Propaganda and Rush Limbaugh: Is the label the last word?

A content analysis measured the performance of much‐labeled talk show host Rush Limbaugh against traditional and modem standards of propaganda. A month of Limbaugh’s syndicated radio program was recorded off air. The tapes were randomly sampled for topic segments defined as the units of analysis. Trained coders working in pairs rated each sampled segment on 40 questions, grouped to test seven hypotheses about Rush Limbaugh’s performance, and t‐tests were used to test the variance of scores from the neutral median. Although Limbaugh was not found to use the majority of traditional and modem propaganda techniques or to conceal the source and purpose of the ideas he presented, he was found to have a political agenda, to espouse that agenda openly, and to employ a minority of propaganda techniques. The findings support the notion that analysis of the message source, individual techniques of presentation, and the totality of the message may be more important to effective understanding than the assigning of labels.

(William N. Swain, 2009)


Despite strong scientific consensus that global climate disruption is real and due in significant part to human activities, stories in the U.S. mass media often still present the opposite view, characterizing the issue as being “in dispute.” Even today, the U.S. media devote significant attention to small numbers of denialists, who claim that scientific consensus assessments, such as those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are “exaggerated” and “political.” Such claims, however, are testable hypotheses—and just the opposite expectation is hypothesized in the small but growing literature on Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods, or SCAMs. The work on SCAMs suggests that, rather than being a reflection of legitimate scientific disagreement, the intense criticisms of climate science may reflect a predictable pattern that grows out of “the politics of doubt”: If enough doubt can be raised about the relevant scientific findings, regulation can be avoided or delayed for years or even decades. Ironically, though, while such a pattern can lead to a bias in scientific work, the likely bias is expected to be just the opposite of the one usually feared. The underlying reason has to do with the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge, or ASC—so named because certain theories or findings, such as those indicating the significance of climate disruption, are subjected to systematically greater challenges than are those supporting opposing conclusions. As this article shows, available evidence provides significantly more support for SCAM and ASC perspectives than for the concerns that are commonly expressed in the U.S. mass media. These findings suggest that, if current scientific consensus is in error, it is likely because global climate disruption may be even worse than commonly expected to date.

William R. Freudenburg.

Why We Struggle

Umair Haque suggests why:

Struggle will turn you into you. The you that you were meant to be, at your truest, deepest, noblest. There are great arts in living; and there are small arts. The small arts are the ones we’re taught: time management, communication, discipline, and the like. But the great arts? The great arts are different—not just in impact, but in origin. Empathy, inspiration, courage, wisdom, compassion, honesty, resourcefulness, creativity. These are the things that separate a truly great life from a mediocre one. The paradox is this. The great arts cannot be taught—and yet they must be learned. So how do we master them? When we stand atop our mountains. It is struggle that teaches us how to be ourselves. For the truth is that only you, standing naked, as you truly are, can climb your mountain.

Excert from

Non-Letal Warfare

The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age. The 77th Brigade, to be based in Hermitage, near Newbury, in Berkshire, will be about 1,500-strong and formed of units drawn from across the army. It will formally come into being in April. The brigade will be responsible for what is described as non-lethal warfare. Both the Israeli and US army already engage heavily in psychological operations.Against a background of 24-hour news, smartphones and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, the force will attempt to control the narrative. The 77th will include regulars and reservists and recruitment will begin in the spring. Soldiers with journalism skills and familiarity with social media are among those being sought.An army spokesman said: “77th Brigade is being created to draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare. It recognises that the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be affected in ways that are not necessarily violent.”

Via The Guardian.

Emotion and Communication Patterns in a Highly Polarized Political Discussion Forum

The article presents analysis of a Polish Internet political discussion forum, characterized by significant polarization and high levels of emotion. The study compares samples of discussions gathered at three periods during a 2-year time, during which events occurred that significantly increased the already strong political division of Polish society (the sudden death of the President in a plane crash, snap elections, accusations of assassination and treason). Despite these circumstances, we observe a remarkable stability of individual political support. Extensive discussions among the forum users did not lead to changes in their political affiliations or specific opinions. In contrast, emotions expressed by the forum users, mainly negative, were found to vary from post to post and between the discussion threads. An automatic emotion recognition algorithm is presented, giving results closely corresponding to human evaluations. The authors also show that differences in a user interface between the two alternative forum webpages, especially effects of features promoting direct one-to-one communication, have significant impact on message content and decrease negative emotions. Implications of such changes on promoting communication across a political divide are discussed.