Narrative Wars: Slap the Honey Boo Boos with Truthaganda
In our next example from just a few hours ago, Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter tweeted that Americans should read an article from the Xinhua News Agency bashing Romney. Left out of her tweet is that Xinhua is the propaganda division of the Chinese Communist Party.
Now, the Weekly Standard's headline (in the link) is pretty good:
Stephanie Cutter Uses Communist Propaganda Outlet to Hit Romney
But that creates too much distance between the outrage and Obama. Cutter, after all, is one of his main spokespeople. I propose something much more direct:
OBAMA TEAM TWEETS COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA
Again, this is truthful, albeit heavily filtered. But each element is demonstrably true: Stephanie Cutter is central to the Obama Team, and her actions speak for the whole team; tweets are tweets -- no dispute there; and Xinhua News Agency is, literally, pure communist propaganda. Hence, Obama Team Tweets Communist Propaganda.
Now, even a Honey Boo Boo can get through those headlines; they're short enough to survive the three-second attention span. And they're truthagandistic enough to be defensible should they be critiqued (not that critiques will even matter — the media utterly ignores our critiques of them, and no Honey Boo Boo ever looks at secondary critical analyses).
The one site that currently comes closest to consistently practicing truthagandistic principles is, of course, the Drudge Report; its headline writers know how to go for the jugular. And it pays off: the Drudge Report attracts more traffic than any other blog and most other news outlets in the world. Think about that for a moment. The Drudge Report never has original content — the entire site consists of nothing but snappy headlines for links to outside sites whose own dreary headlines otherwise failed to previously garner much public attention. And those snappy headlines are all by themselves sufficient to make Drudge top dog.
Drudge can influence the national discussion. One site. Now imagine if there were a thousand sites just as effective.
If enough headlines of this sort bust out all over for a long enough period of time, it may begin to subtly alter the tone of the Honey Boo Boo datascape. And somewhere in the back of a low-information, low-interest, non-ideological voter's mind, the germ of an idea may emerge: That Obama has totalitarian tendencies. And that might, if we're lucky, affect one or two votes come November.
What else can we do?
Counter-Argument: Don't Be So Abrasive
Now obviously, there will be plenty of naysayers on the left who object to my proposal. But following my new strategy: I don't care about their opinions.
Even so, people who otherwise may agree with me politically on various issues could object on the basis that my truthaganda concept is too extreme and too aggressive. A recent focus group with undecided voters (please don't make me dig out the link) suggested that many of them expressed ambivalence toward Obama — up to the point when Obama was accused of being a socialist by the other participants, at which point the previously ambivalent voters rushed to Obama's defense. In other words, they only sided with Obama at those moments when he looked like a victim and an underdog. And the harsher the attacks on him, the more like a victim he looked.
Now, I suppose this type of voter exists — the bleeding-heart middle-of-the-roader who follows the news closely enough to get drafted into a political focus group, yet who professes no ideology. But I posit that they are a much smaller group than the Honey Boo Boos: For every bleeding heart MORer we lose, we gain the attention of ten Honey Boo Boos, who only perceive things at the surface level.
Another critique might be that, with these truthaganda headlines, we are veering too close to "extremism" — i.e. the further out we go on the bluntness scale, the more dismissible we will be by "reasonable people."
And again, that may be true — to some extent. But it's not "reasonable people" (all of whom have made up their minds already anyway) we're aiming for. We're trying to get the attention of people who staunchly resist all normal stimuli. If you're up on stage at a dance and manage to get everyone's attention with just a few gestures, and note that some drunken bozo at the back of the crowd still doesn't realize that everyone has fallen silent and turned to face the MC, you are allowed to yell, "Hey you in the back! Pipe down and pay attention!" And if someone in the front row says "You didn't need to yell, you already have our attention," you can legitimately point out that although all the reasonable people were already facing the stage, you needed to yell to get the attention of the last unreasonable person in the room. In other words — the Honey Boo Boos.
The mainstream media has no problem whatsoever with exhibiting bias so extreme that if it weren't so commonplace it too would appear outrageous and kooky if each instance was analyzed in isolation. They achieve immunity through ubiquity.
So yes, truthaganda headlines are like yelling. But unlike propaganda, they're rooted in reality, not fabrications.
How Can I Participate?
There's nothing to join, nothing to sign, no rules to follow, no guidelines to abide by. To become a truthagandist (at least for the next seven weeks), just keep repeating over and over in your mind:
Change the Narrative.
Turn it up to 11.
My filter trumps their filter.
Do not self-censor.
Do not play defense, or even offense: just spike the ball, over and over.
Aim to convince strangers, not entertain friends.
This is not a drill.
Commenter Bill R. suggests the term "HoneyBs" as an even more concise and memorable name for those low-information undecided "Honey Boo Boo" viewers. I agree. HoneyBs it is.
I forgot to mention that each blogger or pundit should feel free to exercise his or her own personal style when reframing the narrative; I didn't mean to suggest that everyone should emulate me or my approach. If humor is your thing, go for it; graphics rather than words — great; let a thousand truthaganda styles bloom!
I just want to clarify that a "Honey Boo Boo" (or HoneyB) is not a term referring to people who resemble the cast members of the show "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," but rather it refers to the kind of people who might watch such a show. The audience likely includes all sorts of people completely unlike the cast members, and presumably a substantial number of viewers tune in to mock and make fun of the rubes on the show. This may include disaffected urban hipsters, bored housewives, stoners looking for something to laugh at, grouchy seniors aghast at the cultural decline, basement dwellers — all sorts of people on the fringes of the political spotlight.