Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Victimization propaganda, strengths and weaknesses

Victimization propaganda is a form of propaganda about as typical to the Left as what I would call "moral propaganda" is to the Right. Recently a conservative blogger criticized this apparent attempt by Michael J. Fox:
Michael J. Fox

Leading to this analysis mixed with irony:
First, given the ridiculous protocols of our day, I feel it’s necessary to establish the fact that my victim bona fides compare favorably to Fox’s. For those of you new to the site, I have Cystic Fibrosis. CF is a genetic disease, so I’ve had it all my life. It is no exaggeration to say that while Fox was gamboling around the set of Family Ties in the mid-1980’s, I was fighting for my life. Since then, my health has ranged from shockingly good for a CF patient to rather precarious.

I say this not to elicit anyone’s sympathy. Quite the contrary, I have willingly entered the rough and tumble of politics via the blogosphere expecting no quarter. Nor have I offered any. If I have a code, that’s it.

Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, often operate as if guided by the exact opposite principle. They think a person’s victim status means that he must necessarily be treated with kid gloves.
...I’m here to tell you that you’re not a hero just because you get sick or have bad luck. You’re not even special. Before we get off this planet, we’ll all have serious illness or serious bad luck, likely both. Sorry to say, the world isn’t full of 6 billion heroes.
(Absolute Moral Authority Revisited, by Dean Barnett)

The strength of victimization propaganda is that it tends to silence opposition, sometimes leaving only blowhards and bigots to speak, which then reinforces the Big Bully image that the propagandist is trying to associate with his opposition. Its weakness is that it doesn't necessarily create actual agreement and therefore political victory in the privacy of a voting booth, only public silence. For example, Dean Barnett notes in this instance:
Fox’s plea is presumably supposed to preempt any debate on that matter. His presence seems to defy any political antagonists to defend a fetus and deny him hope.

It doesn’t work that way, or at least it shouldn’t. Michael J. Fox has no particular monopoly on morality. Quite the contrary, his past admission that he appeared before a Senate subcommittee without having used his medication suggests an unbecoming moral flexibility. This is brutally manipulative behavior, and I’ve seen many ill people use similar means to get what they want. Such conduct is contemptible.

Here’s the part that Michael J. Fox and his abettors in the Democratic Party don’t get. A presence like Fox’s or Cleland’s can end arguments, but they don’t win them. People may be reluctant to disagree with them publicly because of the pity factor that Fox and Cleland so assiduously court, but just because people who disagree with them are cowed into silence doesn’t mean they rest in agreement.*

When all was said and done, Max Cleland lost his reelection campaign in 2002. That’s a fact the 2006 Democratic Party would do well to remember.
--Dean Barnett

The same could be noted of gay activists and their use of victimization propaganda, it's either a slow process or it is not actually working. For instance, some gay activists have lamented the fact that polls will show one thing and yet when people are in the privacy of a voting booth they vote the opposite. And despite the judiciary they have not actually succeeded in convincing people to change the definition of marriage in general. Note how victimization propaganda is structured:
The appearance of an argument can often aid an emotional appeal for other reasons. [...] Where the target of an emotional appeal is aware of the attempt at manipulation, he will tend to resist it; where he is distracted from the true nature of the appeal by a 'cover argument,' the emotional effect, paradoxically, will be all the greater. Thus, an argument can function as a distractor.
Our remarks apply primarily to the (intellectually) lower 90% or so of the general population, whose beliefs more or less never alter their emotions. This is largely true of the upper 10%, as well, but, fortunately, not entirely. The highly intelligent sometimes display the capacity, although less often the inclination, to step outside themselves and analyze their feelings, and the causes of their feelings, dispassionately, and this sometimes modulates the feelings themselves.
(After the Ball by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen :138)

As Hitler noted:
The function of propaganda does not lie in the scientific training of the individual, but in calling the masses' attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision.

All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in propaganda for sticking out a war, the aim is to influence a whole people, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be extended in this direction.

The more modest its intellectual ballast, the more exclusively it takes into consideration the emotions of the masses, the more effective it will be.
The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses. The fact that our bright boys do not understand this merely shows how mentally lazy and conceited they are.
Mein Kampf

Ironically, Hitler is now sometimes used as a negative image for the negative emotional conditioning often used by those who tend to agree with proto-Nazi forms of pseudo-science based on a worldview rooted in scientism. In each case an abuse of science and a rejection of its limited scope is taking place. So disagreement with the Nazis was portrayed as a rejection of science (1), although the advance of Nazism and Nazi propaganda was not based on science. Disagreement with gay activists used to be portrayed as disagreement with science (2), yet the propaganda methods that they tend to use are not based on science, as Kirk and Madsen note. Disagreement over the use of embryonic stem-cells and opposition is also portrayed as a rejection of science, yet the propaganda typical to the proponents of using embryos to try to cure disease does not focus on empirical or scientific facts.

1. Example:
The Christian churches build on the ignorance of people and are anxious so far as possible to preserve this ignorance in as large a part of the populance as possible; only in this way can the Christian churches retain their power. In contrast, national socialism rests on scientific foundations.
(The German Churches Under
Hitler: Backround, Struggle, and Epilogue
by Ernst Helmreich
(Detriot: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1979) :303) (Related post)

2. Example:
[Gay activists] can undermine the moral authority of homohating churches over less fervent adherents by portraying such institutions as antiquated backwaters, badly out of step with the times and the latest findings of psychology. Against the atavistic tug of Old Time Religion one must set the mightier pull of Science and Public Opinion... Such an 'unholy' alliance has already worked well in America against churches, on such topics as divorce and abortion.
(Kirk and Madsen :129)

No comments: