The Fine Art of Propaganda 2: Fascism Wrapped up in Red, White, and Blue

A German American Bund meeting in the 1930’s, credit not found


The Fine Art of Propoganda talks quite a lot about Card Stacking.

“Card Stacking includes the selection and use of facts or falsehoods, illustrations or distractions, and logical or illogical statements in order to give the best or the worst possible case for an idea, program, person or product.” TFAoP, pg. 95

This particular technique is examined by talking it through and listening to what other people have to say.

The authors of TFAoP write about America’s “Cracker Barrel Philosophy” – referring to a time (not too far distant from the writer in 1938!) when people in small communities came together at the local store to discuss politics.

“Around our traditional cracker barrels, we expect each of your local spokesmen to present his case—to stack the cards—for a given proposal in the best way that he can. But we also insist that other spokesmen around the same cracker barrel speak right up and stack the cards in favor of their alternative proposals. From these conflicting arrangements and interpretations of evidence, we know that some fairly sensible compromise is likely to come.”—TFAoP pg. 95

The advantage of discussion in small communities was that people had true relationship. Discussion helped them weed out illogical statements and lies. They could reconsider positions and compromise when friends or neighbors explained how a proposal might harm them. But Card Stacking in the golden age of radio took a dark turn. As Father Coughlin, known as the Father of Hate Radio, refined his propaganda techniques people found themselves tuning in to a barrage of evidence presented from just one viewpoint. TFAoP called it “Monopolistic Card Stacking.” A New York Times editorial warned, “What is truly vicious is not propaganda but a monopoly of it.”

For decades radio shows such as The Rush Limbaugh Show and opinion websites such as the Breitbart News Network have used Monopolistic Card Stacking to groom their base for political action, sowing disdain for other political points of view, and hatred of immigrants and minorities. Preparing the way for a particular type of regime. The fascist tendencies sprouting in the Trump administration are the fruit of their labor.

The last time fascism reared its ugly head here the United States Government produced propaganda of its own to counter the propaganda people like Coughlin had been spewing. This film sent to me by Meg Wilson was produce in 1947 to combat fascist propaganda. It starts slow, but stick with it. It becomes pertinent to our times at about one minute into the film: “Don’t Be a Sucker”

This time, it is the United States Government—specifically the Trump administration—that is spreading fascist propaganda:

They are taking advantage of the far right’s groomed base and extending “Monopolistic Card Stacking” even further, using “Alternative Facts” and invented crisis to cloud minds with fear and silence discussion.

So what can we do about it? We have to call out the lies, distractions and illogical statements of our own government’s propaganda. We have to take a stand every time someone starts to participate in spreading malicious propaganda.

Tweets and blog posts such as this one, where I have stacked my cards and made my arguments, tend to reach only those who already agree. We have to take the discussion not just to the streets in protest, but into the world of our flesh-and-blood friendships where risk and discomfort are both real—but the potential of being heard is real, too.

Our churches, yoga classes, coffee shops and kitchen tables must become places where we speak truth and listen hard. Reconnect with people, especially people who disagree with you about politics and life.

It’s time to stop being polite. It’s time to talk politics.