In Defense of Facts

Here is a list of propaganda tactics to keep in mind while interpreting the news and debates. If you are offered shots of “alternative reality” you might as well have a chaser.

1. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem.

Instead of debating an idea, this is a cheap shot to undermine someone’s credibility, motive, intelligence, character, or sanity. The attack serves to target entire categories of people, “hippies,” “elitists,” “communists,” etc. This leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, is undemocratic. More urgently, it is the first step to dehumanizing individuals who may or may not agree on certain parts of complicated arguments. 

2. Projection/Flipping

This one is especially maddening for a viewer or reader. It involves taking an underhanded tactic and accusing your opponent of doing it first. Remember “whoever smelt it dealt it?” Kind of the same thing. 

3. Rewriting History

This is an attempt to make facts fit a worldview. "The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command… And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth.” - George Orwell, 1984. Why lie about historical facts or objective truths when they can be demonstrated as false? Dogmatic minds may find it easier to reject reality than update a viewpoint. If spoken with authority, a casual viewer may be tempted to question something they knew as fact. At it’s core, this is psychological manipulation. 

4. Scapegoating/Other-ing

Blame the immigrants. Blame the blacks. Blame hysterical women. Blame “hippie” environmentalists. This stalls and skirts real discussion on important issues that each have their own unique depth and nuance. This technique is perniciously pervasive. If you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness.

This is a commonly used frame that implies we all agree on the same belief. Bell Hooks offers this definition in the book The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love: Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence. For example, “show of strength” to describe an act of repression. Violence becomes tantamount to power, patriotism and piety. 

7. Bullying

It frightens those who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence and serves to lambast them into submission or compliance. The bully is then able to interpret the produced anxiety and shame as a “win.” 

8. Confusion

Let it be said: trust your own experience. See: Teen Vogue: Donald Trump is Gaslighting America

“Your opponents would love you to believe that it’s hopeless, that you have no power, that there’s no reason to act, that you can’t win. Hope is a gift you don’t have to surrender, a power you don’t have to throw away.” - Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.