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Dying Of The Light
April 23, 2014 7:24 PM   Subscribe

"These people want to believe in a false reality, they want to believe in conspiracy theories, they want to believe that their government is evil, they want to believe that the biblical Anti-Christ sits in the White House and that the so-called End Times are upon us, they want to believe that the President is plotting their demise because that justifies their hatred and bigotry and their miserable unhappiness." Jim Wright, retired naval officer, occasional military intelligence consultant, craftsman and blogger, illustrates the process by which the media exploits lazy critical thinking to create a false narrative that alienates us from one another.
posted by Lou Stuells (53 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite

 
A bit meandering, but all in all, very insightful.
posted by empath at 7:39 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Another thread about conspiracy theory.

These people might not be incredibly more deluded than the mass media Pravda slop we are fed, but I don't really think that any of this flood of conspiracy theories reliably explains the clusterfuck mess that is in plain sight. Follow the money. Lobbyists. Plutocracy. Corporations running the government, a body which is supposed to be representative and deliberative and is neither. You don't need David Icke's Reptilian Masonic Alien Lizards in Dick Cheney's body to explain all this. Just look at the influence of Big Pharma and the Oil Companies. It's not a secret conspiracy.

Although I have to admit: I believe in ONE conspiracy theory. It was not Lee Harvey Oswald who killed JFK. The surgeons all say the exit wounds were in the back of his head. Who did it is up for debate, but…jeez, derailing the thread already? Sorry. Ignore me. I'm just saying: follow the money, these days, and you don't need to dream up conspiracies. It's all there, in black and white, although maybe not in the NYT and all the other mainstream publications.
posted by kozad at 7:47 PM on April 23 [11 favorites]


Ultimately, it's all a matter of you being the reason for everything bad in my life.

My beliefs, actions, social groups and random chance have nothing whatsoever to do with why my life sucks.

It's all you, and the "people" like you. Not me. Never me. No. Nothing I could do.
posted by aramaic at 7:55 PM on April 23 [6 favorites]


Talking Points Memo has been posting a number of similar pieces in response to Josh Marshall's article on Ron Paul and white nationalism from people who have lost loved ones to Fox News and right-wing radio conspiracy theories, prejudice, and general horribleness:

Thoughts on "Hard to Handle"
Harder to Handle
More Than One Thing Happened in 2008
Is There a Fox Effect?
More on the Fox Effect... (follow-ups 1, 2, 3, 4)

Related: The Brainwashing of My Dad
When the filmmaker's parents moved to a place where her father had a long solo commute to work and started listening to Talk Radio to alleviate the boredom, her family saw him change from a non-political Democrat to a radicalized, angry Right-Wing Republican. What happened to Dad?

As filmmaker, Jen Senko, tries to understand the transformation of her father from a mild mannered life-long Democrat to an angry, Right-Wing fanatic, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media by the GOP, The Powell Memo and the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine, all of which would ultimately misinform millions, divide families and even the country itself.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:02 PM on April 23 [21 favorites]


His posts are a tad windy but his Twitter feed is hilarious. To wit:

You know, I get compared to Hunter S. Thompson a lot, but other than the booze, drugs, and gunfire I just don't see it.
posted by jim in austin at 8:07 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]


There are no conspiracies, only profit margins.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:10 PM on April 23 [6 favorites]


Stonekettle Station is a regular in my feeds.
The Seven Stages Of Gun Violence
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:21 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, Snowden.
posted by adipocere at 8:33 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


Stonekettle isn't denying the existence of conspiracies; in fact, he takes them for granted:
The bottom line is this: with this article and many others exactly like it, the concept that Fox (or rather Fox’s hidden Kingmaker) wants, i.e. OMG! Liberals! Liberals are coming to take your guns! has been effectively inserted into the target audience and has become self-reinforcing and self-propagating and no amount of logic, reason, or fact can displace it.

The actual article is just window dressing – and you can test that for yourself.

This is propaganda in its most effective form.
posted by jamjam at 8:54 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


I like how he has to bring up "911" eight times to make his point about hyperbolic narratives.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:55 PM on April 23


kozad: “Another thread about conspiracy theory.”
It expressly isn't. It's an indictment of precisely the "mass media Pravda" you decry as well as the modern-day Know Nothings such malicious misinformation enables.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:57 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Who is this "they" he keeps referring to?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:13 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


When the filmmaker's parents moved to a place where her father had a long solo commute to work and started listening to Talk Radio to alleviate the boredom, her family saw him change from a non-political Democrat to a radicalized, angry Right-Wing Republican. What happened to Dad?

As filmmaker, Jen Senko, tries to understand the transformation of her father from a mild mannered life-long Democrat to an angry, Right-Wing fanatic, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media by the GOP, The Powell Memo and the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine, all of which would ultimately misinform millions, divide families and even the country itself.


The problem with this is that if it was so easy to "brainwash Dad" with a steady diet of corrosive talk radio, how firm were his more palatable "non-political" Democrat beliefs in the first place?

Or was it apathy by any other name? Was Dad's pre-talk radio belief structure actually a belief structure.

Or perhaps dear old Dad does exercise agency.

This entire conversation - that Fox News or talk radio or whatever can somehow brainwash people into holding unpleasant views - is one of the things that is so off-putting about Progressives and the Left in general.

That is, the Left and Progressives typically know what's best, and cannot fathom other points of view.

"I'm not influenced by the mass media, but I am sure worried about all the people who are dumber than I am who are influenced by the mass media."

It's an arrogant and elitist point of view, especially when you consider that the two great grassroots movements of our time, the Tea Party and Occupy Wallstreet, are basically the same damn thing.

Personally, I think the solution is to abandon ideology. Abandon Capital "P" politics, and instead engage in a values-based discourse. Values are more concrete.

And we need to get rid of this notion that somehow the media is responsible.

People out there are just as intelligent as you or me. They have reasons for what they believe.

Changing their point of view requires a conversation, and engaging in conversation means acknowledging their intelligence and their agency.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:33 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]


It occurs to me that older people's attraction to doomsayers might just be an unconscious coping mechanism re: impending mortality. If the world's going to hell in a handbasket, then hey, maybe it's not such a bad thing that death's right around the corner.

I have a feeling this is something that occurred to Roger Ailes many years ago.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:33 PM on April 23 [6 favorites]


The Disinformation play fell out out of CIA playbook and someone saw it on the ground and picked it up. Now the play is everywhere and can be used by anyone. We have a total free market in psyops. Psyops is for everyone.
posted by vicx at 9:36 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]


the two great grassroots movements of our time, the Tea Party and Occupy Wallstreet, are basically the same damn thing

what
posted by Sys Rq at 9:36 PM on April 23 [23 favorites]


There are no conspiracies, only profit margins.

"There's only one conspiracy. Money."
(Winslo)
posted by philip-random at 9:41 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


Roger Ailes was one of the Zionists behind 9/11. That's why Fox News.

See ... Anyone can do it. :)
posted by vicx at 9:44 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]


AElfwine Evenstar: Who is this "they" he keeps referring to?

Did you read The Fine Blog Post? He is very clear about who he's talking about in that passage, and in the rest of the post. In the FPP's pull quote, he's talking about the Infowars and Palinista crowd who bought into conspiracy theories about the FBI being a modern day Gestapo because it was trying to work with state and local police forces. There's really no ambiguity to it if you took the time to read the post.

All in all, I think this is a very timely topic. The Bundy Ranch standoff is a sign of things to come as Obama finishes out his second term. The American militia/sovereign citizen/freemen movement is once again ascendent, and with Chris Christie taking on water, the GOP field is cleared of any credible moderate contenders, which means Republican Presidential hopefuls and their media infotainment complex sycophants will be looking to stoke the fires with any crackpot theory they can find. Even if Bundyville doesn't turn into Waco 2: Semi-Automatic Boogaloo, I have a very bad feeling that we're going to see a lot more trafficking in conspiracy theories for political gain.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:45 PM on April 23 [9 favorites]


Oh, and on the topic of Bundyville keep an eye on this thing going on down along the OK/TX border. This looks to be the latest in the "angry armed white dudes versus the Bureau of Land Management" genre, and the wingnut media outlets are trying to throw gasoline on the fire.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:11 PM on April 23


these types of views are nothing new but there used to be a time when views like these were marginalized and the people espousing them were considered cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. We need to get back to that. Just because someone wears a suit and tie and draws a decent salary doesn't mean their not nuts. Stop associating with people who watch Fox News or listen to talk radio. Put them back on the margins of society where they belong.
posted by any major dude at 10:15 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


This is all a distraction from the real issue: Obama ordered the Benghazi standdown because the embassy staff there had discovered the truth, that the Rothschilds are behind the chemtrails being sprayed over our cities to keep us docile. Wake up, sheeple.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:16 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


When I see stuff like the Bundyville affair, and how major politicians find it acceptable to throw their support behind what is for all intents and purposes an open subversion of a duly elected government, I think how very different it would all play out if the perpetrators were Muslim, or say, black. You'd have Fox news baying for their blood, and the National Guard out in no time at all. Meanwhile, because these are entitled middle-aged white people, it's all kid gloves and the government actually backing down(!), and major politicians giving them backing. This whole Bundy affair is quite fascinating, I was hoping someone would do a good FPP on this, pulling from many sources.
posted by VikingSword at 10:25 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


This entire conversation - that Fox News or talk radio or whatever can somehow brainwash people into holding unpleasant views - is one of the things that is so off-putting about Progressives and the Left in general.

Actually, what is unpleasant is not that somehow "Progressives and the Left in general" believe this, as much as it is very obviously happening. Anyone who does any actual research about the facts of the topics which post-Fairness-Doctrine brainwashing media strives to form opinions about in the minds of their viewers or listeners can easily see how they are working to skew the facts and shape opinions.

But this is hard work to do if your only media landscape is dominated by suppliers of information who are taking advantage of the lack of oversight which was formerly required.

Even long before the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine, media was being used to manipulate. (c.f. The Century Of The Self, 4 hours, Adam Curtis)

It is only AFTER the death of the F.D. where we find it being able to manipulate political attitudes to the extent that it is today.

On how many different vehicles have I seen on bumper stickers which say "I don't believe the Liberal Media"? At least two dozen, if not more, in the past month. But who defines what "the Liberal Media" is? Exactly those groups who want to manipulate instead of inform.

True liberal media is basically not consumed by any US Citizen en masse. LinkTV and FreeSpeechTV -- those are the actual "liberal media". Mainstream television news, NPR, Washington Post, NYT... those are not liberal.

People out there are intelligent, yes. And they have reasons for what they believe. But large masses of today's living humans are not voracious researchers, don't do "their own work" to understand issues from various viewpoints, and (not to put too fine a point on it) are lazy to the point of being unwilling to change the channel on their television or radio.

Trees on a windblown shore can only grow the way the wind blows. And as humans, we get to choose which intellectual winds blow through our sphere of mental influence. Only receiving messages from one side, from radio and television hosts who 1) are on for many hours a day and 2) are being empowered with a megaphone from those who have actual (documented) political interests results in bending their minds toward the desired direction.

I'd welcome actual presentation of an alternate point of view, if it were based on facts and grounded in reality. But too much of what is fabricated by Ailes-influenced media is not. And to somehow paint the Left and the Progressives as elitist because they point out that what is being fed to "the other side" is propaganda rather than actual alternate viewing of the facts and their implications is insulting to both those who seek the truth and those who are duped by falsehood.
posted by hippybear at 10:27 PM on April 23 [38 favorites]


I think I've said it before on here but to me conspiracy theories are all about explanations. Like, okay, if it's really the globalists or George Soros or liberals or communists or whatever, that means there's an identifiable bad guy to work against and someone to fight. On the other hand, if you accept the premise that the world is an uncaring place that really doesn't give a shit whether you live or die and you are essentially obsolete as a person at a certain point, that seems to me way more terrifying than the globalist bankers. I think it's a fight against the bleakness of the world we live in.

If you've been brought up your whole life believing that America is the best country in the world and you can make it if you just work hard, but you find you're living in a dying town where your skills are no longer valued and you can't work hard because you can't even find the job, I totally see the appeal of assuming some natural boogeyman did it rather than questioning everything you've ever believed in and completely destroying your own philosophical framework in the process.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:29 PM on April 23 [17 favorites]


It's all you, and the "people" like you. Not me. Never me. No. Nothing I could do.

America is a land of limitless opportunity where hard work leads to success and security.

I'm working very hard but am seeing no success or security.

Who would you have me blame?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:31 PM on April 23 [3 favorites]


Or, you know, what Ghostride The Whip just said.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:32 PM on April 23


Jon Stewart is really worth watching on this thing. Notably on the Fox coverage of the Bundy thing. Apocalypse Cow: Welfare Rancher
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:33 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


This entire conversation - that Fox News or talk radio or whatever can somehow brainwash people into holding unpleasant views - is one of the things that is so off-putting about Progressives and the Left in general.

That is, the Left and Progressives typically know what's best, and cannot fathom other points of view.

"I'm not influenced by the mass media, but I am sure worried about all the people who are dumber than I am who are influenced by the mass media."


I've specifically seen the influence of Fox News and talk radio on my dad. It's not that I know what's best - it's that his beliefs are so oddly inconsistent now. He drives an electric car, and recycles. The ACA directly benefits him. If you didn't talk to him about specific parties or issues, you'd think he was pretty liberal. But that's not how he identifies himself and, frankly, it was always just so upsetting to see him get upset or angry about whatever Limbaugh's or Beck's issue of the day was.

I certainly don't think I'm too "smart" to be influenced by mass media. I don't think anyone is. Based on my dad's example, I'm much more skeptical of the media I consume, and much more cautious about my own consumption. I think pervasive media is very powerful, much more powerful than we realize, and we need to recognize that and actively guard ourselves against it. Seek out other points of view, question what we're told, what we think we know.

Talk radio contributed significantly to the Rwandan genocide. Just today, it contributed to mass violence in south Sudan.

People have intelligence and agency, but their beliefs are formed based on the information they have, which comes from the media they consume. It seems absurd to say that the media can't influence a person's beliefs. If all your news comes from Fox News, or the Daily Show, or from Metafilter, how could that not shape what you think is true?
posted by heathkit at 11:05 PM on April 23 [20 favorites]


The linked article is a very artful peace of information operations. The TL;DR is that if you aren't reinforcing the status quo then you are a bad person, and what we really need is to enforce the status quo that much harder.
posted by wuwei at 11:17 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]


the Tea Party and Occupy Wallstreet, are basically the same damn thing.

The irony of this whole screed being, that this kind of false-equivalence pox-on-both-their-houses above-it-all pose of objectivity is something a lot of critics point to as one of the primary faults of the modern news media.

I'm sure it's possible people come up with it all by themselves, but I'm not sure where they get their facts.
posted by hap_hazard at 11:21 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]


Every once in a while I start to buy into the news media's self narrative about how important it is. And then I remember how our country actually prefers to spend its time.


Population of the United States: 317 million

MSNBC and CNN Combined Primetime Viewers: 1.7 million
Fox News Primetime Viewers: 1.7 million
The Ellen Degeneres Show Daily Viewers: 9 million
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:23 PM on April 23 [4 favorites]


It is not that people are stupid, or that they don't realize that they are being manipulated. It is the fact that they are unaware that there is any other alternative existence.

This fact struck me in in parts of the oral history from an FPP linked yesterday, the one about slaves in the U.S. before the Civil War. They were not told or educated about the wider world. Their entire world consisted of what they were surrounded by. They only knew of town as a place to buy more slaves.

It is entirely the isolation from information that has created this fragmented and delusional society, and it is the fact that IT IS NOT STANDARD CURRICULUM IN ANY EDUCATIONAL MODEL to teach people how to be appropriately skeptical of information AND how to utilize critical thinking skills in processing any and all information in which they make decisions on. You want a pointer on how to do it right? Here's a nice educational film from 1946, the illustrates the lessons learned by winning World War 2. If you think that's quaint and not applicable to today's mass media saturation of bad information, and the human tendency towards Source Amnesia, then I think you really need to bother to educate yourself about just how much of what you know about the world may not really be true.

It also correlates quite strongly with some of the discussion in the FPP recently about academia, and how many grad students complain about, or suffer from the feeling that they just aren't understanding something relevant about the social cues or social expectations of their professors or academic advisers, and the prevalence of strange social stigmas that are prevalent in the selection of doctorate candidates, based upon the expectation of cultural differences. If you have never been around that culture, how in the world are you expected to behave and conform to the expectations if they are not explicitly spelled out in any way?
posted by daq at 12:22 AM on April 24 [9 favorites]


@KokuRyu
I think it holds true for anything that's trying to get dollars out of you by getting your attention and subsequently maintaining it.
Hell, consider the FPP on Upworthy from a bit ago and how it exemplifies such unsubtle attempts at manipulation to generate pageviews

Psyops stuff, behavioral psychology and plenty else seem to point out a simple truth: Your mind is not as robust against being manipulated as you would like to believe. Just start tapping into those reward centers, trigger an emotional response, feed into some biases you've created or needs to know more and have your easily drawn conclusions and assumptions confirmed so the consumer feel gratified for being -so- terribly smart. You can pretty easily create a Pavlov's Viewer. Then try and give them an identity to ascribe themselves to, tap into their tribal nature, an entire life of stories and media built upon the basic premises of The Hero's Journey where the Good We must triumph over the Evil Other. Get them to identify with the group by conflating not being part of the group with being Other, assign good values to be related to Us, bad to Them, etc. etc.

You can get a whole narrative going that likely takes place several times through the news day, with each story, with each extended coverage, all keeping you on the edge of your seat, your attention rapt to see how it resolves but it never reaches any meaningful conclusion because then you might be satisfied instead of hungry. Hungry for more. Hungry enough to watch that ad about toilet paper instead of changing the channel.

I mean, really, I haven't sifted through the rest of the stuff, but the main article gets into the guts of one little aspect of this utterly bizarre process and does it rather well.

What I think the main article calls for is simple skepticism and a humility that says while yes, other people are as smart as you are, you are also entirely capable of being as easily manipulated one way or the other. Your mind is a machine that learns and some are willing to throw the idea of anything considered reasonably ethical in reporting out the window in order to get it to learn the behaviors they want, not because of any vast governmental conspiracy theory, but simply because it gets them money.

Now for some basic criticism on what you said regarding the ideas of "the right" and "the left": In no way does the author of the main article say this is exclusive to the particular media he speaks of, but he makes his case on them because they are the ones that stand out for doing this. To boot, is it not kind of hypocritical to call out things for being of the Left, Progressive (oh god, you even tied those terms to elitist. at this point that's almost as bad a mental flag as sheeple.) Right, etc. and call for values based discourse? Isn't even dealing with those as groups and instantly assigning such the same kind of othering and identity assignment that can lead to vast assumptions? Does anybody really have as much agency as we would like to believe? Aren't you kind of playing into the hand of the discourse money-hungry advertisement based political media would like you to, right there, and thus as guilty of falling into the trap as anyone?

I think values based discourse is exactly the thing that's called for, but when you have to consider the matter of trying to shape identity through basic propaganda tactics in order to create an other in their narrative, you have to address the fact that... Well, that's what they're doing? Right or Left, if someone identifies with that construct, you have to address the construct.

FWIW, my dear beloved grandmama, the lady taught me a little about almost every philosophical viewpoint imaginable and to take everything you hear with a healthy dose of skepticism easily falls into these narratives of lost family members. The last book she asked me and my dad to track down was some book about how god's gonna make another flood come down on us all. All she wants to talk about is all this strange Christian fundamentalist stuff and how the bible tells us everything we need to know. Gee, all she does these days since needing to be on oxygen and developing a pretty hard agoraphobia is sit around and watch some Seventh Day Adventist network, which had a prelude of Fox News and deciding Glen Beck knew everything and that we had to trade in all our money for gold coins because..?

While you might not have independent experience of it, it seems like there's plenty enough evidence existing corresponding to the claims.

Full Disclosure: I used to love Bill Mahr, so I certainly can't say I'm innocent of the effect that style of 'discourse' can have.
posted by ThrowbackDave at 12:23 AM on April 24 [3 favorites]


The TL;DR is that if you aren't reinforcing the status quo then you are a bad person, and what we really need is to enforce the status quo that much harder.

Also a very entertaining argument about how it's only right and natural that civilians should be as alert and aware as a Navy crew when it comes to spying on each other. Or rather that the Navy crew was alert and aware of outside threats and civilians should treat everyone who is not themselves as a threat. Or maybe the outside threats were treating the Navy as civilians. The article tended to wander a bit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:52 AM on April 24


If you have family who listen to a lot of talk back radio, just launch your own radio talkback show on them. I do this with my mom. When I talk to her about politics and she mentions a talking point off the radio I just agree with her but of course I ratchet it up a bit.

Don't like taxes, don't pay any in my opinion. Why just stop the boats when migrants can still come by planes. Stop all migration, and send the ones already here back to where they came from. Stop the carbon tax. We can probably do better. Let people burn their own coal at home in home generators. Why pay someone else to burn it when you can do it yourself. A home coal plant would probably be better than having solar panels because everyone knows coal is cheaper.

I am just playing a character but after while she starts disagreeing with my ideas. She says ... 'maybe that is taking it too far' and then she raises valid points which I get to shoot down using my conservative talking points. I gotta say it is a lot less frustrating to have her do the thinking in an argument. One thing I know for sure is that she is becoming a typical bleeding heart liberal.
posted by vicx at 1:32 AM on April 24 [14 favorites]


The problem with this is that if it was so easy to "brainwash Dad" with a steady diet of corrosive talk radio, how firm were his more palatable "non-political" Democrat beliefs in the first place?

Or was it apathy by any other name? Was Dad's pre-talk radio belief structure actually a belief structure.

Or perhaps dear old Dad does exercise agency.


I assume you didn't watch the trailer, or read the links from TPM, because this is directly addressed. The problem was never that these people didn't exercise agency, but that in most cases Fox et al made that agency into permission to advance pretty horrible viewpoints.

This entire conversation - that Fox News or talk radio or whatever can somehow brainwash people into holding unpleasant views - is one of the things that is so off-putting about Progressives and the Left in general.

Again, this is discussed extensively in the links I provided. Much of it is about how it normalized what was under the surface or made text what would have been subtext.

That is, the Left and Progressives typically know what's best, and cannot fathom other points of view.

"I'm not influenced by the mass media, but I am sure worried about all the people who are dumber than I am who are influenced by the mass media."


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the links go over this as well. It's not as simple as "left knowing what's best" here, and I don't think any of them mention intelligence (or lack thereof) as a factor at all. It's that racism, sexism, xenophobia, and anti-intellectualism are made into something to celebrate. If we were just talking about, say, economics discussed rationally, there might be something there, but that's not really what the "Fox effect" is about. It's that black people are all violent thugs, immigrants are all thieving leeches, women are all irrationally emotional and shallow, Muslims (and occasionally Jews) all want to destroy Christianity, atheists all want to destroy religion, evolution is an unproven theory meant to discredit God, climate change is a myth aimed at advancing dictatorial socialism, and so forth. Above all, it's that they're all somehow inferior, that they're sub-human animals because of their skin or country of origin or spiritual outlook. And pointing this out is making people billions of dollars.

And I'll be honest: If being opposed to that isn't what's best, and not wanting to give equal weight to those views is "off-putting," then I'm glad to put off anybody that subscribes to it.

It's an arrogant and elitist point of view, especially when you consider that the two great grassroots movements of our time, the Tea Party and Occupy Wallstreet, are basically the same damn thing.

Are you seriously unaware of how non-grassroots the Tea Party is? To borrow from another comment of mine: Every major Tea Party organization was started and is still largely run by GOP operatives: Americans for Prosperity was started by the Koch brothers, FreedomWorks was started by Dick Armey, and the Tea Party Express was started by Republican consulting firm Russo, Marsh, and Associates. It's a front for people who believe in most or all of the GOP's ideals but want to claim that they're "independent." For a group that claims they're all about the economics, they have an amazing tendency to be longtime Republicans who are almost-fanatical social conservatives of a racist, homophobic, misogynist, and generally pro-conservative/anti-centrist-and-liberal bent:
Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born, and were more likely than others to have contacted government officials. In fact, past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of Tea Party support today.

What’s more, contrary to some accounts, the Tea Party is not a creature of the Great Recession. Many Americans have suffered in the last four years, but they are no more likely than anyone else to support the Tea Party. And while the public image of the Tea Party focuses on a desire to shrink government, concern over big government is hardly the only or even the most important predictor of Tea Party support among voters.

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.

More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
Personally, I think the solution is to abandon ideology. Abandon Capital "P" politics, and instead engage in a values-based discourse. Values are more concrete.

I'm not sure how exactly you'd do this. Similar forms of discourse exist from the beginnings of civilization, the biggest difference is how far the reach of the modern media is.

People out there are just as intelligent as you or me. They have reasons for what they believe.

Changing their point of view requires a conversation, and engaging in conversation means acknowledging their intelligence and their agency.


Many of the people in TPM's anecdotes did try, and some are still trying, and if you'd bothered to watch the documentary's trailer you would have seen that that's exactly what the filmmaker is trying to do. They may have tried as soon as they saw it creeping up on them, or it may have been when they were already going full-bore with the racial epithets and Chelsea-Clinton-as-a-dog jokes and fulminations about snow in April, but one of the common themes across these anecdotes is that conversations were started, and for the most part those reaching out weren't the ones shutting the conversation down.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:00 AM on April 24 [8 favorites]


"I'm not influenced by the mass media, but I am sure worried about all the people who are dumber than I am who are influenced by the mass media."

My dad is super smart, but he's always been kind of a bigot and hateful. Fox News didn't make him that way, but it's spectacularly effective at directing his anger at whatever targets they want. Huffington Post and Dailykos, etc, are similarly effective at directing my liberal sympathies toward their chosen causes. At their most effective, those kind of partisan rage machines are performing judo -- just kind of gently guiding you instead of shoving you. They reinforce what you already believe and just kind of add to it.
posted by empath at 5:22 AM on April 24


Freedom Works, Dick Army? Yeah I'd agree with that.
posted by vicx at 5:40 AM on April 24


Above all, it's that they're all somehow inferior, that they're sub-human animals because of their skin or country of origin or spiritual outlook. And pointing this out is making people billions of dollars.

The key to effectively promoting this view, I think, and the hinge on which this kind of rhetoric swings, lies not just in trying to persuade the listener that others are inferior, but in persuading listeners that those others say that the listener is inferior. The average person is willing to live (mostly) peaceably with others they may regard as inferior. Much less so with others they believe are inferior and contemptuous of them. That's the emotional hook here, always has been, back to Agnew and beyond, I suppose. It's a hook that Fox News learned to exploit so well that's it's become a characteristic feature of the right's loudest speech.

And at this point, unfortunately, I'm pessimistic that any of this can be reversed or even substantially mitigated. It's just a fact of the 21st century politics that the US has a large, angry, armed, ethnic group living within its borders.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:59 AM on April 24 [3 favorites]


KokuRyu et al: Okay, seriously, is this some new terminology that hasn't made it across the atlantic yet? What the heck is "values based discourse", as opposed to "ideology"? Isn't an ideology a system of values, usually implemented through politics? What is it you propose discussing that is "values" but isn't "ideology" or "politics"? Or by "politics" are you talking about party politics, individual politicians, etc? I mean the idea of a political system that has little to none of that is appealing in the abstract, but in practical terms it seems like a pretty vague and hand-wavey pipe-dream to me given the history of politics, and also nothing in particular to do with sides of the political aisle/spectrum/style -- except inasfar as sometimes people try to equate "values" with "family values" or "traditional values"? Is that what you're calling for more of? And is that really any less tied in with "capital P politics"? Because it doesn't seem that way to me...

Anyway, if you could clarify what you mean then I would be less confused, thanks.
posted by Drexen at 7:21 AM on April 24 [3 favorites]


This has been going on a long time. I highly recommend the 2003 series "Rush [Limbaugh], Newspeak, and Fascism" by David Neiwert. It describes the mechanism that right wing media uses to incite fringe groups, especially violent neofacist militias in the Northwest US.

And I have a bone to pick with some of the usual media-meme arguments people mindlessly spout here. For example:

It's an arrogant and elitist point of view, especially when you consider that the two great grassroots movements of our time, the Tea Party and Occupy Wallstreet, are basically the same damn thing.

Oh I see it now. Occupy and Teaparty are the same thing. Because one was incited by a stock trader on CNBC and funded by the Koch Brothers, and one was from the non-commercial magazine Adbusters and had no funding except public contributions. Sheesh.

And this is the kicker, that these comments were made by someone who has not observed Occupy and has no understanding of what they were about:

Changing their point of view requires a conversation, and engaging in conversation means acknowledging their intelligence and their agency.

Almost the sole objective of Occupy was to change the way the conversation takes place. Politics with a capital P is pundits shouting talking points at each other on mass media. Every other point of view is pushed out. politics with a small p is standing in the public square and talking to everyone and debating every point of view. Occupy created an entire mechanism of social interaction at the General Assembly, ways to insure all points of view could be heard. I can't count all the hours I spent in our local Public Square talking to people with opposing points of view. It is interesting how people will suddenly become open to other points of view, once it is obvious that you are listening to them rather than shouting back talking points. They discover the value of discourse and the political advantages of actual citizens interacting with other citizens. I found there were only two types of people who were absolutely incapable of political dialogue with real people: fundamentalist christians, and Ron Paul followers. I decided it was not worth listening to people who have no idea what dialogue means. And besides, We The People have been seeking a forum for our grievances. Christian fundamentalists and US Senators have had their podium and pulpit for hundreds, even thousands of years. They had their turn monopolizing the public's attention. Now it is our turn to be heard.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:29 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the false equivalence between the Tea Party and Occupy is astounding. The Tea Party and its various conspiracy theories about the Imperial Presidency have been embraced at the highest levels of the Republican Party establishment, not just on Sarah Palin's Facebook page. It's a well-funded movement that can take out virtually any Republican who shows any hint of compromise. Mike Castle? Buh-bye. Bob Bennett in Utah? Seeya. Charlie Crist? Peace out. Meanwhile, I defy you to name one Democrat of note that's ever had to break a sweat against an Occupy candidate. Hell, I'd be impressed if anyone could name a Democratic candidate that wouldn't bristle at the suggestion that they're tied in any way to Occupy, and if you can, without Googling, name a candidate who openly identified first as part of "Occupy" and second as a Democrat in the way people like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are Tea Partiers first and Republicans second, I'll buy you a beer at a MeFi meetup.

Look, politics can look ugly at times, so I'm sure it's comforting to identify as an independent who remains above the fray of partisan bickering, but if you think the two are "basically the same damn thing", then you're just not paying any attention at all to American politics.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:03 AM on April 24 [4 favorites]


This is a great article about disinformation, but I think he mistakes the who and why of the people behind the lies. Aside from Alex Jones and other complete nuts, who are just furthering media empires built on fear mongering, the threat isn't barbarians at the gates of reason, it is the bankers and CEOs and lobbyists who use that network to influence policy and keep the focus on the government's "overreach" and "abuse" rather than their own creeping dominance and ballooning wealth. The threat is actually from the oligarchs inside the gates of the city, sending acid-laced kool aid and extra pitchforks to the hordes outside, to keep the tax collectors busy and allow them to pick the royal treasury dry with impunity.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:12 AM on April 24 [4 favorites]


The biggest difference between Occupy and the Tea Party is that the Tea Party has actually accomplished something.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:48 AM on April 24


Well, sure. Having a huge majority of the business and financial community, an entire political party comprising more than half of the federal government and most of the state and local governments, and a good amount of the judicial system up to and including SCOTUS on your side tends to make that kind of thing easy for you.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:53 AM on April 24 [2 favorites]


This seems like an appropriate place to note that Rupert Murdoch has shown interest in disaffected millenials. Hopefully the generation with Fox News Dads will remain skeptical as they age.
posted by gorbweaver at 11:02 AM on April 24


Occupy: camps out in some parks, gets beaten by cops.

Tea Party: brings guns to political meetings, gets invited to Republican conventions.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:03 AM on April 24 [5 favorites]


Well, sure. Having a huge majority of the business and financial community, an entire political party comprising more than half of the federal government and most of the state and local governments, and a good amount of the judicial system up to and including SCOTUS on your side tends to make that kind of thing easy for you.

Indeed. Without all that how would you publish a list of policies and candidates you support? I mean that takes a lot more than three months of internal wrangling and a press release!

My bar on accomplishments is fairly low.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:59 PM on April 24


"The biggest difference between Occupy and the Tea Party is that the Tea Party has actually accomplished something a corporate/private/oligarch bankroll."

Fixed that for you me, honestly.
posted by daq at 10:00 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]


Sarah Palin tells NRA attendees: ‘Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists’
posted by homunculus at 1:02 AM on April 29 [1 favorite]


That's actually a pretty good line.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:21 AM on April 29


And a pretty good reason she should be allowed nowhere near any governmental position. Further reason:
“Do you know why those clownish little Kumbaya-humming fairytale-inhaling liberals want to be tough all of a sudden and control your guns?” she said. “It’s ‘cuz guys like [Sen.] Al Franken (D-MN) and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-NV), they’re not satisfied with just taking your money and your job, your truck and your property and your rights, your healthcare – they didn’t want to just stop at that.”
That's just ... like ... what the fuck is that? There's bullshit and then there's bullshit.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:45 AM on April 29


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