"The rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitive. In the long run basic results in influencing public opinion will be achieved only by the man who is able to reduce problems to the simplest terms and who has the courage to keep forever repeating them in this simplified form, despite the objections of the intellectuals." ~Josef GoebbelsIt’s obvious to even the most casual observer that this is exactly what Rove & Co. have been doing for years. Reduce problems to their simplest terms and keep repeating the simplified version until it becomes believed as the truth. Never admit error. Never admit mistakes. Demonstrate resolve. THIS is how a village idiot like Bush comes to the point of possibly actually winning an election.
So, what are the intellectuals to do? Goebbels was no Einstein, but he did know propaganda. If the intellectuals play along, they will lose. If they try to object by presenting ACTUAL facts, they lose their primitive audience. Intellectuals can not play the “dumb it down and drone on” game either because, quite frankly, they don’t do it very well. Does that mean the fascists win? Does the team that makes the people feel the dumbest automatically win? I believe there is a way to counter this movement, but it takes planning and effort. It’s not enough to know the facts, you have to get them through the fog of right-wing propaganda.
Phase 0 (Preparation) – Know the facts. Know the issues. Be able to reduce the facts to a simpler form that the numbed minds will be able to grasp. Don’t respond reactively without first carefully considering your message.
Phase 1 (Break the spell) – Reveal the insult. Point out the Goebbelian nature of the right-wing argument and make your audience aware of the insult. “They are treating you like children who are incapable of understanding the complexities of reality. We’re smarter than that.” Get rude if you have to. “What a bunch of horse shit. How stupid do you think we are?!” “You might be as stupid as Bush, but don’t assume that we are.”
Phase 2 – Reinforce the intelligence of the people. Having revealed the right for their talking point driven simplicity, underscore the idea that we deserve better. We ARE capable of discussing these problems and we are robust enough to live with complex answers to complex problems. We are not as stupid as Karl Rove and Rupert Murdoch want us to be.
Phase 3 – Restate the problem. Go back to the root of the discussion, whatever the issue. The environment, economy, deficit, education, international relations, drugs, the role of government, fuel efficiency, corporate ethics, the Constitution, stem cell research, truth, justice, equality, religion… Be able to restate the original question, not repeat the fascist condensation of it.
Phase 4 – Present the alternative. It is possible to present ideas that are not overly simplified without sounding like the “elitist intellectual” the right has painted us out to be. Ann Richards and Molly Ivins do a wonderful job of this.
Phase 5 – Prepare the audience for the fog. When you build up the belief of the people in their ability to understand things, the right will have to work again to reduce us all to the primitive rank and file that willingly accepts their propaganda. Warn the people to demand more intelligent answers. I have reduced right-wing drones to drooling puddles simply by asking what their little catch phrases mean. “You keep saying that. What does that mean exactly? Please restate that using different words.” That’s the funny part – making them use different words. They’re programmed to stay on message and are mentally incapable of thinking on their own. It’s fun to watch.
So, there’s the simple answer to the Goebbel playbook the neo-fascists are using.
1. Know the issues and the facts.
2. Reveal the insult.
3. Reinforce the intelligence of the people.
4. Restate the problem.
5. Present the alternative solution.
6. Prepare everyone for the Stupid to come.
Let’s see, now I need to reduce this down to a simpler form that we can repeat forever….