Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Politics of Revolution

My first involvement with politics and the political process started in 1960 with the campaign of Vice President, Richard Nixon against a young senator from Massachusetts, John Kennedy. Even though I was just a young boy, I have vivid memories of those times. I remember spending hours at the local Democratic headquarters listening to the men talk about the issues and the ongoing campaign. I would always leave with my hands full of buttons and bumper stickers and my head full of ideas and optimism for the future. I can remember going door-to-door, armed only with my buttons, bumper stickers, and a smile. At that time, the Republicans had been exploiting the religious card against Kennedy. I can remember my first hostile encounter with a middle aged Protestant man who had been convinced by his church elders that a vote for Kennedy was really a vote for the Catholic Pope. It was my first encounter with Republican lies and misinformation. This attempt by the Republicans to rally millions of Protestants to vote against Kennedy because he was a Catholic was just a prelude to a future where lies and misinformation are standard operating procedure.

Since 1960, I have been involved with politics in America. Throughout those many years I have always remained optimistic about our democracy and our less that perfect political system. There were of course times when I disagreed with the policies of our country, but I always thought that change was possible and it was the responsibility of every American to participate in the political process. I have lately begun to lose the optimism that has carried me through these many years and I am beginning to feel that our government and our political process may have spun completely out of control. I am starting to think that we may be powerless to stop this deadly evolution of our government. Our options for change seem to be more limited with each passing day. What really scares me about these thoughts is that, if I am having them, there must be many other people in our country having the same thoughts? Political systems and governments survive only when the people have a means to make changes and redress grievances. What I fear most is a government that is so entrenched in power that all avenues for change are diminished or cut off. I fear a government that makes revolution the only vehicle left for change. And finally, I fear the people who might actually think revolution is their only option.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Propaganda Machine Tools: Fear

Fear and the avoidance of danger are primary factors in the both the evolution and survival of any species. We humans have used our large brain capacities in combination with the primal mechanism of fear to advance our species. Our brains have given us an expanded array of options in danger avoidance. Our more primitive mammal cousins have only basic danger avoidance techniques like running or hiding. As we develop more tools that harness the destructive power of nature, our need to develop mechanisms to avoid the fear generated by the potential use of these destructive tools is increased. Since many modern threats to security come in forms that call for collective action, our governments become providers of security and danger avoidance options.

The propagandist can, if skillfully executed, use the primal emotional mechanism of fear to alter public opinion and justify actions that are non-intuitive or non-logical. There are four elements to a successful fear appeal: 1) a threat, 2) a specific recommendation about how the audience should behave, 3) audience perception that the recommendation will be effective in addressing the threat, and 4) audience perception that they are capable of performing the recommended behavior.[1] The current administration has used fear and the avoidance of danger to justify unilateral preemptive military actions. They have also used fear to justify the alteration of our fundamental rights to privacy and further enhance the powers of an immerging police state. The Bush administration has used fear at the center of a very effective propaganda campaign to sway public opinion. They have been able to use fear and the avoidance of danger to mask the true direction and purpose of their aberrant right wing foreign policy agenda.

[1] The Institute for Propaganda Analysis


Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Seneca Falls Declaration

The Declaration of Sentiments is a document signed in 1848 by sixty-eight women and thirty-two men, delegates to the first women's rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York, now known to historians as the 1848 Women's Rights Convention. As I always say, we can’t know where we are going if we don’t know where we have come from. I am reprinting the first part of this marvelous document whose principle author was Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

1. Declaration of Sentiments

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

Read entire text here

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bush / Cheney: Just a Dream!

2006 Dream Team
I know it will never happen, but the thought of these two wearing prison orange is

exhilarating. Perhaps Karl Rove could be their advisor in prison. But then Karl might

also be in prison and unable to help the dynamic duo. Yes, I am just a dreamer and

this is just a dream!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Propaganda Machine Tools: Bandwagon

Propagandists use the bandwagon propaganda tool to add individuals or groups to their artificially created movements. The most recognizable form of the bandwagon propaganda tool is the staged events for political parties or religious organizations. These events offer symbols, colors, music, movement, and drama to energize and reinforce previously propagandized attendees. These events also try to woo the emotional susceptible by the emotional messages delivered by the event. They usually employ nearly all the other tools of propaganda to push and pull people on to their bandwagon. All forms of deceptive flattery are used to harness the fears and hatreds, the prejudices and biases, the convictions and ideals that are common to the group. Because the purpose and the format of these events have specific messages and agendas to deliver, they must be tightly scripted and controlled. It is no accident that every event President Bush attends is tightly scripted and controlled. Each of these events provides a stage to repeat previous propaganda messages, to reinforce the beliefs of the faithful, and to hopefully draw new converts to the cause. The Rove propaganda machine has never let an opportunity to turn even the most mundane media event into a bandwagon opportunity. Karl Rove has been able, with the help of the corporate media, to harness the bandwagon tool to draw millions of Americans into believing the non-logical, non-intuitive ideologies of the Christian Conservative Right.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Not Dominion, But Liberty

Published in The Nation Written by John Nichols

As the 229th anniversary of the founding of the American experiment approached, President Bush provided a painful reminder of how far the United States has drifted from the ideals of her youth.

Speaking to soldiers who would soon be dispatched to occupy Iraq, Bush sounded an awfully lot like the King George against whom George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the other revolutionaries of 1776 led their revolt.

America was founded in opposition to empire. The Declaration of Independence was a manifesto against colonialism. And the founding generations abhorred imperialism.

Read entire article here

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