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Americans Are Being Played

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 President Wrote to Me

No, it wasn’t a snarky tweet. But neither was it a letter actually composed by him. I’m a former marketing professional and I know the craft when I see it.  This was artful wordsmithing by pros who test and tweak every phrase for maximum effect. Their goal is to bring in contributions, not inform and certainly not garner advice from “a handful of grassroots activists like [me].”

Here’s the letter:

Now, if you have been paying any attention to how the president speaks – the words he uses, his grammar, his personal style – you know this three-page tome is not his own work.  But it is an elaborate con worthy of his signature. The folks who built this campaign knew that most of those who get the letter will find it both credible and motivating.

It reminds me of a hard-working man I knew. He’d started as an unskilled laborer and worked into a foreman’s job. He position got him a desk on the shop floor, though he rarely spent time at it. Over that desk, he proudly posted a certificate issued by the National Geographic Society which in florid prose proclaimed him to have been elected to membership in the society. He didn’t seem to know or care that all those who subscribe to the magazine receive such a certificate. He believed he was being recognized.

Millions have received the same GOP letter as I. This is no select group, and I doubt the President gives a fig for the advice of “Presidential Advisory Board.”

The letter included a questionnaire. As a market researcher, I recognize this too is a fraud. We used to call it “asking answers” because each question is phrased to elicit a particular answer from the targeted respondent. It’s intended to motivate check writing. Trumpists will give predictable answers that affirm their allegiance.  See for yourself:

 

When I get stuff like this I’m put off by the con and insulted by the assumption that I’d buy in and send a check. Yet I can see that a certain self-important sort of person who had faith in the GOP would actually find nothing wrong and be flattered to have been selected. That is who backs our President.

… God save America!

We Marched -AGAIN

We were in Key West last year (2017) for the Women’s March and we walked Duval Street to Mallory Square again this year. Click the photos below to see the slide show.

Keys Citizen News coverage here: (click)

Why Are all the Women’s Marches Important??

“For two years in a row, the women’s marches have turned out far more people than the Tea Party protests held between 2007 to 2010 did. In terms of numbers, the only recent events of comparable scope were the antiwar protests of February, 2003. (There were huge protest movements in the nineteen-thirties and sixties.) But those were motivated by animus toward a specific policy—… ”

(read the whole New Yorker article)

Can’t let this slide by …

The tax bill that the GOP is celebrating leaves most of America worse off than they were last year, and will be financed by borrowing more money.

Check the chart to see what your family gets. Don’t have a six-figure income? “You want more do you, Oliver? MORE you say?”

I forgot to mention, they will be borrowing the money for this from (wait for it) … China.

When you add it all up, the ultra-rich get 80% or so of the proceeds. So tell me again how a tax break that increases their cash by 5% is gonna make the rest of us prosper? Inflation was 2% this year, that means unless you make more than $500,000 a year, your tax benefit still leaves you worse off than last year. America, you are being played!

Useful Scoundrels?

Does the end justify the means?  Can a scoundrel serve a good purpose? Many great dramas have been written and filmed around these great questions. Some politicians’ actions say that their personal answer to both questions is “yes.”
Here’s an analysis of that phenomenon: The Scoundrel Theory.
Here are some more perceptive articles.
Rolling Stone Magazine: “Trump’s Republican Party has taken on the attributes of a cult” – Sean Wilentz
Time Magazine: “Unifying values, around speech and civility, freedom and fairness are shredded by rising tribal furies and passions. We have a president for whom division is not just a strategy, it’s a skill.” — Nancy Gibbs [Former Editor and Chief].
NY Times: “The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve.” – David Brooks.
We are in a time when our fundamental ethics and mores are being called into question.  What exactly is the “American Way” these days?

What Rebel Memorials Represent

In the days following Charlottesville’s white supremacist march historians offered evidence that the construction of Confederate memorials represents more than a simple historical artifact of the US Civil War.

Chart showing when Confederate Memorials were Built.
Peak in 1915 coincides with rise of KKK.

The peak in 1915 was a period of extreme segregationist sentiment among white Americans.  President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of black federal workers.  The first Hollywood blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation,  celebrated the KKK, debased blacks, and fueled the growth of racism and segregation in the following decade. The NAACP was founded in the same period.

While at Chautauqua (8/5 to 8/20/17) Marguerite and I attended a showing of Birth of a Movement presented by the filmmaker Bestor Kram. This Independent Lens PBS Documentary gives the historical context surrounding Birth of a Nation and offers a key to understanding why Confederate Memorials are not merely a commemoration of historic figures and events. (Click the image below to view the trailer.)

Birth of a Movement Trailer

When we understand the political and social climate surrounding the creation of these Monuments, it becomes clear that they were erected to honor the ideology of white supremacy and those who fought to preserve not just slavery, but the whole social system that dehumanized blacks.

Critics point out that in Germany when structures and artifacts of the Nazi era have been preserved, it is done in a context of national shame. Students are taught about that period as a dark time, not a proud one.

This is not generally the case with Dixie. And, the  Confederate flag has been taken by the white supremacists as a symbol of their tribe. You won’t find black Americans flying the “Stars and Bars” on the back of their pickup trucks.

 

Red Tape Rollback? – Latter Day Robber Barons

The mailing pictured below cost the sender at least $20 for each copy that was mailed.  This “non-profit” is soliciting serious money from wealthy Americans.  It is one of the groups that have defended the Tobacco Industry for years and is now funded by the Koch Brothers and others of like mind.
It is cleverly crafted to suck in the small business owner — maybe this is not the first time you have seen it.  It is the third appeal I have seen since #45 office. They all come from different organizations, but they all have the same basic format: a long richly personalized letter, first class mail with patriotic postage stamps, an artfully worded pitch, and a stamped self-addressed envelope with the target’s name already typed in the return address space.
Consider the source and ask yourself if they really are fighting for “We the People” as they claim.

Civic Hygiene

The Boy Scouts of America were part of my formative years and as an adult, I led two Explorer Posts. At every meeting Scouts recite the Scout oath and law:

 

 

Scout Oath or Promise         

On my honor I will do my best

To do my duty to God and my country

and to obey the Scout Law;

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake, and morally straight.

 

Scout Law

A Scout is …

trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,

courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful,

thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

 

You may see this as quaint. Perhaps you object to the reference to God, or the notion of duty to country, or the idea of being obedient. All these traditions are now widely scorned as naive.

 

Rotary clubs across the nation recite the Rotary Four Way Test:

The Four-Way Test of the things we think say or do.

Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

 

Both of these traditions deserve to be part of our American Civic Hygiene: practices that protect against infection by calumny, fear, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, and avarice. No sneering!