Appeals to Authority

[also called THIRD PARTY TECHNIQUE] Information manipulators love to dazzle you with endorsements from celebrities and experts. (remember Bernays popularizing bacon and bananas?)

“ its most obvious and crude form in the television commercials that featured actors in physicians’ lab coats announcing that “nine out of ten doctors prefer” their brand of aspirin” (Rampton & Stauber, 17).

Another third party technique is to place the conclusion you want in the mouth of a THINK TANK. A majority of think tanks are funded by special interest groups or corporations. They supply experts for news people to interview (definition of an "expert" – an ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure). For a list of Think Tanks and their affiliations, go to Think Tanks.

Example: The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) funded by Philip Morris to combat scientific findings which would discourage people smoking. It was intentionally designed to conceal the role of Philip Morris as its primary funder and “to appear outwardly like a broad coalition of scientists from multiple disciplines” (Rampton & Stauber, 241, 243).

* Other front groups for the tobacco industry:

    • Consumer Alert
    • Hudson Institute
    • Progress & Freedom Foundation
    • Cato Institute
    • Competitive Enterprise Institute
    • Capital Research Center


A corollary to appealing to authority is asking the liar for confirmation. The media is often guilty of this. Here is one example: "Less than twenty-four hours after The Nation disclosed that former Secretary of State James Baker and the Carlyle Group were involved in a secret deal to profit from Iraq's debt to Kuwait, NBC was reporting that the deal was "dead"...

"Carlyle had just pulled off a major public relations coup. When the story broke, the notoriously secretive merchant bank needed to find a way to avoid a full-blown political scandal. It chose a bold tactic: In the face of overwhelming evidence of a glaring conflict of interest between Baker's stake in Carlyle and his post as George W. Bush's special envoy on Iraq's debt, Carlyle simply denied everything. The company issued a statement... "Carlyle was never a member of the Consortium"...

"In the leaked business proposal... the Carlyle Group is named no fewer than forty-seven times... other consortium members... confirmed that Carlyle was still involved, as did the office of the Prime Minister of Kuwait...

"Amazingly, it worked. The story--which made front-page news around the world--vanished almost as soon as it had appeared in the press at home" (Naomi Klein. "Carlyle Covers Up." The Nation, Nov. 15, 2004: 12).

" a whole, the media seem far more interested in careers than truth. And for a group that’s supposed to be relating a whole lot of complex ideas about the world, they sure do seem parochial...

"Here’s a new principle they might add to the J-School dogma: don’t quote people who are lying just to have “both sides” represented. And here’s a tip: don’t source with fringe nuts. That’s not objectivity; it’s retarded" (Joshuah Bearman. "Even the Media Hates the Media." LA Weekly, Aug. 30, 2004).

Excerpts from book: Mickey Z. The Seven Deadly Sins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2004.

"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit atrocities" (Voltaire) (128).

Colby Glass, MLIS