inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #0 of 142: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 4 Nov 04 16:43
We'd like to welcome Glenn Smith, author of the terrific book _Politics of
Deceit_, as our latest Inkwell.vue guest. Glenn has been a
behind-the-scenes advisor to U.S. senators and governors, as well as a
partner with key presidential advisors to President Clinton and President
Bush. He has advised major U.S. businesses and institutions on
communications strategies and worked for politicians and organizations
from Washington, D.C., to California. Smith, who managed the recent Defend
Democracy Campaign for, has established to
open new avenues for political participation at the state and local
levels. He has also served as a consultant to the Rockridge Institute, a
progressive think tank based in California.  Previously, he was managing
director of Public Strategies, Inc., an international public affairs firm.  
Before entering politics, Smith was a journalist for many years. He lives
in Austin, Texas.

Drew Trott leads the discussion. Drew was born about 50 years ago in
Montana, before it was a red state. He came to California to study law
after a detour to Michigan for a degree in English. He has worked as an
attorney in the Bay Area since 1980, first in a downtown law firm whose
practice included media defense. Since 1986 he has mainly been employed as
a staff attorney within the California court system.

This is the perfect discussion to schedule just after the election.  
Glenn's book is discusses modern campaign strategies and tactics, the use
of media for ideological manipulation and psychological control, and the
resulting threat to any possibility of freedom and democracy. If this
election year and Tuesday's results left you feeling queasy, you should
read Glenn's book and join this discussion.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #1 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Fri 5 Nov 04 00:05
Welcome, Glenn. I want to get to the main themes of your book, as well
as some of your activities like your web-based nonprofits, Drive
Democracy and Texans for Truth. But first, with some of us still in
shellshock from the election, I’d like to talk about how some of the
things you described played out this time.

Here’s an example:  It seemed to a lot of us that the Bush campaign
was able to get a lot of traction by tarring Kerry with relatively
meaningless accusations like “flip-flopper.” At the same time, the
Kerry campaign had trouble making inroads despite repeated, far more
specific and well-substantiated criticisms, like Bush’s creation of
huge deficits partly to finance tax breaks for the elite, and his
failure to effectively pursue Osama Bin Laden and other Al Quaeda

You make the point that a candidacy is more resistant to negative
advertising (and presumably to other negative information) when the
candidate’s supporters have a trusted network of fellow citizens with
whom to share political information. You point out that this helps to
explain why negative advertising tends to hurt Democrats more than

Can you explain how this works? And doesn't this factor tend
inherently to favor the candidate of the predominant socio-economic
group, on the theory that his constituents will more readily connect to
networks of like-thinking citizens?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #2 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Fri 5 Nov 04 09:28
Let me just say how great it is to be here launching this
conversation. Thank you for the opportunity. As usual, I'll learn more
than I am able to impart, but I hope to at least provoke some new

Your question goes to the heart of the 2004 election outcome. I don't
know if the GOP did this by design, but by building their powerful
grassroots infrastructure on a foundation of the conservative
evangelical churches, they received ready-made, nationwide,
twice-a-week (or sometimes three) meet-up opportunities.

Rove knew it wasn't enough, so he added a 1.4 million-person Amway
style neighborhood organizing plan. The GOP launched it four years
It paid off for them in 2002 and 2004. Republican contributors did not
have to be persuaded in the power of this approach. They just gave the

Here's why it works, and why it makes GOP candidates less vulnerable
to their own mistakes, even profound mistakes, and more resistant to
negative attacks in election settings.

While researching the book I came across a powerful new study a fellow
named Gani Aldashev had done as his PhD. thesis at the University of
Milan. He looked at 3,000 citizens of Great Britain searching for
significant determinants of political participation. The best
is citizen self-confidence. In addition, if a person gains the
confidence to talk out loud about a political matter to friends,
neighbors, colleagues, et cetera, a positive feedback loop ensues,
further boosting confidence.

Without getting too technical, the person scores a positive "social
benefit exchange." The primary grassroots message on the Republican
side is, "You (the citizen) have a great contribution to make. It's
your voice that must be heard."  And when they do speak up, they are
signaled that their opinion is relevant.

On our side, we tend to build our political grassroots machines toward
the end of election cycles. They are sometimes ad hoc, though there's
no question they received much better funding this cycle than previous
election cycles. Still, our message is, "Vote for candidate X. She
be good for you." We're not asking them anything. We provide few
opportunities for confidence-building.

So when our candidates are attacked, the confidence of our potential
voters is shaken. When GOP candidates are attacked, their voters are
immediately involved in refuting the attack. Their confidence is
raised. In a nutshell, negative attacks can and did suppress our
Attacks on Bush only served to energize his base.

Web-based activism has begun to turn this around, but with a limited
audience that is not sufficient to win national elections. Bloggers,
MoveOn, DriveDemocracy and others are providing a setting for positive
social benefit exchanges. And it is making a difference. I was lucky
enough to travel the country the last three months of the election,
I can say that many more people have gained confidence in their
ability to affect change. They give their time, their money, and their
voices. We saw it in the turnout. They were not shaken by attacks on

But we have to greatly expand this sphere of participation. Until we
do, we will remain at a disadvantage. Minor attacks on our candidates
will do more damage than major negatives about GOP candidates. We'll
continue to be beaten at the turnout game.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #3 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Fri 5 Nov 04 10:56
Given that people aren't likely to join churches just to counteract
the right's advantage in this area, what should progressive voters be
doing to try to build comparable networks (if that's the right word)?
Were the people at MoveOn thinking in these terms when they organized
their nationwide "house parties" over the summer, e.g., to discuss
_Fahrenheit 9-11_ after its debut and to watch _Ourfoxed_ when it was
released? And will you be working toward building these kinds of
associations through either or both of your organizations, Drive
Democracy and Texans for Truth?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #4 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Fri 5 Nov 04 12:17
While saving civilization from extremists on the right is a pretty
good reason to go to church, temple, sangha or mosque, I agree, of
course, that people shouldn't pick a spiritual path for its political
efficacy.  Let me defer for now a discussion about the role of
progressive religious organizations, and I believe there is an
important role, to focus on your question.

We get some of the benefits I spoke of earlier from all kinds of
meetings, including house-parties, community meet-ups, and other
gatherings. But we need to do more. We need ongoing community
organizations that are present day after day after day. You don't build
a firehouse after the fire starts. It needs to be there for people to
call upon.

Presence is everything. And we need to be organizing in those
communities least likely to be already engaged in conversations online,
at union halls or at Democratic local or state conventions. We need to
be where they live. We can use homes, community centers, churches,
recreation centers, parks, marketplaces. We need paid, trained,
organizers who can become known and trusted in their communities. These
organizers will then empower and supervise much larger groups of

Those of us already engaged in online activism can dedicate some of
our resources and time to building these community-based networks, and
we need to persuade wealthier donors to invest in this kind of
long-range project.

FDR was a genius at this. He ran New Deal programs through local
political organizations. That meant local organizers were meeting daily
or weekly with citizens in their neighborhoods. And that meant the
citizens felt their voices were being heard. Of course, most of those
machines sooner or later became corrupt, and progressives helped tear
them down. We should have kept the machines and thrown out the rascals
running them (think Chicago, late 1960s).

Roosevelt also funded the programs with federal tax dollars. I don't
think that's in the cards now. We're going to have to do it ourselves.

One more thing. I don't think these groups should be over-supervised
or controlled. We need the wisdom of the streets and neighborhoods.
Let's let local people shape these things.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #5 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Fri 5 Nov 04 13:39
One of your major concerns has been voter suppression efforts. In
fact, quite coincidentally a friend of mine forwarded a Texans for
Truth message about your Vote Vigil project, which was intended (at
least in part) to document instances of deceit and suppression by
people like the woman depicted in the email, who was "caught in the act
on Sunday trying to convince African-American voters in Fort
Lauderdale that she was a 'pro-abortion, lesbian Kerry supporter from
San Francisco.'" How big a role do you think voter suppression played
in this election, how effective were strategies to counteract it, and
what new strategies (or improvements on old ones) should we be thinking
about for the next round?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #6 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Fri 5 Nov 04 13:51
I still believe voter suppression to be one of the most under-reported
political scandals of our time. It's remarkable how little attention
the press pays efforts to block citizens from casting legitimate
ballots. There's a kind of shrugging acceptance that it's just part of
the game. Oh well, reporters say, hacks will be hacks and these things

In 2004 we made an intense effort to call attention to voter
suppression and intimidation. Democrats have often worried about
calling additional attention to GOP intimidation schemes. We've worried
that since part of the intimidation is simply to spread word of the
intimidation that we'd play into the hands of our opponents. I never
bought this. It's like saying, "I'm not going to scream about you
stabbing me in the back because I don't want you to know my back is

Remarkably, I think we made a big difference this year. Some 10,000
lawyers turned out. They were very visible. Our group had thousands of
volunteers signed up to photograph bullies. My assumption was most of
these intimidators wouldn't want their mothers to see what they were

But there's so much more to do. If we really cared about the sanctity
of the ballot box in a democracy we'd extend early voting, make
election day a national holiday, allow same-day registration, and
appoint bipartisan election observers. Jimmy Carter says U.S. elections
can't withstand the scrutiny we give other democracies. That's a
scandal. We need to keep the attention on voter suppression, and attack
the problem in state and local elections the way we attacked it in
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #7 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Fri 5 Nov 04 14:26
As one of those 10,000 lawyers I was very sensitive to the GOP spin on
the issue, which seemed to be that their army of poll challengers etc.
was just *reacting* to a "massive campaign of voter fraud" supposedly
being mounted by the Democrats. 

To me there seem to be two quite different kinds of problems that
arise with voter qualifications. One is when a qualified voter shows up
at a polling place and discovers he or she isn't registered, or isn't
registered in that precinct, or in that county (or even state). This
was the kind of thing the Republicans were calling "fraud." But that
seems a clear case of deception -- a propaganda ploy based on subtle
abuses of language (like changing "undocumented alien" to "illegal

Real voter *fraud* is when a voter casts multiple ballots, intending
them all to count; or when dead people miraculously vote; or when
officials stuff the ballot box (or look the other way while it's
stuffed). The only accusations of real *fraud* I've yet heard have been
directed at the Republicans, most notably (so far) by Greg Palast in
connection with New Mexico (where I happened to be doing my Election
Protection gig).

This misuse of the term "fraud" brings me to some of the deeper themes
of your book, about deception and media manipulation. How effective
were the Republicans in discouraging or skewing media coverage of the
kinds of minority-vote suppression we're talking about? What kind of
effort on the part of the GOP, in terms of expertise, money, and
organization, goes into this kind of preemptive propaganda? As with the
"flip-flopper" charge, it seems another case where a Republican
accusation didn't need much weight to counterbalance a far more
substantial Democratic complaint (objection, accusation). How is it
that this kind of imbalance seems so widespread and persistent?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #8 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Fri 5 Nov 04 15:56
Republicans accomplish several things at once with their dubious cries
of voter fraud. They send a signal to their base voters that the
"wrong" people are trying to steal the election. This is one way race
plays a significant role in elections. The GOP charges are code words
for non-white efforts to unfairly disadvantage whites. In this way they
mobilize more of the GOP base to turn out.

The charges also intimidate would-be voters. It's difficult for many
of us to understand the apprehensiveness with which many
less-than-privileged Americans approach an Establishment-run outfit
like a polling place. Bad things happen to the oppressed when they're
called to a city clerk's office, or stopped by a sheriff, of have to go
to the courthouse, or even to the post office to pick up a registered
letter. (Which is why one current Republican scheme goes like this:
send a registered letter to the address of a newly registered voter.
They won't pick it up because it's probably bad news. Who gets a gift
by registered mail? This year GOP tricksters got tossed out of court in
Ohio when they used undelivered registered letters as their only
evidence of fraudulent registration.)

When Republicans publish lists of "felons" or say they plan to
prosecute illegal voters, they're intimidating our base voters at the
same time they are mobilizing their racist supporters. These p.r.
campaigns are accompanied by paid phone banks which call minority areas
with messages that the police will arrest anyone with an outstanding
traffic ticket if they try to vote. They'll post signs in neighborhoods
saying, "You will be imprisoned" if there's something the matter with
your voter registration.

Also, as you suggest in your question, by going on the offensive about
voter-fraud the Republicans muddy the waters. Criticism of their
all-too-obvious efforts becomes little more than "Charges Fly" stories.
It's an effective strategy, especially when many in the press think
they're being objective by simply reporting both sides without critique
or perspective on the charges.

The same intellectual laziness is what puts a John Kerry verbal slip
on a par with a hundred thousand deaths in a war justified by lies.

There are other reasons for the imbalance, as you rightly call it. One
of them is a reluctance on our part to employ offensive strategies.
I'm not talking here about voter intimidation. I'm talking about
obscuring attacks on our candidates by being first on the offensive. I
wish the game was played by other rules. My entire book is about that.
But I am often frustrated at our lack of aggressiveness and weak-kneed

Here's an example. I started Texans for Truth because it was obvious
we needed to level the field in the wake of the swift boat from hell
attacks on John Kerry. We did ads attacking Bush's National Guard
service. Many progressives argued that we should be talking about more
important issues. Air America refused to let us come on and talk about
our charges because, the producer said, it was more important that we
discuss health care, the environment, or the war.

Well of course those things are more important. And of course Bush's
record on them is terrible. But campaigns are fought in the swamps just
as they are fought on the mountain tops. Many among us don't want to
admit that, so we grow timid. In the face of our timidity, the
Republicans attack first. Then we wonder why our authentic, legitimate
criticism of their candidates and tactics don't draw blood. It's
because we've put the armor on them with our romantic notions that
well-argued ideas alone will prevail.

I want to repeat, I'm not talking about violating our principles, or
"moral values" in the words of the exit pollsters. I'm just talking
about a willingness to understand that the other side is ruthless, and
we'd do better if we'd keep them off guard with some uncharacteristic, 
bloodthirsty behavior of our own.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #9 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Fri 5 Nov 04 20:00
Sometimes it almost seems there's a masochistic, martyrish streak in
progressives that makes it easy for conservatives to kick them around.
I remember being struck at the rank hypocrisy of the Clinton
impeachment hearings when there were all these scandalous stories in
the pasts of some of his major tormentors -- particularly Henry Hyde,
as I recall. For some reason neither the Democrats nor the press seemed
to think those stories were fair game. 

Sure, given the way the issues were framed at the time, those stories
weren't, strictly speaking, "relevant." But that's another part of the
puzzle: Why do progressives so often end up letting their adversaries
frame the issues? Is it that, as good Enlightenment rationalists,
progressives feel they should be able to address the issues
satisfactorily no matter how they're framed? Is it lack of an instinct
for the jugular? Is it that couching issues in terms of hope and
fairness just doesn't have the oomph that fear and antagonism have?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #10 of 142: Ted (nukem777) Sat 6 Nov 04 06:55
The word 'liberal' has taken a beating for about 20 years or so, since
Ronald Reagan. This was the first election I can remember in a long
time when any candidate actually ran on that platform, or at least was
unafraid of the word. It still seemed too much to overcome. I notice
you like the word 'progressive'. Do you think the Democratic party
needs to redefine it's terms or coin new words to describe itself?

One look at the Electoral map clearly indicates the overwhelming
majority of the country identifies itself with the portmanteau of what
the Republicans are calling 'conservative'. And then there's the rest
of us. I'm not sure how to describe myself politically anymore.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #11 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sat 6 Nov 04 07:18
This is a complex problem, and I am a little uneasy diagnosing a
general cause when it is probable the syndrome results for a variety of
reasons. Nonetheless, I'm going to aim for the most fundamental reason
I can identify.

I think one of the difficulties is that Progressives always seem to be
doing battle on behalf of others, itself a noble calling. We have
health insurance, but we fight for those who don't. Our jobs have not
been exported oversees. We work for more than the minimum wage. This
puts us at some remove from those hyper-capitalism leaves behind.
Psychologically, I'm afraid we're fulfilled as much by taking up a
cause as we would be by winning. This is most obvious in someone like
Ralph Nader, who seems untroubled by the practical consequences of his

Maybe this is easiest to see in the alienation of some American
intellectuals and artists from progressive movements, from Emerson to
Bob Dylan. In an interesting new book, "Hip: the History," John Leland
makes the point that engagement is the enemy of hip. Why is this?

I believe one of the reasons is that intellectual rebels like Emerson
and Dylan are not so much rejecting collective action as they are
pointing out movement members' self-absorption. Emerson was
anti-slavery but he had a hard time hanging out with the abolitionists.
Same with Dylan and anti-Vietnam War activists. Interestingly, their
critique is often mistaken for its opposite. They are not retreating to
a Romantic Individualism, the movement is. (However, Romanticism gets
an exaggerated bad rap from Marxists and post-modernists. Maybe we'll
get to that later.)

What passes for a political or cultural "ideal" is often just
disguised desire. That's how a movement is turned into an audience. FM
radio "goes" commercial. Environmentalists buy their cultural identity
at REI. Well, the last thing we'd want to do in this circumstance is
permanently satisfy and so eliminate the desire by winning. So we
don't. The consequences of our failures, at least with regard to many
economic issues, always fall on others. Our consciences are clear.

Why don't rightests suffer from the same thing? In part because
they've put their entire world view at risk, as distorted as that world
view is. When they lose, they are the victims. Almost any means
justifies their end. George Lakoff says something really important
about this. An authoritarian's lie is not a lie when it's uttered to
protect the family (coherent world view). Until the family is publicly
shamed by that lie, until the rationale for the authority itself is
undermined, no damage is done to the cause by a lie.

As long as they hang together, and the GOP has done a masterful job of
uniting the right, we gain no converts by pointing out Bush's lies. To
the Right, we're just confused ideologues.

We're caught in a trap. The Left can't just mimic the Right and go to
war on behalf of a world view because we understand such unified world
views as monstrous. Communists tried it. I think I'm getting close to
Adorno's hopelessness, but it's not hopeless.

In the book I turned to the thought of the late Czech philosopher Jan
Patocka and his disciple, Vaclav Havel, poet-turned-president. When our
world view becomes a non-totalizing, pluralistic commitment to "living
within the truth," we succeed in putting more than our desire at risk.
We go to battle on behalf of one another and can't take refugee in the
self-satisfied construction of an identity at ease with perpetually

As Havel pointed out in the 1970s, it is just here that Western
capitalist democracies resemble the bureaucratic communist regimes of
Eastern Europe that crumbled in 1989. The weakness of totalizing
world-views is that they are captured by their lies. They are removed,
quite literally, from reality. Sooner or later they suffer from a
disease their world view won't recognize. And they will die.

"Living within the truth" then is principled political resistance. The
trick comes when we succeed and take the reigns of power. Then we must
use these principles against ourselves. The Czech Republic has not had
so much luck with this.

To wrap this up, I just want to point out that I believe our Emersons,
Thoreaus, and Dylans have long championed a similar approach. It's a
kind of "moral perfectionism," meaning not a reachable utopian ideal of
individual or collective perfection but the recognition that the self
is in perpetual motion, that it constantly evolves toward greater
understanding. Culture and political organization should promote and
protect these possibilities of freedom.

When I was in Boston for the Democratic convention this year I had the
great pleasure of talking through these parallels between the
Emersonian tradition and Patockian "living within the truth" with
Harvard's Stanley Cavell, the contemporary advocate of moral
perfectionism. If the work of Patocka and Havel is not at hand, read
Cavell. Read Cavell no matter what. He himself is modest about the
political consequences of his work. But that's just because he
practices the moral perfectionism he preaches.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #12 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sat 6 Nov 04 07:26
Ted's question arrived before I posted an answer to Drew, but I think
my answer may speak to both concerns.

As to the latter question, I think it's critical that we examine our
language and re-frame our issues. This is why Lakoff's work is so

I'm using the word progressive for several reasons. First, I want to
search for new approaches to governance and culture, and I'm afraid
that even in its positive sense the word "liberal" is tied to specific,
post-Enlightenment political practices, including nation-states and
large, bureaucratic governments. Second, there's an American tradition
of progressivism I'd like to invoke. Third, the 50-year assault on the
word from conservatives has done its damage.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #13 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Sat 6 Nov 04 09:06
I use the word "liberal" to describe myself sometimes, but to me it
conveys a connotation of exactly the syndrome you describe:  it
suggests someone who is "fulfilled as much by taking up a cause as
[s/he] would be by winning."

I know the concept is at or near the heart of your book, and you can
hardly compress the whole 200-plus pages here, but can you say more
about what you mean by "living within the truth"? In what ways is this
a personal, internal commitment, and in what ways a collective or
social one? Are there concete examples (real or hypothetical) where a
person could be said to choose between living within the truth and not
doing so?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #14 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sat 6 Nov 04 15:47
It was in trying to answer this question -- the question of the
personal and the social -- that I first realized the commonalities
between Emersonian perfectionism and Patocka's and Havel's political

Havel, like Emerson, makes it clear that political reform is not the
cause of social (and individual) reawakening, but the final outcome of
reawakening. In this sense living within the truth begins with the
individual, on the levels of consciousness and conscience. Too often
the necessity for personal transformation is misconstrued as a
hyper-individualism or solipsistic withdrawal. That is not what I have
in mind.

Instead, we should understand living within the truth to have not just
an existential dimension, but moral, noetic, and political dimensions
as well. This means that to live within the truth one should 1) Aim
toward a transformation of consciousness, create the self anew
(existential); 2) Set an example for others (moral); 3) Insist upon
grounding cultural and political movements in reality -- don't mistake
the virtual for the real (noetic); 4) Subvert the political order that
inhibits or oppresses in oneself and others these earlier dimensions.

Havel suggested that living within the truth worked like a virus or
meme, infecting the unsuspecting, even one's oppressors. So small
gestures of living within the truth can have large consequences.

Totalizing regimes such as the one Havel overcame require universal
acceptance of their deceits. Only when lies go unexposed or
unacknowledged can the regimes prevail. Even the smallest crack
threatens the foundation of the whole. That is why Czech intellectuals
took to "writing to the desk," or continuing their outlawed
intellectual projects even when they were prohibited from publishing.
They shared their work with others in living rooms and bars.

Havel uses the example of a small shop owner, a green grocer who
conforms to the demands of the regime and places in his window a sign
that says, "Workers of the World Unite." The grocer puts the sign in
his window because he has always done so. It is just one of the things
he does to get along in life and to keep out of the way of the secret
police. But he probably doesn't even think about that anymore.

Refusing to display such a sign would be a small but powerful example
of living within the truth. It requires in the green grocer a new
consciousness, a sort of, "Wait a minute, the authorities don't mean
what this sign says. It's preposterous. They're just using my
unthinking habits to perpetuate their lies." This is the change of

The grocer, by removing the sign, sets an example for others. This is
the moral dimension of living within the truth. At the same time, the
sign's obvious lie, the regime's pretense to proletarian utopia, is
unmasked. This is the noetic dimension. Direct political action against
the Czech authorities was, of course, outlawed. In fact, such an
action, in 1977, led to Patocka's death. He died of a brain hemorrhage
after hours of interrogation for his part in the Charter 77 movement.
Charter 77 simply called upon the regime to respect human rights. It
was specifically not a call to revolution. Nonetheless, because it
stripped away the lies of the regime, the regime was forced to act.

What are the equivalent unconscious actions progressives perform by
habit which perpetuate an order they otherwise seek to reform? That is
the question you pose. Recognizing and altering these habits would be
the beginning of living within the truth.

In an essay written in 1841 Emerson recognized the difficulty American
reformers would have in fulfilling their obligation to live within the
truth. He cautioned against trying to have it both ways, trying to
reform a system while still enjoying to the full that system's tainted

"This is the tragedy of [the reforming] genius,--attempting to drive
along the ecliptic with one horse of the heavens and one horse of the
earth, there is only discord and ruin and downfall to chariot and
charioteer," Emerson wrote in "Man the Reformer."

This is just a way of saying that living within the truth requires
integrity. We can't shout to the crowd demands for renewable sources of
energy while we stand through the sun roof of a Hummer.

We could take small steps. A little more attention to all the stuff we
buy, for instance. After 9/11 Bush and others urged us to remain our duty to shop. They meant it. And they won't like it if
we exercise a little prudence. Or we could take big steps. Challenge,
persistently and unforgivingly, Bush's pretense of a concern for
personal liberty.

As Havel said, "...every free expression of life indirectly threatens
the post-totalitarian system politically, including forms of expression
to which, in other social systems, no one would attribute any
potential political significance, not to mention explosive power."

Unlike pre-1989 Eastern Europe, our direct political intervention
against the Right is not outlawed by fiat. It is obscured by the fog of
media, marginalized by conformists who use fear to oppose change, and
weakened by some of our own bad habits.

We have no excuse. We can act in all four perfectionist dimensions,
the personal, the moral, the real, and the political.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #15 of 142: Ted (nukem777) Sat 6 Nov 04 17:30
I don't know if this is a good spot to place this, but  as long as we
are talking about the meaning of words, George Lakoff's article on the
metaphors of politics is
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #16 of 142: Ted (nukem777) Sat 6 Nov 04 17:34
Glenn, I really like your breaking down the dimensions in which we can
act. After this election, I'm feeling like I  need to throw my whole
self into a more concerted effort. We could easily have another 12
years of this with McCain following Bush and the Republicans holding
Congress (not that McCain doesn't have his Progressive good points).
And I don't want to get misdirected by chasing after targeted groups or
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #17 of 142: Andrew Trott (druid) Sat 6 Nov 04 18:12
It seems to me the internet could play a big role in developing and
making available some of the information we need to better integrate
these dimensions. How about a kind of for the
socially conscious consumer? No progressive in her right mind is going
to buy a Hummer, but how about deciding which detergent to buy? Not
only which one is really least damaging to the environment, but which
one supports a corporation that engages in other kinds of socially
damaging conduct? It seems to me that efforts like this could help to
build social consciousness as well as a heightened sense of identity
among socially conscious folks, too.

You've had some experience using the internet to support progressive
causes, and you've spoken favorably of MoveOn. How big a role do you
think this is going to play, and how do we help to make it happen?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #18 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sat 6 Nov 04 21:44
The internet has already made a big difference, and it can make an
even bigger difference in the future. To begin with, it is the first
new interactive communications technology to be taken up and used in
the political sphere since mass advertising took over from political
parties, local organizations, real town hall meetings, et cetera. Mass
communications are one-way. TV ads, direct mail, telephone
solicitations, are all manipulative, top-down messages.

The internet is in its political adolescence. We may not today be able
to predict its ultimate effect on the political sphere. But what it
has already done is remarkable.

The Well, for instance, which I believe predates the Web, provides the
kind of space I spoke of earlier when I mentioned the Czech dissidents
"writing to the desk." We've seen these spaces multiply by the
thousands, and we see the positive consequences.

Another word about the importance of interactive communications to
political engagement. The single most important determinant of a
person's willingness to participate in the political sphere is
self-confidence. To gain that self-confidence a citizen needs the
opportunity to speak up. The internet allows someone to speak up at
very little risk and very little cost in time or money. That's huge.

I think it's interesting to note that in the last few months I've had
different kinds of people (they shared an interest and/or role in
internet-based activism, however) make the same observation to me. They
said that maybe our democracy is only an early kind of democracy.
Maybe democracy itself is in its adolescence, that its shape and form
will evolve into different kinds of political organizations. It's not
too much to suggest that the "possibility of possibilities" is opened
to us by new forms of communication such as the internet.

It's happened before. In fact, printing was followed by an explosion
of creativity in culture and social organization. Television certainly
changed things, though one wonders if, in forecasting the medium's
ultimate influence McLuhan meant to say global pillage instead of
global village.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #19 of 142: Drew Trott (druid) Sun 7 Nov 04 00:11
I trust we'll come back to this topic of television, and specifically
advertising, and its effect on the political process. And like Ted, I
also want to come back to the topic about the four dimensions of

But before going further on those fronts I want to be sure and
introduce what seems a key concept in your book, the dichotomy between
"freedom to experience" and "freedom to will." Again, there's no way to
compress your intriguing exposition of this dichotomy into a workable
length here, so let me toss out my own understanding of the point, and
tell me where I've gotten it wrong.

As I understand it, the "freedom" that concerned the founders (and the
Enlightenment to which they owed most of their ideas) was the freedom
to pass through the world without arbitrary or burdensome limitations
from the government -- the "freedom to experience." In the early part
of the 20th century (or before?) this began to be displaced by a sense
of entitlement to have one's way with the world -- "freedom to will." 

The distinction is roughly like that between walking through a woods
at pleasure, taking in its sights and sounds and smells -- and cutting
down its trees for one's personal benefit. 

Is this a reasonably accurate, if grossly simplified, description of
the dichotomy? (Please feel free to say it isn't!) 

To me it seems obvious that if freedom means anything, it means that a
legally (morally) competent person must be allowed to do anything at
all that cannot be shown to concretely harm someone else. If it does
harm someone else, some kind of balancing needs to be done. But if it
harms no innocent third party, there is simply no occasion for

Yet we hear Bush and the Republicans talking about "freedom" (at least
for Iraqis) even as they attempt to deprive Americans not only of
newly asserted freedoms, like the freedom to marry someone of one's own
sex, but also of freedoms explicitly guaranteed by the drafters of the

Is the underlying key that we have lost some kind of sense of
community, or at least of interdependence? After all, I can be a
perfectly good neighbor even if I like to eat flies; my freedom to
experience the world in that way inflicts no concrete harm on anyone
else. But if I start asserting the freedom to play my music at all
hours and all volumes, then maybe I'm not such a good neighbor; and to
bring it down to capitalism, the fact that I'm playing my music as part
of a business venture doesn't make me a better neighbor; quite the

So somehow this idea that society is entitled to tell me what to eat,
but not how I can make money, reflects an inversion (not to say
perversion) of how "freedom" was conceived by the founders, and how it
must be conceived to build a viable society. Is this somewhat congruent
with the distinction between "freedom to experience" and "freedom to
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #20 of 142: Kathy Lanham (jonl) Sun 7 Nov 04 06:30
Email from Kathy Lanham:

Mr. Smith,

Do you see similarities to the rise of Adolph Hitler and George W. Bush? I myself see 
many similarities and as a Lesbian am frightened to think what is going to happen to my 
community over the next 4 years.   

Sincerely yours,
Kathy Lanham
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #21 of 142: Stephanie Anderson (jonl) Sun 7 Nov 04 08:37
Email from Stephanie Anderson:

This probably shows my political ignorance, but I was just wondering: Is it possible for
"impeachment" to be a major issue in the next "4 more years?" Two issues at least would
be Bush's incompetence in preventing the terrorist acts of 9/11 and especially his deceit
leading us into war with Iraq? I would like to see him impeached (I'm sure there would be
many to testify), but otherwise it would (maybe) slow down his destructive agenda (and
enlighten some of the public).

Stephanie Anderson
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #22 of 142: "JSvj" (jonl) Sun 7 Nov 04 08:41
Email from "JSvj":

I have a comment.
I get a little bent at all the commentators talking about what the Democrats did wrong, 
Well, they did plenty wrong starting out with not being able to get people like me to 
fully support them. But they would not be talking about what they did wrong if there was 
a fair election, they'd be talking about what they did right.
  So they are off on another paralyzing and tortured self-examination.
  You can see it here, and as good and as valuable as this dialogue is it proceeds from 
the basis that they lost. That's true of course, they did lose,  and it seems 
increasingly likely by theft. So my criticism is somewhat besides the point but they are 
framing it as if it were a real loss.
  Anyway they don't seem to be getting to the idea that their candidate probably stabbed 
them in the back by conceding so early? For what? ... 

Frankly Kerry's concession fuels those who see more conspiracies than coincidences. I 
think it has legs and ought to be part of the discussion. Certainly if the intent is to 
look at what went wrong.

To wit, from Xymphora blog:
"Isn't it funny that the one thing Kerry expressly promised his supporters he wouldn't do 
- make an Al Gore-style premature concession speech - is exactly what he did? Had he 
waited as little as twenty-four hours, information would have been available that would 
make his decision to concede much more difficult. It is almost as if he was in a hurry to 
concede before such information came out.

The argument is made that they were trying not to appear as sore losers to preserve the 
chances of Edwards and Hillary in the next election, but the people who didn't vote for 
them are never going to vote for Hillary, the voters who didn't turn out aren't going to 
be inspired by this craven collapse, and their core supporters feel betrayed again. 
The Democrats keep conceding to save their chances for the next election, but of course 
the next election never comes. Had they made an issue out of this election, at the very 
least they could have inspired a debate on the major issues of vote suppression, 
intimidation, 'spoiled' ballots in minority neighborhoods, and receiptless computer 
voting. As it is, the Republicans just gain experience to do these things and more in the 
next election.

The most pathetic thing, perhaps, is the announcement by the Kerry campaign that they had 
an army of lawyers and millions of dollars ready to work on the recounts, and the 
recounts never came. They were all ready to counter Rove's strategy in the last election, 
and, as usual, he was a vote fraud step ahead of them, never intending to have to resort 
to a recount by stealing the election in such a way that the issue never came up. Even 
the much publicized Republican efforts at voter intimidation may have been a ruse to hide 
the real crimes which were taking place inside computer voting machines.

Is this premature concession by Kerry some kind of Skull and Bones thing, a 'gentleman's' 
agreement between the two Bonesman that they wouldn't engage in unseemly quibbling over 
who won, but just let the first guy to steal the election have it?"--Xymphora

Also the discussion included talk of Move On, I know it was in the context of their
organizational skills but has anyone taken a good look at one of their main benefactors,
the "philanthropist"George Soros?
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #23 of 142: David Gans (tnf) Sun 7 Nov 04 09:16

Jack, your analysis is a bit on the facile side.

The Bush campaign, and many campaigns before it in recent decades, has surfed
the wave of America's personality disorder, in which know-nothingism is
promoted as a desirable character trait and "why do you hate America so
much?" is the stock response to anything critical of The Great Father.

It's going to be difficult to break the spell of this collective narcissism
and return some sense of compassion and altruism to the discourse,

The Democrats lose because they keep trying to deal with the reality-based
universe; the Republicans win because they have a great gift for manipulating
the faith-based universe.

It's not so simple as "getting people to vote against their own interest" --
it's getting people to misapprehend their own interests, and it's making
people believe tyheir way of life is more at risk from gay marriage than from
the grotesque upward redistribution of wealth, environmental degradation,
erosion of civil liberties, and so on.

It's as though people who never look up have decided that the sky is an
unnecessary expense.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #24 of 142: Ted (nukem777) Sun 7 Nov 04 10:07
David Brooks had an interesting piece in the New York Times yesterday:
 "Some of the liberal reaction reminds me of a phrase I came across
recently: The rage of the drowning man. "

It is a sobering look at the breakdown of the vote by interest groups
and a comparison to the breakdown of the 2000 election as well.  It's
helpful reading in trying to understand what happened as well as
identifying ground gained and lost.
inkwell.vue.229 : Glenn Smith, _Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction_
permalink #25 of 142: Glenn Smith (glennsmith) Sun 7 Nov 04 10:08
What I am interested in developing is a much more fertile concept of
freedom as inter-relational in the most fundamental sense. The last
person on earth cannot say she is free. She cannot be free -- in the
sense I mean freedom-to-experience -- because she is alone.

Such an understanding of freedom is much different from what Isaiah
Berlin called positive freedom, or what I call freedom-to-will. To use
your striking Metaphor of the Woods, it may seem that freedom to
exercise my will and cut down all the trees is the most fundamental
freedom. But that is quite literally to miss the forest for the trees.

The concept of freedom-to-will is based upon an inaccurate and
dangerous misunderstanding of human nature. The misunderstanding dates
at least to Descartes, who bifurcated human nature into cool reason and
unruly emotion and desire that must be tamed. As Berlin said, "The
'positive' sense of the word 'liberty' derives from the wish on the
part of the individual to be his own master."

Soon this idea of the divided self can be expanded to something wider
than a single embodied being. It can become a social whole, a state, a
cult, an ethnic group of which the individual is but a member. The
group, then, is justified in taming and controlling other, more unruly
individuals, in just the way the bifurcated individual wills his
emotions to conform to his reason.

The picture of human nature assumed by advocates of
freedom-to-experience includes  no such bifurcation. And this insight
is now being confirmed by the cognitive sciences. (Interestingly, this
psychological understanding is also shared to one degree or another by
Emersonians, American pragmatists like William James, and European
phenomenologists like Jan Patocka).

Berlin, who wrote "Two Concepts of Liberty" in the 1950s, after the
rise and fall of the fascist states and the political bifurcation of
the world into unruly, godless communists and "reasoning" democrats,
knows what's at stake. He puts it in a beautifully understated way:
"Recent history has made it only too clear that the issue is not merely
academic." All these types of political organizations assumed, to one
degree or another, that the state must master and control its unruly
elements and, literally, all the unruly elements in the world. The
individual will is projected onto charismatic leaders or monolithic
state apparatuses.

Stanley I. Greenspan and Stuart G. Shanker accomplish a devastating
critique of the Reason/Emotion distinction in their new book, The First
Idea. Theirs is only the most recent, though, as thinkers from a
variety of fields have mounted assaults upon the Descartesian picture.
The Romantic movement, for instance.

It turns out that the very evolution of language and culture derive
from what Descartes (or Freud, etc. etc.) would call emotional
processes. Emotion and reason are integrated. There is no master and
slave in human nature. Freedom does not result from taming our
emotions, or, in the political sense, by extending our unrestrained
will so far that we tame others for their own good.

Freedom-to-experience means actualizing and enhancing the human, which
we cannot divide into reason and emotion. Its inter-relational or
inter-subjective nature is demonstrated by developing babies, whose
first "language" is the transformation of simple emotions into "a
series of successively more complex interactive emotional signals"
learned by give-and-take with mom and dad, as Greenspan and Shanker

They go on to point out that "the growth of complex cultures and
societies and human survival itself depends on the capacities for
intimacy, empathy, reflective thinking, and a shared sense of humanity
and reality."

That is why my freedom is so intimately connected to your's. When I
cut down the trees and deprive you of a walk in the woods, my own
freedom is curtailed because yours is. This is true even if I cut down
the trees after deciding I don't want to walk among them myself
anymore. It's not my loss of the trees, its your loss of experience or
possible experience that deprives me of mine. I become, as it were, my
own worst enemy.

It's as if a developing infant had the power to inhibit or restrain
the behavior of its mom and dad. Such restraint would, reciprocally,
deprive the infant of learning experiences, of the complex interactions
necessary for her own integrated development. This integration, growth
and development does not end in childhood. So when I do get big enough
to restrain you, it's my own experience that is hobbled.

It doesn't take much insight to see that contemporary political
practices, even in democracies, depend upon and exploit the mistaken
understanding of a bifurcated human nature. Politics is now all about
coercion, through manipulative ads, for instance. Thinkers like Foucalt
believe we were entrapped in such power relations by our nature. But I
think they are caught in Descartes's spell as well.

So when I answered an earlier question about the internet's impact on
political life, you can see why its interactive nature could be so
important. It's less coercive (by technological accident, maybe, but
who cares). And it's why the book urges a much more participatory
politics in general.

But systems are adept at perpetuating themselves. And so our political
practices -- define them as broadly as you like -- achieve first and
most importantly their own continued dominance, whatever side might win
an election.

We see again why revolution or reform must take place simultaneously
in the four dimensions spoken of earlier. I could withdraw and work on
the existential, and leave you out in the woods, so to speak. But no
real transformation of consciousness could take place, because I would
have left part of my nature behind, in your heart.

I could demonstrate my limited existential growth more publicly,
setting a moral example. And I could ask you to do the same. But by
failing to address the real, by failing to address the broad cultural,
political and physical environment as it is, as it really is, we'd be
nothing more than a mutual admiration society.

Together, we could simply broaden our interactions with others,
building a pluralistic and healthy subculture from the bottom up, but
without political reform we would remain limited and leave countless
others behind.


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