when i was but a wee gatito, my long suffering mom and dad (i was not an easy child) were faced with a problem faced by many parents:
a hyperactive child engrossed by saturday morning cartoons and repeatedly suckered in by flashy, false commercial messages designed to make little brains light up with pure unadulterated messages of “I WANT THAT!”
i’m sure many of you have seen something similar.
being adults of unusual discernment and pragmatism, they rapidly realized that mere refutation was insufficient to head off this endless game of consumer whack-a-mole.
a lesson was required.
and so they said to me,
“OK, we see the commercial, we see the toy spaceship you had never heard of 30 seconds ago and that now constitutes the sum total of all your life goals and desires, let’s talk about that. first, let’s lay out what’s going on here: these people make toys. they want to sell you toys by making you want them. that’s their job. now, what do you think they might be doing that might make this toy look better than it really is? does it really fly like that all by itself? does it really shoot laser beams? or might this be a way to give you some inflated sense of just how cool it is?”
i was not even in kindergarten yet, but this was like 2 nuggets of plutonium getting slammed together. boom. and nothing was ever the same.
according to family lore, within days we were watching these commercials with such cynical and jaundiced eyes that we were pointing out manipulations that even the adults did not see, for who better to pick apart such suggestive signals than the owners of the twitching little antennas at which they were targeted?
we loved it. it was a whole new world, a whole new game, and one far more interesting than jumping up and down in elicited lust for shiny objects.
learning to dissect informational content that is aimed at you is an inclination and skill.
it becomes a habit.
then it becomes a reflex.
and this should start young.
children, contrary to popular belief, love this sort of education. nobody likes having the wool pulled over their eyes. (well, ok, yeah, there do seem to be about 20% of the population that positively begs for it and whines in deprived desperation at its cessation, but my presumption is that they are unlikely to be reading this and probably dislike felines of questionable goodness anyhow…)
so, like a feline penn and teller, let’s speak about how these tricks are done…
we all know the media lie. we all know politicians lie. we all know they do rotten things, take our rights, and engage in all manner of malfeasance. it’s so expected that you cannot even imagine the world being otherwise.
the question is “why do we tolerate this?”
the answer is they legalized and habituated you to it by using things you wanted.
this is a process that i have come to call “trojan framing.” you hide that which you are taking inside the shell of something that looks like a gift.
you do not need to force it on the public; they will positively line up to wheel their own doom into the city themselves and then they’ll drape it in garlands and throw a party in celebration of having done so.
it’s a cunning sleight of hand, and it’s one almost everyone falls for unless they have been trained to look for it.
you don’t start with “the lie” you start with “the noble lie.” you do not start by saying “we’re going to suppress your political speech and subvert democracy” you start with “we must stop hate speech or child endangerment.”
this is the trick. pick something incredibly unpopular or a pretext around which the scared will rabidly rally.
you don’t curtail free speech by shutting up a bunch of people speaking about school choice, you do it by finding some neo-nazis and shutting them down. you don’t take privacy rights and enable secret warrants from secret courts to spy on a political campaign, you do it when everyone is reeling and terrified of terrorists by branding it needful to take their freedom to, uh, protect their freedom.
it’s about setting a precedent. it’s about setting the frame.
free speech is absolute or non-extant. it’s really that simple. it’s a pure binary.
all rights work like this.
as soon as you allow ANY speech whatsoever to be branded dangerous or harmful or anti-social and suppressed by force of the state, no speech is truly free. you no longer possess an inalienable right. you posses a privilege that can be alienated “if we have a good reason.” this is a massive shift in power that seems like a small thing when they do it. it’s an entirely new framing.
the question is no longer settled by “you are a human, you have an absolute right to free speech, therefore, speak.” any act of the state to bar or prevent such is unjust and illegal. the debate is “is this suppression?”
the question is now “you are speaking. does this speech pass some threshold beyond which the state should prevent it?” and that is a VERY different question. you have already accepted that speech can be illegal. you’ve let them substitute “do you support nazis?” for “do humans have an inalienable right to speech?” it is the shape of the question itself, not the answers to it, that then determines the outcomes.
once you frame the issue, the debate is already over.
this is why, upon hearing of any new such suppression, ESPECIALLY if it is the suppression of something you hate, you should pause and dig down to the true essence of what is happening.
consider the structure of the question being posed and the assumptions therein, because they will seek to skip steps and occlude what’s being done and they will blow it by you because you happen to like the outcome so you won’t think about it too hard or bother to fight.
they will pick the least sympathetic case to get the ball rolling.
after all, who’s going to stand up for some neo nazis?
well, you should, and here’s why: sure they may be odious and you may disagree violently with them, but an assault on their speech is an assault on everyone’s speech, yours included.
the price of your own free speech is listening to others say things you absolutely hate. if you are not willing to do this, you neither deserve nor will you retain your own right of speech.
no one ever said it was easy, only that it was just and fair.
it is precisely because you will not stand up for the right to hateful speech that they are able to take your free speech away. then, one day, you try to protest a school board for muzzling your children in class and they silence you, bar you from discourse, and, in all too predictable fashion, brand you as a fascist and a nazi and as a domestic terrorist. (and yes, this really happened)
and it was your fault. you walked into it and let them set up the trap by changing the framing from rights to privileges. you failed to defend nazi speech and thereby lost your own. we all did (or enough did that the rest got run over)
it’s a sneaky, effective trick. but it’s one they use over and over. because it works. well. but using it over and over comprises a weakness as well, because once aware, you can see the whole arc coming.
they give you something you actually want and an outcome you like. but this most trojan of horses is how you lose the whole city.
all you see is “bad people have to shut up now” and you miss the “i just accepted ends justify the means thinking and rendered my own rights entirely alienable at the discretion of the state.”
both legalistically and societally, the rules are precedent based and once they have a precedent, they can do it again.
and this is why you must be ever so sensitive and absolutist about what question is being asked and answered and to assiduously avoid allowing any framing that boils down to outcomes justifying methods: because even if you like the current questioner, one day, the person you hate most will be in power. and they will get to ask this question too.
framing is not a part of the fight. it IS the fight. the rest is just mop up.
failure to recognize this is why, in so many cases, the fight is already over before most people even realize it’s taking place. the real battle occurred out of sight and was slid right by you while you were focused elsewhere and thought you were winning.
the only defense is to learn to spot it early, before the framing is set and to reject the premise from the start.
once you see this pattern and recognize it for the trojan virus against rights and liberty that it is, you’ll see it everywhere. it’s one of the primary means of rights usurpation.
let’s take a contemporary object lesson:
perhaps you might have let this pass. oh, it’s saying false things to deter the russians and the media and the government colluding in pursuit of a policy goal. and maybe i like this goal. so, probably, this was a good thing. you might even applaud it as “cunning statecraft.” to be sure, many did.
but now abstract it a level and look at the change in the question being asked underneath: “is it ok for the government and media to collude to lie to the public if it suits some goals they have decided are important?”
they have answered yes and gotten you to agree because you approved of the outcome and because opposing this makes it sound like you are pro russia invading ukraine.
and once you accede to this premise, you now live in a world where leaders and pundits lying to you is OK and the debate is not “should this happen?” but merely “is this a good reason?”
and then it’s just a matter of time, right?
this will be abused and turned on you in other places. it’s when, not if.
see the trick now and how once you accept even the tiniest bit of the first premise, the rest inevitably follows?
this particular version is brilliantly put. not only does it invite you to approve of them lying to and manipulating you, but the very inclusion of the world “unprecedented” is a masterpiece of false flag fabulism.
unprecedented? really? after the last two years of endless lies and manipulation and mischaracterization? after the massive false framing of “it’s OK to take your basic rights if there’s a pandemic and it suits our perceptions of the “greater good”? (yeah, go back an pick that one apart using this analytic structure. then try not to scream.)
they are not only setting you up for having precedent and demanding plaudits for the next round of lying to the public in purported service of the public good, they are covering up for the last round of having done so by drawing your eye to this one like it was the first time they had engaged in such.
it’s a masterpiece of mendacity. it transforms government into a psyop and media into a collaborator instead of a check upon the state. the very people extoling the virtues of democracy are espousing concerted lying to the demos as a public good. and the folks waving their “i support the current thing” flags cannot get enough of it. they love it.
and that way, madness lies.
fauci outright told you he lied to the people about masks not working so that supply for doctors could be assured. the best part is that this tale of lying was, itself, a lie. he knew damn well they did not work from the get go. he pivoted for politics then framed it as “i lied for your own good” instead of “i was wrong” to both usurp power and to appear deliberate instead of stupid. and people loved him for it. they called it noble. see the fun house of mirrors in which this lands you? you do not want to live there.
and THAT is why you must reject these premises right at the beginning.
you must defend the speech of odious people then go back to ignoring what they say or to refuting it.
you must realize that surrendering all your privacy and liberty to (allegedly) catch terrorists means that the terrorists have not only already won, but that you have turned the role of the state into acting the terrorist themselves and refuse to submit to such predation, even and especially if they tell you “it’s temporary.”
you must immediately rail against and resist a state and a media claiming the right to lie to you and manipulate the facts because “we need to shape perception to get the outcomes we want.”
this becomes a reflex and we need this reflex to spread sufficiently to generate a firewall against being overrun.
this should be taught in school, but instead, they teach the opposite and seek to maximize indoctrination and inculcation into WHAT to think by preventing the acquisition of the skills that lead to knowing HOW to think.
this is a trap from which escape is devilishly difficult once you have blundered into it, but it is also one that is easy to sidestep and avoid once you know how to look for it.
if you would do one, simple, useful thing for your children: teach them this skill.
because no one else will.
the dividends are lifelong.
and the society they save may be our own.
Parents must help children develop their BS detectors to challenge authority from a young age.
gato, your posts make me feel less lonely in this madness. That is exactly what I hammer into my kid - “see how they made this ad? See how they shot this scene? Look behind, it’s all very fake.” It helps that I worked in communications and now on TV, I can tell her what happens behind the scenes. So far, she loves it. Fingers crossed she’ll grow up into a questioning adult.