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Saturday, September 15, 2012


Now let’s take another look at propaganda techniques being used in this election; last week we said we'd look for ad hominem attacks and repetition of a simple message or mantra, and look for evidence of perfidy.
According to Wikipedia, Propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience . . . (It) often presents facts selectively thus possibly lying by omission – or commission -- and uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than a rational change in audience attitudes

Attack the speaker, not the idea!

We’ve seen some classic ad hominem attacks so far. (From last week, aad hominem attack is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic of the person supporting it.)  Candidate McCarthy has been lambasted by a Bubbling Cauldron blogger – and by Geoff’s followers -- for his posture and his imperfectly balanced expressions. That is, his facies and back shape are used to “prove” his cynicism and lack of interest in Costa Mesa.
We read some great ad hominem attacks on Steve Mensinger after his “Contract with Costa Mesa” appeared in the Daily Pilot. For example, we were told he faced a sexual harassment charge in 2004. Apparently the idea is that a person who attracted a sexual harassment charge eight years ago couldn’t be trusted to handle city business. But those charged with possessing and selling controlled substances, like some of the leading anti-3Ms? That’s OK, I assume, since the blogs and comments never mention it.

If you can't convince them, fool them

Perfidy is being deliberately deceitful or dishonest. Attorneys succeed in trials and earn large fees by deceiving the opposing counsel, and every parent has had a child “explain” using falsehood(s). Thus, deceit is common in everyday life, as it is in this campaign. Did you notice how the anti-3Ms, especially Geoff and his followers, scream in all caps LIE, LIER – then offer few facts, and usually only opinions in support of their assertions? What is true? We know for sure that perfidy is rampant in Costa Mesa this fall.

You're just a (%&()&^%**)

Name calling (which is “. . . a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against the idea or belief on its own merits.”). For example, both Mensinger and Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer frequently refer to labor representatives as “Union goons.” And name calling has been a staple of the “anti-3Ms group, with terms for folks who disagree with them like Harold’s “You are a pandering lobbyist . . . “Or, how about this example from a follower on Geoff’s blog (in response to Phil’s disagreement):Phil, this sums you up: cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, spineless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey dung. The list of appearances for this propaganda technique would fill pages – every week -- with more space required on weeks that the City Council meets and the CM4RG take the mics to call the Council members names.

Say it again, even if it's not true

We won’t forget repetition of a simple message or mantra. Does “can’t trust the 3Ms,” or “it’s what’s not said that’s so dangerous,” or, “but not this charter” sound familiar? After the first couple of hundreds of times, I’m starting to accept these phrases as the total content for the “anti 3Ms’” messages. That could lead me to miss some intelligent discourse, so I have to deliberately pay attention when I read those messages. What about folks who haven’t stopped to think about the mantras, though? Perhaps the mantras will seem true through repetition; remember Hitler’s advice from the last blog? It must have been effective – and maybe it still is. I guess we’ll see.

Use words that don't confine you to meaning

Some new techniques that struck me as I read blogs, columns and press releases this week:
Obfuscation, Intentional Vagueness, and Generalities: The intention is to (convince) the audience by use of undefined phrases, without analyzing their validity or attempting to determine their reasonableness or application.  These techniques overlap, but are seen in various mixes in such phrases as, “A charter may be needed, but not this charter,” “We can balance the budget by negotiating (with the unions) in good faith,” and “(fill in name) is hiding his underhanded manipulations under his support for transparency.” You'll find lots of examples if you read a few columns or blogs.

Lookin' for. . .

And for a later blog of our own, we’ll look for examples of False Attribution (appeals to an irrelevant . . . biased or fabricated source in support of an argument), Out of Context (remove a passage from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its meaning), and Paint with a Broad Brush (description of objects in general terms, without specific details, and without attention to individual variations).

You might enjoy looking for examples of all of these techniques of propaganda as you read and listen to the political messages this week. The politicians are, to one degree or another, trying to “use facts selectively, lie, and present loaded messages to influence your attitude emotionally." Are they succeeding?

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