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Progaganda 101: Manufacturing and Misrepresenting Your Sources

May 31st, 2009 · No Comments ·

This week you can probably expect a big push in the media for the cynically misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (Card Check), which I’ve written on before. One element of that push which will be getting coverage is an article by Seth Michaels on the AFL-CIO Now blog which heralds the fact that:

“A coalition of major investors who oversee more than $750 billion in assets is joining the fight for workers’ freedom to form unions by asking major corporations what they’re doing to protect and enhance the ability of workers to form unions.”

Wow, that sounds pretty serious. That’s a lot of investment money. It must mean that stockholders and important players on Wall Street are really concerned about making sure that unions can bully workers into joining by taking away their right to a secret ballot.

In fact, stockholders and major investment groups have not actually taken leave of their senses and decided it would be great to further burden businesses with rapacious union interference in our current harsh economy. What you actually have here is a classic example of how propagandists can use legtimate seeming sources to support their positions and create the impression of a popular movement or widespread support where it does not actually exist.

In the article there is a link to a press release from Domini Social Investments which further heralds this letter which has been sent to various Fortune 100 companies in support of EFCA by a group of “major institutional investors” controlling $757 billion in assets.

The effort here is to create an impression of widespread support in the financial community for Card Check. The core deception in this propaganda effort is that the letter is actually signed by a very limited group dominated by investors controlled by or closely associated with the unions promoting the legislation. The major signers on the letter are actually mostly international union pension funds or organizations representing union pension fund managers. Also signing the letter are a variety of specialty investment groups which invest in “socially responsible” businesses (unionized businesses), but they control only a small fraction of that $757 billion in assets and they are on the list mainly as a smokescreen for the union-controlled investment groups who hold the vast majority of the assets referred to.

In fact, the top signer on the list and the one with the largest assets is the AFL-CIO Employees Staff Retirement Fund, so the AFL-CIO is using their blog to promote this letter from “a coalition of major investors” without bothering to point out that they themselves are the major investors in question. Everything in the article is true as written, but the appearance that the unions have found major allies in the investment community for Card Check is entirely deceptive. The progressive angels of Wall Street who have joined them in their fight turn out just to be the unions themselves in a not very clever disguise.

What’s more, the letter itself is hardly the clarion cry for EFCA which the AFL-CIO would have you believe. The letter actually makes an effort to look like it originates with the UNPRI a United Nations labor practices workgroup. The letter also does not actually endorse EFCA in any way as the AFL-CIO website suggests, but actually just solicits companies for their input on various labor issues. The letter says clearly:

“Please note that, although individual investors represented in this letter may have taken a view on the legislation, the group as a whole has itself not formulated an official position.”

In reality the UNPRI and perhaps even many of the signers on the letter don’t actually support Card Check at all. The letter also describes what policy towards unions and workers rights ought to be:

“The freedom to form or join a union of one’s choice or not, and to bargain collectively for the terms of one’s employment, are fundamental human rights that we as global investors recognize and respect.”

Who could disagree with that statement? It’s broad enough that almost anyone would sign off on it, and would apply to the position of those who oppose the EFCA as well as those who support it. In fact, the main argument against Card Check is that it limits worker freedom to join unions by taking away the secret ballot which protects their free choice. So it could very well be that many of the signatories oppose the EFCA and it’s certainly true that the group as a whole has not take a position on it and the letter is not an endorsement of it.

The letter actually seems to originate with a company called Boston Common Asset Management which like many of those signing the letter is a strange amalgem of investment firm and advocacy group. They’re a worker owned collective which manages “socially responsible” investments, but seems to devote more of their time to lobbying for and promoting various left-wing causes. This business model raises all sorts of questions, like where they get the money to fund their advocacy work and how much of their customer base and revenue comes from union sources. Adding to my suspicions is that what appears to be the draft version of a similar letter to selected congressmen clearly originated on the AFL-CIO site, suggesting that these letters are being written by the union and passed on to these other groups for publication. Further research may turn up more evidence, but looking at the websites of these “social investing” groups I find it hard to believe that they could attract a great deal of money from legitimate private investors. My suspicious nature makes me wonder whether any of the groups signing the letter represent anyone other than domestic and international union interests.

What this example shows us is that when you have enough money and resources you can effectively generate your own news. Your shills issue a letter, you then hail that letter in your own publicity as a newsworthy event, you misrepresent it to make it seem more significant than it is, and then with any luck the compliant media picks up on it. With the letter released on Thursday, we’ll see if that happens this coming week.

Meanwhile, in contrast with the score of shills advocating Card Check in this letter, 3100 businesses have sent their own letter to Congress opposing the passage of EFCA.

Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.

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