Sunday, March 09, 2008

Art of Manipulation- full text

As part of my ongoing psychopathological studies into American politics, I get emails with Ann Coulter, Robert Novak, Newt Gingrich and others from Human Events, "leading the conservative moment since 1944", and Newsmax, "the leading independent online news site with a conservative perspective".

The sites explain the high circulation of many an unreadable conservative tome such as Mark Steyn's America Alone, or Ann Coulter's If Liberals Had Brains They'd Be Republicans. They are given away free with each subscription.

Of course, normal prejudice inclines one to think that conservatives, apart from those few who are cynically manipulative, are inherently gullible. While the left has its share of conspiracy theorists who can draw maps with "planned" pipelines to explain all geopolitics, you don't often see ads for pipeline futures on liberal websites.

And who can argue with the market? Check out the advertisements that appear on American conservative sites, or the emails they send out to their lists. Going right through the looking glass you will find General Jack D Ripper is alive and well and ranting on about conspiracies against his pure bodily fluids.

While calls for donations to the Republican National Committee are a matter of taste, if you want to sell penny stocks, oil sands futures, miraculous cancer cures, doctors trekking into the Amazon for wonder panaceas, not to mention tax-avoidance schemes, then the conservative internet is your oyster. That was a small sample from this week's inbox.

Newsmax's Dr Russell Blaylock is "disgusted by the unmitigated gall of the giant pharmaceutical machines and their giant propaganda factories" and peddles a whole range of alternative medicines and cures. But hang on, aren't those pharmaceutical companies and their giant lobbying machines the ones that the Bush administration helped give the US the highest drug prices in the world?

In wacko world there is a "conspiracy between the FDA and the drug companies
to hide the truth from you" - the truth being that "in 21 days you can get rid of just about any cancer," presumably except all the ones that stubbornly keep killing people.

Never mind advertisers not knowing which half of their budget is wasted, in the new internet age they get instant feedback, so these guys presumably have commercial evidence that they have drilled into a bottomless reservoir of wooden nickel takers. These assorted snake-oil vendors buy the lists and pay for space on these sites, presumably because they know that it generates customers and revenue.

It is easy to see why. If the editorial pages of these sites can get their readers to believe impossible things - for instance that George Bush was a war hero, John Kerry was a coward and American healthcare is the best in the world - before they eat their high fructose corn syrup and pancakes for breakfast, then it is no great stretch to get them enthusiastically voting for a party that backs the great pharmaceutical conspiracy that keeps them from the instant cancer cure.

Michael Scanlon, the sidekick of imprisoned Indian casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff, gave the perfect description of the manipulability of Newsmax and Human Events readers when selling his services to the tribes:

"Our mission is to get specifically selected groups of individuals to the polls to speak out AGAINST something. To that end, your money is best spent finding them and communicating with them on using the modes that they are most likely to respond to. Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information form [sic] the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees."

So Obama is a Muslim, Hillary is a dyke, the UN has black helicopters taking over America - and if you discount the danger of such frenetic and fanatic gullibility, just watch out for those swift boats coming over the cyber-surf on a screen near you soon.

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