What happened to America, the nation that used to be such a beacon of light? We met up with the American PR guru and seasoned professional who has worked with celebrities and political leaders in the US over the years, Woodley Auguste. The aim was to hear his take on the clampdown on freedom and the current level of divisiveness in the United States.
Woodley Auguste says: “This is the home of the brave, and also the home of fake news. Anyone that has an opinion that is contrary to the narrative, now have to resort to citizen journalism. The media wants to ensure that certain messages are being brought ahead and only those messages will go through.”
“What we have is limited speech, as long as what you are saying is politically correct. Anyone who is against the political consensus is viewed as a threat. If you are willing to say the truth and speak the truth, it will really cause people to get very uncomfortable. When they become uncomfortable, they become your enemy.”
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Hanne Nabintu Herland, bestselling author, historian of comparative religions and founder of The Herland Report: – Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is one of our regular guests and authors, he says: “When I was born, America was a nation, now there is only hatred”. In this perspective, we would like to discuss the past years’ development of American culture, there seems to be such an immense degree of rudeness, such a lack of respect for diversity and different opinions.
Woodley Auguste, PR expert and seasoned professional: – I do believe that the mainstream media fuels the divide. They create a certain level of vitriol that permeates throughout society, where whatever marginalized group becomes castigated and viewed as they are the purveyors of the problems.
– But if we step back and examine this, we see that there is far greater agenda taking place. There’s great influence by a certain group of people that are pushing an agenda, and that agenda infuriates people. We have seen it in politics and we in spheres where certain things are propagated.
It becomes a question of group think, where we are all pushed to think the same way. It is becoming further and further evident that there is a great divide taking place in the US.
Hanne Herland: –We know the linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky as a critical thinker. What is especially refreshing with his work, is that he brings provoking reflections, it does not necessarily mean that he is right, it still makes you think. Chomsky has repeatedly been voted the most important intellectual in the US.
He has pointed out that the US is no longer a democracy, but a oligarchy in which the very few ultra rich rule on behalf of the people. They make sure that whatever benefits them economically is what comes across in the media.
Woodley Auguste: – They are sticking to their narrative. The media wants to ensure that certain messages are being brought ahead and only those messages will go through. We see a further marginalization that takes place where certain networks will only report one element. Something can happen and you will hear three contrasting views for the one story. It is ultimately up to the American citizen to decide who they want to believe. It goes beyond partisanship and politics.
It is very important to step back and look at the information critically and then come to conclusions based on well-informed decisions. That’s not always the case and we tend to cling on to the soundbite. We are a nation to the soundbite where we hear one thing and not the full context. That is the problem.
Whether it is George Soros, the Koch brothers or whatever. the narrative is always controlled. If you can control the message you can control the people, because very few of them will ask the critical questions as to why news are portrayed a certain way.
You know, the “follow the money” and you will se exactly what’s going on. I think that that is the case with the media regardless if it is traditionalist or alternative, as they now say. We just saw it not to long ago in social media, where people were upset about fake news being pumped through social media and being shared throughout. There is someone that is controlling that narrative. So, we have to ask who and why.
Hanne Herland: – Over 90% of the US media is owned by only 6 corporations. I think it was the Washington Post that first came out with a list stating that “these news outlets are fake news.” The funny part being that the list corresponded to exactly those news outlets that write about other parts of reality than just the one politically correct Liberal version here in the United States.
Woodley Auguste: – Yes, the home of the brave is also the home of fake news. Anyone that has an opinion that’s against or contrary to whatever the narrative is, now have to resort to citizen journalism. A number of those different outlets where they are showing a contrasting view has really opened up the eyes of the people.
When we look at this historically, back in the day when the media was controlling messages, it was known as propaganda. That is what I believe is taking place here in the US.
We are now in a time of news just being nothing short of propaganda regardless of what parties are in power or who is the president. There is a propaganda being communicated time and time again to control people’s thought process.
Hanne Herland: – The West used to be known as a beacon of free speech, or at least, we did respect differences of opinion. We used to feel sorry for the Communists and Socialists in the Soviet Union who had “no freedom”. Today, we see how the West is becoming the new Soviet Union. Would you agree?
Woodley Auguste, PR expert: – Yes. We have limited speech as long as it is politically correct. I read a book recently about partisanship that you can also spot the conservative in the room because they are the ones that are the most quiet. That really moved me. I was intrigued by that thought. I realized that it’s a certain level of truth in that because anyone who is against the political consensus is viewed as a threat.
If you are willing to say the truth and speak the truth, and not looking at it subjectively, it will really cause people to get very uncomfortable. When they become uncomfortable they become your enemy.
Media is a force that, at one point, was used for good because it was free press and a level of liberty that came along with it. The spoken ideal, at least, was to be objective, looking at the cases in an as neutral as possible way. Now we are in an age where commentary becomes the truth regardless. We listen to the one personality screaming and yelling, and assert that what he says must be the truth. Truth becomes subjective.
We only hear what we like to hear, not necessarily looking at it objectively and saying that there is accuracy or inaccuracy in this or that. Fact-checking is not a standard anymore.
Hanne Herland: – It’s a provocative thought that the United States is losing its importance, because back in the day, we Europeans used to look up to you Americans. Now we watch how you all seem to hate each other. Back in the day, it used to be so different.
We used to look at the United States as a multicultural place where everybody were welcome as long as they worked. There was no welfare for anybody, but everyone was welcome to work hard and make it. Equality, national identity, regardless of class and race. But there seems to have been a shift the past ten or so years as the ethnic card is being used much more.
Woodley Auguste, PR expert and professional: – Just a few years back, the American society was deemed as being post-racial, gone beyond the issues of race. Everybody had an epiphany in the US. We heard stories of hope, we had president Obama who was bi-racial, both white and black. Many thought that would be utopia. However, there were comments that were being made by the president at that time, when he was a candidate, when he said certain things that didn’t work very well. He told people “to keep their guns and their religion”.
I thought that was unique because his own background – his mother grew up in the Mid West – however he didn’t embrace those values. When you fast forward to president Trump, he made it a point to communicate to that base, seeing that they were forgotten. He rose up in popularity by saying certain things that triggered them to immediately respond. Currently, that is what we are seeing, where certain messages are telegraphed to certain bases of people.
I think the problem is that the people’s voice is not heard anymore. They are marginalized. We only hear one voice. We are at a point where people are very disenfranchised. They want to communicate what’s happening, but have no platform.
We have seen it in other places. Places like Egypt, where the state control the narrative of the news and the media. Then, at some point there was such a level of unrest were the people took the media back and put it in their own hands and communicated to the rest of the world. This is what is happening. We are slowly coming to that point.
Here in the US, people are going to start saying that enough is enough. We want to start communication these messages. By large, I think that all Americans have the same interests. They want the same thing. Many people that come to this country want to assimilate. Yes, we retain the aspects of our culture, but we also know that we are Americans.
I grew up that way. My family immigrated here to the United States from Haiti, and we retained our cultural identity. But it is always with the backdrop of America. We are Americans who originated from Haiti. Not the other way around. It is about America. Not to propagate nativism, but this is our country and we should assimilate. We should identify away from where we originated. If I go back to Haiti, they also call me an American. They feel that I am different, I have become different from them and I belong in America.
The injustice is great to any group of people. When you see marginalization, particularly if you come from a background where you were not the majority, you recognize that. It’s a level of discomfort that’s there because when you understand what it is like to be different. You can empathize with others.
Auguste: – Now, that said, there has to be certain guidelines that has to be established. I remember early in my career where I was working. My boss at the time was white. He said to me “well, you know there are problems in your community with fatherlessness”. And I answered him “well, I don’t understand. I live in a mixed neighbourhood. I see a lot of fathers.” He said, “Well, you know, the black community”.
Instead of observing, this one person speaks for the entire race. Why not look at it and say that we all represent a variety of differences. Speaking as a person of colour, a black man, there is so much variation in that. I am a black man, but with a Haitian background, so I see the world very differently from my African American friends. We see things very differently both racially and culturally.
I grew up in a household were I was told not to marry an African American woman because they value different things than you. You see this in the Latin cultures. We cant just say that its all one and the same because its variation and nuance to all of it. Even in our approach to politics. Our ideologies. There is nuances to that because your experience is vastly different from mine.
You, Hanne are an African. You are way more of an African than I am. That’s the irony, because if somebody would look at us, they would see a blond woman and say that you couldn’t be African. I would be stamped as the African.
Hanne Herland: – That is one of the issues I have had in Europe which has been good to me is that I was born in raised in Africa and moved to Europe when I was grown up. Since then I have lived in South America, the Middle East, travelled around Asia and often returned to Africa.
It gives you a very different perspective on things, you accept the diversity as something beautiful that makes the world such an exciting place, that we all are different with different cultures. I have seen the vast difference between the cultures.
The black American culture and the African cultures here in the US, for example, there is such a plurality. They are vastly different. That is why I feel it is so sad that the media places everything into categories. It becomes black against white, man against woman and so on. This does not reflect the plurality in the world. Why not embrace that diversity? Of course, there is good and bad in cultures, why is that a problem to acknowledge? There is good and bad in everything.
Woodley Auguste: – What you are saying is that you are judging someone regarding the content of their character, not by their skin or what we see at first sight. That is precisely where a lot of these issues become problematic, because we lump everybody into these categories in “you must be this way based on your appearance”.
Recently, I friend of mine was talking to me about that they felt apologetic for being a white person, a white male and how this was bad because he didn’t want to seem as being responsible for rape and all these different atrocities. My first thought was: “Well, you didn’t do anything!” In the same way, I can’t hold you responsible for something that you were not a part of. As a Haitian, you can’t say to me that I am responsible for what happened to the French when Haiti became free. I didn’t run around cutting peoples head off at that time.
The fact remains that history is history. We embrace that truth and we do something differently and turn to mutual cooperation. That is the learning process, or should be the process, if we are to grow. It is a learning curve to accept that our views are always a limited outlook on life. That is why we should respect each other.