M. Annenberg

HUSH my KUSH/ The Silencing of Science/ Artist talk/ Ceres Gallery December 12, 2019

American democracy is skating on thin ice, when the potential loss of drinking water for one billion people, because of melting glaciers, is not considered news in the American press. With the Arctic circle warming faster than the rest of the world, retreating glaciers will affect agriculture, industry and consumption and with it, population displacement, even if the goal of 1.5 degrees warming is met. The Guardian newspaper stated, “A Third of Himalayan Ice
Cap Doomed”. Was this hyperbole or fake news? It was neither – a close reading of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment finds that even if the rest of the world limits emissions, the Himalayan mountain range will heat 0.3 to 0.7 degrees higher. This portends catastrophic consequences for the people of Asia.

Why should we, in America, care? The Himalayan glacier feeds the Ganges, Indus, Mekong, Yangtze, Huang He, Brahmaputra, Irrawaddy and Walween rivers, which provides drinking water and irrigation for 1.5 billion people in nine countries – China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Nepal, Butan and Pakistan. Where will people go? If emissions are not kept under 1.5 ppm, potentially 2/3 of the Himalayan glacier could melt.

My mixed media installation Hush my Kush reveals the lack of editorial urgency to get this information to the American people. It compares the reporting of the Hindu Kush Himalayan Assessment by the New York Times and seven other leading national newspapers,
namely, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, the LA Times, the Detroit Free Press, The Chicago Tribune, the Houston Chronicle and the Dallas Morning News, which did not report the assessment.

Why does that matter? According to the 2018 Yale study, Climate Change in the American Mind, 62% of Americans understand that global warming is mostly human caused. However, 23% believe it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment. According to a 2018 Pew research poll, only 59% of Americans view climate change as a major threat as opposed to 90 % in Greece, 71% in Kenya and 67% in the Philippines.

My quilted artwork, It’s the Agenda, Stupid, shown at Ceres Gallery last year, documented the absence of the reporting of the National Climate Assessment, namely, in the New York Post and in the New York Daily News. The lead author of that assessment was the National Oceanic and Administration, with contributions from the Dept. of Defense, the Dept of Agriculture and the Dept of Energy. This report clearly stated that the burning of coal, gas and oil and the clearing of forests have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 40% since the Industrial Revolution. The paper, New York Newsday, included in this quilt, made The National Climate Assessment a full page headline on their front page. Where were the rest of America’s editors?

Because we have been raised to think that our press is the envy of the free world, we believe it to be so. On closer examination though, one must conclude, that this is no longer true. In fact, the 2019 World Press Freedom Index places America at #48 in press freedom. What does this mean for the American people? In documenting instances of the suppression of climate news, my artwork highlights this dark reality.

According to agenda setting theory outlined by McCombs and Shaw in 1968, if a news item is covered frequently, then the American people will regard it as important. The lack of climate related news, documented in Public Citizen’s 2018 report, Storms of Silence, states that because so little climate news is reported, we are at a loss to understand the gravity of global warming.

Eisenhower warned in 1961, that our democracy will be compromised without an informed
citizenry. That prediction has come to pass. With a silent media unable or unwilling to report on the depth of our climate crisis – it is clear that the avoidance of climate related news and the absence of climate policy, are two sides of the same coin. As a matter of fact, the Trump
administration dissolved the Federal Advisory Committee working with the National Climate
Assessment. The purpose of this panel was to translate scientific studies into actionable public policy, that individual states could use the reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Without public advocacy for the reduction of emissions and no committee to advise states, we are in a state of
limbo to address this environmental emergency on a national scale.

Welcome to the brave new world of inverse propaganda! News that is unreported can hurt us.
Freedom of the press has come to mean that the press is free not to report the news. The irony is
that the press is not the enemy of the people because of news that is reported – it’s the enemy of the people because of news that is withheld.

King George’s Revenge

The photocollage titled King George’s Revenge, refers to the firing of U.S. Department of Energy photographer, Simon Edelman, after releasing his photos of Energy Secretary
Rick Perry embracing CEO Bob Murray, of Murray Energy, one of the nations’ largest coal producers. The coal initiatives Murray proposed at that meeting became administration policy, in order to save the coal industry. Edelman’s photo equipment was confiscated by the Department of Energy.

Artist talk, Ceres Gallery, NYC, December 13, 2018 – Inverse Propaganda

M. Annenberg – It’s the Agenda, Stupid! (Inverse Propaganda) Dec. 13, 2018, Ceres Gallery, NYC

Thinking about propaganda, I turned to one of the world’s authorities – Hannah Arendt – who wrote “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.” The parallels to our world today are simply frightening. I thought about the words also
of the former Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany – Joseph Goebbels, who said, “A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.

We are living through a different kind of propaganda in our time. Although Trump and other deniers like James Inhofe, have repeated many times that climate change is a lie and a Chinese hoax – what we are witnessing today is the suppression of truth – scientific truth. It is almost as if we are inhabiting a new Dark Ages – where the observations of science are being relegated to superstition. What we don’t know can hurt us – because we are rendered impotent.

This quilt took the covers of three urban newspapers as evidence of this suppression of science in our time. After Hurricane Harvey, the organization Public Citizen documented that out of 2000 mentions of the hurricane in the press – only 136 also mentioned climate change. Further, there are only four news sources in America, that are responsible for 72 percent of pieces that mention climate change – The Washington Post, CNN, The Houston Chronicle and the New York Times. Only 43 percent of Americans report hearing about climate change in the media at least once a month. We are being propagandized by the absence of information.

Why is this important? A 1972 study, by McCombs and Shaw on the 1968 presidential election, demonstrated, that the most important issues in the mind of the public were directly related to what the local and national news media reported was the most important issue. Since climate news is rarely reported, we can look to the polls that examine the issues the American public thinks are important – according to a recent 2017 Associated Press, NORC poll they are in order – health care, jobs, immigration, education and the environment and the economy in 5th place.

The October, 2018 IPCC Special Report on 1.5 degrees gives humanity 12 years to mitigate climate change before catastrophic feedback loops in the climate system pass the tipping point of remediation. It also reports that the ocean has absorbed 30% of anthropogenic carbon
dioxide, resulting in ocean acidification and changes in carbonate chemistry to the detriment of all ocean species, from algae to fish. The National Climate Assessment reported here, in NY
Newsday, identifies changes in atmospheric and ocean temperature, melting glaciers, diminishing snow cover, shrinking sea ice, rising ocean levels and increasing atmospheric water vapor, a greenhouse gas. How did the editors of the other two newspapers decide that this information wasn’t important?

The question is – do we still have a free press? Or has the American press given itself over to their advertisers? Is the press obligated to the public interest or is the press obligated to their shareholders? I think we know the answer and our democracy is in jeopardy.

It’s the Agenda, Stupid – 2018, 94×94 inches, fabric

The artwork, It’s the Agenda, Stupid, focuses on the reporting of two unrelated events-
the publication of the National Climate Assessment and the anticipated arrest of Harvey
Weinstein, both on November 4, 2017. The National Climate Assessment verified the scientific consensus that greenhouse gases warming the planet are produced by the burning
of fossil fuels – oil, gas and coal. Among the participating agencies were the Dept. of Defense, the Dept. of Agriculture, the Dept of Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Agenda theory, which was published in the 1960’s, says that mass media sets the agenda for public opinion by concentrating on certain issues and excluding others. In this artwork, the front pages of the New York Post and the Daily News clearly spell out the importance of Harvey Weinstein’s transgressions. New York Newsday however, clearly states that the National Climate Assessment contradicts the policies of the Trump administration, which deny the science behind global warming.

According to the Yale Study of Climate Change in the American Mind, 2018,
28% of the American public believes that natural causes are driving climate change.
We assume that because a free press is enshrined in our constitution that our press really is free. Our founding fathers could not foresee the strangulation of information, by media consolidation, which places profit over the public good. This artwork demonstrates
the role of the press, in minimizing information critical to the public’s understanding of the
verified science, that has analyzed our warming planet and its dire consequences.

Checkmate: Foxy Moxy, mixed media, 80 x 70 inches

There is no entity more responsible for misinformation on climate change, than Murdoch’s media empire. The Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed climate science news coverage on Fox News, in 2013, and found that 72% of its segments were misleading. This is problematic because the Fox News Channel has been the No.1 rated cable news network in America for several years. Media Matters has revealed that Fox owned stations reach 37% of the US television audience. They believe it functions as a propaganda organization, not a news organization.

The prestigious Journal of Communication, published an article by Feldman, Myers, Hmielowski and Leiserowitz, in 2014, The Mutual Reinforcement of Media Selectivity and Effects, which stated that partisan news allows Americans to insulate themselves in echo chambers, exposed only to views that verify existing prior beliefs. Also, that persons influenced by Fox News not only believe that global warming is not happening but also oppose climate policies regarding mitigation.

Checkmate: Foxy Moxy is composed of a checkerboard. In chess, the action of checkmate, means that the game is over. Dr.James Hansen’s editorial Game Over for the Climate, reveals that we are at a point of no return in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. When 175 nations signed the Paris Climate Treaty in NYC last April, the news was reported in most newspapers appropriately close to the front page. Why then, did Murdoch place this news on page 33 in his New York Post, accompanied by three swimsuit models? The decision not to give the signing of the treaty proper placement in the paper is neither neutral nor benign. This newspaper has the fifth largest circulation in the United States.

I have referred to the omission of news as “inverse propaganda”. Inverse propaganda is the absence of information, so that citizens are rendered unknowing and impotent in the face of critical information withheld – in this case the dire state of our planet. As our ecosystems, the atmosphere and the oceans become transformed through the influence of CO2 emissions, we will leave the next generation a compromised and turbulent existence. Is it not criminal negligence to use vast media networks to suppress this climate emergency?
Shouldn’t we be alarmed at the finding by St. Leo University’s 2015 poll that found more people in this country trust Fox news regarding climate issues than President Obama? When the greatest threat to our future has been minimized for years – can we still say that America has a free press?

Marcia Annenberg’s artwork deals with political subjects.
Her newest body of work comments on mass media and
the post-9/11 world. The paintings and installations are
Conceptual and do not depict actual events.

Check-mate ©2014″

Conceived as a metaphor from the game of chess, the artwork, Check, Checkmate, takes the global warming debate beyond partisan politics. It examines the role American media plays in the lack of public response to our urgent climate crises. Both on air and in print, certain media outlets participate in ongoing omissions and misinformation concerning scientific research into climactic change. The release of the IPCC report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, should settle the debate once and for all. It is neither Democratic, Independent or Republican. It is international. The report states that the warming of the atmosphere and the oceans is unequivocal and that it is the result of human activity.

In chess, the status of checkmate means game over. Dr. James Hansen’s recent editorial, Game Over for the Climate, reveals that we are at a point of no return in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. This NASA scientist, a political independent, once called upon by the Bush administration for climate advice, has resorted to chaining himself to the gates of the White House to get attention focused on the urgency of climate remediation. Unfortunately, this action was barely covered by the national press. My artwork,
Early Wednesday Morning, documents this lack of coverage.

With the imminent loss of Antarctic ice masses, one has to wonder why certain media outlets, refuse to acknowledge the work of 259 lead authors, and 600 contributing authors, including scientists from 39 countries, involved in researching with the first working group, for the fifth assessment report. In an era of irreversible climate change, the decision not to publish the IPCC Report is neither neutral nor benign. On September 28, 2013, the day after the release of the Summary for Policy Makers, of the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, from this report, the New York Post carried no mention of it, although several other papers did.

Does a free press, guaranteed by our constitution, mean that our press is free not to report the news? Investigating the prominence and placement given to the reporting of this document, ironically focused on the absence of the presence of this research and its conclusions. The misuse of public airwaves and the press allegedly for the public good, instead confuses the public with misinformation on research agreed upon by the majority of the world’s climate scientists. Media barons, who use the press to delegitimize scientific data, results in a lack of public engagement on this issue, thereby enabling the obstruction of coherent legislation to deal with this problem. Extraneous issues, such as the re-emergence of Monica Lewinsky, capture the public’s attention, as a diversion to the actual coverage of an issue that threatens the continuation of life as we know it. The disturbance to our ecosystems and the perils that future generations will face, place the omission of this news in a new category. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, from the burning of coal, gas and oil, the public is rendered unknowing and impotent, as destruction and ecocide, rage onward.

Marcia Annenberg’s artwork deals with political subjects.
Her newest body of work comments on mass media and
the post-9/11 world. The paintings and installations are
Conceptual and do not depict actual events.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was born into a family of news junkies. My parents used to order the I.F. Stone Weekly. so I knew that there was an official version of the news and that there was an alternative version, although I really didn’t pay much attention to their conversations.
I became concerned about the loss of international news in the 1990’s when media consolidation closed down news bureaus all over the world and turned to sensational news models in order to become more profitable.

As our climate crisis has worsened, I became aware that it’s not only international news coverage that has been lost, but a persistent and ongoing suppression of climate related news, especially in regards to the former Director of NASA, Dr. James Hansen.
In my talk at Princeton three years ago, I coined the phrase “inverse propaganda”. If propaganda is the repetition of false or misleading statements until they take on the appearance of truth – then inverse propaganda is the absence of information, so that citizens are rendered unknowing and impotent in the face of critical information being withheld – in this case the dire state of our planet.

I believe we are currently living through a fundamental shift in our political system, which I call a “demi-democracy”, where we have unlimited access to information on the internet, but our national press and our broadcast news suppresses climate data. Does a free press now mean that the press is free not to report the news?
As the news has moved away from who, what , where & why to opinion, manipulation and demagoguery – shouldn’t we be concerned about the 2015 poll from St. Leo University that found that more people in this country trust Fox News regarding climate issues than President Obama?

I fear that the promise of the internet and cable TV, in marketing itself to the lowest common denominator, in a world where investigative journalism just doesn’t pay, lays the groundwork for the eventual demise of our democracy.

M. Annenberg
April 24, 2016
Bruce High Quality Foundation
New York City

M. Annenberg – Project Censored 2014 Essay – page 421 – Seven Stories Press

No News Is Good News

It is not an overstatement to say that American journalism is endangered. In the 1990’s it was simply a question of the insertion of entertainment news into the news hour. By 2012, the news hour has shrunk – on some stations – to 80 seconds around the world. Does market research really find that the average American citizen can maintain interest in world news for only 80 seconds?

With media consolidation, came the closing of news bureaus overseas, to increase profit margins. What if Osama Bin Laden’s articles, published in London, were publicized in 1998, instead of Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress stains? Would our national security apparatus been more focused? Probably. Where is the news that informs, instead of titillates? More recently, it is the under reporting of domestic
news that should concern us. My artwork, No News Is Good News grew out of an
inadvertent discovery of the omission of a critically important news story that was omitted from national news – namely, the signing of the NDAA, on New Year’s Eve, by the president in 2012. I was startled to discover on the internet, a week after the signing, that it had in fact taken place the prior week.

Why does this matter? A bill that even FBI Director, Robert Mueller objected to – gave the army the same power as the police – to arrest terrorism suspects. Since when did the army become an adjunct police force? This news caused barely a ripple in the national press. I couldn’t believe that I had missed this news, so I started to send away for national newspapers, for example, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Enquirer, the Los Angeles Times, the Dallas Free Press, the Detroit Free Press and the Tampa Bay Times. What I found was that it simply wasn’t reported – except for page 22 in the New York Times and the front page of the Dallas Free Press. How did it come to this?

As our fourth amendment protections slip away, against unreasonable search and seizure, under the cover of the war on terror…with warrantless access to our email and phone calls – allowing the gathering of data without encryption – we have to wonder why the press has acquiesced, without protest. As investigative journalism moves into the web of the internet, the American people are left in a state of unknowing. Not only do we not know what the government is doing on our behalf in the fight against terrorism – due to the absence of reporting, we don’t know that we don’t know what it is that we are missing.

In this bubble of mostly entertainment and crime news the public is fed on a daily basis, how can we make critical judgments on policy without any background in world affairs? Political contests become sound bites. Photogenic leaders are given scripts that play to designated interest groups. Perhaps the greatest deceit of our time is the obfuscation of the science behind global warming. As the level
of greenhouse gas rises above 400 parts per million, will any politician take to the floor of Congress to demand action? How many newspapers and how many newscasts reported the implications of that number? When the greatest threat to our future has been suppressed for years – can we still say that America has a free press?