Archive for December, 2016

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

It’s the Response, Stupid

12/19/2016

‚ÄčIt’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.

h1

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.