Friday, June 5, 2009

IN THE BEGINNING, it was called “liberal bias.”

At the dawn of the 21st century, people such as Bernard Goldberg were bringing attention to the political bias in American institutions. In the field of education, very few of the administrators and instructors were registered as Republicans. Similarly, Republicans were a minority in agencies of the federal government and the legal system.

In the entertainment industry, there was a very strong anti-Republican bias. Not only did it exist in the executive offices and trade unions, it appeared in the artistic products themselves. On the television series, Boston Legal, the inappropriate and bumbling head of the firm (Denny Crane) was a Republican. In the series Will & Grace, Republicans were the homophobes targeted by the humor. The message was pretty strong: If you want to be cool, do not become a Republican!

What about the field of journalism? It has been convenient to claim “media bias” in the American press, but that misses the point. The press is simply reflecting our culture. Their reporting is colored by what is culturally acceptable and unacceptable; what behavior is given a “green light” and what is given a “red light.”

Thirty years ago, I spent some time in Utah, flying for the Air Force Reserve. It was at Hill Air Force Base outside of Ogden, and I can remember having talks with many of the pilots who lived in Utah. We divided ourselves into the “commuters” and the “residents.” The commuters were those of us who lived outside Utah and came every two weeks for the training that was part of our Reserve duty.

The resident pilots were concerned about raising their families within the culture of Mormon communities. The pilots who were not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints spoke of the discrimination associated with getting their kids on soccer teams, or the difficulty of starting a business as a non-Mormon. While integration into the community was possible, there were barriers that made it more difficult for non-Mormons. The culture placed them at a disadvantage.

I’m sure things are changing in Utah, but I make the point to emphasize that there are cultural differences right here in the United States. Culture varies from community to community and state to state. The problem with culture is that it is hard to analyze from the inside. We can look at the Middle East and note that from our perspective, there is clearly an anti-Semitic culture in place. However, if you ask people living there from the non-Jewish population, they will say that there is no particular bias in their culture. The same effect can be seen in Europe. Americans may see elements of an anti-American culture, but the Europeans themselves dismiss it or deny it.

That brings me to the purpose of this Web log (blog). It documents instances of our anti-Republican culture in America. It focuses on material that is easily available on the Web, and tries to work with the more subtle cultural instances. For example, there is no point in chronicling MSNBC episodes of Countdown with Keith Olbermann or The Rachel Maddow Show. These shows are actively engaged in teaching Americans to HATE Republicans. Highlighting their anti-Republican behaviors is too easy.

But there is a certain reward in pointing out examples that are more interesting; examples that illustrate the techniques used to influence our culture. If you see the techniques being practiced, you get a better understanding of what is going on.

And that’s what this blog is about: helping people understand how creating a negative image of a particular group helps the people outside that group feel superior and powerful. The techniques have been used throughout human history, and can be seen at various levels from the playgrounds of elementary schools to the repressive regimes of countries under dictatorship and tyranny. It just happens that in the United States, an anti-Republican culture is being formed right now. It is worth documenting!

How will it work? We will focus on four classifications. (Note that I am bringing you into this effort!) We will look at each one in detail:

--The Themes
--Republicans Under Siege
--The Ministry of Truth
--“So Right and Natural”

The Themes

The Anti-Republican Themes are the perceptions and feelings embedded in a story that may or may not be explicitly stated. From The Cat in the Bag, they are:

--Republicans are bad people.
--Republicans are destroying the environment.
--Republicans are harming our children.
--Republicans are stealing from our Seniors.
--Republicans are shredding the Constitution.
--Republicans are turning the economy into a catastrophe.

The story doesn’t have to overtly mention the theme, but the feeling one derives from the story must convey this impression. Here’s an example from the Denver Post:
Dem shift halts tuition bill
Illegal immigrants would have become eligible for Colorado colleges' in-state rates

By Tim Hoover
The Denver Post
Posted: 04/07/2009 12:30:00 AM MDT
Updated: 04/07/2009 08:22:17 AM MDT

The Colorado Senate on Monday narrowly rejected a bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants in-state tuition…

Proponents of the bill said that children of illegal immigrants had no say in their coming into the United States and should not be punished by being required to pay out-of-state tuition two to four times as high as the in-state rate.

Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, said all newcomers to the state had the right to aspire to be something more than "ditch diggers and dishwashers."

And in an at times angry speech, Senate President Peter Groff, a Denver Democrat and one of only two blacks in the legislature, hearkened to the civil rights era and to the country's "dark past."

"I hope we can live with ourselves if we vote no today," Groff said, accusing opponents of the bill of not having the "courage" to do the right thing…

Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, had said he would sign the legislation.

"This is an idea that the governor has supported, so it is disappointing to see the measure fail," said Evan Dreyer, a spokesman for Ritter. "For him, it was really a matter of developing an educated workforce in Colorado."

Tim Hoover: 303-954-1626 or

Can you guess the theme? The quotes are from Democrats, so you have to use inference to determine who the “opponents” are. However, the quotations in this news story characterize the opponents as cowardly (“not having the ‘courage’ to do the right thing”) and vindictive (punishing children using techniques from the “dark past.”)

This is a news story about legislative activities in Colorado, but if you are wondering who are the folks wearing the “black hats”, they are the Republicans, and the theme is that they are harming our children.

Republicans Under Siege

An effective way to diminish a particular demographic group in a culture is to reinforce the point that they are unpopular. You can do this by making them the butt of jokes in various entertainment venues, or by chronicling the futility of their efforts and points of view.

If the individual is a political figure and engaged in political activities (conducting a meeting with constituents; making a public appearance), a good way to point out the unpopularity of his or her views is to hold a counter-demonstration. Here’s an example from Reuters:

Protests greet Bush's first speech as ex-president

Tue Mar 17, 2009 5:59pm EDT
By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - More than 100 protesters chanted "war criminal" and flung shoes in Calgary on Tuesday, angry that former U.S. President George W. Bush was in the Canadian city to give his first speech since leaving the White House…

The reaction was in stark contrast to President Barack Obama's first official visit to Canada last month, when he was fawned on by citizens and politicians alike.

From the headline and lead paragraph, it is clear what this story is about: America’s Republican president remains deeply unpopular, even though he is no longer in office.

This particular news story leads with the demonstration against the Republican figure. Normally, the story will start out with the substance of the event and you have to read through the column to the end where the reporter will note the actions of the counter demonstrators.

Take time to note the placement of the story within the news pages. The story will be given more prominence, based on the strength of the counter-demonstration. If there is no “Republicans Under Siege” component to the story, it probably will only make it to the Opinion section of the paper.

The Ministry of Truth

Have you read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four? It deals with a governmental agency whose purpose is to make sure people maintain the proper point of view. Even if you haven’t read the book, you are probably familiar with terms like “Orwellian,” or down the “memory hole.” Many of the phrases from the book have become a part of our daily language.

The concept behind The Ministry of Truth can be applied to the veneer of policy statements from governmental agencies. These entities let us know when we are in a financial crisis, medical crisis, environmental crisis, etc. However, they often become the vehicle for promoting anti-Republican thought, particularly when the crisis is somewhat abstract.

The Global Warming debate is a good example. If you sample opinion on the issue of climate change, you will find that many Republicans perceive this “crisis” as a hoax. Some news stories on Global Warming events will portray the opponents (Republicans) as “deniers” or people who actively want to destroy the environment. On the money side of the debate (those who expect to receive government grants or contracts) are the “good guys,” who are portrayed as being in the consensus and holding the scientifically correct point of view.

Although there are plenty of examples of anti-Republican sentiment incorporated into the Climate Change debate, time may be running out. As our climate begins its cooling cycle, it becomes harder and harder to make the case for Global Warming. However, here is what the California Office of the Attorney General Web site is saying now:

Global Warming Contrarians and the Falsehoods They Promote

Global Warming Is Real.

We now have a scientific consensus, built over time through professional skepticism and review, that global warming is real, humans are responsible, and the effects of continuing with "business as usual" even for a few more years are dire. (See The Facts About Global Warming.)

In the face of this scientific consensus, a few global warming deniers – many of whom do not have relevant scientific expertise and are funded by industry – kick up dust, cloud the issues, change the subject, and say, "Well, we can’t be absolutely sure. Let’s just wait and see what happens." But if we wait, we may lose the ability to address the problem as certain unstoppable climate change processes are set in motion. We may well become committed to catastrophe.

The Scientific Consensus

The premier body on climate change is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), formed in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. The IPCC, comprised of hundreds of scientists with relevant expertise from throughout the world, evaluates the state of climate science on the basis of peer-reviewed and published scientific literature. In 2001, in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, the body expressed the scientific consensus that global warming is real and caused by humans. In its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC concluded, based on all available evidence, that it is very likely (+90%) that human activities are warming the planet.

Since the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, all of the major scientific bodies in the United States with relevant expertise have issued reports or statements that confirm the IPCC's conclusion. These include: The National Academy of Sciences; The American Meteorological Society; American Geophysical Union; and The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Other scientific bodies throughout the world have done the same.

This is not to say that there are no open scientific questions related to global warming. We don’t know, for example, exactly how fast future climate changes may occur, or exactly how "feedback loops" might make things worse. But the debate on certain fundamental points is over: global warming is real, it’s caused by human activities, we are already seeing effects, and the risk of future catastrophic changes is substantial under "business as usual."

Keep in mind that this is from the Web site of a governmental agency. It is promoting a particular policy, one that is not particularly related to pressing legal issues facing the California Attorney General, and it is meant to adjust perceptions. What makes this interesting from a cultural perspective is that the California AG has been given a “green light” to put this document on the Web. Jerry Brown feels very comfortable in promoting this policy, and it is because our culture supports it.

“So Right and Natural”

When you are living a culture, it is difficult to be objective. Your perception is colored by the behaviors that are deemed appropriate by the culture.

Here is a link to an acceptance speech at the 2009 Golden Globe awards by Best Supporting Actress, Laura Dern. The excerpt includes an affirmation of the Democratic Party slogan associated with the recent election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

The point to note is that this kind of affirmation and declaration of anti-Republican political allegiance is an accepted part of our culture. It is similar to an athlete pointing to the heavens upon completing a difficult play in a competitive event. Some people may be uncomfortable with it, but the culture approves.

So to summarize, this blog will highlight these four anti-Republican classifications:

--The Themes
--Republicans Under Siege
--The Ministry of Truth
--“So Right and Natural”

When you see them used to promote our anti-Republican culture, send me a note and I will make sure they are documented. Here’s the way it works:

If you see a story about a Middle-East country where a demonstrator is chanting, “I hate Christians,” don’t bother letting me know. Anti-Christian hatred is well-documented. However, if you see a story about someone saying, “I hate Republicans," send me an e-mail right away.

Similarly, if there are demonstrations in Europe, and you see signs saying, “Death to Americans,” I’m not interested. But if you see a comedienne at a major event saying she hopes a Republican figure dies from kidney failure, I want to hear about it.

In the beginning, it might have been liberal bias. Now it has become our anti-Republican culture.

UPDATE 10/4/2010:
It's a month before the Mid-Term Election (11/2/2010) and the post on global warming is still up at the California AG site. Depending on how the election goes, it may not be there much longer. In the meantime, here is a .PDF file that includes an article from Dr. Jack Schmitt, an Apollo Astronaut who documents the recent science on global warming.

UPDATE 2/25/2011:
The global warming post on the California AG site has finally been removed.  Evidently Kamala Harris, the current AG, is comfortable in focusing on the state's legal issues rather than environmental policy.

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  1. "As our climate begins its cooling cycle, it becomes harder and harder to make the case for Global Warming."

    Ha. I found your blog while doing a google search for "will Republicans destroy the environment?" ... couldn't pass up this gem.

    Are you willing to reconsider your position on climate change now that we're in the middle of the warmest year on record?

  2. Anonymous:

    Thanks for the comment.

    When you refer to the "warmest year on record", what is the timeframe for your reference? Is it within the last 200 years or the last 150,000 years? Also, what temperature source are you using? Is it from satellite or ground-based sensors?

    Look at secondary evidence of temperatures just 2,000 years ago (The Roman Warm Period). If temperatures were as warm at that time, what is your conclusion?