‘The Walk-Back’ - Propaganda Exposed
Part of my fight-fascism toolkit - exposing a fluency in doublespeak
“The walk-back is just politics.”-Ruth Ben-Ghiat
As part of my ongoing ‘fight-fascism toolkit’ series, I mined the wisdom of America’s foremost scholar on Italian fascism, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, on how to explain Ron DeSantis’ fluency in doublespeak.
What follows is her insightful explanation of the ‘walk-back.’
To set the stage, understand that Ron DeSantis exposed himself as Kremlin friendly last week by deploying Russian Federation propaganda when referencing Putin’s war of annihilation in Ukraine by minimizing it as a “territorial dispute.”
Yeah, that’s not what it is, but it did reveal the ‘Florida fascist’ as being just another Kremlin stooge - a surprise to no one paying attention. Not only is his campaign director a registered foreign agent, who had to register retroactively after being exposed, but DeSantis has been busy working his way down the homophobic Orbán checklist - beefing up his terrible attacks on Florida’s gay community. Not surprisingly, the Hungarian prime minister has been referred to as Putin’s Trojan horse inside the EU.
After being exposed as a Kremlin simp, while also earning the ire of some members of his own authoritarian-right party, DeSantis walked back the comment in a staged event with Piers Morgan:
“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately, but they had,” DeSantis said, according to excerpts. “There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting, and that’s what I was referring to, and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it.”
I shrunk the type down to the size of a pinhead because I’m not trying to parrot his propaganda. What I am trying to illustrate is he used a lot of words to say absolutely nothing - an art perfected by Putin - who exhausts his audience with doublespeak, jabberwocky, blather, and gibberish.
‘Walk-Back This Way’
So I asked Ruth, the author of ‘Strongmen’, to explain how we frame DeSantis’ walk-back. Many good people will be confused by the u-turn, and as usual, Ruth nailed it.
“The first impact is the tell,” said Ruth. “The first thing you say is the tell. The correction? Meh, no one cares. The walk-back is just politics. The master of this is Putin. These are strategies of propaganda and it’s signaling. The walk-back is insincere, and that too is staged.”
To wit, DeSantis also told Morgan that Putin is a “war criminal” to sound extra tuff, while also smiling a lot, to ensure viewers could see the good time he’s having hanging out with Biff Morgan. It should be noted that my editor at Byline Supplement Peter Jukes said Morgan is a “celebrity kompromatter paid 14 million pounds a year to broadcast to 5 people in a basement” - ergo, a perfect choice to reputation wash DeSantis for Fox Nation. And not for nothing, DeSantis’ handlers must have told him to smile with his eyes, and he misinterpretated the instructions and used his whole big head - he was very smiley sitting across from Biff. I thought he might just jump in his lap and curl up.
‘Audible Gasps In Langley’
For another insincere walk-back example that also includes a Putin apologist, ‘Day Old McDonald’ Trump, do recall Helsinki. Recall, the audible gasps heard at Langley when Trump gave his post-Putin presser in Helsinki, Finland, where he sided with Putin against our own intelligence agencies on election interference.
The tell: “Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said, after meeting with Putin one-on-one.
The walk-back: He blamed a missing contraction. 24 hours later, he claimed to have misspoken, suggesting he meant to say “wouldn’t”.
Recall: “The first impact is the tell,” said Ruth. “The walk-back is insincere.”
Now that we know the first propaganda bomb is the point, and the walk-back is insincere and staged, too, I guess Trump deleting the image of him holding a baseball bat next to a photo of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg with inflammatory language was insincere, as well.
These words and images the authoritarian-right use are committing a form of menticide - a systematic effort to undermine and destroy a person’s values and beliefs, by the use of prolonged interrogation, drugs, torture, propaganda, radicalization techniques such as hypnotic trauma videos, to induce radically different ideas. Stochastic terrorism is something you can ask Paul Pelosi about. Thankfully, he is still alive.
None of this is to be taken lightly. But when we expose the tactics, it makes it harder for them to land their propaganda punches as effectively.
Now that you know how the ‘walk-back’ works, please deploy this explainer widely.
I see you out there crushing it on ‘victimhood’. We are hurting the authoritarian-right’s ability to profit by crying about being a victim all the time because so many of you are calling out the fascist trope. Trump used his pending indictment on criminal charges related to the Stormy Daniels case to profit, but he only made $1.5 million dollars.
Keep in mind, the Big Lie garnered him $250,000,000. As I keep telling you, his base is shrinking. He called for violence in New York, and received no answer. Collectively, we are doing that.
These fascist ‘emperors’ have no clothes. Let’s keep exposing them.
This is part of my Fight Fascism series:
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