Propaganda 101: Smoke and Mirrors.


There are a lot of ways to engage in the propagation of propaganda. Time Magazine’s Zeke J Miller demonstrates the tactic of “Smoke and Mirrors” quite nicely in his article

The Hidden Motivation Behind GOP Threats to Boycott NBC, CNN

Reforming the primary debate process has been a central component of the RNC’s 2012 autopsy, with party officials trying to restrict the number of debates and screen out unfriendly debate moderators. But the effort to cut back on the number of debates has run into headwinds from Republican state parties in early states, who in many instances see revenue from co-hosting the debates and associated events. The autopsy recommends changing the RNC rules to include penalties for Republican state parties or candidates if they participate in debates unsanctioned by the RNC.

To date that provision has not caught on. But Priebus’s letter is designed to make that easier when the Republican National Committee meets in Boston next week to discuss the debate schedule, according to one member of the Republican National Committee. “If they have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC’s Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote stating that the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor,” Priebus wrote in his letter.

Republican Party officials believe the 20 GOP primary debates during the 2012 cycle hurt their party and Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee. CNN’s John King, in particular, drew attacks when he questioned former Speaker of the House New Gingrich about his prior marital infidelities in a debate before the South Carolina primary, while Republicans have long been weary of working with NBC given the liberal-leanings of its cable network MSNBC. Priebus has previously proposed a more modest 10 to 12 debates, in part to protect better-funded candidates from insurgents who capitalize on their time before the cameras.

The concept behind “Smoke and Mirrors” is described rather well in the wikipedia entry of the same name.

Smoke and mirrors

Smoke and mirrors is a metaphor for a deceptive, fraudulent or insubstantial explanation or description. The source of the name is based on magicians’ illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a distracting burst of smoke. The expression may have a connotation of virtuosity or cleverness in carrying out such a deception.

In the field of computer programming, it is used to describe a program or functionality that does not yet exist, but appears as though it does (cf. vaporware). This is often done to demonstrate what a resulting project will function/look like after the code is complete — at a trade show, for example.

More generally, “smoke and mirrors” may refer to any sort of presentation by which the audience is intended to be deceived, such as an attempt to fool a prospective client into thinking that one has capabilities necessary to deliver a product in question.

Compare red herring.

This is exactly what Zeke is attempting to do in his article. There can be absolutely no denying that during the 2012 debates that moderators such as Candy Crowley not only gave preferential treatment to Barack Obama, but even went so far as to answer questions for him that stumped the incumbent.

Where this really becomes a matter of deception however, is Zeke’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of election laws. For NBC and CNN to produce and air a mini-series about Hillary Clinton is nothing less than an intentional abuse of the fair access laws regarding candidates.

It also constitutes nothing less than an endorsement of a specific candidate and illegal preferential treatment. The fact of the matter is very simply this. If NBC and CNN produce and air a mini series on Hillary Clinton, it will be done entirely at the expense of NBC and CNN. Not the Hillary Clinton campaign, which would violate the fair campaign laws. But by claiming that their mini-series is entertainment, they will be allowed to engage in political campaigning on behalf of Hillary Clinton without Hillary Clinton having to pay for either the production costs or the air time.

That will amount to hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of campaign contributions that will not be declared or charged to the Clinton campaign, and an illegal and unfair air time advantage to the Clinton campaign.

Furthermore, rather than being an honest and unbiased examination of the life and career of Hillary Clinton such as might be made by a genuine documentary, what they will produce will be nothing less than a extended campaign propaganda series extolling the so called virtues of Hillary Clinton.

In other words, what the National GOP party is objecting to is NBC and CNN illegally funding highly biased Clinton campaign material and pretending that it is entertainment while also violating the equal access requirements of the voting laws.

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One thought on “Propaganda 101: Smoke and Mirrors.

  1. Pingback: Marine Le Pen: A Campaign Analysis - The Circular

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