FROM THE ARCHIVES — ‘The Masses Have to Be Won By Propaganda’ - How Fear and Victimhood Are Weaponized
Part of the Bette Dangerous ‘Fight Fascism’ toolkit series
***Originally published March 2, 2023, includes links to the ‘Fight Fascism’ toolkit. To access all content, please consider becoming a member.***
Intro: As I watch anyone who associates with RadPod on Twitter/X get swarmed by operatives, I was reminded today by Livia Ponzio that war profiteering isn’t just limited to the kinetic war.
Here’s what she told me:
“Like in kinetic warfare, in non-kinetic warfare there is war profiteering. In the info-sphere you will find former professionals engaging in the trade of disinformation. Sometimes for money, sometimes it’s revenge for failed careers, but mostly it’s war profiteering”—Livia Ponzio, 1.15.2023
We have hundreds of new members, and I am retrieving key reports from the archives that I believe can be useful in better understanding information warfare, and where else will you be reminded of the great Charles P. Pierce’s use of ‘bobble throated slapdick.’ Lol.
Original post from 3.2.2023:
‘The Masses Have to Be Won By Propaganda’ - How Fear and Victimhood Are Weaponized
I am really proud of members of the Bette Dangerous community. I see you out there on social media calling American traitors on their bullshit, exposing the fascist tactics they are using and how they are promoting Kremlin-propaganda while selling themselves as patriots. Warms the heart, really.
As we grow this flock, I want to make sure our new members have access to the ‘fight fascism’ toolkit series. It is very critical to note that the techniques being used by the extreme right are very effective - as well as insidious.
The smart set often wants to cast these people as clowns - and that is dangerous, and I would posit, even irresponsible.
I had to explain to a woman from Canada today that the reason people do not see how badly the Russian Federation has infected America is because Trump detonated one of the 4-Ds of Soviet-era propaganda - dismissiveness.
‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ was effective propaganda. It made people like me who doggedly investigate the Russian attacks and infiltration into America look like conspiracy theorists. I never for a single second doubted my work - there was too much evidence of its accuracy - but it made it difficult to reach the masses.
Trump had Russians crawling up his pant leg, but he would deny, distort, distract, and dismiss.
A Russian asset that people thought was a legitimate president was telling them there was nothing to see here - telling them they didn’t need to believe their eyes and their ears - telling them that people like me who fight for truth for a living were the problem.
I often return to Jason Stanley’s How Fascism Works as the bible for how to beat this stuff.
I have been thinking a lot about the utility of fear and victimhood - two of the most powerful fascist tricks.
Recall, how Trump launched his 2016 presidential campaign by denouncing Mexican immigrants as rapists. That should have been the end of him, but it was not.
He engaged the fascist trope of othering - making people fearful of the other - in this case, Mexican immigrants. Stanley relays a 2017 story in his book about social media hysteria about Syrian refugees raping a five-year-old girl in Idaho - an incident that never occurred. Moral panic was created about the sexual dangers of refugees, based on false reporting.
The anti-immigration rhetoric that was central to the Trump campaign parallels the tactics of “Russian propaganda outlets, which spread fake news stories about Middle Eastern immigrants raping white women in Europe,” wrote Stanley.
The reason extremist members of Congress keep heading to the border for photo ops is to stir up fear against immigrants - a classic fascist tactic. The in group, out group.
“Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda,” wrote Hannah Arendt.
It becomes very easy to spot the fear being sold on a regular basis.
Currently, Lauren Boebert is selling fear - fear that American children will be sent to fight the war in Ukraine.
She is a professional propagandist, much like her Congressional colleague Marjorie Taylor Greene who has been selling that other fascist trope - victimhood.
It should be obvious to all by now that Greene is a dangerous propagandist - everything she does and says serves the Kremlin agenda.
She told a sad story about how she was victimized by the left at a restaurant - which quite frankly, is as it should be. She spends her days spreading stochastic terrorism - she is such a clear and present danger to American democracy she should never be able to eat in public without being verbally chastised by good samaritans. She is the same woman who trolled Parkland shooting victim David Hogg, and who spewed QAnon conspiracies.
Last week, George Santos - who is officially under a congressional investigation for ethics’ violations - went on a Kremlin-propaganda show and…
… played the victim, accusing liberals of harassing family members. He can’t win on facts, because his lies are easily exposed, so he defaults to playing victim.
Today, a clip of former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle was making the rounds - she was selling gold and silver by selling victimhood - telling viewers that they shouldn’t support ‘woke companies that hate you’, but instead, support her latest grift. Her boyfriend, Don Jr., sells victimhood for a living.
His father has had so much success playing victim, he literally calls himself a victim in speeches. Victimhood in the form of the Big Lie earned him $250,000,000 dollars.
Those selling fear, othering, victimhood - they cannot win on facts, or substance, or ideas - they’re devoid of facts, substance, or ideas - all they have is propaganda.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is promoting a division of states - pure Kremlin-propaganda.
Brexit was Russian active measures, CalExit was Russian active measures, Trump has been trying to stir up civil war in service to Putin and came close in 2020. Ron DeSantis is othering everyone - now turning his fangs on bloggers.
When I sent Ruth Ben-Ghiat the headline about the Florida bill that would require bloggers who criticize DeSantis to have to register with the state, she said: “This is so fascist.”
Again, we can’t be dismissive of any of this - it is all part of the fascist creep, and it requires an army of us to expose it.
The good news, and there is always good news, is the perpetrators are so obvious.
Once you know the tactics, it’s easy to pierce them.
Although I did not get the McGonigal questioning of Merrick Garland I had hoped to get at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, we did get Charles P. Pierce in Esquire referring to the Republican Senators as “an incredible lineup of Fox News auditioners,” singling out Tom Cotton as a “bobble throated slapdick.”
Pierce clearly sees through their theatre craft - deflating their efficacy and exposing them all as charlatans simping for the wrong flag.
Part of what makes it so difficult to get this messaging to the masses is that selling fear and victimhood also incites outrage - it’s the outrage that people become addicted to, and it’s the outrage that we have to learn to diffuse before there is no going back.
To see our losses, sometimes it’s best to see how other countries view us. In the Peter Tatchell Foundation’s latest podcast Be the Change where UK human rights activists are looking across the pond at the harms being caused to gay Americans, the sum of it is shocking - conjuring the jailing of Oscar Wilde and the terror of Berlin in 1933. They spotlight the banning of drag shows in Arkansas and Tennessee - and just as women’s health care rights were undermined by the overturning of Roe - we are watching the same happening to the LGBTQ+ community.
“It’s a dark circle of hell with the religious right and Republicans in this country working to remain in power, and the way they are doing that is attacking the vulnerable and the marginalized people,” said Tracy E. Gilchrist from the Advocate on Tatchell’s show.
In 2022, almost 1,000 anti-gay laws were proposed in the U.S., among the main targets were trans people - bathroom bills, genital inspection bills (!), book bannings, Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ - Gilchrist described that as having ‘your identity erased’.
We all need to be allies. We all need to view the attacks on the most vulnerable as an attack on all of us. Othering doesn’t stop with one group. Fascists come for everyone.
I often tell the story of the Munich Post - its editors and reporters never stopped fighting the normalization of Hitler - they continued to investigate him relentlessly, tirelessly.
As my friend Ron Rosenbaum wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2017:
“The Munich Post never stopped investigating who Hitler was and what he wanted, and Hitler never stopped hating them for it.
“As Hitler sought to ingratiate himself with the city’s rulers (though never giving up the threat of violence), the Post reporters dug into his shadowy background, mocking him mercilessly, exposing internal party splits, revealing the existence of a death squad (“cell G”) that murdered political opponents and was at least as responsible for Hitler’s success as his vaunted oratory.
“And in their biggest, most shamefully ignored scoop, on December 9, 1931, the paper found and published a Nazi party document planning a ‘final solution’ for Munich’s Jews — the first Hitlerite use of the word ‘endlösung’ in such a context. Was it a euphemism for extermination? Hitler dissembled, so many could ignore the grim possibility.
“The Munich Post lost and Germany came under Nazi rule — but, in a sense, the paper had also won; they were the only ones who had figured out just how sinister Hitler and the Nazis were.”
We don’t need to wait for more evidence to determine just how fascist these American traitors are, they are telling us who and what they are.
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,” said Maya Angelou.
“I reflected on how fragile democratic institutions could be in the face of organized hatred,” wrote Ron Rosenbaum.
But I am reflecting on how strong a people can be when they know that their democracy is at risk - and they know the tactics being deployed on their fellow citizens and can expose them, calling them out, diffusing their power.
We can expose them, every day, in every city in America, and spread that message globally.
I’m glad you are here.
This is part of my Fight Fascism series:
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