Huey Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, supposedly said, “Power is the ability to define phenomena.” Phenomena can be occurrences or circumstances, or more important, the perception of these.

I’m reading a book about Theodore Roosevelt, and the author uses a number of press reports to explain occurrences and circumstances. Even though Roosevelt was a controversial figure during his run as a third-party candidate, the reporters portrayed him and the events around him accurately enough that their reports can be used as historical evidence.

Can you imagine the modern journalistic reports of unliked persons and events being used as anything other than a study of bias and propaganda?

Consider the reporting about Donald Trump, a figure detested by liberals, government insiders, power brokers, Democrats, a large portion of Republicans who are benefiting from the current system and almost everyone in the press. They want him gone.

So how do you accumulate enough power to depose a president of the United States?

You can try to control the narrative, but even better, you can follow Newton’s advice and attempt to control the phenomena.

If Trump doesn’t go to a flooded area, he has no compassion. If he does go, he is insensitive and cruel to add the heavy burden of a presidential visit.

If he doesn’t hug or cry with a victim, he is callous and uncaring. If he does, he is insincere and is willing to use the suffering of others as political props.

If his wife wears tennis shoes, she is demeaning the role of first lady. If she wears heels, she is an elitist and has a “let them eat cake” mentality.

If Trump doesn’t confront North Korea, he is weak and doesn’t mean what he says. If he does, he is dangerous and maybe demented and will lead the world into destruction.

If you are good at this, you want your portrayal to appear to be universal. Your operatives should attempt to have multiple letters to the editor in each news outlet reinforcing your definition of reality. Be sure to have them send in a “Trump is crazy” letter, a “Trump is dangerous” or a “Trump is not one of us” letter.

Be sure to portray any positive phenomena or perception as a minority opinion originating from fringe groups. Reinforce this by demonizing these groups. In Trump’s case, his supporters are ignorant, backward, intolerant bigots who are looking far and wide for a Hitler-figure to slavishly follow.

Be sure to mine the language for words that reinforce your perception. Be on the lookout for words that appear innocent but carry subtle meaning. Write things like, “Obama strived to create a consensus,” but say, “Trump tried to create a consensus.”

Lastly, if your twisting of reality is pointed out, double down and portray your critic with the same negative brush. In this case, I must be a Trump admirer because I pointed out a propaganda technique aimed at Trump. No.

Dennis Clayson is a marketing professor at the University of Northern Iowa.


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