The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine Would Make the Nazis Proud
Right around the time of President Obama's ceremonial nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, I was both following the conservative blogs and casually reading Robert Herzstein's 1978 work on Nazi propaganda (enhanced) techniques -- The War that Hitler Won: The Most Infamous Propaganda Campaign in History -- and for the briefest moment I had to remind myself which was which: that is, that Herzstein's work was an analysis of national socialism's "messaging," and not movement conservatism's.
The precise moment was this encounter with a wartime diary entry by Joseph Goebbels, Central Europe's Frank Luntz of the mid-20th century: "Propaganda must ... always be essentially simple and repetitious. In the long run only he will achieve basic results in influencing public opinion who is able to reduce problems to the simplest terms and who has the courage to keep forever repeating them in this simplified form despite the objections of the intellectuals."
Right. But that was then and this is now? Not quite. Because that is still now (although the "basic results" of real influence are suffering). And my historically refreshed return to the blogs confirmed just that. Their simplicity and repetition -- the simplicity of their repetition as well as repetition of simplicity -- were right there before me, courageously if not cheerfully goosestepping as essential knockoffs of Goebbels' prototypical slop.
At Hot Air I learned that "Karl Rove says that Sotomayor could be even more liberal than Souter." Yet the blogger was rather dispirited, since "Republicans have ... focused on the executive-branch appointments of Dawn Johnsen and Harold Koh, two radical activists, during this period. That public campaign may have made Sotomayor look less radical and activist in comparison."
Not to Wendy Long, however, at Judicial Confirmation Network, who was frantically sounding the superlative alarm: "Judge Sotomayor is a liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written." Indeed, the judge "is far more of a liberal activist than even the current liberal activist Supreme Court."
At Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds was channeling and zenning the issue through the Volokh Conspiracy: "My general sense is that she is very liberal"; Power Line reported that "Sotomayor's nomination is being hailed as a victory for the far left" -- a "Che Guevara in Robes"; and National Review Online's Bench Memos wrote that Obama "picked a nominee whom he can count on to indulge her own liberal biases."
Michelle Malkin merely dusted off her earlier seethings: "Judge Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court would be very concerning given her hard-left record"; while Human Events' Connie Hair brought it all home with 1812 church bells and cannon fire: Sotomayor is among "the most radical liberal activist judges he could have nominated."
Nowhere in this labeling frenzy was there any analysis of Sotomayor's legal decisions -- other, of course, than that as a wise Latina woman the judge naturally detests white male firefighters; just a dulling, deafening repetition of reductionist simplicity -- liberal, liberal, leftist, leftist, radical-radical activist. Joe would have been proud, and I've no doubt that Frank is.
While the American Left has been developmentally deficient in thunderous slogans and bumper-sticker intellectuality, the American Right has excelled at them. Its first modern major success was "liberal media," an efficient assault on two political birds with one deceptive stone. And with that success, the right then saw what it took as the unlimited possibilities of make-believe language.
For instance Congressional Dems have yet -- after 60 years -- to stitch together a comprehensible national healthcare plan, yet Luntz is already framing what doesn't but in some millenium might exist as a remedial "crisis." In the coming months you'll hear that refrain -- like "radical-liberal-activist," above -- with a pounding regularity.
Will it work? Will they work? The odds now favor at least modest conservative success in healthcare, but less because of intangible language than the hard fact that Democrats are as IV-hooked to insurance and pharmaceutical cash as Republicans. But, as Obama well knew when he pondered this Supreme Court nomination, Sotomayor's confirmation is all but assured, since after the last election the GOP learned how to read demographics.
Because of that Senate Republicans -- with the predictable exception of their James Inhofes -- will be content to let the blogs go wild in the profitable servicing of their laughably paranoid base, and little more. In the real world the "liberal" tag has simply worn itself out.
It seems, Herren Goebbels and Luntz, there is a limit to simplicity and repetition.