Hyperbolic Politics by Sound Byte; not Facts or Logic: Why are Conservatives So Successful With This Strategy? [91*13]

What Sound Bites Have Done To America

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Sound Bites = Dumbing Down of America

I USE CONSERVATIVES in the title only because they have become the unchallenged masters of this strategy; the Liberals try to use it as well but with much less effect. What is a sound bite, it is simply a catchy, short, easy to comprehend sentence or phrase that summarizes a complex issue in a single idea. Probably 99.9% of all sound bites are designed to be misleading and are used to convince the unthinking, one whose mind is disengaged from critical thought, American listener to accept, without question, one sides position over the others.

For example, the statement Conservatives successfully make many times a day, "raising taxes in a recession is a bad idea."; it sounds so right, but it is not; not by a long shot. Why does it work so well? Because it is mostly true, but, not entirelytrue and this difference between "mostly" and "entirely" makes all of the difference in the world. Why is only mostly true? If you think through the issue you should observe that Conservative's reasoning is that taxing people takes money out of the economy and thereby slowing it down. It is this "takes money out of the economy" part where Conservatives run into problems. Taxes may or may not "take money out of the economy" and virtually every economist will tell you that adding a surcharge or increasing the marginal tax rate on Americans such that they must pay 5.6 cents on each dollar they earn after they have earned their first $1,000,000 will not negatively impact the economy more than the positive benefit such a tax will bring from bringing down the debt.

Sound bites clearly dumb down America because it turns off their brains and believing one will invariably lead to the wrong decision. For example, what if you were given the sound bite that "America is a Christian, Caucasian nation" and then asked to make a decision from that knowledge; it is patently stupid to even try because America is neither 100% Christian nor is it 100% Caucasian. So, why would you try to use the sound bite "raising taxes in a recession is a bad idea" to make a decision from?

Whenever you hear a sound bite, if you don't want to take the time to ask the questions "Why?" and "What if we have this case?", then you ought to believe the opposite of what the sound bite is trying to convince you.

Hyperbole At Work

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The Apple Hyperbole = Also Dumbing Down America

JUST LIKE SOUND BITES, hyperbole, exaggerations to create emphasis or effect, when used in political debate, also effectively dumbs down America. Hyperbole, when used in literature or poetry or ad campaigns (although these are coming under court scrutiny), generally have a positive effect of creating an image the writer wishes to impart for his or her story. Hyperbole, when used by politicians, usually has a different synonym ... lying.

This section is going to be a little different than most and I hope you will participate. I am going to present a short discussion on what I call an "apple" hyperbole, give an illustration, offer a poll to take, then continue the discussion with real world examples; please play along.

Generally, a hyperbole exaggerates on the positive side, as the cartoon illustrates, 6 bars instead of 5 for a cell phone. Hyperbole can be negative as well, most often when used by politicians. In other words, you use the failure of one thing to "prove" the whole thing is bad; a pretty ridiculous concept when presented like that but VERY effective when used by politicians.

Here is my hypothetical. Assume for the moment that you have a large, private charitable organization who likes helping people in need. Suppose further they decide to procure hundreds of barrels of apples which they distribute to starving people who will die without the apples. Now consider the fact that each of these barrels has a bad apple or two in it which must be thrown away when it is discovered after opening. Now also assume there are politicians out there for some unbelievable reason think it is a bad idea for large, private charities to help starving people, so they say

"... private charity programs, which spent $100 million to end hunger and improve the lot of the poor. IT DIDN’T WORK. Millions of dollars were spent on apples that were distributed in barrels which were then given to the starving in order to keep them alive and in some cases a few of the apples were found to be bad and had to be thrown away which is very WASTEFUL. Maybe someone will investigate how these bad apples came to be and who let it happen!"

OK, now to my poll, please answer this.

Considering the situation presented above and the political statement made about it ...

  • If you are Conservative, would you agree the charitable program to distribute apples SHOULD continue?
  • If you are Conservative, would you agree the charitable program to distribute apples SHOULD NOT continue?
  • If you are NOT Conservative, would you agree the charitable program to distribute apples SHOULD continue?
  • If you are NOT Conservative, would you agree the charitable program to distribute apples SHOULD NOT continue?
See results without voting

Thank you for voting! (If you didn't vote, please go back and do so, it makes the hub that much more interesting.

OK, I suspect the results will show, whether you are Conservative or not, there will be overwhelming support to continue the charitable apple program. Now, let us look at a real life example, President Obama's stimulus program. In a hub I wrote listing Obama's accomplishments, I received this comment, it should look familiar:

" ... stimulus one, which spent $1 trillion to end the recession and bring down unemployment. IT DIDN’T WORK

Billions were given to states to keep union public sector jobs and in some cases the funds were used to beef up union pension funds. Maybe someone will investigate where did the money go and to whom."

I have seen this comment, this negative hyperbole, repeated many times in many forums; the only difference is the boogeyman* "union pension funds" was replaced with an equally horrific and nefarious enterprise. Even though it should be very obvious to most of you, I will draw the parallels to those of you who don't see it.

The stimulus money that went to the States to keep ALL public sector employees working, not just union ones as the hyperbole implies, is equivalent to the apples in my hypothetical; the
"union pension funds" would then be the same as the "bad apples". The "large, private charity organization" is now the U.S. government and the "starving people" are what the State employees might be if they lose their jobs.

This is just one example out of hundreds both Conservatives and Liberals flood the print, Internet, and air media with; all bear the hallmark characteristic, you take one failure (Solyndra) to PROVE the whole program (funding alternative energy initiatives with stimulus dollars) is also a failure. Just like with Sound Bites, the listener ought to be asking WHY does this prove "such and such" and WHERE is your other examples to show the program is a waste of money.

For this example, to me, at least, what this tells me is pretty clear, if people feel that the charity should keep giving out the apples, then you ought to feel that giving "millions" to the States in stimulus money is also a good idea as well.

I wonder if I offer another poll, this assumption will be borne out ... we will see.


* "Boogeyman - an indigenous people in Borneo, I think, who use to raid up and down what are now the Indonesian islands kidnapping unlucky villagers, stealing food, and generally causing havoc. Dutch traders learned of this and brought back the tales of Boogeymen parent use to frighten their children with to get them to behave.

Now consider the real life scenario just presented above, whould you

  • If you are Conservative, would you agree the stimulus money to the States WAS a GOOD idea?
  • If you are Conservative, would you agree the stimulus money to the States WAS NOT a GOOD idea?
  • If you are NOT a Conservative, would you agree the stimulus money to the States WAS a GOOD idea?
  • If you are NOT a Conservative, would you agree the stimulus money to the States WAS NOT a GOOD idea?
See results without voting

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Comments 10 comments

Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 4 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

The problem is that most conservatives feel that by stating Obama has done 1 thing that helped the country, their entire belief system collapses. I feel that most of this mind set comes from religion and the Republican party is quite masterful at exploiting this all or nothing scenario. I did a hub awhile back about religion being responsible for the declining intelligence levels in this country. For instance, the religious right feels that scientists are wrong about the age of the planet and therefore, every claim they make is also incorrect. Global warming, homosexuality, the dinosaurs, evolution, geology, and a host of other scientific statements are out right lies. You cannot escape the fact that the need to be lied to is the basis for a belief in god and/or the GOP. In order to admit that global warming is a reality. the GOP/Christian is in fact stating that evolution is also. One has nothing to do with the other except in the mind of the non thinker. Great hub. I have stayed away from here for awhile except for the occasional scan of the forums and it is refreshing to find a dose of truth and reality on hub pages. For the most part the same old arguments that were going on 4 months ago, are still going on. Nothing changes on here and those who refused to think when I was on here regularly, still refuse to use their brains. I don't miss it at all.


HSchneider 4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great Hub My Esoteric. The Republicans and Conservatives have become the masters of marketing, sound bites, and labels. They dumb down everything in this country. Look at Herman Cain's 999 tax plan. That was designed as a catchy easy to understand sound bite. In reality it would gut the middle class and poor and greatly widen the wealth gap in this country.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

@HS, thanks for voting and commenting again. Yes, the 999 plan is a very simplistic solution to an even more complex problem; normally this leads to disaster. I could support something like a 12/12/12 plan, however, that starts to carve out standard deductions of say, $25,000 per adult and $5,000 per child; exempt food, medicine, the first $15,000 for a car, the first $125,000 for a house, the first $600 for rent, etc; and include short-term capital gains as taxable income.

Welcome back @Stump, thanks for voting as well. I linked to your hub you referred to. While much of what you say regarding religion certainly applies to fundamentalist monotheists, it is less true the further you get from a fundamentalist viewpoint. When you get to some Eastern religions, I am not sure it applies at all. In my own belief system, it incorporates a little bit of several systems. For example, I take from Hinduism the idea of Krishna to explain how God and man are one in the same and that free-will exists; from Pantheism, mainly from Baruch Spinoza, I take his proof of God via causation, without accepting his assertion that there is no free-will. From Aristotle, I formalize my ideas on Virtue and Morality; and so it goes.

The only way to turn the tide against ignorance is to keep on teaching the truth in the face of it and getting the brain-dead to start using their brains one brain at a time.


Stump Parrish profile image

Stump Parrish 4 years ago from Don't have a clue, I'm lost.

Good point My Esoteric, I do have a habit of lumping all religions into the same group. I suppose that comes from living in the bible belt. Most down here know in their heart there is only one religion and it is incapable of wrong doing. I haven't explored many of the other religions out there as I have no need for any kind of deity or god. I suppose that being surrounded by mindless fanatics has colored my perspective. It doesn't surprise me that not one conservative has voted in your poll. I am sure some have read this hub and yet they have no intention of standing up and admitting that their thinking may be incorrect. They prefer to hide in groups and claim superiority. They have no problem stating that everything Obama has done is incorrect with out looking past the sound bite that rules their world. Then again it would require the ability to think for themselves and they have no need of this. Why use their brain when they have others willing to do their thinking for them.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Yes, when submerged in one forest, it is very hard to observe others. If you have time, you might investigate RWAs, Right-wing Authoritarian followers, the army of the conservatives. It is a socio-psychological group studied since the fall of Hitler trying to explain why otherwise rational people would follow such anti-social behavior. I have written about it in several my hubs and John Dean, of Nixon fame, wrote a whole book about it titles "Conservatives Without Conscience". The characterics you have just described are ones exhibited by high scoring RWAs.


Credence2 profile image

Credence2 4 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

The political right are the masters of bait and switch. The latest sound bite is "999". So many have stop critically thinking and let others define the issues of the day for them. It is the lies and misconceptions that brought us to this place of contentiousness. It may well be too late, to get so many people to 'pull their heads out" and smell the coffee. Great hub, Cred2


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Credence, yes, you are right; the 9/9/9 plan is a perfect example of a sound bite that is way too simplistic to solve a very complex problem. To have any chance of seeing the light of day, this "simple" idea will have to be "complicated" so that what is by definition an extremely regressive system will be prevented from driving millions of middle class into a much poorer state and millions more of working poor into poverty.


mib56789 4 years ago

Hyperbole is not a new term. I learned it in English class decades ago. Sound bites is a relatively new term that came with the invention of modern media communication tools like the TV, etc. But the technique of the use of sound bites and hyperbole is nothing new. It's just a lot easier to do it now. Everybody is selective about what they want others to hear being said by them, and often exaggerate to emphasize their points in order to make an impression on the minds of others and persuade their thought process to move them in a particular direction. It's just that not everybody has honorable intentions when they do it and mean it for the good of all the people. Meaning ... there are some folks no matter what sound bite or hyperbole you pick up on, they have a consistent thread and they say what they mean and they mean mean what they say. So if you were trying to distort their words through such techniques or place a spotlight on them, you can probably still see their true colors. Hey! I'm idealistic.


My Esoteric profile image

My Esoteric 4 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL Author

Idealism is wonderful, MIB; it is how we move forward. Thanks for your comment.


Lawrence L Beale profile image

Lawrence L Beale 3 years ago

I scanned your Hubs, but at this point in time, I cannot afford to read them in detail. I have rescued one of my old unfinished manuscripts from the trash heap, How to keep the honey in the honeymoon, and I am spending time rewriting and updating it for publication. I need the money.

It appears that you are an excellent and, certainly, a thoughtful writer. I look forward to following you.

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