Northern Valley Beacon

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Anatomy of some lies

I owe a debt of gratitude to South Dakota War College for putting on a demonstration of what I discuss in the previous post. I cited SDWC because the blog endorsed a lie. Creating a falsehood through a dishonest paraphrase and by isolating a comment or question from the context it references is lying. A false paraphrase is not a matter of interpretation. In this case, it is a matter of turning a rhetorical question into an assertion in which the paraphraser inserts his/her own words and meaning. Changing a question into an assertion is a deliberate act of altering grammatical structure. . It is intentional and overt. No more evidence that a deliberate distortion has taken place is needed. No matter how hard the Ministry of Truth strains to justify it.

The paraphrase of my comment posted on South Dakota Politics does not restate the original facts or ideas fully and clearly. It substitutes words and infers meanings that are nowhere suggested in the original comment.

In the field of editing this tactic is called subreption. Subreption is calculated misrepresentation through concealment of the facts and making inferences drawn from such misrepresentations. Professors and journalists are fired for it. Students are failed for it. Bloggers flourish on it.

I called out SDWC on the basis of the false representation of what I said in a blog comment. I know that SDWC thinks of itself as the stone tablet of campaign tactics. I know that SDWC flies into indignant outrage at anyone who does not take its "advice" as scripture and divine law.

I have been involved in political campaigns for more years than, I think, the author of SDWC has lived. I have been involved as a journalist who has covered campaigns and issues. And although my positions as a newspaper editor and then a college professor prevented me from taking a partisan stance, I was involved in the Republican Party as an issues analyst and campaign strategist. SDWC insists that I don't "get it." The author presumes that I am a retired professor possessed of an elitist attitude who cannot connect with the idea of what it takes to win an election. He says my concern is about asserting my "intellectual superiority" while his concern is about winning.

That is another way of saying that his focus is bitch fights. Mine is how to implement democracy in the State of South Dakota. And that gets into a very fundamental and huge difference between the political philosophies we embrace.

SDWC belongs to the professional athletic brand of politicking. It believes that candidates are at fault if they do not regard the voters as conditioned organisms just waiting to be given the right stimulus to trigger a desired respone. Candidates lose elections because they are not adept a manipulating the preconceived prejudices and gratifications of the voters.

I do not believe that politicians lose elections because they have not deftly manipulated the conditioned responses in the voters. I believe that voters are given the opportunity to exercise rational choice. When they vote for certain candidates and rejects others, they are exercising their choices. They are not merely reacting to stimuli that they have been conditioned to respond to. So, voters generally get what they want. And they, in a democracy such as ours, are ultimately responsible for what they get.

SDWC sees politics in terms of slogans that fit on postcards. We see politics as issues that require exhaustive study and debate. It is exceptonally patronizing to the voters to think that ultimately they only respond to and remember phrases and slogans. Patronization is the ultimate insult.

This is not to say that a considerable number of people do not vote according to misinformation, prejudice, and seething bigotry that political operatives stimulate as the basis for the way they vote. Yes, there are people out there who are like Pavlov's dogs and they salivate on command.

SDWC's philosophy on political campaigning is borrowed from consumer advertising. It is the philosophy that sells toothpaste by promising more and better sex with its use. It is the philosophy of tying one's messages to the prospect of gratification, not to the effort needed to make democracy truly work. The advice I got from SDWC was that I should not make statements that might upset some people's perceptions of themselves and their communities. Rather, I should wrap myself in meaningless platitudes and grovel and fawn. I do not question that the tactic works. It is the basis for one-party government in South Dakota.

I do not question that character assassination and personal attacks with patent falsehoods, subreptions, and distortions do not work. They got John Thune elected.

These are the factors that make South Dakota rank in the bottom of states for the basic qualities that define democracy. It ranks last for open government and citizen access. It ranks last for justice in its labor laws. It ranks at the bottom for its rate of poverty. It ranks last for what it invests in scientific and academic research. It ranks last for what it pays teachers. It hovers near the botton on the way it funds education. It has the lowest average wage in the nation. And the list goes on and on. And people vote for this status quo.

The task of political candidates is not to see how obsequious they can be in the hopes that a negligent electorate might put them if office. It is to address the quality of democracy. And of course the party that has put the state in the condition it is takes offense when anyone points out that the state has problems that need fixing.


SDWC has designed a postcard that features quotations of mine. All of them are presented in the same way. They contain no reference at all as to what occasioned them or what subject they are addressing. They are all models of the act of subreption.

SDWC explains that this postcard is what an opponent of mine could send out. I give my reponses.

SDWC promotes and endorses repression

The quotation from me cited was, "However, that tactic still works in McPherson County, which a campaigner from the last election says is a hotbed of intolerance and repression."

Even people in remedial classes would ask, "What tactic? What is being talked about?" SDWC assumes no one will ask that.

The post from which this was taken was on the use of deceptive, hate-inspiring terms in trying to define the opposition. It was made by explaining why voters in McPherson County voted overwhelmingly for an ultra-regressive in the primary. It quotes a campaign worker. It comes out of situation in which campaign workers refused to go into McPherson County because of aggressive abuse they received there. They were called baby-killers, anti-lifers, and the death squad. To me, it is important to identify pockets of this kind of activity. It is important to let people know what kind of reputation they have earned. And it is important to let other voters know the quality of thought and expression coming from an area.

Most of the letters-to-the-editor of the meanest, nastiest sort in our local newspaper emanate from McPherson County. People who want honest campaigns and workable democracy have a right to know who is working against them. They have a right to know that they have candidates who do not cater to that kind of politics.

SDWC advocates for closed, secret government

"Democracy is failing, and Aberdeen is a case study of how and why."

I am not sure of where this quotation was taken from. I can't find it in the NVB archives, but I have notes from a presentation on open government in which I stated this.

The point was that the essential principles of open government of the people, by the people, and for the people are being violated in America. South Dakota does not have laws which require open government. Rather, it has laws that make closed, secret government possible.

Aberdeen has had a series of incidents in which the workings of city government have been kept secret. It had some personnel crises in the police department in which personnel who were wrongly fired were bought off. It had a murder investigation in which a ruling of suicide made and all evidence involved in that ruling was suppressed. An elected official claimed that the taxpayers of Aberdeen were told all they need to know. It has non-profit agencies supported in part by taxpayer money that do not file reports of their activities or financial statements where people can review them.

Why would someone who expressed a concern about closed local government be considered controversial and inflammatory? Well, the people who want government closed and secret might find it to their benefit to keep it that way. I think it needs changing. Fast.

SDWC defends racism

"People will go where they can realize the promise of America. Where does that leave Aberdeen?" This is another quotation of mine.

It is from a post regarding the fact that people came to an open meeting about rezoning some land in Aberdeen for a beef processing plant and protested the kind of people it might attract to the community. The protest also was expressed through some neo-Nazi postings on a newspaper discussion board.

My point leading up the quotation cited is obvious. When people have a choice, they will not come to communities that discriminate against them and oppress them. What is so outrageous about calling attention to racial attitudes and their adverse effect on the development of community?

Beats me.

SDWC wants to drive off scientists and promote incompetence.

The quotation cited by SDWC is: "The Homestake Goldmine story is one of the most fucked-up accounts of what is going on with taxpayer money that George Orwell or Forest Gump could imagine."

Yes, I borrowed a term from the military vernacular that some people think is naughty. The quotation comes from a lengthy two-part posting on Homestake.

First of all, I am for Homestake's conversion into a Deep Underground Science and Engineering laboratory. You can go to the DUSEL webpage and see I am listed among the original supporters. I work with scientists in preparing technical reports and scientific papers regarding their research. The conversion of Homestake was orginally proposed by scientists and hundreds of leading scientists signed on to achieve that conversion.

The owner of the mine, Barrick Gold, balked over some liability issues and insisted that the state take responsibility for any clean-ups from mining acitivity that would occur. The first big screw-up came when Barrick turned off the pumps and let the mine start filling with water. That sent many scientist looking for other places to plan and conduct their research.

Then the Governor tried to salvage the project by promoting it as an economic development scheme. That drove off nearly all the remaining scientists in support of Homestake. They cannot work with business interests looking over their shoulders and pushing for research that can make money for them. Pure research does not work that way.

Many of the scientists who looked forward to working at Homestake found alternative places to set up their experiments. They will not come to Homestake. The mine is one of two now in contention for designation as the national DUSEL. Many people screwed up because they did not listen to the scientists. The mine has unique features that make it ideal for small particle research, but the attitudes of people involved make scientists wary. Colorado offers a much better social and intellectual climate. The kind of screw-ups that drove scientists off who were already committted to Homestake did not have to happen.

What is wrong about pointing out a colossal screw-up that the tax-payers have to cover? Oh, yeah, it might call attention to how that one-party government operates.


I do not think that SDWC advocates oppression, racism, secret government, and incompetent blundering. But in making subreptions of my quotations, he would define himself as opposed to correcting some very serious matters that degrade the quality of life in South Dakota.

And his statement about my not liking South Dakota is one he does not have the moral or intellectual right to make. There are things in South Dakota I do not like. There are many matters that need correcting.

Before problems can be solved, they need to be identified and defined. That is what democratic politics is about. It is not about false and inflammatory portrayals of individuals.

The political forces in power hold the state in thrall. They have a vested interest in keeping it that way, both for economic and political reasons. True freedom, equality, and justice is a threat to them. Political workers who advocate those democratic values are a threat to them. And so we get the kind of campaigns based upon slander and personal attack. It is in the interest of the powers that be not to let issues get brought up and examined.

Subreption is a form of lying. Another rhetorical question: Do we want a political regime that bases its power on lying, or do we want one that can actually build the state?

Dave - I believe I got the "Democracy is failing, and Aberdeen is a case study of how and why." quote from a past edition of the Aberdeen American News.

And I don't disagree with your sentiments that in an ideal world, the citizenry would sit and listen enthralled by extended discussion and debate.

But this isn't an ideal world. And sometimes we're forced to make due with whatever we can hold the voter's attention with as the mail piece travels between the mailbox and the trash
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