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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Criminality as the Underpinning of the Right-Wing Propaganda Machine

We all have been learning slowly about the takeover of our mass media by the right wing in a concentrated campaign that began thirty or more years ago, depending on the source. Some actually put it as far back as reaction to the New Deal of FDR. In any case, it is a fact that it happened, through massive infusions of capital into think tanks and acquiring the media itself. But a deeper question, is how did they make this all work? We know about the framing issues, and the shilling, and all that – it has gotten so obvious (See Austin Cline’s post on the military stuff here.)

The left has not been nearly as active, re-active, or pro-active in this area for a great number of reasons. And reason is one of those. Those of us on the left like to think that if we just give people enough facts and logic, they will inevitably come to understand what is good and right and of course, see that the left-wing way is actually the best way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, but we continue to try – and continue to fail. A major case in point. Last week, the Rockridge Institute closed. George Lakoff was doing pioneering work in teaching progressives how to re-frame the debates on our terms – and in fact teaching us about why framing is important and how the right has used it to persuade most of us that the policies and ideas of the right-wing are ‘right’ for all of us. But this valuable think tank was taken down by lack of funding – a problem for all left-leaning institutions of this sort. The right-wing bankrolls their pets with unlimited and unrestricted large donations. The left-wing tends to favor small, targeted and very restricted gifts. That leaves the institution spending more of its time scrambling for cash instead of doing its work. So we have lost a battle in this war.

However, many of the staff and a lot of the Rockridge bloggers have formed a Google group (you can access it at ) and are continuing in discussions on the issues anyway, and some of the techies are busy building a new website to handle the traffic and logistics. One of the threads currently running is a discussion regarding how we got from the New Deal to fear fear fear all the time, and the belief that everything the right-wing says is ‘right’.

One poster, “larry” has put forth an interesting proposition regarding how this whole meme got started. He states that the issue of law and order is the primary constituent of the fear all the time underpinning of the entire right-wing propaganda machine. By frightening people about criminals, the ‘us vs them’ thing, and presenting the idea that if ‘they’ are bad we need to get rid of them, keep them separate, and that these people are fundamentally flawed (it’s in the blood). Then ideas like rehabilitation, alternative sentencing, and other ideas designed to re-incorporate offenders back into society after their debts were paid were laughed at as mollycoddling, soft on crime, and all the usual. People react when their families or they themselves feel unsafe or threatened. The right-wing used this to great advantage to push all the fear stereotypes, no where more successfully than in the Willie Horton campaign against Michael Dukakis. A ‘big, strong, bearded black man” was the boogeyman that everyone was afraid of. His crimes played right into the hands of the right-wing propaganda machine – they couldn’t have asked for a better gift. And now we are seeing it again – Rev Jeremiah Wright – another big, angry, bearded black man – although he certainly isn’t a criminal, the exact same fear card is being played.

I have posted many of the blogposts from “larry” on my website as the Rockridge Google site is a mess right now and finding the previous posts in the archives is a real chore for people who may not be techies. Some of them are very very long and I will not take up the space here. If you are interested in this, please read those posts.

Another very perceptive article in two parts was written by Sara Robinson of Campaign for Our Future.

In this two-part article she discusses the Us vs Them themes again with some very good insight into how we got where we are, and she also offers excellent insight into what we can do now. And that is the most valuable thing – suggestions on how to fix the problem.
1. Be clear on where we're going
2. Be ready for the moment.
3. Leaders matter.

Sorry this is so long, but we all have to start THINKING about this stuff in order to start DOING something about it! We have a long way to go, but we have to start and keep pushing and pushing and pushing until we get there – otherwise I wonder what and who we will be in five years or ten.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.