Friday, March 31, 2006

Mike Scanlon and the "Wackos"

has posted a PDF ( large: 26 MB) containing memos from the Abramoff trial.  One of the memos contains the following information (page 119) about one of their strategies for increasing voter turnout to support their cause:

We plan to use three forms of communication to mobilize and win these battles.  Phones, mail, and Christian radio.  We believe that if you are on TV you are generally loosing battles like this.  Our mission is to get specifically selected groups of individuals to the polls to speak out AGAINST something.

To that end, your money is best spent finding them and communicating with them using the modes they are most likely to respond to.  Sinply put we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip right past them.   The wackos get their information form [sic] the Chistrian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet, and telephone trees.
The memo was written by Michael ; it pertains to their efforts to get people to vote against certain gambling operations.  Apparently, the idea was to get certain persons out to vote against the proposal, while not even raising the issue with those who might take the opposite position.  I assume that is why he wants to avoid the use of television ads: the ads cannot be targeted narrowly enough.  

This is very similar to the strategy involving gay marriage.  

I have a few comments on this.  First, note how the strategy subverts the democratic process:  Rather than promote honest and open debate, they use private channels to manipulate people.  I guess there is no news there, but I find it noteworthy, if not newsworthy.  

Second, I suspect that all political operations use strategies like this.   The take-home message is that we all need to be careful when we are the recipients of targeted political messages.  Such messages should be viewed with a critical eye, since they are likely to be worded in such a way as to be manipulative.  

Third, it is ironic that the very technologies that could be used to create a global village also can be used to do the exact opposite.  Internet sites, email, and special-interest cable and broadcast media can be used to divide the population into groups that receive only a narrow subset of information, rather that getting the whole picture.  Rather than bringing us together, such splits us apart.  Sometimes, these messages seem compelling, in part because the recipient may feel that he or she is getting inside information.  Being the recipient of inside information can boost one's self-esteem, because it can make the recipient feel special.  The recipient might have an altogether different feeling, if he or she knew that the person who concocted the message thought of the recipient as a "whacko."