Straw Men And Scarecrows
April 18, 2001
by Maren L. Hickton
a friend about this article
With information zipping along in real-time, you would think that those
appointed to provide information to the American public would provide
complete information that is correct and unambiguous. But unfortunately,
when it comes from the bully pulpit of the White House these days, or
the press pulpit of Ari Fleischer, that is hardly the case. The glaring
disinformation tactics are not an accident but a strategy. One thing,
though, that we all have to keep in mind is that the unforgiven Bush team
have proven to be masters in the area of lack of intelligence from the
Add to that some maligned journalists who, rather than reporting the
facts, choose to use rhetorical tricks to make insinuations look like
facts with Yo-Bush biases. It would be easier if the GOP press corps d'elite
simply lied. At least false information can be refuted by comparing it
to verified correct information. The liar's club would then have to eat
the egg on their face as a trade for the yellow journalism they tried
to feed us.
Reading the "news" has recently become an exercise in complete exasperation.
You have to read article after article to find some consensus for the
real truth. Survey groups like Gallup should begin to take polls: "Rate
this Article on a Believability Scale of 1-10." Until we get everyone
on the same page (which will likely never happen despite all the fluff
about "bringing honor and integrity back to the White House"), following
are some of the tips to identify insidious disinformation artists on both
sides of the podium:
1. Regardless of what you know is fact, do not discuss it (such as all
the problems in Florida's voting). If it's not reported, people will assume
it didn't happen. That way you don't have to deal with any fallout.
2. Avoid discussing key issues (such as Bush's Tax Plan) and instead
focus on side issues (Clinton's pardons, White House furniture, office
space, and other lame issues, ad nauseum), using others as pawns to voice
criticism with the intent of distracting, especially if this sacrosanct
person or issue is getting more positive attention than you are. Make
sure you remain neutral, peppering all press appearances with "We are
not handling that."
3. Continue to build a force of rumormongers to continually disseminate
distorted information. When the rumors surface about those you oppose,
allow others that you designate to go into purposeful lengthy detail (supplied
by your rumor-mill) during a gazillion interviews and in limitless press
articles (Senator Lott, et al.). This should include derogatory remarks
and intriguing, suggestive questions -- mutually exclusive of the truth,
as you simultaneously say, "We can't comment on that," to dissociate yourself
from any flack. If it is a fact against you, say, "That is absolutely
false. Did you read that on the Internet?" and then laugh.
4. Construct a straw man. Create an element in your opponents' argument
to make them look bad by either selecting the weakest part of the argument
or making up an issue you can safely imply. Amplify their errors, real
and fabricated, which will effectively debunk all of your opponents' charges,
while at the same time avoiding a discussion of the real issues (isn't
this how Bush ran his election campaign?).
5. Sidetrack adversaries using attack with the messenger name-calling
and ridicule. Call them "socialists," "tree-huggers," "feminazis," "lefty's,"
and so forth to scare them away and make them feel small. They will spend
so much time cowering and defending themselves that you will not have
to discuss their real issues at all. If they turn the tables on you with
labeling, ignore them completely and continue with your disinformation
strategy pretending that you care about particular groups that supported
you (Faith-based Initiative Program).
6. Deliver a carefully constructed position statement and refuse to take
questions (especially if you are in front of a group like the AFL/CIO),
or fail to show with apologies due to a "conflict in scheduling." If you
take questions, carefully select questions from those you know support
your platform (like the guy in the back row from the Conservative Chronicle).
Ignore all questions that are not "on message" by making jokes or using
other forms of rhetoric such as twisting the question to a conclusion
not intended. Never respond to follow-ups in this situation, which would
dignify the original question as having merit.
7. Create the illusion of authority by surrounding yourself with "experts."
Deploy these experts in an all-out-assault aimed to achieve your agenda,
providing these specialists with the ammo of your general prospectus and
insist they deliver the entire concealed package with the required minutia
of detail and jargon necessary that you lack yourself to fool the public.
Make sure that you tell them to give you full credit and to use your name
frequently in their sales pitch as you, of course, are the one who came
up with everything. If anyone questions your agenda or motives, particularly
if they think your motives do not serve the greater good, direct your
staff to simply say it ain't so without discussing it, demonstrating why,
and/or providing references for review. If they misstep, blast them to
kingdom come and call them disloyal.
8. Play dumb and dumber. No matter what logical evidence is provided
to support a dissenting opinion regarding your agenda (countless examples
-- you can fill in the blank), deny that it has any credibility, makes
any sense, provides any proof, contains or makes a point, or supports
any conclusion. Be sure to orchestrate these together for maximum effect.
Charge the opponent with what he purports to be a new issue as "old news,"
altering his/her facts accordingly, thereby dismissing the matter entirely
as simply being a "rehash," invalidating any need for further discussion.
This works really well when you can reel-in one of your allies, one who
has been remotely involved in a similar matter to support your position
in making your dissenter look like a complete fool.
Sound familiar? Hang tough. Only 45 months to go.
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