Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Brooks cracks his verbal whip

Stuck in Lincoln's Land
New York Times
Published: May 5, 2005

The above editorial by the conservative columnist David Brooks is a perfect example of how an elitist can manipulate his audience. Or, to be more visually meaningful - How he heards the human cattle of America to a place where they can serve the current incarnation of his party.

I could spend thousands of words taking this article apart and explaining all the slight of hand word play and psychological human tricks that this right wing conservative uses to drive his cattle to market. However, since my point in making these comments is to enlighten the reader on the nature of propaganda it will be enough to speak to the very first instance that I encountered in this editorial, namely:

"I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that faith should be kept out of politics."

This attacking statement made by Brooks is misleading because the charge being made is too general to even have a basis from which to be argued. One of the reasons that this statement is so general results from his use of the word "faith" in an extremely ambiguous way.

So, let us start with the definition of the word "faith" as described by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Faith Defined:
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b(1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

synonym see BELIEF

The question that immediately comes to my mind is which definition of "faith" is Brooks using in his charge? For instance, by using the numerous meanings of this word from the dictionary entry above his elusive charge could be accurately translated to:

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that "belief in God" should be kept out of politics.

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that "religious beliefs" should be kept out of politics

Or finally:
I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that "beliefs" should be kept out of politics

This ambiguity of meaning is being done purposely by Brooks. It allows him to use any evidence that he wishes to justify his adolescently contrived argument - if, by chance, he is ever challenged to give proof.

The desire on his part not to be out maneuvered in a potential debate stems from the image that Brooks wishes to convey to the public. You see Brooks wishes to project himself as an educated man of reason who stands above the average partisan mud slinger. Ideally he would like us to believe that it is his honest mission to speak to us openly and honestly about the conservative agenda. To perform this one man balancing act he must attempt to stay above the fray so that he can continue to communicate to us through the objective main stream media outlets.

Well, lets get back to a discussion of his original charge and its propaganda potential. A good piece of propaganda requires both an evil inspired agressor (them) and an innocent victim (us). As I have already mentioned the victim, from the sympathetic readers eyes is obviously the one who identifies with the ambiguous, yet positive, word "faith". Which, as I imply above, could include almost anyone. This inclusiveness has been done purposely. With political propaganda it is best if you can appeal to the majority - especially when you are constrained by a democracy. Obviously the evil aggressor is the "militant secularist". The devil possessed Snidely Whiplash to the angelic Dudley Doright - so to speak.

Brooks, in even a veiled attempt to keep this article as impartial as possible, didn't even feign objectivity by merely attacking "secularist" - whatever form that blob like monster would take in his mind. No, he had to make the already formless enemy more evil by putting the meaningless, but invective, word "militant" in front. Personally I have not seen any news reports about militarily equipped groups that have organized their forces of secular troops to impose their evil secularity on America. Obviously "militant secularist" is a Brooks phrase that he wants his readers to replace visually with the phrase "godless communist" - see how those in his line of work think. As intended this propagandist phrase is meant to demonize the opposition and provide a source of anger for the perceived victims.

The important idea for the reader to keep in mind is that with elitist like Brooks it is not the charge, and the validity of an actual argument, that is important. If it was he would make a specific charge and then prove it with consistent evidence. No, what ultimately is important to those of his perceived enlightened persuasion is the complete control and prodding of the audience to get them to move in the desired direction. His words are his whip and the proper direction of the cows is his goal. The words, like the whip, are just a tool. Since he understands us cows to be slightly more cognizant then the actual ones this tool must be shaped with words that disguise its actual purpose.

The real purpose of this editorial is to push (heard) the reader in the same way that propaganda has as its purpose to move the people - without the undesired burden, and time consuming act, of having to persuade through leadership and the use of rational reasoning and fair debate.

In reality this baseless charge by Brooks is not about informing the public about an injustice. Its objective is to support the ruling class elites in the Republican party that make up his constituency. What it demonstrates is the belief, by those like Brooks, about the effectiveness of enlisting people to your side by using words to play to their fears and prejudices. For those with his cynical view of the average American producing a thinking army of Camelot knights is far too difficult and time consumming. He finds it much easier and efficient to produce an army of Don Quixote's by using his words to turn windmills into dragons.