Andy Kohut goes deep on impact of the GOP’s ‘staunch conservatism’

By Eric Black, MinnPost.com,  03/22/13

Excerpt

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” …The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says….

“The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.” Andy Kohut, Pew Research Center…“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorable…

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama…the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left: …the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future… Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

Full text

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.”

Writing for the Washington Post’s Outlook section, Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center makes a case that you won’t find too shocking but to which he brings a depth and breadth based on years’ worth of polling data. Namely: The Republican Party has moved further from the center of national public opinion than any party has since the McGovern era when the Democrats were viewed by Middle America as the party of “acid, abortion and amnesty.”

The public now perceives the Republicans as “the more extreme party, the side unwilling to compromise or negotiate seriously to tackle the economic turmoil that challenges the nation,” Kohut says.

Kohut is no longer president of Pew and perhaps this piece suggests that he is planning to adopt a less neutral, scholarly, pollsterly tone. The headline on the piece reads “The numbers prove it: The GOP is estranged from America.”

“Estranged” is a strong word, but, as the headline suggests, every statement is rooted in polling data. Kohut writes:

“The Republican Party’s ratings now stand at a 20-year low, with just 33 percent of the public holding a favorable view of the party and 58 percent judging it unfavorably, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Although the Democrats are better regarded (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable), the GOP’s problems are its own, not a mirror image of renewed Democratic strength.”

Republicans’ image with the wider public is now dominated by the behavior and views of “a bloc of doctrinaire, across-the-board conservatives [that] has become a dominant force on the right.” The party’s base, which constitutes about 45 percent of all Republicans, holds “extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues: the size and role of government, foreign policy, social issues, and moral concerns,” writes Kohut. “They stand with the tea party on taxes and spending and with Christian conservatives on key social questions, such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

This group, whom Kohut dubs “staunch conservatives,” are “demographically and politically distinct from the national electorate. Ninety-two percent are white. They tend to be male, married, Protestant, well off and at least 50 years old.”

One of the unifying elements of staunch conservatism is the emotional intensity of their dislike for Pres. Obama, Kohut says. “For example, a fall 2011 national survey found 63 percent of conservative Republicans reporting that Obama made them angry, compared with 29 percent of the public overall.”

The Pew organization has been a leader in tracking the nexus that connects politics with the news media. Looking back at that data, Kohut concludes that the role of Fox News on the right is much more powerful than the role of liberal news sources on the left:

“The politicization of news consumption is certainly not new; it’s been apparent in more than 20 years of data collected by the Pew Research Center. What is new is a bloc of voters who rely more on conservative media than on the general news media to comprehend the world. Pew found that 54 percent of staunch conservatives report that they regularly watch Fox News, compared with 44 percent who read a newspaper and 30 percent who watch network news regularly. Newspapers and/or television networks top all other news sources for other blocs of voters, both on the right and on the left. Neither CNN, NPR or the New York Times has an audience close to that size among other voting blocs… Conservative Republicans make up as much as 50 percent of the audiences for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’ Reilly. There is nothing like this on the left. MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ and ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ attract significantly fewer liberal Democrats.”

Kohut also concludes three curious somewhat contradictory things about the impact of staunch conservatism on the Republican Party for the foreseeable future. One: They will complicate the big plan of Republican leaders to soften negative images of the party. Two: The staunch conservatives sustain conservative Republicans ability to remain in many offices, especially in Congress, but  Three: “they also help keep the party out of the White House. Quite simply, the Republican Party has to appeal to a broader cross section of the electorate to succeed in presidential elections.”

http://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2013/03/andy-kohut-goes-deep-impact-gops-staunch-conservatism?utm_source=MinnPost+e-mail+newsletters&utm_campaign=059c51e115-3_23_2013_Daily_Newsletter3_22_2013&utm_medium=email

Are Conservatives Rethinking Fox News’ Endless Outrage Model?

Media Matters for America [1] / By Eric Boehlert [2] published on Alternet.org, January 24, 2013

Excerpt

…predictable voices within the right-wing media, marshaled as always by Fox News, who freaked out over Obama’s inauguration addresses…Being outraged, and especially being outraged about made-up claims…has become a signature of the far right movement over the last four years. It’s also blossomed into Fox News’ entire business model. Fox News makes a pile of profits each year overreacting to imagined Obama slights. The question is, has the Fox model of the phony Outrage Machine damaged the conservative movement? Is it standing in the way of Republican progress and electoral success? …The amount of time and energy conservatives devote to utterly trivial bouts of phony outrage now seem to consume the movement, or at least the media portion of it…Of course, it was Rush Limbaugh who built a radio empire by mastering the we’re-all-under-siege-by-liberals shtick that conservatives love to wallow in…. it’s exhausting. And it doesn’t work. (Note the Republican Party’s 26 percent approval rating…

Full text

Responding to President Barack Obama’s inauguration address this week, Joel Pollak, an editor at Breitbart.com, wrote [3] about the president’s allegedly dastardly attack on the Supreme Court that unfolded during his address to the nation on Monday.

Pollak excitedly claimed that by mentioning his support for gay marriage in his inauguration speech, Obama was trying to bully Supreme Court Justices who were in attendance that day. By stating publically his belief, Obama was attempting to intimidate (to “attack”) the judicial branch of the government because the Supreme Court has before it a pending case about gay marriage and the president’s comment meant he was instructing the Court on how it “ought to rule.”

Alongside Pollak at the Breitbart site, Ben Shapiro, typing excitedly [4], wrote that Obama, via his address, had “attempted nothing less than an assault on the timeless notion of liberty itself.” (That sounds bad.) Shapiro separately attacked [5] Obama for the “brutal name calling” he used in his inauguration speech, even though Shapiro couldn’t locate any insults hurled by the president in his address.

Shapiro and Pollak were just two predictable voices within the right-wing media, marshaled as always by Fox News, who freaked out over Obama’s inauguration addresses. Going into Monday, readers, viewers and listeners weren’t sure exactly what conservative voices were going to be outraged about, but it was foregone conclusion, since the day featured Obama, that they’d find something trivial [6] to Get Very Upset About. (Answer: He was too partisan [7]!)

Being outraged, and especially being outraged about made-up claims, like Obama’s imaginary “name-calling” on Monday, has become a signature of the far right movement over the last four years. It’s also blossomed into Fox News’ entire business model. Fox News makes a pile of profits each year overreacting to imagined Obama slights.

The question is, has the Fox model of the phony Outrage Machine damaged the conservative movement? Is it standing in the way of Republican progress and electoral success?

Writing at his site RedState this week, conservative CNN commentator Erick Erickson beseeched [8] fellow partisans to drop the outrage shtick and to move into more substantial areas of debate. “Conservatives, frankly, have become purveyors of outrage instead of preachers for a cause,” he wrote. “Who the hell wants to listen to conservatives whining and moaning all the time about the outrage du jour?”

Erickson’s point is dead on. The amount of time and energy conservatives devote to utterly trivial bouts of phony outrage now seem to consume the movement, or at least the media portion of it. But it’s unlikely Fox News and its legion of copycat whiners in the press will heed Erickson’s wise advice. They’re too busy super-serving a radical niche and making money off the faux Outrage Machine.

It’s impossible to catalog every phony freakout that’s been staged during Obama’s time in office. It’s hard to even keep track of the ones that have been hatched [9] over the last week or so. The laundry list is annoyingly long.

Remember how Fox contributor Michelle Malkin led the hysterical [10] cries of exploitation [11] when Obama invited children who had written him about gun violence to attend a public White House event about gun violence? In Malkin’s eyes, only monsters incorporate kids in politics. (By the way, here’s Malkin’s column [12] this week where she incorporates kids into politics.)

And then there’s been the obsessive whining about how supposedly mean and nasty Obama is, a hollow cry that’s proven to be a right-wing evergreen. The Wall Street Journal editorial page complained [13] how “Obama demonizes anyone who disagrees with him,” while columnist Peggy Noonan whined [14] that Obama pushes “partisan rancor.” (That is, when Noonan wasn’t mocking Obama as the “Irritating Older Brother Who Got 750 On His SATs And Thinks He’s Einstein.”)  OnCBS This Morning, Newt Gingrich bellyached [15] about how the president’s “bullying” House Republicans, Karl Rove warned [16] darkly about the “unremitting war” Obama will soon launch on his foes, and Sean Hannitywarned [17] states might start seceding from the union.

As for Obama’s hopeful inauguration address, Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell went on Fox andcompared [18] it to the Civil War, claiming it was designed to rip the nation apart. Online, the address was angrilydenounced [19] as Orwellian “dreck.”

Most of the overwrought claims stem from the fact that Obama disagrees with Republicans and has said so publicly. The hysterical cry of partisan bullying just represents phony outrage being ginned up for feel-good attention among Obama critics.

Of course, it was Rush Limbaugh who built a radio empire by mastering the we’re-all-under-siege-by-liberals shtick that conservatives love to wallow in. But whereas Limbaugh’s plaintive, defenseless wail of the oppressed once represented one note in the right-wing media chorus, in recent years as it’s been adopted ad nauseaum online, on the AM dial and on Fox News, it’s to the point where that whiny, abrasive howl has become the only note in the conservative chorus.

The utter sameness of the fake outrage programming (i.e. We can’t believe Obama did/said that) now defines most of the conservative media message in America. Concocting things to be outraged about [20] and oppressed by (Hitler [21]!) is no longer a by-product of the conservative press, it’s become the entire purpose of the conservative press.

But it’s exhausting. And it doesn’t work. (Note the Republican Party’s 26 percent approval rating [22].) That, plus the fact that the perpetual outrage approach is now entering its second four-year cycle with Obama. If politically, the tactic didn’t work the first time, why is it being adopted again and reprised for the second term?

The bad news for Erickson is not only is the conservative movement purposefully trapped inside the phony Outrage Machine, but the machine’s stuck on a replay loop.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/media/are-conservatives-rethinking-fox-news-endless-outrage-model

Links:
[1] http://mediamatters.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/eric-boehlert
[3] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/22/Obama-Bullies-Supreme-Court-For-the-Third-Time
[4] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/21/Second-Inaugural-Address-Obama-Declares-War-on-Liberty-As-We-Know-It
[5] http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/01/22/Obama-inaugural-insults-name-calling
[6] http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/21/inaugural-lunch-menu/
[7] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323940004578256060684444322.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
[8] http://www.redstate.com/2013/01/20/the-loyal-opposition/
[9] http://www.salon.com/2013/01/16/right_wing_press_happily_allows_itself_to_be_trolled_by_made_up_video_game/
[10] http://mediamatters.org/video/2013/01/17/foxs-malkin-claims-it-was-child-abuse-to-have-c/192298
[11] http://mediamatters.org/video/2013/01/18/rush-limbaugh-defends-human-shields-comment-the/192324
[12] http://michellemalkin.com/2013/01/21/mlks-unfinished-legacy-and-the-fight-for-school-choice/
[13] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324235104578242121666374116.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_AboveLEFTTop
[14] http://online.wsj.com/article/declarations.html
[15] http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/newt-obama-bullying-house-gop-86206.html#ixzz2I3OSArxk
[16] http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/01/20/prepare-for-long-nasty-four-years/
[17] http://mediamatters.org/video/2013/01/11/hannity-says-states-may-secede-if-radicalized-a/192198
[18] http://newsbusters.org/blogs/ken-shepherd/2013/01/23/bozell-hannity-review-medias-over-top-praise-obama-second-inaugural
[19] http://patterico.com/2013/01/21/obama-social-security-and-medicare-are-what-make-us-strong/
[20] http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/01/14/the-return-of-right-wing-pro-gun-insurrectionis/192216
[21] http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/01/fox-news-hitler-guns.php
[22] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/17/republican-party-approval-rating_n_2499934.html
[23] http://www.alternet.org/tags/fox
[24] http://www.alternet.org/tags/breitbart-0
[25] http://www.alternet.org/tags/right-wing
[26] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

 

Fox’s Unbalanced Ethics Threatens Democracy by Wendell Potter

Huffington Post.com, December 9, 2010  

Anyone who still clings to the notion that Fox News is actually a news organization rather than a propaganda machine for special interests — and that it actually is led by journalists who adhere to the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists — must read the leaked memos Media Matters for America disclosed this morning. 

Under the heading of “Fox boss caught slanting news reporting,” Media Matters shared on its Web site an internal memo that Bill Sammon, Fox News’ Washington managing editor, sent a memo “at the height of the health care reform debate” to his network’s so-called journalists, directing them not to use the phrase “public option.”

 

Instead, Sammon told them, they should use focus-tested Republican and insurance industry talking points “to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.”

 

In his October 27, 2009 memo to his staff, Sammon offered what he call a “friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option.’” Instead, he ordered:

1)  Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.

2) When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”

3) Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

4) When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
As I wrote in my book, Deadly Spin, PR firms representing the health insurance industry routinely furnished conservative pundits and so-called journalists with talking points their consultants developed to scare people away from reform.

 

The insurance industry has spent millions of our premium dollars over the years on linguistic research and message testing to assist it in disseminating false and misleading information to manipulate public opinion.

 

I devoted an entire chapter to the industry’s “playbook.” Here is one of the tactics I said included in the playbook:
Feed talking points to TV pundits and freaquent contributors to op-ed pages. They will know how to get talk show hosts with big audiences like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck to say things on the air to support your point of view and discredit your opponents.

This morning grassroots advocacy coalition Health Care for America Now asked its supporters to “reject Fox News and its attempts to continually attack the Affordable Care Act and the people who support it under the guise of legitimate ‘reporting.’”

 

I am calling on Rupert Murdoch to fire Sammon, and I am calling on Fox’s so-called journalists and the network’s producers, many of whom I know and have worked with over the years, to denounce Sammon’s partisan approach to reporting and commentary. I am further calling on them — and the news staff at the Wall Street Journal, also owned by Murdoch, to dedicate themselves to truly being “fair and balanced” and to familiarize themselves with the profession’s code of ethics.

 

Northing short of our democracy is at stake here, folks.

 

 
This Blogger’s Books from   
Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans by Wendell Potter
 
Follow Wendell Potter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wendellpotter
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendell-potter/friendly-reminder-foxs-un_b_794618.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=121010&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily+Brief

14 Propaganda Techniques Fox “News” Uses to Brainwash Americans

By Cynthia Boaz, TruthOut.org
Posted on July 2, 2011 on Alternet.org

There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship – the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

It is ironic that in the era of 24-hour cable news networks and “reality” programming, the news-to-fluff ratio and overall veracity of information has declined precipitously. Take the fact Americans now spend on average about 50 hours a week using various forms of media, while at the same time cultural literacy levels hover just above the gutter. Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin’s ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere’s ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world’s largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here? Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences: the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11, the belief that climate change isn’t real and/or man-made, the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn’t born in the United States, the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists, the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job. All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?

My curiosity about this question compelled me to sit down and document the most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media. The techniques I identify here also help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.

The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren’t activated, you aren’t alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person’s credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. “liberals,” “hippies,” “progressives” etc. This form of argument – if it can be called that – leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.

3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It’s technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I’d call a “meta-frame” (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. For example, terms like “show of strength” are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force – it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence – whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment – are seen as noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence become synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.

7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this lack of confidence by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, less self-possessed people will feel shame and anxiety when being berated and the quickest way to end the immediate discomfort is to cede authority to the bully. The bully is then able to interpret that as a “win.”

8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user’s claims veracity in the viewer’s mind.

9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with. It often goes hand in hand with scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused “elitists” are almost always liberals – a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.

10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and “real Americans” (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn’t love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It’s a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.

11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. “Saddam has WMD.” Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it’s true or if it even makes sense, e.g., “Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.” If something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. Another example is Fox’s own slogan of “Fair and Balanced.”

12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. Having a university credential is perceived by these folks as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. In fact, among some commentators, evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so viscerally demeaned.

13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here’s how it works: if your cousin’s college roommate’s uncle’s ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev’s niece’s ex-boyfriend’s sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.

14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they’ll talk about wanting to focus on “moving forward,” as though by analyzing the current state of things or God forbid, how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.

In debating some of these tactics with colleagues and friends, I have also noticed that the Fox viewership seems to be marked by a sort of collective personality disorder whereby the viewer feels almost as though they’ve been let into a secret society. Something about their affiliation with the network makes them feel privileged and this affinity is likely what drives the viewers to defend the network so vehemently. They seem to identify with it at a core level, because it tells them they are special and privy to something the rest of us don’t have. It’s akin to the loyalty one feels by being let into a private club or a gang. That effect is also likely to make the propaganda more powerful, because it goes mostly unquestioned.

In considering these tactics and their possible effects on American public discourse, it is important to note that historically, those who’ve genuinely accessed truth have never berated those who did not. You don’t get honored by history when you beat up your opponent: look at Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln. These men did not find the need to engage in othering, ad homeinum attacks, guilt by association or bullying. This is because when a person has accessed a truth, they are not threatened by the opposing views of others. This reality reveals the righteous indignation of people like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as a symptom of untruth. These individuals are hostile and angry precisely because they don’t feel confident in their own veracity. And in general, the more someone is losing their temper in a debate and the more intolerant they are of listening to others, the more you can be certain they do not know what they’re talking about.

One final observation. Fox audiences, birthers and Tea Partiers often defend their arguments by pointing to the fact that a lot of people share the same perceptions. This is a reasonable point to the extent that Murdoch’s News Corporation reaches a far larger audience than any other single media outlet. But, the fact that a lot of people believe something is not necessarily a sign that it’s true; it’s just a sign that it’s been effectively marketed.

As honest, fair and truly intellectual debate degrades before the eyes of the global media audience, the quality of American democracy degrades along with it.
Dr. Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, where her areas of expertise include quality of democracy, nonviolent struggle, civil resistance and political communication and media. She is also an affiliated scholar at the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace International Master in Peace, Conflict, and Development Studies at Universitat Jaume I in Castellon, Spain. Additionally, she is an analyst and consultant on nonviolent action, with special emphasis on the Iran and Burma cases. She is vice president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and on the board of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation. Dr. Boaz is also a contributing writer and adviser to Truthout.org and associate editor of Peace and Change Journal.

© 2011 TruthOut.org All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/151497/

The Brain

Why Is the Conservative Brain More Fearful? The Alternate Reality Right-Wingers Inhabit Is Terrifying By Joshua Holland, AlterNet, May 2, 2012 ….new research suggests [that] conservatism is largely a defensive ideology…those cognitive biases are only part of the story of how a political movement in the wealthiest, most secure nation in the world have come to view their surroundings with such dread. The other half of the equation is a conservative media establishment that feeds members of the movement an almost endless stream of truly terrifying scenarios….Perhaps the most frightening part of all of this for the true believers is that even though these things aren’t just fringe ideas circulating in forwarded emails – they’re discussed by influential politicians and on leading cable news outlets – the bulk of the media and most elected officials refuse to investigate what’s happening to this country. That one ideological camp is so consumed with fear also has a lot to do with why conservatives and liberals share so little common ground. Progressives tend to greet these narratives with facts and reason…: http://www.alternet.org/story/155210/

The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans By Chris Mooney, Mother Jones,  February 15, 2013 author of 2012 book The Republican Brain. Two new studies further support the theory that our political decision making could have a neurological basis.…What they found is that people who have more fearful disposition also tend to be more politically conservative… the current research suggests not only that having a particular brain influences your political views, but also that having a particular political view influences and changes your brain…Simply by living our lives, we change our brains. Our political affiliations, and the lifestyles that go along with them, probably condition many such changes…full text  

Screw Positive Thinking! Why Our Quest for Happiness Is Making Us Miserable

Messing With Our Minds: The Ever Finer Line Between News and Advertising By Kingsley Dennis, Truthout | News Analysis, May 24, 2012

Making Ads That Whisper to the Brain by Natasha Singer, New York Times, November 13, 2010

Let the Nanotargeting Begin By Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, April 15, 2012

How the Right-Wing Brain Works and What That Means for Progressives By Chris Mooney, AlterNet, March 20, 2012

14 Propaganda Techniques Fox ‘News’ Uses to Brainwash Americans By Cynthia Boaz, TruthOut.org, July 2, 2011

“Spellcasters”: The Hunt for the “Buy-Button” in Your Brain

 Why We Need New Ways of Thinking from the Shambhala Sun, September 2008