The recent appearance by Ron Paul on MSNBC demonstrated perfectly the tactic, used repeatedly by the MSM, called concision. Concision is essentially when commercial broadcast media uses the time constraints of the medium to their advantage. The host extracts a view or statement held or made by the guest that is unconventional or outside of the realm of the agreed upon limits of any given debate by the corporate media. For example, a popular agreed upon debate question is, ”Are we fighting the war in Afghanistan correctly,” rather than, “Should we be fighting the war in Afghanistan at all?” Once the view or statement is introduced the host forces the guest to defend their statement within the confines of the MSM commercial broadcast setting.
The most infamous recent example of this tactic being used against a Liberty candidate was when Rachel Maddow attacked Rand Paul for stating he would not have supported one of the ten titles of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The title that assumed the Federal Government owns all private property and therefore can impose their will on the property owner. The key to that interview was Maddow’s demand for a yes or no answer to the question, “Should Walworth lunch counters should [sic] have been allowed to stay segregated, just yes or no please.” Because Maddow asked the question in a yes or no format, the average viewer may have been tricked into believing that Rand Paul’s answer was evasive. However he was trying to lay out the context necessary to properly answer the question while remaining loyal to his convictions. However, the time frame allotted for his response was disproportionate to the complexity of the question.
To fully argue his well developed point to an audience largely uninitiated on the Libertarian view of the Civil Rights Act Rand Paul would have needed at least one hour of uninterrupted speech, not 13 minutes of continually being talked over and “badgered,” to use Maddow’s own word. The link that Rand Paul needed to break was the deeply embedded connection between doing away with institutional racism and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While they are two mutually exclusive things they are inextricably linked in American mainstream history. Although it was not acknowledged by Maddow he did indeed show that history is not inevitable and simply repealing the Jim Crow laws would have been an appropriate action for the Federal government to take, and would have ended institutional segregation.
Another archetypal moment of concision being used against a Liberty candidate was the September 2007 interview between Ron Paul and Bill O’Reilly during the 2008 GOP primary cycle. Ron Paul attempted to put into context Iran’s presumed desire to acquire nuclear capability against the backdrop of the history of American aggression both directly and by proxy in the past several decades. Bill O’Reilly said very candidly, “we don’t have time for the history lesson,” and harshly cut Ron Paul off. That in a nutshell is concision, if the outlandish propaganda of the corporate broadcast media is put in historical context, it is exposed for exactly what it is.
Now on to the most recent example of concision in the interview between Ron Paul and Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC.
It begins with a lead in to the interview which is an attempt to lump Ron Paul in with the mainstream Tea Party movement. This is an attempt to have the audience form an opinion of him before he ever says a word. This part of the more general propaganda machine but not a form of concision. The goal of O’Donnell in addressing the term limits is to attempt to imply a hypocrisy in Ron Paul’s stance because he did not self impose term limits. When the reality is that the Liberty movement is forced to work within the system as it exists. So for Ron Paul to leave the House and be replaced by a Neo-Conservative would be an act of cutting off his nose to spite his face.
In order to ever have term limits passed the congress would first have to have a majority of candidates with the best interests of the country in mind. O’Donnell is simply trying to establish Ron Paul as a politician who contradicts his words with his actions and undermine his credibility. When the reality is that term limits are part of a wider political strategic discussion and lose their relevance when discussed out of context.
Ron Paul stumbles and stutters for a total of 2 seconds when asked point blank, “if term limits are so great, why don’t you self-impose term limits?” Commercial media scores debates on pundit shows in a way that portrays this exchange as a huge victory for O’Donnell. The slightest hint of contradiction or lack of confidence is the goal of most pundit interviews. But the reality is that O’Donnell has had all day to plan this attack and even went as far as to have his staff lie to Ron Paul about not asking questions concerning other candidates, primarily his own son Rand Paul. So Ron Paul does the best he can in giving an answer but it is not perfect and O’Donnell sits quietly on the other side of the screen with about the most smug, satisfied grin a person can have on his face.
O’Donnell then proceeds to ask Ron Paul “why he can’t get his son to…refuse to take Medicare (as a physician)?” Ron Paul first states the obvious that he doesn’t speak for his son, which debases the premise of the embarrassing question. But then he goes on to explain that cutting war spending would save the money necessary to tide over the people who have become dependent on Medicare until the US could transition to an affordable private health care system for all.
[Note: This is not the first time O'Donnell uses the all or nothing argument on Medicare with a Liberty candidate: See this interview from 2009 with Liberty candidate Peter Schiff.]
For the viewer who does not have the time to think about how the money for the wars and the money for health care all come from the same huge Federal pot it sounds like Ron Paul is skipping around from topic to topic. O’Donnell is successful in cutting Ron Paul off at the precise moment that makes it look as though he was veering off topic rather than almost bringing his point full circle. The point Ron Paul was attempting to make was that it is about prioritizing Federal spending as the budget would be pared down, which was impossible to do in the time allotted. O’Donnell brings the most cherished programs to the forefront and asks if they would eventually be cut, which the answer is yes, but they are far down on the list.
The final tactic that O’Donnell uses is to take a statement made by Ron Paul on the House Floor on June 4th, 2004, which can be read in its entirety here, and imply that Ron Paul is a racist.
It is the same basic tactic that Maddow used against Rand Paul, and I think it is important to understand because it will continue to be used by political pundits in the final weeks of this election cycle and in the coming election cycle of 2012. That tactic is equating respect for private property with racism. The media wants to begin a debate on the historical relevance of the Civil Rights Act but they do not want to be open to the possibility that there was an option to abolishing institutionalized racism without the imposition of the Federal government on private property owners. The same argument is also made with the American’s with Disabilities Act of 1990.
As long as broadcast media continues to use these tactics, it is the Liberty movement’s job to inform the public about how these tactics work, and thankfully a large percentage of the public is already catching on.
About the Author: Shaun Booth is editor of MilwaukeeStory.com.