Sunday, November 05, 2006

How to Win Enemies and Influence People: Hussein and Coincidences

Republican President Gerald Ford coincidentally pardoned Richard Nixon on a Sunday morning. A report that George W. Bush had a DUI on his record coincidentally surfaced a few days before election 2000. The release of hostages in Iran coincidentally didn’t happen until right after the presidential election of 1980, on Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, when coincidentally arms started flowing into Iran from Israel. Timing is everything, and with all these coincidences, should one be surprised that the verdict on Saddam Hussein was delayed until today, just a couple of days before the major mid-term elections for the U.S. Congress? Mercy, how time and chance happeneth to us all!

The name of the game (of all partisan stripes, though some excel more than others) today is timing and information management. Good timing pushes out all those other pesky issues for candidates’ legislative agendas. Let’s say you have a global agenda and you want to win enemies and still influence your people. How do you do it?

First, flood the news agenda. Have something ready for them all the time so that they don’t have time to come up with something on their own. Wipe out all that other annoying debate about foreign policy, healthcare, education, global warming and so on; quarantine it to low-hit internet sites where writers feel satisfied that they can exercise their rights to free speech, regardless of whether anyone is listening but their friends and a few bored cranks. Keep “discussion” partisan and compartmentalized. That way large numbers of people don’t have to respect debate and rational argument. Political support groups are great for ruling powers.

It doesn’t matter if your administration has deliberately misled the American people and the world and acted so recklessly that it no longer matters whether or not you aimed to mislead. It doesn’t matter how many dead Iraqis and Americans it’s taken—the tyrant Hussein is convicted of crimes against humanity.

If you want to invade Iraq and draw attention away from your Western genre “Dead or Alive” that has backfired after rich terrorist Dr. Evil has outsmarted the most high-tech and expensive (by far) military in the world, start claiming that a one-time tin pot dictator your own cabinet members built up is a threat to world and national security—but do not put the situation in historical context. Claim he has weapons of mass destruction, even though you can’t prove it to other experts the world over. Claim he has long and consistent ties with Al Qaeda. When the UN refuses to give you sanction to invade, do it anyway and have your front-group minions make plenty of false analogies to Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler. The world needs heroes, after all.

When over half of your own citizens show that they do not favor an unconditional invasion but rather want peaceful inspections to continue, you look for ways to avoid giving direct reasons for going to war. You start using PR to construct a drama of allied betrayal, especially by France. Hey, didn’t 3,000 mainly young Americans die in one day trying to liberate France from Nazi occupation? Offer lots of images of irate Americans pouring out French wine and boycotting French cheese. Have your party lackeys fall in line and change the House cafeteria’s treasonous French fries to freedom fries. Don’t worry if over half (the majority) of Americans want inspections to work and have a favorable view of France, in a couple of weeks they’ll support an invasion. When they do, you can claim that they approve of your sound argument for war.

Stay on your message. Don’t answer questions, except those you plant in the audience or have staged as news. Collapse the difference between war and peacetime communication. Control Information. Learn from The Truman Show; learn from Wag the Dog; learn from Primary Colors. Learn from reality TV. Make citizenship no different from consuming cinema and sensationalist TV.

In the thick of your war’s initial combat, start rumors that a heroic female Private has been captured and tortured by Iraqis, and that an equally heroic band of American soldiers has, at great risk and under heavy fire, liberated her. A good drama must have chapters, episodes.

Stage the unanimous support for American liberating soldiers and hatred for Saddam Hussein by mimicking images of the ’89 fall of Berlin. Get some soldiers and equipment to topple a giant statue of Saddam Hussein. Have closely cropped photos of the Iraqis you coaxed into jubilantly pulling it down with the Americans. That way no one will see that the rest of the square is empty and there are not really thousands of jubilant supporters of this tremendously symbolic act.

Once you get your war on, stage breathtaking spectacles of triumph. Try a tailhook landing on an aircraft carrier with a gigantic banner congratulating you for the “Mission Accomplished” and “end of major combat.”

When six months after the end of “major combat” there are more deaths and the country is actually less secure than before you claimed the end of such “major combat,” you ignore the criticisms that your original argument for war was deliberately misleading and/or bad, and you repeat over and over that Hussein was a threat to world peace and that the U.S. and world is safer with him gone. Don’t acknowledge that world opinion (of allies and many Arab nations) has a rising unfavorable view of the U.S. and finds it a threat to world peace. If someone mentions it, call them a liberal nut, or left-wing anti-American. Accuse them of not supporting our troops. Don’t ever acknowledge that a real patriot could question his government, except of course when Democrats are in charge.

Repeat “freedom” ad infinitum in all major public speeches, hoping that millions of people will never ask you exactly what you mean by the word, but that they will simply associate you and your controversial policies with the positive connotation of a glittering generality.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article Jayson. I've forwarded it to some friends.

Steve