Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When Ted Cruz Attacks

Ted Cruz has a launched a video broadside against Marco Rubio--hitting him right in the Gang of Ocho (ouch!) and linking the immigration reform bill to Syrian Refugees to ISIS Terrorists! Let's look.

The Ad: Win

The ad, a 30-second spot that can be used on TV (anywhere) opens with The Cruz Missile standing in some kind of chamber with an American flag out of focus--but still quite visible--behind him to his right--and a flag pin, in focus, on his left lapel.

He gives us his sad, 'earnest' eyes and patented "duck-face" lips. "Securing our borders and stopping illegal immigration is vital to our national security," he says. "That's why I fought so hard to defeat President Obama and the Republican Establishment's Gang of Eight Amnesty plan."

The President Obama part gives us a filtered picture of Obama looking like the first horseman of the apocalypse with "Ted Cruz Blasts Gang of Eight Immigration Plan" (Dallas Morning News) under it.

The Gang of Eight segment shows a congressional picture (FOUR American flags) with John McCain in the center and . . . whose that young dashing senator off at the lower left? Why it's Marco Rubio!

We're back in the Ted-Room.

"They're misguided plan would have given Obama the authority to admit Syrian refugees--"

We see a filtered crowd of people holding up fingers--refugees--presumably Syrian! A few have suspicious skull-caps and beards.

"--Including ISIS terrorists--" We see a tank with ISIS flags flying atop it like Arabic jolly-rogers

We're in Tedville: "That's just wrong." He soulfully shakes his head, and then clenches his jaw against Obama's wave of Syrian terrorists.

We then see him on stage at the RedState gathering with soaring music gesturing at the crowd: "It's time we rediscovered Ronald Reagan's strategy--"

He gestures forcefully.

"We Win. They Lose." We see the words appear on the screen.
Ted Cruz approves the message with the words Trust Ted merging to TRUSTED.

What Does It Mean?

Noah Rothman assesses: 
Cruz is correct; that is “just wrong,” as in hopelessly factually inaccurate. 
. . .  
Which brings us back to Cruz. The intent of this full-scale atomic attack on Rubio was not to land a blow in the mainstream press. Indeed, Cruz knew he would only annoy reporters who concern themselves with factual accuracy by mounting this assault on Rubio’s record. His hope was to appeal to the conservative border hawk’s amygdala by linking border security with national security refugee resettlement with terrorism.
This is correct: Cruz knows that the Gang of Eight plan has nothing to do with Syrian Refugees or ISIS terrorists at all--but while he (cannily) does not even say Marco Rubio's name, he knows that Rubio's great amnesty apostasy is burned into the conservative mindset. Bringing up the Gang of Eight and ISIS is powerful linking even if it doesn't really make any sense.

But wait--there's more.

This week the Washington Post decommissioned its regular "What was fake on the Internet this week" feature. Why? Because fake internet "news" has become profitable and rampant. They introduce us to Paul Horner, one of the leaders in fake Internet news, who writes false stories designed to:
provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.
Indeed, a look at several of these fake sites (Now8News,, and so on) show that the articles are, indeed, predicated towards the dark Republican Id. Here are some of the headlines:
To be sure, a lot of the headlines are just silly--or gross--but for the most part, these articles (a) lack the biting satire of The Onion and (b) are designed to really, honestly, look like real news. They sometimes fool real news agencies and it is likely that a good number of the people who share these stories really do believe them.

All of those are more credible than the idea that military training exercise Jade Helm '15 was an attempt by the government to seize Texas--a conspiracy theory that prompted the governor to mobilize the national guard to allay fears.

It's also true that not all of these fake stories are geared towards Republicans--but a lot of them are. This is such a problem that Facebook had to institute a "flag as fake news" feature.

In other words, there's money to be made in playing to conservative's (skewed) view of the world--and Ted Cruz knows there are probably votes.

Given the nature of ads targeted at conservatives, TV and web-programs (Alex Jones, for example), and the constant drum-beat against the "Mainstream Media" (which may or may not include Fox News depending on which conservatives you talk to) it is probable that many readers read these articles with a bit of suspicion. 

On the other hand, the fact that they make good money and are generally not necessarily all that funny it is reasonable to think that these sites are making money the same way legitimate news sites are--they're just making up things their target market will click on and calling it satire.

There are two basic questions from here on out:
  1. Will it work for Cruz?
  2. Why don't we see this as clearly on the liberal side?
Let's do the second one first.

Where Are The Liberal Lies?

It is easy--overly facile--to say "Conservatives are cool with being lied to--but more sophisticated liberals aren't." This isn't the case. What is the case, The Omnivore submits, is that conservative media has monetized lying to conservatives in a way liberal media has not.

Conservatives Don't Trust Most of The Media

Secondly, in the "more trusted than distrusted" section for consistently conservative news sources are:
  • Brietbart
  • The Blaze (Glenn Beck's news site)
  • Druge Report (a click-driven aggregator)
  • Sean Hannity
  • Rush Limbaugh
Two of these self-categorize as entertainment and Glenn Beck has, for example, told viewers that Obama's agents were going to come for him in his sleep.

It isn't just that they're more skeptical of the media than liberals--but that they have decided to trust sources that have financial incentive to upset them.

No One Cares Much About Fact Checking

It is pretty clear that in the political rhetoric realm people don't care so much that what you said is true as that it either "feels true" or, hey, "could be true." See Carly Fiorina's assertion that General Jack Keane was fired by Obama for disagreeing with the president (Keane retired in 2003 and never met Obama). See also Hillary Clinton's recent claim that Trump's speech is being currently used in ISIS recruitment videos.

Neither is true--and it is unlikely that either constituency will care that much. There are, however, some differences beyond the mere falseness of the statements:
  1. Fiorina's statement was nearly wholly questionable (of her five named generals, only one really meets her standard). Clinton's statement, while untrue about a video--and in present tense--does reference a real on-going phenomena of ISIS social-media chatter using Trump as a recruitment tool.
  2. Carly Fiorina's statement plays directly into conspiracy theories about Obama trying to control the armed forces.
Obama is purging every branch of the US armed forces at an alarming rate.

He’s deliberately crippling our military, setting them up for failure and defeat. Through his actions he is rapidly demoralizing our troops en masse, creating a dangerous situation at home and abroad, leaving our troops, our country and we citizens open to attack.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, recipient of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, as well as other top retired officers, say Obama’s agenda is decimating the morale of the U.S. ranks to the point members no longer feel prepared to fight or have the desire to win.
Here is Before It's News telling us that Obama has been firing military officers at the rate of one per week so that  they can't lead an uprising against Obama when Americans have finally had enough:
They have the training and the know how to lead an uprising if and when the time comes. Obama knows damn well he is pushing Americans too far… and eventually the kettle is going to blow. If you watch the video below, it’s easy to understand why former Navy Seal Ben Smith feels Obama is trying to provoke veterans. 
When the kettle finally does blow, Obama wants as many Veterans handicapped from participating in an insurrection as possible.
 Here's The Blaze: Obama Purging Military Commanders
Nine senior commanding generals have been fired by the Obama administration this year, leading to speculation by active and retired members of the military that a purge of its commanders is underway. 
Retired generals and current senior commanders that have spoken with The Blaze say the administration is not only purging the military of commanders they don’t agree with, but is striking fear in the hearts of those still serving.
 And so on (Here is an examination of some of the charges).

The net-net here is that Clinton plays into a concern by real counter-terrorism expert, Fiorina dog-whistles alt-right conspiracy theory.

Back to TrusTED: Will This Work For Ted Cruz?

The answer is: "Probably? YES." Firstly the Gang of Eight albatross around Rubio's neck is real. Secondly, there is a lot of fear that ISIS can "get to the US" by crossing the border (never mind that the mechanisms for crossing--a network of Mexican operatives who prey on illegal immigrants trying to come to work in the US are probably not terribly interested in bringing the heat associated with international terror down on them). Conflating the two, in the way Cruz does, true or not, speaks to the fear.

It also sends the right signal: "I'm one of you." In this case, 'you' is the conservative, probably evangelical voter who doesn't much like Trump, feels strongly about immigration on both an intellectual and gut level, and also has a serious hatred for ISIS. These concepts are already emotionally linked--Cruz just links them to Rubio.

He gets further points for not calling Rubio out by name. The ad, while not exactly subtle, knows what it's doing. Consider how it is rife with flags:

  • Cruz has a flag in the background--and of course the flag pin.
  • Obama has a washed-out flag with no red showing--just a grim blue.
  • The Gang of Eight / The Establishment (Rubio) gets four flags.
  • ISIS gets its black flag on the tank.
The only warm-colored American flag in the ad is Cruz's. Everyone else is some kind of traitor (moving all the way to the black-and-white ISIS death flag). This is an effective ad--all the more so for being brazenly false.

Rating: B

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