Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rip Van Who?

Rip Van Winkle
Artist: John Quidor (1801-1881), Art Institute of Chicago, Wikimedia Public Domain

Do you sometimes wish you'd fallen into a long sleep early in 2020 like the fabled Rip Van Winkle? Look around and you will find some people did.

When you encounter anyone like Rip, it's best to be careful. Rip didn't understand much when he met the silent ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew playing a game of nine-pins in the Catskill Mountains. He didn't ask who they were or how they knew his name. He did get what it was about their magic purple liquor that he imbibed, which putting him to sleep. It just worked for him to miss the American Revolutionary War.

So, chances are that if you're on an evening or early morning walk trying to social distance from the joggers and dog-walkers, or wherever you find someone sleeping or sleep-walking through the twenty-first century, this person won't get much about the current reality either.

But, there are people to shake awake yet. Ever since memory, the USA has yet to turn out the higher percentages of voters recorded in some countries. Getting out the vote person-to-person, door-to-door is the powerful method to do this, with face-masks on (not just by phone or weaker social media).

Meantime, to out-think and out-do the propagandist, George Orwell (1946), Vance Packard (1957), Jacques Ellul (1965), and a host of others have provided us with ways to deal with the continuous propaganda that often numbs the "sleepers," and all of us.

For example, Jacques Ellul named the counter-actions you can take against a continuous propaganda onslaught.

1. Challenge any propaganda that targets our pre-existing attitudes AND reassert our beliefs in honesty, justice, temperance, courage, and wisdom - and, our desire to live in a society that enables health, jobs, shelter, food, safety, freedom, with any bad actor held accountable. 

2. Highlight the harm to people of anti-democratic actions that deny health care, jobs, safety, postal services, etc. AND say exactly what should happen instead.

3. Reassert the rightness of facts, positively and specifically (without naming the lie or the liar, to avoid being a megaphone for the corrupt).

4. Keep repeating what is right (propaganda decays over time, especially when crowded out of the public communication channels).

Oh, and as George Orwell urged about any verbal refuse, be sure to call out and mock the foreign propaganda that misses our culture. As we saw in my previous blog posting, this is really easy when it's half-baked with lots of "tells."

Too many of our fellow "we, the people" might seem to be awake in their sleep-walk, as they continue to be polite about a propagandist. But some have taken years to publicly call a lie a lie. And, some in the media still broadcast unfiltered drivel of a propagandist; or, endlessly micro-analyze his nonsense, thereby promoting him and his nonsense. Maybe they have some dangerously mistaken belief that this serves some purpose of even-handedness, or democratic debate, or advertising sales.

I even heard a federal senator this week say, completely unacceptably, that the shame for the failure of his opponents to act properly was on his opponents. How about what that senator had not accomplished holding them to account? He wasn't elected to be a bystander.

During this Big Sleep, with apologies to Raymond Chandler, many "we, the people" patiently expected someone else to stop the useless growth of lawyers taking legal actions. Providing employment for lawyers wasn't supposed to be a main outcome of democracy. Yet, too many such proceedings continue in multiple, drawn-out, inconclusive actions, instead of anything useful to stop the propagandist. 

Lookalike despots, autocrats, and wannabe leaders flourish when they are unchecked. There's still time to block and check in workable ways.

One step we can all help with NOW is to personally encourage friends, family, and neighbors to get out the vote.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Foreign Fake-Fun Flops

Counter-image: "Every Dance Counts"
I've NOT here linked or pictured the propaganda video received.
 Above is a counter-image of a genuine "flash mob" dance (one of a great many in the USA)
photo credit: Lorie Shaull, DCPantsuitPower Flash Mod Dance, Wikimedia CCA-BY-SA-2.o Generic

When a foreign adversary focuses on spontaneity for a propaganda video, it's great when they don't get that they're on slippery ground.

Anyway, for the propaganda video I just received, it's even more encouraging that whoever was the chief of propaganda failed to see the humungous humor in the incongruity of having a few hundred young folks happen to gather at a mountain-top ski-field. Then, to have them so-called spontaneously break into a "flash mob" dance, for some unclear reason, dancing to vintage American music - with the foreign adversary's iconic buildings etc also just happening to be in the backdrop views. 

Maybe it was a further "tell" that contradicted the supposed spontaneity that on-site were a helicopter and two gigantically high bucket-cranes used to video the wide-angle shots. Oh yes, this was a big-budget production, worthy of the attention of whoever was the chief of propaganda. 

There were many other "tells" in this week's video too. It was brought to the inbox by those fun-loving folks who stimulated the Berlin Wall. What's that about history repeating, and the adoration of walls? But I'm not in the business of listing out all the "tells" that would be obvious to the rest of us. 

In the interests of the health of those who were the creative "talent" for the video, I hope they get to transfer soon from the Propaganda Bureau to the Tourism Bureau, or anywhere else - before the failure of this propaganda flop is fully understood in the foreign propaganda bureaucracy. 

The philosopher Jacques Ellul, whom I've mentioned once or twice before, warned foreign adversaries to beware of their cultural clumsiness, when it comes to launching propaganda in another country. Gotta admit this video seemed better than the foreign propaganda in Ellul's time, but that's still no compliment. 

Maybe the fake in the video I just saw would slip by some folks - like the social media mob who won't pause to think, or busy folks eager for any joy amid the COVID Pandemic. 

Still, the "tells" of sleaze-at-work were very many, which is good for "we, the propagandized."

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

"It's the PROPAGANDA, Stu***"

Three-legged chair
photo credit: Milica Buha, Museum of Pedagogy in Belgrade, Wikimedia CCA-BY-SA-4.o International

Today's message is to the media (and all of us, really). Here are the delusions.

"I get personal tweets..." - along with some multi-million others!

"The stock market is up..." - this 47% now own national debt pumped into the financial markets.

"THEY will take it all off you..." - the biggest fear of all...

In the old days, when my father was selling milking separators to dairy farmers, the farmer had a three-legged chair to sit on while milking the cows. It had three legs so it stood firmly on any uneven ground.

Three propaganda assaults still work to milk us, apparently. With what flows from each assault spreading like a virus, or to mix figurative language more, like Triffids (could be worth looking this one up). The propagandist counts on your engagement with one or other of the viral "news" flows, while propagating another... and throwing at you the fertilizers of outrage, exaggeration, and repetition. If you're tantalized by such tractor-beams, as pictured in my previous blog, shame on you.

For counter-propaganda, three-legged chairs work too. 
How about:

1. IGNORE manufactured outrages;
2. Trumpet reality; and
3. Repeat to advance what matters to people: health, shelter, food, safety, and freedom. 

Out of these five life positives, surely you can pick three to focus on. At the very least, you'll be in touch with reality and, who knows, when you talk with someone else about what's real, you might help someone else live a little better.

If this is starting to sound like a message with Dick and Dora in a grade-school reading class, it is. You see, I'm willing to IGNORE another successful propagandist who made millions telling you to always flatter your audience. The propagandist knows you will obsess about lies, hyperbole, and insecurities. Don't let it keep happening - it's up to you.

Fact is, the jig is up. Just tell the truth, without quixotically tilting at the propagandist's fantasies. Simple, direct truth hurts the propagandist. Of course, you have to keep choosing what really matters to "we, the people" - see "3" above.

Who has the smarts and discipline to build a new three-legged chair? 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Funny That...

Alien abduction
photo credit: Travis WaltonWikimedia Public Domain

Did you know that long-time Monty Python fan and former member of The Beatles, George Harrison mortgaged his quite expensive house to fund the production of the movie, Life of Brian? If you did, you might have what it takes to win some counter-propaganda efforts, since I just learned this from a vintage documentary. You had the advantage to be first (probably way before me, anyway).

Continuing the theme, of all people, Woody Allen not just humorously alerted us to the important quality of being first. He pointed out that the world should not be so preoccupied with any invaders from outer space having a technology that's many years ahead of ours.

He claimed it was not advanced technologies supported by plans for world domination that will win. He worried about the invading force that was equipped to be anywhere even ten minutes ahead of us.

He feared that a ten-minute advantage enabled them to "eat all the breakfast cereal, use all the toothpaste, and catch all the taxis... These invaders could paralyze whole cities. Most importantly, they could use even traditional weapons ten minutes before we thought of targeting ours."

It's the same with propaganda. Being first wins, especially followed up with high repetition.

Which is why the bad actor, and just about any savvy politician, likes to give his/her version of bad news first, or at least be quickest to reframe the story after the breaking news. Of course, a bad actor who has lots of bad news sometimes has to take a little longer to weigh up which bad news has enough traction to need response. This delay gives quick-off-the mark counter-propaganda the opportunity for added advantage.

Which is also why breakfast brainstorming sessions to counter anticipated propaganda was so often the advantage that won airtime during my brushes with politics.

Because being first applies to counter-propaganda too. Enough with all the micro-analyses. Just get ahead of the game - ten minutes ahead, at least. Which is why those media people who have long-winded, polite interviews about or with crooks will never really succeed in keeping them accountable. Some media interviewers are very effective at walking bad actors into disclosing themselves. But, you don't need nuanced understanding of someone picking your pocket; you need to stop them.

If you feel this might not be democratic, I'd counter that you're reasserting simple dialogue - which is kryptonite to propaganda with its sole purpose of mindless obedience, as well as to the bad actor behind it.

No time now to be writing instruction books and action plans either. Just counter-propaganda ahead of the continuous stream of drivel is what matters now.