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The cohesion of the Republican Party, even in defeat, shows the power of propaganda

2020-11-20

I have been re-reading some of my old posts about the current president and I have discovered how wrong I was about his support from women. As it turned out, in the 2016 election, he achieved majority support from white women, especially those who had not attended college. He also achieved massive support from men who had not attended college.

As a proxy for susceptibility to propaganda, we can guess that not having attended college is pretty good. Those who go to college are less susceptible to being conned by the kind of propaganda that has been circulating since at least 1946 (see Nixon, below.)

A disjointed rant about propaganda instead of a reasoned blog post

Fox “News” (officially “Fox News Channel”) was established in 1996, is now available to 87 million cable TV subscribers (along with CNN, MSNBC, and others) and is watched by approximately 2.5 million people on average (more than any other single news channel.) On Election Day, Fox averaged 14 million viewers to CNN’s 9.4 million and MSNBC’s 7.6 million.

Before Fox, there were the newspapers, radio, and over-the-air television stations. Wikipedia:

During the American civil rights movement, conservative newspapers strongly slanted their news about Civil Rights, blaming the unrest among Southern Blacks on communists.  In some cases, Southern television stations refused to air programs such as I Spy and Star Trek because of their racially mixed casts. Newspapers supporting Civil rights, labor unions, and aspects of liberal social reform were often accused by conservative newspapers of communist bias.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_bias_in_the_United_States

Propaganda before Fox

Richard Nixon was a pioneer in the technique of push-polling (fake polls that suggest things to the subject rather than getting their opinions.) He hired people in his 1946 campaign for a US House seat to call potential voters and tell them, “This is a friend of yours; I can’t tell you who I am. Did you know that Jerry Voorhis [Nixon’s opponent] is a communist?” and then hang up. Voorhis was not a communist, but Nixon won the election anyway.

During Richard Nixon’s presidential re-election campaign, an operative named Donald Segretti created black propaganda (that is, material intended to create the impression that it was created by those it is supposed to discredit.) Among other forgeries, he created a fake letter on Edmund Muskie’s letterhead making false allegations about “Scoop” Jackson.

These efforts hindered the campaigns of Muskie (who dropped out of the race because of this) and Hubert Humphrey (who lost the nomination to George McGovern.) Segretti was exposed in 1974 and convicted of distributing illegal campaign literature. He spent four months in jail.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ran a program called “COINTELPRO” which used black propaganda to libel the Black Panthers, the Communist Party, Native American groups, leaders of labor unions, and even people who protested against the war in Vietnam. No-one in the FBI was punished for this work.

Newspapers were masters at pushing right-wing propaganda disguised as straight news. William Randolph Hearst was the first; he inherited the San Francisco Examiner from his father in 1887 and soon added newspapers in New York and Los Angeles as well as magazines. By the 1920’s he had dozens of newspapers, magazines, books, and movie productions. The business survives to this day and continues to acquire publications and websites.

The politics of the Hearst newspapers is unrelentingly right-wing but remains within the mainstream of US politics. Not so the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which now owns or operates 193 television stations covering 40% of the US population.

The television stations bought by the Sinclair Broadcast Group become increasingly conservative and support the Republican Party wholeheartedly. They have taken over many local TV markets and converted their news segments to propaganda for conservative causes. This began roughly in 1967 and increased in the 1980s. Today the Sinclair franchise controls a large part of the local TV market in many rural areas.

According to Wikipedia: “Critics including former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather have described Sinclair’s practices as being “an assault on our democracy” by disseminating what they perceive to be Orwellian-like propaganda to its local stations.”

Then there are the radio jockeys. Alex Jones is one; he started out right after graduating from high school in 1993. Wikipedia says: “When the Oklahoma City bombing took place in 1995, Jones began accusing the federal government of having caused it: “I understood there’s a kleptocracy working with psychopathic governments—clutches of evil that know the tricks of control”.”

Then There Was Fox

Fox is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns several Australian outlets, the Weekly Standard, and the New York Post. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean referred to Fox as a “right-wing propaganda machine.”

George W. Bush’s cousin, John Prescott Ellis, worked for Fox doing election projections in 2000, and he reversed Fox’s call of Florida for Gore after talking repeatedly on the phone with his cousins George and Jeb.

Now we have a “fake” election

The modern propagandist is, of course, [redacted], who has the power to fire people who dare to contradict him. He fired Richard Krebs shortly after Mr. Krebs did his job and told the world that our presidential election was free of fraud.

[redacted] has worked all his adult life at shaping perceptions and was successful at first, even as he went through six bankruptcies and kept getting richer and “richer.” He created a TV persona that earned him over $400 million for saying “You’re fired.”

Now he claims that he won the election even though everyone who worked on it said it was free of problems– and Biden got five million votes more than he did, including 306 electoral votes. He has gone down the path of destroying our country with his orders to Mnuchin to cut off funding from the CARES act, even though billions of dollars are still available to be loaned out to help the economy.

His last gambit is an attempt to get Republican legislatures to install their own slates of electors, as a superficial reading of the Constitution seems to allow. It turns out that there are laws that prohibit such shenanigans. He needs a good lawyer, but he has Giuliani instead.

What was that dark liquid that was running down Giuliani’s cheeks the other day? (Professional hair stylists don’t think it was hair dye– maybe it was shoe polish on his sideburns.)

(photo courtesy of pixabay.com and Erika Wittlieb)

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