What the New Zogby Poll Tells Us about Propaganda, the Media, and Education

The second Zogby poll commissioned by 911truth.org, this one nationwide, allows a number of revealing conclusions, despite its failure to ask the crucial question of complicity that showed in the first (August 2004) poll that 49.3% of New York City dwellers, and 40.9% throughout the state, agreed that “some leaders in the U.S. government knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to take action.”

Nevertheless, the re-wording of the question about WTC 7 in the second poll and the inclusion of a question about media performance, as well as the addition of the category of “educational level” in the statistical breakdown, provide a useful illustration of the relationship between the mainstream press, education, and the propaganda function of both in America today on issues of political importance.

The propaganda function of “the news” is easily demonstrated. People were asked how they would rate “the US media’s performance regarding 9/11.” 42.8% thought the coverage was good or excellent.

The question about WTC 7 was worded more felicitously than in the first poll (where people were asked to give the number of the “third skyscraper”):

World Trade Center Building 7 is the 47-story skyscraper that was not hit by any planes during the September 11th attacks, but still totally collapsed later the same day. This collapse was not investigated by the 9/11 Commission. Are you aware of this skyscraper's collapse, and if so do you believe that the Commission should have also investigated it? Or do you believe that the Commission was right to only investigate the collapse of the buildings which were directly hit by airplanes?

42.6% answered that they were “unaware of WTC 7 collapse.”

There is a startlingly exact correspondence, then, between the number of people who were positively impressed by the media coverage of 9/11 and the number who were unaware of the collapse of WTC 7, namely 43%! This is also very close to the number who think there has been a cover-up of “critical evidence” by the government and the Commission: 42.3%.

These figures become even more interesting when broken down for educational level. Although people in the lowest category (no high school diploma) were least likely to know about WTC 7, in the three higher categories the lack of knowledge is directly proportional to educational level: Only 38.6% of high schools grads were unaware of the collapse of WTC 7, but 43.2% with some college, and 43% with college degrees or higher, were unaware of this important fact!

Exactly the reverse is true of the belief that the investigation is a cover-up. 55.5% of those without a high school education suspect a cover-up, but only 47.5% with a high school diploma, 35.5% with some college, and a mere 33.7% with a college degree or more “believe that the US government and its 9/11 Commission concealed or refused to investigate critical evidence that contradicts their official explanation of the September 11th attacks.”

In other words, the higher the level of education, the less likely people are to know about WTC 7, and the more likely they are to believe the government is telling the truth about 9/11.

It would be hard to find a more convincing illustration of the propaganda function of formal education—much of it, in any case, as Noam Chomsky has said:

There are huge efforts that do go into making people, to borrow Adam Smith's phrase, "as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human being to be." A lot of the educational system is designed for that, if you think about it, it's designed for obedience and passivity. [Interview with David Barsamian, excerpted from Class Warfare, 1995, pp. 19-23, 27-31, and reprinted here.]

--Michael D. Morrissey June 2006