Saturday, August 28, 2010

Beck & Goebbels Propaganda

Glen Beck’s Restoring Honor rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Is reminiscent of a similar event July 9, 1933.  Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and intellectual architect of Hitler’s Nazi party, delivered a speech, “The Storm is Coming.” Like Beck, Goebbel’s purpose was to work the populace into a frenzy of opposition to the existing political order, and against Jews in particular. Few of Beck’s followers seem familiar with the similarity of propaganda tactics that eventually brought Hitler to power and led to the Holocaust and World War II.  

Beck’s desecration of the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech makes use two of Goebbel’s most important Propaganda Principles*: “If you tell a lie often enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” and “Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.”  Beck projects his own racism on President Obama, labeling him racist and thereby seeks to turn whites against blacks, fomenting racial hatred and conflict in America.  Goebbels remarked at the 1933 Nuremburg rally**, “The insane belief in equality that found its crassest expression in political parties is no more,” which fits in well with Mr. Beck’s own propaganda scheme.  As in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Beck views some (white Christians) as more equal than others.  Among those least likely to be equal are racial. ethnic and religious minorities, and people with disabilities, like autism.

If you are not old enough to remember the consequences of America’s initial reticence about the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s, and the role of Goebbel’s propaganda machine in particular, it is worth perusing the German Propaganda Archive that is available on line.  It will make you think again about the consequences of Glen Beck’s virulent propaganda program. 

*See:  Leonard W. Doob (1954) Goebbels' Principles of Propaganda, in Daniel Katz (ed) Public Opinion and Propaganda; A Book of Readings. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

**“Rassenfrage und Weltpropaganda,” Reichstagung in NĂĽrnberg 1933 (Berlin: Vaterländischer Verlag C. A. Weller, 1933), pp. 131-142. Translated in German Propaganda Archive,   Accessed 8-27-10

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Early Autumn’s Melancholy

Autumn approaches along Lake Superior’s North Shore a stone’s throw from the Canadian border, as sumacs exchange green for yellow and orange and snippets of red foliage emerge.  Sunlight simmers across the great lake’s sixty-odd degree surface, whitecaps and mini-water spouts frenzied by 35 mile per hour wind gusts crossing from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Sail boats with tightly bound masts moored in the Grand Marais harbor lurch and sway, wind tosses the whitecaps’ froth haphazardly into the air.  Seagulls’ mewing complaints of the lack of food scraps left by visitors who have already begun heading south for warmer weather. In another few months the wind child temperature will drop to -70 F along the shore.  

How the Ojibwe natives and early French fur traders managed to cross the great marais to Grand Portage at the Canadian border in 25 foot long birch bark canoes, in such treacherous water is a mystery.  They survived the bitterly harsh winters by means only the legendary Ojibwe trickster, Nanabozho knows. Our family’s too short holiday in the far north concludes with our daughters', son's and cousin's, packing for their return trip to the Twin Cities and far off New York.  Goodbye embraces are followed by the inevitable melancholy of parting, as autumn reminds us of summer’s wondrous days, not to return. 

David, now 45 years old, was the first person with autism with whom I worked.  He was 5 years old at the time.  His parents, Etta and Doug, devoted much of their life to helping David have a better future. David lives in a Twin Cites group home and has a job that provides satisfaction and a little spending money.  When Etta died this past year, David didn’t understand her absence.  He insisted that she was in Duluth, which he knew she visited from time to time.  As weeks and months passed, he seemed to realize she wasn’t returning from Duluth.  David became teary-eyed and despondent.  He had rarely made telephone calls to his parents.  It was they who called him, conducting a largely one-sided conversation.  Abruptly David began calling his dad by phone from his group home.  Doug answered, realizing from the number on his phone’s display, it was David calling.  Greeting David cheerily, Doug expected minimal reply, since David seldom speaks.  Doug was taken aback, when David blurted out, “I Love You Dad,” and hung up. David had no idea how to express the rest of what he was feeling, other than the need for love.  What else was there to say, perhaps that was enough?  

For David, the ambiguity of his mother’s absence had been a little like our family’s brief early autumn visit, concluding in the melancholy of their departure… easily managed in our case, but deeply saddening to David.  Doug is spending more time with David than in the past, regularly taking him for lunch at Famous Dave’s Barbecue, which, not surprisingly is doubly satisfying and a bit amusing to David.  Fortunately, David hasn’t heard of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grieving and is more likely to stick to the Chinese Buffet and Famous Dave’s with his dad and sister Ann as a means of overcoming his sorrow. We each have our own way of managing the sadness of loss.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Forgot To Remember to Forget

Who would know off the top of their head the year the Beatles released Love Me Do as a single, or whether Can’t Buy Me Love was on the Hard Day’s Night Album, or who wrote Nowhere Man (it was mainly John Lennon with some odds and ends by Paul McCartney)? For one person, Bill Stainton, a multiple Emmy Award-winning TV producer, writer, and performer and an internationally-recognized Beatles expert.  Jude Southerland Kessler would also know.  She’s author of the historically researched novel Shoulda Been There. She has spent 20 years and made seven trips to Liverpool to research her comprehensive and thorough novel about the life of John Lennon.   Sharon L. Richards, is another Beatles expert.  She was hired by the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando, FL to be the Beatles Expert at their museum experience, the Vault.  Sharon’s memories of working at the Hard Rock Vault are contained in her first non-fiction release Nights Inside The Vault. 
Oh, and there’s one other person, a young man with less celebrity.  He’s my 13 year-old grandson Michael Rodriguez who lives in West Orange, NJ, who has autism.  Michael will be entering 8th grade next Fall.  He is socially shy and sometimes acts a little silly for his age, but he has an encyclopedic memory of Beatles songs, the primary Beatle who wrote it and the year and the album was released.  He can recite the order of the play list on any album without hesitation.  If you recite a list of songs on an unnamed Beatle album, with one out of order, he will tell you the album and inform you that you have them out of order and recite the correct order.  Needless to say he will also tell you the year it was released.  Michael’s dad used to play drums in a local rock band, and his older brother plays drums, guitar and piano, so maybe there’s something in the genes in addition to autism that contributes to this unique ability.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Do Words Mean What We Want Them to Mean?

Too many things in our political, social and professional worlds are reminiscent of the exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

In her poem Scumble, 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner Rae Armatrout wrote:

What if there were a hidden pleasure
in calling one thing
by another’s name?

Indeed, that seems to be the way of much of today’s world, and such misuse of words and the names of things have consequences.  We begin believing that the misused words actually mean something different than the do.  Repeal of a tax cut becomes a tax increase.  Repeal of pre-existing condition exclusions by health insurance companies becomes socialized medicine.

Elimination of the diagnostic category, Asperger’s disorder from the fifth revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association,  as has been proposed, will apparently expunge from existence people with the condition we now recognize as Asperger disorder.  One wonders where they will go.  Perhaps there is a diagnostic purgatory for people with conditions that have fallen out of favor among child psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

Because early intensive behavioral intervention has proven to be the most effective treatments for many young children with autism, it has been proposed in some states that one must be certified as a behavior analyst in order to be reimbursed for providing those services.  But what if one has comparable training and experience in applied behavior analysis and working with youngsters with autism, and is a licensed teacher, or speech language pathologist or psychologist?  Does that mean such individuals recognized by their state governments as qualified professionals, would be unable to be paid for such services?  Does the term “behavior analyst” mean only “certified behavior analyst” recognized by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board?  Perhaps like Humpty Dumpty, a word means what someone wants it to mean, or perhaps is should not.