Finding the cure depends on making the right diagnosis.
Maybe in the 1970s, we could still reasonably think of political campaigns as equal mixtures of truth, lies, and video tape. Maybe in the 1970s, both parties did it in approximately the same measure.
Not now. We're way past mere business-as-usual lying.
The reality is that, in addition to "a blizzard of lies," the GOP is using bona fide psychological operations---psyops---to manipulate US elections. Follow me here. I'm angry but there's good reason to be.
Time to call this what it is. No matter how subtle it may be, this is a massive orchestrated war on our constitutional democracy.
When, month after month, facts bounce off voters like raindrops on car tops, sensible people see that something else is going down.
When even felt, experienced disasters--Katrina, Saddams's WMD, home foreclosures, tanked retirement savings, astronomical unemployment rates, unbridled domestic espionage, homeland concentration camps, and the culture of corruption--when even these count for nothing in voters' reappraisal game, a sane observer must consider that something worse than mere lying is at work.
Everybody knows that in a normal, healthy environment--whether at work, at home, in the old-fashioned police or medical investigation--lies simply don't prevail. In normal, healthy conditions, lies always crumble, and liars almost always lose serious market share. Nixon was forced to resign. Bill Clinton was almost impeached.
On the other hand, when fact after fact fails to make even a dent--when no quantity of lies is enough to shame the mainstream media into investigating and reporting reality--then it's pretty clear that we're no longer playing in the weedy pastures of politics as usual.
I began to tip to this a day or two ago, in a post titled "The Lord of the Flies: Karl Rove, John McCain, and Sarah Palin." If you haven't read it, check it out.
Digging deeper, I looked up "psy-ops." Here's what I found:
"Psychological operations (PSYOP, PSYOPS) are techniques used by military and police forces to influence a target audience's value systems, belief systems, emotions, motives, reasoning, and behavior. Target audiences can be governments, organizations, groups, and individuals, and are used in order to induce confessions, or reinforce attitudes and behaviors favorable to the originator's objectives. These are sometimes combined with black operations or false flag tactics.It's been solidly established that the GOP uses messaging that targets deep-seated fears to reach down far beneath the rational level to the reptilian cortex, the most primitive part of our brain. Add to that intentionally deploying made-up stuff up--the word is propaganda--to reinforce those fears (he's a closet Muslim) and to appeal to our primitive, most infantile longings for Good Daddy and Good Mommy. Soon it's plain that, thanks to Karl and John, the American public is deliberately being "manipulated to support something we wouldn't normally [rationally] support."
This concept has been used by military institutions throughout history, but it is only since the twentieth century that it has been accorded the organizational and professional status it enjoys now.
The word is commonly used by governments, such as the government of the United States, who do not wish to use the term propaganda or brainwashing to refer to their own work. The word propaganda has very negative connotations, and by calling it psychological operations instead, more sophisticated methods of psychological manipulation are accurately incorporated by the terminology. This euphemism for mind control is ironically an example of psychological operations--i.e., using psychological techniques to persuade [manipulate] a large number of people to support something that they wouldn't normally support." [Emphases added. See original for additional links.]
It's also well known that the GOP uses the "false flag" strategy, as well. Here, the Party itself can deny responsibility when third parties launch scurrilous psyops attacks on Democratic candidates. We call this "swiftboating." (Interesting, all this military jargon, isn't it? It, too, points directly to a warfare model.)
None of the fundamentals I've described is news. What's missing is the correct diagnosis.
This is deviance at depths unprecedented in the USA. This isn't campaigning. This isn't Chris Matthews' happy little battle of ideas. This GOP campaign strategy is authentic military psy-ops, and guess what? We're all IT.
Republicans, Democrats, independents, all of us are on the verge of losing our democracy. Psyops isn't the conduct of free elections in any sense of the word. There is no such thing as a free election when the public is being systematically, relentlessly manipulated with certifiable, powerful psychological weapons, backed up with rigged boxes, suppressed ballots, caged voters, 8-hour voting lines, no more ballots, and voter ID laws targeting minorities and Democrats.
This isn't an election. This is warfare. This isn't merely a direct hit on American democracy.
It's a treasonous, pre-emptive nuclear strike. It's the Bush Doctrine turned on Americans ourselves. WE are the enemy in its sights, the reasoning, reasonable American public capable of tossing Republicans out of power and entitled to do so. Unless we are stopped.The GOP's psyop campaign has been deployed with the full support of the mainstream media (radio, tv, and print). That's evident from simple deduction and from contrasting the likes of Wolf Blitzer and Sean Hannity with Walter Cronkite and Edwin R. Murrow. The Constitution empowers a free, vigorous, investigative media. History teaches that our radio, TV, and print outlets can ably defend democracy when they choose. The question now is, why aren't they?
What do we do now? We--and I mean you, too, moderate and decent Rightwing Republicans (if there are any)--have the power to stop it. Together, we can file lawsuits, boycott advertisers, expose the psyops for what it is, demand issues coverage, not lipstick BS, and continue to flag the lies.
If we don't, if we lose this one, I don't think we'll have another opportunity, if only because advertising, marketing, and the military have compelling interests in refining psyops ad infinitum, and the beneficiaries of Bush's still unfathomed corruption have a compelling interest in ensuring that nobody else get close to their pile of booty. Four more years to refine illegal domestic espionage, four more years to wreck the economy and trash the federal government (see The Wrecking Crew), four more years of for-profit prisons needing ever more prisoners, four more years of homeland concentration camps, four more years defining political protest as terrorism, four more years of war, and war, and more war, four new years of arch-Christianist Sarah Palin near or at the launch button?
I'm just not seeing how we survive that. I'm not seeing why the vast majority of Americans of any stripe would want to, short of mass psychological manipulation.