Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Manichean Candidates. The Rage of Polarized Followers - Dualism as Propaganda Tool

Updates to Budget Policy Differences 2012.
Tracing the Rage of A Committed Opposition in Political Matters 2012.
A current look at this venerable idea:  The Manichean Influence.

Weapons of Language, Demonizing a Worldview
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Religious Polarizers Pointed the Finger at "Evildoers."
In morality matters, they still do.

Political Polarizers following the Bush "evildoer"-hunt years, recycle the idea: those after 2008 morphed it into procedural illegitimacy, a threat to established order.  For morality issues, "evildoers" remains. 

Even with other words, not so loaded, old forms of Manicheanism re-surge in Modern Politics -- The Manichean Candidate Candidates, Elected Officials, Religious Leaders Take Manicheanism a Step Beyond:
To "Enforcement" and Punishment of the Declared Evildoers


Newly harsh conflicts in our pluralistic culture and politics reflect old ideas. Try this model for possible understanding the duality and the passions.

1.  Manicheanism

Manicheanism is an old form of religious belief from Persia, ancient Iran, that promotes a dualistic, black-white view of the world. For an Everyman's overview, see http://www.theopedia.com/Manicheanism/.
Summary:  There is light, think of the soul, God, good, and there is darkness, think of the body, or matter, evil, Satan, and the light is right and the darkness is -- what? damned?  Not quite.  The powers of good are not omnipotent in Manicheanism, and the judges are out on who will win. The human who identifies with the light is on the right track. A famous Manichean was Augustine of Hippo, see http://www.bethel.edu/~letnie/AfricanChristianity/WNAManicheanism.html/ 

Then there is darkness.

2.  Modern application.

Is this Today:  There is us and there are the evildoers, everybody else. Read the history of the concept at Evildoers.  Start with texts, and crusades. Resurging. Look at all who have been swept in - how much was justified, and by what criteria. See Many Words for Evildoer, You Marplot.
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Institutions and individuals further this polarization through the use of absolutism, we are right and they are wrong, as a propaganda tool, and so foster hate, rage and revenge-death against nonbelievers. Candidates throw inflammatory language and definitions around, creating dualistic camps, garnering emotional support by body language, pitch, volume, techniques of waiting for the reaction from the spectators to come, and come it does.
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The Face of the true, classical Manichean, has been changed in our day, but is recognizable. Our evolved dualism misuses the term by justifying violence against others.  Modern dualism extends into enforcement by forging two camps - the Pure Good and the Pure Evil, so go to it.  If the target of the torture is an evildoer, that is less than human, less than us, evil, for example.  No problem. Modern Manicheanism is dangerous because it allows an individual to decide who is evil and who is not, and punish, kill the Other.
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Meet Some Modern Proponent-Would-Be's
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I. The Roots of Polar thinking.
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A. Manicheanism. Look back at Manicheanism - 3rd Century AD - the 200's. Manicheans believed that there are two forces, two gods, one good and one evil, and the good god is named JHWH - the Hebrew God - see this overview at http://www.bethel.edu/~letnie/AfricanChristianity/WNAManicheanism.html/ See Manicheanism, Philosophy Turned Weapon.
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The name of the evil god is Satan, and Satan is equal in power to JHWH. Even JHWH cannot control Satan - he can only expel him. The Manichean lives in a world where This is this, and that is that, and ne'er the twain shall meet. See Rudyard Kipling's words on East and West at http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/255800.html/. The idea of irreconcilable differences has ancient roots. Pure good (us), pure evil (them).
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II Use in Modern Times
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A. The term, "Manichean," has been applied to modern events, philosophical developments, and people.
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See, "The Manichean President," by David Gordon at http://mises.org/story/2736 Simply the labeling, the naming, carries power with it. See FodderSight, Naming.  How we address someone, or express a concept, itself shapes that person or concept.
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The history of modern naming of evildoers: In the first years of his presidency, George W Bush used the polarizing terminology of "evildoer" to set the mob forces going to "get" Iraq. See the listing of references at http://irregulartimes.com/evilwar.html/
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That evildoer concept derived straight from the Middle Ages, where "evildoer" as a concept used against the East triggered the (unsuccessful) Crusades.  Your sins will be forgiven if you kill the evildoer.  The evildoer is not human.  And then the witch hunts. And the holocaust. Where the term is used, enforcement follows in the Western distortion of it: Naming as Evil is Deadly Concisionism - Primordial Arborial Evildoer .
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B. The Manichean Misnomer Idea Spreads: This person is a Terrorist. The Label Permits the Enforcement.
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Propaganda by misnaming. These are a pattern likely to repeat.
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In 2008, the naming of "Ayers" as a terrorist allowed politicos to connect Obama with Ayers and by association, to terrorist activities.  Was Jim Ayers a terrorist? The label carried more weight than actual facts.
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Terrorism in that context is in itself was an obvious misnomer. The Ayers business in the '70's, that in 2008 are tied by the then political drivers on one side, the McCain-Palin polarization efforts,  try to tie to terrorism, never had the terrorist word used then, and never acted in a terrorist way. It was "radical." And aimed only at property with advance warning so people were never in there. See the FodderSight, Power of Naming.
But "Weathermen" activities were not terrorism. Is anyone educating the people about that? No. Political communication is commercial - sell something, don't inform about all you know about it.
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The Weather efforts were directed at property only, with advance warning to get people out. No-one was hurt, we understand. They were not random terrorists - terrorists aim to kill and injure random people, inciting the population to general fear. See http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2008/10/william_ayers_a_terrorist_mayb.html.
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2. Politicians with the evildoer socialist obsession.
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Last national election cycle:  Sarah Palin. There is a recent reference to a dual outlook on life, without the old roots, but still calling it "Manicheanism," in the analysis of her by James Zogby, at http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/917/in2.htm. The article is at Al-Ahram Weekly, "Listening to Sarah."
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III. The Propaganda Value of Manicheanism.
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Candidates can learn the techniques, and so learn how to whip up vulnerable people into a frenzy:
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Fling absolutes in naming about, as we saw recently at the McCain and Palin rallies. By way of update - see cries of Socialism and posters of evil Jokers, this from 2010. And the more the Manichean approach to reality is repeated in the media, the more people will believe it must be so.  Exposure equals persuasion.
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See
 full size image

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Watch for this technique on radio, misnomers flying. And on Church TV in many cases where one set of beliefs is set up as absolutely correct and saving; all others to be damned, quite literally. Fear, divisiveness, labeling. If swallowed whole, they keep the flock close, and trembling, or else eager for blood.
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Say the trigger words, wait until there is the desired response, let it roll without correction or interruption - encourage it. A virtually primordial fear, anger erupts. An outward and visible sign of an inward turmoil, but in this context, as fostered for political purposes by the partisans. Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Here, use the fear-words.
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IV. How to Counter Modern Dualistic Thinking
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Needed: The Benign Arsenal of Nuance, Differentiation, Thinking
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A. Analyze the components, see the differences.
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Example: Back to Ayers. Is he a terrorist, or a radical. Use the demonize tactic. Take a later person, associated with someone running for office. Find the guilt by association target repeating.
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Is this comparison of intent and modus operandi like issues in robbery vs. theft.
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In theft, one takes while no-one knows. The property is suddenly gone. Perhaps it escalates in the operation so that someone is injured, but theft is impersonal. Not from "the person" in the flesh.
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In robbery, the person takes from the person directly. It involves fear, force.
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In law, they are very different concepts, different threats, different consequences. Nuance. Nuance is civilized. Hate thrives on imposing inescapable distinctions.Absolutes R Us.
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B. Let no one seduce by labeling. Look at the components yourself. Add back nuance to the discussion despite them
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Go back to the Bush analysis, black white, good evil, either or.
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Is it on point after all?
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George Bush (Bush II) was/is a simplistic good-evil person - but his dualism is not really "Manicheism" - see "Calling Bush's Views Manichean Is An Insult To The Manicheans," by Dan Skinner 9/27/04 in the History News Network. It explains, from 2004, why Manicheanism is a tempting analogy, but flawed. That article is timely, eight years later.
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Manicheism is benign as a mere philosophy describing a context - simplistic dualism, however, that leads to justifications for killing and violence against the Other is malignant.
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The campaign remains relevant. The malignance is Palin-McCain today, and the mindset they are exploiting, fostering, me good you evil. Watch the memes spread, making the thought acceptable. It does not take direct contact, those memes. Look them up, here and elsewhere.
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George W redux. Back with us. Identify the Evil Other and suddenly the self is off the hook.
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C. Conceptualize polarization as a serious matter driving people's actions.
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It is reincarnated in dangerous ways. The danger of dichotomous thinking - do not underestimate what it arouses. Use your imagination, from Nuremburg with the dichotomy created between Jews and the rest of the population, to the witches, the reformers of any age.
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Polar thinking is ancient. Evildoers, The Crusades, The Holocaust, Manipulation of Misnomers in order to demonize an individual or a population: and the role of polar thinking in Elections. And Palin, McCain, Fundamentalists, whoever, are also not dualists in the truly Manichean sense.
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We do see the us vs. them, love us hate them, idea fostered in the crowds responding in kind to McCain and Palin, at http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/10/mccain.crowd/. The Manicheans saw dualism as a fact of the world, not a matter requiring people to take arms against them.
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The modern abuse of Manicheanism is to lead people to want to eradicate the "other." The "evil."
  • Recall the debate at the big church with the theater seats - Saddleback. One candidate said you could and had to eradicate evil; the other said you can't eradicate evil - it is a given - but you can work with it, in some ways, and move toward good. Which is ideology geared to whip people up; which is reality.
  • Manicheanism, then, is nuance, relationship, reality - not two artificial slots. So, if Bush is not a Manichean, and Sarah Palin is not a Manichean, despite their ties to polarized viewpoints of good and evil, who is, if anyone. And does it matter. Update it to 2012 politics:  same polarizing, different names.
V Our Polarizing Partisanship Is Our Own Doing
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The raging man we see in the audiences at Manicheans' rallies: - expressing pent-up fear, anger.
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An outward and visible sign of an inward turmoil, largely fostered by partisan advertising, and not fact.
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Coverage gives credence to beliefs just from repeating them.
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Air time as weapon. How often have we seen the raging man at the political rally on our TV, spreading the Word. By giving hate direct airtime, loop after loop, media and we (by tolerating it) give it substantive credence. Make it "news."
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Air time also sells the idea that it is justified. Why is every stated idea in a campaign, from their ad people, given the same weight as every other stated idea, as though their loudness substitutes for justification in fact? Are we so cowed? Merit is not that hard to figure out - go to FactCheck.
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Cultural vulnerability to advertising.
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We as people, all of us, are easily led because that is how people make money off us - the means have been perfected.
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Madison Avenue knows the profits from persuasion, and has developed how to do it. So politicians can, and do, use the same techniques to generate whatever reaction to their challenger they want: including fear, hate, even imply that the person is part of some underground terrorist cell. Just sell the idea.
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We line up to buy. Groupthink takes over. FodderSight, Groupthink.
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Process Alters Message.
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Process adds to the message.
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The video and re-video loop. Hearing and seeing the hate that results, on TV directly, over and over again, with all that immediacy, is irresponsible. It sells hate. The visual as it is happening, not just a description of a past event, probably persuades more people that what the man out there has to say must be substantively right, true, because authorities repeat it again and again. Hate crimes easily follow hate. See FodderSight, "Expendable" People and Hate Crimes (scroll down).
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VI. How did we get so Hate-filled.
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Seeds of dysfunction are always there. We go in that direction every time the culture swings to polarization. The difference now is that we are demonizing persons, not just swiftboating the significance of what they did at some time. The person is said to be evil. Worth killing, conclude the spectators.
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This is different from taking a war record and trampling on it regardless. FN 1
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FN 1 Our western tradition revisits often the dichotomy idea, that life is a battle of good and evil, and I am good and you are evil.
  • It has led us down many paths, with diversions to scapegoat whoever is in the way of our thinking, leading to the drive to expel, to drive them out. See FodderSight, Scapegoat. Most recently, see the stoking of those traditional western fires in the ragings of the crowds at right-wing political scenes.
  • Watch them relish it, and foster it - as the audience rages get out of control. An embarrassment to out country. Stoking those fires is irresponsible and dangerous, because of who we humans are, how our brains work, and when our rages get going, intellect and thinking fall behind.
Why push hate out further? Because it works. It makes money. It wins elections. Sometimes.
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Misnomers. Also mis-identifications, mis-labeling and dichotomies and revenge obsessions against the Other.
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Propaganda enters in. Anything to persuade the ideology du jour.
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Make up
or misrepresent the alleged connection that is to be hated, and you get the same rage result as if it were true - the people may have no way or desire to check out truth.
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Look at all the labels available to us, all the -isms, at PublicEye at http://www.publiceye.org/frontpage/911/clerical-911.html#Apocalyptic%20Demonization
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Obama is an Arab, we learn. Perhaps the name "Barack" has roots there, or not - how about your own name. But here the connection is suggested with frightening results, as the meritless idea of a current relationship spreads purposefully in emails. Demonize - the anti-personhood equivalent of the Swiftboat. Demonize. The Word for 2008, as Swiftboat was the Word for 2004. Similar roots, but this one deadly.
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Update McCain-Palin-Gingrich-Romney-Whoever. To convince of his ideology, each must engage in misnomer. Demonizing. Fear, uncertainty, doubt about others, not confidence in who is in power now. With Obama, there is another sinister undertone. Not only the "terrorist" or "Muslim" - with no reference to the extremists all religions have - but these sound like the same crowd attacks on "Jim Crow." Look up the Jim Crow Museum.  Watch the demonizing move from Muslim to socialist.
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Scapegoating. This is part of modern Manichean thinking. It does not take much for hate to get out of control in an era of national humiliation. Look at 1930's Germany. It had long lost WWI, wanted to recoup, get its land back, its dignity, needed a cohesive political philosophy, no matter how repressive, needed a scapegoat.
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With the economic collapse, the opportunity magnified. Find and eradicate the Identified Other -there, the Jews - gypsies, the handicapped, other genetic inferiors, as the target so the True Ones can be racially pure. War was needed to get economies going, renew national purpose.

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If you question the reference to Nuremberg, just look up Leni Reifenstahl's brilliant 1934 film, "Triumph of the Will," and see the crowds unfold and unravel at the rallies upon hearing the language. See http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/triumph/tr-will.htm/ See also Germany Road Ways, Nuremberg, Hitler's Stadium.
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Polar thinking. You the expendable. Me, worth it. This does not only refer to the polar bear, our fellow traveler, that we are letting drown because it is not profitable to us to save it.
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It is worse. This polar thinking kills. Attacks on other "Others" - gays, immigrants with or without documents yet - Sets loose the memes for it.
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Nuance. Teach it. Down with absolutes. Our global survival depends on it.
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  • Look at 2008 and then look back from later years.  Any change?

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