Reframing debate: bumper sticker zingers
Sept 24 Press**Watch
The reactionaries in this country have long had a habit of creating simple sound bites to cover up complex issues. These minimal memes are easy to remember and much easier than thinking issues out, so naturally they work for the business of herding people around. The Left has long resented this practice, even as we see time and again that the practice works. For example, the Right doesn't have to bother stating their desire to control women by forcing them to carry babies against their will--they just say "abortion kills babies" and let the lie work its magic. The equation of a fertilized egg with a cute little baby might be unfair to honest debate, but they aren't interested in honest debate, they want mind control.
The presence of unprincipled opposition is demoralizing. We want the Republicans to fight fair, but it's clear that they never will, so I suggest taking them on their own terms. The John Reed character in the movie Reds retorts to a Leninist dissembler that "I'm a good enough propagandist to use the truth." And aside from being morally correct, there is a self-reinforcing nature to the truth. So maybe we need bumper-sticker truth to reframe the issues. Here are a few examples:
bumper sticker sayings to gum up the Right:
"Health Denial Profits Kill 400 Every Day." In this phrase, the idea of a health care industry has been spiked. We don't have a health care industry in the United States--instead, uniquely and to our peril, we have a health denial industry. Why waste energy fighting the idea of moral rectitude in a health care industry when it doesn't exist? The reason it's an industry, the reason it generates profits at all, is that it denies care. No care denial, no profits. No other country assigns public health care to profiteers. But if we don't label the Health Denial Industry properly, we can't make progress against it. Once you give it the proper description, there's little legitimacy left for the Right to argue with. Shall we, then, allow the health denial profiteers to kill 400 per day? How about letting them kill 350 men, women, and children per day? Maybe the health denial industry would be more acceptable if we let them kill 250 per day. You see where I'm going with this. Frame it right and join the fight.
I want to have some fun with this, so if you have a favorite bumper-sticker saying, one that reframes debate, call in with it at 503-231-8187.
The corporate-owned Right is currently making much headway by playing up the fears of its electorally defeated base. We know that the don't-call-me-racists in this country are terrified that the Black President is the first sign that they might have to pay the price for crushing people of color. The Right, however, is hiding behind various facades, knowing that they don't have to fool the victims, only the perpetrators. So we get code campaigns like the Birthers, who promote the ridiculous and long-disproved notion that President Obama isn't a citizen and can't be President, meaning of course that he isn't White and can't be President. I say, fight fire with fire, with this phrase:
"The Right Has Whine Flu."
Unfair, isn't it? But it's beautiful. It covers so much ground, and it turns around the code nicely. The Right is too narcissistic to acknowledge that it is whining, and the corporate-owned manipulators want to whip up as much whining as possible, including the notion that the hegemony of the rich and the White has been fully reversed instead of symbolically challenged by the last election. On the other hand, they can't afford to admit that they're promoting whining, because that is a fully taboo action in conservative society. But the right really does have whine flu. They're whining that they might have to pay a fair share of taxes, that the immigrants who have worked so hard, for so long, for so little, might get health care; that if Constitutional freedoms are not banned they might have to suffer uncertainty about their favorite police actions. Let's call them on it. The Right has Whine Flu.
The Right also loves hero worship, because as lazy whiners, they need someone to do the thinking for them. Hence the popularity of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. Why be fair with demagogues who target abortion doctors to death? They deserve bumper sticker logic, like: "With Glen Beck, Who Needs Lobotomies?" --and "Rush Limbaugh is 40% of Global Warming." Rush is promoted by the corporate right on their radio stations whether he makes a profit for them or not--pretty weird, if you think about it, and it reveals the control agenda of the Right. He's obnoxious, he's openly racist, and he's everywhere, not because he's that popular, as the corporate owning class would like you to believe, but actually because they're pushing him on us. Rush Limbaugh is forty percent of global warming--says it all, doesn't it? And it asserts that global warming is an issue; sneaky, huh.
Framing the issue is the name of the game--why should we leave it to the Right? The US invaded Iraq six years ago, as the Cheney/Bush regime constantly implied that Saddam Hussein had been colluding in the 9/11 airplane crash-bombings. If politics were ruled by logic and morals, the US would never have attacked Iraq at all; certainly, you and I were screaming that the charges were lies, and we were drowned out by the corporate-owned propaganda industry. But now we're supposed to forget all that, even though no politician in the White House would currently try to maintain the ridiculous Iraq/9/11 fiction, and the debate is supposed to be proscribed around the idea that it's somehow moral to occupy a country once you've killed a million people, made refugees of millions more, and bombed it into the Stone Age. This is like saying that a burglar who breaks into a house and kills parents should raise the kids. So we should ask: "Who wants to be the last to die for a lie in Iraq?" Of course the same apples to Afghanistan, hence, "Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires." But then the bumper sticker phrase would be better covering both wars, so maybe it should just be "Who Wants To Die For A Lie?" It's infalmmatory, I know, but then so is mass murder.
"The Patriot Act is for Cowards." You know it's true. It's also one of those Conservative delusions, you know, that they're so brave and tough that they're in favor of destroying civil liberties in the name of safety. It doesn't make a lick of sense, of course, but they're not into sense so much. Likewise they would take down liberal or progressive values, even rights that were won as long ago as the Thirteenth Century in the case of habeas corpus, without acknowledging that that these ideas come from a broad-shouldered generosity and courage. Color-coded terror alerts didn't come from bravery, and they were intended to reduce the US population to frightened children. So this issue is easy to re-frame: The patriot act is for cowards. Right now there is a bill to reform the Patriot Act somewhat--the Justice Act, the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts, j-u-s-t-i-c-e, get it? Though the acronym is a stretch, it's a great use of re-framing. The JUSTICE act would dial back some of the unconstitutional excesses of the Patriot Act, though it would still allow sneak-and-peek searches, so I can't get wildly excited about it. Russ Feingold is one of the sponsors, Dick Durbin is in on it, but Obama is not. So I think there may be more power in a bumper sticker right now: "The Patriot Act Is for Cowards." Who's going to argue, Osama bin Laden's ghost?
Isn't this fun, beating the Right at their own game? Too bad we don't have a Murdoch-funding-level national cable news program on 24 hours a day to promote it. We do have community radio, though, and there are other forms of guerrilla media available to us, everything from street posters to the Internet tubes.
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