We’re barely into the new Trump administration, yet have already seen what leading voices in journalism and elite culture are saying about him. You’ve seen coverage and commentary, either directly or by implication, imaging President Trump as incompetent, sinister, and dangerous, and a threat to democracy in the United States and peace and stability abroad.
So the real story of the Trump administration is, in addition to his policies and pronouncements, how our intelligentsia image him and his administration. Following is a list of reading suggestions that will help inform readers outside of the social consciousness of cognitive communications and its methods.
Cognitive communications is a communications style that intends to legitimize in audiences a respect for progressive policies and actors while delegitimizing opponents. Affecting the inner, unconscious mind of a person as opposed to his rational, deliberative mind, cognitive communications has served as the foundation for fake progressive journalism over the last 50 years.
As the weeks and months pass and the narrative-making about Trump and his administration deepens, you’ll find yourself needing to run to the library to check these sources out. Your satisfaction in these readings is guaranteed.
1. Rules for Radicals,’ by Saul Alinsky
This time-tested primer teaches leaders of progressive organizations working within “the system” the communications skills that lead to political power. Probably the book’s most famous lesson is that when engaging in discourse leaders should use polarized rhetoric: “Before men can act,” Alinsky famously writes, “an issue must be polarized. Men will act only when they are convinced that their cause is 100 percent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 percent on the side of the devil.” At the time of its 1971 publication, The New York Times gushed that “Rules For Radicals” attacked “the high and mighty” in support of the “Have Nots.”
2. ‘Democracy Matters: Strategic Plan for Action,’ by Media Matters
This 49-page confidential memo posits David Brock’s American Bridge as a vanguard in a four-year struggle against Trump. “We will fight,” it says, “every day.” “We will fight the normalization of Donald Trump.” It promises that “Trump will be afflicted by a steady flow of damaging information, new revelations, and an inability to avoid conflicts.” It sees American Bridge as a “clearinghouse for information that drives the narrative on Republican officeholders and candidates” that is “at the epicenter of the Democrats’ work to regain power.”
3. ‘How We Think,’ by John Dewey
The founder of modern American education holds that men are social creatures, inferences relating to the community ideal can be automatically regarded as facts, and that no evaluation of them is necessary. The socially conscious advocate can take the social ideal as true on its face, and only needing to be made into reality. If the cooperative ideal is deficient in some regard, this can be found out during a policy’s implementation stage, and the shortcoming set straight while still keeping the ideal intact.
4. ‘Encounters With Unjust Authority,’ by William Gamson
Gamson, the co-director of the Media Research and Action Project at Boston College, describes how progressive-oriented authority, because it is “just,” need not be criticized, while non-cooperativist authority is “unjust” and should be. He describes the “Injustice Frame,” or how an activist should contextualize an action by a non-cooperativist authority as an injustice.
The purpose of the book is to advise organizations on how to mobilize and keep followers. He says that “Collective rebellion reflects or presages the emergence of some collective entity that can sustain a rebellious state beyond the immediate encounter.”
5. ‘Frame Analysis,’ by Erving Goffman
Goffman, a former president of the American Sociological Association, describes “Benign Fabrication.” It means a socially conscious actor can hoax an issue or event if the fabrication advances the progressive agenda. Goffman discusses “paternal constructions,” or hoaxing that “is felt to be in the dupe’s best interests, but which he might reject, at least at the beginning, were he to discover what was really happening.” An illustration of a paternal fabrication is Rolling Stone’s University of Virginia rape hoax, which was deemed acceptable because the hoax’s supposed result was women’s security.
6. ‘The Political Mind,’ by George Lakoff
Written by a key scholarly adviser to the Democrat Party, this book describes “framing,” or contextualizing issues in the unconscious mind, the mind that affects peoples’ perception and reasoning without them being aware of it.
“Framing” is a technique for bringing about a certain type of consciousness in a person, wherein he comes away from a discussion about an issue convinced that the progressive perspective is authoritative and the conservative take malicious. Howard Dean called Lakoff “one of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement.”
7. ‘Dangerous Donald Trump Narrative,’ Luis Miranda to DNC Senior Staff
In this email, the Democrat National Committee Communications Office outlines the “Dangerous Donald Trump” frame, or the image the DNC and its supporting media should convey when talking about Trump. In this “narrative guide for how to talk about Trump,” Trump is to be portrayed as “dangerous” and lacking in “the judgement or temperament to be President.” The narrative to promote is that, among other things, Trump “exploit[s] racial anxieties,” “threaten[s] the First Amendment,” “denigrat[es] women,” and “has damaged America’s relationships across the globe.”
8. ‘Trump is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism,’ The New York Times
Trump is, among other things, “erratic,” “irrational,” “abnormal,” and “potentially dangerous.” Because of this it is understandable that he receives more press scrutiny than other political personalities.
9. ‘The Art of the Controversy,’ by Arthur Schopenhauer
Describes how dialectical reasoning involving a myth can be used to discredit an opposing policy or authority. In response to a policy or actor, the activist puts forward a myth, and the resulting clash damages the legitimacy of the policy or actor. The activist needn’t care whether he is right or wrong. All he cares about is whether he is advancing the cooperativist ideal and empowering its political friends and de-legitimizing their enemies.
The Washington Post’s 2016 “October Surprise,” in which an 11-year-old video alleging sexual vulgarity was suddenly introduced against Trump, and its contents described as being exclusive to Trump, Republicans, and Trump’s followers, illustrates how the “controversial dialectic” works.
10. ‘Donald Trump: The Candidate of the Apocalypse,’ Washington Post Editorial
This editorial calls Trump a “belligerent and erratic” man who seeks to enhance his political prospects “by inflaming public angst, so as to exploit it,” and believes “the way to overcome difficulty is through force.” This piece foreshadowed the editors’ October 8, 2016 “October Surprise” ploy and 1,600-word endorsement of Hillary Clinton on October 16.
The thing for readers to distill from these readings is this: Progressive reasoning is premise-based, or a type of logical process wherein the premise—in this case, that Trump and Republicans are to be de-legitimized—serves as its own conclusion. Facts and analyses that enhance the premise and conclusion are to be acknowledged and respected by the socially aware news source, while those that don’t aren’t.