For years, I've been discussing common propaganda techniques used by conservative media to influence audience opinion in ways more reminiscent of brainwashing and indoctrination than informing and reporting. AlterNet's Cynthia Boaz wrote a riveting expose of 14 of these techniques, and every single one is easily recognizable a regular basis on Fox News, in conservative media of all kinds, and particularly within the talking points that surface on all political issues.
These techniques range from panic mongering and scapegoating to confusion and straw men. I want to look specifically at "projection," since it has been particularly present in recent news reports and discussions. Projection is frustrating to viewers trying to follow an argument or debate. Projection is accusing your opponent, or those who hold an opposing view, of using the tactic or strategy that you yourself are actually using.
When it comes to discussions of immigration, this is often seen when anti-racists are accused of having racist (or sometimes "reverse racist") motivations themselves, and as Boaz references in her AlterNet article, when those who argue human activity may be playing a factor in climate change are accused of not having science on their side, while the overwhelming majority of climate scientists around the world believe there's a strong possibility human actions are affecting climate.
I recently analyzed several classic instances of projection on The David Pakman Show. The first came after an appearance by President Obama on daytime talk show The View. The President was asked by one of the hosts whether he expects a close race in November's election. Obama responded, somewhat jokingly, that "when your name is Barack Hussein Obama, it's always close."
Obama's response was "analyzed" on Fox News during their so-called "hard news" hours, which according to Fox are the entire day until 8pm eastern, at which point "opinion" journalism starts with The O'Reilly Factor. Conservative talk radio host Monica Crowley was a guest that day, saying that President Obama's comment was "bigoted" because it accused voters of being bigots by suggesting they would be turned off by Obama's name.
Unfortunately, the facts are with President Obama. Because of bigotry, particularly on the conservative side, it's a detriment to be named Barack Hussein Obama. Poll after poll confirms that a shockingly high number of Americans believe that President Obama is a Muslim, at least to some degree because of his name, and several polls, including exit polls from the Republican primary elections over the last six months, have confirmed that Republican voters are much more likely to vote for candidates who share their religious beliefs than those from another religion, or atheist candidates, and are much less likely to vote for Muslims. A classic example of projection: Crowley indicates that it is Obama's side that is bigoted, while the most cursory review of polling data confirms that the bigotry is on Crowley's own side.
Another example comes from Pastor Curtis Knapp. Knapp joined several anti-gay religious figures to call for the beating or death of gays and lesbians during recent months. These include one pastor suggesting gays and lesbians be isolated in pens with electrified fencing and allowed to "die out," while another pastor suggested parents punch their young sons at the first sign of their being feminine or "limp-wristed."
Knapp said the government should be killing all homosexuals, but "they won't." During a followup interview with CNN, Knapp indicated he stands by his comments, but threw in classic projection: He said that the church punishes pedophilia and polygamy, amongst other "sins" in the Bible, and therefore he believes it is wrong to single out homosexuality, deemed a "sin" in Leviticus, and leave it exempt from punishment.
This is actually an example of projection on two fronts:
- Many churches, including the Catholic Church, actually do not punish pedophilia, but in fact have been involved in cover-ups to hide the pedophilia and child abuse -- again, this is an example of saying the exact opposite of what is true
- Most glaringly, Knapp accuses the group of people who do not want to put to death all homosexuals of cherry-picking a part of the Bible to not enforce as is convenient for their personal views. This is the exact strategy employed by individuals who use the Bible to attack gay rights, but reversed. They cherry-pick one line from Leviticus while completely ignoring all other areas of Leviticus that don't fit their social agenda, including the sin of eating shellfish, which appears in Leviticus in the same way as homosexuality, and of course more shockingly, the Bible-endorsed practice of putting to death non-virgins on their wedding day.
Be aware of projection, and check out all of the other common conservative media methods in Cynthia Boaz's AlterNet article.
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program, "The David Pakman Show," writes a monthly column. He can be reached at http://www.davidpakman.com.