Thursday, April 28, 2005

Propaganda and the political party

In the course of writing my previous post, it has occured to me that Andrew Sullivan's essay "Crisis of Faith" completely misses a major point about contemporary politics in order to set up his conservatism of doubt/conservatism of faith dichtomy.

The real distinction of contemporary conservative politics from that of the Goldwater era is that conservatives, and Republicans, are much more willing to wage a propaganda campaign in pursuit of their policies than before. It is a fact that some people are willing to act, and if need be act irrationally, to a greater extent than other people when exposed to propaganda. There is a continuum of responses that people can make to any given propaganda, from evaluating it an a completely objective manner and accepting rational conclusions to quitting a job and leaving a family for full time devotion to "the cause". And just because someone responds actively to one propaganda doesn't mean that he or she responds in exactly the same way to all future propagandas; I'm sure there are people who were desperate to keep Terri Schiavo alive who couldn't care less about judicial filabusters, for example.

The major error that Andrew Sullivan makes in his essay (insofar as a conservative of faith is not just a convenient straw man) is that he is attempting to equate the mass response to a propaganda campaign to the general state of mind of individuals, even though this is equating two ideas that are almost contradictory by definition. The real, fruitful questions that he should be asking should be exploring why propaganda is necessary for the success of the Republican Party and to what extent the Republicans should be willing to go to propagandize the public.


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