Red Herrings, Misdirection, and the Destructive Art of Spin

All Americans Are Muslims

Don’t kid yourself. When you see Donald Trump and his flacks attacking the media and its accuracy, they are not always protecting his ego. These attacks intend to destroy the credibility of the media, and distract the American public from focusing on the critical issues that threaten our Democracy. The Trump Administration is serving a daily dose of red herrings, misdirection tactics, and spin to the American Public.

Red Herring

Worse, some members of the media are incapable of seeing through it. They take the media war bate like a cupcake waved in front of a child.

Consider how much time the media wasted this week on whether or not to call Donald Trump a liar. Instead of name calling, they should seek the smoking guns that prove Trump is intentionally lying. Regardless of the fine points of proving someone a liar by ethical media terms, Trump’s false words are not the issue. The real issue is the systematic destruction of the American democracy.

Meanwhile, Trump’s spinmasters have taken several actions to directly threaten the United States well-being:

  • Trump single-handedly destroyed U.S. Mexico relations in a matter of 36 hours.
  • He banned more than a hundred million Muslims from entering the United States saying “We don’t want them here,” on International Holocaust Rememberance Day. Think about that.
  • Trump promised an investigation into systematic voter fraud, an intentional move to suppress minority voting eligibility.
  • Replaced the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence on the National Security Council with Alt-right leader Stephen Bannon.
  • The Trump leadership team directly assaulted women’s rights, starting with abortion.
  • We as citizens and members of the media need to focus on the core actions being taken by Donald Trump to destroy the democratic institutions that make the United States of America.

    A Company of Spinners

    King Trump

    Mr. Trump is a malevolent and perhaps disturbed PR genius with zero ethics. His counterparts Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Sean Spicer are even worse, taking the art of deception to new lows unseen since the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This is what happens when you let power-hungry PR people run the country. Retaining power through spin matters more than right actions.

    Let’s be clear. Trump won on an electoral plurality, not a general vote majority. He knows that maintaining the plurality is crucial while he attempts to suppress the majority. That is how he will eventually achieve a stranglehold on national power.

    Misdirection

    Keeping the media on its heals with misdirection and fake drama helps achieve that objective. The misdirection bates the media into attacks so the Trump team can tell their sycophant following the media are liars.

    Journalists are getting played like a violin when they fight with Trump and his three spinning lieutenants about lying. The media drama furthers the Trump cause.

    Then the narrative becomes about the much maligned Trump attacked by a liberal media corps who don’t want him to make America great again. Pathetic, right? But it’s working with the plurality, and therein lies the long-term danger.

    Puncture the Spin

    Proud Muslim and American Military Family

    Jay Rosen had it right in his suddenly frighteningly titled blog pressthink about sending the interns to the white House briefing room. The Trump story is somewhere else.

    The Trump PR machine will continue to spew alternative facts and attack the media as part of its attempts to deceive the American public and implement its malicious agenda. The media should not cooperate, nor should they treat such blatant attempts to deliver spin as news.

    Spin

    Instead, journalists need to focus on the Trump story from outside sources. Trump team tweets and PR announcements are just spin. Prove Trump wrong through sources, documents, and investigative stories.

    The best two political stories I read this week came from investigative reporters. The first was the Washington Post accounting of the acting director of the National Park Service Michael Reynolds about a phone call with Mr. Trump in which the president pressured him to falsify visual evidence about the inauguration crowd size.

    The second story focused on the Republican retreat in Philadelphia this week. Again, the Washington Post obtained private information — this time in form of a tape — about GOP’s concerns on how to repeal Obamacare. The story revealed that the Trump Administration does not have a plan to assist in that effort.

    These types of stories successfully counter the Trump Administration’s spin and puts the President on his heels. Further, when the Trump Administration throws the media “shade”, journalists should simply ignore it. They are empowered by the First Amendment. It is the Trump Administration that has no or should have no credibility.

    A Time to Fight

    We Are Happy You Are Here

    In my opinion, every person with an Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and/or Twitter account that cares about the United States democracy needs to become actively engaged in the political conversation. We contribute to the overall media story. This is a time to fight. Our country’s principles and way of life are endangered.

    Get active. Here are things I am doing to serve our country and combat Trump’s brand of fascism:

  • Volunteering with ACLU Virginia as a strategic advisor.
  • Taking protest photos when I can, time permitting.
  • Turning down pro-Trump related projects, such as photographing an inaugural ball (truth).
  • Participating in pro-Democracy projects like the UnPresidented book effort on Kickstarter (support us, please).
  • And yes, contacting my Congressional representatives by phone, Twitter, and mail.
  • If Trump succeeds in turning our country into an autocratic state, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. Get active.

    Originally published on the Huffington Post.

    Civility, Tonality and Manners

    Piazza della Repubblica police
    Image by Friar’s Balsam

    Civility: 1. Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. 2. Polite remarks used in formal conversation.

    Society needs the civility movement online. Recent use of phrases like “blood libel” in speeches or outright threats to someone’s physical well being show that line after line is being crossed. Yet on the other side of the civility argument is a demand for contrarian voices to watch their “tone,” to ratchet back criticism. At their heart these cries may find their basis in a need for better manners online, or simply a desire to silence opposing views. In that sense, cries for civility represent a real danger towards freedom of speech online, a critical element of 21st century democracy as shown by recent events in the Middle East.

    The well-meaning “civility police” ground arguments in tonality, which makes it easy to dismiss them as vein attempts to stifle uncomfortable differing views (see PRSA post on this topic). Tone deals with sound and color. Sound is not just the actual words, but the inflection of the voice, the shade of orange.

    Printed words — the stuff of most blogs and social networks — does not convey tone as easily as sound or color. In fact, in order to convey tone a writer needs to use bold emphasized statements with punctuation that underscores emotion, or worse, use dreaded emoticons. :D

    Criticism based on printed tone finds its basis in imaginative interpretation. Internal emotions and experiences cause the reader to conceptualize tone. Imagination and print have a long relationship, a primary reason why novels capture our minds and hearts. Printed words allow us to imagine the story within the context of our own lives.

    Yet, when enforcing civility online citing tone often fails because it can be grounded in imagination. Offended parties and their friends raise the flag of hurt, but one is left wondering why? Did the criticism hit the mark too closely? Was the statement in opposition to the offended party’s belief system? Only in the most direct cases of threats, sexual abuse or attacks can civility be painted as a black and white issue when it comes to print tonality.

    Consider that the gay rights movement is considered obscene by a vocal minority in this country. Thank God voices past and present have refused to be held back by those in power and continue their fight for gay rights — even when individuals continue to be abused and die because of their sexuality. Because some find homosexuality obscene, they will find this post and the underlying inferred belligerence to be uncivil. The continuing progress of the gay rights movement is a testimony to the very real power of free speech.

    Manners: a. the prevailing customs, ways of living, and habits of a people, class, period, etc.; mores: The novels of Jane Austen are concerned with the manners of her time. b.ways of behaving with reference to polite standards; social comportment: That child has good manners.

    Missmanners

    Judith Martin, a.k.a. “Miss Manners”

    Unlike tone, manners are not as subjective. Throughout the history of civilization, manners have existed. Every culture and sub-culture has its own unique customs, but there are formal guidelines available to people. In the past we had Miss Manners, and today we have How to Be a Gentleman and How to Be a Lady (hat tip: Techcocktail).

    Arguments for civility based in politeness and manners have more weight. It gets back to the roots of civility, and its very meaning. Saying, “she has a right to her views, but I wish she was more polite,” holds water. Note that freedom of speech is not questioned, rather a simple request for more mindful language.

    It’s ironic to see bloggers discussing the need for tone-based civility finds in the face of the 2.0 conversation revolution, which sought to free society from the shackles of formal business parlance. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far, but you won’t see bloggers asking for more formal, polite language. That would require an admission of error, an acknowledgment that the 2.0 revolution went too far. Further, it would mean that these bloggers would have to practice what they preach and elevate their own level of “polite” civility. Teflon revolutionaries continue their course.

    It’s OK to admit we are wrong. Humans err (only politicians are perfect). In this context, last Tuesday’s post title, “Kick Your Competitor’s Ass” was in poor taste. It failed to meet the standard of polite discourse this blog seeks to maintain. That doesn’t mean the message would be any different: Cries for kind agreement amongst competitors on positions make no sense. Companies should seek to best their competitors through differing views, increased value and better approaches.

    Civility grounded in politeness is just another way of asking for mindful discourse while empowering the right for free speech and opposition. It may not always be met either. Freedom of speech supersedes politeness. Free speech is what differentiates open societies from totalitarian regimes like Libya, where dissidents are shot for voicing their opinions.

    Let’s not use civility as a way to shut down strong, opposing views. In all aspects of life, the minority opinion should be heard and personal grievances should receive careful consideration. How many times has the rightful majority found itself wrong in the annals of history? Even the founding fathers — our first Presidents — allowed for error and corrections with a structure for constitutional amendments.