It seems like in the past few years, the enemies of democracy are using the tools of democracy to gain power. We’ve seen authoritarians and illiberal politicians win elections and bend the rules for future elections, making it more difficult for the opposition to win fairly, even when they hold wide-ranging popular support.
As Anne Applebaum says in her book Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, and I’m paraphrasing, supporters of democracies need to win every election; the authoritarians only need to win once.
Like my posts on conspiracy theories, I want to share some posts on political campaigning. These posts will highlight the common tactics used by politicians and their teams to influence the way you vote. Their influence and techniques are incredibly effective in that voters willingly vote against their interests.
I don’t know how many posts will be in this series, but I know there will be one on the basics of political campaigning, one on the media and another on influencing opinion.
Again, like the previous articles, I’m writing these as if I’m writing to an aspiring campaign operative, but be assured I intend to arm you, the reader, with the knowledge to recognize these techniques and protect yourself from their influence.
So your new client has entered the race for political office, and they’re relying on you to run the campaign to give them the best opportunity to gain power over the treasury.
You’ll need to openly and honestly present your candidate's ideas, respectfully juxtapose them against your opponents, and trust the electorate to vote for the best candidate. LOL bullshit.
No, no, young grasshopper, we can’t trust the voting public because your candidate's issues are your donor's issues and not the issues the public cares about.
Tip #1 - Your client is the best option, but really your opponent is the worst option
Everyone has dirt, your mission is to find even the most minor misstep, and you need to blow it up like the Hindenburg. If a man owns two houses and has taken a private plane, how can he be trusted to make climate policy?
Rather than spending too much time countering the facts of your opponent's campaign ideas, attack their evangelists. The green new deal is written by socialists, crazy old Bernie Sanders and that bartender chick. It doesn’t matter that you don’t offer a better alternative. It only matters that the masses don’t trust the people offering solutions.
Distance your candidate from the initial attacks by using friendly news media, social media advertising and social media memes.
Tip #2 - Astroturf isn’t just for sporting events
Remember, your issues are your donor's issues and not those of the general public, but we want it to appear we’re fighting for them. The best way to get people on our side is to think that everyone is already on our side.
A little psychology lesson - In 1935 Solomon Asch conducted an experiment on decision making and how social pressure of the majority can influence those decisions. Asch has test subjects choose the longest of three lines.
A control group chose correctly 99% of the time but in the experiment, Asch had one test subject and seven others in on the experiment. The seven fake test subjects would repeatedly choose the wrong answer.
This resulted in the test subject doubting their own perception and siding with the group 75% of the time in giving the incorrect answer.
Use fake social media profiles and groups and hold “spontaneous” rallies of “regular people” to create the aura that these policies are already popular and true. As Solomon Asch demonstrated, people are willing to forgo their logic and reason when faced with social pressure.
Tip #3 - It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, as long as people believe it
People want to be right. Does your opponent have a reputation as a warmonger? Perhaps people think they’re just in politics for the Wall Street bankers forgetting about the little guy on main-street.
Claim to have transcripts of speeches your opponent gave to defence contractors or investment bankers. These speeches will be private, and your opponent nor those in attendance will want the transcripts released. Capitalize on the negative perception and the lack of transparency. You don’t need to quote the speeches. You only need to start the speculation about what was promised in those speeches. The undecided masses will fill in the blanks for you.
I would normally say don’t go too crazy with these negative speculations, but after seeing people believe covid-19 was caused by 5G and Hilary Clinton smelled like sulphur, the lanes of speculation are wide open.
Say it again, say it again and again and again. If enough people repeat your claims, they become true or at least true enough to cause doubts in your opponent.
Tip #4 - It sounds better coming out of someone else’s mouth.
There is no shortage of writers willing to write anything for a couple of bucks, especially when they don’t need to put their name on it (side note, if you’re looking for a ghostwriter or campaign advice, contact me through this site). Use these gods among men to craft your talking points into a finely worded samurai sword to be wielded against your opponent.
A dirty little secret in the media is that opinion writers can be bought err rented. Find one that offers access to the audience most likely swayed into voting for your candidate. Bonus points if your columnist is nationally syndicated, and we can make our issue a national issue.
Be sure you find like-minded think tanks, “influencers,” blogs and strategic communication firms to amplify these opinion pieces.
Tip #5 - Give the dumb-dumbs something to say, repeat and share.
I know you need to respect the patriotic public willing to entrust their vote to your candidate. But let's be honest, people are too busy working, raising a family, trying to find a little bit of happiness in this troubled world to worry about the details and nuances of each political issue.
We want to make their lives easier. We want to give them a little bit of happiness by creating a catchphrase they can yell at their dumb lefty nephew on Facebook or at a family barbecue. Sure his nephew has a 4-year degree in environmental sciences, but we want our supporters to have ammunition in these squabbles.
The next time it snows in April, have our influencers make pithy repeatable comments like, “Where’s global warming when you need it?” or “In the 70s, scientists predicted another ice age, time to build an igloo.”
Have ready-made memes featuring your political opponents and people your base already hates, like Fidel Castro. When people can’t articulate political policy, sharing a meme allows them to virtue signal their support.
These are some quick hitters to follow when campaigning. Some of you might find them immoral and wrong, but your career as a campaign strategist could be over on election night if your opponent wins. People will forget the tactics and brand you a winner if you win.
1. Make your lies substantial, don't waste lying on a small half-truth; go big and more people will believe it to be true.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat the lies. Eventually, if people hear it enough, they’ll assume it’s true or true enough to cause doubt about your opponent's qualifications and intentions.
3. Focus your message - It doesn’t matter that you’re going to cut taxes for billionaires, rollback environmental protections or bring back Prima Nocta if the electorate only knows nebulous terms like, “build the wall,” “Crooked Hillary,” or “Make America Great Again.” Be persistent in your message. Never get distracted.
4. Never admit to any wrong, deny every accusation, set a high bar for proof and deflect every attack against your candidate by quickly attacking your opponent and discrediting the messenger.