Greg sent me an email with a link to Youtube video of a kindergarden class singing, apparently in praise of Obama per the Glen Beck reference, but the sound was not good and you could not really tell exactly what was said. Cute kids though, and no I am not going to link to it. Greg’s comment was:
In case you are wondering why I am getting scared.
I did not give this much thought, but fired back with: Terrifying aren’t they? Buy guns guys, the children are out to get you. Maybe some right wing gun nut should just shoot the teacher! Or maybe Glenn Beck set the whole thing up? Come on Greg, get serious.
I really thought that would be the end of it, but:
Yeah Kal, I can just see your response if the same group of kids were doing this with Bush substituted for "the Anointed One". You don't know much history do you?
I know ridiculous when I see it. You think no kids ever made up a welcome song for Bush? Get serious.
Listen to the words, Kal, listen to the words..............
I guess the hidden subtext is that Obama is trying to establish the Obama Youth, modeled after the Hitler Youth or maybe the Young Communists that we were propagandized with when I was growing up. But of course it did not end there, when I asked: And where did those words come from?
From a Kindergarten school teacher indoctrinating young children in something they have no way of knowing what they are learning. This is wrong, I repeat, wrong.
Well, talk to the kindergarten teacher about it. This video has nothing to do with anything of substance. But it is more likely to be a Glen Beck production than anything else.
Not a particularly interesting nor enlightening exchange, I am sure you will agree, but it is just one in a series of bigger and smaller attacks on liberalism and Obama in particular. When I read a post by Digby, On Fits And Starts, it fell into a pattern, quite possibly a deliberate strategy. Read the whole thing. I particularly liked the reference to hissy fits to describe this behavior.
I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves. The idea of these powerful and corrupt adulterers being personally upset by White House coffees and naughty sexual behavior was laughable.
But they did it, oh how they did it, and it often succeeded in changing the dialogue and titillating the media into a frenzy of breathless tabloid coverage.
In fact, they became so good at the tactic that they now rely on it as their first choice to control the political dialogue when it becomes uncomfortable and put the Democrats on the defensive whenever they are winning the day. Perhaps the best example during the Bush years would be the completely cynical and over-the-top reaction to Senator Paul Wellstone's memorial rally in 2002 in the last couple of weeks leading up to the election.
But it's about more than simple political distraction or savvy public relations. It's actually a very well developed form of social control called Ritual Defamation (or Ritual Humiliation) as this well trafficked internet article defines it:
Defamation is the destruction or attempted destruction of the reputation, status, character or standing in the community of a person or group of persons by unfair, wrongful, or malicious speech or publication. For the purposes of this essay, the central element is defamation in retaliation for the real or imagined attitudes, opinions or beliefs of the victim, with the intention of silencing or neutralizing his or her influence, and/or making an example of them so as to discourage similar independence and "insensitivity" or non-observance of taboos. It is different in nature and degree from simple criticism or disagreement in that it is aggressive, organized and skillfully applied, often by an organization or representative of a special interest group, and in that it consists of several characteristic elements.
Ritual Defamation is not ritualistic because it follows any prescribed religious or mystical doctrine, nor is it embraced in any particular document or scripture. Rather, it is ritualistic because it follows a predictable, stereotyped pattern which embraces a number of elements, as in a ritual.
The elements of a Ritual Defamation are these:
- In a ritual defamation the victim must have violated a particular taboo in some way, usually by expressing or identifying with a forbidden attitude, opinion or belief. It is not necessary that he "do" anything about it or undertake any particular course of action, only that he engage in some form of communication or expression.
- The method of attack in a ritual defamation is to assail the character of the victim, and never to offer more than a perfunctory challenge to the particular attitudes, opinions or beliefs expressed or implied. Character assassination is its primary tool.
- An important rule in ritual defamation is to avoid engaging in any kind of debate over the truthfulness or reasonableness of what has been expressed, only condemn it. To debate opens the issue up for examination and discussion of its merits, and to consider the evidence that may support it, which is just what the ritual defamer is trying to avoid. The primary goal of a ritual defamation is censorship and repression.
- The victim is often somebody in the public eye - someone who is vulnerable to public opinion - although perhaps in a very modest way. It could be a schoolteacher, writer, businessman, minor official, or merely an outspoken citizen. Visibility enhances vulnerability to ritual defamation.
- An attempt, often successful, is made to involve others in the defamation. In the case of a public official, other public officials will be urged to denounce the offender. In the case of a student, other students will be called upon, and so on.
- In order for a ritual defamation to be effective, the victim must be dehumanized to the extent that he becomes identical with the offending attitude, opinion or belief, and in a manner which distorts it to the point where it appears at its most extreme. For example, a victim who is defamed as a "subversive" will be identified with the worst images of subversion, such as espionage, terrorism or treason. A victim defamed as a "pervert" will be identified with the worst images of perversion, including child molestation and rape. A victim defamed as a "racist" or "anti-Semitic" will be identified with the worst images of racism or anti-Semitism, such as lynchings or gas chambers.
- Also to be successful, a ritual defamation must bring pressure and humiliation on the victim from every quarter, including family and friends. If the victim has school children, they may be taunted and ridiculed as a consequence of adverse publicity. If they are employed, they may be fired from their job. If the victim belongs to clubs or associations, other members may be urged to expel them.
- Any explanation the victim may offer, including the claim of being misunderstood, is considered irrelevant. To claim truth as a defense for a politically incorrect value, opinion or belief is interpreted as defiance and only compounds the problem. Ritual defamation is often not necessarily an issue of being wrong or incorrect but rather of "insensitivity" and failing to observe social taboos.
It’s important to recognize and identify the patterns of a ritual defamation. Like all propaganda and disinformation campaigns it is accomplished primarily through the manipulation of words and symbols. It is not used to persuade, but to punish. Although it may have cognitive elements, its thrust is primarily emotional. Ritual Defamation is used to hurt, to intimidate, to destroy, and to persecute, and to avoid the dialogue, debate and discussion upon which a free society depends. On those grounds it must be opposed no matter who tries to justify its use.
It seems pretty unlikely to me that Greg and his buddies that pass these wingnut e-mails around are aware of what they are doing. I wonder if anyone is deliberately pulling their strings?