BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Bill O’Reilly may proclaim at the beginning of his program that viewers are entering the “No Spin Zone,” but a new study by Indiana University media researchers found that the Fox News personality consistently paints certain people and groups as villains and others as victims to present the world, as he sees it, through political rhetoric.

from an Indiana University Press Release, May 2

This ought to be really obvious, but it is interesting to see demagoguery fought with simple fact. Or maybe this is just childishness fought by adults. In any case, the researchers also made a useful list of O’Reilly’s techniques, including what they call his “seven propaganda devices”:

* Name calling — giving something a bad label to make the audience reject it without examining the evidence;
* Glittering generalities — the opposite of name calling;
* Card stacking — the selective use of facts and half-truths;
* Bandwagon — appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd;
* Plain folks — an attempt to convince an audience that they, and their ideas, are “of the people”;
* Transfer — carries over the authority, sanction and prestige of something we respect or dispute to something the speaker would want us to accept; and
* Testimonials — involving a respected (or disrespected) person endorsing or rejecting an idea or person.

Again, not surprisingly, the researchers note that these were common practices during the 1930s, evoking Father Charles Coughlin particularly, the anti-New Deal and pro fascist priest. Coughlin was instrumental in stunting U.S. governmental support for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which unsuccessfully tried to help democratic forces defeat Franco during the Spanish Civil War.

The Spanish Civil War was the first battle against European fascism; its been argued that if Franco had been defeated in Spain, the worst of the Second World War could have been avoided. Amy Goodman writes about the Spanish Civil War and the Brigade, here; the Brigade was recently honored at a recent Museum of the City of New York exhibit “Facing Fascism.”

What I find fascinating is how the very same sorts of rhetoric, focused on fear and xenophobia, could be used in such different historical times. Or, perhaps we are not so different. Fear is always useful in domestic politics.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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