Propaganda, Police and Public Perceptions

Like many people, I was shocked and horrified to see the Capitol overrun by terrorists on January 6th, and I am doing what I can to make sure that those who are responsible are held accountable; contacting congress and senators, urging that treason cannot be overlooked or excused. 

What drove that crowd to the capitol was tall stack of lies, disguised as information.  As the philosopher Voltaire noted, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”

The seeping propaganda campaign that was launched when President Reagan killed off the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 has now reached flood levels. Many of those people who attacked the Capitol Police and threatened to murder our elected officials were poisoned by propaganda, led to believe in conspiracy theories so loony they’d never make it as a John Waters screenplay.

Culver City has been under siege by a propaganda campaign for almost a year now, and what the end results of that will be we don’t yet know.

When I began covering local news, about a decade ago, there was no information available from the police department. Whatever the question, asking it was pointless, because there would be no answer. The official stance at the time seemed to be that we had no crime, ever, of any sort, and even inquiring about specifics that came from either the County Sheriff or the LAPD just got you more silence.

The surprising 180 degree change in policy seems coincidentally close to the national calls to shift police funding to other public safety resources. Suddenly, there were press releases going out almost daily about violent crimes being attended to by the CCPD.

While press releases of themselves do not constitute propaganda, there are two big clues here that point in that direction.

First, there are the headlines. I’ve seen at least a dozen headlines that used inaccurate language to ignite fear in the reader. Calling an auto theft a carjacking is just one example. Another recent presser from last week used the word ‘homicide’ in the title; if you read down several paragraphs, you were informed there was an investigation of that possibility. Another recent example – Armed Robbery turned out to be someone relieved of a jacket and a belt at gun point. Yes, that is technically an armed robbery. but it’s not what came to mind when you read those words. 

If you read the headline and it gives you one idea of what happened, and you read the press release and that gives you a different idea of what happened, that’s a propaganda technique.

Press releases, as is pro forma, offer a contact at the bottom. “If you have questions, please call this number”

Then, we are back to the previous policy of silence. Every time I have called the CCPD in the last six months to ask for more info in regard to a story, no one calls back. At this point in time, I have five unreturned calls in to Officer Marissa Yabko, and two unreturned calls from Officer Andrew Bellante. Leaving specific questions and multiple points of contact to reach me does not get me any information. At all. 

If I posted press releases for online rock concerts as often as the CCPD posts, you’d be left with the impression that Culver City was overtaking Nashville as Music City. 

The point of using propaganda to inspire fear is that it makes people easier to control. If the residents of Culver City – that is, residents who don’t have the audacity to ask questions about how the police operate and why – are being pelted with social media posts three or four times a week about handguns found at traffic stops, ‘home invasion’ robberies (there’s a finely crafted phrase; what happened to ‘illegal entry’?) or the like, it’s about creating fear. 

So, while there are at least two sides to every story, propaganda insists that there is only one. 

In addition to holding the insurrectionists at the Capitol accountable, we need to work to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine – the concept that if you call something news, it has to be based on verifiable facts. Anyone can put out post on social media. Not all of them should be believed. 

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang

1 Comment

  1. Hiya Jude.
    This is one of many reasons why we read your news site…anyone that can quote Voltaire, deserves attention.
    A courteous correction though…you wrote that Capitol police were attacked, when in fact they were obviously active participants (as documented on video, which we’ve all seen) to that alarming and deeply offensive, seditious insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Just look at the video…Capitol police actually stood aside and let those criminal knuckleheads inside so that a pack of know-nothing-idiots could demolish the place. That in itself is a Federal crime…but don’t hold your breath, it’s unlikely that anyone will be charged with sedition, let alone, as you’ve described it, treason. None dare call
    it treason, but you’re probably right, Trump and his less than intelligent ‘maga’ fan base are frequently treasonous and not infrequently, murderers (see: right-wing lunatics deliberately driving their cars into crowds of protesters…or has everyone forgotten that?) Also, I’d be wary of using the word ‘propaganda’ too many times in a single paragraph. Regardless of topic, it makes you look paranoid. If you’re upset by your local PD being uncooperative, and they won’t provide you with information, maybe it’s because they perceive you as a hostile/left wing figure, which with all due and sincere respect, isn’t a stretch. As I’ve written you, yes I have a very close friend in law enforcement but that doesn’t make me an apologist, I’m just attempting to be rational. As a bulwark against Trump and the brain-dead white supremacist imbeciles that support him, I’ve been watching Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” again, great fun! Will never forget seeing the film for the first time; when Mel in full Native American chief head dress started speaking Yiddish, mom’s explosive laughter lifted the roof off the cinema. She passed some years ago but wow, she knew how to laugh
    and laugh out loud. When she laughed at my jokes, that was an achievement, huge smiles.
    Keep rockin’ and writin’ Jude…There aren’t any news stands any longer, which in part
    explains why people are increasingly stupid, but that’s another subject entirely.
    Respectfully and best all round please, D.
    Cannot proofread this again.

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