The Presidential Spectator

Obama’s Shutdown Campaign

Echoing an old Communist Party tactic.

By 10.7.13

Send to Kindle

In the old days, if you wanted to see master propagandists at work, you looked to Moscow, where none honed the craft as crassly as the boys in the Kremlin. The Soviets were so excellent at manipulation and disinformation, at agitation and propaganda (read: agitprop), that they had a government department that specialized in the work. Entire elements of the arm of the state were employed in the ignoble task.

Here at home, Communist Party USA wasn’t too shabby either. CPUSA’s lieutenants excelled at what they called “campaigns.” These were carefully concerted efforts whereby they exploited an issue or cause to further an agenda. Such campaigns were a very effective, still vastly un-appreciated, tactic vigorously employed by the communist movement.

These campaigns took on such a predictable, discernible pattern that they eventually prompted full-scale investigations by the U.S. government. The FBI in the 1950s produced a lengthy classified report on the subject. The bureau defined campaigns as “concentrated, continuous, and concerted succession of agitation and propaganda activities specifically devised and timed to sway public opinion. All communist campaigns are intended to arouse, influence, and mobilize as many people as possible to further communist goals.”

The chief targets in such campaigns were gullible observers, particularly other leftists, moderates, and the apolitical, whose buttons could be pushed. These were the dupes, the “suckers,” and they were deemed indispensable to success. If the campaigns marshaled only the support of the organizers, they would be transparent and would collapse under public exposure.

The FBI noted that, “No other organization has ever engaged in so many diverse, intensive, and extensive campaigns conducted with so much perseverance, deftness, and potency as has the Communist Party, USA.” CPUSA was “never without” a campaign of one type or another, and had been responsible for “an inestimable number of campaigns.”

Notably, a CPUSA member who specialized in these methods was Obama’s Hawaii mentor, Frank Marshall Davis (CPUSA member no. 47544). In my book on Davis, I detail several campaigns he was involved with.

All of that background for this point today:

This tactic is precisely what Barack Obama and his allies are doing right now. Obama’s exploitation of the government shutdown (never let a good crisis go to waste) is a classic old method mastered by the likes of CPUSA. It’s standard operating procedure. What you’re witnessing is Barack Obama’s “shutdown campaign” -- and with the liberal media dutifully on his side to amplify the effort.

Here today, in our new America, our own federal government has gotten into the propaganda business full throttle. Its exploitation of the shutdown is shameless. Sure, we expect congressional Democrats to accuse Republicans of starving children, old people, kittens, puppies, fish, and birds; of wanting to kill your grandmother; of gleefully polluting the atmosphere; of hating black people, gays, Latinos, women; of hoping no child gets an education or a school lunch. You know the drill. Democrats do this regardless of whether they have the White House. It’s the air they breathe. When they have the White House, the cacophony is even shriller. Recall the shutdown follies during the Clinton years, when Commandants Clinton and Gore joined the ugly performance. Al Gore was superb at demonizing Republicans; he had a remarkable talent for doing so.

But the performance has reached a higher, uglier decibel level under the Obama administration. This is hardly a surprise, given Barack Obama’s upbringing, mentors, radical associates, and the crucial fact that he was a community organizer who studied and taught Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. That was Obama’s formative experience for his job today, and it has equipped him for the task at hand. As accomplices, add in an army of ever-increasing unionized government employees, prodded by their ringleaders, and who burn with the tenacity and partisanship of IRS employees, and watch out. You see the results.

As has been reported, and is unmistakably evident to all but the most naïve, federal employees have been ordered to exploit this crisis, to make the government shutdown as uncomfortable as they can. The White House is actively soliciting complaints from the general public on “how the government shutdown has affected you.” These testimonies are tools sought for the propaganda kit; the better to agitate with.

One infamous culmination is the despicable display at the World War II Memorial at the Mall, which has been blocked off, wired off, and barricaded so no visitors can get near it. I’ve been to that memorial. No government employee is needed for you to stroll up and look at it.

But for the churner of propaganda, the agitprop artist, the spectacle of elderly, crying, dying, heart-aching, wheelchair-bound WWII vets travelling hundreds to thousands of miles to honor their fallen brothers, perhaps for a final earthly time, only to be denied by cruel, intransigent Republicans, is just too delicious to pass up. Moreover, you must consider the mindset of liberal Democrats: They and their party and ideology and followers are already fueled by emotion. Well, this WWII debacle is tailor-made to gas up the tanks, the planes, and everything else in the arsenal.

And then the propaganda coup de grâce, the topper: a compliant media on hand to film the charade and spin it in your direction. Utterly delicious. A lovely opportunity. You can picture the propaganda maker salivating at the spectacle.

Of course, the World War II Memorial is just one of numerous examples of Obama’s shutdown campaign bearing its (intended) bitter fruit. What other welcomed pain might be generated? What other lambs might leftists conjure up for the sacrifice?

Well, it was only a matter of time before this propaganda ploy found another way to assault our religious liberty -- the favorite new tack of the left to advances its various causes, from “abortion rights” to “marriage rights.” And alas, that has likewise come to fruition.

As reported by Steve Skojec at Catholic Vote, priests who serve as chaplains for the U.S. military are being threatened with arrest if they celebrate Mass in defiance of the government shutdown -- even if they do so voluntarily.

Outrageous? Absolutely. A surprise? Absolutely not.

Imagine: It is the literal sacred duty of these priests to celebrate Mass. In America the way it used to be, when we had a First Amendment whose religious freedom provision was honored by people with honor, the priest was respected and free. In Obama’s new fundamentally changed America, however, religious freedom is trumped by priorities that “progressives” deem superior. Thus, the HHS mandate on abortion. Thus, a Christian couple who owns a bakery in Oregon is sued for not making a “gay wedding” cake. Thus, a Christian photographer is voted down by the New Mexico supreme court for refusing to photograph a gay couple. And on and on. Now, a military chaplain is told to bow to a government ordering him not to perform Mass during a shutdown that’s less shutdown than theatrics. The priest must serve not the Body of Christ but Barack Obama’s body of propaganda.

So, enjoy the spectacle of Obama’s shutdown campaign. For the extreme left, it’s really nothing new -- though, sadly, it’s totally new to have this emanating so egregiously from the White House. But, hey, this is the fundamental transformation that oblivious Americans elected. Those of us who understand can do little more than suffer through it, its organizers, and its suckers.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His latest book is 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative.