American Samizdat

Monday, September 04, 2006. *
The sleeper effect rides again
Here's a social psychological phenomenon in action. It's known as the sleeper effect. Basically, the idea is that some dodgy source will make some dodgy claim perhaps repeatedly. As time goes by, the dodgy claim, having been stored in our memory gets recalled minus the accompanying bits about the claim or its source's dodginess. Hence, the claim gains some persuasive power that it previously didn't have. Urban legends take on a life of their own as a result of this basic feature of our mental lives. How many people still believe that Gore claimed to "invent the internet"? You can look that one up on and find out about the claim and its source quite readily. But I digress. Now on to our feature:
First, the ball-breakingly obvious: the method of advertising consists mainly in mindless repetition and metonymic association between unrelated items or themes. So, there is an intense advertising campaign on right at this moment to persuade the American public that it's 1939 all over again.

The latest buzz word is fascism. Fascism, fascism, fascism. Concurrently, appeasement is doing the rounds. As Jim Lobe writes, this theme is being pushed forcefully by the neoconservative press, but it is worth bearing in mind that John Reid floated this latest round of the He's-A-Hitler season with his reference to "individual fascists" who were now more menacing than the state. And of course, the fake stories about Iran's intention to make non-Muslims and specifically Jews wear badges was an earlier milestone in this prolonged campaign.

Let's not waste time: this isn't new, and it isn't designed to impress. It isn't analysis and no one is even pretending that it is. It's the same, soggy old pigshit they have been shoving down our throats ever since Anthony Eden called Nasser a fascist. They don't expect the intelligentsia to swallow it (but so much the better if some do). They expect the intelligentsia to snigger and go "huhuhuhuh, Bush is stoopid, yeah yeah, huhuhuhuh, he's so stoopid!" While commentators are busily giggling and coughing up phlegm, the warrior elite expect that the casual viewers will slowly come to make these associations by themselves, as if voluntarily, forgetting where they were first forged and how. Already, there must be quite a substantial number of people who have heard the phrase 'Islamofascism' and used it without ever having given it a moment's thought or scrutiny. That's how advertising works.


The only thing to do is note it, point at it, and look for what's behind it. It happens, as usual, to be crashingly obvious. Oh, they want your money, they want your vote, they want you to shut up when they bomb Iran, they want you to stop criticising the President, they want you to commit to supporting the troops in Iraq, they want the army to stop seeing its recruitment fall through the floor, they want you to be worried about anything other than energy prices, the collapse in the housing market and the looming recession. The usual.
Nerdified link. My emphasis added.

The problem with the "intelligentsia" is that with a very weak (to the point of being almost neutralized) opposition to whatever Bu$hCo is selling, they end up innoculating their audience against an actual oppositional message. I suspect a lot of it boils down to the "intelligentsia" being sufficiently indoctrinated into the same mindset as the rest of the elites that they're all thoroughly on the same page - there may be a bit of quibbling in terms of details (some want a kinder gentler genocide whereas others just want their genocide as bloody as possible - with both believing that the genocide in question will spread freedom and democracy or at least democracy's birth pangs), but that can all be hashed out on the Sunday morning talkshow circuit.

So what are we working stiffs left with? A forceful yet questionable message from equally unsavory messengers that is only weakly rebutted by some court jesters with impeccable credentials. No surprise then that many will end up associating this season's Hitler with a whole host of alleged "bad things" and give The War Party yet another free pass to waste lives and treasure in our never-ending Children's Crusade. Never mind that they just don't make Hitlers like they used to.
posted by Don Durito at 2:20 PM
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