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Bachmann, Bach
From an acorn, a mighty oak did fall

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
June 19, 2009

One of the Lying Socialist Weasels, Milt, weighed in on a discussion we were having about the latest burst of idiocy from Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann is a Congresswoman from Minnesota who is definitely in the camp of the paranoid conspiracy whacks who believe in black helicopters and that Janet Reno deliberately torched the Branch Davidian compound and think Obama is secretly a Moslem born in Kenya. Bachmann's most recent escape from reality involves the US Census, that venerable event mandated by the Constitution to provide a count of the people in America in order to allocate a correct number of House of Representative seats to each state.

She doesn't trust the Census. Not one bit. It isn't just the usual black helicopter state of mind in which the Census is gathering personal information to be used by the Dark Illuminati and then sold to the Zionists. She bases this on the belief that the Census could result in her being approached by a member, or members, of that dread terrorist organization, ACORN.

ACORN is a harmless “get out the vote” group that has been a favorite bogeyman of the GOP for several years now. ACORN sent people out to register voters, and discovered that some of the people they sent out to register voters at $10 a head were making easy money sitting at home and ginning up fake voter registration forms. ACORN spotted some of the ringers, which featured newly registered voters with names like “Donald Duck” or “I. P. Knightly” and flagged them so the Registrar of Voters in each county would scrutinize them. ACORN, like all such groups, is required by law to turn in all voter registration forms they gather, and faces huge penalties if they don't. Given the potential for real mischief that can result if a voter registration gathering outfit simply throws voter registration forms in the trash (as has happened here in California, although not with ACORN), it's a good, sensible law. So ACORN turned in the forms, with notes attached saying something like, “Oi, I think this 'Spongebob Squarepants' character isn't a real eligible voter.” The GOP decided that the mere ACT of obeying the law and turning in the forms, flagged or not, amounted to a criminal conspiracy to conduct voter registration fraud. They even found a DA to gin up a phony case out west.

The GOP, anxious to deflect criticism of balloting irregularities in places such as Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Tennessee, tried to turn this into a deliberate effort by ACORN to commit voter registration fraud. That this was the best they could come up with is either a testament to Democratic honesty or reflects GOP laziness and incompetence. I doubt the Dems are THAT honest, and the GOP is the party that has spent years working to convince the public that Clinton's blow job was far worse than a faked-up /casus belli/ with Iraq, or that al Qaida is a bigger threat to the US than Nazi Germany ever was. Why work hard to find something true when it's so much simpler to just lie your head off?

So Bachmann, who leaves loose screws rolling on the ground wherever she goes, decided that participating in the census and risking having her form processed by ACORN was worth the $5,000 fine and widespread derision that deliberately refusing to participate in the census would cost her.

The general sense among the Weasels, not surprisingly, was that Bachmann was a lunatic and her appeal limited to morons. It probably won't come as any big shock to my readers to learn that this pretty much summed up my view on the incident, as well.

Milt begged to differ. He said, “the GOP tell ghost stories to their constituents....Truth is waaay beside the point.” He went on to say, “A good story is a powerful thing. Good stories ripen into mythology, and mythology is unbeatable. The GOP has created theirs and it all still works. Democrats haven't even started talking yet. We think their stories are transparently stupid. Michelle and Anne [Ann Coulter, I think] and Newt and Rush know the stories are real enough to these people, and that is all that matters. The story-tellers don't believe their stories are true -- but they know their listeners are afraid they are true. That's all that's necessary. To answer Michelle, we have to puncture her story, and that will take some doing. Her story is a page-turner for millions of voters.”

There's a fair bit of truth in that. The GOP are master scary-story tellers, and they have a demographic that takes a shivery delight in adopting such stories and making them their reality. They also were masters of harassing public resentments and turning them into seething rages. They still excel at egging on the pathetic disaffected von Brunns of society into violence. They still pluck the chords of racism and paranoia, and the sneaking suspicion that “they” are responsible for an increasingly hard life, rather than the people who own the GOP and most of the Democratic Party. Milt is wrong about the Democrats not having scary stories of their own; they do, but they aren't as adept at packaging them, and the GOP is good at turning them into parodies of themselves.

Well, if propaganda and the ability to bare-face lie was all it took, Hermann Goebbels and the Germans would have won World War II without firing a shot. The GOP, along with its agents, Faux News and the right wing radio gasbags led by Rush Limbaugh, can count on keeping thirty percent of the voting population frightened, gathering guns and ammo, in a blind rage over the Moslem illegal alien in the White House, and convinced that the US is sliding into socialism. Milt notes that the fables are nuts and “transparently stupid,” but that they are Truth to the trembling millions who cling to them as a kind of diseased gospel.

It's the other seventy percent that determine the effectiveness of the propaganda. At least 30% of the population will never accept it, some blindly rejecting it and others simply put off by it.

And then there's the 40% in the middle, the ones who either don't know enough about the issues or genuinely don't care, who can go either way on a variety of topics. About 10% of the total population are what I call “Olive Oyls”; incapable of making a decision and sticking to it. It's terrifying to realize that in a close election, they are most likely to be the deciding factor, and explains the behavior of political consultants in races that depend on the Olive Oyls. They behave like Popeye and Bluto for the same reasons that Popeye and Bluto did. (And, like Olive Oyl herself, public office often seems like a rather dubious prize).

The remaining 30% are the ones who actually are moderates, and who listen to both sides with a reasonable and healthy skepticism. The inability of Democrats to work up an effective propaganda arm of their own is actually a point in their favor, since it attracts the free thinking types who are tired of being played and bullshitted. I'm not saying Dems would NOT play and bullshit people; I'm just saying that it actually helps that they aren't very good at it.

Poll after poll shows that even if they aren't ready to embrace Democratic policies, the political middle has moved well away from the Republican party.

Despite their independent stance, the political center was vital to the success of the propaganda machine of the right in the nineties. It was those centrists who took the lunatic conspiracy theories of Richard Scaife and Sun Myung Moon and Karl Rove and moved them out into the mainstream, where the media picked them up. They didn't have to believe the fairy tales; they just had to repeat them, and anyone who doesn't think people would repeat stories they don't believe just doesn't know human nature.

But when it's important, people look elsewhere for truth. Faux News invariably leads in the ratings over CNN and the other news channels, often by a substantial margin. (The fact that all of their viewers combined make up about 3% of the population should be noted.) You can see how this works when a major news story—especially one with political implications—breaks. When that happens, the ratings for the other news channels soar. But not Faux News. In fact, their ratings sometimes actually DROP. It seems that even some of their own viewers know that if they want an unbiased look at something important, they need to change channels.

One thing that helps is that the GOP lost most of their credibility and moral authority. People know who started the pointless occupations overseas and wrecked the economy, and many remember the days of peace and prosperity under Clinton. Years of corruption and hypocrisy have finally caught up to the GOP, and their constant spasms of fabricated moral outrage don't work. A recent example was the outrage directed at David Letterman, who made a remark about Sarah Palin's daughter attending Yankee stadium and boffing Alex Rodriquez, apparently unaware that it wasn't Bristol, but her 14-year-old sister who attended that game. Letterman apologized, and of course, they tried to brush aside the apology and continue the outrage (against a dangerous opponent who turned it back on them). Meanwhile, liberals potshotted them, wryly noting that Rush Limbaugh never apologized for his sleazy attack on then-12-year old Chelsea Clinton, calling her “the White House dog.”

The thing with Michelle Bachmann really shows how badly the GOP is doing with their once very-effective propaganda machine. The GOP had been making inroads with the relentless attacks on poor ACORN, because people didn't know the specifics and didn't have any dog in the race. After a while, they would vaguely conclude that there was something disreputable about this ACORN outfit, and that it had...something...to do with the Democrats.

But Bachmann, with her paranoia about the census, put the ACORN controversy out in the realm of the paranoiacs who hate and fear the census, and what had been crafted “concern” about ACORN was transmuted in one fell swoop to the spittle-flecked ravings of meth cookers deep in the piney woods of Minnesota. Most people realize that Bachmann is a crackpot, and her ravings about ACORN and the census just took that tool and put it out with the von Brunns and Timothy McVeigh.

The GOP have lost the ability to tell a good ghost story, and instead are letting crackpots and paranoids speak for them. It might work on the thirty percent who think Ann Coulter is the next Steven King, but it doesn't work on anyone else, not even the Olive Oyls.

And with that sort of plot line, not even Hermann Goebbels can win a war.

Posted: June 26, 2009

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