Sunday, November 11, 2007
Despite evidence that misrepresenting the truth for political ends backfires, the American public remains susceptible.
By George Soros
"......One influential technique - which Republican pollster Frank Luntz says that he learned from 1984 - simply reverses meanings and turns reality on its head. Thus, Fox News calls itself "fair and balanced," and Karl Rove and his acolytes turn their opponents' strongest traits into their achilles' heels, using insinuations and lies to portray opponents' achievements as phoney.......
Another technique is transference: accusing opponents of having motives or using methods that characterise the accuser himself. For example, David Horowitz, who accuses me of being "the Lenin of the anti-American conspiracy," is a former Trotskyite for whom opponents are never adversaries to be debated, but rather enemies to be crushed.
The American public has proven remarkably susceptible to the manipulation of truth, which increasingly dominates the country's political discourse. Indeed, a whole network of publications, some of which manage to parade as mainstream media, is devoted to the task. Yet I believe that it is possible to inoculate the public against false arguments by arousing resentment against Orwellian Newspeak. What is needed is a concerted effort to identify the techniques of manipulation - and to name and shame those who use them.
Now is an ideal time to begin that effort. Americans are now awakening, as if from a bad dream. What we have learned from recent years' experience - what we should have known all along - is that the supremacy of critical thought in political discourse cannot be taken for granted. It can be ensured only by an electorate that respects reality and punishes politicians who lie or engage in other forms of deception.