Friday, October 14, 2011

James Taranto is right on the money

James Taranto has fun with college students who have once again discovered the evils of advertising but not managed to work out that actually most people see through it and that is why they are losing; also with "former Enron adviser Herr Doktor Professor General Paul Krugman" who seems to have forgotten that part of his career.

What we find fascinating, however, is the degree to which the left seems to be mesmerized by what it views as the dark arts of advertising and public relations. Progressives imagine that advertising works the way Gutting describes it, that their political opponents use the same techniques as commercial corporations, and that their side will enjoy political success if only it learns to do the same.
When that doesn't work, they really get confused. A hilarious example comes from Bob Cesca, a "media producer" who writes for the Puffington Host:

"When I heard President Obama announce The American Jobs Act, I mistakenly thought the Republicans wouldn't dare vote against "American jobs."

For the first time, the Democrats had come up with a title for a bill that borrowed the successful Republican tactic of naming legislation in a way that makes it politically impossible to vote against. You probably remember some of the good ones. The Republicans aggressively triple-dog-dared members of Congress to vote against the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act. After all, who would be idiotic enough to go on record as having voted against the "USA" and "patriotism", especially when it's shouted in all-caps during the aftermath of 9/11? . . .

There it was. The American Jobs Act.

The Republicans didn't just vote against "American jobs," they literally filibustered them. . . .

The ultimate irony here is that, despite it all, the Republicans have a solid chance of winning the White House next year. Obviously they're counting on the collective attention deficit disorder of the American voter who will naturally forget about how the Senate Republicans filibustered the American Jobs Act."

To put it more concisely, the Democrats were counting on the voters to be stupid enough to clamor for Stimulus Jr. because the Democrats had named it "American Jobs Act." But their plan may be undone because the voters are even more stupid and will have forgotten all this a year from now.
A more relevant example to us is one explanation why people might be getting slightly sceptical about AGW (but only one and it is worth reading the whole piece):
In his Times essay, Gutting approvingly cites a classic example of effective public relations:

"In 1982, when seven people in Chicago died from poisoned Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson appealed to its credo, which makes concern for its customers a primary corporate goal, and told the entire truth about what had happened. This honesty turned a potential public-relations disaster into a triumph.

It's not, however, unfair to ask what Johnson & Johnson--or any other company--would have done if there were a deceptive response that seemed likely to prove more profitable in the long run."

Here's an example: Two years ago, a tranche of emails from the University of East Anglia revealed that scientists were engaging in deceptive practices to promote global warmism. A series of "investigations" were undertaken,which turned out to be whitewashes. Now the global warmists are complaining that they are losing the debate.

The efforts to sell Stimulus Jr. and global warmism have been ineffective precisely because the public is smart enough to see through these crude deceptions. The left would benefit politically if it learned to be as honest as corporate America is.
I guess if you want to run successful propaganda you need a man of genius.


  1. "The left would benefit politically if it learned to be as honest as corporate America is."

    I think not. If the left were honest it would become very clear that they have a product that nobody in their right mind would want to buy. For them better they stay dishonest that way they can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time.

  2. Helen,

    Can I introduce you to the preferred url for your essay:

    The old addresses will continue to work indefinitely. However, we have now Drupalised the LA site, and are keen to see it used.

  3. Thanks Sean. I shall now change it through a stealth edit.

  4. One of the problems with Senator McCarthy I think was the choice of the name of the Committee (House UnAmerican Activities Committee). It lends itself to satire, and ridicule. Having said that no snappy alternative springs to mind. I can't remember how the seed was planted but it was generally accepted when I was growing up that McCarthy had conducted a witch hunt, and it was a time of shame for America. That's the value of propaganda.

  5. Ian, McCarthy was a Senator, as you say. He had nothing to do with HUAC, which was, as you also say a House UnAmerican Activities Committee, not a Senate one. The House Committee on Un-American Activities was, in fact, set up in 1938 though Communists were not then the prime target, which was a mistake. They should have gone after both the Communists and the Nazis. The seed was planted by the Communist propaganda machine that has always been extremely successful. Since then documents from the former Soviet Union and Venona have shown that McCarthy was surprisingly accurate. He was not interested in Hollywood - that was HUAC - but the fact that those accused of conducting Communist propaganda and their own witch-hunts did just that, has been known for some time. And, of course, it was HUAC that brought down Alger Hiss for which Nixon was never forgiven.

  6. I'd like to respectfully point out that you failed to link to the original James Taranto article as well. Of course I was able to find it easily enough using Google, but it's a silly thing to overlook.