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The aim of this blog is to fit into the blogosphere like the bracingly tart taste of yogurt fits between the boringly bland and the unspeakably vile.

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(C) Copyright 2012 DenRita Enterprises

Monday, October 29, 2012

What propagandists target 

Now that we've uncovered some of the Propaganda Techniques used in the Costa Mesa election, let’s address what weakness(es) the propagandist is targeting. (Which weakness besides laziness, that is – too lazy to read, research, or think.)

What is the propagandist aiming at in Costa Mesa?. An authority named Braiker said manipulators (and in our case, propagandists) exploit the following vulnerabilities that may exist in victims:


 "Disease to please" is an "addiction” to earning the approval and acceptance of others, or desperate to be part of the group. An example is someone joining CM4RG because some of their friends belong.

Emotophobia (fear of negative emotion) – those who change views when an aggressive person yells at them or threatens them. An example would be City Council visitors who abandon the chambers when large men in uniform stalk about scowling. They decide they no longer want to know how the Council debates an issue important to them -- because threatening men arouse negative emotion.

Blurry sense of identity (I’m in the union and the union supports this so I must support it too.)

Low self-reliance (Those guys in Sacramento must know what they’re doing so I’ll support them.)

External locus of control (believes outside forces, such as Council members, instead of personal effort, determine life success)

Another perspective on vulnerabilities

Another expert who studies manipulation said manipulators exploit the following vulnerabilities:

Naïveté - victim finds it too hard to accept the idea that some people are cunning, devious and ruthless. We’ve seen examples of this in folks who believe their union altruistically looks out for their personal interests. In reality, Big Unions have evolved into large, self-perpetuating businesses.

Emotional dependency - victim has a submissive or dependent personality. The more emotionally dependent the victim is, the more vulnerable he or she is to being exploited and manipulated.

Manipulators generally take the time to scope out the characteristics and vulnerabilities of their victim. Propaganda experts, for example, conduct studies and polls and carefully research opinion and personality characteristics before they design their mailers.

And a third expert says

According to yet another expert, Kantor, the too dependent, too immature, and too naïve are targets.

What do they see here

So the propagandists are targeting weaknesses; which weaknesses do they think Costa Mesa voters exhibit?

In the effluvia from our mailboxes, we can see that the PACs of the Big Labor organizations, and those supporting the three Anti-everything candidates (which are pretty much the same groups), think FEAR is a major weakness to exploit in Costa Mesa.

FEAR + More

The mailers generate fear with often-untrue warnings such as “There’s great danger in the Charter (or the 3Ms Mensinger, Monahan, McCarthy), while implying that only a few cronies of the powerful support this risky stuff. That’s appealing to the low-self esteemed with fear, and encouraging the “bandwagon” effect as it generates fear. “All of us are banding together to defeat this evil Charter because we’re stronger that way.”

It could backfire several ways

Propagandists risk losing votes by attempting a “bandwagon” effect without using facts or rational argument for persuasion. Mailbox owners who realize that the endorsers of the Charter, such as the OC Register, are expert researchers and very well informed may not want to join the “fearful and fooled” who oppose it. These voters may choose to join the “bandwagon of intelligent and informed voters,” instead.

Some propaganda from the Anti’s also risks alienating folks who understand Civics 1. One message – “concentrates all power into three votes“– just describes the way representative government normally operates, but in big, bold capital letters. Most of us learned about representative government in Junior High School, so the message insults our intelligence rather than inducing fear. Voters may vote their resentment.

Citizens and companies that normally affiliate with either the Republican or Democratic Party may be universally offended, as well, by the accusations of hidden agendas while the Council is winning awards for Transparency in Government. “I don’t care what viewpoint you say you represent, you’re obviously lying to me so you must have something to hide.”

That is, the circulars are gambling that very few people with mailboxes will recognize the insults to their intelligence, education, and abilities and reject the message, as well as the group that sent it.

Soon we'll know if it worked here

In a couple of weeks we should find out if the mailers convinced the unwary voters in Costa Mesa. Propaganda -- very expensive-- nearly a half million dollars as of today -- is being thrown into the Costa Mesa election by Big Labor.

Maybe it will work.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

“You know, man, they just hate us.” 

In another city and time, my friend from “the Barrio” believed that. I didn't  I believed cops “serve and protect” all citizens. The “hatred” she saw, I thought, was anger at the crime, at the criminals; cops reacting to the deplorable living conditions they saw. But they didn't hate any of the folks they served and protected.

Perhaps they resented what seemed to be acceptance of crime and criminals in that community, and she viewed their resentment as hate. I was never able to convince her.

Serve and Protect

Cops serve and protect every single citizen in the City --always,” according to a police sergeant from that city and time.

Full disclosure; I spent a little time wearing the badge a long time ago; and I do believe that cops fall among the most honorable of men (and women, if that needs to be said). Their ethics tend be high, like those of nurses and small-congregations' ministers. And like them, there are a few bad apples in their ranks. But most embrace integrity and professionalism.

Now, in Costa Mesa, I've had a chance to meet a few cops, and to ride along with one, through the Citizens’ Academy. (That’s an educational program of CMPD that I recommend highly for anyone who wants to know what the department is really doing, and what cops really need.)

I still believe that cops serve and protect all of the citizens. But, after Thursday, I understood better what my friend from the barrio was trying to tell me. There are exceptions.

While at City Hall

I visited City Hall that morning with three purposes: I wanted to attend the CM Taxpayers’ press conference about the sign-destroying episode. If the time worked out right, I wanted to learn a little about a local cop during his retirement celebration (Passing of the Badge): School Resource Officer Jess Gilman has made a big difference in Costa Mesa. And, as a photographer I wanted to get some good pictures under high contrast conditions.

Unfortunately, the camera was DOA, and I learned something I didn't want to know.

Understanding cops

During the Citizen’s Academy we've learned how ethical cops have to be. Law Enforcement is one of the few professions (it’s like nursing) in which lying about professional matters, even once, is likely to end the job, maybe even the career.

Even private life difficulties can impact their jobs. Like nurses, a DUI or spousal abuse conviction can end a career. For cops, less serious infractions like a speeding ticket can be job threatening, too. Costa Mesa PD holds their sworn officers to high standards.

Prevent crime by knowing the community

And the Department takes community policing seriously. The officers know their beats and the people who live there very well, like the “old time” cop who walked a beat. But, they are still hated by some for being cops.

“Yeah, they just see the uniform and it dredges up all of their old resentments. It’s decreasing since we got the (skinhead) gangs pretty well out of here. . .crime went way down . . .new generation might even grow up knowing we’re here for them, too.”

Cops are professionals here

My classmates told of similar remarks they heard during their ride-alongs. We were universally impressed with the professionalism, devotion, patience, and integrity of the cops we rode with. Costa Mesa has professional street cops.

Cops serve and protect every single citizen in the City,” applies right now in Costa Mesa.

Back to City Hall

Fitzpatrick prepared for his CM Taxpayers’ press conference as members of the Department walked past, going to the ceremony in Council Chambers. Jim’s organization opposes the high benefits enjoyed by police officers, which is certainly a point of contention – and arguable (see Blog 4 Sep.). But, there’s no way he or his organization could be perceived as criminal.

Chief Gazsi demonstrated the professionalism we've come to expect from an exemplary leader, greeting Jim amiably as he passed. The Chief is under pressure from the City Council to perform, from the unions to conform, and from political factions to support their separate viewpoints. But he’s a consummate professional, and a leader, and he sets a good example for his sworn officers. His street cops follow his example.

While I was trying to resuscitate my camera, two tall officers walked by – frowns, barely civil in returning the “good mornings.” They were identified as senior police staff. Some non-sworn personnel passed, with variable courtesy. And an officer with a shaved head, another senior police officer, passed.


Suddenly he whirled, head thrust forward, “fighting face on,” one fist clenched: “What did you say?” he demanded through clenched teeth. His posture, expression, and face were loaded with anger and hate – yes, hate. Had Jim’s group been a bunch of “gangster wanna bees” from the South sector, there would have been cop baiting, arguing, challenging – perhaps an incident requiring backup from more officers, probably violence and arrests.

But he was confronting law-abiding citizens in business dress. So, we just looked at him, surprised into silence. (Including me, as his aggressive posture and pugnacious behavior had distracted me from camera malfunctions.) Someone replied with a benign, “we didn't say anything,” and the shaven-headed police officer turned back toward the Council Chambers.

“You know, man, they just hate us.” 

I've developed a new perspective on my friend’s outrage. Maybe she’s rightsometimes.

But, I believe that the majority of the street cops, and the Chief, in Costa Mesa, are here to serve and protect. And they do so with courage, honor, integrity, and most of all, professionalism.

No use nourishing hatred

I was reluctant to go watch the retirement ceremony: You know, man, they  . . . hate us. An atmosphere of hate wouldn't add much to my admiration for a great Police Officer or my respect for the department. It would just tempt me to hate back.

You know, man, they just hate us.” I understand now, Marcella.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Using Critical Thinking 

We are advised to use “critical thinking” before we vote. But exactly how do we do Critical Thinking?


Let’s start with a definition of what critical thinking means in this blog. We’ll use that of R.H. Ennis in a 1987 book about it: Critical thinking is a type of reasonable, reflective thinking that is aimed at deciding what to believe or . . . do.

In 1941 Edward Glaser called Critical Thinking "A persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends." This definition adds “persistent effort” to our working definition.


Strong Critical Thinking tries to establish evidence through observation, context, and relevance. Closely related, Reason, is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, for establishing and verifying facts, to guide changing or justifying practices and beliefs.

So, we want to consciously make sense of the competing claims in Costa Mesa elections, persistently establish and verify facts and collect evidence through observation, context, and relevance. Thus we’ll establish rational criteria for casting our votes, in spite of the efforts of propagandists.

Example for practice

We'll use the mailer which used pretend gangsters in a pretend dark back room to generate fear of our proposed Charter for an example.

Since we've looked at the Charter, the focus of that particular mailer, in some depth, we know that the warnings are not based on facts. As part of this exercise, though, we can collect other relevant data; who paid for and distributed the mailer? A Sacramento and a local Political Action Committee. These committees essentially spend money not officially belonging to a candidate or issue to influence voters.

Relevance and context

Then we can observe the evidence for relevance and context: that mailer had a picture of a city that wasn't Costa Mesa, as well as the “politically correct gangsters” (unlit cigars without ashtrays). And it included a picture of the Bell official in handcuffs being escorted by police.

Are Bell thieves pertinent to Costa Mesa’s Charter? Well, no; some Bell Council Members set high compensation for themselves, but our Charter requires all pay and benefit increases to be vetted by ballot, so the Bell official in cuffs is irrelevant. The city and gangsters are clearly irrelevant.

Are their bankruptcies relevant 

The mailer had warnings about cities that had Charters declaring Bankruptcy. Is this relevant? In this situation, no, since the Costa Mesa Charter does not contain the union-benefitting articles that those cities’ unions had incorporated into their charters.

It does provide a caution for the future, though, since some of the Anti-almost everything candidates want a different charter with more diverse input; the bankrupt cities’ charters had input from organized labor.

What was relevant

From the mailer we got the relevant information that PACs in Sacramento and Costa Mesa paid for it, and that the PACs were associated with Big Labor organizations. That is, the mailer taught us that Sacramento-based unions didn't want Costa Mesa to adopt a Charter.

Persistent effort, such as by reading the Charter, revealed that Big Labor would be affected by at least a couple of its provisions; first, “prevailing wage” or paying the labor rates specified from Sacramento would be unnecessary, which would save Costa Mesa money. That also affects the power of the unions to force contractors to use only union labor which increases union-only jobs. And, second, the provision that political contributions can not be collected as payroll deductions will greatly increase the work necessary to collect the political “contributions” mandated from the Sacramento Headquarters.

Since both members and non-members have to pay dues to the City employee unions, and since most political assessments are simply demanded and collected – very often from both union members and non-members* – this provision closes off an easy opportunity to collect political “contributions” from paychecks.

So, our initial analysis showed the messages irrelevant and appealing to fear rather than to logic and facts. It showed that the mailer was funded by Big Labor organizations headquartered in Sacramento. It demonstrated that accuracy and context were irrelevant to the mailer’s designers in that they didn't bother to get an actual picture of Costa Mesa, nor to set up the back room filled with gangsters realistically.


And, a little persistence in our analysis developed a plausible reason for Big Labor to incite fear: to increase votes against the Charter. Five minutes with an Anti-Charter mailer and we've collected sufficient reasons to ignore its message, and some good indications that Costa Mesa will be better off with the Charter. That's not yet complete information to support a Yes vote from this one Anti-mailer, but it shows how Critical Thinking can even reverse the messages of some propaganda.

This has been an example of using critical thinking to examine a mailer. We collected the data, checked it for accuracy and relevance, and processed what we learned to make sense of the whole message. Critical Thinking contributes to our ability to cast votes for the best candidates and for the best interests of Costa Mesa.

*A recent Supreme Court case affirmed the rights of non-members to be notified of political-fund assessments and to opt out of each

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Newer Propaganda Techniques 

Many of the propaganda techniques we've discussed were identified in the 1930’s, and have been changing and developing since. More were developed and studied, especially during the Vietnam War era. And some techniques are relatively new. One of these is called “Astroturfing.”

According to Wikipedia, Astroturfing refers to “political, advertising or public relations campaigns that are designed to mask the sponsors of the message to give the appearance of coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant.”

The “Big Lie” is an older technique that was popular during early WWII days, with Hitler famous (or infamous) for its use. The phrase was used in a report prepared during the war by the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in describing Hitler's psychological profile:

His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

Let's build an imaginary campaign

Let’s use these techniques to develop a propaganda campaign for Costa Mesa to learn more about how they are used.

For this exercise we'll pretend to be a wealthy, eccentric male who hates cats and doesn't want them anywhere near his home. We know that there are a lot of cat lovers in Costa Mesa, so a direct campaign isn't likely to be useful. So, to start, we'll open two groups in the City, first a “Birds deserve to live, too” group (BD2L2), and second, an "Institute for Stopping Coyote Attacks Now” (I4SCAN). 

BD2L2 into the fray

Group one, the BD2L2 group will petition the City Council for an ordinance to require all cats to wear bells when outside – with significant fines for owners who fail to comply. This will be financed by a “bell fee.” The group will send out mailers “educating” Costa Mesa citizens about the “very reasonable” requirement to have cats send a warning to keep birds safe. It’ll paint those who object as “cruel and hateful to birds.”

I4SCAN gets going

In the meantime, the other group, I4SCAN, will apply for grants to study the “increasing dangers of coyote attacks in Costa Mesa.” In order to bring this grant money into the city, we'll have to collect a little data, though; we want to know how many cats turn up missing each week, so we'll petition the City Council for an ordinance to require cat owners to file weekly reports on the status of their cats. In order to pay for the processing the Council will be encouraged to charge a fee for licensing and collecting data on each cat.

Imply something terrible to make 'em comply

I4SCAN will send out mailers with headlines like, “Are Coyotes going to be Costa Mesa’s ‘JAWS?’” and “How Many Coyote Attacks on Children Will it Take?” Both groups can use the same bulk mailing permit, printer, and secretary.

Few "real" people needed

In fact, all we, as the cat-hating guy, need for this operation is a couple of people. They each will assume differing personas, depending on which group they are blogging and commenting to support. To help them remember who they are at the moment they’ll keep separate avatars for each identity. (In the real world, commercial astroturfers use up to around 70 different personas and have been found to be generally effective if they aren't exposed too soon.)

Repeat said the Master Propagandist

We'll keep repeating our slogans over and over, and by having the slogans appear simultaneously in separate publication we’ll imply a deluge of public opinion. In time, cat owners will be so overburdened with fees, fines, and rules, that many will change pet species and get rid of their cats.

And some of those who persist will lose their easily-found cats to predators.

We win and it's cheap

Voila, an effective blow for cat-haters everywhere, and it only needed one full-time and two part-time propagandists. And, no Costa Mesa citizen knew what the real goal was, nor who promoted it. The project was “Astroturfed” and supported by the Big Lie implying terrific danger to children from coyote attack.

But don't you dare question us

A critical thinker might have questioned the different groups using the same printer and mailing permit, or might wonder where the coyote attack danger was documented. If that person were too nosy, or too outspoken before we reached our goal, we'd just crush her with insults, labels, and criticisms of her hair style. If she didn’t get distracted, well, maybe keying her car or tossing a brick through her window would convince her to shut up.

Blaming the wrong people

And the good part is folks will be pointing fingers and leveling accusations at cat owners, coyote haters, and bird lovers--not at us. And we'll sit back and giggle as we get what we want.

These techniques are being used right now in Costa Mesa, but not about cats. Astroturfing is healthy, vigorous, and in frequent use in Costa Mesa during this election. And so is the Big Lie technique.

Watch for them as you use critical thinking to decide whom and what to support with your vote.

Cast your vote based on facts and logic

Costa Mesa needs votes based upon fact and logic, not upon slogans and unwarranted fears..

Guest Blog  

Today, as a contrast to the propaganda we've been studying, we're looking at a guest blog.

This is a sincere appeal that involves emotions. Notice that, in spite of his obvious resentment and anger, the author presents an appeal to his neighbors rather than trying to manipulate them. So, although his point of view is clear and he does express emotion, he does not try to fool his readers, which contrasts with propaganda as we are using the term.

He does describe what others care about or don’t (based upon their union officers’ behaviors and statements) which is not provable—one can’t tell at a distance what may concern another.  However, we believe it’s an impassioned entreaty rather than an attempt to manipulate by appeal to feelings.

Let me know if I blew it

Including the appeal as a contrast to propaganda is an editorial decision that could be an error. I’ll be happy to hear your comments, on this blog or otherwise.

Fellow CM Taxpayers,

Want to change your country?  Want to change your State?  So do I!  Then let’s change our city and invite the rest to follow.

The entire country and state is watching what’s happening in our little town of Costa Mesa because the outcome of this election will have widespread ramifications.  That scares the Unions so that they will do just about anything to stop Measure V and prevent the 3Ms from getting elected.   


This is very understandable: their gravy train is being taken away and the idea could spread across the state and maybe the country. They don’t like change and want the gravy train to continue. 

They don’t care if our streets don’t get repaired, they don’t care if our sidewalks are buckled, they don’t care if ~80% of our budget goes into their pockets; yet they certainly should care if we go bankrupt.  

As long as they get their inflated salaries and extremely generous benefit package, why should they care?   After all, they are the “bestest” and deserve top dollar, right?

Someday you'll be like us

If the current trend and mood in this country continues as it is, our union members may someday have to live under the same rules the rest of us do.  

For example, I don’t have a guaranteed return on my 401K.  If I make a bad investment decision, I lose.  But if you work for the city and don’t achieve the desired outcome in the year, the taxpayer makes up the difference.    Such a deal.  Sign me up!!

How did city workers get so powerful?   By pressuring complacent politicians and passing ridiculous union-favoring laws is how. 

Tools in place

Today in Costa Mesa we finally have in place council members willing to change our priorities and take control away from the Unions.  We should all be grateful they are taking the heat for us. I certainly am!


So please vote YES for Measure V and vote for McCarthy, Mensinger and Monahan (3Ms).

Monday, October 22, 2012

If you can't refute his argument, criticize his hair 

Now let’s revisit ad hominem attacks, which we found were prevalent in Costa Mesa politics. This kind of propaganda diminished, but is returning. The current political ad hominem attacks contain unsupported accusations and irrelevant assertions about a person’s behavior, character, or even body habitus.

Our sources are Blogs and opinion columns and letters to the editor in news media. We'll also draw examples from remarks following these sources and from both postings and remarks on Facebook.

(As an aside, just a couple of years ago some of these sources would be difficult to assess, if they even existed. Now, it seems that anyone with an opinion can publish it, which makes verifying the accuracy and independence of the source so critical.)

Attacking the man instead of the idea 

An ad hominem attack is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or unrelated belief of the person supporting it, or even by simply applying labels to show the person’s (bad) character or other beliefs.

This example is from blogger Geoff about a blogger named Millard: “. . . ( the) blog of Costa Mesa's racist laureate, the Neanderthal misogynist . . .yet another reason to steer clear of anyone with a surname beginning with "M" this election season.” And also, “. . . (which) Mr. Neanderthal proudly uses to market his books . . .”

Maybe he's jealous

It should be mentioned that Mr. West has no published books of his own advertised on his site, and that he has been severely castigated by commenters, journalists, and even an attorney or two for his irresponsible journalism (Republic of Costa Mesa, 7/28/11).

Casual readers may not be aware of his reputation for inaccuracy and be too inclined to take his posts as opinion or fact, when they are instead just propaganda. And, West and Millard attack one another frequently in their blogs (see my 20 Sep blog). So, their remarks about each other should be viewed as entertaining but not informational unless they are independently confirmed.

Simple vs. ad hominem abuse

Mere verbal abuse, like that in the example above, in the absence of an argument, is not ad hominem or any other kind of logical fallacy, it’s just abuse. But reading more of Geoff’s blog reveals that the reason for this venomous outburst was – a political viewpoint, bringing it into the ad hominem realm:

Millard (the one Geoff is labeling) wrote an entry that ended “. . . Foley simply had no good arguments and every one that she made was countered with facts and truth by Jim Righeimer.” A political statement he couldn't refute led to Geoff’s (extensive) ad hominem attack.
We can see ad hominem appear in several subforms:

Ad hominem Abusive (also called personal abuse or personal attacks) usually involves insulting or belittling one's opponents in order to attack their claims or invalidate their arguments.

These are logically fallacious because they relate to the opponent's personal character, or behavior, or even body habitus, none of which have anything to do with the logical merit of the opponent's argument.  

More examples:

 Millard wrote in one of his blogs, “We think we've figured out why Sadly Genis has that way of talking—she may be trying to yodel!” Note the sarcasm (the correct name is Sandy) and the ad hominem attack on her way of speaking.

And another: comments after Geoff’s blogs echo his earlier attempts to use McCarthy’s back shape and posture and his uneven smile to demonstrate his disinterest and slyness. Muscle-nerve plates don’t determine devotion or integrity, while his background, speaking and writing do suggest devotion to Costa Mesa and an interest in her future.

Catch 22 1/2; if he denies it he's guilty

Ad hominem circumstantial is an attack on the bias of a source. It points out that someone is in circumstances such that they are disposed to take a particular position. This is fallacious because a disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false.  

It’s similar to the genetic fallacy (an argument that a claim is incorrect due to its source). The traditional example of this is a woman’s comment when an official denied patronizing a call girl; “Of course he'd say that.” He may have said it truthfully or not, but her comment suggests he lied because of his involvement in the issue – that is, he must have patronized the call girl because he denied it when confronted.

Appeals to emotion and prejudice, not facts and logic

All of the ad hominem attacks are appeals to emotion, rather than to facts or logic; that is, they are propaganda. It’s easy to get caught in this one; if you find the person labeled with a term you find disgusting, it’s easy to disparage his or her ideas or position.

Try to remember that if you don't like his appearance, or her voice, or his point of view on an unrelated subject, you have no reason to reject his or her ideas on the current issue. Similarly, if he is handsome, or she is pretty, they could be right, or wrong, or some combination of both.

Labels will fool you

And if your suspicion is based upon labels, it’s time to look for facts; you've been hoodwinked by propaganda.

Facts and logic are necessary to vote reasonably on Costa Mesa’s future.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Propaganda and labeling 

Now let’s get back to propaganda in Costa Mesa's elections.

A lot of fear-mongering mailers warn Costa Mesa voters against passing the Charter and “going bankrupt like Stockton.” Is that an opinion, a fact, or just propaganda – information designed to influence (voters) through appeal to emotion instead of facts and logic?

Using a broad brush

This warning is an example of “painting with a broad brush” or “…describing a class of objects or phenomena in general terms without attention to individual variations. And, the warning can also be used to illustrate the concept of malicious intent. Malicious intent describes a desire to cause injury.

A look at the facts shows that Stockton has burned through its pension-obligation bonds; these resemble a family taking out loans they can’t pay off to fund their mortgage. And, Stockton city benefits include a lifetime medical benefit for all city employees.

The fear-mongering is designed to make voters fear a Charter because Stockton had one and Stockton declared bankruptcy. This is broad brush painting with no mention of the very significant, even crucial differences in the charters. For example, Costa Mesa’s Charter was made without input from organized labor, so it doesn't contain those unsustainable provisions.

Is it malice or something else

Raising unwarranted fears through misleading implications is a well-documented propaganda technique. The question, when we consider malice, lies in the concept of “intending harm.” Do the mailers raise an irrational fear because Big Labor wants to hurt the 3M’s or Costa Mesa? Or does it just want to scare Costa Mesa citizens into voting against the charter to help with its own political fundraising?

Watch out for claims of malice; the most likely reason for Big Labor's fear mongering in Costa Mesa isn’t malice. (Greed comes to mind.) 

It’s harder to decide if the intent is harm -- malice -- when speakers from CM4RG (see 10 Oct Blog) repeatedly lambaste Council Members for having evil intentions. But they could have other motivations than malice, such as wanting attention.

Back to labeling

This leads us to re-visit labeling. A label is applied to put the person into a group, hoping that all the bad attributes of the group will appear to be linked to the person labeled.

Terms like homophobe, racist, Neanderthal, and misogynist are bandied about in a few of the blogs, trying to show the labeled person as a personification of the evils of their label. This is generally untrue and unfair. Like much of the propaganda in our mailboxes, these blog labels are deliberately false and designed to influence opinions through emotion rather than fact and logic.

Three labels, all wrong

As an example, say a man built a den in his house, and called it his “Man Cave.” Then a neighbor started referring to him as a misogynist because of his “Man Cave;” that would be labeling. It indicates that the man hates or dislikes women. It implies that this guy watches pornography and treats women with contempt.

In reality, he may have built his den to have a TV-watching room that kept the sound from annoying his wife and daughters who don’t care for TV sports. But then he, in turn, might speak of that neighbor as “wallowing in misandry – the hatred or dislike of men.”

And, his wife and daughters may be pleased about his concern for their comfort and label him with the term philogynist; having love or fondness for women. So the labels indicate: a man who hates women, the same man who loves women, and a neighbor who hates men. None of the labels is likely to be accurate; like most labeling, the intent is to degrade or denigrate someone.

Racist is a popular label

Right now, racist is a hot-button label, and it’s being used on some blogs to paint political opponents with a broad brush. For Costa Mesa voters, the issue isn't how well the label applies, which is irrelevant, anyway. It’s the truth of the political stand of that person that is important.

If a person is labeled a racist, does his assertion that the Charter offers more benefits than deficiencies become untrue? Or, if a person labeled a homophobe (a hot-button label in the recent past) advocates cutting down the number of parolees released into Costa Mesa, should we assume his rationale is faulty?

Does it even matter

If you read or hear that someone is a homophobe or a misogynist, examine the facts. It may be true, it may not be true. But, does it matter? There’s no need to examine two years of blogs to decide if someone shows a pervasive dislike of homosexuals or women. Just ask two questions: does his political assertion meet the test of being based on facts and logic? And, why is the labeler so upset?

Like flu, it's going around

Labels are shortcuts, much like slogans: it’s best to check the facts. The shortcuts of labeling and broad-brush painting may lead the unwary toward error. Vote the facts not the slogans.

There’s a lot of falsehood going around. After all, it’s election time in Costa Mesa.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Would you trust this candidate 
with your checkbook?

Today let’s look at the ethics that constrain persuasion. We'd like to think we've evolved beyond the ethics of the Middle Ages, where knights headed east to kill those who disagreed with them about religion, and the warriors from the Middle East headed west to do likewise. Both sides killed people, burned crops, destroyed villages – all because their targets held differing beliefs. Surely we have better ethics, at least in Costa Mesa, now, right?

No more burning villages

After all, through sports, ethical training, business experience and non-profit or church work we've learned to live with those who disagree with us. Perhaps a first grader, who was miffed at not being chosen queen, would refuse to attend the chosen queen’s birthday party. She'll learn to make better ethical decisions when her lessons from kindergarten are fully absorbed, especially if she has good parental guidance.

Just as young people should learn to be very careful of their tweets and texts, they should learn that trying to destroy or damage their organization when they disagree with it can have long term effects. On them. The effects on the club or the business they attack are usually transitory.

Adults face disappointments

As an adult who wants her non-profit to expand its scope, but it doesn't,  or a manager who would rather the company invests instead of putting its money in savings, she will have to cope with disappointment. That’s something she learns how to do en route to adulthood.

There will be a few of her peers who believe that the end justifies the means. They'll set the warehouse on fire or damage the cash register if they don’t get what they want from the company. Some of them learned their ethics in illegal drug businesses, and others just found that folks would pay attention if they made a fuss.

Adults(?) in Costa Mesa

Groups that burn cosmetic warehouses come to mind, of course, but so do some behaviors closer to Costa Mesa. Remember the demonstrations around Monahan’s restaurant, trying to drive customers away because he supported enforcing immigration laws as a Council Member? Perhaps some of the demonstrators flunked kindergarten, maybe others just wanted attention.

Demonstrating opposition to something with signs and gatherings is a citizen’s right, and perhaps it’s sometimes an obligation. Trying to damage a man’s business, or to get him fired, because you oppose his views when he's acting in a civic role, is dishonest – unethical. 

We don't burn the villages of those who disagree, anymore.

The desired endpoint rarely justifies perfidy

Distributing propaganda to Costa Mesa citizens is a normal part of campaigning. Ethically the propagandist is like the demonstrator – trying to broadcast a strongly-felt message. Propaganda is a means to an end.

But sometimes an opponent chooses a “means to the end” that is petty and sneaky, unlike open propaganda. And sometimes the act they choose will do little more than annoy their opponents, and brand themselves as traitors.

For example, what would you say about telling the bank that your company is in financial trouble because you don't like the boss or his jokes?

Treachery or disloyalty or lacking integrity or . . .

Or, more to the point for this election, what do you think about the integrity and maturity of candidate Genis? Acting on her petty peeves, she testified to the Huntington Beach City Council to try to keep them from partnering with Costa Mesa to save both cities money. (There’s a more complete discussion in the 18 Oct Blog.) The link to the video of her testimony is here:

There will always be room for disagreement, but anyone who has successfully navigated kindergarten should know better than to undermine her own city out of peevishness. Peevishness, as a disgruntled citizen who seeks to damage her home City, deserves contempt. Trying to hurt Costa Mesa because she was peeved is indefensible.

Disloyalty could cost Costa Mesa lots

If she enjoyed the aura of respectability accorded a Council Member, her peevishness would warrant stark fear. What if the majority of the Council Members vote against her proposal? Her peeved testimony in Huntington Beach, as a Costa Mesa Council Member, would carry a lot more weight – and Costa Mesa could lose a lot.

A more honorable way to burn villages

A teacher once told me, “…if you belong to a group, argue about its policies, but support the group. If you cannot support the group, get out of it and attack it from outside if you want (to), but don't try to destroy it from within.” He was warning against treachery as a tactic.

Perhaps Ms. Genis would be happier if she followed his advice and moved to another city. She could testify against Costa Mesa all she wants – from somewhere else. She could launch her “burn the village” attacks from there.


And Costa Mesa would be safer.