. DeBeers even managed to place its product
upon the Royal Person of HM Queen Elizabeth II. Photo--from Epstein's
Diamond Invention--reveals Tarzan's impossibly bad taste in women.