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A Lie Spreads Halfway Around the World …

… before the truth can even get its pants on. I have mixed feelings about the parody ad copy someone is circulating and is being taken as real Brady Campaign copy. I won’t help to spread it or promote it by showing it here, but I’ll probably surprise some people by saying under the right circumstances, something similar to this could be an extremely effective tactic. Maybe because it was obvious to me when I first saw it that it was parody, I actually don’t think such a tactic is necessarily damaging to the cause.

Nonetheless, even as parodies go pretty outrageous rather than something that tickles the funny bone. There’s enough grain of truth to it that makes people wonder if maybe it is real, and it plays on a lot of our beliefs about the other side. Comments made during the debate over gun control in Colorado only make it seem more likely it’s real. Think about the factors:

  • It’s outrageous, so it spreads.
  • Even for people who recognize it’s parody, it turns the issue around and makes people think about it from our point of view.
  • For people who don’t get its parody, it engages them with the issue. They may find it’s false, but then why did they believe it?
  • The media can debunk it, but by doing that they just draw attention to our own message.

I’m not saying this is great, and  there ought to be more of this. Because we’re currently doing well in the debate, I think the straight and narrow is the best path forward; we just don’t need to use deception to win. I’m concerned, though, that we think about tactics in terms of their effectiveness, and not be too concerned about whether a tactic is fair to the other side. That we took the ethical high ground will be of little comfort when the knock comes at the door.

We’re faced with opponents who have no qualms at all about using deception to advance their cause. I think we need to be committed to winning above most other considerations. I agree with Miguel that we don’t need to be using tactics like this in the current environment, but I’ll take a dirty win over a clean loss.

7 Responses to “A Lie Spreads Halfway Around the World …”

  1. Andy B. says:

    “I actually don’t think such a tactic is necessarily damaging to the cause.”

    I would have to think hard about that. There are some tactics that are appropriate in the short run (e.g., to address some immediate threat or emergency) but are not such good ideas for the long term. I think anything deceptive falls in the latter category, because it will almost always result in an overall loss of one’s faction’s credibility, and, depending on how “unfair” or flagrant it seems to the opposition, result in the setting of some people’s heels. Those could be the wrong people to alienate.

    In the broad family of politically motivated hoaxes, that one is fairly well done technically, but the broader concept is hardly original. An exercise I have done, though not in a long time, is to use Google Advanced Search to find every “urban legend” about the ACLU, at any of the “urban legend” websites. There are lots of them, and it is unusual to find any of those discrediting ACLU stories or rumors that are true. Since it is apparent where the people generating them are coming from, the effect for many people (including me) is simply to cause rejection as probable falsehoods anything those “movements” ever says about the ACLU. So in the long term all the propaganda hoaxes accomplish is the brief amusement of those already predisposed to agree, while completely losing the ear of those who aren’t.

  2. divemedic says:

    I think using falsehood is an effective tactic. Just ask Sara Palin about the Tina Fey quote: “I can see Russia from my house.”

    What Palin actually said was “You can see Russia from Alaska.”

    Which one got more play? That quote is the reason many think to this day that Palin is an idiot.

    • mike says:

      “That quote is the reason many think to this day that Palin is an idiot.”

      To be fair, it also helps that she’s an idiot.

      • alanstorm says:

        And your justification for that statement is…?

        And the applicability to this thread is…?

    • Andy B. says:

      Here is what Palin actually said, and the context in which she said it.

      I don’t think the SNL example is one of lying, so much as using Saul Alinsky’s “Rule for Radicals” about the application of ridicule — which of course is SNL’s job.

      I didn’t remember, but thought perhaps Palin herself was trying to make a joke when she said what she did. But the context shows she very clearly was stating what she did as a serious argument, and that is what opened her up for ridicule. That she never actually said “You can see Russia from my porch” was not really relevant, so much as implying that being able to “see Russia from Alaska” imbued her with some insights into foreign affairs.

    • beatbox says:

      Oh wait, you are serious?

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