We are now firmly ensconced in, as someone else aptly named it, the political silly season.
In actuality, the adjective “silly” is far too innocuous to describe the process of determining who will represent at all levels of governance. The dictionary defines “silly” as “having or showing a lack of common sense or judgment; absurd and foolish,” and “used to convey that an activity or process has been engaged in to such a degree that someone is no longer capable of thinking or acting sensibly.”
While the definition cited above is certainly an accurate observation of the political silly season, it fails to convey the ulterior motive of those who actively work to create it, and, of course, there is a clear ulterior motive behind the surreal circus of the political silly season.
The silly season obscures facts, hides truths, and boldly promotes distortion and falsehoods until up equals down and fallacies become facts. It’s like the old saying, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” It’s as easy as denying words captured on video by simply saying “I disagree I said that” and if repeated often enough, to the right audiences, it works all too frequently.
And when pure spinning doesn’t work, diversions and deflection can accomplish the same result.
Karl Rove, the wildly successful Republican campaign guru, is famously known for describing his approach to successful campaigning as attacking and discrediting an opponent’s strengths. Only wusses need bother with an opponent’s weaknesses, according to Rove’s strategy. Removing an opponent’s strengths by creating an alternative, albeit false, reality is far more effective.
Rovian examples are well-documented and legendary. In 2000, Republican John McCain’s war hero status and reputation for integrity was tarnished by an unprecedented campaign of robocalls falsely accusing McCain of fathering and then adopting a black child born out-of-wedlock. Aimed at a southern audience, the false and malicious robocalls and whispering campaign helped George Bush defeat McCain in the South Carolina primary. (McCain’s adopted daughter is from Bangladesh.)
Democrat John Kerry’s medals received during his two voluntary tours of duty in Vietnam were tarnished by the since-discredited Swift Boat Veterans allegations. Now the term “swiftboating” has become shorthand for a false and vile personal smear campaign for political purposes.
Fox News excels at implementing Rove’s strategy, with anchors and commentators repeating the same phrases and talking points throughout the 24-hour (or longer) news cycle, hammering home their version of altered reality. MSNBC can’t compete with Fox in their ability to recreate reality, perhaps because, as Will Rogers noted, Democrats have never been noted for organization. (“I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers, 1935)
All’s fair in love, war and politics —fraudulent, specious, Machiavellian, often malevolent, but effective nonetheless.
Presidential campaigns bring out the worst of the worst and the humorous adage about knowing a politician is lying when his lips move seems accurate much too often.
This presidential campaign season’s application of Rove’s strategy of attacking an opponent’s strengths hasn’t yet been fully developed, though trial balloons abound. It’s too early to know for sure what campaign strategists will devise as campaigns heat up, although Republicans are already trotting out the Saul Alinksy and Jeremiah Wright connections that failed to topple President Obama four years ago.
Fortunately, some independent, non-partisan fact-finding organizations exist for those more interested in reality than spin. They’re performing the kind of old-fashioned journalism most media long ago abandoned.
Because facts still matter, even when spin wins.