Contrary to popular belief, the conservative movement in the United States has never really been coherent. In fact, it has usually resembled a circular firing squad. There have always been factions that have had different ideas on how life should be, and they will fight for those ideas to the death. There are the small government, and Judeo-Christian values all rolled into one people. There are the socially conservative (read, religious), but Democrat at heart sorts. There are those who believe more in national and self-defense than they do in transparent banking laws. There are those that recognize the economic realities of lopsided trade and finance laws are bankrupting the people. There are those, we are finding out, who consider a constitutional conservative to be someone who is sure purple hearts are handed out to people who may not have been on a field of combat when hurt, but will overlook obvious secret society gestures and activity in the same person because he says what they want to hear. (This one also can’t think on his feet, and that’s a problem that none of his fans grasp. He’s a memorizer, not an extemporaneous speaker, and he hides behind women, too.)
Due to circumstances at this time in history, the people who believe that any one of these ideals is “conservatism” are backing the Republican Party more out of necessity for survival than anything else. And the sad thing, the party leadership itself has yet another set of ideas of what “conservatism” is. Too bad it really doesn’t conserve much of what made America great to begin with.
As the race for the presidential nomination for the Republican Party barrels on, American conservatives have all more or less been divided. The cynic in any interested observer who is familiar with three specific texts written in the 1920’s regarding propaganda and influencing public opinion (they are listed at the bottom of this post), as well as the basic principles of persuasive communication, can see quite clearly that the division may well be deliberate. This would most likely be achieved either by policy on an editorial review board at any one news outlet coordinating with others, or by following the money to find the same people backing certain candidates financing specific messaging. (One person doing the financing is Robert Mercer. He’s Ted Cruz’s hedge fund guy.)
Basically, we are all influenced by what we read, what we see in the way of moving pictures (television and videos), and when the same thing is said over and over on talk radio. Whatever the meme, it doesn’t have to be true. Concepts cement in the human brain, such as Donald Trump incites violence by his supporters, a meme that was debunked by a first-hand testimonial that was posted by a citizen on a public social media platform.
This is what has been happening to American conservatives this election season as the various news outlets of all varieties have lined up either for or against a specific, single candidate strictly based on the reality that the person in question really is a political outsider, and does not reflect the demeanor those people think should be presented to reflect the office of president. (He’s also been called ignorant in the base sense of the word, never mind that this specific candidate knows the laws that the others have foisted on the people from the side of having to live under them, and made billions despite them.) What is most interesting about it is not simply the speed at which the outlets aligned after the field was whittled down, but which ones fell in line behind the “constitutional conservative”: those that have been around long enough to flash badges of conservative authenticity. (There’s quite a bit of incestuousness among them, but that’s a subject for another post.)
No one outlet of news or opinion is required to present information objectively, nor are they obligated to report every rumor or account of, say, voter fraud. However, the shouting down of what should be seen as opportunities for good, investigative reporting is…not good journalistic integrity. In 2016, we’ve seen a lot of that. We’ve also seen the typical media meat grindering of candidates’ words, and turning them into sound bites that do not bear resemblance to the full statement, thus misrepresenting what a candidate has to say. That practice is not new, but a candidate calling them on it is, and when the candidate did so, he was characterized as a “whiner” by the side backing the other main candidate who refuses to book interviews, and then complains that the other guy gets all the air time.
And all the while, “conservatives” are still lined up behind one side or the other, and using media outlets that back their guy as confirmation of their opinion.
This morning, a colleague who is solidly behind one of the two candidates, announced that he was no longer watching Fox News because they are in the tank for the guy he despises. (There’s actually a civil war going on behind the scenes there, but that’s neither here nor there.) Well, to be honest, since this guy is a Cubs fan, we’ll give him a break, and explain why he thinks this is the case using a sports analogy. See, this writer is a member of Cardinal Nation. Any time our beloved Redbirds are broadcast on national networks, we hear every little criticism as the national guys being in the tank for the other team, especially in the post-season, since our team is so successful. Cubs fans wouldn’t know anything about this or that it’s part of the deal, but really, on Fox, that’s essentially what he’s hearing depending on the talking head.
More or less, on the political “right” in the United States, we are being divided for some reason. We’ve been pitted “constitutional conservative and reflects my values” vs. “we want a wall to help prevent illegal immigration and we’re tired of seeing our jobs shipped overseas.” The truth is that when it comes down to it, Americans want all of that, at least on the conservative side, and we recognize that the entrenched forces in Washington don’t care which is why an outsider to that system is attractive this year.
It’s been said that the movement that scared the daylights out of the establishment was not the social issues conservatism since social issues do not win or lose elections, but the TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY one that produced a massive march on Washington in September of 2010. Because there was a significant amount of overlap in the issues each movement wanted to see changed, the two sides melded for a while. We are being split apart again. It is a strategy of war older than time: divide and conquer. As we on the American political right throw down ultimatums of never this guy or never that guy, don’t forget that. If the establishment succeeds in 2016 of quashing conservatism in all its forms coming from the hearts of the people, it may well be the end of the movement itself.
The texts about propaganda and public influence referenced above are:
Public Opinion (1921) by Walter Lippmann (one of the founders of the Council on Foreign Relations)
Propaganda (1928) by Edward Bernays (Sigmund Freud’s nephew. This book was used by Joseph Goebbels in crafting Nazi propaganda.)
Crystalizing Public Opinion (1929) by Bernays (this is the public relations classic handbook)
And then there was The Engineering of Public Consent from 1955. Too bad these guys were marxist leftists.