Catapulting the Propaganda — Again

The great and much-missed blogger known as Billmon has a post over at Daily Kos that really deserves to be read, re-read, and printed out and mailed to the local newspapers for their edification:

For some years now, I’ve been morbidly fascinated by the political dark arts — especially the very dark art of disinformation: the systematic creation and dissemination of false narratives designed to discredit your opponents and/or drive undecided audiences away from their cause.
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The difference between disinformation and just plain lying is in the scope of the enterprise: A lie is intended to conceal a specific truth (e.g. “I did not have sex with that woman”). Disinformation, on the other hand, is aimed at constructing an entire alternative reality — one in which the truth can find no foothold because it conflicts just not with a specific falsehood, but with the entire fabric of the false reality that has been created. It puts the “big” in big lie, in other words.
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These basic disinformation techniques were first pioneered by the totalitarian movements of the 1930s, such as the [GODWIN REDACTION] and the Soviet KGB, but they’ve been brought to their full fruition by the modern advertising, public relations and political consulting industries. Proving once again that what communism can do, capitalism can do better.
[…]
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Karl Rove’s White House was, in many ways, the Olympian ideal of a disinformation operation — a propaganda achievement that will probably never be topped, at least in American politics (God willing). But it looks as if the House Republicans are giving it the old college try.
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Thus the rather amazing press conference Minority Whip Eric Cantor held earlier today, in which the Virginia Republican in effect accused the Democrats of inciting violence against all those innocent teabaggers out there who are simply expressing their sacred constitutional right to spit on black people and fax pictures of hangman’s nooses to their elected representatives.
[…]
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The basic objective of all this, as I wrote way back when, is very simple:

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The goal is to confront the public with two sides hurling identical charges at each other — the better to convince them that it’s just another partisan mudfight and who the hell knows . . . anyway.
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In that sense, the “mirror image” technique is a like a bomber scattering chaff behind it to try to fool enemy radar or deflect a heat-seeking missile from the real target. As I said, it’s one of the tricks Rove would use when Team Bush lost the news cycle, which suggests the past few days of coverage of the Great Teabagger Freakout have done some real damage –- or at least, that the Rovian high command thinks it has done some damage.
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Will the ploy work this time? I don’t think so, or if so, only to a limited degree. The material may have been brilliant, but the performance sucked –- even Cantor couldn’t make himself sound like he actually believed it. Sure, Fox News is ready (as always) to take the baton and run with it, but I think the mainstream corporate media deadheads, brain dead as they may be, have finally picked up on the scam… — Spock with a Beard: The Sequel






38 replies
  1. 1
    Shoe says:

    Yeah, read that piece earlier this morning. I’ve been checking out various blogs and news reports re: threats against Congresscritters and it seems to be going pretty much as Billmon said. Regardless of the truth of Cantors statement its been sufficient to get the ‘both sides are just as bad hurrrrr’ crap started.

    I think Billmon tends to veer in strange directions but when he’s right, he’s awesome-right.

  2. 2
    satby says:

    Yes, I shared that on Facebook last night. My friends are getting a bit tired of my linkapalooza; but at this point we need to be as noisy about the media deceptions as the teabaggers are about their crazy lies.

  3. 3
    fucen tarmal says:

    i really wonder when the people who were taught in civics class or poli sci, that “smart people” see both sides, will catch up to the fact that they are being exploited for their good intentions.

    the peak wingnut moment as its known around these parts..it we aren’t there yet, we will be

    Arthur Schopenhauer, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident

    i really think its true, all you can do is keep hammering, and prepare yourself for not being thanked for the effort when you, we, breakthrough.

  4. 4
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    There’s actually tiny, small glimmering hope for this in this post by Digby, about the the “Polls Show That Americans Don’t Like This Bill So it’s Being Rammed Down Their Throats(TM)” meme that the GOP made into unquestioned common wisdom for the corporate media.

    As many of us knew, about a quarter of those polling “opposed” to the bill were saying that because they wanted it stronger. Put another way: a solid majority in those polls approved of a bill equal to or stronger than this one.

    The reason I say a glimmer of hope is that at least Wolf Blitzer actually said out loud what brainless dupes for the right they’d all been. Not that they ever seem to learn from this, but I think saying it, even eventually, is a minor miracle on the order of the loaves and the fishes.

    In the meantime the entire motivation for the screaming, red-faced, violent, tea bagger fury about “not listening to the will of the people!” was based on complete bullshit, that is, not only is it a bizarre overreaction, it’s reason for being doesn’t exist.

  5. 5
    WereBear says:

    These people are committing violence to defend against something that is a lie.

  6. 6
    cleek says:

    These basic disinformation techniques were first pioneered by the totalitarian movements of the 1930s

    organized religion has been around much longer than that.

  7. 7
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    My right-wing dad sent out a mass email which I responded to with the “Open Letter to Conservatives” by Russell King posted at TPM.

    I received this letter back from a brother-in-law that I see for all of 3 hours every year:

    I started reading your reply, but you lost me 7 sentences in…the thing goes on forever. Allow me to retort, but much more briefly.
    I know it’s all Bush’s fault.
    Obama is only half black, so I if I disagree with his policies, I suppose I’m only half racist.
    Stop playing the race/sexist/ homophobe card, it’s getting old. Check out what happened to the hated Ann Coulter this weekend. The near riot to stop her from speaking wasn’t done by conservatives. Even if you don’t agree with what she says, you should be willing to fight to the death for her right to say it.
    Don’t be upset that Conservatives think America is better than the rest of the world. It is! When disaster strikes around the world, the US rushes in with aid. When Canadian ministers need health care, they cross our border for our care. How many US immigrants are trying to enter other countries illegally?
    Finally… Don’t be upset your side won. Gloat! Enjoy! Toast the worker’s paradise! Come November The Dummicrats will pick up even more seats in Congress and continue our quest for global mediocracy.
    Conservative Regards,

    How do you even begin to reply this shit?

    Generally I never initiate an email argument with my family – their wingnuttiness depresses me to no end and I try to spend as little time with them as possible. But sometimes the messages are so stupid that I just can’t not respond. And then I respond, and they get stupider.

  8. 8
    debit says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: I loved “Don’t be upset that Conservatives think America is better than the rest of the world. It is!” Because platitudes make it so!

    You could respond by pointing out our infant mortality rates are right there with the third world, and our mom’s dying in childbirth are almost as bad. You could even give a link, but I doubt he’d even read it. Instead, I suggest you go with, “Dummicrats? That’s all you have? I’m supposed to debate with someone who can’t read more than seven sentences and makes up childish names?”

  9. 9

    Billmon is far too optimistic. CBS morning show ran with the Cantor story as part of its “the atmosphere is tense and both sides are amped up” lead story this morning. I no longer believe the media mouthpieces are capable of anything beyond this frame. Bring on the DJ 3000.

  10. 10
    debbie says:

    I think Republicans have at long last overreached. It’s offensive that Cantor wouldn’t condemn these acts until it happened to his side, and it’s offensive the way Republicans have blatantly worked to incite their base. To say what they’ve said and then to claim that their intent was not to incite violence is to assume one’s audience doesn’t have the intelligence of an old, moldy sponge.

    Watching Karl Rove on This Week last Sunday, with his constant interruption of both the host and the other guest and his angry and loud repetition of rote talking points, is to see what the Republican party has become: a raving, foaming rabid dog. This may work in the short-term for ratcheting up the anger, but at some point, you’re going to be surrounded by these monsters you’ve created, and then what will you do with them?

  11. 11
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @cleek: No kidding.

    Persuading people to believe fiction because you say it’s true was the cornerstone of ruling power in many periods long before the 1930s. The whole job of the priests was often to make up stories to justify the ruler doing exactly whatever the hell he wanted to do.

  12. 12
    Emma says:

    Rusty: Don’t bother.

    I have the same problem with my family and I’ve decided that what is lost is lost. They will never see reality because they have so much invested in their construct that accepting any fact that challenges it is a personal threat. Thinking is hard, especially about the things that make their worldview so comforting. They will go on chanting “we’re number one!” as the United States slips further and further into international irrelevance punctuated by fits of violence in the world stage, and poverty and corporate feudalism in the domestic.

    I’ve said it once before in a thread here: we’re living in Bladerunner times. Or better said, we will be living in them if the sane ones among us cannot deflect them. And some days, I’m too depressed to care.

  13. 13
    rogues_pierre@excite.com says:

    We’d best all get used to propaganda. We’re going to have to stomach a LOT of it between now and November. Remember last month, Senator Bunny blocked extending unemployment? That was so much fun the G(NO)P is doing it again. What better way to show America how much you love them? Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma is picking up the ball from Jim Bunning on blocking extending Unemployment Benefits. More pearl clutching about adding to the deficit. The GOP wants to use funds from the stimulus package to fund the extension. Think of our children! “We’re going to be like the Athenian Empire,” warned the Oklahoma Republican, standing alone on the Republican side of the room. “The real thing going on outside Washington is the fear that that’s happening to us.” WTF? After the vote, Coburn’s office released a statement blaming Democrats for blocking benefits. Now there’s a winning strategy from back when we were five years old. Whenever you break something, just blame it on your sibling.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....13620.html

  14. 14
    Napoleon says:

    @Comrade javafascist:

    Billmon is far too optimistic. CBS morning show ran with the Cantor story as part of its “the atmosphere is tense and both sides are amped up” lead story this morning.

    My local morning show did as well and I e-mailed them while they were on the air with how they were running a bs story with a link to the AP wire report. I did not watch their second hour to see if they corrected it.

  15. 15
    GregB says:

    I just watched Morning Dick and his sock puppet Mika tell us all that this was he said/she said political hijinx.

    After showing a clip of an angry Eric Cantor we were told that Democrats have been whipping up this frenzy by talking about getting called Ni***er and spat upon and dodging bricks.

    Verdict-Both are guilty!

  16. 16
    Chyron HR says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford:

    How do you even begin to reply this shit?

    “Dear Magilla;

    Have you stopped beating my sister yet?

    Yours,
    Rusty”

    (No, I don’t have a family, why do you ask?)

  17. 17
    Joey Maloney says:

    @debbie:

    I think Republicans have at long last overreached.

    If I had a nickel for every time I thought we’d reached that point in the past 18 years, I could pour them into a sock and use it to beat to death the next moron who tries to tell me there’s no difference between the two sides hurr hurr hurr.

  18. 18
    Max Power says:

    So who knew that Republican “projection” was a political tactic?

    The problem with the strategy is that the hypocrisy is so thick you’re essentially pleading guilty. When Republicans charge that Medicare cuts mean death for seniors, that speaks volumes about their long-standing core party platform to cut Medicare spending.

    And when Cantor levels charges that the Democrats are inciting political violence – leaving death wishes on their own answering machines and smashing their own office windows, apparently – the sheer ludicrousness of the statement leaves no doubt that he’s implicating Republicans in doing just that.

  19. 19
    Napoleon says:

    @Napoleon:

    Just checked the e-mail account that I used to send the e-mail to the station and here is their response:

    We’ll look into it and in the meantime will refrain from airing the story again.

  20. 20
    Max Power says:

    Rusty:

    One for your BIL

    Q. What’s the difference between a Tea Partier and a 747?
    A. The whining noise eventually stops after a 747 lands at the airport.

  21. 21
    mai naem says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: The reply shows that your fool BIL didn’t even bother reading it. ” This is like one of those right/left things I saw on teevee in 06 with I think Janeane Garofalo and Jane Parshall(sp?) where Parshall literally put her fingers in her ears saying she wasn’t listening to anything when Garofalo was talking.

  22. 22
    Lancelot Link says:

    So who knew that Republican “projection” was a political tactic?
    It kinda became obvious when Alito accused the Democratic party of anti-Catholic bigotry the day he was appointed, didn’t it?

  23. 23
    bgno64 says:

    Billmon misses a crucial point, I think – maybe the media does run with the “both sides do it” bullshit, but if the establishment suddenly decides that extremism is a no-no – the teabag movement has been defanged.

    Plus, we all realize that the teabaggers have only just begun; Cantor’s “bullet” will pale in comparison to the violence that these fuckers do down the line here, and the GOP is going to have to manufacture a whole lot of its own “incidents” to keep up.

    Also, never underestimate the interest of the media in “proving” that they don’t have Teh Librul Bias by bending over backwards to kowtow to conservatives. Because Cantor/Rove doesn’t spout this bullshit merely for the media – he does so so his own side can say – look! We’re being targeted! And then when the media doesn’t report it in that “fair and balanced” way, it’s simply more “proof” of their “bias.”

    Everything is done with the wingnut base in mind first… the rest second.

  24. 24
    deweynet says:

    hi…first time commenter long time lurker. I work for the evil media, at a local television station. They ran a story where the local talking head went around to the local small businesses in the area and asked them what they thought of the health care bill passing. Most of the small businesses liked it but were unsure what exactly what was in the bill and exactly how it affected them. The anchor guy came back on camera and was surprised to learn this. how can this be? It’s because you didn’t do you’re job asshat. But of course, he missed that point and went into the next story about Sandra Bullock’s husband. Look at the shiny keys over here…

    As for the CBS Morning show…they are now doing a segment on men growing beards…you’re welcome America.

  25. 25
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    Will the ploy work this time? I don’t think so, or if so, only to a limited degree. The material may have been brilliant, but the performance sucked –- even Cantor couldn’t make himself sound like he actually believed it. Sure, Fox News is ready (as always) to take the baton and run with it, but I think the mainstream corporate media deadheads, brain dead as they may be, have finally picked up on the scam…

    The right-wing propaganda machine today reminds me of a once-successful sports team that tries to continue running a sophisticated offense with players who haven’t the skill to execute it.

  26. 26
    gwangung says:

    The right-wing propaganda machine today reminds me of a once-successful sports team that tries to continue running a sophisticated offense with players who haven’t the skill to execute it.

    Al Davis.

  27. 27
    Daddy-O says:

    Oh, Anne Laurie…when you wrote ‘great and much-missed blogger known as Billmon’, it just brought it all back…

    The Whiskey Bar is closed, but I’ll never forget checking the site daily. Billmon was the Glenn Greenwald of anonymous bloggers–coherent, correct and when making a target of humor in the conservative political world, no one was a better shot.

    I’m on Kos several times a day, but somehow I missed that post. Thanks a million for putting it here!

  28. 28
    Nellcote says:

    But isn’t the gop sop, if they can’t win on ideas then muddy the waters? Seems they’ve been doing that for decades.

  29. 29
    Little Dreamer says:

    It occurred to me the other day when I was delivering newspapers (the morning after the Sunday vote) with a headline “Victory!; Outcry!” in the Arizona Republic that media is going to have to walk a fine tightrope to get back to the truth (which they are having a hard time dismissing) without completely alienating a bunch of right-wing customers that they depend on for subscriptions – this goes for television and their advertisers as well.

    The worm is not going to flip over, it’s going to turn slowly and if anyone is convinced that the media isn’t going to play this type of game, they aren’t thinking of the revenue that will be lost.

  30. 30
    Nellcote says:

    Two thing currently driving me round the bend with the gop.

    1. Cantor blaming dems for “fanning the flames” with the official rnc page devoted to “Fire Pelosi” featuring Nancy surrounded by flames. Guess I’ll believe my lying eyes.

    2. The insistance that HCR changes anything about Hyde inspite of the actual words in the Bill plus a damn Executive Order. I just don’t get how they get away with this one.

  31. 31
    Little Dreamer says:

    @…now I try to be amused:

    The Wurlitzer is beginning to lose sound, the talking points are not being transmitted and received they way they used to be, BUT the old gal still has a few good notes left in her.

  32. 32
    Svensker says:

    @Emma:

    I have the same problem with my family and I’ve decided that what is lost is lost. They will never see reality because they have so much invested in their construct that accepting any fact that challenges it is a personal threat.

    An old friend who is a winger just cut off all his “lib” friends, including me, on Facebook. One friend who didn’t get cut off reports that he is posting all sorts of unhinged rants about sockalism, armageddon, “we have you in our crosshairs!”, etc. These people don’t want to hear anything that doesn’t fit their narrative. If they do hear it, it isn’t true, is a lie invented by libs, was caused by lib “plants” or means the opposite. Until they have a “scales falling from the eyes” moment, they are just not open to seeing reality.

  33. 33
    Little Dreamer says:

    @deweynet:

    Unfortunately, many people don’t subscribe to newspapers. The “What’s in the bill and how will it effect you” information was in newspapers on Monday Tuesday (sorry, Monday was the bill announcement), including the local paper I carry, and USA Today. The write-ups looked almost identical (including the red and white headline) and appeared to come from another source (the White House perhaps?).

    If people didn’t subscribe to a dead tree news service, they probably didn’t see it unless they went looking for it online.

  34. 34
    Redshirt says:

    @J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford: Contra to other suggestions, I say push back. Calmly, using facts, using their email chains, refute specific points. Provide links. Show graphs.

    It may all be pointless, but this is the task we all face, I believe. We cannot run from this insanity, but must confront it. With facts.

    If nothing else, they’ll probably take you off their mass email list.

  35. 35
    Little Dreamer says:

    @Redshirt:

    If nothing else, they’ll probably take you off their mass email list.

    Or else push back harder, because they feel they are about to have that “bringing you to Jesus” moment. UGH!

  36. 36
    Bourbaki says:

    This was one reason to be suspicious about all the noise the Republicans (including McCain!) were making last election about “vote fraud”.

    It was very creepy…

  37. 37
    JC says:

    Actually, as what Billmon is pointing to is a well worn tactic, what are the skillful means to combat?

    Longterm, one of the things that Obama seems to do, is to simply be tough, perservere with the truth, do outreach and PUSH the truth of his vision, with the faith that the other side will lose their sh*t, and render THEMSELVES invalid. Which, to a degree, has happened. And then Obama’s engagement and pushing of vision, is much more appealing, to even a lot of undecideds.

    The downside

    You can seem weak. Unresponsive. The whole ‘better to be strong and wrong, than weak and right” goes into effect. Especially in this media age.

    However –

    There is also rapid response pushback. The communciations team around Obama definitely does quite a lot of pushback against these false memes.

    The downside.

    This becomes a he said/she said thing. Which is the only story the media can seem to report.

    There is one commonality.

    Strong, but calm, authoritative, energetic engagement.

    Whether that engagement is in rallying the side, with reaching out, to build a coalition.

    Engagement to correct the lies, again and again, without fail, correct the lies – offered by the other side.

    Without making it personal.

    At any rate – thoughts on this?

  38. 38
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    @JC:
    Obama has established himself as the adult in the room. I can’t think of what else he can do that won’t jeopardize that. If it becomes he said/she said, well, he is the President and she’s not.

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