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One of my favorite political movies came out in 2005. It's called Thank You for Smoking. Aaron Eckhart plays the main public face of the smoking lobby, and his character, although a bit of a caricature, provides a stunning example of media manipulation. This movie provides foundation knowledge for how any interest group effectively molds opinion through the media. It is not a conspiracy, but the tactics take full advantage of many people's inability to think things through. This film provides the most concise explanation for why many people continue to vote and act against their best interest.

The quintessential statement of tactics comes from this clip. Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) explains his job to his son while on a business trip. It is worth your time to watch the whole clip, but if you're in a hurry, skip to the 5:15-7:20 point in the clip.

To restate the point--winning the argument is not the goal. All they are trying to do is show the opponent wrong. If their opponent is wrong, then by inference they are "right" even when nothing they have said is correct in any sense and certainly does nothing to invalidate the essential argument. But as Nick Naylor points out--I'm not after you (pointing to his son), I'm after them--the nameless faceless crowd. That's what the town hall noise machine is about. It has no interest in being right, just saying things to take those who want reason on the table off their game.

Because of this, it is definitely time to move on and stop trying to convince those not interested in reason (Most of the Republican Party these days). Moreover, its time to stop letting them insert themselves in the news cycle. Their backers just want to cloud debate, confuse enough of the public to derail the efforts. Their job is easier; we need to stop helping them. Health Care and anything else on Obama's agenda can pass 51-49 in the Senate and 218-217 in the House. That's it. There is no middle on this, and any Dem in the 49 or the 217 makes the list for elimination in 2010 or 2012.

Originally posted to FrankCornish on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:07 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Ah the pointless sneeze! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kimball Cross, koNko, grannycarol

      Sorry, couldn't resist. Might want to check your title.

      Your diary is right on though. When you have no good argument, it becomes all about making the other person look bad. Works in court too.

      As if we could make things better without making them worse.

      by A Voice on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:16:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Recommended for the clip (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bustacap, bmcphail, timewarp, FrankCornish

      And what it reveals about media manipulation and the psyche of many DC Republicans.  

      I don't entirely agree with your final conclusion paragraph in every instance; to be more succinct, I agree with it in every case as a last resort but usually not as a starting point.  There are always Americans, not DC shills, but regular Americans, who are swayable and will listen to reasonable debate; Obama ran on this premise against all odds - and won.  You don't want to appear to those who are persuadable as if you are intransigient, but rather to let the other side eventually slip up and reveal itself as the truly intransigent one that it is; otherwise, as your diary so thoughtfully points out, we are vulnerable to losing the debate despite being right on the facts:

      winning the argument is not the goal. All they are trying to do is show the opponent wrong. If their opponent is wrong, then by inference they are "right" even when nothing they have said is correct in any sense and certainly does nothing to invalidate the essential argument.

      Their tactic number one is to take what they are doing wrong and accuse us of it.  They want to make US look like the crazy ones; above all, we cannot take the bait.  Instead, let their own craziness reveal itself, and watch their party ID continue to tank; it's been Obama strategy all along, and it's been working pretty well so far.  That said, when all attempts at bipartisanship ultimately fail due to DC Republicans in the insurance companies' pockets, and the deadline for reconciliation arrives, I'm sure Obama will determine he's done enough to appear reasonable by that point to push it forward anyway.  The Republicans will claim an abandonment of the promises of bipartisanship that Obama campaigned on, but after months of trying to work on health care, it's doubtful anybody in the public would bite at such a ludicrous assertion at that point - and I suspect this has been his game plan all along.

      77% of voters support a public option, Congress.

      by ShadowSD on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 06:24:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many days of the week (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bmcphail, timewarp, ShadowSD

        I don't disagree with you at all. At the moment, however, my patience for bullshit is pretty much gone, and I think its time to ram health care down their throats. We should do this with a smile on our face, of course.

        You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife and you may ask yourself, "How did I get here?"

        by FrankCornish on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 06:31:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Forget "disingenuous." (9+ / 0-)

    Anyone who uses tactics to obscure weaknesses in their arguments rather than addressing them or, God forbid, admitting they're wrong is simply a liar.

    I can haz rashunality?

    by Troubadour on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:14:11 AM PDT

  •  The mistake (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bmcphail, FrankCornish, leftcoast wes

    Liberals and other assorted children of the enlightenment have made is that American politics is an ongoing discussion between  great philosophies, both with their basis in reason. This is crap, American politics has always been the battle between reason and non-reason.

  •  They are simply out to disrupt and distract (4+ / 0-)

    I've been to three town halls in the past two days - the right wing talking point "questions" are all just that - Fox'approved talking points, not real questions at all.

    Funny thing - the last town hall was actually a "listening" type town hall run by the Texas Medical Association...both sides were well represented and there was no howling and shouting down, it was actually civilized.  But still, the right wing talking points were there (death panels! Abortion! No special needs pediatric care! No socialized medicine!  aaaaaahhhhhh!") but overwhelmingly, despiste also the prevalence of the "free market" and we want private insurance mantra, the overwhelming sentiment in the room was that people are sick and tired of paying so much to the private insurance industry and having our medical professionals be sqeezedin the middle (besides denying care to the un- and underinsured)

    So there really is common ground, sadly, the manipulative right wing "pundits", the politically driven (and in my opinion truly evil) GOP roadblock politicians and the big lobbyists have really succeeded in totally derailing sane discussion on this issue.

    It gave me great hope, but also the realization of how much they have derailed a debate that is obviously very important to many people, well, that makes me quite sad and angry.

  •  "knife to a gunfight" (6+ / 0-)

    is becoming such a cliche it's lost all of its original power as a metaphor.
    As I went round and round with a disingenuous liar/propaganda consumption unit a new phrase occurred to me;

    The GOP only does whoopie-cushion politics

    Like everybody's annoying little brother. Give Tom Coburn a frog and he'll throw it in your hair, guaranteed

    The Republican Party will never die until there is a new political home for racists.

    by kamarvt on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:31:25 AM PDT

  •  Haven't watched the clip yet (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bmcphail, FrankCornish

    but picked up on the excellent point you make about effectively molding opinion through the media.

    It is not a conspiracy, but the tactics take full advantage of many people's inability to think things through.

    How many times have we seen this? A fairly recent example being Saddam and claims of his having weapons of mass destruction. A little knowledge of history was enough to see through those lies and yet there are plenty of other examples running through the corporate media mill today.

    East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet ... Kipling

    by truong son traveler on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:34:52 AM PDT

    •  Some people are instinct-driven. (3+ / 0-)

      They do not reflect on their own thought and ideas to compare them to experience.  Perhaps there's actually a disconnect between the basal brain where instinct resides and the cranial lobes.

      Anyway, in an effort to characterize health insurance, I thought of this slogan:

      "Lemon insurance--worse than a clunker"

      I'm not sure it's necessary to specify health.  After all, plenty of people have recent experience with flood and auto insurance.  Not to mention life.

      How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

      by hannah on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 06:09:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Saw my Shrink Yesterday (5+ / 0-)

    He's seen Sicko and was surprised I haven't. Thought it was great. Anyway, when we got to talking about health insurance companies, he was very succinct.

    They should be bombed off the face of the earth.

  •  Christopher Buckley knows first-hand (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bmcphail, FrankCornish, CherryTheTart

    how demagogues use lies (disingenuous arguments) to manipulate the "masses."  

    It is also worth noting that it was he who coined the moniker Darth Vader for Cheney, early in the Bush II admin.

  •  At This Point They Only Need to Block New Policy. (3+ / 0-)

    Existing policy has the bottom 90% moving steadily down and the top percent or so steadily expanding their fraction of national wealth.

    For this, the right doesn't need more than veto ability between its numbers and blue dogs, and there's not much chance of their overall alliance becoming smaller than that. Even a stint in the governing minority can be a great career launcher.

    California is very likely to be our future.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 05:48:53 AM PDT

    •  They can run the country into the ground (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FrankCornish

      in the long-term -- they're only looking at their own mid-term and short-term success.

      They don't even believe in a long-term -- "it's all in God's hands", as Bush said about history.

      It's is a dangerous of strong "checks & balances" -- which mean strong vetos by small but wealthy minorities (as was intended).

  •  I think that Obama's basic SOP (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blindcynic, FrankCornish

    is to give a thief trust, then see what he does with it.  That puts the onus on the leopard to truly change his spots.  When the thief then steals, who could blame us for reacting?

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