Democratic Underground

Bush Politics: Straw Men And Scarecrows
April 18, 2001
by Maren L. Hickton

Bush Politics: Straw Men and Scarecrows

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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 get go.

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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