Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gish Gallop by Another Name

Well, the Senate Republicans are on their way to anointing King Mafia Mulligan, so today seems like a good time to once again mention the Gish Gallop we are living in. (Wow, that post from 2018 is something to read now in early 2020. It just keeps getting worse and as we sink deeper into it.)

Fittingly, Vox has another name for what has been happening: Mulligan and Republicans are "flooding the zone with shit," a concerted strategy identified by Steve Bannon to destroy the media's role as gatekeepers of anything approaching reality or truth.

The method was pioneered by none other than Vladimir Putin in post-Soviet Russia. As Vox's Sean Illing put it:

In October, I spoke to Peter Pomerantsev, a Soviet-born reality TV producer turned academic who wrote a book about Putin’s propaganda strategy. The goal, he told me, wasn’t to sell an ideology or a vision of the future; instead, it was to convince people that “the truth is unknowable” and that the only sensible choice is “to follow a strong leader.”

One major reason for the strategy’s success, both in the US and Russia, is that it coincided with a moment when the technological and political conditions were in place for it to thrive. Media fragmentation, the explosion of the internet, political polarization, curated timelines, and echo chambers — all of this allows a “flood the zone with shit” strategy to work.
Listening to other Russian ex-pats like Masha Gessen is essential to understanding how this works. If mainstream media were to consistently build George Lakoff's truth sandwich instead of parroting White House talking points, that would help a little.

But there doesn't seem to be any easy solution to get us out of the nihilistic pit of despair Republicans have dug for us. The only thing I can personally do was summed up by one of my friends on Facebook (of all places) today:
Despair is the grease of authoritarians. Have hope! And by that, I mean: stay awake, engage, speak write donate volunteer go forth and be passionate. Hope isn't a feeling— it's the result of doing.

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