Gideon D. Asche
This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal
* pro·pa·gan·da \ˌprä-pə–ˈgan-də, – Noun: an old Soviet Communist means of controlling people with disinformation
Well, maybe not.
We all remember 5th-grade civics, and surely you can list the three branches of government and their functions… right?
The Executive Branch is the top leadership; the Legislative Branch crafts our laws and the Judicial Branch decides issues of law.
Before we go on to more complex concepts; let’s test your knowledge with an impromptu quiz. I want to make sure I’m not wasting my time with someone who doesn’t understand the basic workings our Republic.
See if you can match the following offices with their respective branches of government. Ruminate on your answer and then just mentally draw connecting lines between the two columns from the office to the branch. I borrowed this from an 8th grade civics mid-term, so it should be simple.
Now let me see if I can guess your answers. If research bears true; just about 93% of you answered: President/Executive Branch, Speaker/Legislative Branch and Attorney General/Judicial Branch. Not too bad, you got two out of three correct.
Only about 5% you answered all three correctly, and about 2% of you only got one right. Another two or three of you gave answers that defy reason and baffle the imagination. Right now, about half of you are wondering how you got it wrong. You knew the Attorney General was Executive Branch . . . right? So how did you make such an obvious error?
Goebbellian propaganda techniques.
The Russians aren’t the only ones who are good at propaganda.
Like fine emery cloth shaping a piece of soapstone into a work of art, I used Goebbels’ techniques to gently form your responses for you.
Before I asked the questions, I just conveyed the impression I wanted you to believe and tailored my description of the branches to omit certain relevant facts.
Several propaganda techniques are being used on you today. It’s not limited to any one party or movement, and I chose my examples based solely on the quality of example; not the source of the message.
NOTE: This is not an endorsement or condemnation of either
side it is simply reality.
Still, some of you will take offense, and some of you are already mad at me over the “just to make sure I’m not wasting my time“ remark. That’s OK. Your anger is a powerful weapon in the hands of a skilled propagandist
What you just experienced is the basic technique of subtle guidance: The subtle presentation of a predetermined conclusion in a way that it is hard not to accept. Effective for short-term issues, but the target audience will always eventually figure out their error.
Another common example of misinformation? Random statements of fact. For example, “No one blames the President for gas prices falling below two dollars.” This is a true statement that means absolutely nothing yet supports what the target audience already wants to believe.
This is effective for growing a following and laying a foundation.
The outright act of lying to the target audience was once rare but has become a common tactic today. You just wrap your lie up in some truth, then add just a pinch of emotional drama while providing references and authorities that do not actually support the intended message, but are too complicated for the bulk of the target audience to understand, so they don’t bother.
This method is only useful with the basest of audiences.
This technique was exhibited with the “Obama Cut Combat pay” story. HR1540 and S1254 were reported to be Obama’s plan to cut combat pay although neither cut combat pay and neither bill was authored or sponsored by the Obama administration.
Yet — half of you still believe Obama cut combat pay.
Visual techniques can be effective on many in a target audience. Look at the two charts below and decide, which chart is correct? You might be surprised at the answer and how easy it is to manipulate “empirical data” to meet your needs.
The chart on the left was used by a Pro-Obama site during the last election, conveying a false conclusion that Obama increased the deficit less than Reagan did.
I used data from the GAO to create the rebuttal chart on the right showing actual deficit dollars. So obviously the chart on the left showing Obama as raising the deficit less than Reagan is wrong . . . right?
Wrong. Both charts are 100% accurate and correct.
They were derived from the same GAO spreadsheet. Each just compares a different set of empirical data. A well-trained propagandist uses basic rules that separate him from the amateur who made up the combat pay story. A professional does not need to lie.
One contemporary example of all of Goebbels’ principles working in concert to create one of the largest cases of mass gullibility in recent history — the Birther movement. You know the myth, “a president needs to have a birth certificate.”
Birthers knew this was easily established as false so they never actually expressed their message in that way. Instead, they took a page right out of the “Propaganda Playbook” and followed every rule to the letter. In my opinion, it was a damn fine piece of work.
To accomplish deception of this magnitude and to develop the mass gullibility required, you must first lay the groundwork but never lie. I had an associate who liked say, “Never use a lie — a lie always tells.”
There is no reason to lie. Lying is easily avoided by breaking the message down into several undisputable facts that are presented in a particular sequence and manner to give the appearance of proving the core message.
The Birther message is obvious nonsense: There are no circumstances under US law where any American is ever required to have a birth certificate for any reason: not for a passport, not to join the military, not to have a TS clearance, not to be a “natural born American” and not to be president.
Birthers started their propaganda campaign with a touch of truth . . .
“He doesn’t have a birth certificate!”; “The constitution says only natural born Americans can be president!” ; “He won’t show a birth certificate!”
All true statements yet all irrelevant, unrelated and without consequence.
Once this was well received, they added the questions: “Why won’t he show his birth certificate?”; “ What is he hiding? ”
Then followed by the implications: “Maybe he isn’t really American and isn’t qualified to be president”; “I think he was really born in Kenya or Indonesia!” This gives the target audience something to grasp on to, an unfulfilled need for an answer, a mystery to pursue.
They took the bait — now all that’s left to do is set the hook.
As the message becomes more complex, it takes on a convoluted nature and a need to keep the audience lazy arises — don’t give them any reason to check your facts. This is most easily done by a flash-bang of information.
In this case, a former POTUS made an off-hand comment about the fact he “has a birth certificate,” followed by associated groups providing rabbit holes like Joe Arpaio’s “altered Birth certificate” story.
Only outer fringe personalities like Arpaio and Allen West were allowed to do the outright lying — leaving their POTUS candidate a plausible disassociation opportunity — just in case someone figured it out and it blew up.
Party-owned sites helped out by posting stories that quoted SCOTUS cases like “Minor” and the 14th Amendment always being sure to list some — but not all — of the qualifications of Natural Born. Never mention qualifications like §(a) born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.
The audience is ready. Now is time to feed the myth. Keep it in the media. Remind your target audience as often as possible. Tickle their emotions: Make it feel good to believe your message.
Finally, let the target audience come to you. Let them embrace your conclusion in their own time. Don’t force the conclusion.
It will only take root and hold tight, if the target audience believes they were actually involved in forming the intended conclusion.
Continue to feed the myth. Don’t let it die, just in case it’s useful later.The myth will be back. It was a brilliant campaign, and there are even those who actually still believe it. They’re wrong ,but cognitive dissonance will prevent them from ever shaking the influence of the Birther message.
A good propagandist can control you at your core. All he needs is time and some simple knowledge of your basic beliefs and morals.
If you do not think it’s important to verify what you are being told, you have no defense: I can make you believe Ronald Reagan was really Papa Smurf and that Congress has been replaced with the Harry Potter Dancers on Crack.
“Truth is an absolute; it is perception that becomes a psilocybin-laced rabbit hole.” Col. Jakkob Rasmussen (Shai) – יהי זכרו ברוך.
Take off the blinders they are unbecoming.