June 6, 2021
We can't discuss truth hacking without dealing the political trends that have led to massive changes in voting legislation and attempts to undermine confidence in the 2020 presidential election.
The cultural realities that we cherish: liberty, freedom, self-rule, independence, all of which are a fundamental part of the identity of our nation, are under deliberate attack and have been for decades. We are living through the moment when this effort is attempting to transition from preparation into realization.
Whether this succeeds or not depends on our ability to recognize, understand, and resist the reality bending techniques that are established, well planned, and relentless.
In May of 2021, Mother Jones magazine published an article, Leaked Video: Dark Money Group Brags About Writing GOP Voter Suppression Bills Across the Country,
The first paragraph of this article explains the main point:
In a private meeting last month with big-money donors, the head of a top conservative group boasted that her outfit had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia and was doing the same with similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. "In some cases, we actually draft them for them," she said, "or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe."
This top conservative group is Heritage Action, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation.
The mission of the Heritage Foundation, as described on their web site "is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."
And that mission statement is the key to understanding the success of the type of American political truth hacking that has been accomplished on a very large scale.
Hans Von Spakovsky is on the staff of the Heritage Foundation, listed as the Manager of election law reform initiative.
Hans Von Spakovsky's work with election law reform goes back to 2012.
A New Yorker article, The Voter-Fraud Myth, from November 2012, showcases the work of Von Spakovsky as an advisor to a Houston based group named True the Vote, which provided software to local groups, such as Ohio's Voter Integrity Project. This integrity project evaluated voter data and recommended people's voting rights be removed. One woman mentioned in this article received a letter that her right to vote was challenged by a qualified elector. It turned out that the software incorrectly flagged her home as a vacant lot. The software also targeted households with multiple registered voters, which led to scrutiny of lower income residents who shared apartments, students, and extended families.
Why would someone be OK removing the voting rights of a fellow citizen, forcing her to justify her voting record and prove that she is not a criminal?
How did we come to accept aberrant, destructive behavior as something good?
You can't convince people, who are generally kind and honorable, to simply harm others or take away their rights without a good reason. You have to convince them that they are fighting against evil. If you understand their fears, and can turn their insecurities, their hopes, and their sense of what is right into action. Focusing on what they believe to be a sacred mission, it becomes easy for them to overlook the damage that they are doing.
But whatever the motive, whatever we might feel about why they are writing laws and influencing local election processes, we can see that the point of the exercise - whether it is a means or an end - is to control the process of elections.
When the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the purpose was to free the people of the new land from the control of the king, and to place the power of governance into the hands of fellow citizens through processes that where then defined by the United States Constitution.
The idea is to live in a democracy, where the people of the nation come together to understand, discuss, and solve whatever issues need attention. This is done by electing citizens to represent the needs and the will of the populations in their districts.
Once they have been elected, they have the power to make decisions, and they have the authority granted by being selected by a majority of their constituents.
And so, if you want the power, you can either convince more people to vote for you, or you can control the means and methods of voting, so that you get the power, and you get the authority, whether you represent the majority or not.
But this did not start in 2012. In some ways the tradition of voter control is as old as voting itself.
One of the ways in which this can be done is through partisan gerrymandering, which is the practice of drawing local and federal district boundaries for the purpose of changing the political balance of power for the representatives of those districts. For example, a history.com article, How Gerrymandering Began in the US explains:
In 1882, South Carolina created a "boa constrictor" district that concentrated Black Americans—who made up the majority of the state’s population—into one winding district, so that every other district had a white majority.
More recently, redistricting was done as part of project REDMAP. This is another example of how rules designed by free people to tend to the business of a free nation have been redirected to for the purpose of obtaining political advantage, sometimes against the will of the majority.
Another technique is to discover an issue that resonates with voters so that they will turn out and vote for candidates that support that issue. Once elected, the elected officials can then exercise the power of their position to advance their other agendas, and to further entrench their political majority by modifying and manipulating the voting process.
There was a moment in the recent history of this country where the ability to steer public opinion, not to serve the community, but a group's own interests, took on a specific form.
This is described in Glennon, Doyle's book, Untamed.
From the Chapter titled "decals", she writes:
In the 1970's a few rich, powerful, white, (outwardly) straight men got worried about losing their right to continue racially segregating their private Christian schools and maintaining their tax-exempt status... They decided to focus on abortion... They sponsored a meeting of 15,000 pastors -- called the Religious Roundtable -- to train pastors on how to convince their congregations to vote for antichoice, antigay candidates... Evangelicals threw their weight behind him, and voted in a bloc for the first time to elect President Regan. The Religious Right was born. The face of the movement was the "pro-life and pro-family values" stance of millions, but the blood running through the movement's veins was the racism and greed of a few.
This is also why all a political candidate must do to earn evangelical allegiance is to claim to be antiabortion and antigay - even if the candidate is a man who hates and abuses women... All the devil has to do to win is convince you he's God.
The story of how Abortion was used as a political turn-out issue is also covered in the podcast Ordinary Equality, in the episode titled The Long Southern Strategy.
From the podcast, Ilyse Hogue of NERAL Pro Choice America says:
For the architects of the radical right, largely from an evangelical background, there was no institutional opposition to abortion either pre-Roe, or when Roe came down, or even in the years following Roe. Right? What there was, was a very very coordinated attempt to leverage political power in the late sixties and early seventies to fight school desegregation. And there were a lot of legal battles. There were a lot of cultural battles, and in fact when they exhausted all of their legal battles, they said, OK we need something else to use as a tool. And the tool was to retain control in the grip of a very very small number of white christian men, in service of what one of the founders called dominionism. Dominionism is the believe that God gave white men dominion over all systems of power.
What we are witnessing in the voting legislative initiatives of 2021 is a systematic, deliberate, and extensive effort to take control of the process of voting into the hands of a dedicated, truth-hacking minority.
Like a stage magician who directs our attention away from the manipulation, Hans von Spakovsky is calling upon the goodness of people to fight what they are told is corruption, so that he and others can take control of the process of elections.
Reality is fluid, and when a group dedicated to the acquisition of power has been working for decades to create a reality that exaggerates fears and exploits hope, then this reality becomes the only truth for the millions of people for whom that reality was specifically created. Truth is proportional, and when more people believe this truth than other, competing perspectives, then this reality becomes the bedrock that defines and directs the actions of millions in service to the desires of a few, very clever magicians.
Cultural reality is an exercise in imagination.
The only way to fight corruption disguised as liberty is to meet on the battlefield of reality. The antidote to a bad reality is a better reality.
The reality of what this country could be for people of all races and religions, immigrants, native Americans, and all of us in-between, is the promise of a land of Freedom.
We don't need to build this reality. This is the shining image of America that we all know so well, and it can be and will be true when more people embrace a reality of justice, freedom, equality, love, and opportunity and fewer people are driven by fear, racism, and greed.
When we hear the words "traditional American values" in the mission statement of the Heritage Foundation, we should understand that the tradition being referenced is one of white, evangelical, Christian Dominionism, and the racism and misogyny that it supports.
There is a war underway for the reality of America.
The good news is that the reality of what America can and should be is our heritage and our future. It is the default that grows from love and understanding and kindness.
We need more voices in service to the greatest reality that represents the true potential of a free nation, the beacon to the world, the hope of a new era in human history.
This reality is so much deeper, richer, and more satisfying than the desperate apologetics of Dominionism using fear and persecution victimology to seize the levers of power with patriotic cosplay.
If all we do is watch as they bend reality to their will, then they will keep winning until our once-free nation is pinned under the boot of Dominionism and the power of a few for their own political, monetary, and religious goals.
We need to live, promote, believe, and carry the vision of truly free America. We need to be the voice that speaks a better reality into existence.