Massaging the facts

liesI am awed and distressed at propaganda that envelopes us.

Sure we recognize the obvious sales pitches:

• The clerk pops your prescription pills into a paper bag festooned with an ad for a new medicine

• The tennis champ’s dress is branded with a company logo

• The news website you’re reading suddenly morphs into an ad for a credit card

But most troubling propaganda is the story couched as “fact.”

Just look at the political group called the Tea Party.

In 2009 the Tea Party embarked on a campaign to protest certain types of taxes, echoing the so-called Boston Tea Party of 1773.

But the original protest was fueled by private interests, not by angry colonists.

And it wasn’t even called the Boston Tea Party until a textbook labeled it some 60 years later.

It was called “The Destruction of the Tea.”

Colonial merchants—who discovered they could get their tea more cheaply from the Dutch—wanted to destroy the British monopoly on tea imports.

Tea prices had been falling—not rising as the propaganda suggests—although a tax had been imposed by the British.

To protect their deal with the Dutch the merchants disguised themselves with blackened faces and wore fake Native plumage, then dumped 90,000 pounds of British tea into Boston harbor, paving the way for sales of tea imported from Holland.

But it wasn’t only faces that were disguised.

The real story behind the protest was disguised as an unfair tax. In truth, the protest covered up the intent of protecting private business interests.

The website states that the current Tea Party mission is to “bring awareness to any issue which challenges the security, sovereignty or domestic tranquility of our beloved nation.”

Awareness, in this instance, refers to the “facts” sculpted for the Tea Party’s agenda, just like the original “facts” massaged in 1773.


About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Massaging the facts

  1. I cringe regularly at the racism and lies that seem inherent in the Tea Party platform. their total disregard for history, and more importantly, for the real plight and needs of people and the planet is frightening at best.


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