The Crowley/Peewee Dodge (I know you are but what am I?)

I hope you never had a spouse or significant other that did this – habitually accuse you of exactly what they are doing (and you’re not.)  It can drive you crazy! Freud called it “projection,” but I don’t think he ever expected it to be a political movement, aided and abetted by a so-called “liberal media” that bends over backwards to be “fair” to both sides and make everything a he-said-she-said story.  I turn on CNN today (because MSNBC does prison porn all weekend) and the soporific Wolf Blitzer is droning, “…accusations of threats and violence on both sides of the healthcare debate…”  All because of Eric Cantor’s clown show the other day which has been roundly debunked, including by me.

Well, fortunately the great Digby, in tandem with retired blogger Billmon, has been on the job describing this phenomenon.  At least it doesn’t drive you as crazy when you realize it’s a purposeful Republican tactic and other people like us are noticing it and naming it:

Mirror, mirror…

Billmon has emerged from his self-imposed exile to write a typically insightful post about the Republican wife beaters now claiming that the Democrats are provoking the teabag violence. What I describe as the “I know you are but what am I” tactic, he calls “Mirror image” and he offers some excellent examples of the phenomenon:

The specific disinformation technique in play is one I call “mirror image” (or, when I’m in a Star Trek mood, “Spock with a beard”). It consists of charging the opposing side (i.e. the enemies of the people) with doing exactly what you yourself have been accused of doing, typically with a hell of a lot more justification.

“Mirror image” was Rove’s standard response on those relatively rare occasions when the Bush White House seemed to be losing control of the media narrative.

Thus, when Richard Clarke blew the whistle on the Bush White House sleepwalking past the CIA’s warnings about Al Qaeda in the summer of 2001, the White House quickly constructed a competing story line in which Clarke himself was the official responsible for flubbing the response.

Likewise, when the Democrats began making noises in early 2004 about using Bush’s somewhat, er, questionable, accounts of his National Guard service against him, the Republicans quickly rolled out counterclaims that John Kerry had lied about his war record.

But the example I recall most clearly came during the Valerie Plame investigation, when Fox News suddenly tried to argue that Rove was the aggrieved whistleblower, and Joe Wilson and his wife were the sleazy insiders who had leaked classified information

I have used the idea of “ear worms” (an admittedly unsavory image,) to describe how they use the same language and phrasing their critics use against them to confuse the public. And I think it also confuses their critics, us, who get upset at being accused of the heinous behavior of the right and defend ourselves against the charges, thus changing the subject.

This is a very clever disinformatin technique and I’m glad to see Billmon define it as among the tricks of the trade. If you don’t believe it works beautifully, here’s his conclusion:

Me, above:

“The goal is to confront the public with two sides hurling identical charges at each other — the better to convince them that it’s just another partisan mudfight and who the hell knows…anyway.”

The New York Times, tonight:

Accusations Fly Between Parties Over Threats and Vandalism

Eric Cantor, in my imagination:

“Mission accomplished, baby. Mission accomplished.”

When people say they hate partisanship, this is what they hate. It’s not that one side is passing legislation they don’t like or that one side has values with which they disagree. It’s this “mirroring” which is confusing and uncomfortable. They can’t tell who’s telling the truth or which side is right because both sides sound like they are saying the same things.   And they are…

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.