Propagandist for State-Run Media Wants Even More of Your Money

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Recently by Thomas DiLorenzo: The Lincoln Curse

     

I speak of course of Ken Burns, the $50,000/speech (according to Forbes) PBS civil servant/documentary film maker. In response to Mitt Romney's critique of PBS during the first presidential debate, Burns authored a long defense of PBS in the October 10 edition of USA Today. The first thing Burns does in his article is to inadvertently admit that the main purpose of his work for PBS is to serve as a propagandist for state power over the citizens. His boasts of the popularity of his documentaries also prove that taxpayer subsidies to PBS are a waste of money.

In his first paragraph Burns recalls how he assisted the military/industrial complex in its propaganda efforts by producing a documentary called "The War" (about World War II) and making a special trip to West Point to "motivate" the cadets with film clips. He then boasts that many of the West Point cadets admitted that they decided to apply to West Point because of an earlier Ken Burns state-subsidized propaganda film, The Civil War. Good job, Ken! Keep those taxpayer subsidies rolling!

Burns really lets the cat out of the bag in the next paragraph where he quotes a U.S. Army Major named Sullivan Ballou, who wrote his wife during the "Civil War" about why he thought the war was being fought. It was not to free the slaves but to defend the Lincoln regime in Washington, D.C. "American civilization now leans on the triumph of the government," he wrote, and "I am willing . .. to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this government . . ." What a job the military propagandists of his day must have done on the hapless Major Ballou (assuming that the letter is authentic).

How odd that anyone would equate the killing of some 850,000 Americans (the latest estimate of "Civil War" deaths), the bombing, burning, and destruction of entire cities, the mass killing of tens of thousands of civilians, the rape, pillage and plunder of thousands more, the suspension of Habeas Corpus and imprisonment of tens of thousands of Northern civilians, the shutting down of hundreds of opposition newspapers in the North, military conscription, the daily execution of deserters (by the Lincoln regime), and the rigging of Northern elections as "civilization." And how odd that anyone would think that the secession of a state (or states), under the correct belief that the union of the founding fathers was a voluntary union, would somehow "destroy" the government in Washington. In fact, the government in Washington grew exponentially after the Southern states seceded, fielding the largest and best-equipped army in world history up to that point.

The obvious purpose of Burns's The Civil War, as with Lincoln mythology in general, is to spread propaganda that props up state power. Moreover, Burns is apparently unaware that his argument actually makes the case against taxpayer funding of PBS. Specifically, his boast that nearly 40 million people viewed The Civil War proves beyond all doubt that there was no need at all for taxpayer subsidies. What corporate advertisers would not want to place their products before 40 million potential customers?

Burns also perverts the English language when he calls taxpayer subsidies to PBS "a good investment." There is no such thing as "government investment." All government spending is consumption spending, not investment. An investor is someone who puts up his own money, takes a risk, and reaps the profits or suffers the losses from his decisions. No politician or bureaucrat ever puts up his own money, takes on any personal risk whatsoever, or is punished with financial losses for his bad decisions. In fact, his bad decisions are routinely subsidized by taxpayers for decades on end with no negative personal consequences to him.

PBS and National Public Radio (NPR) are state-subsidized government propaganda megaphones. Americans used to criticize totalitarian communists for such practices. Perhaps the mistake the communists made was to not disguise their propaganda with cute little Big Birds and Big Red Dogs.

Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You're Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton's Curse: How Jefferson's Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution — And What It Means for America Today. His latest book is Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government.

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