Thursday, April 4, 2013

The GOP's "Myth of Charm"

Primary and Secondary Models
Just a Wee Bit About Abstract  Communication Fundamentals

The "two model" system of communication is an extremely simple one.  The "primary model" represents the precise context of the message one desires to communicate.  The "secondary model," on the other hand, has little to do directly with the message content, but rather models the "terms of reception" being expressed back by one's listener.

It's hardly rocket science.  When the person to whom you are speaking begins to wince, look away, yawn or sigh, it is a good sign that the "message transmission" process has hit the rocks.  Alternatively, when one's listener's face shows intense focus and attention, appearing to be constantly and eagerly awaiting the very next statement, both parties -- speaker and listener -- are reassuring each other that the message is rolling along "roses, simply roses."

An example might help.

Further, we won't select just any old example but, rather, a deliciously exaggerated hypothetical example.  Let's say that MeanMesa for some reason is relating a few ideas about Soviet Communism to the Secretary General of the local John Birch Society club.  The conversation is hosted on a very pleasant spring afternoon at a local coffee shop, and the two gentlemen are sharing a table while casually enjoying their almond caramel Macchiatos.

Naturally, MeanMesa and the John Birch guy have somewhat contradictory opinions about the subject.

Happily however, the "primary model" is rife with geopolitical and economic statistics, a bit of settled history and just a delicate touch of editorializing.  The John Birch guy concludes inwardly that although he basically disagrees with more than a few of MeanMesa's conclusions, his coffee partner "is a likable enough guy, interesting and a good conversationalist," and, exactly because MeanMesa is a "likable enough guy," he finds himself quite comfortable with "hearing him out."

That is what is meant when MeanMesa refers to a successful "secondary model."

Enough of the tortured hypothetical.  We need to move on to "charm."

One More "Iota" of "Getting Ready"

It's ALL about "charm." (image source)
We've all seen the movie with the breathless,  swooning actress relating her encounter with "a devastatingly charming man" at the formal ball.  Generally, depending on the remainder of the script, of course, there is very little of the sinister or deceptive in her use of the term.  Notably, even without any specific "causative details," everyone knows what she means.

Traditionally, the term "charm" has enjoyed a relatively straight forward dictionary definition.

1. a power of pleasing or attracting, as through personality or beauty: charm of manner; the charm of a mountain lake.
2. a trait or feature imparting this power.
3. charms, attractiveness.
4. a trinket to be worn on a bracelet, necklace, etc.
5. something worn or carried on one's person for its supposed magical effect; amulet. 
6. any action supposed to have magical power.
7. the chanting or recitation of a magic verse or formula.
8. a verse or formula credited with magical power.
9. Physics. a quantum number assigned the value +1 for one kind of quark, −1 for its antiquark, and 0 for all other quarks. Symbol:  C Compare charmed quark
And, also quite interesting and relevant, the term's use as a verb:

10. any action supposed to have magical power.
11. the chanting or recitation of a magic verse or formula.
12. a verse or formula credited with magical power.
13. Physics. a quantum number assigned the value +1 for one kind of quark, −1 for its antiquark, and 0 for all other quarks. Symbol:  C Compare charmed quark
 (all courtesy of

You may be thinking that old MeanMesa has finally duped someone into "paying by the word" for producing the content in this blog -- a shocking development indeed about which one could, of course, only dream -- but all this dictionary work will, hopefully, make a point soon enough.  Right off the bat, we can easily eliminate both number 9 and number 13. 
Why?  Because this scheme was "cooked up" in the depths of a rightie think tank. Rather than wandering off into the realm of quarks, we need only remember that Republicans are basically allergic to all science, so, the physics' references will actually, really have absolutely nothing to do with the point here.  

Relax. A similar, over-elaborated, thorough-going investigation of the term "offensive" won't be needed.

Obama's "Charm Offensives"
What Could Be More Tempting
 Than a Wing-Nut Word Salad Full of Ripe ReDefinitions?

By this time all of MeanMesa's visitors have heard these terms repeated relentlessly on the corporate media networks.  At first blush, one -- reflecting on the incredible, endless replication of the word -- might erroneously presume that the little phrase had, somehow, simply captured the hearts of an adoring public.  Along these lines, this would mean some network mouth-junk crew more or less accidentally used this term and then found some mysterious groundswell of unanticipated affection for it.

Don't kid yourself.  This baby is much more akin to a nest of irritated, breeding rattle snakes than a delicious dollop of home made spaghetti.

In the usual sickening "lock step" of the carefully disciplined commercial media, a number of recent administration "events" have officially been labelled "charm offensives."  When President Obama met with House Republicans for dinner --  the meeting was immediately [and relentlessly] described as a"charm offensive."  When President Obama spoke to a relatively non-fascist audience of largely civilian Israelis -- the speech was immediately [and again, relentlessly] characterized as a "charm offensive."
The corporate alphabet networks were pumping out the phrase so eagerly that MeanMesa's notable human compassion could only hope that they might avail themselves of a strong dose of Pepto Bismol.  The News Hour was almost to the point of crowding out one of their United Health commercials with the constant repeating of the phrase.  The billionaires even managed to "entice" the BBC to take up the chorus.

The GOPCons who were issuing these orders in their daily morning "talking points" memos didn't find Obama's policy work the least bit "charming."  They also no no interest whatsoever in convincingly presenting the "charming" idea to their audience, either.

What were the think tanks doing? 

Perhaps more importantly, what were the think thanks thinking?   

What was the strategy behind their decision to flood the "news waves" with this unlikely phrase?

The rightie think tanks are constantly directing their latest incendiary bomb at their information challenged base.  The "charm offensives" episode seems notable, if for no other reason, simply because the scheme is slightly -- and suspiciously -- more sophisticated than their norm.

That is the precise point of this "charming" post. 

When the reactionary remnant of the rapidly diminishing Republican Party is directed to "stoop" to an opinion offensive targeting Americans beyond the trailer parks and American Legion bars, MeanMesa can simply not set aside the curiosity boiling up at the Short Current Essays' city desk.  What are they up to?

The motive for the cross country soak-bath of "charming" was too complex to be entirely consistent with usual heavy handed, "march to the sea" Republican strategy for manipulating public opinion.  The heretofore relatively innocent term had been "re-defined" into something that would further instill fear, alienation and division among their loyal zombies.

To penetrate the "word salad" to a clearer level, we must look at the alternative to the "charm" selection.  The alternate story about having the Republicans for dinner might have been characterized as a opportunity to present the President's budget policy proposal.  In fact, even more ambitiously, that dinner might have been reported as a chance to try some face to face negotiating without the suffocating political ideology of Republican House denizens such as Boehner, Ryan and Cantor.

A very unreported story unfolded during the "departure interviews" with those House members after dinner.  More than one of them frankly stated that he was unaware of the spending cuts and other budget compromises the President has already offered!  "Our caucus leadership never told us about those things."

Even worse, because the House Republican "leadership" had not informed them about "those things," they didn't even know about "those things!"

It doesn't surprise MeanMesa that House tea bags can't actually read, but there was always the erroneous assumption that maybe their staff could.

Gee whiz.  None of that stuff must have been reported on the "FOX News" network, either.

The word from the oligarch palace news management bunker hit the streets immediately.  Those interviews were officially, terminally "dropped" before the next sunrise.  The hole into which they were "dropped," is, so far as corporate news is concerned, of course, "bottomless."

Likewise with the President's speech in Israel.  There was not even so much as a "peep" which might suggest that the medal Obama received along with the standing ovation from his audience of civilian Israelis might possibly suggest that his message was anything more substantial than mere "charm."

Yes, that's right.  Hollow, deceptive, fancy speech making, devious "charm."

Now you're beginning to see MeanMesa's point.  Unhappily, this story only get darker.  Finally, we have arrived at the "primary and secondary model" part.

GOP: "Governing" From the "Secondary Model"

The two part communication model can be applied to the political "communications" climate we see the GOP working so tirelessly to maintain. The right wing think tanks can claim some significant accomplishments.  For example, of the Americans who voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, 58% believe that climate change is a hoax promoted by "anti-industry" political interests, 36% believe that Sadam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks while only 13% believe that George W. Bush lied about Iraq WMDs and so on.

It's easy to dismiss this as an outrage, but perhaps we can look at it from a different angle.  The owners of the GOP "movement," whether the tea bag or the more institutional looting and banking faction, have invested quite heavily in creating this "alternate universe" filled with a dependably sympathetic base.  This base is "dependably sympathetic" because its host environment has been successfully controlled for such a long time.

Within the "echo chamber" information which contradicts the official position is almost automatically denounced as either unreliable or biased by ulterior motives and excluded from further consideration.  The conceptual inertia blindly rolling forward in the very carefully groomed background psychology is so well established now that the scheme in place is practically invulnerable.

While the "primary model" cannot be reconciled with easily accessible data, the "secondary model" exists quite independently -- quite usefully removed -- from actual data and is, for this reason, fundamentally responsive -- go ahead, call it reactionary.  The "contest" for "persuading" such a base is not one decided by conflicting data because actual data is no longer the "currency" of decisions.

The "secondary model" determines the outcome of that consideration.  The foundations upon which the GOP base relies to "react" to the endless "dog whistle" manipulation is not targeted or specific.  The propaganda line no longer needs to contradict unfavorable data at all.  With the carefully groomed reactionary emotional/psychological preparations in place, mere suspicion or the slightest twinges of fear suffice for "research" or "deliberation."

With an already tragically dwindling list of any actual material "successes," what remains for the GOP in terms of managing their base is now to be measured solely with the cynical metric of "secondary model" effectiveness.  If a statement -- or even one of the now rare, actual policy proposals -- riles up the base, it is considered a success.  If it serves with a more modest success to reaffirm or solidify the psychology of fear and hopelessness -- even if not outrage --  among the base it still receives a "passing grade."

Finding only this one, last wrench left in their tool chest, Republicans have elevated the "perceived value" of the false, "induced purity" of their dwindling base to an astonishing height.   All those burping and bellowing hill billies and bigots may present a laughable image to more thoughtful citizens, but for Republicans they represent that last shard of floating deck chair debris with which one might float for a few more hours the morning after a ship wreck.

The most valuable thing for the GOP strategists has long ago ceased to be a popular policy and has now been replaced with effective propaganda, and, not propaganda which is successful for the entirety of voters, just propaganda which will still "work" with their tattered base.

With this we begin to see the reason for their unlikely investment in the "charm" meme.  The effort was classed as a great success because it actually reached a few of the "non-base" news consumers.

A Few Articles Using the Term "Charm Offensives"

Although MeanMesa visitors may have well already "had enough" of this latest media bologna, you might wish to review a few of the overly typical "news" articles. 

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