Wednesday, August 24, 2016

D.I.Y. Propaganda

In Oregon, the earth pooted out volcanoes every other Sunday for a long time. Mountains of all shapes jut into the sky. We were hiking amongst them, and one of them looked newer than the others: a nice, smooth, uneroded cone with some snow on it. It got me thinking about kids, and how they draw.

Kids teach themselves how to draw in such predictable ways that you can tell a seven-year-old's drawing from an eight-year-old's. Right around age ten, some kids work out how to draw more realistically. Then they enjoy drawing for the rest of their lives. The rest of the kids don't figure out the trick, and they get discouraged and give up. If cajoled into drawing as adults, they will produce the same drawings they'd have made at age ten. They draw symbols of things instead of the things they're looking at. For example, they'll look right at a nice scraggly mountain, and they'll draw an inverted cone with a blob of snow on it. That represents "mountain."

I'd managed to snag a little internet before we set out on the hike, just enough to know that my piece about Hillary Clinton had left many readers baffled and appalled. I'd thought I'd written it to be so completely over the top that it was clear I was spoofing. I even said she eats children, although I'm pretty sure she doesn't. I was troubled. How could anyone have failed to detect that I was making fun of all those awful things she gets accused of?

Well, because you read that stuff every day. People across the political spectrum wallpaper their Facebook pages with memes accusing all kinds of people of all kinds of things, and that's meant to stand in for reasonable discourse. Our digital presence is slathered in self-curated bumper stickers. If I had gone even further, and said that Hillary Clinton eats children-nuggets wrapped in corporate cash, fried in tar-sands oil, and dipped in genetically modified Bundy-Ranch dressing every fracking day of her life, a certain percentage of readers would put it on a poster and send it all over the world. Click.

Everybody's doing it. Everybody finds some clever piece of crap that's been written about someone they hate, and out it goes to all and sundry, attached to an unflattering picture of the villain in question, whether or not any of it is true. I was disturbed by some of the anti-Hillary stuff coming in from the left this year. There was one meme that declared a vote for HRC was a vote for fracking. Now when it comes to fossil fuels, I'm a leave-it-in-the-ground kind of gal, so I decided to look into it. It contained a germ of truth. I preferred Bernie's nice tidy answer to whether he would support fracking: NO. But Clinton's position was thoughtful, strategic, and honest, and included consideration of real political/economic conditions that pertain across the globe. As much as I cheered Bernie, Hillary's position was probably more likely to get us where we need to be. Not soon enough, probably not even for her--but that's a lost dream.

So at the least, this trash-talk about HRC misrepresents her. It's designed to. We are in a golden age of propaganda, begun the old-fashioned way by the establishment of fake news organizations funded by a plutocracy, but now, individuals on all sides of an issue bite off chunks of propaganda and disseminate it themselves, for free. Here are your facks, folks: we've made it simple for you, no need to look any further. The real Hillary Clinton is a mountain. The Hillary meme you're gleefully sending out to the world is a cone with a blob of snow on it. Hey, close enough, right?

So I was thinking about all this while I was hiking, and it was a happy diversion when I heard a cool noise and stopped under a tree to investigate. It sounded like a baby bird. Low, rhythmic, weeka weeka weeka. Flickers make a similar noise but never so quietly. I was sure there was a nest of hatchlings above my head. But they refused to repeat the noise, because they're cautious about my kind. I walked on.

But there it was again! I stopped again and stared up into a tree.  Go on, make that noise again. I'll find you this time. Sometimes adult birds tweet out a version of their song but use their indoor voice. Their bedroom voice. They're communicating with their honeys and they don't want anyone else to hear. Sure enough, they stopped when I did.

I went on. Fifteen feet later, after I ran through some more possibilities, I stopped one more time, determined to find the little bugger. It stopped too. Took me all that time to realize my new pack was squeaking as I walked. Weeka weeka weeka.

Sometimes you need to be very still and let all the squeaking around you die down before you can figure out the truth.

43 comments:

  1. Of course Hillary doesn't cook and eat babies! As she has famously stated, she doesn't even bake chocolate chip cookies -- something that is relatively easy. Babies are much more complicated to prepare and cook properly. It's not like just throwing a pork chop into a frying pan, you know! Jeez!

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  2. Aye, a 'weeka' is a long time in politics.

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    1. Unless you're talking about Benghazi...and talking...and talking...

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  3. I can't comment on any of the propaganda issues, I'm clueless there, but I did laugh out loud at the weeka weeka backpack noises, because I've heard the same thing from my own new backpack. The only difference is I was in the city in the predawn dark and thought I might be being followed, so hurried towards work faster, only discovering the truth when my backpack squeaked again as I took it off to stuff into my locker.

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    1. I'm pretty sure I've done it before, myself. My lessons tend to not stay learned.

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  4. The problem is that the wingnuts have made our politics immune to parody. If you went back in time 20 years and told people all the stuff Trump has been saying, and told them this was the actual Republican candidate for President in 2016, they'd think you were crazy. Same with the bizarre denunciations of Hillary and Obama. (A man who shaves, eats pork, and supports gay rights is a Muslim? He's a Muslim and a Marxist?) There's no longer anything so extreme that you can rule out somebody actually saying it.

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    1. Worst Muslim ever, right? This has been my complaint about Trump. I can't make anything up that wouldn't sound plausible.

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    2. So true. And very smart satire can be hard to unravel, too, which is why I was one of those perplexed by Murr's post (for/against?) Hillary.

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    3. I'm officially sorry I gave you even a moment of doubt.

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  5. With so much pure crapola floating around the interwebs I don't have a clue what the truth is anymore. The best I can come up with is the truth is probably something I am NOT hearing. When I turn it all off I don't hear the weeka weeka weeka anymore. Except for music I have developed a strong aversion to human made noise.

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    1. Ah, but music. That's one of the things that turns me soft toward humans.

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  6. Like Jono, I don't know what is true and what's not. But I do know that I've scared the bejeebers out of myself with a squeaky shoe on a deserted street at night. How can a shoe I've worn for several years start squeaking suddenly like that? (Probably I just didn't hear it in all the noise previously, but still.) It wasn't even a full squeak, but more like a "whoosh" - like a breathing noise!

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    1. Hah! No, although I've had those, too. This was more like an asthmatic geriatric stalker :)

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    2. This would be enough to make me go barefoot, but I haven't done that since I was about twelve and my feet (apparently) made that screamy urpy noise after I stepped on a slug.

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    3. *Urpy* is a highly appropriate word in connection with stepping on a slug ...

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  7. Corduroy trousers make a funny noise. Especially if they're tight and the wearer's thighs rub...

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    1. "Roomy" people are not allowed to wear corduroys during high fire season.

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  8. Stephen Colbert has diagnosed what Hillary's real illness is. It's genetic. No president has ever been faced with it. It's called "chronic no-penis syndrome." Every woman in her family has the same thing.

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    1. You could die from that. It's serious.

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  9. That's the noise a backpack makes in its natural habitat!!

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    1. More precisely, that's it's mating call. In several months, Murr may find that it gives birth to a litter of fanny packs.

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  10. Yeah, I was going to do a "Modest Proposal" quote thing, but I figured everyone would do Jonathan Swift.
    Hey, that middle picture, is that Bachelor from the south, from the pass between south and middle sister?
    I grew up in Bend.
    cheers,
    Mike
    Oh, years ago, when we'd go back to Bend to visit kinfolk, Cary would hum the banjo tune from 'Deliverance'....

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    1. Yup. I mean it's Bachelor--from Broken Top, which is in top photo.

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  11. Birds singing with "indoor voices" and squeaky packs tricking us into "hearing" birds - Been there, done that! But with less poetry in my observations.

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    1. I loved when I discovered indoor voices. First time was with my chickadees, Marge and Studley Windowson. They dee-deed at each other so softly no one could hear WHO WASN'T HIDING TWO FEET AWAY BEHIND A WINDOW.

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  12. Just based on reading the title of this piece I expected a ringing denunciation of TV shows that tell you that you can redo your kitchen in 30 minutes.

    I can't tell you how confused I was when we started listening to bird saying weeka weeka...

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  13. That last sentence is the best advice I've heard for dealing with this election season. And how you got to it is just plain coool!!!

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  14. I was going to wax poetic about "Mount Hillary", but demurred when I thought about the possible memes that it could produce. (notice the well placed use of the word 'demurred' )

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  15. Excellent essay, Murr. As for the squeaking, it's unlikely to die down much until sometime in November. Maybe.

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    1. I thought the squeaking would die down after Obama first got elected. The amount of hostility that man has faced still astounds me.

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