Making Epistemological Sense Out of Existential Madness

Alan Milner

Alan Milner
Florida, USA
October 12
Senior Mortgage Analyst
Brooklyn-born, graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School and City College of New York. Background includes advertising, public relations, journalism, marketing, organizational development and fund raising and, for the past 15 years, mortgage banking. You can still find my poetry at sagemerlin.

Alan Milner's Links
JUNE 7, 2012 8:54AM

Truth Serum: The Republican Campaign Strategy

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Mitt Romney is far and away the worst presidental candidate the Republican Party has put up for office since Taft gave up the Oval Office to Wilson.   

What do you do when you are saddled with such a liaiblity?

You sell the platform instead of the candidate.

And what do you do when the platform itself is so full of inconsistencies and previously failed policies?

You sell the sizzzle instead of the using the Big Lie to plaster over the obvious incongruties in the  Republican Platform.

And here's how they sre going to do it: 

If you live in one of the battleground states,  and you don't have the intestinal fortitude to turn your television off for the next six months, you are going to be inundated with the most scabrous series of political advertisements ever unleashed upon a civilian population in peace time.

With unlimited funding at its disposal, the Republican Party is about to unleash a "saturation bombing" campaign against the consciousness of the American people that is designed to quite literally make it impossible for Americans to think clearly about the choices being presented to them.

It's called the Big Lie, a propaganda technique developed by the German High Command during World War I to encourage the German people to engage in a great patriotic war to achieve their manifest destiny as the natural rulers of all Europe, and perfected by Adolph Hitler and his propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, in their efforts to motivate the German people to engage in yet another futile effort to achieve world domination.

Simply stated, and it really is very, very simple, the Big Lie refers to a process in which you make a series of statements, each of which contains a completely outrageous and obviously untrue falsehood, and continue to reiterate those statements over and over again until you hear those statements coming back to you from the audience as if they were irrefutable facts.

The way this works is that, as each successive lie is unleashed upon the public, more and more people become convinced that the falsehoods included in the previous message must be true because, as outrageous as they were, they were much less outrageous than the next bundle of lies in the next, subsequent statement, which are even bigger and less believable.

(You think you know these things, but you really, really don't.  Keep reading.)

The evidence that this system works is irrefutable because it is based upon the same exact premise of  advertising and public relations:  repetition builds sales.  When it comes to propaganda, repetition builds belief.

Most of us think that we're smart enough to see through these lies, but we're not, because these techniques work on a sub-conscious level.

In hypnotic trance inductions, the hypnotic state is achieved by doing three things, the use of repetitive statements that match the current sensory experiences of the subject,  the regulation of breathing patterns through the use of timed statements that first match the subjects breathing and then slow that pattern down by slowing down the timed statements, and through the use of shifting focus of attention in which you encourage the subject to shift perspectives until the subject voluntarily closes his or her eyes to eliminate the distraction which consists of the cognitive dissonance between what the subject sees and what the subject is being told to see.

Taken together, these techniques are very close to the process through we induce our sleep cycles when we are tired.  Tired, our thoughts become repetitive and circular, our breathing slows and deepens, and we find ourselves closing our eyes to reduce the distractions that attract the eyes.

These are precisely the same effects that Adolph Hitler achieved in his speeches, during which he manipulated first his small circle of followers and eventually an entire nation...but Hitler was a primitive compared to the modern practitioners of the Big Lie:  the American Advertising Industry.

The Republican Party - which includes the various Superpacs who are building the Republican brand across America - has already established the talking points they are going to drill into us over the next few months.  They have been tested throughout the long Republican primary season, during which the talking points were tested and tweaked and tested again until they have been honed to a fine edge.

Now, you may think that you can withstand this barrage of lies but, if you can, it is only because they aren't aimed at you.  Instead, they are carefully aimed at very specific target populations.  If you're not a member of these target groups, the advertising will go right over your head, dismissed as mundane fabrications.

If,  however, you belong to one or more of these target populations, these messages - repeated over and over again from a number of different sources -  will encourage you to begin to question your previous assumptions about the facts as you become  more and more convinced that some of  the Republican arguments actually have some merit. This is the nose of the camel coming into your tent.

The Big Lie technique overwhelms the conscious mind's rational objections to the obvious absurdities being asserted with volume and repetition

Here's how it works, metaphorically speaking:

You are standing in a room with one other person, having a quiet conversation about a public issue.

Gradually, a group of uninvited guests begin joining you in the middle of the room,  each repeating the same chant over and over again, louder and louder, until you can no longer hear the person standing next to you. Occasionally, the content of the chant changes but the overall effect remains the same.  The conversation breaks down because you can no longer have a rational exchange of opinions in the middle of that cacophony...but you can clearly hear the things that the uninvited guests are saying to you.

It gets worse. 

Now  imagine that an important public figure is standing on a podium at one end of the room, repeating some of these stories thr0ugh a megaphone.  And then a second public figure  mounts a second podium and begins another recitation.  And then a third public figure begins to reiterate the same statements.  These are highly-regarded exemplaries, not run of the mill moakes. 

By now, you have realized that it doesn't matter if the facts that are being exclaimed are, in fact, not true because there's no way you can communicate with anyone else in the middle of this cacophony.

In Mob Psychology, the maintenance of a hyperactive state among the members of the mob is sustained by the practice of the collective chanting of slogans, the repetition of which also has a hypnotic effect upon the members of the cohort, enhancing their cohesion to the group, and the cause the group espouses.   (The process of chanting also regulates breathing patterns so that the members of the group actually breath together which stimulates sexual arousal.)

The two most typical reactions to this environment is to either get up and leave, or sit down and ignore the fact that these lies are becoming commonly accepted as facts.  In either case, the colloquy between  the two friends has been disrupted.  Once disrupted, they cannot engage in a free-flowing exchange of views that, under normal circumstances, would clarify their positions and reinforce their commitment to them.

No one likes to feel as though their views are so divergent that no one else believes them. 

And that's what the Republicans are trying to do.  They aren't trying to convince us that their falsehoods are facts.  All they want to do is to discourage us from believing and voting upon our facts at all because it seems so futile in the face of all that propaganda. 

Now, without the metaphors, the Conservative Republicans are buying up every available minute of air time in the battleground states to the point where the Democratic Party will find it hard pressed to find ad blocks left for them to purchase. 

In other words, the Conservatives don't have to commit all of their untold billions to the effort to control the public conversation:  they only have to commit enough funds to purchase all of the available minutes.

There are, on average, 17 minutes of commercial time available for every hour of broadcast time.  That comes to a total of 408 minutes out of a 24 hour day of 9,792 minutes, or 4% of the total broadcast time available per station....but that doesn't to take into account the average of four hours per day that are given over to infomercials, during which there are no paid advertisements, which reduces the number of available minutes to 340 per station per day.

If you want to know exactly how much it is going to cost to buy the 2012 presidential election, all you have to do is multiply the number of television stations covering the battleground states by  340 minutes per day and then multiply that number by the average hourly rate per minute of advertising.

But it doesn't stop there.  Before this campaign is over, both parties will resort to buying whole hours to air their own infomercials.  This strategy, although ruinously expensive, is the only means by which the Democrats can offset the Republican financial advantage.  The problem with infomercials is that no one really believes them, and they are typically one-shot deals that don't benefit from repetitions because there are none.

Another aspect of this is the timing.  Advertising buys are first come, first served and, if the Republicans can replenish their war chests at will from their corporate sponsors, they are in a position to buy up all of the available air time with their fast dollars while the Democrats are still accumulating their slow dollars to make their ad purchases, if the Republicans leave them anything to buy.  It's much easier to raise $10 million from ten people - if they have it - than it is to collect $10 million from 1o,000 people. 

Of course, in the real world, the Republicans won't actually buy up all of the available minutes because they don't really need that many.  Once they reach the advertising saturation point, the point at which everyone has seen each advertisement the requisite number of times to achieve market penetration, there's no point in continuing to run those ads....except when it comes to denying the Democrats the opportunity to buy those minutes. Sometimes the law of negative consequences sets in, causing people to become resistant to the repetitious message.   Don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothing new to say, right?

Another factor that contributes to the Republican media hegemony is the use of multiple voices repeating the same messages.

If you hear a statement from Rush Limbaugh, you might be tempted to doubt the factuality of his statement, with good  reason, because he has a history of lying on the air.

If, however, several Republican surrogates - including elected officials, media personalities, and their captive pundits - repeat the same messages over and over again, they begin to take effect.   The Republicans are also very successful at managing their message:  their surrogates never wander off the reservation.   The Democratic surrogates, who are more idiosyncratic than the Republicans, can't seem to stay on point.

The media exacerbates this Republican domination of the public conversation by slavishly reporting each and every new Republican talking point and, while always careful to provide equal time (although they don't really have to) for the opposing views, the fact remains that each time they cover another Republican salvo, they increase the impact of that barrage.

Their excuse, of course, is that the Republican advertising campaigns are news, but they really aren't.  The definition of news is that something happened.  Making a statement isn't making news.  It's commentary, and the media coverage of their commentary is a commentary on the commentary.

There are no legal protections that guarantee equal speech.  That's a misconception.  Remember, the equal time rule only applies to public service announcements not paid advertising.   Broadcasters have no obligation to provide equal access to paid air time.  They are only obligated to charge political campaigns the same rates they offer to their best customers.   The Fairness Doctrine, which was supposed to guarantee that broadcast license holders strive to provide equal amounts of time for discussion of opposing sides of an issue, was effectively eliminated in 1987 and officially removed from the FCC rule book in August of 2011, just in time to matter in this election.

This is the hidden agenda behind the Citizens United strategy.  The Republican strategists are betting that they can raise enough money to freeze the Democrats out of the market and buy the election lock, stock and barrel.

If someone came to you and offered you $100 for your vote, you would be justifiably outraged.  If the Republican Party paid every voter in America $100 for their vote, you would want the Republicans ridden out of town on a rail, but that's exactly what they are doing....buying our votes.   Of course, the Republicans will claim that the Democrats have been buying our votes for years with their social programs and their pandering to special interest groups and is there really any difference.

Well, yes, there is, if you believe that honest discourse matters and that dishonest misrepresentations  of facts not in evidence will eventually replace objective truths about our world with a fabric of intricately fabricated lies. 

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Are you, by pointing you finger so firmly at the Republicans, implying that the Democrats, and others, do not use these techniques?

In modern politics, as in modern life, truth has little currency. Probably more than 90% of what the average voter thinks is "true", isn't. People don't want to be told the truth. They want sugar-coated promises of chickens in every pot and a new car in every driveway.

Most of all, they want to have their prejudices and beliefs pandered to. They want to be told that their racist attitudes are shared by most others - they don't care a bit whether those attitudes have any basis in fact, just that "everybody" feels the same way. They want to be told that they are "exceptional." They want to be told that they are "better" than other people just because of the geographical happenstance of where they were born. And they want the right to hate anyone who says they're wrong.

Now that elections are so clearly not serving the purposes for which we use an electoral system, try telling people that we need to find another way to chose those who will manage our society. They "know" the truth - that this system doesn't work - but they "believe" in the system. Which do you think they'll go with, what they know or what they believe?
I wrote this piece in response to my growing angst about our political morass. The battle lines are drawn, people aren't listening to each other's points of view, only to their own. I am in despair about our future as a nation, as a culture, a civilization, and despondent about my own future prospects. I feel that it is important for us to keep sharing our ideas with each other before we become totally overwhelmed by the media madness going on around us. I tried to discussing policies in this article, restricting myself to the tactical analysis.
I have some minor disagreements with elements in your thesis, Alan, but on the whole, you see the problem in a very clear way. We are in deep shit…and you managed to get that thought across with lots of class.

The only major disagreement I have (which may seem minor, but it is not) is your statement:

And that's what the Republicans are trying to do.

They are not “trying” to do it, Alan…they ARE doing it…and doing it with great efficacy.

In defense of my “it may seem minor, but it is not,” let me mention that your line reminded of the scene from The King’s Speech where the Royal family is watching a speech delivered by Adolph Hitler. The young Princess Elizabeth (Lilibet) asks, “What is he saying, Papa?”

George VI responded, “I don’t know, but he seems to be saying it rather well.”

Yup, the Republican ARE doing it...and seem to be doing it rather well.
They're turning the whole hoi polloi into mad men, jawohl!
I would comment but I think Skypixie already left my comment.
And of course, all those "broken promises" that got Obama elected were absolute truths that...that...that...hmmm? What did happen?
Well, that is the modern politic in the U.S. in a nutshell (pun intended). We are bleated at by goats with no thought except to win at any cost and to hell with anything beyond the dough. I have harped on the big lie since the days of Tricky Dick to no avail, it seems that everyone who sees it already does and the rest will bleat out the lie at the top of their lungs ignoring all facts and the reason of a semi conscious human being to insist that every body else is lying. I am at my wits end, I don't have forever and I often think of some drastic, non violent act to try and get just one person to see the truth. I wonder though is there anything that a person could do to shake the scales off of peoples eyes for just that one brief instant?
You cogent analysis was accompanied, appropriately enough, during my viewing by and add from Cox Communications. There is simply no hope for democracy without a reversal of Citizens United.
Amazingly, all it takes is turning off the TV and every other connection with commercialism, then tuning in to NPR. Too bad more of us haven't discovered this one peaceful move toward conscious awareness. I find, the longer I'm away from it, I miss television less and less. Especially in a campaign year.
Brilliant work, Alan. A direct paean for the truth.
But how to get this message out to those who need to learn by it stone more?
I fell asleep just reading the first few paragraphs.

How about the big truth:

Auto Industry -- Alive.
Bin Laden -- Dead.

Romney -- he was NEVER on your side.
"Four legs goooooooood, two legs better!!!!!
"by its tone more"
Sorry...inattentive this AM.
@Nick ~ Not bad for talking in your sleep. If I might remind you, Alan is addressing intelligent people with operative reasoning skills, not passive brain-scrubbed TV addicts. Your slogans would be dandy for that crowd.
I don't have broadcast TV. I hardly listen to the radio anymore. I filter my news from about 13 different sources, only 4 of which are based in the US. My 4 US stations are my Bullshit Collectors and the other 9 are my bullshit filters. We need more filters here in this country, but it's airtime bought and paid for by folks who use their college education and degrees to ensure that there are fewer and fewer non-monied college educated people hearing the messages.

I honestly don't know what to do at this point other than to declare myself and my property a "Breakaway Republic," nationalize my means of production, and tell the US to Butt Out of my Sovereign Nation's Affairs.

If I thought it had a snowball's chance in hell, I think I'd give it a shot.

skypixie0: We know the Dems do this, too, because they only want you to hear the part of the message they're selling, but they are not as wholly egregious about outright lying and lack of factualness as the Republicans have been in the last three decades.

Without going into polemics, the race is won by cash, and while there are certainly some Corporatocrats for Hire in Congress on the Democratic side of the aisle, they are certainly not nearly as well funded as the entire Republican War Machine in the War on America's Future.

If my cynicism didn't prevent it, I'd just toss my hands up in the air and say, "It's hopeless."

Karl Rove is to Mitt Romney as
George Goebbels was to Adolf Hitler

Oh shit, I just invoked Godwin's Corrollary. Game over, man, game over.

The finger shouldn't have to be pointed at anyone, but in truth, it's less about political parties and more about monied interests literally buying their government, to rule the People they disdain.

Sir, you really know your stuff. There's nothing I can add to this, except to say that I will be reposting at Facebook, and emailing to my Women for Obama group. Thank you!!
Yep. That's what they are doing, alright. They that have the gold, rule. I have been extremely unnerved by people I used to respect who are spewing the "talking points" verbatim, month after month, year after year. And when I push back, as I am prone to do, I have never gotten what I consider a coherent response. Once they have uttered the sound bite, their brains shut off.

My only problem with this intelligent and informative piece is its length. There is absolutely no chance of changing the mind of anyone who is in the target population of the Big Lie if they have to read more than 25-50 words.

If only people could think for themselves. Then money wouldn't matter.
I am bearing witness here. My purpose isn't to teach anyone anything they already know. We all see this happening but, unless we talk to each other about it, we don't know what other people are seeing.

I don't expect to convince anyone of anything. I am simply recording my observation of the process through our status as a free people is being eroded away.

But I also don't agree with the idea that we can ignore what's going on. That's what they did in Germany.
And what happened in Germany is what is happening in the USA. When the cops break into an apartment and arrest people for planning a public protest you know that the tipping point has been past. The Gestapo has arrived.

Technique. It is all technique and money.
"History repeats itself".....Heaven forbid!

What happened in Germany during 1933 and 1945 was pure madness .
Unfortunately,I can see the signs in the present American society ,and not only there.Brutality seems to be the modern way of gaining power and control.
I will read your post later,have run out of time now.

Matt made a comment here which puntuates your attempt of a great observation.
"@Nick ~ Not bad for talking in your sleep. If I might remind you, Alan is addressing intelligent people with operative reasoning skills, not passive brain-scrubbed TV addicts. Your slogans would be dandy for that crowd"

Matt Paust
JUNE 07, 2012 01:07 PM
Jan,thanks for the link to" counterpunch"
Last I checked, Romney and Obama were about neck and neck in fund raising, so it's hard to argue that Romney is going to outspend Obama.

What's interesting from the Walker recall is that in 2010, when Walker first ran for governor against Barrett, he raised 65% of the election funds and got 52% of the vote. This year, he raised 88% of the funds and got 53% of the vote. A ton more money, one percentage point more in the polls, which is not exactly support for the idea that money buys elections.
Malusinka: Once and for all, let's go over the reality of the fundraising statistics. First of all, the amounts raised by the presidential candidates in their own names are only a fraction of the total raised for the campaigns. In additional to the presidential candidates' fundraising efforts, there are the fundraising campaigns of the National Democratic Party and the National Republican Party. Then, there are the completely separate campaigns of the fifty state party campaigns. And, finally, there's the fundraising production of the Superpacs.

No one has disputed that the Republican Superpacs have literally unlimited resources totaling in the tens of billions of dollars on tap whenever they want it....but most of this money is still in the contributors accounts.

Under current campaign laws, only paid contributions must be counted. Pledges are not counted, but the pledges are as good as cash and a case can be made that pledges are in fact obligations that could be collected through legal action.

It is simply disingenuous to suggest that because the current amount raised to date between the two presidential candidates is in a virtual dead head when one candidate can call upon actual billions of dollars.

Of course, as I have already said, they don't need all that money because there's a finite limit to the amount of money you can spend on a presidential campaign given the limited amount of air time and print space available in various advertising carriers.
I disagree with none of this. It's excellently written and makes complete sense.

I will further back you up on your singling out Republicans. The fact that not everything Democrats say is true doesn't remotely mean that mendacity is symmetrical - that's a fallacy committed by more than one commenter here.

Democrats are not trying to use the law to keep Republican voters from registering or voting, which is exactly what Republicans are trying to accomplish with the ID requirement - a little too obvious because there isn't currently enough voter fraud alleged to constitute a problem that needs this kind of solution. It's also what Governor Walker did in Wisconsin: He didn't need to attack public unions because those unions gave him most of the concessions he asked for, but he knows that those unions tend to support Democratic candidates, so killing them is a partisan effort, not a fiscal one.

Democrats don't have a Rush Limbaugh. In the aftermath of the Giffords shooting in Arizona, one public figure said that he would keep an eye on his own rhetoric in case he contributed to the climate that made an assassination attempt seem justifiable. Who was it? Al Sharpton, perhaps the most vilified Democratic voice by Republicans. Did you hear any Republicans say that, even though their rhetoric was more violent than his?

It's also true on the Supreme Court. If you want to know the extent to which any given decision is political as opposed to actually judicial, it's pretty simple: the actual judicial votes aren't usually close. The 2000 election decision was a 5/4 split, as was Citizens United.

It's true in the press. In the last Presidential election, the owner of one of our networks contributed a million dollars to one party. "Fair and balanced" strikes again. You see any networks that actually attempt impartiality contribute to Democrats?

This is systematic theft. And there is no institution around devoted to stopping it.
I think that Malusinka is correct in pointing out that the POTUS and his well-funded effort is not a potted palm. In my posting on the new Chicago (Obama) machine, I pointed out that the Obama HQ is basically a J. Walter Thompson or other major ad agency with a $400,000,000 budget for a single campaign.

And as we've seen with its devastating effectiveness, the Obama ads that have homed in on Mitt Romney's most damaging inner psychology (revealing the total extent and nature of his wealth), has been quite effective in putting Mr. Rmoney in a box, defining him before the conventions.

Obama appears to be maintaining his advantage, and is not powerless in this fight. Unfortunately, he's using the same weapons that the Republicans have used. The ultimate victim is of course, American democracy. When oh when are severe limitations going to be placed on the expense and duration of our wasteful election cycle?