The Scary Season
Vol: 107 Issue: 17 Tuesday, August 17, 2010
It is the Silly Season, that period during which we suspend credulity for a time and invite our politicians to start bidding for our votes. During the Silly Season, there is no promise too big, no lie too obvious, and no limit to what we will let ourselves believe.
The Silly Season is also a time of suspended accountability. Whatever a politician promises during this Silly Season won’t be held against him in the next election cycle.
During a typical Silly Season, entrenched, career politicians simply trot out last season’s unfulfilled promises.
Why not? They worked last time. They work every time – that’s why they keep recycling them and we keep re-electing them.
I doubt that the campaign promises to voters in America’s inner cities are any different today than the promises that first got them a lock on inner-city government.
So during the Silly Season, we’ve come to expect politicians to make silly promises and for inattentive voters to fall for them (again). Think Charley Rangel or Maxine Waters.
Every Silly Season the boundaries are pushed back slightly from the season that came before. What was totally unacceptable in one season becomes marginally acceptable the next and soon becomes standard campaign tactics.
If one guy wanted to smear his opponent in bygone days, voters needed evidence, first. After awhile, evidence became less necessary, provided the allegation was sensational enough.
Then the standard of truth became what people preferred to believe, evidence notwithstanding.
Indeed, if people want to believe it, no amount of contrary evidence will be sufficiently convincing.
I’ve yet to have anybody demonstrate how it was humanly possible for George Bush to have lied about Saddam’s WMD program – how could Bush know what nobody else on earth knew at the time?
But if that’s what people want to believe, you can’t convince them otherwise. The power of suggestion lingers long after – it was once said that a lie can go round the world twice before the truth has put its shoes on.
It isn’t lying that is unacceptable anymore. Sometimes the demonstrable truth is more unacceptable than the unprovable lie. What matters is the subject of the lie.
The shift is so clear that we’ve even come up with cute acronyms to describe what used to be seen as political weaseling.
Now we call it BIOB.
“Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matthew 24:4)
I used to enjoy the Silly Season, back when the economy was humming along at full employment, the military was strong and the cause not in doubt. But it isn’t silly anymore, it’s downright scary.
A report just released by the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee accuses the Obama administration of orchestrating the “most covert and expensive propaganda campaign” in American history.
“In 2009, the White House used the machinery of the Obama campaign to tout the President’s agenda through inappropriate and sometimes unlawful public relations and propaganda initiatives,” the House Oversight Committee staff writes. “The Obama administration’s propaganda is covert and expensive to taxpayers.”
According to the report, members of the administration — including Yosi Sergant, formerly of the National Endowment of the Arts, and Tracy Russo of the Department of Justice — have misused federal agency resources to promote the president’s agenda.
Sergant, the former communications director for the NEA, used his position — and, by extension, the powerful incentive of NEA grant money — to formally encourage artists to utilize their artistic abilities to promote presidential issues. Russo, a new media specialist in the Department of Justice, posted fake and anonymous comments on message boards and blogs to attack bloggers critical of the president’s agenda. The two are part of a wider pattern, according to the report.
“The President’s right to sell his policy recommendations to Congress and the public is not disputed,” the report states. “[H]owever, using the resources of the federal government to activate a sophisticated propaganda and lobbying campaign is an abuse of office.”
This really is an official Congressional report. Honest. I Googled it to make sure. Guess how many news articles Google returned on it?
Thirty when I checked. And almost all of them criticizing the report!
The report actually calls it ‘propaganda’. The media yawns. The report says the administration had its minions lie — the media asks, “so?”
Liberal Ben Smith over at Politico opens his defense of the administration at his blog thusly:
“Rep. Darrell Issa is out with a report this morning claiming that the Obama administration has engaged in an unprecedented amount of illegal propaganda. The charge is almost undoubtedly true:”
Stunningly, having agreed that the Obama administration ‘undoubtedly’ engaged in an unprecedented amount of illegal propaganda, Smith launches an attack against the report’s authors saying only two paragraphs later:
“Issa’s report footnotes his own (unlinked) letter inquiring about the alleged comments rather than any evidence, because there seems to be none.”
The charge is true, recall that Smith concedes at the outset. But as Smith notes later, the evidence was ‘disappeared’ from the internet, so he can attack it as being “totally unsupported” — the obvious truth of it notwithstanding.
Propaganda is, by definition, the art of lying. What Smith is arguing, and evidently with sufficient credibility as to reflect the general worldview of his readers, is this:
Sure, Obama is lying and his team has “undoubtedly” engaged in illegal propaganda. You know it and I know it, he winks to his readers. But without hard evidence, we can still claim it is a ‘totally unsupported’ charge and then go on the attack and go after Issa for trying to smear the administration with what we’ve already acknowledged is the truth!
It isn’t Smith. It isn’t Issa. It isn’t even Obama that is the point, here.
It’s PROPAGANDA! Propaganda encapsulates in a single word a systematic and deliberate campaign of deception. It is a word that embraces everything that America formerly stood in opposition to.
The dictionary defines it as “the dissemination of information, ideas or rumors deliberately spread to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” Psychologists used to call it ‘brainwashing’.
Shouldn’t that disturb anyone? It might — if anybody knew about it. But until the story gets approved by the US Propaganda Ministry, you’ll have to dig for it.
Like I said, it isn’t silly anymore. It’s downright scary.