What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

While I don’t often post video, this segment by John Oliver about how the right-wing is consolidating local television news and turning into propaganda–that would make Fox News blush–is worth watching:

One problem Democrats face is, in many parts of the U.S., there is nothing other than right-wing news (boldface mine):

It might have helped if the debates had been a little more focused on issues instead of gotchas, but as I wrote a couple of days ago, Clinton doesn’t know how to frame arguments in language that a red stater could understand. The kind of shorthand or boilerplate language Democrats in blue states use with each other is alien in these here parts. So when Clinton in the debates talked about investing in the middle class, I knew what she meant. But that’s a meaningless phrase to red state folks. They have no grounding in what that might actually mean, because such things are never talked about here.

I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that if you live in a red state, and you are not the sort of person who enjoys reading newspapers from around the world through the Internet, you don’t hear liberal/progressive perspectives on anything. You will not have heard them since the Lyndon Johnson Administration, frankly, meaning that if you haven’t yet achieved Geezerhood you may not know there ever were liberal/progressive arguments for anything. All you know is that “libtards” like raising taxes, just because, and like big government programs, just because.

And, again, if you were watching this election from a red state or district, and all you knew about Hillary Clinton was what you saw on the television and in social media, you wouldn’t have liked her, either, regardless of how racist or sexist you might or might not have been.

I don’t know that all the small-town newspapers and red state television and radio stations are owned by wingnuts, but I suspect most of them learned a long time ago to be cautious about how they handle political news. As their marketing areas got redder and redder, too anti-conservative a message, or even coverage that too vigorously questioned the Right’s hegemony, could have cost them their business.

That leaves us with the national television news, which is mostly worthless….

So if there’s one thing I wish I could get across to the Democrats in the Beltway, it’s that they’re going to have to make an extraordinary effort to break through the iron curtain of disinformation in red states. A couple of rallies and some meh campaign ads won’t cut it. They need to begin a barrage of progressive policy arguments in these states. They should drop pamphlets from airplanes, if that’s what it takes. And they need to begin it now, before the next election campaigns begin.

This is why running Democrats in red areas, even if they don’t win, matters. But I digress.

Here are the consequences of said disinformation (boldface mine):

Because most non-college-educated voters don’t know that Republicans plan to privatize Social Security. Most don’t know that Republicans want to privatize Medicare. Most don’t understand what how the loss of organized labor has hurt all working people.

And that’s because nobody bleeping tells them.

Indeed, if you were to walk up to a standard red state voter and tell him that Republicans are planning to gut Medicare and Social Security, they probably wouldn’t believe you. Republicans like to tell voters that they are the ones who are going to protect Social Security and Medicare from those goofy liberals. However, somehow, they’ve got it in their heads that the Democrats are the party in thrall to Wall Street and the Republicans aren’t. Having Hillary Clinton as the party’s standard bearer didn’t exactly correct that misunderstanding.

Well, at least, now that Republicans are trying to gut Medicare (don’t worry, they’ll get around to Social Security soon enough!), the notion that Republicans want to gut Medicare is starting to break through a bit–though it’s not clear even now if people realize Democrats are reasonably good on these issues.

Democrats need to run on a clear message, and also figure out where Democratic voters’ non-political institutions are, in order to counteract this massive propaganda edge.

Democrats might even think about ‘running against the media’, since, at the local level anyway, it’s turning into a Republican propaganda machine.

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2 Responses to What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

  1. chris says:

    I see this argument all the time and it’s almost always framed so that it’s the Democrats fault for not doing ‘enough’ to get the message out. Very seldom do any of the authors have a suggestion about how, exactly, that is supposed to happen. What does an effective opposition to Fox News and Breitbart look like? Unless we can legislate away Rush Limbaugh and Reddit, I don’t see what can be done. A large segment of America is lost, entirely by their own design. A “clear message” isn’t going to cut through.

    The fact that the author jokingly suggested dropping leaflets from a plane is a dead giveaway about how empty this line of argument is. Best just to blame “Democrats in the Beltway” for not having figured it out yet and move on.

  2. someone says:

    Since you post video, I can do likewise. I think it’s a valid counterpoint.

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