Gideon D. Asche
* 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 and constitutionality.
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 of 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.
I conveyed the impression I wanted you to believe and tailored my description of the branches to omit specific relevant facts when I asked the questions, 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..
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 merely 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. This technique is effective for short-term issues, but the target audience will always eventually figure out their error.
Another typical example of misinformation is the use of Random statements of fact.
i.e. “No one blames the President for gas prices falling below two dollars.”
This is a true statement that means absolutely nothing, yet supports the propagandist false message that the president lowered gas prices. — 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. 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, but has become the tool of choice for many contemporary politicals.
This technique was exhibited with the “Obama Cut Combat pay” myth, so popular in 2015. HR1540 and S1254 purported to be Obama’s plan to cut combat pay. Thousands of Americans bought into it and many still believe it.
Neither bill 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 “empirical data” is to manipulate and customize to meet your needs.
The chart on the left was used by a Pro-Obama site during the 2008 election. It conveys a false conclusion that Obama increased the deficit less than Reagan while still presenting accurate numbers.
I used data from the source, the GAO, to create the rebuttal chart on the right showing actual deficit dollars. 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 chart compares a different set of empirical data. A well-trained propagandist uses basic rules that separate him from amateurs like the fool who made up the combat pay story. A professional does not need to lie.
There is one excellent 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 Myth.
You know the myth, “a president needs to have a birth certificate.” In reality, it is against Constitutional law for any government agency to require a birth certificate for any reason (14th Amendment). No president has ever been required to show a birth certificate, and you do not need to present one to get a passport or join the military, hold a Top-Secret security clearance, or be elected President.
I have done all but be elected POTUS. Interestingly enough, although I was born in a U.S. Government building on a government installation, within the continental United States, to two natural-born Americans (one of them a senior US Diplomat), and was delivered by a U.S. Naval Officer, inside a secure State Dept. facility… I don’t have, and never can get a birth certificate.
Up until recent years, Birth Certificates were only issued by private entities, hospitals, MD offices etc. States issue Birth Registration Forms and some states have begun issuing a combination Birth Certificate/Registration forms. The Federal Government issues registration forms. – I have a Federal Birth Registration Form signed by the highest ranking officer in the room, but will never have a Birth Certificate.
The ones who initiated the Birther Myth knew their contention was easily established as false, but they were targeting an uneducated audience, so they never actually expressed their message in that way. Instead, they took a page right out of Goebbels’ Nationalsocialist 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 develop the mass gullibility required, you must first lay the groundwork, but you can never lie. There is no reason to lie.
Lying is easily avoided by breaking the message down into several undisputed facts that are presented in a particular sequence and manner to give the appearance of proving the core message. I used to date an Israeli officer who wrote propaganda for broadcasts beamed into Eastern Europe. She liked to say, “Never use a lie — A lie always tells.”
There must always be an element of truth albeit ever so small. 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 no more meaningful than Gas Prices. Completely irrelevant and unrelated, with no support for the original assertion of fact. None of these statements establish any requirement for a birth certificate.
BUT… Art II sect 1 §5 says only a natural-born American is eligible for the office of President. Yes it does. There is however, no mention of requiring a birth certificate to prove it.
Once this initial lie is well-received, questions are propagated: “Why won’t he show his birth certificate?” “ What is he hiding? ” The obvious answer is never mentioned – he didn’t show a birth certificate because it is not required.
The next step in the Goebbels playbook is to provide a thread of explanations that support the selected untruth or personal attack they want you to believe.
“Maybe he isn’t really American and isn’t qualified to be president.”
“I think he was really born in Kenya or Indonesia!”
“Why won’t he show his birth certificate?”
This gives the target audience something to grasp, an unfulfilled need for an answer, a mystery to pursue. Once the audience swallows the bait — 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 the past, only outer fringe inconsequential personalities were allowed to do the outright lying leaving the party candidate a plausible disassociation opportunity — Today, no one cares, lying is a family value.
At this point, any mouthpiece available will engage in a series of seemingly off-the-cuff comments and nebulous facts from party news outlets. Allied political pundits will focus on the story and a flurry of “Facts” that appear to confirm the party line.
—The audience is ready.
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. All that is needed is to continue to feed the myth. Don’t let it die, just in case it’s useful later.
The last 10 years have included some brilliant propaganda campaigns, from the Birther Myth to the 13-hours Fairy Tale. A national case of Cognitive Dissonance prevents the American people from shaking the influence of the message. They are fallow ground for the propagandist plow.
A good propagandist can control you at your core. All he needs is time and some simple knowledge of your fundamental beliefs and morals as a group.
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 and the reason we are where we are today.