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The Danger of Distractions

August 3, 2010

The other day, President Obama appeared on The View[i], with Barbara Walters and the rest of the ladies.  I was at a friend’s home with a few other people and we stopped to watch.  The show seems to be a popular destination with politicians; I guess that is in recognition of the greater importance politicians place on the female vote and the need to speak to that audience.  Do not get me wrong, I think that is a good thing; they should appear on Sesame Street if that is what it takes to reach the voting public.

As is normal while watching shows with a major elected official, we started talking about current political events when another friend made a comment along the line of “he’s not even a U.S. citizen.”  I bit my tongue.  She said it again but this time adds that he was also Muslim.  Again, I bit my tongue, as these arguments are really beating a dead horse.  After the third comment about his citizenship, I could not take it anymore and had to speak up.  She simply looked shocked that I would dare accept his citizenship as fact and not the stupidity of her argument.

It seems not even God could satisfy the individuals that still push this issue.  People making comments like “why won’t he show the birth certificate?  Not a copy but his REAL birth certificate.”  In the first place, no one has his or her official birth certificate of record; the state maintains it.  The state provides citizens a certified copy, which is what President Obama has provided repeatedly.  Secondly, the actual document of record has been examine and reported as authentic by President Bush’s Justice Department (Republican leadership), the government of the State of Hawaii (a Republican), the director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, and not least of all, state and federal courts.  At some point, the issue becomes a question of what is the real motive of people that will not accept it as true.

Partly, people are misguided; citizens that follow the conservative attack-dogs are fed a constant diet of this crap, it is at least understandable how they are misled.  What about the motives of political organizations and the news media that promotes this issue?  What possible reason is there to keep this issue and others just as stupid, alive?  The answer to both questions is simple; they follow the principles of The Big Lie Theory[ii].

I have written about it before in response to Reverend Pat Robertson, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh but it is a tactic the Tea Party movement and the GOP also employ.  Here is how it works, find an item of controversy, and use the media to:

  1. Never allow the public to cool off
  2. Disseminate the lie as widely and quickly as possible
  3. Always be vague and use innuendo
  4. Never admit a fault
  5. Never concede that there may be some good in your target
  6. Never leave room for alternative possibilities
  7. Never accept blame for anything and concentrate that blame on your enemy and blame him for everything that goes wrong

The theory assumes people will readily believe a big lie because as it is easier to accept smaller ones as lies.  The boldness of the statement gives it an air of truth and if repeated frequently enough people will eventually believe it.  This is exactly the tactic employed in President Obama’s birth certificate issue.  It should be noted that Adolph Hitler put forward the theory in his book Mein Kampf [iii] and Joseph Goebbels, his Reich Minister of Propaganda, used it during the Nazi horrors leading up to World War II.  Just to be clear, I am accusing Fox News, the Tea Party movement, and the conservative right-wing of the GOP of using the same propaganda tactics as Nazi Germany.

We face real issues that need addressing.  The time spent on useless pursuits, such as chasing President Obama’s birth certificate, only take away our ability to deal with important issues.  The organizations behind such distractions hope to keep citizens confused and disengaged.  There goal is to keep our focus from the important issues.  Their hope is to undermine the ability of the Democratic Party to make progress at all costs.  This propaganda goes hand in hand with the Republican obstructionism going on in Congress.

Unfortunately, for the average citizen, they will bear the costs for this action.  There is much to question about how the current administration is governing, but by employing obstructionist tactics along with propaganda, we hardly noticed the GOP blocked a bill to take care of the health needs of first responders from the terrorist attacks on 9/11[iv].

We need to focus on that and push aside the thunderous distractions that surround us.  The question for each of us is whether we allow ourselves to be taken in by charlatans selling snake oil or walk past them to important issues of the day.  Only by taking the latter option will we begin to restore the nation to a healthy political discourse.


[i] “Featured | President Obama: “Don’t Bet Against American Workers”” The View.  Web.  03 Aug. 2010.  <http://theview.abc.go.com/blog/president-obama-dont-bet-against-american-workers>.

[ii] Joseph Goebbels, 12 January 1941.  Die Zeit ohne Beispiel.  Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP.  1941, pp. 364-369

[iii] Hitler, Adolph.  “Mein Kampf.”  Project Gutenberg Australia.  Trans. James Murphy.  Sept. 2002.  Web.  03 Aug. 2010.  <http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200601.txt>

[iv] Condon, Stephanie.  “Anthony Weiner Erupts at Republicans for Rejecting 9/11 Responders Health Bill – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.”  Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News.  30 June 2010.  Web.  03 Aug. 2010.  <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20012217-503544.html>.

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