Breaking Free of Corporate Progamming
Education for Democracy
Futures Education
From a Corporate World to a Democratic World

excerpted from the book

Myth America

Democracy vs. Capitalism

by William H. Boyer

Apex Press, 2003. paper


The influence of mass media and the curriculum of public and private schools combine to produce a population that is commonly ethnocentric and nationalistic. People are largely ignorant, for example, of the unethical history of the United States, such as the extermination of Indians, the theft of their land through broken treaties, and the domination of other nations through military power. The process of programming includes lies and distortions but mainly relies on selective omission, keeping away information that would dispel collective illusions from the public consciousness.

A teacher is often confronted by students who have tunnel vision-products of the narrow ideology and beliefs reinforced by the media, schools, families, and most civic organizations. Such students need help from a teacher to feel comfortable with unconventional frames of reference and new perspectives. Many feel threatened when they move from conventional indoctrination to education that involves critical analysis. A common initial response of students is to "shoot the messenger," which usually means to feel hostile toward the teacher.

The American propaganda system is not centrally programmed as it is in a totalitarian state. Instead it permeates the culture, the media, and the institutions. Individuals who point out unpleasant realities of current or past American behavior are often subjected to social pressures and treated as pariahs. They are disturbers of the dream.

Americans often wonder why the German people engaged so long in denial of their murderous role in World War II-particularly in regard to the Jews in the infamous death camps such as Auschwitz and Dachau. But the American response to Vietnam was not all that different. The public believed the lies told by the government. True stories must be taught. But this will not occur if Vietnam and the entire Southeast Asia war is treated merely as a "mistake," as Robert McNamara, Kennedy's chief advisor has termed it. Vietnam was no more a technical "mistake" than was Hitler's holocaust. Both involved murder and human behavior at the lowest and most barbaric level. Most soldiers on the ground were trapped in their own defensive survival an rarely had the least understanding of what the war was really about.

In their book Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial (1995) Robert Lifton and Greg Mitchell have shown how Americans have been in 50 years of denial about the bombing of Hiroshima. President Truman's lies, the government's extensive distortion of information, and the management of the news media have convinced most Americans that the atomic bombings were necessary to save American lives and end the war. Truman knew this was not true, for negotiations were well under way, leaving only the question of the retention of the Emperor. Then why were the bombs dropped? The bombs were dropped to demonstrate American power prior to Truman's negotiations with Stalin. The advice from the American military, such as Admiral Leahy, had been that "The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." Leahy added that "we adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages (Cousins 1987, 43)

Yet, to this day it is commonplace in media and in the public mind to treat the atomic bombing as if it had been necessary to save American lives by shortening the war and making an invasion of Japan unnecessary. In fact we kept the Emperor in power even after dropping the bombs and President Truman did not get the concessions from Stalin he desired as a result of demonstrating American nuclear power. Blind patriotism has been kept intact by rewriting history to provide people with moral consolation and a psychological basis for denial. (Alperovitz 1996).

Typical public school texts are almost invariably the result of informal censorship by the publisher who hopes not to offend the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legion, the churches, the two major political parties, and schools boards of big states such as California and Texas. As a result they are heavily watered down and non-controversial.

While America's students were given the impression that the United States invaded other countries as defenders of "freedom and democracy," the record, again as summarized by Zinn, is that the United States:

Instigated a war with Mexico and took half of that country. It had pretended to help Cuba win freedom from Spain, and then planted itself in Cuba with a military base, investments, and rights of intervention. It seized Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and fought a brutal war to subjugate the Filipinos. It "opened" Japan to its trade with gunboats and threats. It declared an "Open Door Policy" in China as a means of assuring that the United States would have opportunities equal to other imperial powers in exploiting China. It sent troops to Peking with other nations to assert Western supremacy in China, and kept them there for over thirty years (Zinn 1980, 399).

But since we had self-proclaimed rights to the western hemisphere, we instituted a closed door policy, engineering a revolution against Colombia and put Panama under our control to build the Canal. Then we sent 5,000 marines to Nicaragua in 1926 to stop a revolution and remained there for seven years. In 1916 we intervened in the Dominican Republic for the fourth time and stayed with troops for eight years, while troops were kept in Haiti in a 1915 invasion for 19 years. As Zinn again points out:

Between 1900 and 1933 the United States intervened in Cuba four times, in Nicaragua twice, and Panama six times, in Guatemala once, in Honduras seven times. By 1924 the finances of half of the twenty Latin American states were being directed to some extent by the United States. By 1935, over half of U.S. steel and cotton exports were being sold in Latin America (399).

[Noam] Chomsky comes on too strong for most Americans who are in the first phase of deprogramming, such as credulous Americans who have been brought up on Reader's Digest and Newsweek. But after Zinn, some readers could be exposed to Chomsky's brutally honest material. Here he summarizes it:

We overthrew Guatemala in 1954, and have maintained the rule of murderous gangsters ever since, ran by far the most extensive international terror operations in history against Cuba from the early 1960s and Nicaragua through the 1980s, sought to assassinate Lumumba and installed and maintained the brutal and corrupt Mobutu dictatorship, backed Trujillo, Somoza, Marcos, Duvalier, the generals of the southern cone, Suharto, the racist rulers of southern Africa, and a whole host of other major criminals (1992, 14).

The American press, operating in the name of "freedom" of the press under the First Amendment of the Constitution, is able to "educate" a public to have little or no idea of structural or systemic solutions for poverty or environmental degradation. With television and the press as the primary sources of information we can understand why people live in "windowless cocoons." Information comes through in disconnected, fragmented pieces, without helping the reader make connections. There is no connection of the "dots."

Newspaper reporters who are more liberal than its owners and editors may produce reports which reveal the structure of local politics and often find them to be edited or eliminated. The process is actually much like censorship in the state owned papers of dictatorial and communist countries. The power to include and exclude constitutes political power. Newspaper ownership is increasingly tied to a handful of national corporations that control papers throughout the country.

According to Michael Parenti the "free press" mainly serves: "to make the communication universe safe for corporate America, telling us what to think about the world before we have a chance to think about it ourselves. When we understand that news selectivity is likely to favor those who have power, position, and wealth, we may move from a liberal complaint about the press's sloppy performance to a radical analysis of how the media serve the ruling circles all too well with much skill and craft (1998, 157)."

The big leap in public consciousness comes when people see that they have been duped and put into an intellectual cage, a "windowless cocoon" that confines their thoughts and beliefs. People don't like to be duped and exploited-for self-respect is threatened when we are manipulated and not treated as a human being. Stage one in becoming politically literate democratic citizens is for people to be angry about how they have been duped.





How can we develop ethical behavior in people? Empathy is the key, but more is involved. A child first needs the closeness and security of its mother and father. The anthropologist Ashley Montagu defined "love" as the "conferring of survival benefits," and when a child has an emotional attachment to its parents and good nutrition, preferably breastfeeding,)it is off to a good start.

Then a process is needed to help develop ethical behavior at an early age. Kindness and acceptance displayed by the parents is the beginning of the right example for the child, rather than anger and rejection. When violence is part of the environment of the young child, including spankings and displays of hostility, the child is being moved in the wrong direction, taking on those same behaviors as coping skills.

The lessons for the child need to involve extension of the self into the world of other people and animals, so that a child who is happy can empathize with others. A child who develops in a hostile world where images of violence are common may have little empathy for others. Social Darwinism, survival of the fittest, can easily become this child's view of reality if egocentric self-interest dominates the social environment.

Good schools should make students resistant to propaganda, they should help deprogram them from conventional indoctrination.

Textbooks are part of the problem. High school textbooks, especially social studies texts such as American history are developed by profit making corporations. They seek to be "politically correct" and usually become propaganda through omission. For example, a nation wide history text first published in 1992, includes material on the United States relationship with Cuba, but omits any mention of the embargo. The embargo has consistently been condemned since it was instituted by President Kennedy in 1962 by nearly every member of the United Nations as a violation of international law, human rights, and a threat to the health and the economy of Cuba. If we found that current history texts used in Germany did not mention the holocaust, what would we say about the responsibility to truth and democracy? We expected that education would be planned propaganda in Stalin's Russia, but the cause of American propaganda is different. Since textbook publishing is a huge business for corporations in the United States we can understand why truth is second to ideology. School boards are responsive to political pressures by businesses, and professors who write these books must please the publisher. The lucrative writing contract can be fulfilled with a little selective amnesia.




Corporate capitalism, which we mistakenly call "democracy" has no I soul and no sensitivity. It is directed only by profit maximization and risk minimization. It runs on inertia and mass indoctrination, with people considered to be discardable objects. The corrupting effect of this concentration of power largely controls our government, and since the United States dominates the world, this corporate power is a basic part of what globalization has become-establishing corporate business world wide using cheaper foreign labor and foreign natural resources (Barnet and Cavanagh, 1994).

As long as our political system is largely controlled by major corporations, no significant progress is likely. So a viable strategy needs first to assert meaningful public control of government and then to dismantle the instruments of corporate rule.

The Marxist view is that capitalism is a phase of historical change which will self destruct by exploiting the working class and thereby lay the basis for revolution. A democratic position, supported in this book, is that corporate capitalism can be de-fanged by eliminating its power to control government] 'Whether this will occur or not is the test of the potential of people to use


Bill Bradley, U.S. Senator in 1996, pointed out that "Real reform of democracy, reforms as radical as those of the Progressive era and deep enough to get government moving again, must begin by completely breaking the connection between money and politics (Phillips 2002, 405)."




Corporate capitalism (neo-classical economics) has dominated the United States and has been promoted world wide by the United States. The public has been propagandized to accept an ideology of "privatizing" the economic system and releasing it from public control. This deregulation led to Enron and other major corporations being exempt from public scrutiny. From 2000 on, one major corporation after another used its "freedom" from public control as a way to cheat the public, increasingly engaging in self serving criminal acts by stealing from its workers, consumers, and the communities where it operated.

To control corporate power requires that we understand the institution of the corporation that we have invented. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshal reminded us that "A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of creation confers upon it (US. Supreme Court Reports, 55 L.Ed 2d p.747)

However, as Chief Justice William Rehnquist recently pointed out, an 1886 decision made a business corporation into "a 'person' entitled to the protection of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (US. Supreme Court Reports, 55 L.Ed 2nd)."

This preposterous decision lingered into the twenty-first century, so that corporate contributions to favored candidates are treated as constitutionally protected "free speech." Under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, people are guaranteed right of free speech, and by virtue of the 1886 decision, corporations are "persons." This has come to mean that when corporations use their funds to influence elections they are engaged in "speech" and have the protection of the Constitution. When money is "speech" which can buy candidate elections, corruption of democratic government is guaranteed.

This 1886 decision made it possible for corporations to dip into their corporate treasuries and legally put millions of tax deductible dollars into media blitzes, outspending grassroots opponents, often by 100 to one margins-all in the name of "free speech." But a hopeful recent decision involving the state of Missouri could help challenge the 1886 decision and other Supreme Court decisions which have strengthened corporate rule. On January 24, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision that was appealed from a case in the State of Missouri which placed a very strict limit on campaign contributions (161 EM 519). In a reversal of the pattern in place ever since the 1886 corporate personhood decision, a 6 to 3 majority said in effect that the right to free speech does not translate into a right to dominate the election process through large monetary contributions. Justice John Paul Stevens even went so far as to directly challenge the very premise of other rulings since 1886 when he stated in startlingly unambiguous terms: 'Money is property. It is not speech. "If it can be translated into new law, this J conceptual reversal from the position that money is speech may help shift the legal basis for corporate power.

Some believe that there was a direct connection between this Supreme Court decision and the protest events in Seattle. It is quite possible that the members of the Court were sensing a shift in the public mood, or the events in Seattle may have been just one more push in a direction in which the Court had already been moving. The activist groups dealing with campaign finance reform saw a new opportunity as a result of "Missouri." The Missouri decision, which limits contributions to $1000 per candidate, is providing incentive for various groups and states around he country to create new limits on campaign financing.

These attempts merely to moderate the influence of big money in elections keep campaign financing alive as a public issue but deflect the public from the real issue which is whether corporations have any right whatsoever to participate in the electoral process. Corporations are social inventions and will use their power to control the political process unless they are entirely separated from that process. Democracy requires political control by the public and the public must consist of "real" people. This blurring of the legitimate rights of people with fictional corporate institutions is a central error in American politics.

The Missouri decision and rising national and international mass movements challenging corporate hegemony suggest an opportunity to help reign in corporate political power. Should the political system be "of the people" or "of the corporations"? People employed by a corporation should have access to political involvement but the corporation-the fiction created by the public-must then be separated from the political system to make a clearer distinction between the public and private sector. Such pressure helps lead to a direct re-examination and eventual challenge of the concept of "corporate personhood" with change in the 1886 law. When this occurs, the movement will in fact be squarely addressing a central source of corporate power.

Thom Harmann in his book Unequal Protection claims that in all these years that the court has presumed corporations were persons that "the court said no such thing, and it can't be found in the ruling (2002, 107). He opens up a question that deserves more attention: Does the decision even have legal status? Harmann tries to show that the decision was never a formal ruling of the Supreme Court, but only part of the headnotes.' His findings may further erode any presumptions of the legitimacy of corporate personhood.

In the meantime we should consider overcoming corporate personhood as a long term struggle similar to the civil rights struggle. There is a long history of attempts to move ahead in courts and through civil action on this issue and we are still in the middle of the struggle. Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 (387 F. Supp. 135 DDC 1975) involved a majority of the justices declaring corporate money to be a form of "free speech," which led two years later to a landmark case known as First National Bank v. Bellotti, (435 US 765, 1978) where the U.S. Supreme Court overruled a Massachusetts State Statute prohibiting corporations from spending money on ballot initiatives.

Bellotti favored the corporations but there was interesting dissent by justices White and Marshall stating that "Corporations are artificial entities created by law for the purpose of furthering certain economic ends .... It has long ( been recognized... that the special status of corporations has placed them in a position to control vast amounts of economic power which may. .. dominate not only the economy but also the very heart of our democracy, the election process .... The State need not permit its own creation to consume it (Grossman 2001, 38)."


If we consider the three basic world models anarchy, multilateralism, and dominance, the United States has become a rogue power relying on force to maintain dominance.

... Since World War II the United Nations has labored to construct a system of international law, only to see it breached by the American invasion of Iraq. The Bush Administration has taken the United States on the road to international lawlessness, replacing the rule of law with the rule of power. Law is grounded in equality and shared values. By opting out of the United Nations system, Bush replaced the nascent developments of community and international law with the forces of dominance and anarchy. The United States, under Bush, became a rogue nation, a dangerous example of unilateralism to other nations, including the nuclear powers.

... We are still sitting on a volcano - both Russia and the United States have some 6,000 intercontinental nuclear missiles that can be triggered within minutes. A Putin-Bush agreement in 2002 proposed reduction of operational/strategic arsenals to 1,700 to 2,000 but only to store the missiles, not to destroy them. Each country has enough missiles to destroy human life in most of the world

... The protests against Bush's war suggest that progressive international opinion envisions a world order far different from what Bush is trying to create. Many of those protesting are motivated by a common vision of a post cold war world free of all weapons of mass destruction, a world in which international law replaces the rule of military power.

Myth America

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