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Propaganda Instruments of the Ruling Class... And the Railroad of the Central Park 5

The following is an excerpt from the talk by Bob Avakian, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!

Let’s just look very quickly at how people are kept deliberately uninformed or systematically misinformed and miseducated under this system. Let’s take the crude propaganda organs of the ruling class posing as news media. These are not just, as it is sometimes said, corporate or corporate-controlled media. They are propaganda instruments of the ruling class of this system—capitalist-controlled, imperialist-controlled media. Now we could take all day and all night—and I’ve already taken a long time, I know—going into all this so I won’t try to do that. But let’s just take a few examples, sharp examples of how people are, in fact, deliberately kept uninformed or systematically misinformed and miseducated under this system.

Let’s talk about the New York Central Park jogger case back in the 1990s. Some of you may remember this, but very few people do, in fact. This was a case where a young woman was out jogging at night in Central Park in New York. She was viciously attacked, raped, beaten, and more or less left for dead. She did survive, and after a long period, a difficult period of rehabilitation, she regained a good deal of her former self, although not quite all it seems. But immediately a group of youth... how many don’t know what kind of youth I’m going to say?... Black and Latino youth were immediately seized upon by the police, rounded up—kids 13, 14, 15, the oldest, I believe, 17 at the time—rounded up, taken down to the police station, not allowed to talk to their family, not having any legal advice, subjected to hours of pressure to confess to this crime because they’d been hanging out in the park. And eventually they broke them down and got them to confess. They told them—you’re probably familiar if you watch TV with this—“Well, your friends said you did the whole thing, so you better come and tell us what really happened or everything’s going to come down on you.” And they ran this game on all of them. And you’re talking about 13, 14-year-old kids. They were actually told by the police: “If you just confess to this you can go home.” Instead, of course, once they confessed, they were railroaded through the system. There was absolutely no physical evidence that corroborated their confession. In fact, the physical evidence, if anything, pointed in another direction—it certainly didn’t point to them. All there was was these confessions that had been pressured out of them. Never mind—they went to court, the jury convicted them, they all spent long years in prison. And only many years later did it come out that all of them were innocent, that someone else entirely had committed the crime who finally confessed to it, and then the physical, including DNA, evidence backed up the confession.

Now how many people even know about this? I will say that Ken Burns is apparently making a movie about this along with his daughter, it seems, and it seems as if this is going to be a good movie.* So that’s a good thing, but this is more than 15 years later, I believe. How many people know about this? Well, one person that knew about it was Donald ... his name is supposed to be Trump, but I call him Donald Chump...who took out ads in all the major newspapers, particularly in the New York area, denouncing these youth in hysterical terms, whipping up hatred against them and demanding the return of the application of the death penalty. Think about this. Here we have to say that for any system to hold up a racist bloodthirsty parasite like Donald Chump as a role model and icon—right there is a condemnation of that system and a declaration of its utter bankruptcy.

Contrast how the media dealt with the Central Park jogger case, piling on from the very beginning, creating the hysteria, calling for blood in effect, on the one hand, with how they treated and portrayed the story when it came out that these youth were wrongfully prosecuted and convicted for this crime, and how many years they spent in prison with their lives largely destroyed from a very early age as a result of this.

Look at the role of the U.S. in relation to the uprisings in the Middle East. For 30 years the U.S. backed Mubarak in Egypt for example, supporting all of his vicious repression against the people, declaring him a valuable ally of the U.S. and of Israel, pumping billions and billions of dollars to back up his regime—and then all of a sudden when there’s an uprising and they decide Mubarak has to go it’s like Alice in Wonderland: “clean cups, move down.” “Mubarak’s a tyrant! Mubarak’s a brutal dictator! The people are fighting for democracy against the ruthless Mubarak. Never mind that we supported him for 30 years.” How much do you hear from the media, going into all the exposure of what the U.S. did all those 30 years supporting Mubarak.

Is it any wonder that there’s gross ignorance and the promotion of gross ignore-ance within this society among the people? How many people in this country, even among those who have access to lots of information and perhaps consider themselves informed, would know the real story of the Central Park jogger case? Or about the following, to cite just a few examples: Sean Bell, the Ramparts scandal in LA, the murder of Dr. Tiller, Matthew Shepard, Abner Louima, the lies George Bush told—not just the lies of George W. Bush about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but the lies of his father speaking while he was vice president at the UN in the late 1980s trying to cover up the outrageous act by the U.S. of shooting down an Iranian civilian airliner and killing hundreds of people in the process. These are not minor or trivial things but just some examples of people and events that concentrate so much about the whole nature of this system and the way it treats people here and throughout the world. And the question has to be asked: why would so few know about all this? The answer is that people’s lives and ways of thinking, what they feel is important to know about and how they see what they do know about, are conditioned and shaped, not only by the way the whole system works in general, and not only by the putrid culture in this country in general, but also specifically by the dominant media, the propaganda organs, which spew forth their lies and misinformation in the interests of the people who own them and the class which rules in the country, the capitalist-imperialist ruling class.


* This movie, The Central Park Five, directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon has now been released and is playing in theaters around the country. [back]