I have no faith that the media will let the public know just how many
proud Americans are opposed to this war. The Bulk of our media is
controlled by Rupert Murdoch (AOL, Time, Life, New York Post, People,
Fox, CNN, WB) The first thing GWB did when he went into office was
appoint Michael Powell (Colin's Son) to the head of the FCC. Michael
allowed Rupert and Company to have control of two NYC television
stations (This previously was illegal.)
GWB get's far more favorable coverage from our media than Silvio
Berlusconi receives from the Italian media (most of which he owns.) One
need not go far to see how skewed our reporting is. I was in Canada
last week and it is like being in a different world.
With Kissinger and Poindexter GWB has brought together a "dream team" of
war criminals and terrorists. How can Kissinger chase after the 9-11
terrorists when he is wanted in countries in Europe for war crime
It seems that only Oprah is the voice of reason in prime time TV. Maybe
she can do a story on the many veterans and other patriots who are
opposed to this war.
It is somewhat Ironic that they are making the cmparison of GWB and a
"Strict Father" It seems that all the Bush kid's are out of control.
Are so many American's so naeve that they can't see the trillions in oil
profits for Bush/Cheney cronies.
Frederick Hartray, hartray@...
From: Carol Moseley-Braun [mailto:cmb@...
Sent: Saturday, November 30, 2002 12:10 PM
Subject: RE: [NoIraqWar] Grappling With the Politics of Fear
Thank you for sending this message. Of all the chatter re the war
floating around, this should be required reading. If we believe that
the American people will do the right thing if given a choice, then we
should be inspired to create alternative messages and images that will
combat the administrations' propaganda. I hope some of the media mavens
will get together to help bring together the policy wonks and the
advertising types to craft the "25 words or less" alternatives. It is
the key to staving off fascism and world war....
From: dsm580 [mailto:dan.mccoy@...
Sent: Wednesday, November 27, 2002 2:49 PM
Subject: [NoIraqWar] Grappling With the Politics of Fear
Grappling With the Politics of Fear
Don Hazen, AlterNet
November 25, 2002
Viewed on November 27, 2002
There's an ongoing debate among media experts, peace
advocates and funders about what media messages and
symbols could galvanize popular opinion against the seemingly
imminent Bush Administration invasion of Iraq.
A number of ads from peace advocates have recently appeared
in the New York Times and in other newspapers, with more in
the pipeline. Each of the ads makes a somewhat different
argument for why Americans should be resisting the will of the
Bush administration to take over Iraq and try Saddam for war
Yet, it is increasingly apparent that the climate of fear promoted
by the Bush Administration in the wake of a series of national
traumas is having wide effect. It seems clear that the politics of
fear and safety has been underestimated by progressives and
pundits. This political message likely had more impact on the
Democratic losses and Republican gains in the recent elections
than the widespread sense that the Democrats had no
According to George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley University cognitive
scientist and author of "Moral Politics," the anxiety-provoking anti-
terrorism actions and messages of fear of the Bush
administration fall into the category of the "strict father" mode of
Lakoff concludes that the country is dramatically split between
two ways of understanding the world. Some see this division as
political -- conservative vs. liberal. But Lakoff argues that it is
ultimately a moral division, one derived from how people
envision the right kind of family. Hence it is also a personal
Lakoff believes that the "strict father" mode is at the bedrock of
conservative ideology. This morality "assigns highest priority to
such things as moral strength ... respect for and obedience to
authority [and] the setting and following of strict guidelines of
behavioral norms." Nurturant parent morality, by contrast,
"requires empathy for others and the helping of those who need
help. To help others, one must take care of oneself and nurture
social ties." This morality provides the basis for progressive/ liberal
Clearly, in this post-Clinton period, where a fundamental
assumption is that the world is a dangerous place, and people
must be protected, the strict-father worldview is in ascendance.
And the conservatives know it, and they know how to use it.
As Lakoff underscores, "Over the past thirty years conservatives
have poured billions of dollars into their think tanks. They have
articulated the system of moral and family values that unifies
conservatives; they have created appropriate language for their
vision; they have disseminated it throughout the media; and they
have developed a coherent political program to fit their values."
Lakoff argues that this infrastructure of ideas and values is the
essential reason "for the success that conservatives have been
enjoying, despite the fact that they appear to be the minority."
Messages In a Bottle
The successful appeal of strict-father morality in the face of
national trauma has fundamental implications for thinking about
what messages will appeal to a broad cross-section of
It is a wake-up call when one grasps the significance of the
conservative success in controlling the central narratives in U.S.
politics since Bush was elected in 2000. If fear is uppermost in
people's minds, progressive advertisements with very specific
anti-war messages about foreign oil dependence or about war's
effect on the economy or social spending may fall on deaf ears.
Herb Chao Gunther, head of the Public Media Center in San
Francisco, thinks people have been "slapped silly by the dizzying
effects of larger-than-life issues, especially 9/11."
As he puts it, "They don't feel confident in making complex
decisions. They have a tendency to look for the 'tough cop on the
beat' to take care of them ... It is difficult getting mindshare when
fear, panic and withdrawal are on people's minds."
Certainly a good case can be made that many Americans --
including voters on Election Day -- feel overwhelmed, shell- shocked and
mystified by a recent past featuring a stolen
Presidential election, unprecedented corporate scandals, a
crumbling Catholic church, the devastating attacks of 9/11, the
sniper attacks in Washington D.C., and the ongoing war on
terror, with raids, arrests and constant leaks from the FBI about
alleged security vulnerabilities dominating the media.
In the face of this tumultuous two years, several advocacy ads
have tested potential messages. Business Leaders for
Sensible Priorities, led by former ice cream mogul Ben Cohen,
proclaimed in a recent full-page NY Times ad, "They' re Selling
War, We're Not Buying."
The ad plays on the theme of the Bushies shamelessly
marketing war even though "war will wreck our economy" (and
breed terrorism and discredit America in the world's eyes). This
ad received a positive response from some readers who in
response to a coupon, sent in more than enough money to pay
for the ad.
Another message appeals to environmental sustainability by
advocating an end to our dependence on foreign oil. A third, still
on the drawing board, raises the alarm over shrinking social
services as resources are invested in taking over Iraq.
Another ad in the works, signed by dozens of religious leaders,
is from Religious Leaders for Sensible Priorities (chaired by
former Congressman Bob Edgar, head of the National Council
of Churches). Under the headline, "Jesus Changed Your Heart.
Let Him Change Your Mind," the ad "beseeches President Bush
to turn back from the brink of war in Iraq."
Underlying most of the ads is an appeal to cooperative values of
multilateralism: working with our allies and the UN. This
message has had a lot of traction given that a majority of the
population, while pro-war, hasn't wanted us to move forward
without the support of the UN.
The most controversial of the current crop of ads communicates
the fear of future terrorism that might result from an invasion of
Iraq. It features Osama bin Laden dressed as Uncle Sam with
the caption, "I Want You (To Invade Iraq)."
The obvious implication is that the invasion will play into al- Qaeda's
hands, making it easy for bin Laden to recruit terrorists
and provide payback. This ad, produced by Fenton
Communications for TomPaine.com, has appeared in the NY
Times, Rolling Stone and a number of local papers, as donors
have stepped forward to get it reprinted in other venues.
This "blowback" message also carries the notion that we have to
win without war by working with the UN and emphasizes that
occupation is costly. The Osama ad has attracted a great deal of
buzz, been passed around the Internet and provided lots of
fodder for mega-mouth pundits like MSNBC's Chris Matthews
and Fox's O'Reilly.
But whom do these ads reach? One possibility is that none of
them are breaking through to anyone but the most sophisticated
liberals and progressives, some of whom will join the
organizations that are publishing the ads. Yet the larger pool of
undecideds or supporters of the war perhaps remain unswayed.
There is a big difference between ads and messages that
appeal to and energize the anti-war base, trying to build outrage
among the already committed, and those messages designed
to appeal to larger audiences. One message (e.g., the Osama
ad) may work for the progressive audience but may not work for
the larger group that turns to the strict father for a sense of
Bush's War Machine
No one would argue against the importance of engaging the
anti-war base, raising money and stimulating more involvement
from concerned citizens. But we shouldn't have the illusion that
the messages in these ads are likely to be effective with large
numbers of people. And, with majorities in favor of invading Iraq
under various circumstances, the ongoing challenge is to
change people's minds about the war and move the undecideds
into the anti-war camp.
Of course, one huge challenge to affecting public opinion on the
war issue is a staggering lack of resources on the pro-peace
side. The Bush war machine, with the general cooperation of the
corporate media, buttresses the pro-war debate every waking
hour with its continuing emphasis on the permanent war on
terror. Seemingly effortlessly, the administration shifted the pro- war
frame from Osama to Saddam, bringing us to the brink of
war, and, at least for now, risking no political damage.
The Bush communication capacity would be worth billions of
dollars in the commercial marketplace. Peace advocates, by
contrast, have spent less than $200,000 for paid ads, and anti- war
advocates, even those in Congress, get very little free media
coverage. On top of that, there has been no research on what
anti-war messages might resonate with the public and very little
coordination to reinforce messages.
But insufficient resources are only part of the problem, because
liberals and progressives do have resources. Lakoff argues that
not only are liberal think tanks outfunded by conservatives, they
are also "organized in a self-defeating manner."
As he explains, "Most groups work issue by issue and have to
constantly pursue funding." He also claims that the funding
priorities of liberal foundations are self-defeating in a similar
way. Their funding tends "to be program-oriented (issue by
issue) and ... short term with no guarantee of refunding.
Moreover," he adds, the foundations, "tend not to give money for
career development or infrastructure ... and tend not to support
their intellectuals ... doing just the opposite of what they should
be doing if they are to counter conservatives' success. "
So if resources are lacking, people are shell-shocked and
fearful, and the strict-father appeal is having powerful success,
what should progressives be thinking in terms of
The fear factor is often overlooked by progressives, who
frequently make appeals to logic on the assumption that if
people know all the facts they will act accordingly. But at this
moment in history, facts and analysis must be accompanied by
a vision that addresses safety needs and that goes beyond
common sense and trying to scare people not to act. Too many
people read arguments against action, such as those against
the war, as arguments for passivity. Aggressive action in the face
of terrorism (real or imagined) plays well.
Clearly intellectual arguments may not be at their most potent at
this juncture. Many perceive us to be living in a dangerous time.
Even though there has been no domestic terrorism in the 13
months since 9/11, terrorism still dominates the corporate news
virtually every day.
James Carroll, writing in the Boston Globe on Nov. 19, notes that
"many pleasant conversations often give way to worry. That we
are a people prepared to go to war against an unpredictable
adversary in an inflamed region adds to our unease. Meanwhile
Al Qaeda has taken on dimensions of a mythic enemy,"
particularly with the authenticated resurfacing of Osama bin
Carrol adds, "Under cover of escalating citizen anxiety, the
administration is masterfully reshaping domestic and foreign
policy both -- according to pre-set ideological dispositions."
Chao Gunther adds, "People are being pummeled into
alienation. With a national injury people are hurt and the politics
of fear is being practiced. This is what happened in Europe in
the 1930s. This is the kind of an environment where the guys in
the brown shirts start showing up. The Democrats haven't been
able to strike a moral opposition. No one is heroic, no one is
saying 'Open your eyes.'"
Chao Gunther suggests: "We need to meet people where they
are at and make a patriotic appeal -- urging people to start
asking questions, to look around them and see what is
happening, be skeptical, to exercise their patriotic duty to ask
questions. We need to be telling them it is not a time to be
hiding, to be sleeping."
Balancing Safety with Justice
In the absence of the heroic, minimally there seems a clear
need for a consistent message, one that balances people's
desire for safety with the hopes for a fair and just society, values
that are clearly in the background at this point for many people.
At some point, fear turns into anger. Right now, though, that
anger seems entirely directed against Saddam or bin Laden, not
against the Administration's lies and manipulations. The trick is
in turning the tide. As senior SEIU union organizer Jane
McAlevey notes, "Every time we organize a new union chapter,
fear is a big factor -- people's jobs are being threatened. But fear
can be overcome, we do it all the time and win."
Transcending fear and redirecting anger requires a host of
ingredients that need developing -- both for Democrats and for
progressive advocates. Messages focusing on the theme that
we are not alone, that many millions share our values, are
important. Investment in independent infrastructure to
communicate support in the absence of progressive values in
the corporate press is necessary. Public events, where
speakers can echo consistent messages, as well as house
meetings, videos, viral marketing and online chats are all more
"do it yourself" methods, but potentially potent means of
But just as important is the need for moral certainty and moral
forcefulness from our side; we don't need clever or ironic
messages at this time.
Adds Chao Gunther: "We are a powerful country because of our
beliefs, our values; not our weapons or ability to bomb people
back to the stone age. We need to speak with courage and
conviction. Not enough of us are saying that Bush is wrong, and
speaking with forcefulness about why."
At the same time we need to think bigger -- much, much bigger -
- and for the long term, since it may be years before a
combination of Democrats and progressives will succeed in
dislodging the conservatives.
As Lakoff emphasizes, "The conservatives want to impose their
world view on the country -- permanently. This isn't just about
taxes, or social programs, or prescription drugs, or the Iraq war.
It is an attempt to take over the American mind and to impose
strict father values on every aspect of our lives -- in thousands of
ways, great and small." He adds, "If progressives do not even
see the scope of the danger, then we are in trouble."
Don Hazen is executive director of AlterNet.
Reproduction of material from any AlterNet.org pages without
written permission is strictly prohibited. C 2002 Independent
Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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