Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fade to black

by Capt. Fogg

Tell people the same thing over and over until they're blue in the face. It doesn't matter. Tell them ten thousand times that A is not B but when you ask again later; from 30 minutes to three days, depending upon their age, all they will remember is A and B and how they must be the same because they appear together all the time.

The Washington Post talks today about several studies confirming this sad fact, although it's nothing new. Creating false associations always has been the game of the powerful and those who would be but even without ill intent, it happens. Say SUV and safety often enough and you forget the statistics. Say Illegal and Alien often enough and you associate foreigners with crime. It doesn't matter what separates or comes between A and B; after a while they become identical in memory.

False associations affect public opinion whether they are accidental or deliberately manufactured. During Bush War I, for instance, the writer Andre Codrescu wrote about the way he was set upon in New Orleans by people screaming "America - number one" because he had dark hair and a moustache and an accent. He is of course, not an Arab, much less an Iraqi, but Romanian. That was simply the result of ignorance and nationalism. Worse of course is when we learn to associate Iraq with 9/11.

The article speculates that all the information that has repeatedly shown that there is no significant association simply serves to create an association as memory blurs. Worse of course is how Bush's junta has striven to connect those two things. An interesting new blog, unfortunately named but very erudite and highly recommended Unfrozen Caveman Rhetorician points out the sly way that Bush used what Kenneth Burke called "merger terms" to conflate al Qaeda and Iraq in a speech in Charleston, SC last month. Merger terms, like his continually repeated "al Qaeda in Iraq" are
"rhetorical expressions used to obscure the material differences by falsely subsuming via an ideological frame of reference"
Somehow he and Cheney and their various mouthpieces, through this phenomenon of forgetfulness and rhetorical sleight of hand, have come to be able to rely on an argument that has not only been refuted years ago, but even previously denied by them.

Cross posted at Human Voices

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