Those who are schooled in the techniques of propaganda will always frustrate those of us who rely on facts and logic to arrive at informed conclusions.

Those who possess a rudimentary understanding of how propaganda works can have a rather profound effect on public opinion.

Those who are unwilling to learn from history are bound to repeat the mistakes which were made in the past.

Senator Joseph McCarthy was an American politician who served as U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957.  McCarthy rose to national prominence in the early 1950’s by initiating a probe to ferret out communists holding prominent positions in both the public and private sectors. During his investigations, safeguards promised by the Constitution were trampled.

An atmosphere of fear of world domination by communists hung over America in the post-WWII years:  fears of a nuclear holocaust based on detonation of an Atomic Bomb by the USSR in 1949;  the transition of China – the world’s most populist nation – to communism; and the effective control of half of Europe by the Stalin regime.

McCarthy picked up on national paranoia and relentlessly told his story that communist spies were everywhere and that he was America’s only salvation.

McCarthy was never elected to the Presidency, yet his leadership as head of the Senate Committee on Government Operations gave him the platform from which to launch an investigation which derailed and/or ruined the careers of thousands of public and private sector professionals.

McCarthy created a carefully manufactured series of situations and events which provided the foundation for his quest to distract the attention of a majority of the American public to focus away from the big picture toward his personal animus toward communist intrusion.

One of his techniques involved throwing Congress ‘under the bus.’  He publicly cited “..the graft, the corruption, the dishonesty, the disloyalty, the treason in high Government positions” as a critical ingredient in failure of government to protect “the 140,000,000 American people” from the “cloak of numbness and apathy” and offered to supply his spark to rekindle their passions.

McCarthy’s Reign of Terror lasted almost 5 years, until Senate leadership introduced resolutions in late 1954 to censure McCarthy for ‘behavior contrary to Senate traditions’.

On December 2, 1954, the U.S. Senate voted 65 to 22 to condemn McCarthy for “conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute”.

The McCarthy saga ought to provide an historical reference to the dangers of allowing a passionate and eloquent person who has perfected some of the powerful tools and techniques of propaganda to take the American people on a wild and crazy ride toward ruin.

What is most distressing to me is the willingness of congress to allow such egregious behavior to continue unchallenged:  in the 1950’s for almost 5 years; in the 2010’s for over 2 years.

Sixty plus years later, it seems that Donald Trump is using some of the Joseph McCarthy techniques to distract us away from the real issues at hand.

Trump has perfected the art of propaganda, using a myriad of techniques which were refined over the course of the 20th century.

Trump’s particular expertise is in an arena often referred to as ‘authoritarian’ or ‘totalitarian’ propaganda, a form of communication where a would-be leader offers a simple narrative which explains the root causes of pain groups of people feel, while concurrently providing a simple solution to remove the pain.

The offered reasons for the pain (and problems) point toward another group (or groups) working in conspiracy with corrupt politicians. (“Drain the Swamp”  “Lock Her Up”  “Make America Great Again”  “It’s The Immigrants”  “Build A Wall”)

The solution is very simple:  Join the New Team; Elect the Would-Be Leader; and the problems will be solved through elimination of the corrupt politicians and their entrenched groups.

The constant repetition of the simple message helps get it accepted, and it ensures a loyal and stable base.

The repeatedly false claims that Trump made during his campaign — ‘crime is at record highs, the economy is in decline, Obama has killed jobs, the military is a disaster, an international conspiracy is behind it all’ –and so on—are immune to disproof by presentation of actual facts. During his campaign, Trump created a fictional world too compelling to be weakened by reality.

Why do groups of people buy into such fictions?

Is it ‘groupthink’? A mass desire to escape from the reality of change? Or some other emotional variable?

What gives authoritarian propaganda its magnetism is the promise to fully reveal the previously secret dealings of those ‘swamp creatures’ who formerly called the rules of the game.

What such propaganda fails to reveal is the replacement of one set of entrenched swamp creatures with an entirely new – mostly inexperienced – cadre of fresh swamp dwellers.

“Those elected members of congress who are unwilling to learn from history are bound to repeat the mistakes which were made in the past.”

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Florida, the Gunshine State

February 17, 2018

I’ve been calling Florida my second home for 40 years, and I was finally able to move here permanently in January 2017.  Florida has some fabulous positive attributes.  Firearm regulations are not on that list.

I’m a dues paying member of the NRA and a gun owner.  I think the 2nd Amendment is a good thing, and I’ve read it dozens of times.  I’m not sure exactly what the folks who wrote it were trying to say, and they are all now deceased so we can’t ask them in person.

Florida has been the location of several recent massacres involving young people wielding AR-15 weapons.  On February 14, 2018 a young man named “Cruz” stormed a high school in Parkland, FL with an AR-15 rifle.  He killed 17 and wounded many more.

Florida seems to have some ‘fast and loose’ controls over gun acquisition, gun possession, gun ownership and the sale of ammunition and accessories.

Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley, a Republican who wrote the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in 2005 and is a major gun-rights backer, doubts any proposals aimed to restrict or control guns will gain traction. “I don’t see any interest here on that,” said Mr. Baxley, who represents parts of Sumter, Marion and Lake Counties. “We’re pretty comfortable that freedom works.”

The FBI confirmed that someone close to Cruz called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5 with information about Cruz’s desire to kill people, erratic behavior, disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.

On February 16, 2018, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel confirmed that the Broward Sheriff’s Office received “20 calls for service over the last few years” regarding Cruz.

After the Orlando massacre in June 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott— where the killer also used a military-style semiautomatic rifle — said that “the Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody.”

Following the February 2018 Parkland school massacre, Mr. Scott told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer,  “Everything’s on the table, all right? I’m going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.”

Concurrently with his ‘everything on the table’ remark, Scott released a detailed statement essentially blaming the FBI for the Parkland school shooting, concluding with, “… the FBI failed to act… The FBI Director needs to resign.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also slammed the FBI, saying the agency “utterly failed the families of 17 innocent souls.  The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough,” Rubio said in a statement. “Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through.”

This Scott/Rubio circus closely follows the Republican playbook which resulted in the firing of former FBI Director Comey in May 2017; and the continuing barrage of criticisms, innuendo and distractions which attempt to cast doubts on the reliability and/or veracity of the FBI and its current director, Christopher Wray.

Some political operatives have focused their diversions on mental health issues, yet Federal law already bars people who have been adjudicated mentally ill or committed to institutions from buying firearms.

In February 2017, at the request of a Republican Congress, President Trump signed an order to repeal restrictions on gun sales to an estimated 75,000 individuals who have been determined to be mentally deficient by certain Federal agencies.

And, despite their rhetoric, Florida state Republican leaders have not proposed expanding mental-health restrictions inside Florida.

Deflection is a powerful political tool because it can mask attention from other issues, such as making sure powerful assault weapons, high capacity magazines, bump stocks and armor piercing bullets can’t be bought by teenagers – or any civilians – who wish to live in a civil 21st Century society.