Destroying The Gulf In Order To Save It

Rep. Paul Broun (Wingnut-GA) dishes up the classic cognitive misdirection some people say ploy, which simultaneously feeds his audience’s Obama Derangement Syndrome while giving himself cover from the M$M by not saying it himself.

The issue this time is the disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico:

BROUN: Our President he is utilizing this crisis of this oil spill to try to promote this energy tax. And I’ve had numerous people, all over the district, question whether his poor response to this oil spill was purposeful so that he could promote his energy tax. I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know.

Oh, but his audience does, presuming they listen to the constant propagandizing of Fux News and Rush Limpbot and his posse of right wing talk radio Obama Demonizers.

Constant repetition of words transform them into symbols, hardwiring them into the brain’s symbolic processing centers. But there is a downside:

Repeating over and over does not simply persuade someone that what is being said is true, it actually makes it true. (Welch)

There they can be combined with other symbols to create complex narratives. Narratives have a fractal structure, composed of simpler “frames” or “scripts.” (Lakoff). For instance, the frame “Obama is a socialist” can be combined with “energy tax” to create the kind of meta-narrative spewed by Broun above.

Broun’s logic amounts to nothing more than a restatement of the classic comment by an unnamed American officer about the destruction of the Vietnamese  provincial capital of Bến Tre on February 7, 1968:

It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.

Practically speaking, using symbolic grammar makes it easier for propagandists to shield their propagandees from those pesky cognitive irritants called ‘facts.’

As Ronald Reagan so famously put it:

Facts are stupid things.


Lakoff, George, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st Century Politics With an 18th Century Brain (New York: Viking Penguin, 2008)

Welch, Dr. Bryant, State of Confusion: Political Manipulation and the Assault on the American Mind (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008)


  1. Come on, P,

    You know Ronnie was just reading from his script and really had no idea what he was saying – like when he thought he was in Germany and saw the Holocause victims when he never actually left the U.S.?

    Whenever I heard him speak, I always tried to fathom what he was trying to say – it was easier somehow – and on this one I remember thinking “What he’s thinking is that his audience are “stupid things.”

    Made a lot more sense that way.

    Love ya! Keep up the great work!


    As Ronald Reagan so famously put it:

    Facts are stupid things.

    1. Propagandee Propagandee

      Yo Suzan:

      Ronnie used to be a fake baseball radio announcer. He’d be sitting in the studio, reading a ticker tape of the stats at the end of each inning– hits, runs, strikeouts, etc. Then he’d make up a story about how they occurred. A weak pop-out could be turned into something dramatic:

      “Casey steps up to the bat and takes a mighty swing! Back, back goes the left fielder, reaches up and gloves the ball just above the wall, stealing a homer from the champ!”

      Ah, the power of narrative. Facts are welcome but not essential.

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