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Blog of Mass Destruction

Message Versus Fact

By The Reverend Published: December 5, 2007

Philip Agree is quoted in a Digby post at Common Sense...

Conservatism has opposed rational thought for thousands of years. What most people know nowadays as conservatism is basically a public relations campaign aimed at persuading them to lay down their capacity for rational thought...

Conservatism has used a wide variety of methods to destroy reason throughout history. Fortunately, many of these methods, such as the suppression of popular literacy, are incompatible with a modern economy. Once the common people started becoming educated, more sophisticated methods of domination were required. Thus the invention of public relations, which is a kind of rationalized irrationality. The great innovation of conservatism in recent decades has been the systematic reinvention of politics using the technology of public relations.

The main idea of public relations is the distinction between "messages" and "facts". Messages are the things you want people to believe. A message should be vague enough that it is difficult to refute by rational means.Link

Please reread the sentences above.....then watch this video I've selected as a prime example of what Agree is talking about when he talks about how "message" is all that matters in public relations....

Now think along with me here.

The few people I spoke to about this commercial liked it. I also heard Chris Matthews mention on Hardball that he was "a sucker for ads like that".

The commercial shows common people helping other common people out of the goodness of their hearts, because if you noticed, in each case, there was no benefit to the helper except for the good feeling the helper undoubtedly experienced from "doing unto others". That feeling is genuine, all of us have helped another in a similar situation, we know that feeling, that feeling is authentic and real. That is the "message" the public relations department of Liberty Mutual is hoping to convey.

The intent of Liberty Mutual's commercial is to get us to believe that they, Liberty Mutual, are just like us and they will help their customers from the goodness of their hearts, in the same way common folk like us would. The intent is for us to have that genuine feeling about their company. They feel just like we do, how else could they have made a commercial like this one?

That's the "message", but what about the facts? Are insurance companies just like the people in the commercial? Are insurance companies ANYTHING like the people in the commercial? Do insurance companies EVER honor a claim for help out of the goodness of their hearts? Would insurance companies help you if you had never previously paid them, you know, like the selfless helpers acted in the ad?

Truth be told…..insurance companies are not in business to help others selflessly, they are in business to help themselves. To make as much money as possible, even if it means gaming the edges of policies, stalling, paying out only a portion, or not paying claims at all. Insurance companies construct their legalese-filled policies with hordes of attorneys and, oftentimes, put the burden on the customer to prove that the legalese is…..ummm….legal, and says the insurance company has to pay.

If the insurance company was actually the individual doing the helping in the commercial, we would have seen money changing hands before each helper acted and, with some incidents, even after being paid, the helper would have not helped push the car, or lift the carpet, or whatever. Lawyers would have appeared, disputes would have followed. That good feeling just wouldn't have been there. And so facts rarely enter into teevee commercials like this one. It's the "message" that's important, even if the facts run contrary to that "message".

It's all an illusion to influence us, even if it's ever so slightly, to believe something that is not truthful.

That brings me full circle back to what Philip Agree wrote about conservative politics and public relations.

The great innovation of conservatism in recent decades has been the systematic reinvention of politics using the technology of public relations.

The main idea of public relations is the distinction between "messages" and "facts". Messages are the things you want people to believe. A message should be vague enough that it is difficult to refute by rational means.

The "message" from the neo-conservatives for the past 6 years has been one of fear. Whenever the White House was challenged for their overt corruption, lies, warmongering, greed, cronyism, political upsets.....they trotted out their "message" to smother the facts.

When the Decider's poll numbers began their decline in early 2005, you might remember the response of White House officials and their lapdogs. They simply, according to them, had to get their "message" out there, ipso facto, a barrage of new photo-ops and appearances by the usual suspects diverting our attention away from the "facts", pay no atention to all those pesky "facts". Listen to the "message".

The "message" of fear.

These concepts explain why it is that there are continuously dual narratives out there for every political, national or international event. These concepts help to explain how it is that so many folks I call wingnuts believe in versions of stories I find completely devoid of facts. It's really the "message" these wingers believe in. A "message" purposely repeated in expert public relations form to replace the true story based on empirical facts.

That's what George W. Bush did yesterday in his totally laughable deconstruction of the Iran NIE. To those tuned in to the neo-conservative "message" of fear, Bush spoke resolute truth. To those in the "reality based" community, what Bush said was embarassing and ridiculous.

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