Category Archives: Propaganda

The tragic tale of oppressed billionaires

Glenn Greenwald has a must-read piece on Continetti’s apologia thingy to the Koch brothers in the Weekly Standard regarding how influential billionaires are being cruelly victimized by bloggers and the like. It’s a tragic tale. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/03/27/koch/index.html

And Benen quotes Charles Koch and comments…

“”His father was a hard core economic socialist in Kenya… So he had sort of antibusiness, anti-free enterprise influences affecting him almost all his life. It just shows you what a person with a silver tongue can achieve.” 

Now, Koch’s vast wealth proves that one need not be intelligent to get rich, but remarks like these are still just embarrassing.” http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2011_03/028649.php

Not merely embarrassing in getting details wrong, I’d point out. Consider the stunning lack of self-awareness here. Obama is profoundly influenced by a father who was absent and played almost zero part in Obama’s life. On the other hand, the Koch boys who were raised by and gained their millionaire to billionaire fortunes from a co-founder of the John Birch Society, that’s invisible to the dork.

A year or so on

I cranked up this creature a bit over a year ago.  How’s the year gone?  Not terribly well, I’m afraid.  First up is the overall political situation here in the US.

A reality becoming increasingly obvious to  many is that the political system down here has become profoundly dis-functional.  Obama’s attempt to reform medical insurance and medical delivery has set the problems in high relief.  But we need to immediately stipulate that it isn’t this particular issue which has caused the dis-function but rather that it merely reveals it.  The obstacles to getting this project done either already do or will come into play where any large or significant legislation might be advanced.

An immediate problem is structural – the party out of power, if they demonstrate an unyielding discipline and hold to a policy of obstruction-at-any-cost, can thwart any legislative proposals.  James Fallows at the Atlantic lays out the exact problem here.

One can think of that problem as something like an emerged loophole.  It had not been a problem anywhere near the present magnitude previously but is now because other conditions have arisen which have facilitated or encouraged its use.

The most fundamental condition which has arisen to facilitate this situation is the nature of the modern American conservative movement.  That movement is both much further right than the versions of conservatism we have known previously and it is much more ideologically rigid and self-certain.  This rigidity and (pathological) certainty that it alone represents “real” Americanness has led it to a set of beliefs and strategies which justify, even demand, maximal obstruction of any other set of political ideas and policies.  No other ideology is considered valid.  These are rather sweeping claims, I understand, but they are accurate and reflect the real states of affairs here presently.

Thus it becomes not merely possible (conceptually or “morally”) to invest nearly all of the movement’s energies, activities and money towards bringing down any Democratic government but it also becomes a matter of patriotic duty to do so.

So that is the ideological condition which is now in place.  We can chart out an evolution (growth) of this extremism along with the attendant strategies through the Carter administration and the Clinton administration and up to today.

A second and necessary condition now in place is the propaganda mechanisms and institutions which have been purposefully established beginning in the early 70’s and which are now both broad and very effective encompassing talk radio, FOX, the Wall Street Journal and rightwing papers, internet sites and well-established information-dissemination organizations which have as their primary function the insertion of conservative voices into cable tv shows and major news outlets.  For one example, the regular presence in the Washington Post of  George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol,  Karl Rove, Bush speechwriters Michael Gerson and, as of last week, Marc Theissen.

Another necessary condition in this mix is the enormous amount of monies flooding into this entire arrangement to enhance media control and to affect the outcomes of primary contests and elections.  Lobbyists and front groups are the middlemen here and their numbers and their influence have increased far above what we’ve seen previously.  The source of those monies (and the healthcare issue is a perfect case in point though entirely usual) are either corporate or from a group of rightwing families with corporate ties and extremist ideologies.

The very real question before us now is whether or not the US will be able to pull itself out of this mire.  Unfortunately, the recent Supreme Court decision (5-4 along ideological grounds) might make the damn difficult the damn near impossible.   If we just consider the make-up of the present Supreme Court and it’s consistent drift to an extremist right we get a good picture of how the conservative movement has reset the gears of governance in the US.  For the consequences of this new court and this particular decision, see  here

I am not, I confess, optimistic.  Tendencies towards extremism and towards pervasive propagandist influences on significant sectors of the population down here (take a look at Sarah Palin’s Facebook comments or at the polling on whether torture is just find and dandy) will only be heightened in a period of economic hardship such as people here are now facing.

The Muslim threat to American rationalism

Is the John Hagee/Joe Lieberman alliance of right-wing American Jews and evangelical Christians — based on the premise that God demands that all land, including the West Bank and Gaza, be possessed by Jews — devoted to the advancement of “the Western way of reason”?  Is the platform of the Texas GOP — which calls for the criminalization of all sex between gay adults; the denial of all custody rights to gay people, even over their own children; the teaching of creationism in all public schools; and the denial of medical care to prisoners other than those who can pay for it — an example of “the Western way of reason”?   How about the Catholic Church’s proselytizing against birth control in areas of the world drowning in poverty, AIDS and overpopulation?  Are torture, Guantanamo, Bagram, disappearing people, immunizing war criminals and multiple decade-long wars shining examples of “the Western way of reason”?  How about invading a country on totally false pretenses, shattering and destroying it, and causing the deaths of at least 100,000 human beings?

Hey – look over there.  Muslims.  They’re waging war on reason and taking over.  We have to unite to stop them. Glenn Greenwald

Greenwald, Scahill and Flanders on the modern media

This is an extraordinary discussion.  Don’t miss it.  God knows how many arguments I have had with other leftie/liberal types on the accuracy and credibility of Noam Chomsky’s analysis of modern media as handmaiden to the powerful and wealthy but it has been many more than it ought to have been.  These three very bright people get it.

Here

Politico

Though there are some good staff at Politico now, it is a site which I purposefully avoid and which I have commonly recommended that others avoid too.  As I’ve written earlier, its business model is not “dig in and report on Washington for the sake of citizens’ increased knowledge and understanding” but rather a model that can be more correctly stated as “let’s make money”.   Josh Marshall at TPM notes:

CURIOUS REASONING

You may have seen that there’s a new meme afoot in the news world which has it that the mainstream media either ignores or is insufficiently ‘in touch’ with the right wing noise machine of Fox, Drudge, Glenn Beck, etc. What’s notable however is that the idea seems to be emanating from the folks at Politicowhose founders’ theory of the media is that its narratives are largely defined by Matt Drudge and who used Drudge as the key vector to build their national audience. I’m not sure how these two facts compute.

Krugman on global warming

There are a lot of very good reasons to hope that this modern American “conservativism” will be rejected by a majority of voters for the next few elections.  But climate change is the most important of them.  Tough enough to get anything done with the power of business lobbyists influencing Dems in government but add in the anti-intellectualism of the modern right and we end up with just about the worst possible combination of factors blocking both perception and action.

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient. Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists. full piece here

Palin and Randy Scheunemann

As Imsinca, my friend from over at The Plumline, alerted me yesterday, Randy Scheunemann attended Palin in her Hong Kong visit and speech.  That’s more than a little interesting.

As noted below in various posts, this blog’s thesis is that a coterie of influential conservative strategists are now managing Palin’s public image very tightly for the purpose of forwarding her as a candidate (likely for the presidency) in three years (or seven, if three looks too soon).

This thesis holds that:

1) there is an overall strategy to keep her isolated from the press and from any public situation where she might (would be certain to) continue to demonstrate her lack of education and intelligence/thoughtfulness and completel unsuitability for an office such as the Presidency of the US, as happened continually through the election

2) further, this period of isolation will be used to manipulate and rehabilitate her image through having others write her Facebook entries, op eds, etc (clearly the case)

3) these will be followed by key conservative opinion leaders promoting those Facebook entries etc as demonstrations of her “intellectual heft” (Limbaugh used this phrase after her first other-authored Facebook entry and Rich Lowry at the National Review used it again yesterday)

4) her resignation as Alaska governor was in aid of point 1) above.  Had she continued to hold that post, she would have been functioning in a public context daily and it would have been inevitable that she’d continue to blunder and demonstrate her unsuitability

5) a further bolstering of her image/reputation as having “intellectual heft” will be facilitated through speeches or written pieces in high-profile venues – Sarah speaks where Greenspan, Clinton and Gore speak!  In marketing jargon, this is called ‘positioning’, placing your product in association with other things or people broadly considered to be of high value.  Do these people think in this manner?  Andrew Card, ex GM exec, said as regards a question on when war with Iraq would begin,

From a marketing point of view you don’t introduce new products in August“.

(Quick note here on a contending thesis, which one might draw from her ex son-in-law’s recent interview, that she’s just out for money from speaking fees.  Who knows what is in her head?  But the above and what follows suggests there are others involved here who have a different agenda.)

So, the question presents itself, who would be strategizing in this manner and why?

The clues we already had were that Bill Kristol had been a key promoter of Palin after meeting her on a conservative cruise up to Alaska (pay the big bucks and get to mingle with top conservative leaders).  And Kristol’s support for Palin through the election and since has been unwavering.  The National Review and Weekly Standard (Kristol is a senior figure in both) have mirrored Kristol.  Likewise, Limbaugh.  Less vocally, but no less important, the Wall Street Journal.  We’ll note that, following Palin’s speech in Hong Kong, both the WSJ and the National Review (Rich Lowry) immediately put up glowing accounts of Palin’s speech and performance (the WSJ omitting to mention that some Americans present walked out of the speech and Rich Lowry using the Palin showed “intellectual heft” phrase).  There will undoubtedly be much more of this now careening around the rightwing media world but I haven’t had time to survey it all).

Another supporter, as a senior campaign figure and later, has been our Randy Scheunemann fellow.  After the failed election attempt, some voices in the McCain/Palin campaign were rather merciless in their accounts of Palin’s intellectual insufficiencies and in her overwhelming egocentricity and narcissism.    Jumping immediately to her defence (with smears of those who had spoken out) were Bill Kristol, the National Review, the Weekly Standard and Randy Scheunemann.

So, who is Randy?    What’s his political leaning?  Who is he connected with?  Paragraph one of the wikipedia entry kinda gives the game away…

Randall J Scheunemann is an American lobbyist. He is the President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which was created by the Project for the New American Century(PNAC), of which he is a board member. He was Trent Lott‘s National Security Aide and was an advisor to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq. He is a paid lobbyist for the country of Georgia and was 2008 Presidential candidate John McCain‘s foreign-policy aide

The Project for a New American Century is the neoconservative body which advocated a pre-emptive attack on Iraq back in Clinton’s term (he ignored these people) but who gained central power under George W Bush.   Read up on them at Wikipedia if you aren’t familiar with these people.  Again, Bill Kristol is a central figure.   A or the central doctrine of this crowd is that America ought to act so as to ensure that it remains the single dominant international force, economically and militarily, through beating down any nation or international entity which might act to threaten US dominance.  If you’ve wondered why the UN has been propagandized against with such vigor, that’s the reason.  If you’ve wondered why these people are now suggesting it is better to continue hating Russia and to continue poking it in the eye just to piss it off and show who is boss, that’s the ‘rationale’.

How are the WSJ and Limbaugh related?  To get a complete picture, I suggest you read Annenburg’s “Echo Chamber”, a scholarly study (some of it is a bit of a wade) of how Limbaugh (talk radio generally, but Limbaugh most particularly) and the WSJ have functioned in tandem to manipulate the conservative movement over the last two to three decades (evicting moderates via the primary processes, for example) in order to foster business-friendly and war industry-friendly national policies and notions.  A revelatory, if depressing, exercise is to google the PNAC individuals and look for their ties to the weapons and military-related services industries.

And this all brings up the question of why in hell these folks would want someone so unprepared as Sarah Palin is to actually be pushed forward as national leader?    And the unavoidable conclusion is that they have no illusions about her at all.  She will be a leader nominally only.  Her lack of curiosity, her lack of education, her lack of experience, her lack of a coherent political philosophy, her lack of knowledge of the world, and her lack of strong and grounded opinions which aren’t merely simplistic and manipulatable cliches all make her, quite in the manner of Bush but even more so, a figurehead or placeholder leader.  Her electoral appeal is the other promising feature and it is key.  These folks are concerned with access to power above all else (Limbaugh is something else – he looks to be driven by an appetite for high status and money but I doubt he has a coherent notion in his pathological head re political theory).

Cynical?  Flat out Machiavellian?  You bet.  But if you read Leo Strauss, the neoconservative theorist under whom Kristol was tutored, you’ll find an unyielding Platonist – that is, holding a set of notions derived from Plato’s Republic where it is held that society must be managed by a select elite of political philosophers because the unwashed masses aren’t up to the task of self-governance or communal governance.  It is a seriously un-democratic philosophy.  As Strauss argued, for example, it is not a bad or immoral thing for this elite to lie to everyone else.  It is, within this philosophy, a “noble” responsibility.

Update: Ben Smith at Politico reports that Dan Blumenthal and DC lawyer Kim Daniels worked on the speech as well as Scheunemann.  Blumenthal is an AEI scholar who has co-written with serious war-mongering neoconservative  Robert Kagan.   Kim Daniels is a lawyer who works with the Thomas More Law Center…

The Thomas More Law Center is a not-for-profit public interest law firm dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life. Our purpose is to be the sword and shield for people of faith, providing legal representation without charge to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square.

So, the Christian Right (who have also remained steadfast supporters of Palin) perceive some advantage in having her marketed  as well.  Any port in a liberal storm, I guess.  But there’s a bit of a conflict here.  From the Christianist perspective, God’s in charge.  From a neoconservative perspective, sure, we can tell that lie if it gets our person elected and then WE are in charge, bub.

Update: Andrew Sullivan notes some details from the new, improved and
re-programmed Sarah