Playing the Propaganda Card

I was thinking over the weekend about Donald Trump, Gamesmanship, and Nuclear War.

No, not that incident regarding Donald Trump, Gamesmanship, and Nuclear War. North Korea is so last week. I was thinking instead about the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, and the 1965 Flying Buffalo card game Nuclear War.

In the game Nuclear War, the objective is to be the last player (country) standing, if indeed any country is left standing. Players/countries can be eliminated in two ways. First, the use of nuclear weapons can reduce your population to zero or below. While potentially more fun, this approach has the drawback that players eliminated through weaponry have the opportunity to retaliate — to launch a final strike with any available weaponry they can piece together. The second way that a player can be eliminated is through propaganda.

In the game, propaganda can be used to convince another player’s population to move over to your side through the media and other approaches. They move over through their own volition; you haven’t made the decision, and thus no retaliatory strike, because who (after all) do you blame?

Think about this now in terms of Mueller’s investigation, the election involvement the Russians had, and Trump’s election as President. Mueller may never find evident that Russia directly changed a vote in an election system, or that Russia never directly worked with the Trump organization to influence the election. To do so would directly place the blame on Russia, just as firing a missile would. Instead, Russia played the propaganda card.

Russia influenced the influencers of the election. They played an expert propaganda game (in disguise) to influence the voting public with fake news, conspiracy theories, misdirection, and so forth. They magnified issues, help deflect away from other issues, and timed the release of information perfectly. They might not have made people vote for Trump, but they surely made people vote against Hillary — or just not vote at all. (The Democrats didn’t help by having a field of intrinsically weak candidates, but they didn’t see it at the time …. and this made it easier for Russia to sway the conspiracies.)

Here’s the kicker: In the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, American society was worried about “commies and pinkos” invading our media just for this purpose. Had this happened then, there would have been hearings, and Russia would have been held responsible and sanctioned for the meddling. But today? Many in the party that was most concerned about the “red menace” couldn’t care less, because they meddling worked to put them in power, and to question otherwise would be to weaken the legitimacy of their control of government. Given the choice of defending their country, or protecting their self interest and positions, self interest and position win again.

This leaves the party that was traditionally viewed as “leftist” to be the group most concerned about Russian interference in the last election, and most concerned about their doing it again in 2018.

I bet you wish this was a card game now.

[ETA: After some discussion on FB, a friend of mine kept arguing about how Hillary Clinton stank. I wrote the following in response, which really demonstrates the game Russia was playing: Propaganda is the art of making people think they smell shit when they are really smelling a rose, and thinking they are smelling a rose when they are really smelling shit.]