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Armed Liberal's flawed argument

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Whiskey Fire introduces us to Armed Liberal, who tries to argue that for the Pentagon to hire retired military officers to testify on the TeeVee that Bush's war is a-okay and peachy-keen is a necessary step to defeating the Iraqi insurgency (Which apparently includes both the Palestinian Authority and Hezbollah). AL appears to see the other side as engaging in propaganda. Okay, sure, I'll go with that. But as Iraqi insurgents don't have direct access to the American public, and as AL is apparently arguing that they are degrading the fighting spirit of our public, then that of course means that our traditional media is complicit in carrying their message to us. A quick look at any day's worth of output from Media Matters makes the very strong case that the traditional media is very much an Establishment institution, dedicated to bringing us the word of the day as seen from a deeply Republican national power structure.
 
But what I find very disturbing about AL's viewpoint is his apparent belief that it's okay to manipulate American public opinion to support whatever war the Establishment chooses to fight at the moment. According to "Betz," whom AL quotes:

Third, by contrast, we do not focus enough effort on winning and maintaining the hearts and minds of the most critical and accessible population: our own. [emphasis in original]

This of course presumes that the war that the US is fighting is a just one and that the cause is a good one. The Establishment certainly thought Vietnam was a good cause, the American public disagreed. Certainly the Establishment under President Ronald Reagan thought it was a good idea to get involved in Lebanon, at least until the Marine barracks was blown up with nearly 300 Marines inside. They supported President Bill Clinton getting involved in Somalia until the "Black Hawk Down" incident occurred.

See, the problem is that the American public is supposed to act as a brake on leaders who want to get our country involved in unwinnable conflicts. We're supposed to act as a "check" or a "balance" against overeager warmongers. AL doesn't seem to understand that there is something deeply undemocratic about treating our own population as a dumb audience to be manipulated. It's explained in the Whiskey Fire comments section that AL is not a liberal at all, he's a libertarian, which is a different creature altogether.

This problem is compounded by AL's refusal to recognize the distinction between a government PIO (Public Information Officer), who clearly and explicitly speaks on behalf of the government and between a covert spokesperson who is allegedly speaking as an individual. The manipulation that the Marine PIOs engage in in the movie Full Metal Jacket  or that the "Five O'Clock Follies" (Public briefings given in Saigon) engaged in is not a danger to democracy as the public can easily see where the information is coming from and can weigh it and judge it accordingly.

ALs view of the American and Islamic audiences is an interesting one;
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Basically, if you need to target your base and find that it is fractured and lacks purpose, lacks the attention span for in-depth appeal to argument but is exquisitely sensitive to manipulation and possesses an innate mastery of semiotics then you have a problem. And if, moreover, your opponent’s base is unified, has a sense of purpose, a rich oral tradition which lends itself well to story-listening (and telling) and is fairly credulous when it comes to conspiracy theories then you have got a very serious problem.

First off, we've known since very early in the Iraq War that the Iraqi insurgency is made up of many different groups with many divergent viewpoints and strategies. The problem for the US has been that they all agree on ejecting US troops from what is, after all, their country.  Second, this is a very, VERY insulting way to describe the American public! Obviously, someone who describes us as a population that "lacks the attention span for in-depth appeal to argument but is exquisitely sensitive to manipulation and possesses an innate mastery of semiotics" is someone who simply doesn't believe in democracy. Period.

There's a reason we liberals keep saying that conservatives worship Gee Dubya Bush, their "Dear Leader."
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http://www.prawnworks.net/

PN3(Ret), USN, 1991-2001. Done a number of clerical-type jobs. Computer "power user," my desktop is a Windows machine, but my laptop is an Ubuntu Linux. Articles usually cross-posted at http://www.prawnblog.blogspot.com Personal details at (more...)
 

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Liberal, Libertarian, what's the difference? &... by GeoRip on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 5:25:13 PM
My bad, I thought the distinction between liberals... by Richmond Gardner on Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008 at 6:29:07 AM
That guy doesn't seem like a liberal or libertaria... by Ty on Tuesday, Apr 22, 2008 at 10:00:30 PM