In the old days, if you wanted to see master propagandists at work, you looked to Moscow, where none honed the craft as crassly as the boys in the Kremlin. The Soviets were so excellent at manipulation and disinformation, at agitation and propaganda (read: agitprop), that they had a government department that specialized in the work. Entire elements of the arm of the state were employed in the ignoble task.
Here at home, Communist Party USA wasn’t too shabby either. CPUSA’s lieutenants excelled at what they called “campaigns.” These were carefully concerted efforts whereby they exploited an issue or cause to further an agenda. Such campaigns were a very effective, still vastly un-appreciated, tactic vigorously employed by the communist movement.
These campaigns took on such a predictable, discernible pattern that they eventually prompted full-scale investigations by the U.S. government. The FBI in the 1950s produced a lengthy classified report on the subject. The bureau defined campaigns as “concentrated, continuous, and concerted succession of agitation and propaganda activities specifically devised and timed to sway public opinion. All communist campaigns are intended to arouse, influence, and mobilize as many people as possible to further communist goals.”
The chief targets in such campaigns were gullible observers, particularly other leftists, moderates, and the apolitical, whose buttons could be pushed. These were the dupes, the “suckers,” and they were deemed indispensable to success. If the campaigns marshaled only the support of the organizers, they would be transparent and would collapse under public exposure.
The FBI noted that, “No other organization has ever engaged in so many diverse, intensive, and extensive campaigns conducted with so much perseverance, deftness, and potency as has the Communist Party, USA.” CPUSA was “never without” a campaign of one type or another, and had been responsible for “an inestimable number of campaigns.”
Notably, a CPUSA member who specialized in these methods was Obama’s Hawaii mentor, Frank Marshall Davis (CPUSA member no. 47544). In my book on Davis, I detail several campaigns he was involved with.
All of that background for this point today:
This tactic is precisely what Barack Obama and his allies are doing right now. Obama’s exploitation of the government shutdown (never let a good crisis go to waste) is a classic old method mastered by the likes of CPUSA. It’s standard operating procedure. What you’re witnessing is Barack Obama’s “shutdown campaign” — and with the liberal media dutifully on his side to amplify the effort.
Here today, in our new America, our own federal government has gotten into the propaganda business full throttle. Its exploitation of the shutdown is shameless. Sure, we expect congressional Democrats to accuse Republicans of starving children, old people, kittens, puppies, fish, and birds; of wanting to kill your grandmother; of gleefully polluting the atmosphere; of hating black people, gays, Latinos, women; of hoping no child gets an education or a school lunch. You know the drill. Democrats do this regardless of whether they have the White House. It’s the air they breathe. When they have the White House, the cacophony is even shriller. Recall the shutdown follies during the Clinton years, when Commandants Clinton and Gore joined the ugly performance. Al Gore was superb at demonizing Republicans; he had a remarkable talent for doing so.
But the performance has reached a higher, uglier decibel level under the Obama administration. This is hardly a surprise, given Barack Obama’s upbringing, mentors, radical associates, and the crucial fact that he was a community organizer who studied and taught Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. That was Obama’s formative experience for his job today, and it has equipped him for the task at hand. As accomplices, add in an army of ever-increasing unionized government employees, prodded by their ringleaders, and who burn with the tenacity and partisanship of IRS employees, and watch out. You see the results.
As has been reported, and is unmistakably evident to all but the most naïve, federal employees have been ordered to exploit this crisis, to make the government shutdown as uncomfortable as they can. The White House is actively soliciting complaints from the general public on “how the government shutdown has affected you.” These testimonies are tools sought for the propaganda kit; the better to agitate with.
One infamous culmination is the despicable display at the World War II Memorial at the Mall, which has been blocked off, wired off, and barricaded so no visitors can get near it. I’ve been to that memorial. No government employee is needed for you to stroll up and look at it.
But for the churner of propaganda, the agitprop artist, the spectacle of elderly, crying, dying, heart-aching, wheelchair-bound WWII vets travelling hundreds to thousands of miles to honor their fallen brothers, perhaps for a final earthly time, only to be denied by cruel, intransigent Republicans, is just too delicious to pass up. Moreover, you must consider the mindset of liberal Democrats: They and their party and ideology and followers are already fueled by emotion. Well, this WWII debacle is tailor-made to gas up the tanks, the planes, and everything else in the arsenal.
And then the propaganda coup de grâce, the topper: a compliant media on hand to film the charade and spin it in your direction. Utterly delicious. A lovely opportunity. You can picture the propaganda maker salivating at the spectacle.
Of course, the World War II Memorial is just one of numerous examples of Obama’s shutdown campaign bearing its (intended) bitter fruit. What other welcomed pain might be generated? What other lambs might leftists conjure up for the sacrifice?
Well, it was only a matter of time before this propaganda ploy found another way to assault our religious liberty — the favorite new tack of the left to advances its various causes, from “abortion rights” to “marriage rights.” And alas, that has likewise come to fruition.
As reported by Steve Skojec at Catholic Vote, priests who serve as chaplains for the U.S. military are being threatened with arrest if they celebrate Mass in defiance of the government shutdown — even if they do so voluntarily.
Outrageous? Absolutely. A surprise? Absolutely not.
Imagine: It is the literal sacred duty of these priests to celebrate Mass. In America the way it used to be, when we had a First Amendment whose religious freedom provision was honored by people with honor, the priest was respected and free. In Obama’s new fundamentally changed America, however, religious freedom is trumped by priorities that “progressives” deem superior. Thus, the HHS mandate on abortion. Thus, a Christian couple who owns a bakery in Oregon is sued for not making a “gay wedding” cake. Thus, a Christian photographer is voted down by the New Mexico supreme court for refusing to photograph a gay couple. And on and on. Now, a military chaplain is told to bow to a government ordering him not to perform Mass during a shutdown that’s less shutdown than theatrics. The priest must serve not the Body of Christ but Barack Obama’s body of propaganda.
So, enjoy the spectacle of Obama’s shutdown campaign. For the extreme left, it’s really nothing new — though, sadly, it’s totally new to have this emanating so egregiously from the White House. But, hey, this is the fundamental transformation that oblivious Americans elected. Those of us who understand can do little more than suffer through it, its organizers, and its suckers.
September 17, 2013 Gregory Korte, USA TODAY 8:56 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON — Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.
The internal 2011 documents, obtained by USA TODAY, list 162 groups by name, with comments by Internal Revenue Service lawyers in Washington raising issues about their political, lobbying and advocacy activities. In 21 cases, those activities were characterized as “propaganda.”
The list provides the most specific public accounting to date of which groups were targeted for extra scrutiny and why. The IRS has not publicly identified the groups, repeatedly citing a provision of the tax code prohibiting it from releasing tax return information.
More than 80% of the organizations on the 2011 “political advocacy case” list were conservative, but the effort to police political activity also ensnared at least 11 liberal groups as of November 2011, including Progressives United, Progress Texas and Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice.
The IRS controversy first exploded in May, when Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had targeted Tea Party groups for additional scrutiny beginning in early 2010. The IRS placed a hold on those applications for more than 20 months, an inspector general’s investigation found.
On Nov. 16, 2011, IRS lawyers in Washington sent a list of cases to front-line agents in Cincinnati, along with comments and guidance on how to handle political organizations.
Tax law experts say those comments appear to show IRS employees trying to apply the murky rules governing political activities by social welfare groups.
But the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit legal institute that represents 23 of the groups appearing on the IRS list, said it appears to be “the most powerful evidence yet of a coordinated effort” by the IRS to target Tea Party groups.
“The political motivations of this are so patently obvious, but then to have a document that spells it out like this is very damaging to the IRS,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ. “I hope the FBI has seen these documents.”
The IRS categorized the groups as engaging in several advocacy-related activities that could have barred them from tax-exempt status, such as lobbying and “propaganda.”
But the word “propaganda” doesn’t appear in section 501(c)(4), which governs the social welfare status that most Tea Party groups were applying for, said John Colombo, a law professor at the University of Illinois. Instead, it appears in section 501(c)(3), which governs public charities.
“There would be no reason I would think to flag them if it’s for a 501(c)(4) status,” Colombo said. “That’s very odd to me.”
In three cases, IRS lawyers noted that groups appeared to be connected to Republican politicians: Stand Up for Our Nation Inc., linked to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin; Reform Jersey Now Inc., linked to Gov. Chris Christie; and American Solutions for Winning the Future, founded by former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich’s group was approved last year.
Five groups were flagged as having “anti-Obama” materials in their applications or on their websites.
For instance, the IRS said the website of the Patriots of Charleston contains “negative Obama commentary.” Though the IRS didn’t cite examples, a November 2011 article on the group’s site says: “Obama’s and the Democrats’ track record of disaster is based upon a combination of their ignorance and their fundamental desire to convert America into a ruling class of wealthy all-powerful elitists and a single class of serfs.”
“The web site, as we explained to them on multiple occasions, is really a blog” that members can submit commentary to, said Joanne Jones, the group’s vice chairwoman. “I’m not going to tell you we weren’t political. We were to an extent, but we were within the limits of the law. For example, there’s one clear-cut issue: We did not endorse candidates.”
“To focus in on somebody saying something anti-Obama,” she said, “it’s almost like the speech police there. It’s disturbing. It’s the kind of overreach that leads into Obamacare.”
The group received its tax exemption in September 2012.
RHETORIC OF SOME GROUPS QUESTIONED
It wasn’t just anti-Obama rhetoric the IRS was looking out for. Progress Texas was identified by the IRS as engaging in lobbying, propaganda and political activities. IRS lawyers in Washington noted “anti-Rick Perry” rhetoric, referring to the Republican Texas governor, then a presidential candidate.
Progress Texas received a tax exemption as a social welfare group in June, 2012.
Campaign-finance watchdogs say the IRS scrutiny came out of a justified effort to police “dark money” in politics. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that corporations and unions — and even non-profit groups — could engage in independent political advertising, social welfare groups became a vehicle for funneling undisclosed cash into the election system.
That’s the position of Progressives United, a group founded by former senator Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that itself appeared on the 2011 IRS target list.
“The fact that our group received some scrutiny does not change at all our opinion that scrutiny like this from the IRS, it’s their job. The law applies to us as it would any conservative group,” said Progressives United’s Josh Orton. “I feel like there’s this group of campaign finance nihilists who want to expand this into an argument that there should be no scrutiny at all. They want a wild west of election law, because they want to continue using secret corporate money to influence elections.”
Crossroads GPS, a group affiliated with GOP strategist Karl Rove, spent $70 million on the 2012 election. Its 2010 application for a tax exemption, obtained by the non-profit news organization Pro Publica last year, said it would spend 50% of its resources on “public education.” In the 2011 list, the IRS noted “significant anti-Obama rhetoric.” Crossroads has not received a tax exemption.
‘WE ARE TOTALLY ABOVE BOARD’
The Tea Party of North Idaho filed its tax-exempt application in February, 2010 — the same month IRS screeners in Cincinnati first brought Tea Party applications to the attention of officials in Washington, according to IRS employee testimony before a congressional committee.
A lawyer in the IRS Exempt Organizations Technical Unit in Washington wrote the Idaho group had “No significant amount of clear campaign intervention; however little issue advocacy or educational; significant inflammatory language, highly emotional language, little to no educational information on issues.”
The IRS lawyers recommended that screeners in Cincinnati look for other materials — including “press releases, commentary, articles, and research reports,” according to the IRS list.
That’s when Leslie Damiano, who co-founded the North Idaho group, started getting what she considered to be intrusive questions from the IRS. She said the tax agency wanted to know who her donors were, and what companies they own. They wanted to know the educational background of the group’s board members. And they wanted to know whether candidates were invited to the group’s meetings, and whether it made endorsements.
“We’re a conservative organization. We invited some independents,” she said. “We never had any rallies that were off the charts by any stretch of the imagination.”
Frustrated with the process, the Tea Party of North Idaho withdrew its application in 2012.
“We had an accountant, we had a bookkeeper. We were totally above board with everything we did,” Damiano said.
REDUCING THE NATIONAL DEBT
Some groups caught in the IRS’ net had no connection to national politics on either side. The Citizens for the Preservation of Rural Murrysville says it’s “dedicated to the preservation of the open and natural, rural character of Murrysville, Pa.,” although the IRS said it endorsed some local candidates. The Sarasota Bay Tiger Club is one of several similar Florida clubs that provide “a non-partisan forum on current political issues.” The club says it has “never endorsed political candidates nor advocated a particular ideology,” but the IRS said in its spreadsheet that it was “unclear” if that was the case.
The list also includes the Association to Reduce the National Debt, which was seeking to be recognized as a charity so it could solicit tax-deductible contributions — and give those contributions to the U.S. Treasury to put toward the national debt.
Founder Seth Eisenberg said the group was not political — and he told the IRS that.
IRS tax specialists noted “no political campaign activities.” But two years after applying, the association still hasn’t gotten his ruling letter. And without that letter, contributions are not tax-deductible and no one will give, he said.
All for a group that said it wanted to give the government money.
“I thought this would be a fast-tracked application. A no-brainer. But it got caught up in this whole political controversy,” Eisenberg said. “It’s the greatest irony that ever was.”
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