Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Political Strategy Of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

Videos: Rachel Maddow talks about right
wing rhetoric urging violence against
Democrats and the resulting acts of
violence it has promoted.

Last Friday, former militia leader Mike Vanderboegh called for violence against Democrats across the country to protest the health care bill.
Vanderboegh posted the call for action Friday on his blog, “Sipsey Street Irregulars.” Referring to the health care reform bill as “Nancy Pelosi’s Intolerable Act,” he told followers to send a message to Democrats. And, apparently in response, attacks were made on offices of Democrats in–at least–Wichita, KS, Tucson, AZ, Rochester, NY, Niagara Falls, NY.

“We can break their windows,” he said. “Break them NOW. And if we do a proper job, if we break the windows of hundreds, thousands, of Democrat party headquarters across this country, we might just wake up enough of them to make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.”
Rep. John Boehner (R., Ohio), the House minority leader, is quoted in the National Review Online saying, “Take [Rep.] Steve Driehaus, [(D., Ohio)] for example, he may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati.
The anti-reform advocacy group then published an ad in The Cincinnati Enquirer featuring a photo of Dreihaus with his children. A conservative blog published Driehaus' address--complete with directions--on the Internet so that conservatives can find his house for a planned Sunday protest at his house. [TPM]

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has also done her part to raise the rhetorical intensity toward violence, telling her Twitter followers, "Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America, to ‘reload’ and ‘aim for’ Democrats.

Of coarse, Palin's use of gun imagery in her rhetoric against Democrats is no more an intentional incitement to violence than equating Barack Obama with terrorism and portraying him as "not one of us" during the 2008 presidential election campaign was an intentional incitement to violence. None the less, Palin's 2008 rhetoric against Obama prompted people to call out, "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" at her 2008 campaign rallies. [Death threats leveled at Democratic congressman and their families / House Democrats report increased threats]

Denying that their intense rhetoric has in any way pushed their constituencies to the edge of violence, conservative leaders in congress and on conservative radio and TV excuse this "Rage on the Right" by claiming the people have a "right to be angry." That the people are angry because President Obama and the Democrats controlling congress are passing laws opposed by the people through totalitarian parliamentary procedures. [Conservative View Host Justifies Tea Party Rage / RNC Chair Steele Defends Tea Partiers]
Forget the parliamentary procedures are exactly the same rules that Republicans used to enact their conservative legislative agenda when they controlled Congress and the White House for most years of the past decade.
Conservative legislation, passionately opposed by Democrats, that cut taxes while radically increasing spending, and legislation that eliminated regulatory oversight of the American financial system.

Conservative legislation that turned budget surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration into a $1.5 trillion deficit at the end of the Bush Administration. Conservative financial deregulation legislation that allowed the American financial system to run wild to near total collapse.
Forget the Tea Party speaks for only 13 percent of "the people" who say they are part of the Tea Party group; Four in five of who voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race and George W. Bush in 2004 and who strongly support Sarah Palin for President in 2012, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll.

Forget that Obama won the 2008 Presidential Election with 349 electoral college votes to McCain's 163 votes.

Forget that two-thirds of the House seats won by Democrats in November 2008 (170, 66 percent) were won in landslide fashion, decided by more than 30 points over their Republican challengers and that over 90 percent of Democratic seats were won by double-digits in 2008 (233 of 257 seats), with just 24 seats decided by less than 10 points which increased the number of house seats held by Democrats by 21 seats.

Forget that Democrats increased the number of Senate seats from 49 before the November 2008 election to current number of 59 seats. All these Democratic Party wins came on a platform of "change." Change from the Republican's conservative governance.

Forget that the Republican minority now seeks to nullify the 2008 election and the will of the majority of voters who elected Democrats to represent them in the White House, Senate and House.

Forget that during the Bush Administration years when Republicans controlled the House and Senate, conservatives would shout that Democrats in congress were "with the terrorists" when they opposed the policies of the Republican leadership. In fact, any negative criticism of the president whatsoever was considered unpatriotic "while troops were in harm's way." That was the line we heard almost daily throughout the previous decade: don't undermine the commander-in-chief while troops were deployed in battle.
IBM had great success with a marketing strategy coined Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) during the heyday of "Big Iron" computers in the 1980's and 1990's. The message to IT Directors was that a decision to buy computing equipment from any company other than IBM could result in sudden professional death. The marketing catch phrase tagged to this FUD campaign was, "No one ever got fired for going with IBM."

For a decade, or more, the GOP has increasingly relied on the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) marketing strategy against Democrats to get Republicans elected. Increasingly, the GOP has adopted a message that Democrats are Godless, fascist, communist, socialist, totalitarian, satin worshiping, grandma killing, baby killing "evil-do'ers" determined to drag this country to the very depths of hell if they are not stopped by righteous conservatives.
The Republican National Committee plans to raise money in the 2010 election cycle through an aggressive campaign promise to "save the country" from Democrats. The 2010 GOP plan, as given in presentation given at an RNC meeting, is to promote and capitalize on “fear” of President Barack Obama and Democrats everywhere. It seems the only government policy idea the GOP will offer in 2010 is a visceral fear of Democrats. [Ben Smith has the story at Politico / An angry voter is an ignorant voter]

This is exactly the same type of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) marketing strategy that GOP consultant Frank Luntz’s told Republicans to use to oppose Health Insurance reform in his May 2009 strategy memo on health care. And this is exactly the strategy that Republicans have executed for the last year. [Politico]
The Daily Beast's John Avlon writes on, a new Harris poll released on March 24 that is based on the book "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."The poll reveals Republican attitudes about Obama:
  • 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim
  • 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"
  • 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"
  • 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."
These numbers demonstrate that the fear, uncertainty, doubt and hate political strategy has pumped up hyper-partisanship since Obama took office. This FUD strategy is what drove some Tea Party protesters gathered on Capitol Hill earlier this week to yell "n*gger" and "f*ggot" at Democratic members of Congress and what prompted others to threaten violence toward members of congress and even their children.

The Harris poll, which surveyed 2,230 people right at the height of the health-care reform debate, also clearly shows that education is a barrier to extremism. Respondents without a college education are vastly more likely to believe such claims, while Americans with college degrees or better are less easily duped. It's a reminder of what the 19th-century educator Horace Mann once too-loftily said: "Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge."

[Harris poll finds Republicans believe GOP smears of Obama]

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