Curtain Raiser

Spinning Words Hurt First, Colltalers

A lie told once remains a lie, but told a thousand times, becomes the truth. The quote, attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, was never uttered in public but became, if not the truth, then the Nazis’ self-evident motto. They all wound up believing in it.
What’s particularly infuriating about the latest offensive by the Trump administration against a variety of hard-won citizen achievements is the hypocritical rhetoric. Affordable healthcare, fair taxes, free Internet access, even the news, have all been rebranded to suit their interests.
The term ‘fake news,’ for one, came up when it became evident that what passed for information in America, circa 2016, could be, and most certainly was, manipulated, either by economics of media coverage, or by hackers. The bottom line was, the news were almost never about informing people, but to mold their opinion. Enter then the architects of the Trump campaign who appropriated the meaning of the term.
From then on, fake news was anything that the president to be, and his inner circle, did not like, and reversing its aim, they effectively turned the genuine denunciation implied by it to annihilate dissent. Suddenly, it was CNN, or the NYTimes, with their platoons of hard-working journalists – and granted, a flawed truth-reporting track – that were fake. Not the custom-made propaganda used by the Trump campaign.
To be sure, Republicans in particular, and politicians in general, have always used spin words and expressions to gloss over parts of bills they want to pass, deemed unpalatable to the public if they were to become aware of them. It becomes more crucial when such bills are frontally against the interests of those who need to support them. Customized propaganda, and spinning content, are thus not what it’s new here.
It’s the cynicism of calling ending the Affordable Care Act, a ‘freedom of choice,’ when it’d take health insurance away from 20 million plus Americans. It’s the unvarnished falsehood of saying that a new tax revamp will ‘support the middle class,’ when it’s actually a blatant wealth transfer, from the poor to the rich. Or it’s calling the plan to end the current open and democratic online access, ‘Restoring Internet Freedom.’
More about that in a minute, but there’s no shortage of examples of words manipulated to create a space of pseudo-normality, through which nightmarish initiatives are put to the test. They usually come out strong and raw on purpose, to provoke a reaction. Later, they are then minimized, with help from an abiding media.

When the actual directive goes into effect, most are led to believe that it wasn’t so bad after all.
Goebbels turned this progression into an method for implementing increasingly horrific decrees into the lives of Germans, who probably thought they couldn’t be that bad. There were so many rumors circulating, against and in favor of the regime, that at some point many gave up on trying to understanding what was going on. That’s how the Holocaust was possible; not by approval per se, but for purposeful ignorance.
No wonder many compare our era with Fascism, which terrorized the world in the 1930s and 1940s. It killed over 50 million, including the six million Jews systematically exterminated by the Nazi, and in the WWII that finally ended it. But more was lost, perhaps permanently.
The belief that the truth will save us, for instance, was turned into a shallow platitude, and so was faith on a point of rupture, when masses rise and depose the tyrants who have enslaved them. As we now know, it took much more than evidence of evil to defeat Hitler and his allies.
The world that emerged afterwards was indeed better, as Europe’s reconstruction ushered a new geopolitical order. But that too was riddled with compromise, and the assumption that, as long as memory was kept alive, dark times couldn’t possibly return, was greatly overstated.
During these past 70 years, we’ve often turned to those events for reassurance, as if all the carnage and senseless violence were effectively vanquished, and could be reduced to a final battle between the good guys (us) and those murderous despots. When they died, we got free.
That we’re now witnessing the ascendancy of yet another regime, whose strength comes from its power to distort the meaning of words into versions that suit its agenda, is a proof that war can’t kill ideas, specially bad ones and even if their leaders and demagogues are long dead.
The case of the Federal Communications Commission and its Chairman Ajii Pai is typical of this revival of a deceiving style of propaganda.
The kind that intends to make you pay for what you already own, and charge you mercilessly, if you come up with your own path to it.
Pai’s plan would de-facto hand over the keys of Internet access to big media corporations, which besides not having contributed to its creation, have notoriously stood in its way to expansion, innovation, and affordability. What they’re doing is not unlike what pharmaceutical labs did in the 1980s, during the AIDS crisis: they didn’t develop the therapy that finally controlled the disease, but were quick to cash on it.
In June of 2015, when the FCC finally ruled that the Internet should remain a telecommunications service, accessible to all, following 3.7 million requests by consumers, it effectively crushed the dream of broadband providers of profiting by charging fees for consumer access to Websites, services and protocols. If it’d be up to them, the Internet could become like a cable service: if you can’t afford it, you can’t have it.
Their defeat was due to popular mobilization and common sense, since more than a luxury, the Internet is now essential to survival, just like phones, electricity, and potable water are. And as such, it’s really a utility. And that’s not mentioning the political side of what it represents.
To regain the upper hand of their own narrative, citizens need to first restore (in its dictionary-defined meaning) the content of what we call the things we call. From a consumer’s point of view, there’s no other healthcare but a cheap, comprehensive, and entitled coverage; there’s no tax reform if it’s not to use them to benefit all people; and there can be no preferential lanes when it comes to free access to the Internet.
Above all, lies must be tucked back into what they are, all reality spinning notwithstanding. Speaking of which, that tiny monster who killed himself before allied forces arrived in Berlin, could be surprisingly self-conscious about such obvious favorite theme of his: ‘there’ll come a day, when all lies will collapse under their own weight, and truth will again triumph.’ It’s up to us to see the dawn of that day of reckoning.
Full disclosure: if the FCC, on Dec. 14, votes to roll back rules protecting access by all to the once known as World Wide Web, it’ll be game over to millions of small, independent, and quirky sites such as Colltales. Sadly, that seems likely, given a so far dismal mobilization on the issue. But we’re keeping hope alive, as long as our readers in the U.S. and around the world help us spread the word. Here comes December. WC


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