Ten Conservatives Vs. Newt: With Friends Like These…

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Conservative opinion writers are competing in something of an arms race to see who can describe Newt Gingrich, whom most of them despise, in the most apocalyptic terms. Here’s a list, from The New Yorker, of ten of the most over-the-top takedowns from the right of the former Speaker of the House and current Republican Presidential frontrunner:

  1. George Will: “Gingrich … embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive…. There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx for interests profiting from such government follies as ethanol and cheap mortgages. His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic allowed him, fresh from pocketing $1.6 million from Freddie Mac (for services as a “historian”), to say, ‘If you want to put people in jail,’ look at ‘the politicians who profited from’ Washington’s environment.”
  2. Michael Gershon: “As president, Gingrich would be forced to repudiate his previous views out of strategic necessity. But those views demonstrate a disturbing tendency: the passionate embrace of shallow ideas.”
  3. Kathleen Parker: “[N]o one other than Callista Gingrich thinks her husband can prevail in a general election. No. One…. Instead of rallying to support him, former colleagues are going out of their way to politely say, ‘He can’t lead.’…. Another insider speaking to me privately was blunter: ‘He’s unstable, and everybody knows it, but no one wants to say it.’”
  4. Quin Hillyer: “[T]he power of the Gingrich surge does show, again, a lesson taught well by neo-Nazi David Duke when Duke was ascendant in Louisiana politics two decades ago. When considering a candidate for office, almost right up until they enter the polling booth and sometimes even in the booth itself, most voters rely more on what they see and hear themselves in real time than on facts, history, logic, or learned experience.”
  5. Jonah Goldberg: “The other night while having drinks with some prominent conservatives, I said I thought there was a significant chance that Gingrich will not only win the nomination but that he might be the next president. Going by their expressions, I might as well have said I put a slow-acting poison in their cocktails.”
  6. David Brooks: “[Gingrich] has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with ’60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form.
    “As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated. He would severely damage the Hamilton-Theodore Roosevelt strain in American life.”
  7. Ramesh Ponnuru: “[Gingrich] is still erratic…. He still has the same old grandiosity…. He still has the same need to justify his every petty move by reference to some grand theory…. He still has a casual relationship with the truth…. He still has the same penchant for sharing whatever revelation has just struck him….”
  8. Jennifer Rubin: “The warnings and criticisms [from conservatives] fell into four distinct categories. The first is that Gingrich isn’t a staunch conservative but an opportunist who will gladly stab the right in the back for personal gain. The second is that his character is so flawed that he’s not fit to hold the presidency. (Only one issue concerns his serial infidelity….) The third is that he’s not the new Newt at all and continues to dissemble on everything from his lobbying work to his undermining of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The fourth is that he made millions lobbying (yes, lobbying) for big government on behalf of clients opposed to conservative principles.”
  9. Mona Charen: “Newt Gingrich is a bad bet because he will embarrass the Republican party. He will do so through things he has already said and done, and in ways we cannot predict except to be sure—because character will out—that they will happen.”
  10. Joe Scarborough: “He is not a nice human being. He is a bad person when it comes to demonizing opponents. When he puts on his political helmet he is a terrible person…. Let me tell you something: the Republican establishment will never make peace with Newt Gingrich. They just won’t. They won’t. This is an important point. Because the Republicans I talk to say he cannot win the nomination at any cost. He will destroy our party. He will re-elect Barack Obama, and we’ll be ruined.”

Read the full article at The New Yorker Online…


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14 Propaganda Techniques Fox “News” Uses to Brainwash Americans

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There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship – the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

It is ironic that in the era of 24-hour cable news networks and “reality” programming, the news-to-fluff ratio and overall veracity of information has declined precipitously. Take the fact Americans now spend on average about 50 hours a week using various forms of media, while at the same time cultural literacy levels hover just above the gutter. Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin‘s ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere’s ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world’s largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here?

Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences:

  1. the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11
  2. the belief that climate change isn’t real and/or man-made
  3. the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn’t born in the United States
  4. the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists
  5. the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job.

All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?

My curiosity about this question compelled me to sit down and document the most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media. The techniques I identify here also help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.

The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.

14 PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUES FOX “NEWS” USES TO BRAINWASH AMERICANS:

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment.

From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren’t activated, you aren’t alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person’s credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them.

Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. “liberals,” “hippies,” “progressives” etc. This form of argument – if it can be called that – leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.

3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first.

We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well.

A recent case in point is Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints.

They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

Read the full article at TruthOut…

The Tragedy of Sarah Palin – The Atlantic

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IT’S HARD TO escape Sarah Palin. On Facebook and Twitter, cable news and reality television, she is a constant object of dispute, the target or instigator of some distressingly large proportion of the political discourse. If she runs for president—well, brace yourself! But there is one place where a kind of collective resolve has been able to push her aside, make her a less suffocating presence than almost everywhere else: Alaska.

During a week spent traveling there recently, I learned that Palin occupies a place in the minds of most Alaskans roughly like that of an ex-spouse from a stormy marriage: she’s a distant bad memory, and questions about her seem vaguely unwelcome. Visitors to Juneau, the capital and a haven for cruise-ship tourism, are hard-pressed to find signs of the state’s most famous citizen—no “Mama Grizzly” memorabilia or T-shirts bearing her spunky slogans. Although the town was buzzing with politics because the legislature was in session, talk of Palin mainly revolved around a rumored Democratic poll showing her to be less popular in Alaska right now than Barack Obama. The only tangible evidence I saw was her official portrait in the capitol and a small sign in the window of a seedy-looking gift shop advertising “Sarah Palin toilet paper.” Alaska has moved on.

So has Palin. Two years after abruptly resigning the governorship, she is a national figure, touring the country to promote her books; speaking out whenever moved to on important issues of the day; and serving, mainly through Fox News, as the guardian-enforcer of a particularly martial brand of conservatism. Though she still lives in Alaska, she has all but withdrawn from its public life, appearing only seldom and then usually to film her reality-television show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

But if she decides to run for the White House—and she’ll have to make up her mind soon—all of that will change. As much as Alaska might like to forget Sarah Palin, and she it, her record there, especially as governor, will take on new salience.

Palin entered the national consciousness more suddenly than most high-level politicians do, and she did it in the intense final stretch of a presidential campaign, which had a kiln-like effect of hardening the initial impression—depending on your point of view, of the provincial half-wit portrayed by Tina Fey or the plain-sense Mama Grizzly proudly leading her army of culture warriors.

In modern politics, your “brand,” once established, is almost impossible to change. Only a handful of politicians have changed theirs (Hillary Clinton is one), and then only through tireless perseverance. Palin has shown little inclination to revise or deepen these impressions—she didn’t respond to my requests to discuss her record—and she hasn’t designated anyone else to do it for her. (Mama Grizzlies claw; they don’t contextualize.)

Read the full article at the Atlantic Monthly…