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May 5, 2009

On Propaganda and the Future of American Society
By George Scoville


The nation was plagued by civil unrest, a discomfort propelled by a weakened economy and the policy failures of the incumbent government. Unemployment levels soared to record heights. The standard of living could not plummet quickly enough to match income disparities between the working class and the elite. Labor unions across all sectors of industry went on strike, thus increasing the cost of importing goods.


Leftists thought their representatives in the legislature had not done enough to divvy up the national pie. Right-wingers blamed the nation’s ills on the rise of an intangible, unidentifiable threat. The prevention of harm from this threat required an authoritarian institutional structure – a vast expansion of government power. Some thought the nation’s involvement in foreign wars had been foolish; the ends, they argued, had not justified the means.


The nation owed money all over the world. It became increasingly difficult to encourage foreign investment. Many feared that, at any moment, foreign creditors would come to collect – what would the government do then? The treasury was printing currency so quickly that the value of currency was in a free-falling tailspin.


A charismatic young leader emerged, gifted in oratory, community organizing, and promotion, who outlined his plan for a revival of society in a book – a book that reached thousands among the nation’s population. The young man had substance abuse issues in his youth, but he was loyal to his party and garnered support from his colleagues. As his popularity increased, he became emboldened on the campaign trail and began blaming all the nation’s ills on an entire cross-section of society.


The tired masses united under a common banner – an easily-recognizable symbol that stood for change, reorganization, and revival. It was not long before the average citizen saw the symbol everywhere he went. The viral nature of the grassroots movement inspired by the young man – in conjunction with a very-well-coordinated ground game – helped him gain inroads into regions which his minority out-party had struggled to attain.


Does any of this sound familiar? It should. The nation was the Weimar Republic; the time was the early twentieth century; the unpopular war was World War I; the people blamed for the world’s ills were German Jews; the symbol was the swastika; the book outlining reform plans was Mein Kampf; the young charismatic leader was Adolf Hitler.

No, not a drop of blood was shed while Barack Obama made his ascent to the highest office in the free world. No, Barack Obama is not a Nazi. No, America is nowhere close to suffering what early 20th century Germany suffered during the days of the Weimar Republic. But does the comparison infuriate you? Make you feel nauseated? I have deliberately oversimplified the past to demonstrate a media phenomenon that ought to give pause to any thinking American.

The Arianna Huffingtons and Markos Moulitsases of the world (founders of The Huffington Post and The DailyKos, respectively) served as primary message dissemination points for the Obama campaign, and continue to be the leading culprits in a propaganda-laden drive to smear anyone right-of-center. MSNBC‘s Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are now candidly marching in lock-step with the President’s partisan drum-banging. Their brash, innuendo-filled characterization of conservative protestors as “teabaggers” is repulsive. CNN‘s Susan Rosen boldly berated (on camera) an ordinary citizen attending the Tax Day Tea Party in Chicago.

Blaming conservatives and the Republican Party for the nation’s ills – when there are equally culpable liberals and Democrats – is as reprehensible as it was for Hitler to blame the world’s ills on German Jews.

Media bias exists on both sides of the ideological spectrum; to defend FOX News‘s claim to be “fair and balanced” would not only be fruitless – it would be hypocritical. What I fear is a Congress and a president – with an army of willing lapdog journalist accomplices – who obfuscate the truth about American politics and who insulate themselves from criticism of any kind.

I listened patiently on November 4, 2008 as President Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech. “I know that there are many of you out there who did not vote for me,” he said. “I promise to be your president too.” It was a small concession – but even I gave the man the benefit of the doubt. Call me “cautiously optimistic.”

Some of Obama’s hopeful campaign rhetoric was intoxicatingly idealistic. But any critiques of President Obama offered by the Right are met with allegations that we are selfish, xenophobic, hegemonic racists. The federal government has deemed us threats to national security. None of these characterizations could be further from the truth.

Yes, we should be worried. From the provisions of the GIVE Act to the institutional implications of a Department of Homeland Security memo issued earlier this month suggesting that “radical right-wing extremists” and “domestic terrorists” would overtake the nation-wide Tax Day Tea Party protest, I fear for myself as a conservative and for my unborn children. I fear for those of you who have bought in to this runaway Democratic train just because you don’t like war, Wall Street, or W.

I am not your scapegoat.

Adolf Hitler once quipped, “How fortunate for those in power that people do not think.” For Mr. Obama, this is fortunate indeed. Please heed this call, Mr. President: do not repeat the same mistakes that America – or any other nation – has made.

George Scoville is a senior Philosophy and Political Science double major. He will attend American University’s School of Public Affairs in pursuit of a Master of Public Policy beginning this fall.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    May 11, 2009 3:01 PM

    I am puzzled by your statement that the DHS’s memo about “domestic terrorism” makes you fearful for yourself as a conservative. First, it implies that the public links conservatism with violent militias. That suggests to me that you have not made much of an effort to understand people who disagree with you. No one thinks that the Republican party supports domestic terrorism, much like conservatives do not link Al Qaeda with liberalism. There are obviously a few exceptions in both cases, but they are an irrelevant minority.

    Secondly, I can’t find anything in the DHS memo about the Tea Party movement. I can’t even find anything about taxes. So I’m curious about the connection you make between the predicted rise of right-wing extremism and this movement.

    Thirdly, the memo was prepared by the DHS in coordination with the FBI. How quickly do you think those two institutions changed their employees to produce what you consider to be biased, flimsy, and politically-motivated predictions?

    Finally, you state that people will be infuriated by your invocation of Godwin’s corollary, but that is not the offensive part of your article. The offensive part of the article is the use of quotation marks around “domestic terrorism”. I have not forgotten the lessons of 9/11 so I do not put quotation marks around “Islamic extremism”. I have also not forgotten the lessons of Oklahoma City so I do not put quotation marks around “domestic terrorism”.

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