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The Golden Verses Of The Stoic

Seneca and Epictetus refer to the Golden Verses of Pythagoras , which happens to provide a good framework for developing a daily routine, bookended by morning and evening contemplative practices. Zeno of Citium , who founded Stoicism in 301 BC, expressed his doctrines in notoriously terse arguments and concise maxims.  However, Chrysippus, the third head of the Stoic school, wrote over 700 books fleshing these ideas out and adding complex arguments to support them. 


It's been a long time since I wrote anything on the technique and usage of propaganda. So let's drop down and talk about a common technique used in our media today which has been a standard due to its reliability.

The Self-Evidence Technique has the longest list of methods for use, it is also quite possibly the oldest technique in recorded history, dating back to Aristotle. A list of the commonly known methods for this technique are posted on a page here

In this article the questions and counter view points are to lead you through the methods of countering this technique and understanding the power it has to stop the victim from questioning facts which are likely not presented in clear terms, and often, while the article using this technique may not 'lie', the context and composition doesn't presentt the information in true form either.So whether you agree with the argument or question -- keep in mind that those are the points, not the simply there to be argumentative.

So, what is this technique, and how is it being used by our Government and current Media today?

Sometimes news articles assume US policy statements are true and treat such statements as matters of fact rather than political argument. We can call this self-evidence, as in "We hold these truths to be self -evident."
On August 20, 1998, the Navy launched 75 Cruise missiles, blowing up what President Clinton described as:
"..terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan." (President Clinton, NY Times, 8/21/98, p. a12)
Knowledge of propaganda techniques is necessary to improve one's own propaganda and to uncover enemy PSYOP stratagems. Techniques, however, are not substitutes for the procedures in PSYOP planning, development, or dissemination.

Justifying the attack on Sudan, the President said:

''Our forces also attacked a factory in Sudan associated with the bin Laden [terrorist] network. The [Shifa] factory was involved in the production of materials for chemical weapons.''
The August 21st NY Times spent literally hundreds of lines quoting and commenting on statements from Administration officials as well as various unnamed sources in favor of the bombing. Here’s one example:
"Bin Laden has made financial contributions to the Sudanese military-industrial complex," a senior American intelligence official said today, "of which, we believe, the Shifa pharmaceutical facility is part." (NY Times, 8/21, p.11)
So this was the official U.S. justification. But what about the Times? How did it cover the story? How should it have covered the story?

What if Sudan had launched Cruise missiles against the U.S.? What would we expect of a Sudanese newspaper?

We might say:
It should present the Sudanese attack on the U.S. in an unbiased fashion so readers could make up their own minds;It should analyze Sudanese government justifications, asking: "are they logical?" and "are they based on fact?"It should report casualties on page one;It should prominently display counter-arguments, not only from the U.S. government, which everyone would expect to oppose the attacks, but from Sudanese critics as well.

Did the Times live up to these standards?

On 8/21/98, the Times ran the following banner headline on page 1:
Everyone skims newspapers. Studies show that headlines are often the only thing people read and therefore the only thing they remember. That makes them very important.

Is anything wrong with this headline?

To start with, it assumes a whole lot.

It assumes a world-wide terrorist network exists. It assumes the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant is part of it. In other words it assumes the validity of the U.S. government justification. It holds US arguments to be self-evident. But isn't the validity of these arguments precisely what the Times should be investigating?

We’ll return to the headline later.

Let's look at some text from the article itself. Here's paragraph 3:
''With about 74 missiles aimed to explode simultaneously in unsuspecting countries on two continents, the operation was the most formidable American military assault ever against a private sponsor of terrorism.'' ('NY Times', 8/21/98, p.1,)
In making its point (that this was a big military assault) the Times again assumes the truth of the US position (that the Shifa plant was part of a privately sponsored terrorist organization.)

In another article, Times enthusiasm for the government’s argument ascends to poetry:
"The twin attacks [on Afghanistan and the Sudan] provided a certain symmetry to the [Embassy] bombings in East Africa. Though seas apart, the targets share a connection to Mr. bin Laden."
The government’s position is stated casually, as one might state any universally accepted fact. Evidence is not required.


The August 21st issue of the Times is devoted mostly to the missile attack. Do any of these articles, does even one of these articles, report criticism of U.S. actions?

Just barely. With hundreds of lines of text supporting the missile strikes, the Times lets the opposition speak in paragraph 20 of a p.13 article called Long Enmity Between U.S. and Sudan Boils Over.
"Ghazi Salaheddin, the [Sudanese] Information Minister, said the plant had been opened two years ago and produced nothing but medicines. 'This is a crime,' he said. 'There is no justification for this attack.'" (NY Times, 8/21, p.A13)
That's it. Page 13, paragraph 20. Doesn't such positioning guarantee a tiny readership?
And even this tiny morsel, placed obscurely, quotes a Sudanese official, a man whom everyone would expect to oppose an attack on Sudan whether or not that attack were justified. Moreover, much of the August 21st Times is spent accusing the Sudanese government of supporting terrorism. With so much negative conditioning, how seriously will readers take any statement made by a member of such a government?


An August 22 Gallup Poll showed 19% of the American people opposed the bombing and 16% were unsure. One might say this was a poor showing for the antiwar position: if the poll was accurate, 2/3 of the people supported Clinton. But look at it another way. Consider that the media never presented the opposing view and that despite this, 38% did not support Clinton. Imagine how much stronger the opposition would have been if people had heard both sides.

By the way, the NY Times never reported the results of the Gallup Poll. In fact, a thorough Internet search uncovered mention of the poll in only one U.S. newspaper. Would you care to guess which one? No, not the 'Washington Post' or the 'Boston Globe' or the 'San Francisco Chronicle'. The 'Fresno Bee'.

'Fresno Bee', guardian of democracy. Check it out: August 23, 1998.


The word "critic" does appear on page 1 of the August 21st 'NY Times'. The article reports that Congressional Republican do not oppose the bombing. It is headlined: 'Critics Support President's Action.'

Isn't a political "critic" someone who opposes or at least raises questions about an action? By associating the word "critic" with support for Clinton, the Times gives readers the impression that nobody opposes the bombing. "See, honey? Even the critics are backing Clinton on this."

A few real domestic critics did make it to the pages of the NY Times but not until three days after the bombing and then only in the Letters to the Editor section. Here is one such letter:
''No state has the right to exact retribution through an armed attack on another country....Nor does any state have the right to launch missiles against a country it believes to harbor terrorists…President Clinton’s bald assertion that the U.S. bombing was justifiable because the Sudan and Afghanistan have consistently failed to heed U.S. demands to eject Osama bin Laden and others is extraordinary...The real victim [of the missile attacks] was a world in which rules matter and those responsible for acts of violence are brought to justice, not simply killed.'' (James C. Hathaway, Prof. of International Law, U. of Michigan, NY Times, 8/23/98, p. A14)

Why couldn’t the Times have put the views of this expert on international law on page one? Was a decision made by the Times not to lend credence to dissenting views?


Of course they could have.

For example, the Times could have run the following headline:
'Clinton Defends Missile Attack; Critics Charge State Terrorism'
Then they could have presented views from both sides. Wouldn't that have been fair? And wouldn’t it have had a very different effect on public opinion?


Within two days Clinton's explanation was under siege.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world opposed the missile attack as lawless violence.

Sudanese who opposed Osama bin Laden and Islamic Fundamentalism were furious. Here is Abdulrahman Abuzayd, an opponent of the Fundamentalist Sudanese government:
"'As a Sudanese I’m mad...O.K., we have problems with this regime. But we solve them ourselves. Now the Americans have come and given it a big shot in the arm..."' (NY Times, 8/23/98, p.11)
And concerning Osama bin Laden:
'"The Americans have suddenly created a Muslim hero out of him, whereas last week he was considered a fanatic nut."'

Another well-known opponent of the Sudanese government spoke out:
''A lawyer for the owner of the bombed pharmaceutical plant said at a news conference that the factory was solely owned by Salah Idrisee, a Sudanese businessman…The lawyer, Gazi Suliman, who is well known here as a member of the political opposition said it was ‘rubbish’ that Mr. bin Laden was an investor in the company. He said that the Sudanese Government had no financial interest in the plant and that it had made only human and veterinary drugs, supplying more than 50 percent of the domestic market. The Sudanese will now be without a vital supply of medicines, he said…Mr. Suliman called on the international community to form an investigative committee to look into what the plant had manufactured. 'We will accept the results,' he said.''
So Clinton's team went back to the drawing board and on 8/25/98, a front page headline in the Times declared:
'U.S. Says Iraq aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan - Baghdad's Role Cited as Key Reason for Attack'

Take a look at the first three paragraphs:

''The U.S. believes that senior Iraqi scientists were helping to produce elements of the nerve agent VX at the factory in the Sudan that the American cruise missiles destroyed last week, Administration and intelligence officials said today. The evidence cited today as justification for the attack consisted of a soil sample secretly obtained months ago outside the factory, the Shifa pharmaceutical Industries, the officials said. Publicly the Administration has refused to describe its evidence in any detail, or to say how it was obtained. 
''The rare chemical would require two more steps, one very complex, to be turned into VX, one of the deadliest nerve agents in existence and the chemical, whose acronym is Empta has no industrial uses. 
''The United Nations and the Unites States has long agreed that Iraq is extremely skilled at many kinds of VX production.'' (NY Times, 8/25/98, p.1. )

This article is instructive in several ways:

First, there is still no answer to the charge that the missile bombings were illegal. The Times simply ignores this view, probably held by most people in the world, including millions in the U.S.

Second, other than an unsubstantiated claim regarding Iraq’s "skill" at making VX nerve gas, the article cites no actual evidence of "Baghdad’s role." It simply asserts a U.S. "belief" (without saying who holds this belief) that Iraqi scientists were "helping" make nerve gas at the Shifa plant. This is rumor-mongering, not news.

Third, if "Baghdad’s role" was really the reason for the attack why didn't Clinton or anyone else mention it until five days after the bombing? And what about the original key reason, the connection between bin Laden and the Sudanese government? How can the key reason for an action change after the fact? ("Your Honor, my client doesn’t think his original testimony has convinced the Jury and he would like to drop it and try another.")
And why doesn’t the Times comment on this attempt to rewrite the historical record?
Empta is used commonly in
pesticides and pharmaceuticals
Fourth, once again the Times simply asserts that the Shifa plant made chemical weapons. No evidence is given; but the 'Times' proceeds to raise issues that would only make sense if the unproven assertion (that the plant manufactured deadly chemicals) were true.

This is very clever, and our media uses this technique often. It might be called 'The trick of the consequent argument.'. If someone tells you a lie, let us say that "They say Steve beats his wife," you may dispute it. But if someone lies to you by asking, "Did Steve get a lawyer yet on that wife-beating charge?" you are much less likely to question the hidden lie - that Steve has been accused of wife beating. After all, if he had not been accused, why would he be getting a lawyer?

Fifth, the Times presents the government’s claim, that the chemical Empta has no possible commercial uses, as if it were a proven fact. (More self-evidence.) note:also wrong.. dead wrong. Now let’s return to the article. Moving down to paragraph seven, it abruptly shifts from "Baghdad’s role" to an entirely different matter: a dispute at the UN:
"The U.S., however, has rebuffed calls from the Sudan and other countries to turn over its evidence [that nerve gas was being produced at the Shifa factory in Sudan]. At the UN, the Security Council today put off a request by Arab nations, submitted by Kuwait, one of the closest Arab allies of the U.S., to send inspectors to search the rubble in Khartoum for signs of chemicals related to VX... 'I don’t see what the purpose of a fact-finding study would be,’ Peter Burleigh, the deputy American representative to the UN said after the meeting. 'We have credible information that fully justifies the strike we made on that one facility in Khartoum.'"

Isn’t this rather startling?

First of all, what is a UN report doing in an article about rumors of Iraqi involvement?

Second, I don't know about you, but I had to read it twice to make sure it actually says what it says. Not only is the U. S. government asserting the right to send missiles wherever it wants if it claims to have "credible information" of a link to "terrorism" but it refuses to allow an independent investigation to verify the truth of the "information" that such a link exists.

In other words, the U.S. government has designated itself investigator, prosecutor, judge, executioner and court of appeals for international affairs.

Countering propaganda is a required skill in our lives today. The conclusions I built up to with the questions and focuses of information with this demonstration should not be taken at face value either.The only thing you should walk away from this with is an idea of how to recognize the technique used -- that's a fact -- and how to question in order to decern probable reasons for the technique to be used in the first place

.And be sure to look at the list of Methods commonly used with this Technique

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