The Harley-Davidson motorcycle company has arranged a deal with the film school at the University of California-Santa Barbara that recruits students as cheap labor to make Harley ads in the form of "short sponsored videos for online media or for downloading to other digital media platforms such as cell phones, iPods, and PDAs." Under the terms of the "partnership," students submit proposals to Harley-Davidson, describing the type of video they plan to make. If approved, the company pays a stipend of up to $1,200 for each proposal, and a prize of $5,000 to the winner.
If you think the U.S. tobacco industry is bad, you'll find the behavior of many of the same companies overseas to be truly shocking.
Happily, the industry is beginning to be held accountable for its operations in the Global South. Nigeria's two largest states are following the lead of U.S. states, in suing British American Tobacco (BAT) of Nigeria, its U.K. parent company and Philip Morris International for the health care costs of treating sick smokers, The Times of London reported this week.
The new lawsuits demonstrate the importance of the online public databases of previously secret tobacco industry documents. The 1998 U.S. Master Settlement Agreement required major tobacco companies to reveal millions of pages documenting unethical -- and even illegal -- marketing, public relations and lobbying campaigns. A lesser-known treasure trove is the British American Tobacco Documents Archive, which has made some seven million pages of BAT documents freely available. These documents are of particular importance to countries like Nigeria.
After several months of empty posturing against the war in Iraq, politicians in Washington have made what Democratic congressman James P. Moran called a "concession to reality" by agreeing to give President Bush virtually everything he wanted in funding and unrestricted license to continue waging the increasingly detested war that has made Bush the most unpopular president since Richard Nixon.
This is the outcome that we warned against two months ago when we wrote "Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?" In it, we criticized MoveOn for backpedaling on its previously claimed objective of ending the war in Iraq immediately. Anti-war sentiment was the main factor behind last year's elections that brought Democrats to power in both houses of Congress. Once in power, however, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed through a "compromise" bill, supported by MoveOn, that offered $124 billion in supplemental funding for the war. To make it sound like they were voting for peace, the Democrats threw in a few non-binding benchmarks asking Bush to certify progress in Iraq, coupled with language that talked about withdrawing troops next year.
In their groundbreaking 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent, professors Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky not only explained, but documented with extensive case studies, how mass media and public opinion are shaped in a democracy. Twenty years later, can their "propaganda model" still be used to explain modern media distortions? That was one of the main questions discussed last week at a conference in Windsor, Ontario, titled "20 Years of Propaganda?" Organized by Dr. Paul Boin, the conference drew hundreds of scholars and activists including myself, and more than 1,000 people attended a closing speech by Chomsky on May 17.