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The Orange Peril: Branding Nationalism in America – Part 2

12/26/2016

In any election, there are some winners who feel morally superior and losers who feel cheated. Then there are the 90% remaining who just move on with their luves. People who don’t care about the give and take of politics and who need to make a living to feed their families. The Orange Peril is, doesn’t cate where we fall into this spectrum because this propaganda wasn’t just geared to win an election, it was created to change the mindset of Americans.

In the 1930’s, the Nazis perpetuated and accelerated the stereotype of Jews as non-Germans who were leeches that poisoned the culture and sucked money out of the economy. In 2016, Muslims have become the scapegoat when they are all portrayed as violent terrorists or revolutionaries seeking to impose Sharia law in the U.S. In both cases, an attempt was made to clearly identify a particular group of people who stood in opposition to everything that the host culture valued. In addition to the fact that the accusations were mostly untrue, they were magnified and applied to everyone identified as a member of the group. Is this just to get people (you know, the ones doing the work most Americans don’t want to do) deported, or is there some ulterior motive?

One of the wedges the Nazis used on their people was evoking guilt by continually referencing the Treaty of Versailles which they claimed was unfair burden on the people of Germany after World War I. They used the shame as motivation and rationalization for building up their armed forces and aggressive behavior towards their neighbors. The Orange Peril uses the specter of lost and losing manufacturing jobs to Mexico, China, and elsewhere as something Americans should be ashamed of because we can do the work better than any foreigner. What is never mentioned is that most jobs taken overseas are never coming back because either wages can’t cover the costs or automation has eliminated the need for human labor.

Key to the Nazi strategy was maintaining a mentality of “us versus them” through development and application of the term Aryan. Although they were mistaken regarding its origin, that didn’t stop them from using it to describe white, blond-haired, and blue-eyed people who they considered the superior “race”. Anyone not fitting this description was immediately suspect. For Trump, while his campaign slogan was “make America great again”, the undertone was always “make white America great again”. And while it can be debated exactly how he did this, the election results clearly showed that 9 out of 10 votes for him were white voters. Then again, it’s hard to imagine why minorities didn’t support him when, at just about every turn, he insulted, denigrated, and threatened immigrants with deportation. It was abundantly clear who “us” was when a surrogate suggested that Japanese internment camps from WW II were a precedent on how to deal with immigrants today.

The common element in the strategies listed above is that they were geared to set the populace on edge and have them ready to explode into action on command. For the Nazis, this took the form of storm-troopers in the blitzkrieg, Hitler youth, and the Brown Shirts. For Trump, the results were volatile campaign stops where violence could erupt spontaneously, shouting matches with dissenters, and eventually the combustion that took place on election day. In the post-election period, we now have a private security force supplanting the Secrete Service which may well be a parallel to the Brown Shirts. For the Nazis who masked an entire genocide behind their propaganda, no lie was too outrageous, no conspiracy too far fetched, and no atrocity too much. In 2016, we now have a president who would say anything to get a vote, told outright lies about his opponents, made promises he will never be able to fulfill, and now has the U.S. on the verge of global conflicts with China, Russia, and even our long-time ally Israel.

How does this end? If we’re lucky, we come to our senses in 4 years and vote this huckster out. If not, and the public remains blind to the manipulation of a Trump administration, we could be led into either civil or global war. Our only hope is to open our eyes to what they are attempting to do and resist the urge to give in to our basest instincts. We need real leaders, not a snake oil salesman who cribbed notes from the master propagandists of the 20th century. Keep your eyes open for that leader and when you do find one, tell everyone.

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The Orange Peril: Branding Nationalism in America – Part 1

12/24/2016

Call me a skeptic but, when it comes right down to it, I hate being sold anything. Regardless of whether it’s a car, a meal, prescription  medication, and especially political issues, I don’t want anyone one telling me how to think. I want to do my own research, evaluate the options, and make a decision. Unlike so many people that I know, this also leads me to an aversion to advertising of any kind.  When I discovered the DVR and its ability to allow me to skip commercials, it seemed as if a heavenly host was going to break into song. I could watch my shows and avoid everything about capitalism that I despise. Needless to say, this appreciation was magnified 200-fold during the election season when I could avoid the crazed political ads.

In the turbulent wake of the 2016 election, it seems clear that the tactics that won the presidency for Donald Trump were neither dumb luck nor a fluke. As the president elect and his transition team move forward, we can see that there will be a continuation of the strategy that brought them this far. I’m going to call this propaganda strategy Orange Peril. Why give it a name? Because labeling a concept gives us power over it and allows us to quickly refer to the problem which leaves no ambiguity as to what we are discussing.  It’s also fun to say.

I use the term propaganda which is defined in Merriam-Webster as “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause”, instead of messaging or spin because it is most closely related to the latest buzz-word “fake news”, which seems to have taken the spotlight in recent weeks. The problem is that “fake news” is nothing new. It has been around ever since groups first vied for power and needed to denigrate their opponents. In the US, it took place during the Federalist/Anti-Federalist debates, continued on through disparaging articles over Hamilton’s heritage, and on to Jefferson’s relations with Sally Hemming. This was tolerated for 100 years until it was given a new name, Yellow Journalism, in the newspaper wars between Hearst and Pulitzer that ran for almost 50 years. The 20th century saw it rear its ugly head during the communist witch hunts of the 1950’s .

In 2016, what has developed is extremist nationalist propaganda (Orange Peril) that takes its precepts from Mein Kampf and directly lifts strategies used by Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. What it boils down to is the branding of American nationalism. Nazi propaganda consisted of eliminating a free press, exploiting cultural stereotypes, fulminating dissent, building nationalistic pride, identifying enemies of the state, deification of their leader, and cultivating an “us versus them” mentality. Combined, these tactics whipped the German people into a nationalistic frenzy that allowed them to be lead into not only World War II, but also one of the greatest human tragedies in human history. Our Orange Peril got Donald Trump elected president.

This piece is not intended to insinuate that Mr. Trump is the reincarnation of Hitler. What I’m going to lay out are the similarities in their tactics and underlying themes. This isn’t meant to be a partisan attack but rather to point out the dangers to our entire country. Personally, I find him and his merry band of white men are their own entirely new brand of dangerous.

The Nazis attempted to destroy the free press through expulsion of journalists who didn’t toe the party line and promotion of those who did comply with the edicts. During the campaign, Trump either expelled or revoked press credentials of journalists he deemed unfriendly. In the post election period, in the place of press conferences, we have victory rallies and it seems as if policy is being writ in 140-character bursts from Twitter. It isn’t a far stretch of the imagination to envision presidential policy issued via email to eliminate questions from the press corps.

One of the goals of Nazi propaganda was to hide the real agenda from the public. This was done through misdirection and scapegoating through the use of terms like lebensraum to justify aggression against neighboring countries and labeling of musicians and artists as degenerate. All the while disguising the real goal of rounding up and exterminating Jews and other undesirables  How different is this from the racist screed proclaiming that we need to build a wall on the border to keep out Mexican rapists and murderers? Or the promise to deport all immigrants or chants of “lock her up” at rallies? The unanswered question here is what is the real goal?

Manipulating public perception to create a false sense of urgency was an important aspect of the Nazi pogrom. Whether is was Operation Himmler that falsely accused Poles of ethnic cleansing to justify the invasion of Poland or Kristallnacht to increase animosity towards Jews, fabricated stories were used to agitate the German population. There were countless stories circulating on the Internet in 2016, but the most egregious has got to be the ridiculous pizzagate story that culminated in a man showing up at a D.C. pizzeria armed with an automatic rifle to “rescue” children being held by Hillary Clinton  as sex-slaves in a non-existent basement.

Is any of this a figment of my imagination? Could it be that somehow, I’m inadvertently spreading my own brand of fake news? Well, that’s for you to decide because I believe that everyone needs to be a smart consumer and research the facts on their own. Just because I say so here does not make it gospel. Your comments are welcome.

Check back soon for part 2.

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It’s the Response, Stupid

12/19/2016

It’s been something like 5 weeks since the election but it seems more like 15. Every day, there’s some new appointment, tweet, or Electoral College dust-up that sets social media on its ear. Mercifully, today the EC had their state meetings and officially declared Mr. Trump president. While the rumblings over abolishing the EC will continue, at least the fairy tale dreaming that electors will defect and muck up the process have been quashed. 

Since 11/8, there’s been a debate brewing over how to best respond to a Trump presidency (precedentcy?). Basically, you have two camps that can be summed up as 1) If they go low, we go high and 2) If they go low, get down there with them because you can’t fight unless you fight as dirty as they do. I prefer one of these:

If they go low…

  • Move your feet out of the way
  • They’re visiting relatives down there, stay away
  • Wear steel toed shoes
  • Drop something heavy on them from above

Really. If you’re so insecure that you have to succumb to their tactics, how can you justify your opposition to their position? This isn’t about being sanctimonious or holier-than-thou, it’s about keeping your back straight and holding you head up while you clearly explain why you are right and prove they are wrong. Will this lead to ridicule and allegations of weakness from the thugs on all sides of the spectrum? Probably. Does it make your point any less salient? Absolutely not. Is a point made from the high moral ground more effective or memorable? It absolutely is. We cannot pretend to speak from authority if we let loose our grip on the standards that got us to where were are .

When you see something like this:

https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10154356755756939/

You might be tempted to reply in kind but trust me, you can never beat a bully by adopting their tactics. While that might work in some 70’s sitcom, reality is that the bully usually comes back with reinforcements. What you need to do is have a clear message and rally people to your point of view.

So, for all those out there plotting their own fake news campaigns, creating provocative memes, developing left versions of GOP tactics, and using insults in an attempt to goad the opposition into verbal (and oftentimes real-life) confrontations, get over yourselves. If you want to defeat Trump and his band of merry white men, do some real work. Organize, recruit, research, and write. Arm yourselves with the gear that actually wins battles and stop thinking there’s an easy way out. 


If you’re looking for an easy way to be a part of the resistance, send me links to outrageous fake news you see and share these posts. Nothing makes the opposition crazier than to have us talking to each other.

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A Reintroduction

12/17/2016

My Uncle Bob is, to put it bluntly, gullible. When he isn’t sending me emails about chemtrails, he’s sharing HAARP theories on FaceBook about how the government is creating hurricanes. If you’re lucky, you have no clue what those are, but I’m betting you haven’t been able to avoid the topic of fake news that has grabbed the attention of so many people this year.

2016 has indeed been a turbulent year, but it wasn’t the worst. If you’re reading this, you are at least alive which testifies to my statement. If you’re still moping over the results of the election, gloating over the victory, or pining for some fallen TV/movie/music idol, you really need to lift your head up and look at the world around you. I said 2016 wasn’t the worst year ever but there’s a lot of crap going on that needs to change. Regardless of your personal or political beliefs, change is a’coming and if you can’t tell fact from fiction, it’s gonna run you over.

I’ve heard the Declaration of Independence referred to as merely a declaration of war whereas the Constitution is the collection of laws our country is founded on. But really, they should be taken together because neither was written in a vacuum and both were ratified by basically the same people. The concepts in each can, and should, be embraced as the originally American ideals. Two key phrases from each begin with “we”, “we the people” and “we hold these truths”. This country wasn’t created for the benefit of a few, and the ideals and principles espoused by them in the later half of the 18th century were meant to apply to all citizens until that form of government was ended.

Instead of looking at the world of opinions in the traditional left and right paradigms with all manner of shades on either side of what is subjectively called the middle, how about we look at it as an ever-widening set of concentric circles. At the center are the core values that Americans hold and the associated “truths” like equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the other basic rights specifically detailed in the Constitution. The farther opinions get from the center of this circle, the more dangerous the people holding them are. I think the center of this circle is really quite large and can hold the majority of Americans. It’s when you get farther out where you encounter the extremist whose views (like white supremacists and anarchists) threaten our very existence.

High on my list of the things that ail us is fake news. You can call it dis-information, mis-information, propaganda, or just outright lies, but it all boils down to manipulating perceptions. It was used to during the election by members of all parties and continues to be used in the post-election period as both scare tactics from the Democrats and fear mongering by the GOP. Some are blaming the Russians, some the alt-right, and some blame FaceBook for allowing it to proliferate. It really doesn’t make a difference. It’s here, it’s bad, and it needs to be dealt with.

Unlike my Uncle Bob, most of the people I know online can think for themselves and don’t want to be taken advantage of by the hucksters peddling their conspiracy theories and social theories. The problem is that this issue cannot be solved by just one person crusading on social media. It requires a network of people who keep their eyes open looking for suspicious material. Basically, I need your help.

This is the first post in what I hope becomes a regular series of commentary on with an eye towards debunking the malicious stupidity that is masquerading as news. Writing the posts is difficult enough and there’s now way any one person could have enough time to monitor and evaluate all the garbage floating around.

Here’s what I’m asking:

1. Share this post and sign up for email updates when new material is posted.
2. PM, email me, or post comments here about any links you think are fake.
3. Help me to recruit others and ask to them send me the links or (better yet) collect them for me and send me what you deem relevant.

In return, I will be writing about this problem and I promise to hit all sides with equal vigor because I just can’t stand the BS any longer. I can’t do it by myself; nobody can. Together, we can be the eyes and ears.

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Make My Day

09/02/2012

As I’ve gotten older, I have come to the conclusion that one of the keys to successful navigation of everyday life is the ability to focus effectively. When it comes to housework, that means narrowing down the endless list to a few vital things that must get done each day. When it comes to my blogging, it means concentrating on a few ideas instead of trying to tackle everything.

As I said previously, I have been happy to concentrate on local politics and ignore the presidential race. Don’t get me wrong, I still read articles (LOL, or the majority of articles) online but I try not to get caught up in the back and forth of the party faithful. Unfortunately, that leads to metaphorical head slaps like I received yesterday when I saw a link posted by a friend on Facebook.

I’m not going to analyze it here but, if you read it, you will see that it casts serious aspersions on the actions of President Obama. Criticisms that I have also made in the past. Although they are serious accusations and I urge you to take a look, I really can’t say that they are enough to sway my vote. After the GOP lie-fest in Tampa, I don’t think anything would ever sway me to the dark side.

But then there was the Clint Eastwood “speech” that just about put things over the top. Now stage props are a part of every actors arsenal but an empty chair just leaves too much to the imagination. As I watched the video, what I was really doing was imagining myself in that chair. As I heard an old bumbling man lecture me, all I could think of was, “STFU”! If all you can think of is to tell someone what they can do with themselves, I’d almost rather go back to the non-stop lying of the other speakers. The GOP definitely “made my day” by demonstrating loud and clear that not only can’t they even lie well, they are going to have a hard time limping to the finish line with one foot in their mouth.
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Please, Fade Away

08/24/2012

There must be something in the DNA of Texas Republicans that just makes it impossible for them to control stupid things from coming out of their mouth! OK, that wasn’t a big secret but you’d think that they might have some self control in an election year.

The latest gaff is from a judge in Lubbock, TX who says that an Obama win may well cause a civil war to break out. Now, I’ve read the secession talk from them before and frankly, since we’ve squeezed most of the oil out of the state, maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. At least we could cut off diplomatic ties and make them the problem of Mexico.

Still, this blather is getting old. Not only is this moron claiming that Obama policies will cause a civil war, but he also claims that the President will send in U.N. troops to quell civil unrest. He tries to mediate his statement by saying that he was using a worst-case scenario to make a point, but come on! What makes these bozos think this is acceptable?

I used to have pleasant memories of Lubbock as the home of Buddy Holly. Times, they sure have ‘a changed.
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Admission Day Reflections

08/17/2012

August 17th is Admissions Day in Hawaii and I thought this would be a good opportunity to take a look at some historical elements that led us to where we are today. Please understand, in advance, that this is not an attempt at historical review or revision.

In a little over 100 years from the first contact with Europeans until the overthrow of the monarchy, the rulers of Hawaii struggled to come to grips with their place in the wider world. In many instances, they were taken advantage of, in some their machinations with western powers it led to their undoing, and in the end, it was greed for raw power by Americans with less-than-noble interests that brought down Queen Liliuokalani.

It is definitely a tragedy that a proud people lost sovereignty over their land. And that it happened at the hands of an America caught up in the throes of a colonial period. Still, while it is regrettable, it somehow seems to have been inevitable. It’s not that they were more deserving, it just happened that Americans were “in the right place, at the right time”.

While reading up on the post-contact history, I was amazed at how readily the Hawaiian warrior chiefs accepted guns in trade. Kamehameha I used the guns and cannon he acquired to consolidate his power and become the first ruler of the islands. I seriously doubt he would have been able to achieve this without the superior firepower. I certainly can’t blame him since the other chiefs were doing exactly the same thing.

The rule of Kamehameha I began in approximately 1810 and the immediate impact of western contact was felt as their diseases decimated the population which was halved in less than 25 years. Although he retained the kapu system to maintain control over his people through traditional law, the reality of the intrusion by the outside world would force his successors to adapt. His favorite wife, Kaahumanu was instrumental in breaking the kapu system (likely to consolidate her power as a woman) but it was probably the maneuvering by international powers like France and Russia that forced the monarchy to adopt western ways, Amazingly enough, the first western-style laws were enacted in 1832, less than 45 years after Captain Cook first landed his ships in the islands.

By this time, the wheels of change had been irrevocably set into motion and each succeeding ruler did their best to retain their cultural identity while coping with the inevitable western influence. Some were more successful than others but, by the time Liliuokalani came to the thrown, the die was cast. For me, the saddest part of this story is that she was an exceptional ruler who was both highly intelligent and musically talented; the embodiment of an enlightened ruler. The fact that the Americans used illegitimate force to take her kingdom away only makes the tale sadder.

The path to statehood was set and like the adaptations the monarchs had tried earlier, nothing was going to stop eventual inclusion in the American Union. When Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, the abuse of the Hawaiian people finally seemed at and end. Looks can be deceiving because statehood did nothing to promote or preserve the Hawaiian culture. In 1978, a group of motivated citizens of Hawaiian ancestry took matters in their own hands at the state Constitutional Convention. Building on words and deeds of many unheralded advocates for the cause, they crafted an amendment to the constitution that recognized the Hawaiian people had special rights and that their land and culture need protection. Thus, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs was born.

It has been nearly 33 years since the creation of OHA and the battle for proper recognition continues. However, there is still the lingering resentment that something was stolen and that restitution is owed. I cannot answer that question. All I (as an outsider) can do is offer these words.

Your queen was overthrown but you should never let your spirit be a victim of that act. I see too much emphasis on the establishment of a nation and the acquisition of land. The glory of the people must be evident from the righteous work that they do. In our modern world, any effort that is performed without weighing the consequences of what others think about the correctness of actions, will be quickly decried as a fraud and undermined.

Don’t confuse the tears you shed for your queen with those of your lost kingdom. Keep your personal loss as a reminder of what happens when your spirit lapses and you let your guard down. If you romanticize the monarchy, you gloss over the fact that they were fallible and didn’t always have the best interest of the people at heart. A majority of the public want to make amends for what is now almost universally recognized as an illegal overthrow. However, these same people need to know what can be done to right this wrong. With every passing day, support for redress wanes. The “repayment” cannot continue into perpetuity.

I also suggest that you recognize that studying, learning, and understanding a culture is sometimes best done through an objective lens. And, that there is a big difference between cultural preservation and cultural stagnation. Take the opportunities provided as a citizen of the United States and carve out that niche that is rightfully yours. If you do it with grace, it will benefit us all.