Lost in the weeds, Trump critics fail to counter Trump propaganda

Trump’s critics do not understand how propaganda works, and how they must counter it.

Following the unfolding drama of revelations about Trump’s crimes and those of his associates, intellectuals and leading print and cable media chase after the latest “breaking news” revelation or discovery.

According to them, the greatest political scandal in the last century has been reduced to a crime drama, where those who are caught up in the daily drama rarely think outside the crime box and Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation. In doing so, despite the unquestionable importance of the essence of their work, they are playing into Trump’s hands.

The nation awaits the result of Mueller’s criminal investigation, while the nation suffers the consequences of Trump’s political offenses and attack on the rule of law.

If Mueller is responsible for everything related to Donald Trump, then everyone else is absolved of their own individual responsibility.  They are excused from their own obligations to hold Trump accountable for his political atrocities, and the duty to force him to being them to a halt.

What is going on can be viewed as a conversation on two levels, in two different bands of communication.

On the top level, intellectuals and journalists follow the facts and use reason to analyze events. They build the necessary case for one day impeachinbg or indicting Trump, and indicting those who surround him. But because they are intellectuals, they largely fail to appreciate what is going on in the lower level, in the lower communication band or channel that Trump is using to such great effect.

To understand Trump’s use of propaganda and lies, a good place to start is Chapter Six of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler. Hitler was one of the first to succeed in using mass propaganda to shape the world in his country, using it to rise to and solidify his hold on power.

Propaganda, he argued must ignore the arguments and criticisms of the intelligentsia. It should not be directed at them, but rather at “the broad masses”.

It should be aimed at the lowest elements of the masses. It should not be complicated, and on any issue should not consist of more than three or four points, and never consider various aspects of an issue, which would only confuse the masses.

The masses cannot remember things. Endless repetition is effective. The truth should always be subservient to achieving the purpose of the propaganda.

Above all, the propaganda should not be aimed at intellectual persuasion, but rather at connecting with the emotions and emotional concerns of the masses.

This is the key to understanding Trump’s blatant lies and propaganda.

For example, his proposal to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico is in fact a symbol which represents, in emotional terms, his adamant opposition to immigration. The emotional concerns of the masses to which he appeals include a strong desire to limit immigration. These individuals do not like what the country has become, or threatens to become, with so many immigrants.

Every time Trump refers to “the wall”, he rings the emotional bell of the masses who want to limit immigration. We are not operating in a realm of rational analysis and understanding here, but rather in the lower level or channel of communicating directly with the emotions of the masses.

Rational arguments about the wall, or DACA “dreamers”, are sent and received on the higher level or communication channel of rational analysis. They are simply not heard, or are summarily dismissed, by the masses who are tuned into the stronger messages their emotions are receiving on the lower level or emotional communication channel.

Democrats and other critics of Trump do not understand or act on these basic facts.

Democrats are not sending any messages on the lower or emotional channel of communication, other than appeals to lofty ideals and sentiments, which tend to be expressed or  heard on the higher, analytical channel.

The Democrats, without abandoning their analytical criticisms and affirmations, must develop their own messages on the lower, emotional channel, if they are to win the Congressional elections in November, 2018.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.