No one in this world, so far as I know ... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
H.L. Mencken "Notes on journalism" Chicago Tribune (9/19/26)
There's a sucker born every minute.
P.T. Barnum (attributed)
Just before the election, a good e-mail friend of mine (who I finally met in person just recently) was pretty consistently maintaining a pessimistic take on the outcome, based largely on (and I hope I'm not exaggerating her position) the essential stupidity of the American public. At the time, I chastised her for not keeping the faith, and attempted to reassure her and change her mind with a litany of facts and analyses: polls, precedents and my Electoral College tracking survey.
Of course, it turned out that she was more correct about the result of the election than I was (although it was much closer that the media or Bush's propagandists would have us believe), and having lived through that intense disappointment, I'm rather forced now to agree with the proposition that it's very difficult to reach the bulk of the American public through logical and rational discourse, even when you have the distinct advantage of having the facts on your side.
Simply put, we have got to start using all the techniques of persuasion used by Madison Avenue (and adopted in politics by the right-wing) in order to create our own compelling version of reality, before the right does their thing and usurps us.
Our commitment to rationalism and the details of policy is laudable and, in a perfect world would be the best and only way to conduct political campaigns, but it's just not working and we have to... well, not abandon it, exactly, but supplement it heavily with associational, inferential, emotional and evocative material which packs a visceral punch and allows the public to own our reality. And -- most importantly -- we need candidates in 2006 and a Presidential candidate in 2008 who can play into and work off of those associational webs.
It's not just a matter of "re-framing" the issues in ways that are advantageous to us, and disadvantageous to our opponents, we also have to create a portal for the voter to step through that's so compelling and comfortable that they just cannot stop themselves from stepping through -- and once they do, they're hooked, and can be gradually educated using more rational means.
If it sounds like what cults do, then you're getting the idea. Let's borrow some of their techniques as well, since what is the rank and file of the contemporary right-wing other than a cult based on a mass delusion? (It's certainly not based on an objective examination of reality, that's quite obvious.)
As I wrote elsewhere, it doesn't matter one whit if your candidate really is a war hero if he doesn't look and act and feel and project the image and persona of a war hero, so that people will allow themselves to buy into that perception. That's a damned shame, but it's also a fact of modern politics. It's a fact that we all were groping towards last year during the primaries when we talked about a candidate's "electability."
But electability is essentially a negative attribute -- basically being the perception that the candidate doesn't have a lot a "handles" that can be used by the other side to take him down. What we found out with the Swift Boat Liars is that outrageous mendacity and outright lying repeated ad nauseum (and not subject to rigorous examination by a cowed and compliant press) seems to trump factual truth -- so whether your candidate is lacking in negatives doesn't really matter as much, since even positive attributes can be utilized as a crippling vector.
Instead of going with a negative approach, we need to throw in the towel and admit that image is now far and away the most important factor, and cast us a candidate who looks and feels "presidential".
And in selling that candidate, we have to use every technique available to us -- not without scruples, but with our greatest attention given to the use of the kind of non-rational means used by our opponents.
There's certainly an argument that can had about whether using these techniques is a good thing or not, and the only way to settle that is to judge how profound our dilemma is and whether it justifies our using dire methods to get out of it. I happen to think that things are indeed that dire.
The time has passed, I'm afraid, for being polite, for keeping the gloves on, for waging this war in a gentlemanly way. As the Allies discovered in World War II, when you're fighting an enemy that is ruthless and totally dedicated and doesn't play by the rules, you've got no choice but to emulate them, or else resign yourself to losing. We couldn't do that then, and we certainly can't do that now, not when the right wing is dedicated to destroying everything this country stands for.
I look around me now, and my friends do too, and we don't recognize what we've become. It's difficult, and becoming more so, to see the United States of America we knew and loved in the hard, scared, unloving, bitter, pinched country we now live in. That's what's happened to us after only a few decades of right-wing rule, and we really can't afford much more of it if we're going to salvage anything of our American principles and ideals.
The stakes are too high, getting back our country is too important. We need to remove the gloves and fight dirty, if that's what it takes to win. I think it does.
Merely mimicking conservative strategies is a strategy for staying in second place forever. Closer, perhaps, but still in second place. What we need in addition is to stay relentlessly on the lookout for new ways of mobilizing public opinion that no one has thought of before.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.