I don’t know if McLuhan, in the sixties foresaw the karmic good side of developing electronic communications technology. Did he envision the joy and happiness of easily connecting with friends, family or acquaintances living apart through E-mail, Instant Messaging, My Space, Facebook or Twitter? He did foresee the potential karmic bad side although this did not cause him to characterize the technology itself as positive or negative.
Electronic communications allow us to communicate via a form of energy. Our spiritual nature is also a form of energy as is our material body and the world we live in. I’m referring to energy and matter on a quantum level now as discussed extensively by Doctor Deepak Chopra. I don’t view electronic media as causative with regard to intent or motive, but it lends itself remarkably well to the focus of both positive and negative energy, and indirectly, good or bad karma. There is a lurking communication danger with this electronic adaptability resulting from the possible, perhaps even inevitable emotional detachment of the “sender” when coupled with the vulnerability of a trusting “receiver”.
A downside of electronic communications can be the incipient depersonalization of communications between people and groups. Misrepresenting a fact to a computer monitor or microphone or as pre-prepared and read from a teleprompter is much less personal than looking someone in the eye and saying it to their face. No one is likely to slug you for lying. If the receiver of misinformation realizes the lie; it is probable they won’t even hold the sender personally accountable for the misrepresentation. This accounts for how a politician can have a very negative job approval rating and simultaneously a very high personal appeal rating, which on the face of it makes no sense. If you’re a political organizer interested in manipulating public perception, then this is of enormous consequence and potential. Electronic communications permit a degree of detachment that humans have not heretofore had to deal with. This detachment makes it possible for a negatively karmic person to tell lie after lie after lie and incur no sense of responsibility at all. He or she is just talking or writing into depersonalized cyberspace. Real people with real lives are not actually perceived or involved even though the sender may be in the same room with his or her audience.
As mentioned briefly in Part 1, an astute political organizer can achieve great effect through repetition, or conditioning in conjunction with this depersonalizing effect. The competent organizer will conduct focus group testing and research polls to test which words or phrases most effectively garner support for a concept; and also which words and phrases are most damaging to their opponent’s opposing view. These tested words and phrases are then funneled into the news cycle in a repetitive manner so as to influence public opinion. Interestingly, once these focus group tested words and phrases are introduced into the media, opponents immediately latch on to the same vernacular and begin endlessly repeating it. This provides the organizer the double whammy of having the opposing side inadvertently doubling the repetitive use of the focus tested words and phrases thereby strengthening the conditioning process. It’s much easier and more cost effective to sway public opinion by creatively creating images and manipulating emotions with cleverly selected and repeated words, than it is to actually convince people on the argumentative merits and facts.
Opponents and objective news casters, if there are any, would do well either to take the time to point out the easily transparent misinformation to the audience; or at least use different words and phrases than those readily supplied to them, so as to avoid the double dipping impact. This communication strategy is effective for a number of reasons, but I would like to mention one in particular. A person watching television does it for a purpose. According to the pleasure / pain principle of human behavior the person is watching in order to see or hear something pleasurable. This creates within the viewer a receptive attitude. In the case of a 24/7 cable news channel, this receptive viewer can now be pummeled nearly to extinction by the use of repetitive, focus group tested words and phrases. The viewer is literally volunteering by sitting on the couch to willingly be conditioned by whatever he or she is listening to or watching. Do not underestimate the power of this tool. Many politicians have been elected and legislation slipped by the voter using nothing more.
Well, you get the electronic picture well enough. Let’s look at some recent examples of how politicos can easily make themselves look appealing.
One of the best applications in the current health care debate over H.R. 3200 is the careful use of the word “public” in place of “government”. Political organizers know that quite a number of people are negative regarding a “government option”, but are more amenable to a “public option”. I haven’t been hearing the phrase “government option” used with any regularity anywhere. Any objective and responsible news caster should be aware of these types of distinctions as their objective reporting suddenly becomes subjective and slanted due to their inadvertant usage of terms eagerly supplied to them by astute political organizers. A properly constructed press release can be a most powerful media tool. Even your opponent will buy it and sell it for you all day long.
Another great one is the word “invest” as popularly used by Keynesian leaning career politicians. We all understand that an investment by a business person involves first making and saving some money. That money, alone or in conjunction with additional borrowed funds is then invested (risked) in property, buildings, equipment, employees, vehicles, inventory, etc. in order to produce or provide goods or services to customers. Simply put, if the good or service can be provided to the customer at a higher price than the cost of producing it; voila – the investor can earn a profit. If otherwise, the entire investment can quickly be lost.
No private investor has any guarantee of success. In fact, 85% of all new business ventures fail within five years. It is not an easy thing. This is why new business loans (if you can get one) are frequently collateralized by the “personal guarantee” of the investor. The investor literally risks everything she or he has on the 15% chance of success. This is what it takes to create jobs. It’s also why you were never offered a job by a poor person.
Career politicians love to get in front of the cameras with their serious business face and lecture about how “they” will be investing in education; or investing in green jobs; or investing in infrastructure; or even better, investing in the future. What is that? Investing in the future? Where do you put the money? Can you recoup your initial investment? What’s the projected rate of return on investing in the future? This is not only absurd, but is a horrible slap in the face to any real investor. Arrogant career politicians take no risk. They don’t break their backs earning extra so they can put it all on the table trying to create a better mouse trap. They don’t lay awake at night sweating how they will make payroll on Friday if Company B dosen’t come through with this month’s payment on time. The smart career politician doesn’t even invest in his or her own campaign. They form campaign funds so you and I can “invest” in their political future. Then if they go too far, they form legal funds so you and I can “invest” in the defense of their corruption.
For any elected legislator to suggest that stealing tax payer dollars and re-distributing those dollars for the purpose of garnering votes or paying off cronies is an investment is so dis-ingenuous I won’t stoop to characterize it. Politicians love to be associated with the word “invest” because it has such a powerful and solid cache about it. Heroes and really smart tough gals and guys invest, take tremendous risk and live to make the big payoff. It’s all very macho and as I don’t need to tell you – not what most politicians do.
Another great health care debating phrase is “lowering cost”. I love this one. It’s as though we can lower the cost of providing health care services by doing nothing more than repeating over and over again, “we’re going to lower the cost”. Really? How does that work? Last I checked you actually have to do something beyond talking about it or renaming it to fix it.
“Transparency” is a less common, but very positive term for politicos to be associated with. The usage functions much the same as “lowering cost”. It’s a completely meaningless word (to most politicians) requiring no action at all, that carries with it a tremendous comfort for the listener. Transparency is huge and the voter should always know that the more often it’s used, the less they are likely to be shown.
How about words used to make your opponents look bad? These words are so focus group powerful they can win a debate without even bringing up the merits, much less discussing them.
A big favorite is “liberal”. This word has now taken on a derogatory leftist connotation suggesting that any liberal is a socialist or even an outright Marxist. This isn’t true of course. There are obvious degrees of liberalism as well as areas of liberalism. For example, some people are fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. At any rate, just calling someone a liberal in the middle of a conversation can be enough to end it.
“Protestor” is a brand new one. Any moderate or conservative person attending an advertised public meeting on health care for the purpose of gaining information or God forbid asking a question is no longer a citizen, but a protestor. I’m sorry, but asking a question and expecting an honest answer from your elected representative is not protesting. Having an opinion is not protesting. This is a great branding iron for unfairly creating a negative impression.
“Right wing extremist” is another relatively new one spawned in the Homeland Security Department. If you attend church, believe in the Constitution of the United States and make the mistake of publically expressing an opinion out of sinc with the Obama Administration – you can be branded as a right wing extremist like nut job Timothy McVeigh. The Founders of our country would receive this brand. This one isn’t fun anymore.
“Rights”. This one is over-used, under rated and very slippery. Today anything sounding remotely like fairness or social justice is deemed a right. Many of us seem not to notice that most of these so-called rights are actually euphemistic transgressions against personal freedom. Walter E. Williams once observed that a person’s “rights” under the Constitution never burden anyone else. Rights as defined by Progressives always do. For example, in order for the government to “give” someone something; it must first “take” something from someone else.
“Racist, homo-phobe, chatter, noise, Christian right, mean spirited and conservative” have all become derogatory terms often employed to cow an opponent into not questioning whether a “right” is actually a “right” or to effectively stop any exchange of ideas or meritorious debate. These terms enable an end run around any serious discussion of any issue at any time. They have devolved panel discussions into useless sound-bite exchanges whereby participants sling their poll tested phrases back and forth without ever actually discussing anything of any worth. Our sound-bite culture is slowly destroying our Constitutional Republic as the voting population becomes less and less informed and slick marketing professionals sell our pre-packaged candidates to us under the empty, but colorful guise of political choice. We are creating a culture of Pawns and Kings with nothing in the middle.