A short meditation on US propaganda and politics in the 20th century

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“Democracy is never a thing done,” MacLeish said. “Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing.”…

…Critics called MacLeish naïve: winning a war requires deception. F.D.R., to some degree, agreed. In June, 1942, he replaced the Office of Facts and Figures with the Office of War Information.

pub. 06/2017

Published in the paper edition as “The Strategy of Truth”; audio version here.

A deep dive into Trump/Russia background and history, plus believable speculation

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You’ve probably heard plenty of hushed whispers or outright panic about Russia’s information warfare against the West, but it’s seldom been put in context. We’re going to fix that in our deep dive into exactly how the Trump/Russia saga unfolded. This is one of the most consequential stories of our lifetime, and it’s not over, so get ready to bookmark this piece now.

pub. 05/2017

On media bias and attempts at neutrality

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Institutions like journalism draw their authority from trust. With enough of it, journalism can become a true “fourth estate,” an independent power center with an existence separate and distinct from dueling political factions. Without at least some trust that bridges tribal lines, its authority wanes, and it can only passively report as tribalism takes over.

In the end, for building trust, there simply is no substitute for A) guild professionals with special expertise in gathering and assessing information, B) strong norms to govern their behavior, C) institutions to enforce those norms and vouchsafe good work, and D) social norms granting those professionals some transpartisan authority.

The US has lots of A, but not much of B, C, or D.

pub. 05/2017

 

It’s everywhere: Advertising, propaganda, and politics

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Becoming self-aware of these mental patterns, and actively seeking to rewire them, is the foundation of cognitive therapy, i.e. Psychiatry.

Remaining unaware of these mental patterns is the foundation of Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations, i.e. Propaganda.

The biggest mistake of those who don’t use Propaganda is that they underestimate its power.

pub. 05/2017

100 days in

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If the goal of most administrations has been to set the media agenda for the day, it’s often the reverse in Trump’s White House, where what the president hears on the cable morning gabfests on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN can redirect his attention, schedule and agenda. The three TVs in the chief-of-staff’s office sometimes dictate the 8 a.m. meeting – and are always turned on to cable news, West Wing officials say.

pub. 04/2017

Audio + Transcript: The deep-rooted, inflexible source of some Trump support

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Audio at link, transcript here.

Lakoff: Boy, did he know what he was doing. He knew perfectly well what he was doing. First of all, there are in this country about 35 percent of Americans who have what I call a strict father morality…

…[If] you look at history, you will see that the strict fathers win. And you can take a look at who wins, and they win because they’re right. That morality and authority go together, that the strict father knows right from wrong. So that if you want to see who’s better than who, you look at who beat who….

…That is what Trump not only believes, he hacks and he assumes is correct. And he knows that about 35 percent of the country — the 35 percent who still support him — that, you know, who also believe this, even if they’re poor…. It’s self-definition, and people don’t vote against their self-definition. Not only that, it doesn’t matter if Trump lies to them, and they know he’s lying, because there’s a higher truth, which is strict father morality itself, which has consequences and that they are truer than any lies. And that if you deny that, if you accept the lies as more important, you’re denying your self-identity. That is why there are alternative facts.

(Quote from transcript) pub. 04/2017