Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rep. Cohen, Nazi's, the GOP and Al Jazeera

Anderson Cooper “tears apart” Rep. Steve Cohen for comparing Republicans to Nazis? Shame on you, Anderson.

Rep. Cohen is using one of the most effective and widespread political techniques available to push his agenda - propaganda. And one can (hopefully safely) assume that the voters who elected him to office know that he is a democrat and will advocate for that position, using his discretion with how best to do so. Who determines what is true? And doesn’t truth sometimes depend on your ideology or perspective? We live in the age of attack politics and sound bites.

Goebbel’s tactic of repeating a lie over and over works. The technique is simple, effective and ubiquitous. Who is the “Great Satan”? Is Sarah Palin less able to govern because Katie Couric embarrassed her on national television or she spent too much on clothes? Did we all really need to hear over and over again Mel Gibson, likely drunk, threaten to beat up his estranged girlfriend? Does Al Jazeera need to show violent and gory pictures of war to support their oftentimes inflammatory and sometimes deliberately misleading viewpoint?

Sex, violence, addiction, scandals and abuse. Berlusconi and prostitutes. Weapons of mass destruction that are never found. Ann Coulter and the ACLU. Who knows what’s really true? In our end justifies the means political environment does it matter? If so many are repeating lies over and over again to persuade how can you call out one Representative and make him the villain?

Suddenly the media seems to be trying to change political rhetoric. A domestic assassination (Gifford) attempt will do that. Meanwhile, in Pakistan demonstrations are being held in support of Salmaan Taseer’s assassin. Taseer, remember, stood up to Islamists and lost his life for doing so. My message has been that religions don’t kill people; people do. How can you demonstrate in favor of an assassin? And the Pakistani lawyers group that fought government repression has even backed the assassin. Repeating the same lie over and over that Taseer was against the word of God. Who heard Allah speak?

And let’s not forget that Anderson Cooper has a vested interest as well. He has gotten a lot of press coverage for his attack. But has anyone questioned the validity of Rep Cohen’s point? Are the Republicans really like Goebbel’s in their methods? That sort of depends on your political beliefs doesn’t it? Why are we all angry, suddenly, that a politician in our country used inflammatory language? What if Cooper is just repeating the same lie?

“All art is propaganda,” asserted George Orwell. I’ve been open that Captive was written as a story and not a non-fiction book because doing so makes the issue of terrorism more accessible and understandable to a broader range of people.

Propaganda works. It works especially well if a short and simple message is repeated over and over again. The truth of that message sometimes depends on your ideology or who wins. Who determines what is true when those with a vested interest carefully craft their message and ruthlessly broadcast it to their constituents?

I’ll keep writing on this issue as the press coverage unfolds over the next few days. What did I miss in my assessment of the situation?

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