Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Any stick to beat a dog

Yesterday's post was about Pando, the Thiel-funded cyber-publication obsessed with attacking Glenn Greenwald and all known associates (including and especially Ed Snowden). That piece forces us to consider the larger question of propaganda. How can you tell the difference between the paid propagandist and someone who simply has a view which differs from your own?

One key "tell," methinks, is the "any stick to beat a dog" attitude.

The propagandist does not care much for consistency. Any attack which denigrates the target may be used, even when that attack conflicts with something the propagandist may have said earlier. This Pando piece offers a superb example of what I'm talking about. Take a look at the illustration...

The message is easy enough to grasp. We are being told that Greenwald is a filter: Big secrets go in, small secrets come out.

Everyone knows that Greenwald has access to more secret documents (thanks to Ed Snowden) than have appeared in print so far. Pando wants us to be suspicious: What is he hiding and why is he hiding it? Why doesn't he just dump all of those secret documents on us in one huge go? Is Glenn Greenwald really working for...

(cue thunder and discordant horns)

...for THEM?

Pando's been sounding that theme for a while. But on this occasion, the very same Pando article approvingly links to this anti-Greenwald, anti-Snowden piece published in the Christian Science Monitor.

The CSM piece accuses Greenwald of being the new Joe McCarthy. It's a bizarre accusation: Although the old Tailgunner was a man of many sins, nobody ever accused him of revealing secret documents. I think we're supposed to call Greenwald "the new McCarthy" because he attacks his attackers. GOP rabble-rousers often take umbrage when a target mounts a defense: "How DARE you punch back when I punch you? You...you fiend!"

The piece then goes on to say that Ed Snowden is a bad guy because his revelations are making it more difficult for the NSA to combat the Chinese, the filthy Russkies, and "Mexican drug cartels."

That's right. Remember this presentation on how to use the internet as a psy-war tool? Now we're supposed to believe that those techniques were directed not against you and me but against "Mexican drug cartels."

Right. Pull the other one.

In order to underline the "any stick to beat a dog" approach, let's make our comparison (a little bit) visual. Here are a couple of tweets from the guy who wrote that Christian Science Monitor attack on Snowden.

See the problem? If you still don't get it, glance rapidly between these tweets and the cartoon above. Notice the contradiction?

Some of you may still need me to spell it all out. (I live in a working class suburb of Baltimore. I am used to being around people who need things spelled out for them.) Very well.

My friends, you can attack Greenwald and Snowden in one of two ways:

1. You can say that they are revealing too many secrets in a scattershot fashion. You can say that G and S are making it harder for our intelligence services to do their fine work against commies and cartels and that awful, awful Putin fellow.


2. You can say that Greenwald is not divulging enough secrets. You can accuse Greenwald of hiding the really important stuff. You can imply that G and S must be secretly working for our intelligence services in some fashion. 

You can try one argument or the other. But you can't have it both ways. Attack 1 and Attack 2 contradict each other and cannot be reconciled.

That contradiction will matter to you only if you are the sort of person who likes to think about things logically. Most people don't. The propagandist does not care one whit about logic. The propagandist cares about only one thing: Any stick to beat a dog.

Another example: Instead of "Any stick to beat a dog," Taylor Marsh uses the term "the kitchen sink theory of political attacks." She uses the phrase to describe the "shoe truthers" who think that Hillary Clinton staged the incident in which a bizarre woman from Arizona tossed a shoe at her. (The shoe thrower was named Allison Ernst and she's facing up to a year in jail.) Marsh:
The more Republicans pound on Hillary Clinton, with their overzealous glee, the easier it will be for people to tune any criticism out. It will just get too predictable, coming off as exactly what it is, doing everything they can to diminish her.
Is this truly the case? Does the Anything Goes approach to propaganda ultimately fail because it desensitizes the audience?

Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe people will think that so much smoke must indicate the presence of a fire.

Marsh recalls 2008 as well as anyone else. At that time, she defended Hillary against the "anything goes" propaganda attacks coming from the Obama forces. And then Marsh turned around and became an Obot -- for a while.
And speaking of dogs, you're filled with doggie doo-doo if you think anti-Snowden, anti-Greenwald thoughts are limited to the rags you're pointing to.

Try these on for size:




thanks for the article.. i am not sure what is going on with pando, other then that anyone paying attention are watching how they clearly discredit themselves over the topic of greenwald and company.
BBC News had an interview with Greenwald on the radio yesterday. He made a big point about the real need for national secrets and his actions to sort through and separate out the true security risks from those items of which the public should be made aware.

Methinks the illustration is not so much a criticism of Greenwald for not deciding to release all or nothing, so much as saying, who is Greenwald to take upon this role of decision maker for himself? This fits better with the standard attacks upon Greenwald and Snowden as being self absorbed narcissists.
So by this token the illustration is saying that Greenwald has gotten too big for his britches. It also casts him as a voyeur riffling through the nation's underwear drawers. He's drawn to look like Lily Tomlin listening in on the public's phone conversations.

Daniel Ellsberg pointed out that having a high security clearance gives the individual access to a world of information of which he'd previously been ignorant, and eventually this leads one to believe that for those without access to this information trove, their opinions are not worthy of consideration. Those who follow an authoritarian bent tend to agree with this and defer to those in charge. These people are outraged that Greenwald the outsider has chosen to take upon himself his current role in the Snowden chronicles.

And the people who write the propaganda eventually come to believe it themselves... every time.

But authoritarians see everything as a zero sum game. They seek domination instead of partnerships. They'll tend to choose war over finding common ground and detente. And roles within the security state naturally attract authoritarians.

So the system itself tends to lead a nation down the road of oppressive dictatorship and war. The founders established a constitutional civilian leadership for this very reason. And it is why Harry Truman publicly regretted permitting the formation of the CIA.

Oh, I do so love it when this humble blog comes to the attention of a group with an agenda. I must keep tweaking the noses of these people!
Taylor Marsh folded, but what made it so annoying was she would not admit she was folding, she became a concern troll rather than simply admit that she had folded.

Groups like Move on dot org, people like Taylor Marsh, until they publicly apologize to Hillary Clinton for prematurely forcing democrats to accept Barack Obama before all the votes had been counted in all states, have virtually no sway with me.
2. You can say that Greenwald is not divulging enough secrets. You can accuse Greenwald of hiding the really important stuff. You can imply that G and S must be secretly working for our intelligence services in some fashion."

I'm in this camp. Pablum from Intercept since Ebay held sway. It's a nothingburger with nothin on it.

" And it is why Harry Truman publicly regretted permitting the formation of the CIA."

Where was that? Truman signed the death warrant with the National Security Act of 1947.
Are you thinking of Eisenhower?

Yes, any stick to beat a dog alright. I was a fan of Lord Greenwald from the very beginning. I trusted him. I took up for him against the naysayers.

But guess what. Time passes and things change and people sell out and do bullshit stuff.

I can tell from your snarky attitude about the whole thing that you're not the change I want to be...or something. These things others, that you dismiss, bring up are legitimate concerns and I wouldn't mind The Lord Greenwald addressing them as such. Same goes for you.

Without the god-damned snark, of course.

Oops! Did I say that out loud?
I no longer trust the Lord Greenwald, or you for that matter.

Isn't that what it comes down to? Why yes. Yes it is.
Can't please everyone, tsi. Start your own blog and you'll see that you can't pay that much attention to individual critics.

Limit CIA Role To Intelligence by Harry Truman, December 22, 1963, Washington Post

Note the date.

tsisageya, I don't have to agree with Cannon to trust him. No blogger is right 100% of the time and you have to take what you can from each of them (though some are wrong 100% of the time). In any case, I'm undecided where Greenwald is concerned. I'm not impressed with anything the Intercept has done yet, as big revelations were promised. But I just might be a bit too cynical at this point.
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