The Wall and now the administration’s treatment of undocumented people are far more energizing symbols to the Trumpist than any realistic evaluation of the underlying social problems immigrants bring. The rhetoric suggests people who don’t look like “us” (descendants of white northern European immigrants) and don’t speak our language (English) bring crime and are a social burden. But the facts say otherwise: they work, pay taxes, and abide by the law. Indeed they contribute more than they take.
So what’s the hidden problem here?
This meme taken from a Facebook post on a conservative’s newsfeed is core to the bedrock fear of Trumpists: their vision of the good life in America is being eroded. They see immigration as a threat.
When I saw this the words “… impose their culture and beliefs upon this country while at the same time destroying or removing the traditions and beliefs we call dear …” I remembered a viral email I wrote about two years ago. I think that email captures something that progressives can’t or won’t see: a cultural identity issue.
Here is the link to that 2016 pre-election essay. I think it is just as relevant now as then, and I’d only change one paragraph. I’ll let you see if you can identify what I would revise…
GOP political strategists are good at what they do and they have been at it for at least four decades culminating with our forty-fifth president.
Lee Atwater is credited with coining the phrase “Perception is reality” back when Michael Dukakis fell to the Willie Horton weak on crime meme. Atwater worked with Karl Rove, Paul Manifort, and Roger Stone who devised a set of strategies that have given the GOP a lock on winning elections across America. This is not a conspiracy theory, it’s crafty application of combative propaganda techniques in a political culture where winning is the only option and nobody who counts cares how it’s accomplished.
Here’s how perception is manipulated to play the media and the American people, to game our democratic systems, and to get a lock on the levers of power.
Lies to Truth in Ten Steps
Here is Robert Reich breaking down the steps:
It is a progression that muddles people’s ability to distinguish truth by creating an illusion that many people accept and believe what started as an easily disproven lie. Lie … disputed fact … partisan divide … alternative fact. When people rely on what they think others find credible perception shifts. Truth becomes a perception and not a rational assessment made by weighing the evidence.
Gaming The Media
Manipulating the media has become a profession in our age of ratings and for-profit news coverage. Keeping the numbers up is a survival issue for print, radio, and TV. Fox News has demonstrated that news as entertainment captures and holds audiences. Outrage and drama fuel good ratings. Authenticity, fact, and nuance – not so much. Here is Reich again to illustrate how deception can prevail even with the best efforts of our free and independent press.
By creating the perception that the media is unfair and biased, all criticism becomes suspect allowing bold lies to persist.
It is no accident that public funds for non-commercial radio and television have been cut by GOP legislation. It’s also intentional that Sinclair Broadcasting has been allowed to acquire rural radio stations across the nation. Control of the media is control of perception.
Fostering Corrosive Doubts and Fears
Doubt and fear fog the intellect and cause humans to fall back on more primitive coping mechanisms. This opportunity is exploited by human predators to get over on others. Sociopaths and domestic abusers commonly “Gaslight” victims using the tactics Robert Reich attributes to Authoritarianism in this clip:
The Impact on Individual Perception
The effect of all of these tactics is very personal. By messing with our perceptions, by playing us, our mood and our general outlook is altered. In this last clip Reich characterizes four syndromes…
Robert Reich is a gifted teacher and an experienced political insider who is very self-aware and who now has a large following of youthful progressives. He is doing great work to show what’s behind the curtain in the political theater we are bombarded with daily. He’s worth following on social media.
The wonderful and inspiring activism of the Parkland HS students has engendered an ongoing dialog in social media between gun enthusiasts and those who want guns regulated or banned. Netflix did a special featuring comedian Jim Jefferies.
Watch it here …
And the second part …
Jeffries confronts the faulty logic and lapsed common sense of many pro-gun arguments. Perhaps humor is the best way to do this.
Iron and steel can be shaped and hardened into durable implements with fire and repeated blows. Maybe the “heat” generated in our turbulent society will allow us to shape it for the better. It’s up to those who love peace to stay engaged lest others forge only weapons, chains, and shackles.
The durable metal [mettle?] of American Individualism and independence needs tempering with compassion and stewardship for the common good. It’s about having integrity as an inclusive and beloved community. Can that vision be forged from the base metal of predatory self-interest? How much heat and how many blows are necessary?
There is a Twitter protest (#idesofmarch, #idesoftrump) which suggests that angry citizens deluge the White House with postcards on March 15th. Julius Caesar was assassinated on that day in 44BC as we remember from Shakespeare’s play in which a soothsayer warns the emperor, “Beware the ides of March.”
This is a really bad idea for several reasons. No good purpose would be served by such an action. We already know that the 45th president has a very thin skin, and would react badly with the attendant storm of press commentary. He uses the drama of such moments to cover actions that he doesn’t want headlined, and the press obliges in the interest of keeping ratings and circulation up.
The act itself is purely rage – an act of hate and cruelty toward someone who evidently can’t help himself and may be mentally ill. “Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can,” as Martin Luther King famously said. We may be furious with 45’s actions and words, but we must respond with clarity and with words and deeds that promote resolution. Our outrage must be channeled to influence our government representatives positively. They are beginning to see that the game has changed, and that the Trumpists (19% of people eligible to vote) will not suffice to reelect them if the other 80% is mad as hell and organized.
President Trump prides himself on counter punching. His instinct, when attacked, is to attack back. I know of no instance where he has paused and looked inward when confronted. In fact he wants the world to see him that way. Much to the dismay of his would-be political handlers, he strikes out on twitter and in public discourse.
He does understand leverage and power. The real leverage he respects is the 2018 election, and a congress that
balks because so many of their constituents oppose his policies.
Many of my friends are engaged in issue specific calls, visits, and letters to their elected representatives. This is how and where to strike back. Get the contact information for all of your elected representatives at this League of Women Voters site:
Sending nasty postcards to the White House will squander your time plus half a dollar’s worth of postage and postcard. Worse, in doing it we become that evil we hate. It is essentially a personal attack, a publicity stunt, … exactly the behavior we deplore in our 45th President.
Although as educated people we like to think of ourselves and others as rational — we aren’t. Most of what we say and do is only loosely informed by fact and logic. In reality, we self-construct a story about reality and then conform to it. Understanding how we do this explains our social and political behavior. Continue reading Trust the Story?→
Some people see an injustice in our tax system because they see it as stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. They resent “Confiscatory” taxes — those they pay for the benefit of others that they don’t think they should be forced to subsidize. They resent public spending on welfare of all kinds: unemployment benefits, public education, parks and recreation, … it’s a long list.
Libertarians are often the most outspoken critics. And the GOP, enabled by the Trump administration, is likely to savagely gut existing programs. The American Dream is predicated on a healthy work ethic. Hard work, thrift, and personal sacrifice in the early lean years are rewarded by abundance and leisure later on. Continue reading The “Welfare” Mentality?→
Dr. Timothy Snyder is a historian; he knows whereof he speaks. Like me, he fears the political trend that brought Trump to the threshold of the Presidency riding an explosion of hate, prejudice, and denial of accepted reality. Continue reading Twenty Lessons from the Last Century→
Fear has been a major component in the 2016 political campaign and continues to be a tactic of the Trump team as they prepare for him to take office. All of us need to understand how fear can cause us to make bad choices. But we also need to learn how to combat it. What follows is an excellent video that demonstrates how fear was used as a tactic in the campaign. The remainder of this post is remarks about Fear and Faith shared by Marguerite Chandler, my spouse, at the Newtown Friends Meeting this morning. Continue reading The Power of Fear→