Deception & Misdirection

Overton Park and the twisting of words

Overland Park and the twisting of words

[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]

As soon as it hit the news of the shootings in Overland Park, Kansas, political activists started playing the blame game. People on the Left hoped that they’d be able to pin the shootings on conservatives or Tea Partiers, and conservatives and Tea Partiers began to worry that someone would somehow link them to the murders.

As people on both sides know, no evidence is necessary for the Left to make this link.

Remember how Sarah Palin was connected to the shootings of Rep. Gabby Giffords and others? That was a lie concocted by a left-wing website (The Daily Kos) that, just before the shooting, posted an attack on Gifford that could be read uncharitably as a death threat (Giffords, the left-wing blogger declared, was “DEAD TO ME”). On the Sunday morning political talk shows following the tragedy, the focus of the discussions was the  false idea that the tragedy was caused by “incivility” by Tea Partiers and conservatives.

Remember what happened after the 2012 massacre in Aurora, Colorado? Here’s how Dan Gainor of the Media Research Center described the reaction of ABC News:

Gunman James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58, but ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross used the tragedy to score points against the Tea Party.

The very next day, “Good Morning America” host George Stephanopoulos enticed viewers by saying Ross had “found something that might be significant.” According to Ross, a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colo., had joined the Tea Party. He added that “we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes.”

A back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates that there are approximately 50 men named James Holmes in Colorado, with most of them in the Denver-Aurora area. It was very unlikely that the shooter James Holmes was the Tea Party supporter James Holmes. That’s especially true since Tea Partiers are men and women who engage in peaceful protest rather than violent action of the “No Justice, No Peace” variety. (There’s no Tea Party counterpart to, for example, the racist, anti-Semitic, riot-inciting Al Sharpton, whose national convention last week was addressed by the President and Attorney General of the United States.)

Remember how the Tea Party was blamed for the assassination of President Kennedy by a Communist? Here’s what a (ahem) “journalism professor” named Bill Minutaglio wrote in the Washington Post:

To find the very roots of the tea party of 2013, just go back to downtown Dallas in 1963, back to the months and weeks leading to the Kennedy assassination. It was where and when a deeply angry political polarization, driven by a band of zealots, burst wide open in America.

It was fueled then, as now, by billionaires opposed to federal oversight, rabid media, Bible-thumping preachers and extremist lawmakers who had moved far from their political peers. In 1963, that strident minority hijacked the civic dialogue and brewed the boiling, toxic environment waiting for Kennedy the day he died.

Did I mention that Minutaglio was, in the Post’s words, a “journalism professor”?

During the 2012 campaign, even mild-mannered Mitt Romney was accused of committing acts of violence  (for, as a teenager, allegedly bullying a young man who later identified himself as gay) and of causing a woman to die of cancer.

In fact, Frazier Glenn Miller, the alleged Overland Park Killer, was a Klan leader and founder in 1980 of the White Patriot Party. He ran for office as a Democrat (1984), a Republican (1986), and an independent (2006), and hated “neocons” such as former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and Weekly Standardeditor Bill Kristol (whose father, Irving Kristol, was one of the founders of the original neoconservative movement).

Some stories about Miller’s hatred for the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party:

The term “neocon” or “neoconservative” is an interesting one in that its meaning has shifted over the years. It originally referred to a group of scholars who traced their ideological roots to the City University of New York in the 1930s. They were democratic socialists who favored the use of government power to redistribute income and otherwise to attempt to improve the lot of the poor, but who were disillusioned when their favored policies proved ineffective, even disastrous. They were among the first to recognize the abject failure of détente—the policy of appeasement of the Soviet Empire, as promoted most famously by President Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

On matters of foreign policy, their allies included leaders of the labor movement in the U.S.—at least, the patriotic wing associated with the old AFL rather than the pro-Soviet wing associated with the old CIO. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Washington), who chaired the Democratic National Committee under JFK, was considered “organized labor’s guy” in the Senate, even while he was a leader of anti-Communists.

George Meany and Lane Kirkland, the traditional, patriotic, anti-Communist liberals who ran the AFL-CIO during this period, are among the heroes of the Cold War. In the 1970s, Conservative Digest magazine published Meany’s writings attacking Kissinger. In the 1980s, when I was the magazine’s senior editor, I travelled to Central America in the company of AFL-CIO people to support the anti-Communist cause.

The neocons (in the old sense) led the exodus of moderate, mainstream, JFK-style Democrats out of the Democratic Party and into the Reaganized Republican Party.

The original neoconservatives were, in a common phrase, “liberals mugged by reality.” Many of them were Jewish, but others were not.

Over time, the term became one of opprobrium, an insult aimed at the masterminds of George W. Bush’s foreign policy, particularly with regard to the pursuit of the Iraq War. Some who fit in the old definition of neocon did not fit in the new definition (e.g., Jeane Kirkpatrick, Hubert Humphrey’s pollster and Reagan’s U.N. ambassador, who, it is said, realized that the Iraq War was a mistake). Over time, “neocon” became, in some people’s usage, a way of saying “politically conservative Jew.”

Comedian Bill Maher made the Jew/neocon connection clear with a sketch on his HBO show in which the Jewish dating site JDate was parodied as a dating site for neocons.

And there was a critical moment when many of us realized that MSNBC’s Chris Matthew—once a conservative favorite who guest-hosted Rush Limbaugh’s show—had gone off the deep end. It was when he spent much of a show snarling at “neocons” and suggesting that they had dual loyalties (wink wink), then suggested that conservatives who criticize the New York Times do so out of anti-Semitism.

Words matter. One of the most significant advantages possessed by people on the Left is their ability, through dominance of the media and of pseudo-intellectual academia, to twist the meaning of words to suit their purpose—case in point, “neoconservative.”


Dr. Steven J. Allen

A journalist with 45 years’ experience, Dr. Allen served as press secretary to U.S. Senator Jeremiah Denton and as senior researcher for Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. He earned a master’s…
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