a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
Grievance Grift [GG] ~ conclusion
GG (part 1) || (part 2) || (part 3) || (part 4) || (part 5) || (part 6) || (part 7) || (part 8) || (part 9)
Political technologies [PT] (e.g., twenty-first century political dark arts) include a wide assortment of ‘active measures’ and ‘special tasks‘ (strategies; tactics; methods; tools; dirty tricks, etc.) used to ‘organize victory‘—PT is designed to manipulate and shape social/national “reality” for the purpose of gaining political-power; and then using PT to stay in power [cf. Virtual Politics, by Andrew Wilson].
I’ve asserted that PT (American style) is essentially a hyper-cynical political play against weaknesses in American society. It is a sinister move that leverages extreme-postmodernism, e.g., exploiting errant cultural memes that are very dangerous, like “there is no truth,” and “all hierarchies are bad.”
PT can be used to control opponents, e.g., for example, through using kompromat (damaging dirt) as leverage. PT can be used by a politician, or a political party, to create, shape, and control other politicians/parties—other parties that both agree and disagree with them. As in every human narrative, tension and conflict are potent grist for the PT mill. A polarized society like the U.S. is very low-hanging fruit for PT to exploit.
PT, per se, is really nothing new. We trace the expression “follow the money” back to the Watergate story. Perhaps ‘follow the benefit’ was a far earlier iteration? (Lenin, 1913):
However, PT goes back even further.
I asked Sen. Marshall what he meant by this ambiguous oversimplification (above). Of course, no reply. He knows his PT forms a projection screen for evangelicals:
Sadly, leveraging and exploiting “God” by quoting scripture to justify violence and injustice inflicted on other human beings may be the earliest political technologies that we have. Marshall’s cynical leveraging and exploiting of that dynamic is about as dark, politically, as anything I’ve yet seen.
Unfortunately, twenty-first century PT (American style) does have a new dimension that elevates Russia’s old pre-Soviet and Soviet era political technologies to new heights. Even the old political dark arts required mass media—e.g., whatever ‘mass media’ meant in any particular historical context. In the twenty-first century context the ubiquity of social media—with algorithms designed to aggravate polarization—acts (for PT) a bit like what the military calls a force multiplier.
PT is often transparently juvenile for its school-yard bully appearance. Yet, sadly, PT is frequently very effective.
A political technologist is any person who uses PT in their discourse with others—note, this is often unconscious expression of PT conditioning. PT is in no way bound to any relationship with facts/truth, so political technologists are conditioned to trust the source (cult leader/tribe) of their PT, never question its veracity, and never accept any other source. Cult. This is what makes a cult leader the one who is unaccountable to anyone/anything. For the cult follower reality gets reversed, so PT makes truth accountable to the leader.
Obviously, PT has no concern whatsoever regarding facts, truth, or even coherence. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made a fine example of himself on that score a week and a half ago. In a WaPo story entitled, “Republicans’ conflicting message: Embracing Trump election lie is key to prominence, just stop asking us about it,” we read:
McCarthy (R-Calif.) had helped engineer the ouster Wednesday of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as the No. 3 House Republican leader for saying former president Trump’s claim of a stolen election was a lie. Yet he insisted later that day, “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.“
DJT‘s PT, with its unapologetic fire-hosing, has now enabled word salad like the above (even when offered by a high profile party leader like McCarthy) to appear in public discourse with no consequence or accountability to discourage the approach. For many Americans that has been rather jarring, to say the least.
Grievance, the goose that lays golden-eggs:
PT: a very challenging problem
PT/disinformation wins nearly every time on social media in at least a couple of ways. First, because it often takes forty-five minutes to undo the damage a single PT word or phrase can do; our polarization will never be reconciled on social media. Second, PT wins even if the disinformation is rejected because it inserts a chaotic disruption into the discourse preventing any real reconciling work.
PT will not be defeated online. So, please recognize, identify, and challenge PT in one on one conversations, in real life, whenever, wherever, and however you are able. Defeating PT will require a Pentecost (of sorts).
Political Technologies incorporate lying, fearmongering, deceiving, gaslighting, demagoguing, misinforming, slandering, disinforming, libeling, distorting, reducing, mischaracterizing, weaponizing, oversimplifying, and, especially, manipulating opponents, voters, and ‘reality’—as well as the democratic process itself—to seize and hold power.
Perhaps the biggest sign that you’re dealing with PT is the blatant oversimplification of complex issues.
PT are ubiquitous online. However, they will not be defeated there. Defeating PT will require a Pentecost (of sorts).
Next week: No idea. Come and see.
[this post approx. 850 words (3 min. read)]
What did you hear me say?
10 thoughts on “Grievance Grift (part 10)”
Thank You for Sharing your views, I find them helpful and coming from a 2nd tier view.
Thank you so much for your encouraging words! You are too kind!
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This has been a great series, Michael. You’ve broadened and deepened my understanding of PT.
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David, I agree with you.
Thanks, David, I appreciate you!
While I’m thinking of it, I appreciate the feedback of all who have commented! Thanks!
We’ve just scratched the surface on the history of PT and its antecedents.
I’ve tried to share my resources as we went along. The academic book I’d consider as the textbook is, “Virtual Politics,” by Andrew Wilson. Thick writing but fascinating. The book that got me started on PT back in 2017, and a very accessible, enjoyable read is, “Nothing is True and Everything Possible,” by Peter Pomerantsev. I felt as though the NPR, This American Life story, “The Other Mr. President,” from back in 2017 was perhaps the most helpful resource I shared in the series.
I could just keep writing on it and using Sen. Marshall as an example. Hopefully others are watching Marshall with a bit different perspective now. One pleasant discovery: I’ve enjoyed encountering/meeting several Kansas constituents who are faithful at monitoring Marshall’s social media. Each in their own way they hold Marshall to account. I guess I’ve been the “PT guy” for the past two and a half months.
I kind of like that I have no idea what I’ll write about this week.
I recently read, “Broke in America,” by Goldblum and Shaddox. Helpful book. Perhaps something with that. [*shrugs*]
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Your series packed a lot of information into a few words which is difficult. A short book that I found extremely helpful to understand PT as you have labeled this tactic is the Lee Mcintyre book called Post-Truth. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/post-truth Mr Mcintyre goes into detail about the many human psychological traits that predisposition people to these tricks. I cannot recommend this book enough. I have now listened to the audio version at least 3x and still go back to it every couple months.
Leaders using these tricks on the masses goes back to recorded time. At this time though, the stakes seem higher to me. While Trump and your series has highlighted the fragility of democracy and I am not minimizing that in any sense, the same use of these techniques to confuse the world about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) could destroy the planet.
The Tobacco Industry back in the 60’s used these techniques, then the Koch brothers/Oil&Gas Industry used them to confuse the populace about AGW, and now we see Trump and his cohorts attack democratic institutions in the US. There are examples all over the world and in many different areas. My point is that the subject can be vast and back to my plug for the Mcintyre book, I believe Post-Truth is the best work to summarize why humans fall for these tricks, details the various methods used of which I found media manipulation the most eye-opening, and what can possibly be done.
Thanks for getting this information out to another audience. Repeating the truth does work as Mcintyre details studies that support this hypothesis. So while cognitive dissonance predisposes people to accept falsehoods, repeating the truth over time will prevail. Do we have enough time though?
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hey now, shastatour,
Thanks for writing!
I’ve said previously, I take counsel from this quote:
We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men [sic]. If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.” —George Orwell
“McIntyre argues that we can fight post-truth, and that the first step in fighting post-truth is to understand it.” —from Amazon review
I’ll settle for ‘recognize it.’ Although, that’s probably about the same as ‘understand it.’ That’s what makes it such a difficult problem.
I will definitely look into Mcintyre’s book. Thanks for the lead on it!
hey now, shastatour,
Haha, serendipity! it appears McIntyre is also fond of the Orwell quote I cite above. I received my new copy of “Post Truth” today and McIntyre splits the quote into two and begins the first and last chapters with them. 🙂
McIntyre writes to conclude the intro:
“Thus what is striking about the idea of post-truth is not just that truth is being challenged, *but that it is being challenged as a mechanism for asserting political dominance.* And that is why one cannot shy away from politics if we are going to understand what one must ‘essentially know’ about the idea of post-truth.”
I do feel as though McIntyre would be in sympathy with my a mystical möbius writing project.
Thanks, again, for the lead on the book!! I note I have a fondness for smaller, pocket-size books, too. Even with just a quick peek, I’m already enjoying it!
Michael L. McKee
Tip-o-the-hat to shastatour! So, I don’t have any idea how I’ve missed Lee McIntyre up till now. However, as I open the book on him, so to speak, it seems plain to me that he received the same marching orders that I did. Here’s a brief interview that prompts me to post this comment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgE68NSffVI
“I’m going to throw my cup of water on the fire whether it puts out the fire or not.” —Lee McIntyre