Tag Archives: lincoln-douglas debates

Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America

Introduction:  This is the first in a series of dashed off speculative opinions.  Normal procedure on the FM website for these topics would be 3 thousand word posts, supported by dozens of links.  I dont’ have the time to finish them, and too many of these outlines have accumulated in my drafts file.  Perhaps these will spark useful debate and research among this site’s readers.  All of these have been discussed at length in other posts on the FM website.

A major revolution in American politics during the past decade or so:  the increased use of outright propaganda, and Americans acceptance of it.  Both side have participated, but only one side has been successful.

To see how far we’ve decayed, I recommend a look at the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (also see the Wikipedia entry). They read like term papers of today’s college sophomores.  They are longer, more complex and sophisticated than the “debates” of today, in which candidates volley sound-bites with journalists.  The L-D debates gave tangible evidence of a vibrant democracy.  American will be back on track when we produce something like this.

Contents

  1. On the left
  2. On the right
  3. Bipartisan lies
  4. Conclusions
  5. For more information from the FM site

(1)  On the left

On the left we have the intense campaign to convince people about the imminent danger of global warming.  Almost all the major news media, educational institutions, and scientific institutes signed on to the crusade (to some degree).  Their opposite was a small number of skeptics and conservatives (big corporations financed both sides).    Much of the governments regulatory apparatus signed onto the crusade, seeing the potential for a vast expansion of their powers.
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A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?

The salons of our Versailles-on-the-Potomac ring with gossip about the election.  Every day brings exciting news… about Michelle’s and Cindy’s dresses, changes in the lineups of each team’s gladiators, the daily score of money raised, and new fantasies about the “true” values and beliefs of each candidate.

Listening to this bustle, I wonder if we remain capable of self-government?  Or, like the Romans of the late Republic, have we grown weary of the burden — and wait for someone to govern us?  To shed light on this, let’s compare the political rhetoric and literature of America’s past with today’s.

  1. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  2. The Federalist Papers
  3. Presidential inaugural addresses and State of the Union Speeches

I.  The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858:  7 debates, 3 hours each

Take a look at the transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates (also see the wikipedia entry). They read like term papers of today’s college sophmores.  They are longer, more complex and sophisticated than the “debates” of today, in which candidates volley sound-bites with journalists.

II.  The Federalist Papers, 1787-88  (text, Widipedia entry)

Consider the Federalist Papers.  Originally published as 77 articles, the demand was so great that they were reprinted and eventually published in book form (with 8 new chapters).  They were politial literature directed at the American people:  merchants, farmers, and professionals (as defined at the time, male and white).

What if the New York Times were to publish the Federalist Papers, one chapter every Sunday for 85 weeks?  Would they have a large audience?  More likely they would have to donate the advertising space to Public Service advertisements and charities.

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