“Hundreds of bridges in Oregon and Southwest Washington are structurally deficient, according to a new report released Tuesday.”
The organization that issued this report is a lobbying organization:
“Established in 1902, Washington, D.C.-based ARTBA is the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, news media and the general public.”
Congress is about to consider legislation that might fund infrastructure spending in the 1 to 1.5 trillion dollar range.
The organization’s report uses fear as its primary means of propaganda messaging based on two sets of words:
- “Crumbling infrastructure”
- “Structurally deficient”
Each year they issue reports which the news media dutifully reports as about America’s “crumbling infrastructure”. Their propaganda is so successful that one seldom see a news article about infrastructure without “crumbling” placed in front of “infrastructure”.
The group’s goal is to persuade the public to spend money on infrastructure improvements that translate into business for members of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.
Terminology or careful selection of words plays a major role in propaganda messaging. In the past, bridges that needed to be repainted were labeled “structurally deficient” (appears to still be true, page 68). Similarly, standards have changed – a bridge that has an overhead clearance of less than 14 feet or lane widths less than contemporary standards are now considered structurally deficient (technically they are “functionally obsolete” but those are rolled up into the “structurally deficient” count). Bridges that have lead-based paint may be considered “structurally deficient”.
A “deficient” bridge is one with some maintenance concerns that do not pose a safety risk. A “deficient” bridge typically requires maintenance and repair and eventual rehabilitation or replacement to address deficiencies.
This is similar to saying your car needs an oil and air filter change, therefore your car is structurally deficient.
Because the public’s concept of “structurally deficient” is different than the civil engineers’ view of “structurally deficient”, this choice of wording is effective in persuading the public to give more money to civil engineers.
Which is why this is a tremendously successful propaganda messaging operation.
Of course, there are bridges, roadways and tunnels that need work or replacement but it is difficult for the public to make informed decisions when those with a conflict of interest are running the public propaganda campaign.
Note – this post is NOT about whether or not transportation and other infrastructure facilities need to be repaired, rebuilt or expanded. This post is about the obvious propaganda messaging undertaken and, in particular, how the use of wording or language itself can be used to deliver a propaganda messaging. Public opinion polls will subsequently be run to show how much the public supports “fixing America’s crumbling infrastructure”. These polls results will then be used to influence spending priorities of elected representatives.
The public, of course, generally knows nothing about the details of highways and bridges but instead forms their opinion from the propaganda messaging that has been delivered to them. They have been told repeatedly about “America’s crumbling infrastructure” and its scary sounding “structurally deficient” bridges.
Public opinion polls do not really measure public opinion – they measure the success of propaganda operations!