Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Propaganda Game's Afoot

There will be no need, after all, for us to don our Sherlock Holmes tinfoil deerstalkers to investigate whether there's an orchestrated White House-corporate media plot underway to gaslight Americans into believing that their economic travails are mainly all in their heads. (see my last post.)

The game's afoot, Watson. And since it's brain-damaging football season, it's being advertised as a sporting event that we're all invited to attend. The agenda is this: rather
than acknowledge the most extreme wealth gap in modern history and suggesting legislation ( say, higher taxes on the rich) to do something about it, President Obama will be embarking on yet another propaganda campaign tour to convince us that we're nuts if we continue to believe these times are really all that hard.

The pompom-waving change we can believe in is the changing of the American mind about reality itself. From Politico:
Changing Americans’ sense of the economy is Obama’s critical project for the next two years, and he and his aides know it. His own legacy depends on it — neither health care, immigration reform, opening an embassy in Cuba nor anything else is going to add up to much if most people feel like they’re worse off than the day of his inauguration.
 Analysts agree that improving Americans’ sense of the economy is the single most important thing Obama can do for Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee: Whether she wins will most likely hinge significantly on whether the “Obama-Clinton economy” is a positive Democratic slogan or a snide Republican talking point.
 But for now, the growing pile of economic data that Obama and his aides believe demonstrate his success digging the country out after the financial collapse hasn’t broken through, and they know it. Wages haven’t kept up, prices keep rising, and Obama seems to be presiding over a period in which Americans’ lives are getting more difficult.
This insider's view of the inner workings of the Beltway group-think brain presupposes that the targets of the coming onslaught of propaganda don't read Politico and thus will be totally fooled by the most syrupy bromides to come out of a presidential mouth since.... well, at least since his last weekly address, repeated so dutifully by the liberal pundits I wrote about the other day. Not only are Obama and his stenographers stupidly revealing their own dishonest strategy for all the world to see, they're actually starting to believe it themselves. Obama only seems to be presiding over some of the most truly horrific hard times in modern history. All he needs to do is change the slogan or the "narrative," and all will be right with his world.
“You can’t convince people that their paycheck is going farther than it was — and you shouldn’t try. That would be a big mistake. What you can do is try to affect people’s optimism for the long term,” said a senior Obama adviser. “If we can make people understand that there are reasons for a bright future and the president has a plan to address what ails them, then that will be real progress.”
Of course, there is no real plan. There just has to be a perception that a plan is coming down the pike. And Obama's in his fourth quarter and time is beginning to run out! Ever notice how the actual lives of struggling people are always treated as a sporting event to which they are mere helpless spectators? It seems like only yesterday (because it was only yesterday) that I got yet another money-grubbing appeal from "Barack Obama": 
Some folks have started to call this the "fourth quarter" of my presidency. In a game, with the clock ticking down, that's when you want your best team out there.

That's what this email is about. It's because of folks like you that I'm able to give this everything I've got in the next two years.
As Politico tells it, though, we're still stuck in the pre-game show as the fourth quarter gets underway:
Ideas are still being proposed, vetted through the budget process, nixed and reworked for the State of the Union. But already, White House aides are starting to see some preliminary proposals that they believe will break through to talk about and show where economic progress is taking hold, and trying to spark what they like to refer to as a serious debate about issues middle-class families care about, with possible initiatives ranging from early childhood education to housing.
This is just pathetic. One in thirty children in this country is homeless, and they want to spark a debate? "Preliminary" is a word we should hear at the beginning of a presidential term, not near the end of one. But if it isn't the nihilist Republicans, it's the damned travel schedule of the leader of the free world:
But Obama won’t have much time immediately after the Jan. 20 speech to press the message himself. Only a few days after he addresses Congress, he’ll head to India for a number of events with the new prime minister.
 Obama aides continue to point back to the speech he delivered at Northwestern as a guide for what’s ahead — “a new foundation,” with “cornerstones” that include investments in the energy, tech and manufacturing; education and job training; health care reform; and structural overhaul.
What the hell does that even mean? Paging George Orwell, who in Politics and the English Language eviscerated this kind of muddled thinking. It is so sweepingly generalized as to be meaningless by intent. Obama's largely ignored Northwestern speech and its endless variations  are textbook cases of what Orwell called the "defense of the indefensible":
 Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.
What could be more cloudily vague and hackneyed than a "New Foundation" whose cornerstones include "investments" and "structural overhaul" of education and health care? Brutalities such as 40 million people still lacking medical insurance, and the anti-labor, child-abusive privatization of public education, and the continued offshoring of manufacturing via secretive trade pacts are not cornerstones, but rather huge blocks of cement meant to weigh us down and ultimately bury us.

There are endless variations on the trite tactics of persuasion. When the Edward Snowden revelations got people all riled up, the  government surveillance of Americans didn't cease. And nobody went to jail or got castigated in the media except the whistleblowers. The only thing that's had to be changed is people's perceptions that loss of their civil rights and privacy is even a bad thing. It's the same tactic the politicians used when they rammed austerity down our throats. Rather than admitting they are in total thrall to the plutocrats running the place, they couched their slashing of the social safety net in terms of patriotic "sharing the sacrifice" and "we're all in this together."

But there's a harsh light at the end of this tunnel of journalistic and political vacuity. Politico unintentionally admits that Obama's charm offensive will only serve to mask his real agenda: putting the permanent screws to what's left of the working and middle class. In modern Orwellian Politico-speak, this is called "bipartisanship" -- or if you prefer your whammies to be triple ones, "triangulation."
On the Hill, they’re less interested in high-minded talk of principles than clear legislation, with particular emphasis on the corporate tax reform and trade deals that Obama and his advisers have for months identified as their best chance for striking deals with Republicans.
 “He has every right to go out and talk about his message. But he ought to spend more time up here, working with Democrats and Republicans alike on passing items that will actually help improve the wages of middle-class Americans and provide more opportunity for growth in the economy,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who’s met privately with Obama and offered himself as a bridge for bipartisan economic deals.
Portman talks out of both sides of his mouth with the best of them. He moans that Obama isn't coddling him "up here" but then admits that the president is stroking him down there --  that is, meeting with him "privately," and plotting who's going to play the part of the human bridge to Kochtopia in the latest episode of Corrupt Kabuki.

It's political pornography and it's doublespeak and it can only be harmful to our collective mental health if we choose to succumb to it.  


voice-in-wilderness said...

Same approach to environmental issues as to economic issues -- talk about maybe making gestures, with any substantive actions dependent on execution long after President Obama is out of office.

I'm still waiting to see how he continues to dance around the Keystone Pipline in his fourth quarter.

Cirze said...

Or they could actually propose and negotiate seriously for programs that would feed the hungry, clothe the poor, give heathcare to those who haven't a chance of getting any from their Republican state government (instead of proposing new cuts for taxes for businesses, which will then be finally empowered to do those things for their needy employees). Ha Ha.

But that would pretty much get in the way of Obama's unveiling in the State of the Union as the "real" Republican president (and readying the crowd for Hillary who will also promise to outdo Jebbie as a traditional Republican), which will be touted as real progress for all right after he signs the new, improved with-more-jobs-shipped-overseas TPP, and deeper cuts, which will really help the decreasing deficit numbers, (with ultimate privatization) for Social Security and Medicare (proving his bona fides).

To his real audience.

The Republican/Dimocrat power base.

Try not to tear up when this occurs.

“a new foundation,” with “cornerstones” that include investments in the energy, tech and manufacturing; education and job training; health care reform; and structural overhaul.

- still unemployed without any chance of health care in this lifetime, but hoping for that "new" Obama who we're sure is right over the next hill

Denis Neville said...

Going to the Feelies?

Changing/improving Americans’ sense of the economy and the “Obama-Clinton economy” …

“America has managed to construct an entirely one-dimensional political system. There’s no discernible difference left between left and right, other than in spin language pre-cooked for the sole purpose of faking the concept of elections. There’s very right and ultra right. America is living proof that once money is allowed into politics, the accumulation of it, and of the power it can buy, will and eventually must fully control a democratic system, which in the process, of necessity, suffocates and dies a painful death.

What once was a proud American democracy has been turned into a circus that rolls into town every four years, filled with clowns that pretend to fight each other with over the top grotesque contraptions, but sleep in the same bed once the show is over and the audience has gone home…

It is a predictable process, in that the concentration of power, and of money, is irreversible as long as it’s allowed to continue its course, and the system succeeds in making people believe they still have a say in their own lives. As long as that belief is in place, it’s just an ongoing – relatively – slow corrosion that sets in and then takes its time, but never stops.” - Raúl Ilargi Meijer, The Automatic Earth,

The sheeple love their oppression and adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was an astonishingly accurate prediction of the plastic, homogenized, brainwashed and unthinking world that we live in today.

“With well over 90 million working age Americans counted as being out of the labor force, and with 43 million on food stamps, you can still present a 5% GDP growth number, if only you can get a sufficiently large number of people to ‘believe’. And you do, I’ll give you that. As far as the media goes, we have achieved the change we can believe in. We may not have that change, but we sure do believe we have, don’t we? And isn’t that what counts? Are congratulations in order?

“2014, in my eyes, has been the year of propaganda outdoing even its own very purpose, and succeeding too. We are supposed to be living in a time of the best educated people in the history of mankind, and everyone thinks (s)he’s mighty smart, but precious few have even an inkling of a clue of what transpires in the world they live in. Talk about a lost generation. Or two.

“We really need to question the value of higher education, if all we get for it is a generation of people so easily duped by utter blubber. What do they teach people at our universities these days? Certainly not to think for themselves, that much is clear. And then what is the use? Why spend all that time raising an entire generation of highly educated pawns, sheep and robots? I can think of some people liking that, but for society as a whole, it’s devastating if that’s all higher education is… we indeed have raised a generation of sheep.

"We’ve been fooled with economic stats for years, not just in the US, not even just in the west, but all over, they all grabbed on to the potential of providing people with numbers that have little to do with reality, but that simply feel good.” - Raúl Ilargi Meijer, The Automatic Earth,

Changing/improving Americans’ sense of the economy and the “Obama-Clinton economy” ????

Going to the Feelies!!!!!

Bert Gold, Frederick Maryland said...

Quoting Meijer, Denis Neville asks: ".. what do they teach at Universities?…" Well, M. Meijer and Denis, I teach at a University. Don't blame me and my colleagues when Americans are such idiots. Here'a an example of a mother killed by her 2-year old son with her own gun while shopping at WalMart:

My point is that the sheeple are, in general, so stupid, (by which I mean unsophisticated, uneducated and superstitious) that there is really, really no hope for democracy as we once knew it.

And, frankly, don't blame the faculty of American Universities: We can't compensate for these dizzying levels of unsophistication and idiocy (as in low intelligence, whichever one of the 8+ ways you decide to measure it).

Denis Neville said...

Bert Gold says “don't blame me and the faculty of American Universities.”

While individual faculty members might be innocent, the faculty isn’t entirely blameless.

Much of our higher education system, having lost sight of its educational mission decades ago, is a train wreck. While they still proclaim the sanctity of their universities’ mission, they pursue a self-serving, self- enriching, corporatist neoliberal agenda. American universities now cater to the rich elites by selling connections rather than education.

The barbarian values of corporate capitalism were embraced by large and important groups of people, including the culturally privileged and the well-educated. Many of the privileged ranks of faculty worked hand in glove with university administrators to sell out academic values that had been in place for decades. Having created this new status quo, they fight to prevent anyone from breaking their rice bowl.

The snobbery of the “winners” in this system looks down on the “losers.”

[“Don't blame me and my colleagues when Americans are such idiots. Here’s an example of a mother killed by her 2-year old son with her own gun while shopping at WalMart.”]

The snob-scum differentiation of our universities has nothing to do with education.

Zee said...

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” —Chico Marx

Americans know that their economy is still in the crapper, so Obama's most important mission—if he is to ensure any kind of positive legacy at all—is to hoodwink us into sensing that all is really well, or, at least, improving at a rapid rate.

Yet not only in politics, but in numerous other areas of our culture and society today, is truth no longer important: it's the narrative that really counts.

And, Bert Gold, one does not have to dig too deeply to find recent examples where faculty members at major universities—who are supposed to be our nation's leading instructors in critical thinking and truth-seeking—have themselves found “the narrative” to be much more appealing than the truth.

Despite their arrogant sense of superiority, today's university faculties are as much populated by “sheeple” as are we hoi polloi who reside far outside the cloistered, ivied towers of academia.