Political Dictionary Definitions*
Corporatism or Corporatocracy
1. Corporatism as defined by Benito Mussolini is the merger of state and corporate power.
Thom Hartmann, What Would Jefferson Do? A Return to Democracy, (Three Rivers Press, New York, 2004)
1. A school of theology, especially prevalent in the Roman Catholic Church, in Latin America, that finds in the gospel a call to free people from political, social
and material oppression.
1. Government by the wealthy.
2. A wealthy class that controls the government.
*Source unless otherwise indicated: The American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, 1992)
Politics and Propaganda
We are inundated with propaganda constantly. Contrary to popular belief, propaganda is not just used by evil dictators controlling their populace. From advertisers persuading us that we just can’t live without their product to teenagers trying to finagle the keys to the car, people use propaganda techniques to convince others and achieve their goals. During election season, the use of propaganda seems to escalate exponentially. For good reason- propaganda techniques can be very effective. Propaganda appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect, and thus can shape people’s views and inspire action fairly quickly. Voters bombarded with so many conflicting messages can rightfully ask, “What can I believe? What’s true and what’s not?” Learning to identify and recognize propaganda techniques can empower voters to evaluate information and make their decisions based upon a clear understanding of the facts about candidates- their beliefs, their records, and their plans.
Remember, the purpose of propaganda is to cause strong emotional reactions. The goal is to promote feeling, NOT thinking. Propaganda only works when people take it at face value and don’t think about and analyze the accuracy and meaning of the message. The questions to ask are: How does this serve the interests of those propagating the propaganda? What is being left out of the message and why? Below are the most common propaganda techniques. Once these techniques are understood, it becomes easier to identify their use.
Attaching negative labels and names to your opponent-Just like the old playground days! All of us have probably either been on the giving or receiving end of a negative name. Probably both, in anger, and usually when we can’t think of anything intelligent to say. Perhaps the simplest form of propaganda, name calling attempts to define someone in negative terms simply by attaching a label to them. In elections, anger isn’t necessary for name calling; it’s the defining that’s important. Name calling in elections is practically as American as apple pie and baseball. Barack Obama has been called a “socialist.” Democrats in general have been labeled “tax-and-spend liberals”, while Republicans are accused of being “heartless.” Well educated, thoughtful people are given the label of “elitist.” Everyone from pundits to politicians call each other “liars.” John Kerry in 2004, and others who have ever changed their opinion over time, are accused of being “flip-floppers.” People who have opposed or even simply asked questions about the policies of the Bush administration have been called “unpatriotic” for doing so. In all of these examples, there is much more to the story than the name calling would imply. Some of the labels are simply untrue, some distort information, and others try to characterize something in a negative way. In all cases, a deeper analysis of the accusation-which, at its core, name calling represents- would reveal that the name calling is simply not an accurate label.
Choosing words that have strong positive or negative connotations-would you like some Freedom Fries? Are you frugal or cheap? Would you rather drive a used car or a Pre-owned, Certified vehicle? Word choice is an important part of communication. Different words, even if synonyms, can create very different impressions, either positive or negative. In politics, slanted words are often used to create opinions. For example, Republicans who would like to limit or end inheritance taxes for the wealthy call the tax the “Death Tax”, even though it is not a tax on death, just on inherited wealth. Calling it a death tax creates the suggestion that it is unfair to tax dead people, and links it to something-death-that many people have negative feelings about. Those who would like to end the war in Iraq want to “strategically withdraw”, while being accused by the other side of a “cut and run” policy that will end in “defeat.” John McCain has been described as a “hero” instead of a “prisoner of war.” His actions may be considered admirable through either lens, but notice that hero is a judgment word and P.O.W. is a factual label. He and running mate Sarah Palin describe themselves as “mavericks”, implying that they are independent thinkers. His opponents attempted to brand Barack Obama as a “celebrity”, trying to paint his popularity as shallow and not based on support for his policies. Sarah Palin accused him of “palling around” with “domestic terrorist” William Ayers, rather than being fellow committee members. A disturbing legacy of 9/11 is that the word Muslim has become to some people a negative slanted word, and Barack Obama has been called (incorrectly) a Muslim, in an apparent effort to create fear about him. When identifying the use of slanted words, think about why that specific word(s) was chosen, and what other word (or synonym) could have been used in its place.
Threatening dire consequences unless….. Scare tactics try to make you fearful. It’s as simple as that. A scenario is painted, and a suggestion is made that electing this person will cause a bad thing to happen. Republicans warn that electing democrats will result in you being taxed more and more and losing more and more of your money-usually for wasteful purposes of course. Democrats warn that Republicans will keep involving the US in war after war. The McCain-Palin ticket warns that the US will be a more dangerous country if Barack Obama is elected, as well as a Socialist one. Critics of the Iraq war are warned that they “demoralize the troops,” apparently implying that the soldiers are in more danger as a result. In perhaps the most extreme example of scare tactics possible, emails circulated claiming that Barack Obama fit the characteristics of the Anti-Christ. Fear is a very strong motivator, and the use of scare tactics capitalizes on that. Scare tactics are generally easy to identify. If you feel worried or scared, a scare tactic was probably used on you. Think about whether this implied terrible thing would truly happen just as result of a particular person being elected.
Painting a beautiful picture that nobody can disagree with….just don’t look too closely at the details. Everyone supports freedom, families, hope, justice, motherhood, and apple pie. How about puppies playing with rainbows and cars that run on flower power? Candidates use glittering generalities to outline a wonderful vision of what they would accomplish if elected, and their priorities in achieving that vision. John McCain will put “country first.” Barack Obama will bring “Hope” and “Change we Need” to Washington D.C. Many candidates in the 2008 election are working for “energy independence.” “Affordable health care,” “a world-class educational system,” and “economic prosperity” are all frequently mentioned talking points. Glittering generalities are the opposite of name calling, substituting positive connotations for negative ones. By themselves, the glittering generalities are benign. Who can argue with what they espouse? But if they are taken at face value at not critically examined, they can lead people to make choices based on promises, not substance. How will these visions be accomplished needs to be questioned. Is there more to the story than the rosy picture painted?
Choosing only the facts that support your argument… ignore all the rest and maybe they’ll go away. Card stacking is a technique that can be difficult to detect. How can you know if only certain facts were presented if you don’t know all of the facts? A few minutes of research on the internet is the tool to use to help detect the use of half-truths and card stacking. There are websites whose sole purpose is to fact check claims made by political candidates. Despite the likelihood that their claims will be analyzed for distortion and completeness, politicians continue to use this propaganda technique. President George W. Bush mentioned several true statements about Al Qaeda and Iraq, and while he never linked the statements specifically, a definite false impression was laid to suggest a connection and justify the invasion of Iraq. Sarah Palin claimed that she was responsible for stopping construction of the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. Further research shows that there was much more to the story than that, and her claim is rather dubious. During the 3rd presidential debate, “Joe the Plumber’s” concern that he would pay higher taxes under the Obama administration’s tax plan was debated. A little background research reveals that his income would be under the $250,000 threshold for a tax increase, and that he would actually pay less in taxes. It would be wonderful if we could always rely on everyone to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But, since that sometimes isn’t the case, we need to be ready to think about the information we receive, and be prepared to do a little fact checking of our own.
Maybe a rose by another name just isn’t a rose….but a missile called a Peacekeeper still goes boom! Euphemisms are words used to make something unpleasant seem more acceptable. Perhaps if the words sound less harsh, the truth behind the word may be seen in a better light as well. Soldiers fighting an unpopular war are “freedom fighters.” The use of torture is controversial and against the Geneva Convention, but “enhanced interrogation techniques” are suggested to be more defensible and righteous. Few people like to see innocent civilians killed during war, but perhaps are unaware when “collateral damage” is mentioned that it means innocent civilians have been killed. Karl Rove has accused Barack Obama of being “arrogant”, which some see as a euphemism for “uppity”, a racially derogatory term used by racists to describe blacks who they see as daring to not stay in their rightfully inferior place.To become aware of euphemisms, watch for unfamiliar terminology that goes unexplained, catchy slogans like Operation Iraqi Freedom, and an insistence on using a certain word or phrase even when questioned about it. Ask what the term really means, or is representing. Would you approve or support the idea if it had a different name?
Did you notice the flags, white doves, and bald eagle soaring around me? Hey look-my opponent is standing next to a garbage can! Transfer makes frequent use of symbols to attach a person to the idea a symbol represents. If a picture is worth a thousand words, politicians hope that a symbol is worth a million votes. The American flag represents patriotism and American values, and Barack Obama was criticized for not always wearing one, as if the symbol alone was assurance enough of love of country. Red, white, and blue are featured in nearly every campaign poster, commercial, or t-shirt. Babies, and the purity and hope they represent, are frequently pictured with candidates. Symbolism alone seems pretty harmless, but when the symbols become the message, rather than plans, information, and debates about ideas, decisions can be made based on shallow premises. Symbols can distract from words and ideas, and maybe even create false impressions. Look closely at the symbols and images in political messages. Are the symbols-the visuals-substituting for substance and ideas?
I’m just an average, ordinary person like you. Uh, no, that’s not my limo. Candidates know that many voters vote based on their sense of personal connection with the candidate, so they emphasize their status as just an average Joe like you, or a hockey mom. Candidates describe their working-class roots and struggles. The McCain-Palin campaign refers to Joe Six-Pack as their constituent, and they emphasize their understanding of the needs of Joe the Plumber. Barack Obama wears old shoes and attends his daughter’s soccer games. George W. Bush clears brush on his ranch. Everyone seems to sit around the kitchen table and make decisions. Candidates who don’t seem like plain folks are criticized. John McCain was criticized for not being able to remember how many homes he owned. In 2004 John Kerry was characterized as an East Coast elitist liberal. To think beyond the propaganda, first consider if the characterization is accurate, then weigh the record and values of the candidate beyond the personality. Whether or not he or she is like you or understands your life, you are not very likely to sit down and have a cold beer at a barbeque.
Really, 2+2 does equal 5! Politicians sometimes link different facts or events together in a faulty cause and effect relationship. They’ll take an isolated fact, and spin it to say that “If this is true, then this must also be true.” For example, if Barack Obama or any other candidate ever voted for a bill that raised taxes, they propose that that means that they will always votes to raise taxes. Conversely, if a candidate wants to create the impression that they won’t raise taxes ever, they may promise to solve many problems and address many issues, but of course they wouldn’t need to raise taxes to accomplish that. President George W. Bush took an isolated fact, that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the attacks of 9/11, and said that if Bin Laden was a terrorist, and there were terrorists in Iraq, then we must attack Iraq to win the war on terrorism. Sarah Palin claims that Alaska’s proximity to Russia gives her foreign policy experience, despite the fact that she’s never been there. You need to look at the big picture to pinpoint illogical fallacies, because they want you to concentrate on the isolated little facts. Ask yourself, just because X happened, does that mean Y will or should happen? Can one thing be true, but not mean that somebody will always do that?
Everyone else is doing it, and so should you. Don’t you want to keep up with the Joneses? If you can’t make up your mind for any other reason, candidates who are in the lead want you to just decide that everyone else is right and you’ll go along with the crowd. Pundits endlessly analyze polls to show which group of voters is supporting a certain candidate or cause. Politicians want you to identify with a certain cause and group of people. The Republican Party has worked very hard to identify itself with church-going Christians. They want that group of people to think that all of them support Republican ideas. Hunters, pro-birth groups, and other single-issue voters hope that you’ll support their cause- and their candidate. Other groups, such as environmentalists, labor union members, feminists, and diverse Americans, closely ally themselves with the Democratic Party. Once again, this strategy wants you to focus on the small picture, so you need to look at the big picture. If you feel an identification with a certain group or issue, ask yourself if you really agree with all of their viewpoints. Consider what other issues are important to you. Also, decide if the “alliance” is really there. Do all members of that group support a certain party, candidate, or cause, or is there just the suggestion that they should?
Sir Francis Bacon said in 1597 that “Knowledge is Power.” That is true today more than ever, in the Information Age where we are inundated with information and opinions. As a voter, you have the power to shape this country and your world. To use that power responsibly for yourself and your country, it’s important to cast your vote based on knowledge and truth, not on propaganda and shallow thinking.
Think Tanks and Other Organizations
A think tank (also called a policy institute) is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research and engages in advocacy in public policy. Many think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the United States and Canada provide with tax exempt status. While many think tanks are funded by governments, interest groups, or businesses, some think tanks also derive income from consulting or research work related to their mandate. In some cases, think tanks are little more than public relations fronts, usually headquartered in state or national seats of government and generating self-serving scholarship that serves the advocacy goals of their industry sponsors. more sourcewatch.org
A foundation (also a charitable foundation) is a legal categorization of nonprofit organizations that will typically either donate funds and support to other organizations, or provide the source of funding for its own charitable purposes. This type of non-profit organization differs from a private foundation which is typically endowed by an individual or family. wikipedia.org
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI)
An extremely influential, pro-business, conservative think tank founded in 1943 by Lewis H. Brown. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism, and succeeds in placing its people in influential governmental positions. It is the center base for many neo-conservatives. sourcewatch.org
Americans for Prosperity (AFP)
A group fronting special interests started by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding astroturf operations but also has been fueling the "Tea Party" efforts.  AFP's messages are in sync with those of other groups funded by the Koch Family Foundations and the Koch's other special interest groups that work against progressive or Democratic initiatives and protections for workers and the environment. Accordingly, AFP opposes labor unions, health care reform, stimulus spending, and cap-and-trade legislation, which is aimed at making industries pay for the air pollution that they create. AFP was also involved in the attacks on Obama’s "green jobs" czar, Van Jones, and has crusaded against international climate talks. According to an article in the August 30, 2010 issue of The New Yorker, the Kochs are known for "creating slippery organizations with generic-sounding names," that "make it difficult to ascertain the extent of their influence in Washington." AFP's budget surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010, an election year. . As of August 13th, Americans for Prosperity spent an estimated $45 million on ads to influence the 2012 presidential election, their total budget for 2012 will top $100 million.  For a more detailed summary of AFP's 2012 election activities, see: Americans for Prosperity in the 2012 Election. sourcewatch.org
American Legislative Educational Council (ALEC)
A group that is actually a secret lobbying organization. It invites corporations and Republican elected congressional officials and state legislators, to sit down together to forms bills that benefit corporations over the rights of us, the American citizens. Elected officials take the template bills to congress and state legislators. Most recently you may recognize the voter ID (restrict voters rights) and marriage amendments (restrict the rights of the GLTB population) popping up across the country at the same time. Another favored one is tort reform. The real goal of tort reform is the cap the payouts of to families in the instances of harm caused by corporations.
On its website the organization traces its origins "to 1916, when a group of leading reformers founded the Institute for Government Research (IGR), the first private organization devoted to analyzing public policy issues at the national level. In 1922 and 1924, one of IGR's backers, Robert Somers Brookings (1850-1932), established two supporting sister organizations: the Institute of Economics and a graduate school bearing his name. In 1927, the three groups merged to form The Brookings Institution, honoring the businessman from St. Louis whose leadership shaped the earlier organizations."
Initially centrist, the Institution took its first step rightwards during the depression, in response to the New Deal. In the 1960s, it was linked to the conservative wing of the Democratic party, backing Keynsian economics. From the mid-70s it cemented a close relationship with the Republican party. Since the 1990s it has taken steps further towards the right in parallel with the increasing influence of right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. sourcewatch.org
Capital Research Center (CRC)
is a conservative think tank whose stated mission is to do "opposition research" exposing the funding sources behind consumer, health and environmental groups. A conservative group that seeks to rank non-profits and documents their funding. sourcewatch.org
Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a New Right think tank. Its stated mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of "free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." It is widely considered one of the world's most influential public policy research institutes. The Foundation wields considerable influence in Washington, and enjoyed particular prominence during the Reagan administration. Its initial funding was provided by Joseph Coors, of the Coors beer empire, and Richard Mellon Scaife, heir of the Mellon industrial and banking fortune. The Foundation maintains strong ties with the London Institute of Economic Affairs and the Mont Pelerin Society. more sourcewatch.org
While describing itself as "non-partisan" and preferring to portray itself as independently "contrarian" rather than as a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute gains financial support from many of the foundations and corporations that have bankrolled the conservative movement. The Capital Research Center, a conservative group that seeks to rank non-profits and documents their funding, allocates Hudson as a 7 on its ideological spectrum with 8 being "Free Market Right" and 1 "Radical Left." 
Hudson has traditionally had a strong focus on U.S. domestic policies such as national defense, education, crime, immigration, welfare, pesticides and biotechnology. However, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks it has substantially boosted its focus on international issues such as the Middle East, Latin America and Islam. sourcewatch.org
Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) states that it is "dedicated to increasing America's understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy. The Council accomplishes this mainly by promoting constructive debates and discussions, clarifying world issues, and publishing Foreign Affairs."
In a September 2005 makeover of its website, the Council proclaimed itself to be "A Nonpartisan Resource for Information and Analysis"(sic), "to be the first-stop, nonpartisan resource on U.S. foreign policy and America’s role in the world", according to the press release. sourcewatch.org
is an non-partisan libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Institute states that it favors policies "that are consistent with the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, and peace."  Cato scholars conduct policy research on a broad range of public policy issues, and produce books, studies, op-eds, and blog posts. They are also frequent guests in the media.
Cato was founded in 1977 by Edward H. Crane and Charles Koch,  the billionaire co-owner of Koch Industries known for its financing of the Tea Party and various conservative advocacy organizations. David Koch is currently on Cato's Board of Directors. In 2008 Jane Mayer wrote,"According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to the [Cato] institute."
Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress was begun in 2003 with funding from philanthropists Herbert M. Sandler and Marion O. Sandler It is a Washington, DC-based liberal think tank created and led by President and Chief Executive Officer John D. Podesta, the head of Barack Obama's presidential transition team after the 2008 election and former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton.
In 2009 CAP's Progressive Media project emerged as a major communications war room on behalf of Obama's domestic and foreign policy agenda and CAP became a strong advocate for escalation in Afghanistan. Progressive Media is run through the Center for American Project Action Fund, the more political 501(c)4 arm of CAP. It coordindates closely with the Common Purpose Project, an effort to create message discipline among the pro-Obama organizations, with a direct tie to the White House.
CAP is the parent organization of Campus Progress. The Center publishes a daily emailed Progress Report, described by the National Review to be "The most aggressive, most energetic opposition research in politics." sourcewatch.org
Economic Policy Institute
The Economic Policy Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit American think tank based in Washington, D.C. EPI presents a liberal viewpoint on economic issues. EPI has a sister organization, the EPI Policy Center, which is a 501(c)(4) non-profit.
EPI conducts research and analysis on several issues that affect the economic status of low- and moderate-income families in the United States. The institute also assesses current economic policies and proposes new ones that protect and improve the living standards of working families.
EPI was founded in 1986 by economists Jeff Faux, Lester Thurow, Ray Marshall, Barry Bluestone, Robert Reich, and Robert Kuttner. EPI's President is Lawrence Mishel, a long-time member of Democratic Socialists of America. wikipedia.org
Media Matters for America (MMFA),
a "Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media," was founded by David Brock in mid-April 2004.
Along with former MoveOn consultant Tom Matzzie and John Podesta's Center for American Progress, it is behind Progressive Media, a liberal messaging campaign launched in 2008 and expanded in 2009 to become a 'war room' for promoting the foreign and domestic policies of Barack Obama.
"Because a healthy democracy depends on public access to accurate and reliable information, Media Matters for America is dedicated to alerting news outlets and consumers to conservative misinformation -- wherever we find it, in every news cycle -- and to spurring progressive activism based on standards and accountability in media," explains their website  "For the first time, Media Matters for America has put in place a system to monitor the media for conservative misinformation - every day, in real time -- in 2004 and beyond." 
The site "was devised as part of a larger media apparatus being built by liberals to combat what they say is the overwhelming influence of conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly." The "project was developed with help from the newly formed Center for American Progress, the policy group headed by John D. Podesta," Bill Clinton's former chief of staff. "Brock said he hoped it could help provide fodder for fledgling liberal radio talk shows being started across the country, including those of the comedians Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo." 
"Mr. Brock, who has also spoken with Senator Clinton, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota and former Vice President Al Gore about his project, said he was ready to face skepticism. 'I think all ideological converts face a reality on that question,' he said. But, he added, 'I've found people very open to the idea that people can change.'" sourcewatch.org
(formerly Disinfopedia) is a collaborative online wiki operated by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), an American progressive organization. According to the project's website, it "aims to produce a directory of public relations firms, think tanks, industry-funded organizations and industry-friendly experts that work to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of corporations, governments and special interest groups." SourceWatch has been mentioned in news sources such as the New York Times and the Sunday Times. The site runs on MediaWiki software. Started on January 15, 2003. wikipedia.org