October 21, 2003
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Such a tangled web of words Republicans weave. Words such as hypocrisy, anti-flag, anti-family, lie, pathetic, radical, selfish, sick, traitor, welfare, permissive attitudes, intolerant -- an inventory of propagandistic wordage dished up to stigmatize liberals in a harsh, glaring and relentless light.
The list marches directly out of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's infamous 1990 GOPAC training memo for right-wing activists, which is entitled Language: A Key Mechanism of Control, along with "Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning." The booklet was mailed to Republicans across the U.S. (The National Congress of Teachers of English feted it with a Doublespeak Award -- those awful, biased liberals again). The award has since failed to stem the rank and file avalanche of propaganda from the Right.
The pamphlet presents its readers with two lists of diction. One set espouses words Republicans should use to describe themselves and their positions. Some of these "optimistic positive governing words" include care(ing), commitment, dream, empower, fair, help, moral, peace, provide, principle(d), pro-flag, prosperity, protect, truth, and we/us/our. The other set delineates words with which to denigrate the opposition. The pamphlet says, "These are powerful words that can create a clear and easily understood contrast. Apply these to the opponent, their record, proposals and their party." It further includes this advisory injunction: "Memorize as many as possible."
Jacques Ellul, in Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes (1962) pens a useful definition: "Propaganda by its very nature [is] an enterprise for perverting the significance of events and of insinuating false intentions...The propagandist must insist on the purity of his own intentions, and at the same time, hurl accusations at his enemy." The parallel between Gingrich's memo and Ellul's definition of propaganda is nearly uncanny.
But let's look at how some persons on the Right fail at the very concepts of which they accuse the Left. Take the word hypocrisy, defined by Merriam-Webster as the "false assumption of an appearance of virtue," and Rush Limbaugh, talking icon of the far Right. He has recently been revealed to have been involved with illegal black market prescription drugs, to which he is addicted. Ah, you think, I'm just trying to make Mr. Limbaugh look bad. Yet according to the contradiction between his own actions and words, he's nailed down his own self-indictment. On October 5, 1995, Limbaugh on his show said, "There's nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."
Questions that might now be posed to Mr. Limbaugh are, Haven't you behaved like the liberals you've harpooned for years? By your own admission, shouldn't you be sent up? And, Mr. Limbaugh, aren't you aiding terrorists? Undoubtedly, by having cultivated chums in high places, Limbaugh will be exonerated after performing penance at a Pat Robertson retreat center. (Interesting enough, according to an October 11, 2003 AP report, Robertson has advocated blowing up the State Department. Shouldn't he be investigated as a terrorist hopeful? When a fox preaches, guard your geese.) What were those words again? Hypocrisy? Traitor? And who could ever forget these life affirming words of Limbaugh's, "Well today the women of American know that not only can JFK Jr. not walk on water, he can't even fly over it."
Speaking of friends in high places, shouldn't George Bush receive treatment for his sandstorm of Iraqi lies (too many and too well documented to redundantly recite here)? Shouldn't the president, who supposedly put honor and integrity back into the political landscape, be censured as a traitor for using public office to nullify most of the Bill of Rights; for pushing for illegal pre-emptive wars; for stealing the national treasury to enrich his family and corporate and ideological friends? Shouldn't he be censured for allowing someone on his watch to expose a CIA operative (a felony) as a petty political retaliation against the operative's husband, ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson? What were those words again? Lie? Treason?
There's always a vast chasm between Bush's feel-good platitudes and his actions. For example, on the subject of NCLB, No Child Left Behind legislation, he says, "This administration is committed to your effort. And with the support of Congress, we will continue to work to provide the resources schools need to fund the era of reform." His 2003 budget, however, proposed to cut NCLB programs by more than $7 billion from that which was actually authorized.
Consider the Congregate Nutrition Program, which helps meals on wheels and soup kitchen programs. What did Bush say? "I hope people around this country realize that agencies such as this food bank need money." Then he put a freeze on the initiative.
This has to be one of Bush's finest articulated moments: "The best safeguard against abuse is full disclosure." (Presidential speech, 5/14/02) This is an utterly absurd statement, considering that this administration is the most intentionally secretive in U.S. history. According to an October 14, 2003 www.misleader.com report, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, in regard to the Patriot Act, accurately responded, comparing the lack of candor from the Administration about the Patriot Act to 'a big black hole.'"
More recently, Bush complained he wasn't getting a fair shake from the media: "There's a sense that people in America aren't getting the truth." 10/04/03. One has to wonder if the president has even a modicum of self-awareness. What's that word again? Doublespeak?
Bush's standard operating procedure is to say one thing for public consumption, but then defund or underfund what he talked up. He manages, however, to keep his solemn word when it comes to funding weapons and war. Always, always, say peace, help, provide.
Regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent election to California's governorship -- what about his list of predatory sexual harassments and the Republicans' franchise on morality and family values? Say empower, and insist on the purity of your intentions.
What about Ann Coulter, who wrote, "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason." Treason, p. 2. But in the August 14 FrontPageMag.com she suggests the murder of former Vice President Al Gore and now ex-governor Gray Davis: "Both were veterans, after a fashion, which would make a Gore-Davis ticket the only compelling argument yet in favor of friendly fire." If Joe Schmoo publicly were to quip the same line in Lawrence, Kansas about the current president, he'd be behind bars within hours. Just say the word, Mr. Ashcroft.
Ponder the absurdity of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay chiding Sen. Edward Kennedy for hate speech, when all Kennedy did was to suddenly sprout vertebrae and speak truth to Bush's fraudulence. An old saying applies here: They can dish it out, but they sure can't take it. Swans are crows. Truth is hate.
Last but not least, we return to the author of our memo in question, morality-and-family-values man, Newt Gingrich, who pressed his first wife (of three) for a divorce in the hospital where she was recovering from cancer surgery. In other dubious actions, Gingrich, long a crusader against taxes, obtained taxpayer subsidies for his personal and political goals through his GOPAC, which was the heart of a network of non-profit, and mostly tax exempt, organizations to support himself and other conservatives. What were those optimistic words again, Mr. Gingrich? Caring? Commitment? And why aren't honesty and integrity listed in your governing set of words?
The full-time job description of Limbaugh and of others is to vilify liberalism and its cadres. Not surprisingly, they continually project onto others those same qualities of which they themselves are guilty. Imagine making your living by embodying the shrill doctrines of attack and hate. Never mind that the truly compassionate party has always been, and will remain, Democratic, without which the U.S. would be as uncivilized as the Right could get away with. They are, in fact, trying their best (or their worst) to accomplish precisely that.
The liberty-loving Right might consider memorizing the acronym, FUBAR.
It's a military term. If I spelled it out, I would be cursed as an America hater for suggesting the truth.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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