Posted by Bruce Pilgrim
Talking to My Cats: 9-25-07
Recently, some of the inestimable wit and wisdom of Baghdad Bob was highlighted in this space. This week, class, we'll get better acquainted with misdirection, which Bob called an art. "Disagree with scientists and other so-called 'experts,'" he said. "What the hell do they know? Say it was an accident, a weather balloon, an earthquake, or swamp gas."
Got a program designed to weaken controls on mercury and nitrogen oxide pollution? Call it the "Clear Skies Initiative."
Hope to justify warrantless wiretaps on American citizens? Call it the "Terrorist Surveillance Program."
Want to open up more Federal lands to logging? Call it the "Healthy Forests Initiative."
Somehow this reminds me of the sign at the entrance to Auschwitz: "Arbeit Macht Frei," which roughly translates as "Work Makes One Free."
A great example of this whole euphemism-as-policy gambit is what used to be known as "global warming," which has recently devolved into "climate change." (Sounds so much better, doesn't it? Change can be good, after all.) Despite a preponderance (one might even say a flood) of scientific evidence, right wingnuts such as Senator Jim Imhofe still insist this is a hoax perpetrated by those evil environmentalists.
Baghdad Bob would applaud such efforts, especially when they trot out the argument that global climate warming is "only a theory," as in, "I have a theory that drivers of Humvees are trying to make up for the fact that they have such tiny penises."
Misdirection was also a guiding principle for Bob Murray of Murray Energy Corporation, during the recent disaster at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah. Another blustering critic of the global warming theory, Murray continued to insist that the mine collapse was caused by an earthquake long after seismologists weighed in to the contrary. Science, schmience, Murray argued. Then he promised to prove the seismologists wrong, and then he didn't, ranting instead about the media and helicopters.
If you don't like, but can't refute, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, attack Al Gore. He drives a big car and sets out two (TWO!) garbage cans at the end of his driveway every week, the stinking hypocrite! This totally negates everything that environazi says.
My favorite example of applied misdirection is the deliciously insipid notion of the Bible-beating set that evolution is only a theory and that creationism, (excuse me, I meant to say Intelligent Design), is an equally valid theory, and that both theories should discussed side-by-side. These moronic designers try to cast doubt on evolution and instead focus the debate on whether we're descended from chimps – or Presbyterians.
Let's just gloss over the fact that scientific theories are supported by verifiable experimental evidence and are therefore predictive, logical, and testable. If the Very Reverend Rationalization says intelligent design is absolute fact, that's good enough for me. Call it "The Flintstones Hypothesis."
We're constantly being directed to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. This verbal sleight of hand is at once a very slimy and very effective technique, obfuscating the truth with a veneer of "rebuttal," and then either changing the subject or finely mincing words, such as what the actual meaning of the word "is" is. (Or even, as they say in sports, it is what it is.)
Misdirection is the favorite defensive stratagem of used car salesmen. When you point out to the guy in the checkered suit that the car in question has no tires or wheels, he smiles and says "You know, you're right. But just look at this interior."
And if your wrongheaded war continues to get worse year after bloody year and criticism is getting louder and more pointed, and you have no credible defense against these arguments, pretend instead to be outraged by these "disgusting attacks on our troops and the integrity of the general."
Support the troops means putting a magnet on your car and never questioning any presidential decision. Doesn't support the troops also mean providing the finest possible medical and psychological care for those wounded in battle? Not so much. We need those funds for bullets, not bandages. Do you disagree? Then, you must hate freedom.
The calculated "outrage" over Moveon.org's recent "Betray Us" ad is the height of misdirection. It's of a piece with the uproar over Dan Rather's piece on George W. Bush phoning in his National Guard service. By diverting attention to the dubious proof, they avoided discussion as to whether the charges were actually true. Besides, didn’t you see how heroic George looks in a flight suit?
Who was it that put up the “Mission Accomplished” banner? Somewhere Baghdad Bob is smiling.
Posted by Bruce Pilgrim
Talking to My Cats: 9-18-07
Recently, some of the inestimable wit and wisdom of Baghdad Bob was highlighted in this space. For the next several weeks, I'll be digging deeper into some of Bob's best practices for the PR industry.
"Denial," Bob said, "is your friend. Americans are unbelievably gullible and they distrust the media. Denial buys you time to come up with a better idea – or implement your exit strategy and get the hell out of Dodge."
One advantage of denial is you can temporarily deflect attention from reality. The faithful will believe you, for awhile. They'll believe almost anything, especially if you throw a big enough scare into them. Declare war on terror, or blame the Jews, or tell them reducing greenhouse gases will hurt the economy. Tell them that whatever happened didn't really happen. Or that it happened a lot differently than they’ve been led to believe.
Denial is certainly the first strategy most perps turn to when they're thrust into the spotlight. It's also one of the five stages of coping with death or tragedy. Even though denial almost never works, we keep trying it. Even though fessing up to the truth is always the better way to go. You admit your mistake, and move on. If you choose to cruise down denial, you'll inevitably be caught out, adding additional charges to the original offense.
Even when we’re guilty of nothing, we still automatically play the denial card. When I was nine years old, playing catch with my dad in the backyard, a gust of wind slammed the back door shut suddenly, shattering the window glass. My dad looked at me and I immediately cried out: "I didn't do it. The wind did it." He laughed so hard he had to sit down.
Why did this seemingly instinctive, yet ludicrous, impulse to deny responsibility become the norm? Should we blame Dr. Benjamin Spock for cajoling parents to pamper all those baby boomers? This incredibly spoiled generation has, in turn, shielded, positively-reinforced, and empowered their own issue to the point that, in two or three generations, sociopaths will be labeled as "unconventionally-abled."
Posted by Bruce Pilgrim
Talking to My Cats: 9-11-07
Remember Baghdad Bob? Last seen on April 8, 2003, Bob (aka Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf) had just issued his latest (and what turned out to be his last) statement about the invasion of Iraq. He said that Americans "are going to surrender or be burned in their tanks. They will surrender. It is they who will surrender."
Bob did not re-appear for the daily press briefing the following day and it was assumed that he had hightailed it out of there on the fast track to obscurity. Not so. Bob has been a very busy boy since then. He's been working as a PR consultant for a lot of high profile accounts, including the White House.
We've been hearing his words on a daily basis for more than four years. White House press secretaries have been relaying Bob's voice verbatim to the press. He feeds them their lines via special implants, an advanced version of the early prototype we saw sticking up under George W. Bush's suit coat during the 2004 debates.
Think about it. Before he joined the White House, would Tony Snow would ever have said something such as this:
"In response of the news of the day, the President was briefed before and after -- before, during and after the bike ride on ongoing developments in London, and continues to be briefed during the day, regardless of where he may be." (June 30, 2007.)
Would Dana Perino have ever come up with something as idiotic as the following all by herself:
"The President realizes that today is the fourth anniversary of the day he gave a speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln. As I said last Thursday in the briefing, that speech has been widely misconstrued, and I encourage people to go back and read it. The President did say we had a long and difficult road ahead of us. We're moving from a dictatorship to democracy." (May 1, 2007)
The White House is not Bob's only client, however. He's been consulting for such PR-challenged outfits as Jet Blue, Whole Foods Market, and most recently, Robert Murray, CEO and President of Murray Energy. Plus, he's been busy editing Wikipedia entries for the likes of Raytheon, Diebold, Dow Chemical, and Union Carbide.
I tracked Bob down recently and he looks really good. He's shaved off his moustache and traded in his Iraqi military uniform for an Armani suit. He refused to be photographed, but he did agree to share some of his favorite strategies and tactics. "I didn't invent them," he said with his signature smile, "But they come in handy when you're fronting for a dictator, covering-up malfeasance, or spinning a story."
1. Denial is your friend. Americans are unbelievably gullible and they distrust the media. Denial buys you time to come up with a better idea – or implement your exit strategy and get the hell out of Dodge.
2. Misdirection is an art. Disagree with scientists and other so-called experts. What the hell do they know? Say it was an accident, a weather balloon, an earthquake, or swamp gas.
3. Blog, you fool, blog! Slam the competition under a fake name, obfuscate, plant rumors and innuendos.
4. Bombast totally rules. Talk loudly, contemptuously, and authoritatively. It intimidates the media and chicks dig it. Don't be afraid to shout out to the world that you are not gay,
5. Re-read 1984. You are the Ministry of Information. Don't be afraid to ignore reality, remodel the truth, or rewrite the past.
6. Attack the media. Make them the story, with all their negativity, and their myopic focus on bad news. Those bastards.
7. Blame politicians in Washington, even if you yourself actually are a politician in Washington. Millions of yahoos in flyover country will buy it.
8. Pretend to be the victim. Here, you've been working your butt off all these years to serve America, and this is how they repay you?
9. Sue 'em! Or at least, threaten to sue. Even if you never actually get around to filing, it makes it look like you are the injured party.
10. Invoke the Almighty. You're merely a humble servant of the deity, a person of faith trying to do his or her best while accepting God's will. He (or she) works in mysterious ways, after all.
11. Develop amnesia.
How, I asked Bob, would you sum up your PR philosophy?
"If all else fails, parse words, back paddle, and split hairs. Discuss the meaning of the word 'is' and say things like 'that statement is inoperative.'"
Posted by Mark Rose
“I am not gay,” this week became an infamous, desperate, failed attempt at political self-preservation akin to “I am not a crook” (Richard Nixon) and “I never had sex with that woman” (Bill Clinton). The moralistic Republicans swiftly and mercilessly eviscerated Idaho Senator Larry Craig, himself a relentless gay basher, as the heathen Democrats silently watched them eat their own with little prompting. Not surprisingly, the Clintons had no comment.
Missing from the Republican Craig-bash was Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, whose family-values baggage is so heavy his children won’t even speak to him, let alone head on the campaign trail. In any case, we are glad to hear that Tucker Carlson, the MSNBC-backed backed right-wing moralist with a sphincter so tight he has to wear a bow tie, claims he smacked a guy who approached him in a public restroom. That Tucker, he’s such a he-man.
I guarantee that the Larry Craig stall in the Minneapolis airport becomes a tourist attraction as big as the Mall of America, or the spot where Mary Richards throws her hat in the air, two of the only reasons to layover in that town. The restroom is in the main airport concourse just across from the food court and near a giant statue of Snoopy and Woodstock in aviator gear. There are nine stalls along the far left wall across from five urinals. The Larry Craig stall is the second from the back. One Web site ranks it as Minnesota's top gay cruising restroom. "This is the best spot for anonymous action I've ever seen," wrote one poster to the site. Another said: "Plenty of dark stall action, too!"
Interest in the stall is so high that we have received word of a short indie movie being filmed on the spot of the fateful toe tap. Titled simply “The Stall,” the word is that the movie involves no words. Instead, two men signal to each other #1 or #2 and proceed to pee, doody, fart, belch, wipe their asses and adjust their belts, pick their noses, inspect their penis’ for signs of abuse, or whatever unattractive things men usually do in public restrooms. The film is due to premiere this fall at the Mark Fuhrman Theatre near Ruby Ridge, Idaho.
A big ‘way to go, man’ to playwright Paul Addis who burned the Burning Man before the Burning Man was supposed to be burned, therefore igniting a flame of discontent among the Burning Man establishment (during the lunar eclipse no less). In his brilliant interview with Wired Addis proves that at the elevated Trickster level PR is art as he both confirms and denies his complicity in the treacherous act. Addis ends his interview by issuing a challenge we all should heed: “Don’t be a passive audience member. Cross the line.” Gonzo artists who support Addis say that the commercialization of Burning Man has led it to become more “Earning Man” and since the Man is getting up in years perhaps he suffered a case of premature ignition. Addis, who admits responsibility for affixing a huge set of cajones to the Man some years back, intends to plead not guilty to all charges.
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