Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Four Stages of Slanderous Degradation

I’ve noted a definite, escalating sequence of accusations used by American opinion-engineers when they wish to make a public figure look bad to the masses. The technique has long been used against foreign heads of state or potential foreign leaders, and also in particular against third party or independent candidates for the presidency in the United States.

First: Silence. Ignore the person and maybe he will go away. Don’t talk about him, don’t interview him, don’t show videos of his statements or public appearances, and don’t let him onto talk shows. In the absence of mainstream publicity, the masses cannot even know that he exists. Sentence him to obscurity by saying nothing about him.

When Pat Buchanan ran for president this technique was often used against him.

If the target refuses to disappear, move on to the second stage.

Second: Ridicule. The person is a clown, not to be taken seriously, an object of laughter. His opinions are therefore not even worth knowing about, much less analyzing.

I wish I knew enough to present a real history, but I do know that the method of ridicule was used on Adolf Hitler in Charles Chaplin’s 1940 self-styled comedy, “The Great Dictator”, and elsewhere. (Chaplin also includes a spoof of Italian leader Benito Mussolini.) Roger Ebert writes:

“Chaplin conceived and filmed "The Great Dictator" during a period when an accommodation with Hitler was still thought possible in some quarters; indeed, he must have been filming when Neville Chamberlain went to Munich. But Chaplin himself had no such optimism, and his portrait of Adenoid Hynkel, dictator of Tomania, was among the first declarations of war on Hitler. . . . As the Jewish barber, dressed in the stolen uniform of the dictator, he nonchalantly reviews ‘his’ troops and then sits in a folding chair that collapses, causing complete confusion. And, as the dictator, he does the famous ballet with the world globe painted on a balloon.”

Ross Perot, a potentially serious third-party contender for the American presidency in 1992, was subject to the same kind of treatment and was depicted as a joke, a funny-looking buffoon.

The “Establishment” (whoever you may think that is) hates third parties and independent candidates because for many years the only approved candidates for election have been those of the two carefully tethered major parties. As an example, when tremendously popular Louisiana populist Huey Long, elected to the U.S. Senate in 1931 after having been governor of Louisiana, planned to mount a presidential campaign against President Franklin Roosevelt, Long was assassinated in 1935, at the age of 42. “Roosevelt considered Long a radical demagogue. The president privately said of Long that along with General Douglas MacArthur, he was one of the two most dangerous men in America. Roosevelt later compared Long to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.” There was evidence of high-up plans for Long’s assassination before the event.

If the target is still standing after being made a laughingstock, escalate to the third stage.

Third: Accusations or insinuations of insanity – or at least mental instability. I remember well this method being used against Perot. After a few weeks of Establishment propaganda beyond the “buffoon” stage I couldn’t mention Perot to anyone without getting the response, “But the guy’s a nut. He’s crazy.”

Hitler, after being treated as a joke and a caricature, began to be depicted as insane. He was supposedly irrational, flew frequently into screaming rages, foamed at the mouth, and threw himself on the floor and chewed carpets when he was angry. The image of the “mad dictator” has been used against many others – as far back as Suetonius’ “Lives of the Twelve Caesars” and as currently as the President of Iran, currently described in the U.S. press as a “crackpot”.

Rumors of sexual depravity or abnormality often accompany the charges of mental illness.

If people bothered to think, they would realize that nobody becomes one of the most successful and richest businessmen in the world, or works his way up to the leadership of a great nation, if he is crazy – or even if he is a clown.

Fourth: Evil. If all else fails, the target becomes evil. In extreme cases he becomes the personification of Evil, the devil in human form. “Evidence” of his evilness includes tales of murders (preferably mass murders), torture, treachery, and sometimes a desire to “conquer the world”.

“Evil” is one of G.W. Bush’s favorite labels. Bush’s “evildoers” are evil just because they’re evil. He gives no explanation why the members of his “Axis of Evil” are evil; apparently they just like being bad and hate everything good. It seems that Saddam Hussein actually began at this level; I don’t recall that he was taken through the first three stages.

Where is Kim Jong-Il of North Korea on this scale? Where is Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela? It is a fascinating exercise to watch the system at work and try to detect why it is clearly used in some cases but not in others.

2 comments:

Zoey & Me said...

If there was even one TV Network owned by people whose allegiance was to an independent, only then would you see a difference. The two party system owns it all so don't look for anyone brilliant to come along and win.

joice said...

Such a brilliant analysis, Fleming! It has been the same with our media here. These big media guys seem to follow a pattern all over, unfortunately. So, since a few years, I don't read, listen or watch them anymore. I refuse to let them think they manipulate me. I will let you know more about this 'experience' by email. Thanks for letting me know about this great post I had missed!