January 01, 2017

Dissemination of Right Wing Media-Fueled Outrage

To understand how messages are conveyed, you must pay close attention to the language being used.  One of the most subtle tells is the use of pronouns.  A study was done that concluded men tend to use the first person and second person singular more often, whereas women tend to use the second person plural more often.

The second thing to pay attention is how information is presented.  In the linked-to article for this thread, I take a look at Katie Yoder’s article on Fox News titled, “5 NewYear's resolutions for our out-of-touch media. (Hint: Start with somechocolate)”

The title itself invokes the idea that the article will be about all media, and her use of the first person plural possessive indicates she is referring to all US media.  The implication here is that she believes that the current state of US media is out-of-touch with what “real” Americans are thinking.  Before I go any further, keep in mind that one of the frames of the Right is that the Left, and by extension, all, so-called, “liberal mainstream media” is completely out of touch with most Americans, and the reason for this is that the Left is mostly populated with wealthy, university educated elitists who have never worked a hard day in their life.  Realizing that, then there is a not-so-subtle hidden agenda in this essay’s title, and being that it is posted on FNC’s site, a certain audience is being targeted whose ears are attuned to what some people refer to as, “dog whistles”.

Her essay certainly begins benign, hopeful and unbiased enough: “When someone asks me “What’s the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?” I don’t give the typical answer. I don't point to the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro or Austria’s lavish Schönbrunn Palace -- though each site has taken my breath away. No. My answer is kindness, especially this new year.”  So far, so good, right?

It’s not until four and a half paragraphs into the essay when she makes an abrupt turn to the right.

“and the liberal media smear conservative news sites as "fake," writers easily lose themselves in an agenda forgetful of the everyday life.”

Read that part carefully; she is claiming that all “liberal media” is, apparently, smearing, all conservative news sites and then, very adroitly, she ties that to an “agenda” which is targeted at forgetting the “everyday life”, but it’s not too hard to read into “life” as really meaning, “people”.
Her next paragraph is, when you really think about it, a very puzzling transition that features two pieces of information which, while germane, are not connected to one another linearly, especially in light of what the focus of the essay is supposed to be about: “A recent poll revealed that a majority of Americans prefer "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays." But many in the liberal media don’t just ignore that, they also take a step farther by mocking and attacking Christians during this special season.”  Remember her title?  This was supposed to have been about all media, but clearly, it’s not; it’s about “liberal” media.  They’re the ones out of touch with America, and, according to her, a recent poll is proof of that.  However, not only does she not provide a link to that poll, she goes on to make a completely false and unsubstituted claim that “many in liberal media…ignore that”.  The reason why this is an awkward transition, aside from the fact that the article was presumably about all media, is that she was just describing the alleged smears of right wing media by left wing media.  The awkwardness continues in the second half as she somehow tries to relate her false claim with a much more severe one; that all liberal media is mocking and attacking all Christians “during this special season.”  Funny, she didn’t call it Christmas…

Then, she makes another awkward transition with the next paragraph: “That’s all part of the disaster that was news in 2016. Journalists need to find a positive way to get past that. To learn how to report with no regrets, we must first learn to live with no regrets.”  This essay began with a personal anecdote regarding her family, Midnight Mass and a homeless man, then abruptly veered into claims of smears, mockery and attacks by “liberal” media, then, just as abruptly, she pulls back and makes a claim that “that was news in 2016”, which she claims was a “disaster”.  The word, “that” is an antecedent in this case, so it must have a referent, so the question is, what is its referent?  Her story about Christmas; that liberal media apparently smears conservative media or that liberal media is supposedly mocking and attacking all Christians?

We never find out because she takes another hard turn, this time, back to her focus: appreciate life and the people around you.

I guess, but notice how, in the third part of her essay, she switches back to the use of the second person, and first person plural; she went from first person to a very directed third person plural to an inclusive and expansive first person.

Regardless, I want to focus on the message and the words used in the fourth and fifth paragraphs, and specifically, three words: smear, mock and attack.

Each of those words is a hyperlink to an outside source.  Typically, when this technique is used, the author is linking to something specific which provides unbiased support for their argument.  

However, all three links connect to Newsbusters-a site for which she is a writer, and, it should be noted, that two of those articles target the Washington Post while the first targets CNN.  No need to state what the Right thinks of those two media outlets.

Linking to the same source for support of your argument is frowned upon in academia, science-just about everywhere-but also linking to your place of employment further decreases any legitimacy of your argument.  But remember; she was making the claim that it was all liberal media against all conservative media and all Christians.

The apparent “smear” was made by one person, a consultant called into CNN to give his opinion on so-called, “fake news” and the proof of that smear is that, during the short segment, there are two screen shots of a webpage belonging to Newsbusters.  I shouldn’t have to point this out, but one man, who never directly refers to any media source, his opinion and a news outlet displaying a graphic which has a picture of one conservative website does not, in any way, fulfill the argument that all liberal media is smearing all conservative media.

As for the next two, Yoder links to a critique of a review, posted in, you guessed it, WaPo, of a musical that, apparently mocks Christianity.  The author of the NB article, Tim Graham, makes the completely unsubstantiated claim that, “Let's guess Islam got left out, since satirizing Islam leads to a fatwa. It certainly doesn't lead to a favorable review in liberal papers.”  I write unsubstantiated because he admits, without expressly doing so, that he did not see the show, has not read its script and did not contact anyone in affiliation with the show.  But why bother with doing any actual journalistic research when you can use another right wing meme; that liberals love Muslims over Christians and Jews.  But let’s not forget the premise of the argument; it’s all liberal media mocking all Christians, however, a review of a musical that does the actual mocking is not only not proof of that, is scientifically flawed because it ignores Jews who are also targets of the musical.

As to the “attacking” that all liberal media perpetuates upon all Christians, Yoder, once again linking to her employer’s site, uses as support to this argument, one article written in regards to comments made by two different people on two different sites; The Daily Beast and, yes, WaPo, again.  The person quoted in WaPo, Ruth Everhart is a Presbyterian minister and the other person, also a woman, Candida Moss, is a scholar of religion.  Once again, two people does not at all constitute all liberal media and their giving their opinions about modern Christianity’s take on the Virgin Mary hardly rises to the level of “attacking”.  But again, none of that matters.

And it doesn’t matter because Yoder’s target audience is already convinced that there is a giant cabal of liberal, mainstream media and that they all despise real Americans, hate Christianity and idolize Islam.

Finally, there is this:  In January, 2015, after the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked in Paris by Islamic gunmen, Yoder wrote a piece for NB  in which she laments about the attacks upon free speech.  And the very real attack that she uses to highlight her argument is, ironically enough, a very, and openly, liberal media source.

July 23, 2015

How to Politicize without Politicizing

When I was attending classes there, the linguistics graduate program at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), offered two options for is MA candidates: One was the thesis track, the other, the general track.  Early on in my studies at CSUN, I had opted for the thesis track.  I had been working on an idea for many years, thanks in large part to my interest in politics, but especially, the use of language in politics, inspired in me by George Lakoff's "Moral Politics".

I had begun listening to a lot of political talk radio, specifically, conservative political talk radio.  Actually, there is little getting around conservative political talk radio: According to Talkers.com, a website which bills itself as "The Bible of Talk Radio and the News Talk Media", and a tracker of talk radio rankings, the top twelve talk radio shows in the US are almost all political talk radio. There are several ties; for example, there are five shows tied for sixth place, however, of the political talk shows, which make up the majority on the list, the majority of those are conservative political talk radio.  Rush Limbaguh is number one, followed by Sean Hannity then Glen Beck and Mark Levin are tied at fourth.  You might be aware of who Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck are, but you might not be aware that Levin was once a speech writer for Ronald Reagan.

Political talk radio, specifically, conservative political talk radio, dominates the US AM airwaves.  US airwaves, especially AM, not only belong to the American public, but they are, in the case of AM radio, the "voice of America" as well.  It's often been said, that when you are young and poor, you vote Democrat, but when you are older and rich, you vote Republican.  This seems to be born out by statistics which show the demographic make up of the two political parties: Democrats tend to be younger, ethnically more diverse and female, whereas Republicans tend to be older, less ethnically diverse and male.  This demographic is reflected in talk radio, a media arena that fewer and fewer younger generations pay any attention to: Talk radio is dominated by political talk radio, which is in turn dominated by conservative political talk radio, which is in turn dominated by wealthy white men who vote Republican, as outspoken in their support of the GOP as they are in their criticism of the Democratic party.

What this all means is that a large majority of Americans are listening to AM, conservative political talk radio, and most of those are wealthy, white, male Republicans.

One of the things which piqued my interest, and the thing I attempted to create my thesis on, before giving up out of panic and frustration and opting for the general track at CSUN, was the way in which messages could be said, by not saying them.

What I mean is, for the most part, the hosts of those conservative political talk radio shows cannot say or do anything too outrageous for fear of losing advertising sponsors and/or, their shows (just ask Rush Limbaugh and Don Immus, respectively).  However, what they can do, is let their listeners who call into their shows do the outrageous for them.

The recent agreement between the US, its partners, and Iran, on Iran's nuclear program is a case in point.  The Obama administration, along with China, France, Russia, the UK and the EU (otherwise known as P5+1, which, honestly, sounds like a K-pop boy band...) were able to bring Iran to an agreement regrading its nuclear program, by using the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, of which Iran was an early signator, but backed out after the Shah was deposed in the Islamic Revolution.  That Treaty, agreed to by the US in 1969 and put into effect by the US in 1970, was signed by President Richard M Nixon with the full support of the US Senate and Congress.  Nixon, it should be pointed out, was a Republican.

No matter.  What matters is the it was the Obama administration which was able to bring Iran to the table, as it were, and it was the Obama administration which was finally able to get Iran into some sort of an agreement regarding its nuclear program.  And if there is one thing that Republicans can agree upon, its their complete hatred of all things Obama.

Getting back to Sean Hannity:  Mr. Hannity has not only the number two talk radio show in the entire US, he also has the number one political talk "news" show, on the number one, cable, "news" network-Fox News, or FNC for short.  Hannity, like all of his contemporaries and colleagues, has saturated the US media market: Best-selling books, the afore-mentioned radio and television shows, concerts, speaking tours and a website which also hosts a discussion forum.

Navigating to The Sean Hannity Show website, a viewer is greeted by a billboard at the top of the page with a revolving list of political "news" items; all penned by Hannity or FNC columnists.  A recent trip to Hannity's website showed me a link to this item: "Confederate Flag Debate", which seems, on the surface, to be an essay about the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag.  The essay even begins with language suggesting that that is indeed what it is about:

"The dialogue in America has shifted away from the tragedy in Charleston and to a debate over the Confederate flag.

Perhaps the greatest untold story to unfold in the wake of the shooting in Charleston are the incredible family members of the victims. In many cases, their willingness to forgive the person who killed their loved ones in cold blood represents an awe-inspiring amount of faith. They are incredible human beings and we keep them in our thoughts and prayers."

Notice the clever use of the collective pronouns, "we" and "our"; my sociolinguistic professor taught me about the use of those.

However, not too far down into the essay, a reader will come across this:

"But at the end of the day, this sick young man did not kill those good Christian souls because of a flag. Nor did he kill them because of South Carolina's gun laws. He killed them because he was of a depraved mind. There were many signs that this was a troubled young man, and yet nothing was done."

Which seems, on the face of it, reasonable enough.  Until you remember that the GOP sells itself as being of Christian morals and values and is pro gun and anti-gun law.  Then, very cleverly, the last paragraph ends the essay with this:

"Nonetheless, tragedies such as this will be used for political gain. Whether its removing the Confederate flag or passing new gun laws, American politics has become a pattern of jumping on crisis moments in order to pass pet legislation. Even if the two events are not directly linked or related. Politics has become therapy for political activists who want to be seen as doing something; it's more of a feel-good exercise than a coherent political agenda."

Any good academic, or English teacher, will tell you that what is at the beginning and end of an essay is of the utmost importance; these are the words which guide the reader and make impressions upon them.  The famous quote, "Always leave them wanting more" is nowhere as appropriate as it is in academic writing and especially, politics.

What has very cleverly been done to the reader, is to have left the indelible impression that there are direct links between the Confederate flag and those who want it removed, with gun laws and those who want guns taken away.

As any good political analyst or politician will tell you, Republicans are all about liberty and Democrats are all about equality.  Which is basically true.  However, Republicans have done a far better job at weaving the myth of liberty into the so-called "American Dream" and the very notion of what it means to be an American.  When they begin talking about "pet legislation" and "political activists", they are referring to liberals and to Democrats.  And when Republicans do that, they are framing the message in very much an "Us v. Them" monologue.  And when that argument rests squarely on their frame of Democrats wanting to take away our freedoms and Republicans trying to protect those freedoms.

But they rarely, if ever, have to actually say it because they've done such a fantastic job of weaving it into their narrative.  And this is how I segue back to political talk radio and my abandoned thesis.

Many times, talk show hosts, such as Limbaugh and Hannity, will turn to their listeners who call into their show and let the callers voice their opinions.  And unless those callers state something against the narrative, the hosts will let those callers say nearly anything they want to say.  Things the hosts cannot, or should not, say.  Other times, however, the host will make an outrageous claim, only to immediately go to commercial break, thus leaving in the minds of their listeners, the outrageous claim, or the unverified and unchallenged comments of the last caller.

Which always leaves 'em wanting more.

June 21, 2015

Political Projection and Neocon Denialism

In psychology, projection is defined as an effort to deny those things people find disagreeable about themselves by blaming other people of having those same disagreeable things. Sometimes this happens consciously within an individual, sometimes not. In politics, projection is used as a tool to create divide. And nobody is more skilled and adroit at creating a sense of divide than the Republican Party and right-wing neo cons.
There certainly have been times when the US was politically divided; the Civil War coming to mind. A national war aside, I do not believe that the US has ever seen so many instances of violence perpetrated by, mostly, white men, against, mostly non-whites. In every single one of these instances, especially the more so during Obama's tenure as president, right-wing mouth pieces are quick to step up and deny any culpability for whites, neo-conservatives, guns, Christianity, or right-wing politics. However, how that is done is not as obvious as denying culpability.
I was watching "Thank You For Smoking" last night, a brilliant and wickedly funny movie about advertising and marketing. In the movie, Aaron Eckhart plays Nick Taylor, spokesperson for Big Tobacco. In one scene, he and his son, Joey, are talking about argumentation. Nick asks his son to defend his choice of ice cream and Nick argues against his choice. Only, Nick does not exactly argue against joey's choice, Nick argues for "liberty" and the freedom to choose. Confused, Joey tells his father, "...but you didn't prove that vanilla was the best...", to which Nick replies, " I didn't have to. I proved that you're wrong, and if you're wrong I'm right."

All of this has reminded me of something George Lakoff argued about in his book, "Moral Politics" which is, essentially; by claiming that you are not something, you have just admitted that you are that thing. He pointed to Nixon's claiming, the he was "not a crook" and how that claim made Nixon a crook in nearly everyone's eyes.
I often peruse right-wing talk radio and chat sites to keep my finger on the pulse, so to speak. As Michael Corleone said, "...keep your friends close but your enemies closer." and in less than 48 hours after the shooting at the Emanuael AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and just hours after President Obama's speech regarding that shooting,, headlined, front and center on the Sean Hannity Show's website, is a picture of a dejected looking Obama, to the right, a title that reads, "Dividing America".
In the article are statements such as these:
"Senseless acts like what we've tragically witnessed this week in Charleston have unfortunately become touchstones to divide us, thanks to quick politicization of the issues."
"The instantaneous politicization of tragic events has become par for the course."
and it ends with this:
"The victims and their families deserve time to grieve, before they become the latest pawns in the liberal attempt to divide Americans over our Constitutional rights."
As PT Barnum said, "Always leave 'em wanting more."

I will tell my students, friends and family members, that I have what could be considered a perverse view of the world.  I admire people who some people might find loathsome.  But I am not admiring the person, per se, but rather, what they've done and how well they've done it.  From Albert Speer, to Joseph Stalin to Silvio Belusconi, I begrudgingly admire certain people for the astonishing things that they have done and said.  In this case, I really have to hand it to whomever penned the article linked to above.  Literally, the bodies are not even in the ground and the Right has figured out a way to blame the incident on Obama.
See, the Right has to shift focus away from the obvious: a deranged white man killed a bunch of people, in this case, black, and that man was clearly a racist.  It is in the best interests of the Right and everything and everyone they represent, to deny that racism exists.  If nobody believes that racism exists, then focus can shift away from hate crimes.  Because if there is no racism, then there can be no hate crimes, and if there is no hate crime, then focus shifts away from guns and onto the person who used the gun.  Or maybe not.
Shortly after the shooting and subsequent arrest of Dylann Roof, Fox News host, Megyn Kelly urged her audience, and all of America, that people like Roof who commit such heinous acts should never be named; it give the murderers what they want she argued-fame and notoriety.  Kelly's pleadings for anonymity was nowhere to be found after the Tsameav brothers killed three people and injured another 264 at the Boston Marathon finish line.  Kelly, and all of Fox News, were at the head of the charge to find out as much as possible about the brothers and their family.  Shortly after Dzhokhar Tsamaev was sentenced to death for his role in the bombing, Kelly Tweeted about it:

Kelly does not want anyone knowing Roof's name because she does not want them looking into his past and discovering that he is an out-and-out racist:

And then, well, cat's out of the bag.
But Kelly wasn't alone in her push to obscure the facts.  KABC 710 AM radio host, Larry Kudlow, staunch conservative and former Reagan Associate Director for Economics and Planning, urged his listeners to stop referring to acts such as Roof's as "hate crimes".  Doing so, he said, was a tool of liberals who, he claims, are trying to divide the country by blowing racism out of proportion.  For Kudlow, much like Nancy Reagan and drugs, if nobody says a thing, then the thing does not exist.
Never an organization to let an opportunity slip by, the NRA was up to bat very quickly, claiming that had the people who had been shot and killed been allowed by the pastor of their church to arm themselves and bring guns into their church, then they would be alive today:

So the NRA pulled a very neat trifecta there:  With one statement, NRA board member, Charles Cotton shifted focus off of the killer, onto the pastor, a black man, and made the issue a pro-gun issue.  Pretty neat.
If you clicked on the first link in this essay which takes you to the Sean Hannity Show, and you click on the embedded You Tube video from Hannity's show on Fox News (the number one cable news program on the number one cable news network, Hannity continuously reminds his viewers), Hannity and his guests cannot deny that racism played a part in the killings, but Hannity spends the entire first half of that segment discussing the possibility that Roof was taking some medication or other.  So, it wasn't that he was a racist or that he used guns, it was the drugs.  In fact, were you to read that article, you might notice, towards the bottom, along with not-so subtly placing the blame for the murders on Obama, the Left and Democrats' "racial politics", the article also dismisses Obama's attempts at stricter gun laws, citing an article from The Las Vegas Guardian Express that, yes, America does lead the world in incidents of gun violence, but "that if one were to exclude figures for Illinois, California, New Jersey and Washington D.C., the homicide rate in the United States would be in line with any other country and – of course – the nation’s capital, along with these three states, have some of the strictest gun laws in the country.”  That's right; just ignore certain aspects of evidence and it's all OK.
Just like if you ignore the fact that Dylann Roof was a racist white man who murdered eight people with a gun, then basically, nothing happened!

June 08, 2014

The Evils of Chowmein

First it was marijuana and the ill effects it had upon non-whites; turning them into wild-eyed, sex starved maniacs.  Now, I'm sure that by now, you're more than well aware of the strange, voodoo power women have while being raped which allows them to just, "shut the whole thing down", but were you aware that rape "does not happen deliberately" and that rape is both "sometimes good, sometimes bad"?  Well, if you can't believe US Republican law makers about a woman's reproductive system, then you should be able to believe a few Indian ministers.  I swear, for every year we go forward, I think we go back a half a year.

March 28, 2014

Mickey Mouse and the Bitter Scrooge of a Priest

There are a lot of legitimate reasons to knock Disney, especially their use of slave labor in less than third world conditions to make all those trinkets on sale for ridiculous amounts, however, one thing I've always applauded them for is their open acceptance of gays, starting with their "Gay Days" and now this:

Mickey and the Priest

So kudos to Disney, but read down and get a load of the mean old priest who keeps the Scouts' money for popcorn sales.  Me things he would have kept the money anyway; the acceptance of gays was simply an easy excuse.

March 26, 2014

The Koch Brothers of the World

In his essay, titled "Why The Democrats' Koch Brothers Fixation?", Frank James posits a question that he never answers.

Why The Democrats' Koch Brothers Fixation?"

After passing on a few, apparently unverified, claims by politicians from both sides (equal time and all), James' summation is that demonizing the Koch brothers is good business for Democrat fund-raising.  James provides nothing but anecdotal evidence for his theory and seems completely ignorant of an idea that is at least as old as the early 1900s when Edward Sapir, and later, one of his students, Benjamin Lee Whorf, first hypothesized that language impacts a society which in turn impacts a society's worldview which in turn, impacts the language of a society.

Many more would expand upon this original idea, more of Whorf's than Sapir's thinking, and none more so than George Orwell and his treatise, "Politics and the English Language", written in 1946.  Rushing through time and pushing aside larger, and minute, detail and fact, the fixation which Democrats seem to have with the Koch brothers might have something to do with what drove George Lakoff to write "Moral Politics"in 1996 after he witnessed the successful Republican campaign to win congressional majority in 1994 with their "Contract With America" (or, as some have labeled it, the "Contract On America").  Late Lakoff would slim down M"Moral Politics" into his Reader's Digestesque primer for Democrats in 2000, "Don't Think Of An Elephant". A friend of mine was working for a Democrat senator at the time and "Elephant" was required reading.

Briefly, Lakoff claims that the Republicans have done a far better job of uniting behind the same message. Writing in the May, 2005 issue of Vanity Fair (here, reprinted on Sentient Times), Robert Kennedy Jr pointed out the meshing of the GOP's ability to get behind ideological messages and the right-wing media.

The Disinformation Society

It was that right wing media, specifically AM talk radio, the top 100 practically owned, lock stock and barrel by right wing political talk shows, which, for years, has hammered away at the meme, "...the George Soroses of the world..." as if there were an army of radical left-wing political funders who are, like some liberal zombie apocalypse (a recent fascination of mine. Zombie apocalypse, not a political zombie apocalypse in particular...) while completely ignoring their own Soroses of the world; people like the Koch brothers.

No less than the savior of undocumented Asian street walkers, Bill Maher, made comment of on his show recently:

Bill Maher, "Dead Man's Party"

It seems that the donkey party might be coming around to a less fractious nature, and one better adroit at towing the line.

So that's why, Frank James, you might be hearing the name of the Koch brothers more these days.

March 23, 2014

The Lock Down of Religious Battles Gets Tighter

Not to be outdone by that upstart religion which is not even 1500 years old, yet insists on bending everyone over and under its knee, the American Religious Right has decided to continue the anteing by continuing their backwards slide from science, while relying upon science more and more every day:

Belief in Evolution Dwindles Amongst American Republicans

While I would not venture to claim that 11% equates to "plunging" numbers, what I think is more telling is the time frame within which this has been happening.  And, perhaps more important; how has this been happening?  In other words; how has the message been sent, and received?