Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Pot Calling the Kettle FOX

My Tabloid Facebook Friend posted a link to an article called "Fourteen Propaganda Techniques Fox 'News' Uses to Brainwash Americans," which put me in mind of the Rules of Communist Revolution that used to circulate in mimeograph back in the good old days before the Internet, when you could believe everything you read. The Communists had only ten rules, Fox has fourteen! That shows the advantages of the Free Market!

The author of the article, 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", so you know she understands media and politics very well. Let's go through her list of the techniques used by "Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media" to deceive We the People. To see her full commentary on them, just click the link. I'll add some more examples to show how uniquely evil Fox "News" is.

1. Panic Mongering.
Oh, my, how awful! Other media, to say nothing of Democratic politicians and operatives would never try to scare us into supporting them by ginning up fake threats -- creating terrorist plots, for example, or pretending that another country poses a danger to us.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem.I hear these people saying [President Obama is] like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” [then-Press Secretary Robert] Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.” Or:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get -- to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed -- oh, well, the public option wasn't there. If you get the financial reform bill passed -- then, well, I don't know about this particular derivatives rule, I'm not sure that I'm satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven't yet brought about world peace and -- (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.)
Or you can just focus on personalities instead of issues.

3. Projection/Flipping.
"It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you're using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first." I can't think of specific liberal/centrist examples of this offhand, though they're lurking in the back of my mind. Any suggestions? I'll add examples later as I think of them.

4. Rewriting History. Taking credit for withdrawing American troops for example, under an agreement that your predecessor negotiated. Never happen! And if it did, the liberal/left news media would catch you at it! Or:

Obama, today: “We did exactly what we said we were going to do in Libya.”
"Something about a short-term no-fly zone, right?" Whatever It Is I'm Against It prompted helpfully.

5. Scapegoating/Othering. "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," says Dr. Against the crazies at Westboro Baptist Church, say. Or against anybody who engages in "hate speech."

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness.
"We came, we saw, he died."

7. Bullying. It's not exactly a new problem, nor is it limited to Fox.

8. Confusion.
"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", says Doc. Erm, isn't that exactly exactly the liberal attitude to the "Reichtards" and Bible-thumpers?

9. Populism. "This," Dr. says, "is especially popular in election years." Indeed it is, indeed it is.

10. Invoking the Christian God. "My religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman." Oh, and Rick Warren; remember him?

11. Saturation. "There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent," Dr. says. 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." Or, as already noted, "Iranian nuclear weapons pose a direct threat to the U.S."

12. Disparaging Education. Again, this predates Fox News; it's part of the mainstream media. In The Bush Dyslexicon Mark Crispin Miller describes at length how, after the third debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush in October 2000,
the "analysts" at CNN said not one word about the substance of the candidates' exchange but just kept harping on the general "statements" were putatively "trying" to make about themselves through their tone and body language.

Although a waste of time, the postdebate bull session was at least not strongly biased, nor was its anti-intellectualism too pronounced. On ABC there was a far more noxious session on the subject of the third debate.
This session, featuring Sam Donaldson, George Stephanopoulos, Cokie Roberts, and George Will, "captures perfectly the the barbarous synergy between the right and TV news, each feigning populism for its own elitist purposes." Roberts complained that the issue debated by the candidates wasn't "the important point there. ... Because that's not what comes across when you're watching the debate. What comes across when you're watching the debate is this guy from Washington doing Washington-speak" [pages 68-69]. The irony of four Beltway media insiders denouncing Al Gore for being a Beltway insider, while delicious, was totally lost on Roberts.

It's also a tactic used against people like Bertrand Russell or Noam Chomsky, who are undoubtedly supersmart but got no common sense. It's usually backhanded, like Paul Berman's complaint in Terror and Liberalism (Norton, 2003, p. 150) about Chomsky's "customary blizzard of references to obscure sources" -- obscure sources like The New York Times and The Boston Globe, you know.

13. Guilt by Association.

“Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations,” Mr. Obama said. “So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections.”
It didn't help that the administration had no evidence for these claims. (Or that the US spends huge sums of money to influence foreign elections.)

14. Diversion.
Mic check!
“It’s OK,” the president assured the audience. “It’s alright. Listen, I’m going to be talking about a whole range of things today, and I appreciate you guys making your point. Let me go ahead and make mine, alright? And I’ll listen to you. You listen to me.”
I think we've listened to him long enough, far more than he has listened to us. But that's another topic. Meanwhile, this post may undergo revision after posting if I remember better examples of the principles in action.