Selective Distortion at Northwestern University's student newspaper 

Selective Distortion at Northwestern University's student newspaper

February 21, 2006

"Selective Distortion at Northwestern University's student newspaper the Daily Northwestern."

By Curtis Maynard

I felt compelled to write this piece after monitoring the ongoing anti-Butz campaign proceeding at the Daily Northwestern, the student newspaper at Northwestern University in Illinois. Of course the Butz I am referring to is Arthur Butz, an electrical engineering professor at NU that wrote a book entitled The Hoax of the Twentieth Century back in the 1970s and has been a controversial pariah ever since.

The reason I feel compelled to follow up on this developing story is because a bit of deceptive propaganda is already at work. I can say this as I have some experience with propaganda in that both my of my Masters degrees followed theses on the subject, my psychology thesis is entitled “A Study Focusing on the Formation of Opinion, and the Knowledge Associated with its development,” and concluded that the average American college student is likely to develop intense opinions on matters in which they know very little. This would seem to be a no-brainer, and it is in a sense, but the most important finding was that a certain psychological paradigm was quietly and perniciously at work behind the scenes so top speak and was revealed when survey respondents [College students] answered certain specific questions.

The survey administered to these college students revealed that many of their opinions were the result of indoctrination rather than education; this is common today and is the result of the psychological phenomenon of “selective distortion,” which is well understood in advertising circles. “This phenomenon can occur in two primary ways. If an individual wants to believe something is not true, then even in the face of an overwhelming amount of information disputing their original contention, they will still reject what they do not want to believe. Likewise, this can happen in the same manner with an individual that wants to believe something is in fact true, no matter the amount of material refuting that belief.” The imperative ingredient in creating this “selective distortion” is of course early access to the target, the individual, and the way this is generally achieved is through the indoctrination processes offered by the media and the early educational process, this is a veritable “cradle to grave,” process.

In order for this process or “program,” if you will to succeed however, the target must not be exposed to contradictory stimuli, at least not initially. Once the phenomenon has congealed however, those so exposed to it will inevitably develop what is known as “brand loyalty,” which is another advertising term relevant here because the “traditional macroeconomic view of advertising ‘holds that the main purpose of advertising is to manipulate or persuade’”
So how does this all apply to what is being said and written about professor Arthur Butz?

The Daily Northwestern should be given a modicum of credit for publishing an article written by one of NU’s controversial professors, but on the other hand, that’s exactly what student newspapers are supposed to do, print articles that inform their readers about various issues of importance on campus. In any case, the Daily printed an article written by Butz entitled “Iran has the US’s Number,” in which the engineering professor suggested that people shouldn’t be arrested and jailed for their beliefs – wow what a concept! Butz then proceeded to breach every bond of common social etiquette by suggesting that recent European concern for freedom of speech as it relates to anti-Islamic cartoons contradicts Europe’s past [and present] record as it relates to those that question history. Consider this – The Austrian government has strenuously defended the Austrian press’s right to print the now infamous Mohammedan cartoon caricatures, but just yesterday, February 20, 2006, Austria convicted a man named David Irving of “holocaust denial,” and sentenced him to three years in prison. Now – how is that for contradictory?

But now back to the point of this article, the surreptitious and negative anti-Butz message in NU’s student newspaper, the Daily. The paper then published a counter article two days after Butz’s contribution entitled “Only Fair to give Butz a Platform,” in which whoever wrote it [nobody took credit] takes the alleged high/moral road and states, “For more than a week The Daily has run stories, cartoons and letters to the editor questioning the views of McCormick Prof. Arthur Butz. The Daily asked Butz to write a column in the interest of fairness. Whenever a person is criticized, we seek their comment. We believe a balanced perspective is always in the community’s best interest.” That’s awful nice of the Daily to pay objectivity some lip service, that is after all what newspapers are theoretically supposed to do, provide a measure of objectivity for their readers. But in fact, the Daily, or at least the author of this particular article has only subjectivity in mind, he or she then suggests, once again in a most altruistic fashion, that the student newspaper took some heat for allowing Butz the privelege of expressing hius views, the author writes, “The Daily has since received massive criticism, calling our actions “an embarrassment.” So it’s important to provide our reasoning for giving Butz a forum.”

In writing this article the Daily has apologized for doing exactly what a student newspaper is supposed to do, and for this the student body at NU should be up in arms. Who dares criticize a University student newspaper for informing the student body? That should be the question. The problem with the cited sentence above, i.e. that the Daily has received massive criticism is that it’s simply – the Daily has NOT received massive criticism, in fact it has received very little quantitatively that is. This fact is reflected quite clearly by the overwheming support Butz receives in the commentary section below the articles on the Internet. This fact reveals quite clerarly that the Daily is not being entirely honest, the daily is in essence saying, “Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?” Well, I know who I’m going to believe anyway.

Even an article by Deborah Lipstadt, an alleged “holocaust expert,” entitled “Revisionists are full of holes,” receives far more pro-Butz comments than it does those supportive of the status quo. This is an excellent example of how propaganda works, the fact of the matter is, Americans overwhelmingly support freedom of opinion and expression, even if that encompasses “holocaust denial,” they simply don’t distinguish between holocaust denial and anything else, it’s all the same to them. Lipstadt and the Daily would like you to believe that Americans support their views, which is an absolute lie, they don’t, they never have and they never will. However, herein is where the problem exists, Lipstadt and the Daily represent the establishment media/academia, and they and their kind have a virtual stranglehold on the MSM and they aren’t about to let that monopoly go. As long as they maintain that monopoly they will be able to dictate what you see, hear, and even feel via the television, newspapers, media in general and thus maintain the effcetiveness of “selective distortion,” in the development of the public’s opinion.

Whoever it was that wrote the Daily’s piece “Only Fair to give Butz a Platform,” knows very well what I am talking about and they know they have NOT received a “massive amount of criticism.” What they also know but aren’t about to admit to, is that Butz has received a massive amount of support!

Curtis B Maynard

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