Demoralization as a tactic

Don’t lose heart.

But do you ever wonder whether someone might be deliberately trying to wear you down, demoralize you, persuade you to give up?

I know that as a persistent CBC listener & CNN watcher, as a voracious consumer of news about political subjects, that sometimes I feel frustrated even angry. And after days and weeks of frustration, one becomes fatigued, worn down. The logical outcome of this might be to turn cynical or simply to become heart-broken by all the negativity.

Years ago I wrote about the phenomenon of the negative ad, in particular the attack ad.

To summarize what I said (which isn’t necessarily all that original), attack ads have at least two outcomes:
1. Most obviously they encourage us to dislike someone or something. For example when we see three people talking about Justin Trudeau, describing him as “not ready” concluding “nice hair though” we may succumb to the peer pressure, and conclude that Trudeau’s not a great choice for PM.

2. Less directly, they call an entire category into question. If you see too many ads insulting different brands of motorbike, you may decide to purchase a car instead. Ads attacking politicians? At a gut level you may decide all politicians are crooks or liars or worse. You stop trusting any politician, you stop listening, you will stop participating, and maybe even stop voting.

The ads attacking Trudeau likely backfired, as Trudeau’s competence became the issue in the election. And what do you know! when Trudeau held his own in the first debates suddenly the ad’s conclusion was called into question so that a voter might think hmm maybe saying he was “not ready” was inaccurate, setting up a whole series of questions about Harper (who in case you can’t recall, did not have such nice hair either).

I bring this up because it hit me like a bolt out of the blue, that we’re being bombarded by something similar in 2018.


Dan Rather, from his Facebook page

Dan Rather was the one who inspired me to see the connection. I say “don’t lose heart” because I think we’re being manipulated, encouraged to despair about the situation both in the USA & Canada.

HERE is what Dan Rather said that I saw quoted on Facebook today.

From the farce of yesterday’s hearing on Capitol Hill (“oversight” by mendacity) to the spectacle in Great Britain (a President’s destabilizing, unstable, and racist interview) to the trailing exhaust of American leadership left in Brussels (with a friend like the U.S. who needs… Russia?) to what awaits in Helsinki (a bromance with a wily KGB agent), what we are witnessing is far beyond the realm of this reporter to put into full context.

I doubt Dante could imagine the circles in which we find ourselves. P.T. Barnum couldn’t figure out a way to sell it. And Rod Serling would shake his head in disbelief. All metaphors are rendered largely impotent – be they circus, swamp, or dumpster fire – because they seem to understate the sheer dangerous absurdity of it all. There can be no individual accounting of all damage.

I surmise this is what in some ways passes for the strategy of the President and his accomplices. See how many reactionary judges they can install, how many loopholes for the rich and connected they can construct, how many protections to health, water and air they can shred before the inevitable backlash.

I list all of this not to sow the seeds of hopelessness. Quite the contrary. That is what the forces of authoritarianism wish – that they can launch a reclamation of the Gilded Age on the backs of a demoralized majority. But I have seen these types of actors before. I have seen these odds. They cannot understand that the forces of goodness can channel a fury of righteousness and action. The time for slumber is over. No one can ever argue that elections do not have consequences. Even with the hurdles they are erecting to democracy no President and no political party, no matter how cynical they may be, is bigger than the country at large.

Excuse me but let’s take his words literally for a moment, as we zero in on one key sentence.

That is what the forces of authoritarianism wish – that they can launch a reclamation of the Gilded Age on the backs of a demoralized majority.

How might we be demoralized? Let me count the ways.

1-The references to fake news, but also the use of FOX as a kind of propaganda machine. The discourse is twisted as a result, unless of course you’re an ardent supporter.

2-The references to The Law, and the ongoing critique of the FBI and Mueller as “a witch hunt” all lead to a debasement of the law and due process.

3-I won’t speak much about what’s happening at the southern border, only to say that this likely was meant to dishearten liberals, but has –like the “nice hair” ad—blown up in the GOP’s face. The amount of outrage is so enormous that I’m thinking that November will see a reversal of the two parties’ fortunes, notwithstanding the efforts to steal elections that we’re already seen.

4- oh yeah, and then there’s that business of stealing elections. The Democrats refusal to fight in 2000 was profoundly upsetting. If there is no due process, if the elections are rigged? Democracy itself is a farce.

So as Dan Rather said, look at these not as sad or depressing events, but as deliberate attempts to break your heart, to persuade you that Horatio Alger was wrong (to cite one American myth). Alger told Americans that anyone can succeed if they work hard. But not if the game is rigged, and the rich get to keep their spoils behind a wall while everyone else toils and struggles without ever making any progress.

Collegiality—whether it’s in the Senate or during debates or just when you chat while buying your coffee—is an expression of faith, a trust in the people around us: of all races & faiths. If you can open your heart and trust that the truth shall set you free and will prevail? You have something very powerful.

And if they take that away from you, it doesn’t matter how much money or property you have. It’s a kind of faith not unlike religion, because it’s not a matter of what you see. It’s about what you feel.

Don’t lose heart.

This entry was posted in Personal ruminations & essays, Politics, Popular music & culture and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Demoralization as a tactic

  1. john says:


  2. Sharon says:

    Understand this article.

    Dan was great journalist!

    We rise together above this political rhetoric!

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