What Happened In Kansas and the Country?
I wrote this almost a year ago, when I thought we might have a chance of pulling off an improved political climate. Then the Trolls Elected Donald Trump. I was going to add links and mostly leave it alone. But now I realize I can't just do that.
We progressives should be happy right now. We are mostly united and we should be united.
Last year I was saying:
"We should be beating Donald Trump hands down right now. This election should be a certain thing. Yet many of my friends, and former friends, are spreading garbage arguments, with the hash tag #NeverHillary. They are spreading stories about how Hillary "committed election fraud, is corrupt, took bribes when she worked at the State Department, is a War-Monger, etc..." Most of these myths are exaggerations, misinformation or outright lies. Yet they get wide currency. It makes me ask the question?
What is the matter with the Progressive Movement?"
The author Thomas Frank wrote a book in 2004 called "What's the Matter with Kansas" that talked about how the Conservatives won Kansas, and Kept it. In that book he also noted:
"how Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, was elected governor in conservative Kansas. By emphasizing issues such as health care and school funding and avoiding hot-button social issues,"
He notes that by doing that,
"Sebelius successfully fractured the Kansas GOP and won a clear majority."
That had been the goal of the Obama Coalition -- to win back labor and defeat the Conservative Coalition by breaking it's use of fear and conservative "values" (racism, rigid dogma and other prejudice) to indoctrinate people against their own economic interests. The Goal was to isolate those conservatives who used those methods by focusing on economics. He, both Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party used lessons of what worked in politics, such as what Katherine Sebelius did and sought to apply them to the party's messaging. We done well with minorities and women, then the Empire Struck back.
How the GOP used myths about the Progressive Movement to Build their own Movement
Well I found out that what really happened was that the Right Wing fought back against our strategy with an even more effective one of targeted advertising, psychological warfare and disinformation. Much of it aimed at convincing us that, as I thought in 2016:
"The problem is that our self reinforcing myths are becoming as dour and programmed as those of the Hard Right.
Black Propaganda seeks to undermine from within
Yes our own self reinforcing myths and internal petty disputes were being used against us. But we were being conditioned to be dour and programmed by trolls, bots and turncoats.
No the problem was that we weren't hip to what was going on. We were still fighting the "last war" and assuming that mass media and legwork could overcome mass media propaganda and trolling. We assumed wrong. Where Democrats did get out the vote, go door to door, and similar they made some progress. But the GOP was able to target all of us. They used bots and trolls to suppress the vote through negative propaganda (black propaganda) and turn people to Trump using positive propaganda.
What's the Matter with Kansas
The GOP took over Kansas at least 15 years ago. Thomas Frank wrote a book called "What's the Matter with Kansas" explaining what happened. He went on to write The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. (2008), which explains how the Conservative movement became marketed as a backlash against progressives:
- "The backlash…is a crusade in which one's material interests are suspended in favor of vague cultural grievances that are all-important and yet incapable of ever being assuaged."
- "While earlier forms of conservatism emphasized fiscal sobriety, the backlash mobilizes voters with explosive social issues...which is then married to pro-business economics."
- "To [conservative] backlash writers, the operations of business are simply not a legitimate subject of social criticism. In the backlash mind, business is natural; it is normal; it is beyond politics."
- "Backlash culture abounds with tall tales of liberals out of control, with hippies spitting on [Vietnam War] veterans, with Jane Fonda narking on POWs to their Vietnamese captors..."
- "Whereas liberals are thought to erupt self-righteously whenever they feel like it, conservatives believe that they themselves are never permitted to say what they really think."
- "The backlash is a theory of how the political world works, but it also provides a ready-made identity in which the glamour of authenticity, combined with the narcissism of victimhood is available to almost anyone."
- "To be a populist conservative is to be a fatalist...where the liberal stranglehold on life can never be broken. This is a curious set of beliefs for a coalition that quite literally rules American politics."
- "Ignoring one's economic self-interest may seem a suicidal move to you and me, but viewed in a different way it is an act of noble self-denial, a sacrifice to a holier cause."
- "...the great goal of the backlash is to nurture a cultural class war."
- — Thomas Frank from What's the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004)
- "The big government that [conservatives] rail against is, by and large, their government. For a political faction to represent itself as a rebellion against a government for which it is itself responsible for may strike you as a supremely cynical maneuver."
- — Thomas Frank from The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. (2008)
Well it turns out these themes work really well with 4chan disaffected dark-web types. And these folks, with their sophistication about the internet, widespread programming and hacking savvy, make great shock troops for an army of bots and trolls. It also turns out that during the intervening years the backlash movement found ready allies in the former Soviet Union, where many folks feel dispossessed and yet are computer savvy. These people, working with some very sophisticated but narcissistic and ruthless IT geniuses were able to weaponize trolling using some very systematic use of Personal Data and Directed propaganda.
The American Taliban basically took over large swaths of Anonymous and thoroughly corrupted their thinking.
Psy-ops and Dark Propaganda
The kewl thing is that it was all win/win for both Trolls and Troll-Masters. Posing as and/or using progressives against themselves, they could spread "dank memes" and spread slander quality gossip about democratic leaders and activists alike. And those leaders, thinking politics itself was still the same game, had no way to be prepared for the level of character assassination they'd soon face.
Even Kewler, oligarchs and other unscrupulous operators can use the personal peccadilloes of their opponents, and targets to destroy serious opposition while harnessing disaffection and targeting it against scapegoats. An old game, but with new tools. That game has gotten even more serious since the election.
- Black Propaganda:
- Black propaganda is false information and material that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. It is typically used to vilify, embarrass, or misrepresent the enemy. ... This type of propaganda is associated with covert psychological operations. [Dictionary]
Black Propaganda Blaming Bill Clinton
One of the methods of black propaganda is to convince its targets to pick up the narrative established by enemies. I believe that is what the Right Wing Did with our left wing. And I believe the Russians were behind that. But I'll get into it more in other posts. This is an old post. And I just want to get it off my draft list.
Circular Firing Squad
Frank made a lot of valid points in his books. But Frank went on, from attacking conservatives to blaming US democrats for all this in that book and his follow on book:
"Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?"
It is hard to tell the difference between the circular firing squad of the left and black propaganda from our corporate opponents. His writings only reinforced the criticisms he made of the Party in 2004. They identified what the conservatives were doing but didn't really offer a means to fight back.
His new book informed many of the Berners. It portrayed the Democratic party as too elite and having deserted working people. He wrote that despite demonstrating that the conservative movement effectively brainwashed most blue collar people to vote AGAINST their economic issues.
The reality is that when
"The Democratic Leadership Council, the organization that produced such figures as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and Terry McAuliffe,"
"the party to forget blue-collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues,"
It never happened that way.
That narrative is false. Dems responded to white-collar voters, because:
- labor's power was shrinking and labor wasn't listening to labor leaders or Democrats anyway.
- The Democratic party went to affluent white-collar professionals (like I was) because we weren't against the issues important to labor, but we also were for minority rights, women's rights and the environment. I've also been a blue collar worker. I couldn't organize a Union due to the success of black propaganda against Unionism.
- The Democrats have always been a coalition of people with a variety of priorities working to accomplish greater good through unity and concerted collaborative effort.
Thus the whole argument was a strawman for attacking coalition politics and dividing the Democrats. Which is why I think it was instigated by Black Propaganda actors.
Blaming the Victims
Frank already knew that when it came to the conservative movement's tropes, people weren't even listening to "liberals" and instead demonizing them.
It's a "which came first, chicken or egg" situation.
Labor got bewitched by the social issue propaganda of the Right, and the Democratic party lost a major component of it's coalition. Some of our leaders went where the money was. But that always happens. No, the left was being mislead deliberately every bit as much as labor was.
The proof is that every time "progressive politicians" try to recruit white working people they wind up endorsing or compromising with misogyny, racism or dogmatic notions such as abortion abolition. The coalition needs to stick to its principles, all of them.
Long Term Propaganda
I believe the "blame [Bill] Clinton" movement was a long term "black propaganda effort aimed at the Democratic Party, with leaders like the Clintons as proxie targets. And it started before Bill Clinton ever got Elected.
Never Forgive, Never Move on!
What has happened is that Thomas Frank, like many older "liberals" went on not only to blame the 90s Democratic party but to generalize that blame into a narrative about modern politics and a criticism of liberalism. They confused the neo-liberal effort to penetrate the Democratic party, and democrats efforts to work with neo-liberal bad actors, with labeling the Democrats as Neoliberal. I believe that both the neo-liberal movement and the far left were using bad actors to encourage division. Either Fanatics or folks egged on by handlers from abroad. That wouldn't be a new thing. Eventually most of the real neo-liberals joined forces with former communists, who've now morphed into fascists.
It should be About what is good for the People
Economic Progressives (far left that is) couldn't admit that the socialism versus capitalism meme breaks down in practice. The issues must be about what helps common folks, and neither top town dictator capitalism nor top down dictator socialism, work locally or for rank and file. Folks want to tell other folks what to think. That only leads to fascism. And once one has monopoly in the hands of a few, no matter what ideology is professed the methods fall into the same authoritarian, dishonest patterns. Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, talked diametrically opposed games but practiced oppression nearly the same.
The Trouble with the Neo-liberal Narrative
I talk about this elsewhere, but the trouble with the the neoliberal narrative is that most core democrats were never neo-liberals in the first place. Our real neo-liberals were the Reagan followers, who included "Reagan Democrats", but never the party as a whole. Clinton was pushing a moderate progressive approach. The Democrats have always moved that way. Most of FDR's term of office he was a moderate. He sounded radical only late in his life, and in contrast to his right wing opponents.
Easier to Get Opponents to Beat themselves
The neo-liberal narrative also allowed pundits and lefties to ignore the actual party plank, and the need to convince people to support their plans. It is easier to hate and blame than convince and build coalitions. Black Propaganda is based on using psychology. It is easier to get an opponent to beat him or herself.
Lying in Theory
Sources and Further Readings
- Further Reading
- Bill Moyers interviews Thomas Frank
- What's the Matter With Kansas
- Website/Theatrical Trailor
- Buy the book at Amazon What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America
- Slate 2008 Inteview: [http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/interrogation/2016/05/thomas_frank_on_the_failures_of_liberalism.html]
Hannah Arendt and Totalitarianism
- Trump's GOP Totalitarian Movement and Totalitarian Propaganda
- Hannah Arendt Trump and the Stateless
- The Dictator in Front of the Mob
- Hannah Arendt on Donald Trump's Mob
- Our Democratic Movement is not Totalitarian
- The Power of Doublespeak
- Being a Little Less Naive about Politics
- Authoritarians and Totalitarians, Altemeyer & Arendt
- EMAD Trump
- Subsidiarity and Fascism