In my writing I've expressed concerns about a phenomena I've noticed throughout the years, when it comes to the way Progressives (sane, modern, just, reality-based), and Right-wingers (thugs, liars, opportunists, dishonest) communicate. My main concern is that on the Left, there appears to be an obsession with reporting on almost anything the Right-wing says or does, driven by the natural reaction of disbelief in the face of truly lunatic, outrageous, provocative, and thuggish words and behavior.
I understand the motivation behind the reporting of the lunacy by the right-wingers. The objective (I've been told several times) is to expose the outrageous statement or behavior to others, hoping to elicit disgust and disapproval from as many people as possible, which will then motivate them to do something about it; that something could be the launching of a campaign to de-fund Rush Limbaugh, or gathering signatures for a petition, or motivate people to vote a certain way. I get it.
But here's the danger of focusing too much on that approach: In reality, it has very little (practical) effect, and over time what end up happening is that the lunatic right wing meme and the framing of issues from their perspective spreads.
That's how words like Liberal, Progressives, Unions, Feminist, etc. end up getting a bad rap. It would not happen if we didn't help them.
One of the most impactful quotes of the last decade was reported in a New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind on October 17th, 2004, "quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush (later attributed to Karl Rove)":
The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."I've been following this "linguistic" issue for years, and this one quote, to me, encapsulates the way the right wing communicates, perfectly!
Here's the approach that I suggest (for consideration): In addition to keeping vigil about the lunacy and thuggish behavior that comes out of the right wing, we also have to have our own mass communication (or propaganda) agenda.
Failing that, we will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to the information wars.
For example, in my eyes, I already have these guys pecked; figured out. They are fanatics, authoritarians, dishonest (when it comes to communicating), and thuggish. There are a lot of influences from the Confederate South. These are the type of people that would be very brutal and thuggish under the right conditions, as in a case when the government machinery was taken over by their ilk.
So in a way, to me, what they have to say is completely irrelevant. I don't care because I already know what they're about, and what they'r capable of doing.
I'm more interested in coming up with my own agenda, equally (or more) powerful and impactful than theirs. And in that regard, words and language and speech are paramount.
So my first inclination is to identify the major issues that need to be addressed. I happen to think that they are related to the control corporate criminal cartels have over our government, and hence, the citizens. And secondly, I see the average right winger as a member of the proverbial "useful idiots" of the fascistic billionaires who fund the right wing propaganda apparatus.
So there, I defined the problem... Then I need to come up with language that not only accurately defines the problem, but most importantly, defines a clear agenda about how to resolve the problem.
So for example, when one talks about Wall Street bankers who trashed the economy, one needs to be very straightforward and forceful in the language. They are a financial criminal cartel who committed massive crimes, looted the nation's coffers and plunged the country into economic calamity, harming millions of innocent families, and communities across the entire nation.
What needs to happen to criminals? Well, they should be held accountable; they should be properly investigated, charged (when there is probable cause), prosecuted, and if found guilty, they should be condemned to long prison sentences.
Why hasn't that happened? Because the government is corrupt, on the take, filled with self-serving politicians who have violated their commitment to the concept of public service in favor of self-enrichment.
And then, the most important aspect of all this, is to define a clear agenda, and again, it is very important that very clear language, words, speech, is used to define that agenda. And here's the key: One must not be afraid to be extremely blunt, and bold, in defining that agenda. In this junction, if one is to be able to compete with the unsavory right wing, one needs to push all kinds of (linguistic and conceptual) envelops. Saying "shocking" things is not only acceptable, but necessary.
For example, once the agenda is defined, one can say that given the fact that the most of the government has been totally corrupted, the number one thing we need to do is to clean up the putrid sewage. We will track down exactly how politicians are being influenced and paid off by their corporate paymasters, and we are going to remove them from office, one by one, regardless of who they are or what political party they belong to. And we must clearly state that there is likely criminality in their behaviors, and that we demand that they are properly investigated and punished to the full extent of the law when crimes have been committed.
We will put together a powerful nationwide coalition to inform the public about this collusion, and criminality, and we are completely sure that eventually there will be overwhelming support to the point that the cowardly corrupt politicians and their corporate owners will not be able to obfuscate and lie and get away with the corruption any longer.
All this stuff has to be communicated forcefully, constantly, non-stop, and it needs to be repeated as talking points over and over and over and over again, like a recorder. To see how that works, just watch how the Republicans and other right-wing miscreants do it in the media, on Sunday shows. Notice that the host can ask ten thousand questions, and these fascists keep answering the exact same thing over and over. They do that because it works...
Other blunt statements could be:
- We are going to make sure that every worker in the country who wants to unionize is able to do so, and our objective is to eventually have the majority of the labor force unionize.Finally, when it comes to human psychology, one of the most powerful influences are the words we hear, regardless of whether they are based on truth or lies.
- All laws that undermined citizen's constitutional protections will be repealed; no longer will the government be able to monitor citizens without probable cause.
- Companies will be forbidden from tracking any type of information about "consumers" without the person's full knowledge, understanding, and approval.
- No entity, be it private, or public, or government, will be authorized to build profiles on individuals by mining multiple disparate databases. In modern days, having this type of information over citizens is tantamount to having an overwhelming amount of control and influence over that individual, and furthermore, it subjects the individual to being manipulated, intimidated, harassed, and exploited.
- The right to health care is as fundamental as the right to life. Health insurance companies are a plague upon society and will be hunted down, neutralized and ultimately euthanized. No longer will a CEO decide between his yacht and your treatment plan. (by jpmassar)
Those points I made above, about privacy, and profiles on citizens, and jailing Wall Street crooks, etc., may seem far-fetched to some readers. And that's precisely my point. They may seem so because we have been conditioned to think that way; and that conditioning or manipulation has been fully paid for by an easily identifiable group of billionaires and ruling class propagandists.
That's why is very important for the Left to have our own agenda, have our own linguistic and conceptual terms, embrace them with gusto, and speak about them with confidence, and most importantly, repetition.
You see, this is about a process, a device, and about being proactive. It's about the importance of understanding the way propaganda works, about how the human psyche works, about pushing emotional buttons, about being cold, calculative, and in a way ruthless.
I know... I have this discussion with many a Liberal, and Progressives, and Buddhists, and peace-loving activists, and they find these ideas very disturbing. They are good, decent people who believe in being kind, gentle and in speaking the truth, and exposing malfeasance and injustice.
I understand that approach; but I'm afraid it ain't good enough in the real world. In the real world, we are facing very brutish and unforgiving and ruthless forces.
To take on that type of evil you have to be equally ruthless. Yes, you are on the side of good, and honesty, and decency, and justice, but those very things need to always, for all eternity, be protected by an iron will.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Something big is coming in Spring 2013!