By Robert Pembroke
In her great new book The Smear, Sharyl Attkisson details how the movers and shakers control what you see, what you think and how you vote. She calls them shapeshifters and America has more than its fair share.
Salt Lake City is not immune to shapeshifting. Recently we had a very powerful shapeshifter come out of the woods. My wife has demanded that she must have enough money in the bank, after my death, to live comfortably throughout her Golden Years. With this in mind I am afraid to write about this latest Salt Lake City shapeshifting example. Yup, I am a wimp and afraid of a libel suit, but what I can do is teach you how to recognize shapeshifting.
A “shapeshifter is a person or being with the ability to change their physical form at will,” according to the English Oxford Dictionary. Werewolves, vampires, trolls, witches and other such creatures have been around for a long, long time but only in fiction. Today’s shapeshifters are for real. Think political operatives, fake news makers, super-PAC leaders, transactional journalists and the Clintons' smear machine as examples.
Shapeshifting is a huge industry in America which employs tens of thousands and spends billions of dollars annually. Know any person that works for a PR agency, a lobbying corporation, law firm or is an Internet troll? If you do, then you know a shapeshifter.
Through the years, the art of influencing people has been refined and fine-tuned and, according to Attkisson, there are six steps you must take in order to have a successful smear campaign:
1. Launch: Hire private and/or political operatives to probe into the personal lives of the target.
2. Distribution: Create joint press releases, dedicated websites and news stories.
3. Outreach: Invite readers to copy and pass along the message.
4. Escalation: Push relative articles through social media and other news sources.
5. Demands: Petitions and boycotts.
6. Pressure: Protest meetings and marches.
The most frightening example that I read in Attkisson’s book was the Clinton machine’s successful campaign to stop Congress from impeaching Bill. It was a masterful campaign headed up by Sidney Blumenthal. Blumenthal was a columnist who wrote for liberal publications. I cannot find out how much the Clintons paid Blumenthal, but I bet it was a lot.
Blumenthal was working on trying to deflect the stories circulating about the president’s sexual misconduct with Kathleen Wiley and Jennifer Flowers. Then the Monica Lewinsky story broke and the campaign had to really go into huge, intensive battle mode.
Blumenthal then met with Hillary, then Bill, and according to his grand jury testimony, he was convinced that nothing untoward had happened and proceeded to smear the print media. Again quoting from The Smear: “Time and again, in the book as in life, (Blumenthal) rearranges facts, spins conspiracy theories, impugns motives, besmirches the character of his political and journalistic foes — all for the greater cause of defending the Clintons (and himself).”
At the same time, two people on the West Coast started a petition (moveon.org) to get the country to move on and not impeach Bill Clinton. In approximately a week and a half, they acquired 150,000 signatures that they then presented to Congress. I have seen no evidence that moveon.org conspired with the Clinton smear machine, but reading about Sidney Blumenthal’s tactics, there’s a fair to middling possibility that there was collusion.
“There is only one redeeming thing about this whole election. It will be over at sundown, and let everybody pray that it’s not a tie, for we couldn’t go through with this thing again.” — Will Rogers
Robert Pembroke is chairman of Pembroke’s Inc. and fancies himself as being on a permanent sabbatical. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.