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  1. That was an interesting show for many reasons, but one of the issues which was only mentioned briefly but stuck disproportionately in my mind was the point of repetition being the key to victory in a propaganda war.

    Since the campaign on Truthdig I have been thinking a bit upon these issues. I believe I made a (possibly poor) metaphor concerning a two-front war in the battle for public support and political victory in the comments to one of your posts recently.

    Why is repetition so important for reaching a large audience? I don’t fully know, but an analogy recently occurred to me, the analogy of the developmental level of a nation and of a mind, and of the kinds of tactics which need to be employed to conquer either, and how experience of conflict in one of those categories might illuminate our experience of conflict in the other.

    Consider world War Two. The blitzkrieg tactics employed initially by Germany and later by everyone were designed to attack critical points of the enemy with concentrated force, thereby paralysing them and allowing swift conquest by the new order. In order for those ‘critical points’ to exist in the first place, there had to be a certain level of sophistication of the enemy, where specialisation, economies of scale, complex transport systems, power plants, heavy industries and so forth formed such points. Because the nation thus organised was quite powerful (compared to what it would be without such development), the hardware used in a successful attack had also to be the product of a nation with at least as much sophistication. When those points had been successfully attacked, the victors could just roll in and take over.

    Now suppose a modern army is deployed against an enemy which has no heavy industries, no centres of population, no national transportation system, no modern agriculture and associated distribution, no central communication. The enemy will be weak, but persistent. You could throw armoured column after armoured column against one temporary point of resistance and wipe the opposition out. You will have accomplished little. Another band of nomads will have drifted in from somewhere else, ready to give you grief. The defeat of their neighbours might be a concern to them, or might be otherwise, but it won’t affect their own resistance. The destruction of another band of nomads doesn’t impede their capabilities in the same way that the destruction of a railroad switchyard impedes the capabilities of an armoured division in need of spare parts.

    Now this seems to me a good analogue for the differing kinds of tactics which need to be used in the public debate between the pro and anti nuclear parties. In the one case you have detailed, highly reasoned dissertations on why nuclear power is the way to go, which form the blitzkrieg part of the operation. The logical case for nuclear power will be highly appealing to people who understand the scientific background and a bit of maths and physics, once it’s properly presented to them. The blitzkrieg of logic attacks the questionable assumptions and weak evidence upon which the memes such people entertain are based. Once they understand the concepts involved, their support for the anti-nuclear case will promptly collapse, as it will have no footing in a consistent mind which has access to the facts.

    That is the case in a highly organised and developed mind which will not tolerate direct contradictions to known facts to flourish entertained within its collection of established truths, much as an advanced nation will not field an effective air force after its stocks of aviation fuel have been destroyed. The situation is very different, however, in a mind which recognises no such logical necessity. A position can be destroyed utterly over and over again without the antagonist altering any opinions. Once the fuss has died down, that mind will simply move back into that territory as if nothing of consequence had happened. This is easy for them, because according to their understanding, nothing of consequence has happened! Someone disagreed with them about something, which simply proves to them that their adversary was disagreeable.

    I suspect that the only way to eventually triumph against such a foe is to resort to the tactics of World War One: Massed assault, human wave, continual pressure until the enemy cracks. Indeed, repetition is the key. Just keep shoving our words into their ears until they overflow out their mouths. Above all, be continually in the fray, ready to answer even the most basic question, and unravel the most convoluted illogic. It’s not glamorous, or satisfying from an intellectual viewpoint, but it may be what we need.

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