Crazy like a fox?
Hypothetically speaking, if you are Bannon what kind of resistance do you want to fight against? What kind of resistance actually plays into your strategy?
Consider the nature of propaganda. Other than that it holds more loyalty to agenda than to truth, what is it about propaganda that is intrinsically bad? To say for example that propaganda appeals to moral and legal authority in service of conclusions that are neither is to make claims about character and rule of law. In the current case resistance to the current administration claims both legal standing and the moral high ground. When we say “we are not this” we are implying “we are better than this.”
Naturally then, to counter propaganda with more propaganda knocks the legs out from under that belief. Doing so removes any claim to the moral high ground along with credibility. Blindly loyal Trump supporters aren’t paralyzed by confirmation bias when it comes to Left-wing propaganda. They easily debunk it, then use it as evidence to support their own claims to credibility and character. It provides an ideological balance that has a normalizing effect on extremism. In short, bat-shit crazy Left-wing propaganda just stokes the Right-wing fires all the higher.
To maintain its credibility and claims to the moral high ground, the resistance movement wants distance between itself and Left-leaning extremist propaganda. Maintaining that distance has an opportunity cost. The trap here is that claims of morality bar the use of the tactics seen as immoral and claims to credibility prevent making exceptions to that policy.
The resistance then is forced to fight a war on multiple fronts. Not only is it necessary to directly counter the firehose of bullshit coming out of the White House, but also to keep one’s own house in order. That gives the (White) house a significant advantage. Bannon benefits from propaganda and the resistance is burdened by it no matter which way that propaganda leans.
When the White House uses propaganda, they own that shit all the way. Installing a blatant white supremacist propaganda blogger on the National Security Council immunized them from damage over claims of using propaganda. Should someone point that out, they just point to Bannon and ask “Yeah? So?” Explaining away “alternative facts” is pretty much the full-time job of Spicer and Conway, after all.
Basing its legitimacy on morality and rule of law, the Left meanwhile can’t afford to be seen as using the same tactics. I remember an episode of the animated Ghostbusters where Good and Evil played a game of baseball and Evil was cheating like a boss and winning the game. The Good team was tempted to cheat until one of them intervened to explain “Evil cheats. That’s its nature.” The lesson was that Evil wins not through outscoring Good but by making Good change sides.
That means the resistance is not only obliged to distance itself or suppress Left-wing propaganda, but it is even vulnerable to the suggestion that it is itself running a false flag operation to publish Left-wing propaganda.
The Calculus of Conspiracy
The opposition starts at a major disadvantage in that there’s no clear leadership. The White House is a single, highly focused, coherent core team with bulldozers at their disposal with which to clear out any dissenters. The Democratic leadership meanwhile has lost control of a party splintering into multiple grass-roots campaigns. On top of everything else, the Left needs to overcome the cost of organizing with inhuman speed and efficiency to form a group powerful enough to mount a plusible challenge.
Add to that the notion of manipulating the Left’s messagign by injecting propaganda. If Bannon is the Machiavellian strategist people claim him to be, then it should be assumed, with high confidence I believe, that he would run a false-flag campaign spewing Left-leaning propaganda and then frame the Left as the driving force behind it. That keeps the Left busy fighting credibility wars on multiple fronts while tying them up in the weeds bogged down in he-aid, she-said arguments about who is responsible for the messaging.
If he’s taken the master class, then he’d want the Left-leaning propaganda to spin so crazy as to be easily debunked, but also include some claims that parallel what’s actually happening. That way whatever debunking is done by the resistance becomes ammunition for the Right. “Not only has that been thoroughly debunked, but your own people say its crazy!” The Left does Bannon’s work for him and when forced to get down in the weeds to tease the truth from among the debunked propaganda, they’ve lost the battle.
In the most extreme case, false flag propaganda Bannon puts out would benefit from foreknowledge of the strategy and timetable. Suppose Bannon arranges to float some David Icke-level, off-the-wall conspiracy theorist story describing exactly what he plans to do in three months. He then pushes that narrative out from one far-Left leaning source after another until it is as persistent as it is bat-shit crazy. He makes each new variation just different enough in its analysis to chew up more debunking resources, forcing the Left to play an Sisyphean game of whack-a-mole. Over time the entire theory becomes associated with crackpots and tin-foil-hat types to the point that on hearing it people think “oh not THAT again” and sigh deeply.
At which point when the public is conditioned to ignore it, the strategy described is rolled out in force. And people do ignore it, just as they have been conditioned to do. Bannon gets to say “Not only has that been thoroughly debunked, but your own people say its crazy!” even as Trump types in the nuclear codes.
The Twilight Zone
The administration is running the table because the resistance is acting as if this is a difference in degree and not a difference in kind. Imagine the English Redcoats lined up on the field to wage war as usual, while the enemy was running circles around them in a guerilla war they were completely unprepared to fight. That’s the Left today opposing Trump and Bannon as if they were Bush on steroids not recognizing what’s in front of them is closer to an Alien chest burster than any past American President.
This is not a conventional political fight.
Regardless of how it appears, it is imperative for the resistance to assume strategy and not incompetence. Trump is the magician’s assistant drawing attention away from the trick so don’t assume it’s no trick when the strategy is based on underestimation.
It is imperative to assume that Fox News and Right wing talk radio are the literal Propaganda arm of the White House and not just coincidentally aligned. The money-power feedback loop is too closely coupled through campaign finance and media coverage to be anything else.
There are signs that resistance groups would coalesce if led properly. The Women’s March was massive. The Indivisible groups are at least following a single playbook. Obama’s got a following. Sanders has a following. Schumer’s got a bully pulpit. Nobody’s emerged though to forge all of this activism into a coherent and coordinated force.
Instead what I see of the Democratic leadership is the same two or three emails a day asking for money or to sign a petition. There is nothing substantively different in the Democratic communication I receive today than what I received before the election. All of their communications are based on the idea of fighting Republicans when what we actually need is for Republicans to join with Democrats in defending the country and the Constitution from a coup. That takes radically different approach to leadership to bring alienated Democrats back to the fold, to provide a safe haven for Republicans to cross the line, and to engage the 52% of people who didn’t vote.
The times call for radically different thinking about US politics and we are going to get that one way or another. The only question is whether Democrats will embrace that as strategy and get ahead of it, or figure it out only in hindsight.