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Monday, June 27, 2005

Perception management

Although this is not a story about 9/11, let's begin there.

Specifically, let's begin with Amanda Keller, a name most people will not recognize. The question is: Why don't they recognize it?

She was the girlfriend of Mohammed Atta, mentioned as such in a number of brief news accounts in the weeks following the tragedy. Florida investigative writer Daniel Hopsicker tracked her down, interviewed her, and uncovered details -- some of them downright lurid -- that defy the Authorized Version of Atta's life. You can read those details in Hopsicker's book Welcome to Terrorland.

Keller lives not far from Florida's "tabloid valley," home to the National Enquirer, the Star and similar tabloids, all of which are now owned by the same company, American Media, Inc. One would think that these "news" organs would leap at the chance to speak to Amanda Keller, a woman who could deliver sexy, shocking information about a man correctly detested by all Americans. One would think that such revelations would appeal to the lower-class red-staters who purchase the Enquirer at the supermarket checkout counter.

One would think.

But for some reason, the tabloids steer clear of this story.

Just as they usually steer clear of reports (published in Capitol Hill Blue and elsewhere) that George W. Bush has either gone off the wagon, lost his marbles, or both.

Just as they have steered clear of the Bush "bulge" story, which this blog covered at some length. Everyone understands that if Dubya were a Democrat, the tale of the bulge -- as well as the Bush-as-dry-dunk stories -- would provide the tabs with an endless number of yowling headlines. The New York Times may pretend to be too dignified, august and lofty to mention the bulge -- but the Enquirer can scarcely make similar claims to propriety.

Obviously, someone has a hand on the spigot. Who?

A history of gutter journalism. Intrigued by that question, I have begun to research the tabloid industry. The best place to start is a fascinating book titled "I Watched a Wild Hog Eat My Baby!" -- A Colorful History of Tabloids and Their Cultural Impact by Bill Sloan. (JFK buffs may recognize the author's name, since Sloan covered the assassination for the Dallas Times Herald.)

Although the Enquirer and other tabloids wrap themselves in the flag and the cross, that periodical originated in the cesspools of organized crime. Sloan tells the remarkable story of the modern genre's founder, Generoso Pope, Jr. -- the son of a mob-connected businessman who published Il Progresso Italiano-Americano, New York's leading Italian-language paper. The older Pope was Mussolini's primary American supporter. The younger Pope developed strong links to both the mafia and the CIA.

Which means that anyone who can read about the Pope family and their works without forming a conspiracy theory must possess formidable willpower.

After being graduated from MIT at the age of 19, the brilliant young Generoso Pope joined the CIA circa 1950, operating (by his own later admission) as a specialist in psychological warfare. This period marked the beginning of the CIA's efforts to alter the perception and behavior of groups and individuals -- Projects Artichoke, Bluebird, MKULTRA and so forth.

This was also the period when the CIA funded much American sociological research, as documented in Christopher Simpson's invaluable study, Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare 1945-1960. The Company's goal was to develop ways to alter the political and social beliefs of large populations.

Nobody knows just how long Pope worked for CIA, or why he left -- or if he left. But a few years later, in a scene that might have been co-directed by Orson Welles and Francis Ford Coppola, Pope decided that it would be fun to run a newspaper. So he hit up his godfather for some start-up capital (estimated at $250,000 -- quite a tidy sum in those days), and purchased a nearly-defunct rag called the New York Enquirer, which had begun life as a pro-Nazi tentacle of the Hearst empire.

Pope's godfather happened to be Frank Costello, the "boss of bosses" in New York, New Jersey, and other points northeast. Costello, a life-long friend of the Pope family, either provided the funds interest-free or as an outright gift. (Accounts differ.)

No-one really knows why Costello was so generous to Generoso. No one, in those days, would have predicted that the Enquirer would prosper.

But prosper it did, once Pope hit upon the gimmick of selling gore-filled crime-scene photos he acquired from his contacts. Although newstands and mom-n-pop shops balked at carrying such a periodical, Costello's "associates" made sure that the Enquirer received prominent display.

(I'm old enough -- barely -- to recall the "gore" era of tabloids. When I was a kid, the headline "Boy trapped in refrigerator eats own foot" gave me nightmares for a week. Sadly, Sloan doesn't mention that classic, although you can see scattered references to it throughout the internet.)

Sloan does not mention the fact that Costello himself had profound connections to the CIA. A brief summary of the origins of this relationship can be found here:

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), the CIA's parent and sister organizations, cultivate relations with the leaders of the Italian Mafia, recruiting heavily from the New York and Chicago underworlds, whose members, including Charles 'Lucky' Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Joe Adonis, and Frank Costello, help the agencies keep in touch with Sicilian Mafia leaders exiled by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Domestically, the aim is to prevent sabotage on East Coast ports, while in Italy the goal is to gain intelligence on Sicily prior to the allied invasions and to suppress the burgeoning Italian Communist Party.
The CIA also formed alliances with Asian gangsters involved with the heroin trade. Costello became one of the primary distributors of this product in the United States.

Although some argue that the CIA did not renew its mafia linkages until the assaults of Cuba, evidence indicates that Costello maintained an ongoing relationship with the CIA throughout the 1950s.

For example: Anthony Summers' respected biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Official and Confidential, discusses the "blackmail photograph" of Hoover and Clyde Tolson engaged in gay sex. Costello and Meyer Lansky had acquired copies of this photo -- which explains why the FBI tended to go easy on the mob. (Hoover denied that the mafia even existed.) But the photograph was taken by the CIA, using a special "spy" camera with an ultra-wide angle lens, which could take photographs through a small hole in the wall. The the CIA's James Jesus Angleton appears to have possessed a first-generation print.

Obviously, Costello acquired the image from the Agency.

(More on the tabloids and "perception management" tomorrow.)
Comments:
The mob connection resonates eerily. Recall the Kennedy-Nixon election in which Kennedy had mob help.

It has been said that the devil's bargain was made right there, and the Mafia has been part of our government since. That even the Joe Valachi revelations were merely one family cutting out others.

Curiously, though, the Democrats didn't keep up the Mafia tie. They disavowed it. No good Republican would make that mistake. The mob became the Republican, not the Democratic prerogative and avenue to power. Republicans, not Democrats, were accustomed to call on Mafia lifeblood. Nixon had his Bebe Rebozo who had his minions, etc...to the present day.

I don't know how true it is, but some say the reason American government has become so thuggish is in part that it is, to this day, inextricably entwined with the Mafia. That, in effect, the USA is Sicily West.

Now, mobsters are often blusteringly patriotic. But they do have their own narrow, twisted definition of the word. Put that together with the evangelists and the marching orders of the elite, and what have you got?

Basically Italian government in which the Vatican is supplanted by a fundamentalist enclave?

Or you define it.

Frankly I don't know how this fits into the Bush dictatorship. My guess is, Mafia strongarm power underpins "shadow CIA" dominance. The Mob with a less public face. I do know, though, that whatever internal dissension there may be in the Bush regime, all those guys know better than to pick a fight with their enforcers.

So does Sicily govern? Does the tail swing the donkey?
 
The mob connection resonates eerily. Recall the Kennedy-Nixon election in which Kennedy had mob help.

It has been said that the devil's bargain was made right there, and the Mafia has been part of our government since. That even the Joe Valachi revelations were merely one family cutting out others.

Curiously, though, the Democrats didn't keep up the Mafia tie. They disavowed it. No good Republican would make that mistake. The mob became the Republican, not the Democratic prerogative and avenue to power. Republicans, not Democrats, were accustomed to call on Mafia lifeblood. Nixon had his Bebe Rebozo who had his minions, etc...to the present day.

I don't know how true it is, but some say the reason American government has become so thuggish is in part that it is, to this day, inextricably entwined with the Mafia. That, in effect, the USA is Sicily West.

Now, mobsters are often blusteringly patriotic. But they do have their own narrow, twisted definition of the word. Put that together with the evangelists and the marching orders of the elite, and what have you got?

Basically Italian government in which the Vatican is supplanted by a fundamentalist enclave?

Or you define it.

Frankly I don't know how this fits into the Bush dictatorship. My guess is, Mafia strongarm power underpins "shadow CIA" dominance. The Mob with a less public face. I do know, though, that whatever internal dissension there may be in the Bush regime, all those guys know better than to pick a fight with their enforcers.

So does Sicily govern? Does the tail swing the donkey?
 
Reminds me of the scene in the Godfather where the heads of the families are having a parlay, and Barzini says that Don Corleone can charge a fee for his "services".

"After all," says Don Barzini, "we are not Communists!"

Which gets a good laugh from all those capitalist crooks.
 
You can defiantly relate it to 9/11. Who was sent weapons grade Anthrax shortly after 9/11? American Media in Boca Raton, Florida current owner of the National Enquirer. The building was sealed off for one year and every government agency known went in there and cleaned up. “Able Danger”
 
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Hi,

I was just looking around the net for web sites related to teenage relationship and came across your blog. I was going to add a blog to my site, for teenage relationship and of course other related material, but I'm not sure if it would work.
I'm a bit worried about getting un-wanted 'rude' posts rather than ones related to teenage relationship on my site...... perhaps I just try it out - then you can come and post on it :)

Take care
Stewart
 
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