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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Names, labels, accusations 

As we move toward the end of this campaign the more-subtle propaganda techniques are giving way to the blatant and accusative. Before we examine one of these, let’s get a little background.


Bad faith (Latinmala fides) is double mindedness or double heartedness in duplicityfraud, or deception; pretending to entertain one set of feelings, and acting as if influenced by another”.  The concept is similar to perfidy, or being "without faith.”


One example of bad faith would be a company representative who negotiates with union workers while having no intent of compromising. In extremis, the term refers to treason, for which, right or wrong, Benedict Arnold is the icon.

Remember that name-calling and labeling don’t have to be lies or inaccurate; they just have to substitute for facts and rational discourse to be propaganda. If they are accurate, then the names or labels are opinions, or maybe just facts.

In our own city

Now for today’s campaign example; there are posters, videos, and even phone calls circulating with the message that one of the City Council candidates is a “traitor.” This is based upon her public comments to the Huntington Beach City Council in which she strongly advised them to reject joint projects with Costa Mesa.

The HB Council wisely noted that politics in Costa Mesa was none of their business and voted to pursue joint operations with both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa to share costs and reduce expenses in partnership with the other cities.

Ms. Genis advocated against her “home” city, advising that Costa Mesa would abandon its partners and not pay its bills. Had she been taken seriously, Costa Mesa expenses could have increased, leaving less for infrastructure like road maintenance. Watch the pertinent section of the Council meeting here, about three minutes:

Labeling is similar to name calling

Labeling works much like name calling in that it can be a substitute for facts and logic. “Anti-youth” and “only cares about her house, not our kids” have been applied to the same candidate for her opposition to lights in a park that might raise the neighborhood sound level. The lights were needed for youth sports.

Ms. Genis suggested that the youth who wanted to play could go to another park that was fairly close, and even specified a route with fewer cross streets and traffic lights. The parents of kids who biked to practice weren’t happy with her suggesting more exposure to traffic.  Here’s the pertinent section of the planning meeting:

Of course, the clips above are excerpts, and we have to be careful that the excerpts don’t say something different from the words in the actual context, so here’s the Council meeting in whole:

Adults attend HB Council Meeting

You probably noticed the decorum and civility from the floor in this meeting, and the lack of irrelevant diatribe and protest songs. Newport Beach speakers at this meeting looked like adults, regardless of whether you agree with their points or not.

So, are the  labels “traitor” and “selfish” propaganda or opinion – or something else? 

If true, what does it mean

Accurate? Well, watch the first video and think about what you do personally when you don't like what your boss, or your company, or your sports group decides to do. Do you “bad mouth” them and try to undermine their operations? If so, you'll see the terms as inaccurate and examples of propaganda. Do you resolve to try harder to convince them next time, but remain loyal? Then you might think the labels apply—as facts or at least opinions.

Labels and names, stated or not

Regardless of whether any labels and names are accurate or not, they are being used a lot in the Costa Mesa elections. Often the labels are used to “broad-brush” a candidate or to imply evil intent. We'll talk about these substitutes for facts and rational discourse in a future blog.

Sometimes the labels are not directly stated, like the pictures on a recent mailer of gangsters (or pretend gangsters) making backroom deals, although the print elsewhere on the flyer suggested sub rosa deals as a consequence of Measure V. (Note that the designers used a city that looked somewhat like Costa Mesa, and that the models were exaggerated but had unlit cigars and no ashtray. They weren't terribly concerned with accuracy, but they wanted to appear concerned for Costa Mesa as well as green and non-smoking in the pictures they chose. That is, they didn't care about truth, but they did want political correctness.)

Whether the labels are directly stated or just implied, they're just labels, and an informed or concerned citizen should look past the labels. Are the labels and names propaganda, or opinion, or a statement of fact?

Insist on facts and logic before you vote

There’s plenty of room for disagreement when the facts are reviewed concerning just about any campaign matter. But, Costa Mesa voters need to look at facts, not slogans or labels. And they should cast their vote based upon the facts and their own ethics, rather than on fear or any other induced emotion. The city needs well-informed voting this year.

1 comment:

  1. We definitely need to rely on facts and logic in this election.