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Monday, November 5, 2012

The campaign ended, 
but the aftermath can be bitter 

We’re about done with the widespread acrimony, name-calling and accusations of perfidy in Costa Mesa. At least for a couple more years.

Some good from it
This election has been productive in several ways. For one thing, more people have become passionately involved in issues concerning the City. The use of social media, internet and email has made research and publishing much faster and easier. The battlefields have expanded to cyberspace.

The battles fought through letters to the editor and columns – with the comments flocking in like a swarm of starlings, have identified new ways to communicate. We can surely use what we've learned to become better citizens – involved, passionate about our City (or school, or organization) and committed to its improvement. We have developed our ability to use the tools through our electioneering.

It’s been fun to identify single (rare) and mixed propaganda techniques in the election. There’s been a great deal of appeal to emotion (especially fear), and some appeal to logic and facts.

Some attempted cruelty
There’s also been propaganda that is intended to hurt – as one of Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals demands. And we've seen a lot of comments from some who insist on branding others, labeling others, and attacking others for their body habitus or employment status. There have been an uncountable number of comments accusing others of nefariousness such as lying.

Commenters self-identify
The ease of publishing one’s views has identified some good debaters, and some vile, hateful people who insist on substituting personal attacks for debate. The speed of getting one’s opinions into the public view has identified folks who forget to read their missive, and to use spell check before launching it.

And it has clearly identified a few commenters who spew only hatred and anger, using name calling, and labeling, and accusations. We have followed the comments of some of these pained people and rarely seen legitimate debate, or intelligent discourse – just hatred. They seem to be very unhappy people, and we hope that their insults and diatribe aren't taken seriously by those they seek to hurt.

One thing we've noticed is that property records for some of the biggest accusers are sparse. A libel judgment can’t confiscate the libeler’s primary home or retirement fund, so a few feel free to falsely accuse others of illegal and unethical acts; their lack of assets protects them. They know that no one they defame wants prosecute an expensive libel suit against them; they can’t pay the judgment. They don’t face punishment for their irresponsibility, so they eschew responsible behavior.

And threaten
We've seen threats; “I know where you work . . . Would your boss be surprised to know . . .?” And we saw vindictive use of law enforcement, and vandalism and violence – and threatened violence.  

Internalizing propaganda as truth
Most of Costa Mesa’s propaganda varied from presenting selected truths, through promoting a distorted perception, to outright lies. Believing and internalizing the slogans is misguided and foolish, And, it just blocks progress toward friendly neighborhoods and a productive City.

We received a communication that carried a very inflammatory label for a person not even involved in the subject matter – just slapped in as if by slamming and defaming someone else, the writer’s own missive was more credible. That’s not just self-defeating, it’s wrong.

Some people will no longer speak to each other and won’t watch out for threats to each other’s’ property because of campaign slogans and belittling personal labels. There will be people who are no longer neighbors, or even friends, because they've absorbed campaign slogans and political positions into their psyche as truth and reality.

First look in the mirror
It might help to examine one’s own conscience and see if the neighbor we now hate has actually changed. Perhaps we changed when we started to believe a label or an accusation of perfidy.  Then we are diminished, not our neighbor.

If our neighbor has become a pariah, is it because we have internalized propaganda?  
Time to become a better neighbor

Perhaps this would be a better time than Christmas to drop off a fruit or cheese basket. We’re still neighbors, regardless of the election’s outcome.  

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