Monday, August 27, 2012

The Romney Campaign's "Two Words"

 Facts, Fact Checking and Fact Ignoring

No one can be sure about how many of the words relentlessly rolling through a political campaign actually penetrate voters.  Campaigns are a very big business, and they've never been as big of a business as they are in this Citizen United year.  There are "bunkers" filled with opposition researchers, political psychologists, economists, ad men, policy wonks and a dozen other types.

"Boy, that last one you told her was a real whopper!" (image and audio source)

It is also not unusual for campaign rhetoric to be quite a ways off to the side when it comes to actually representing unbiased fact.  The spectrum in this case is between dangerous, destructive, out right lies and other messages which have a sort of foundation in fact but which have been "dragged screaming from their point of birth" to the final form heard in a Super PAC television promo.

None of this is accidental.  Every word folks such as MeanMesa visitors hear has cost someone five digits worth of dollars to vaporize into electromagnetic waves and broadcast.

Another perennial conclusion is that the most recent campaign is, somehow, substantially different than the one just two years prior.  There may be some truth to this old urban legend.  Statistics about campaign costs do, actually, show an unsettling pattern of growth -- especially since the Citizens United ruling.  Happily, this drift may not be permanent.  The outrages which that change brought have probably disgusted enough voters that even the politicians are beginning to notice.

But for the focus of this post we are not lamenting the Citizens United money.

A statistical track of the veracity of campaign rhetoric would help much more here than a simple count of the money flying into Super PACs.  For the first time in American politics, statistics of precisely that feature of the politics have become available even though what we can see at this point is only in the early phases.

The fast technology of our times makes "fact checking" incredibly less tedious than it has ever been before.  The "facts" themselves are so easily available to anyone interested in doing the research that such comparisons are no longer three week vacations spent sitting in a library microfiche viewer.  Most political statements are now videotaped, and most of the substance serving as a topic for those statements is also videotaped, transcribed and catalogued in ways which make it "searchable."

Matching the two in a "fact checking" effort now becomes much more "doable" for the average voter.

However, there remain a couple of parameters in this empirical analysis which still seem a bit "up in the air."

First, how much of research like this is a voter interested in doing?  That interest level will always be commensurate with the value the voter places on the outcome of the election and the estimate of whether or not his vote will actually make a difference.  This is not one of those questions which is simply a conversational, academic imponderable.

"Boiled down to the bones," it is a question about exactly how much a voter cares about what happens to the Republic, to the democracy.  Perhaps more importantly, it is a question of precisely what other issues can outweigh the importance of his civic duties, flooding over decisions directed at his responsibilities as a citizen.

This all becomes gut wrenchingly present when the reason that a voter does not commit the interest and effort required for his responsibilities is because the importance of that act is over shadowed with race bigotry.

Or worse, blind, "fact free" hysteria.

Second, for the citizen who is interested enough to search for such answers, there is always the question of the credibility of the contradictory information he might find.  In the age of video, what a politician might say in a campaign about what someone else has said crashes to Earth almost instantly.  However, if that comparison were to include the task of independently arriving at conclusions about facts, statistics or policy, the credibility issue returns -- now enhanced by a voter's lack of confidence in his own discernment.

It should be no secret now that, crippled with "facts" which cannot bear even casual scrutiny, "attacking the messenger" has also become big business.  Every information source from the Congressional CBO to the Environmental Protection Agency has been riddled with "fly by" attacks, maybe not even countering any specific message, but targeting the previously credentials of institutional credibility in general.

That voter's "lack of confidence" is not an innocent coincidence.  Millions or billions of dollars have been spent to carefully groom this abiding uncertainty in American voters.  Further, we know, without any "uncertainty," the exact origin of this work.  The continuing evidence of it is spewed forth daily.

There is a "Party" and a network which is anxious to invest all of its destiny in precisely this gambit.  "Can we entice voters to 'believe no one.'"  The political "pay off" for all this work in creating a horde of drooling, depressed, amateur nihilists remains to be seen.

The election strategy is clear enough.  There are liabilities which derive from campaign rhetoric filled with out right lies.  Those liabilities can only become attractive when that campaign is convinced that the voters it seeks to influence will never actually research the faulty propositions, or worse, not care even if their efforts were to expose the damning contradictions. 

We haven't gotten to the "two words" yet.  So, why wait?  We had to go through all this ranting and raving so far just to "really get ready for the good stuff."

The Romney Campaign's "Two Words"

We focus here on two words among the many which could have been selected from the glacial supply made available daily.  Nonetheless, this particular choice can be easily validated as one which presents a wonderfully robust example of just exactly what's on our mind.

One is a word which is included relentlessly in the campaign rhetoric, candidates' speeches and cruelly emphasized in the inevitable "objective reporting recaps" of it all.  The other is excluded just as fastidiously.

The respectively repeated use and avoidance of these words present perhaps the ultimate example of word by word content management.  The Romney "think tank" psychologists have revealed the foundation of their tactics if not the sepia tone of their souls.  Although MeanMesa remains unimpressed with the potential effectiveness of the scheme, our hat is off to these adolescent Goebbels "wanna-be's" for eagerly embracing such an outstandingly tedious ploy to rehabilitate the heavily soiled candidates their masters have sent them.

The words themselves mean almost nothing once removed from context, but this is the point.  With the carefully crafted context all around either the presence or the absence of these words, the message and all its implications ring just like a broken bell -- and, needless to say, not a Liberty Bell.

Both words are notable for roughly the same reasons:

1. The use and avoidance of both can be very easily over looked.
2. The inclusion or exclusion of both can be easily attributed to another case of the famous GOP "I mis-spoke" explanation given when any utterance comes too close to the party's platform.
3. Since both are adjectives -- syntactically rendering an associated noun with some sort of limit, modification or condition -- the nouns they modify may, indeed, be "bright shiny objects," but the words [adjectives] both represent important additions to comprehending meaning.
4. Even when the words are present or absent, the casual consumer of the rhetoric which hosts them may "absent mindedly" include or exclude them anyway, that is, automatically.


While Mitt Romney has repeated over and over the supposedly reassuring phrase about the taxes he has paid, he has, just as often, repeatedly omitted the word "income."  He says, "I have paid plenty of taxes."  He does not say "I have paid plenty of income taxes."

However, income taxes, and more broadly, the sources and the disposition of the income itself, are completely the point.  This is exactly the fodder from which the Romney nightmares are hatched.  This is exactly what the little hubris soaked, second string candidate has absolutely denied both his followers and his critics.


In this case is is Romney's "side kick" who is tasked with the heavy lifting. A jewel encrusted, gold plated, absolute treasure of the Romney Ryan rhetoric describes -- notably with the repeated inclusion of the adjective "current" -- that there will be no changes in Medicare benefits to "current" Medicare beneficiaries.

"No changes."  Candidate Ryan's "think tankers" are counting on us old folks to "lock on" to this "no changes part" while overlooking the "current" part.  What Mr. Ryan is dutifully parroting over and over is actually quite a bit more sinister than might be presumed at first blush.

Of course the RRR [Romney-Ryan-Republicans] has to do everything possible on two nearly contradictory courses.  They need the old folks' vote so all possible effort must be directed at scaring the pants off grandma and grandpa.  However, they also need to steal the Medicare Trust in order to pay back the $1 Billion dollars that the oligarchs who own the Republican Party have "contributed" to this train wreck of a campaign so far.

Exactly what Ryan is saying, that is, saying with the word "current" included, is that after this generation dies off, no one else will ever get Medicare benefits like the "current" bunch of old people.   The think tankers assume that old people are just like them, willing to vote to keep benefits for themselves but not caring a whit about what will happen to their grandchildren when they get old.


If, for some strange reason, you are even considering voting for this bag of snakes, pay attention to every word they are telling you -- or, not telling you.

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