Monday, December 17, 2007

Jonathan Schwarz and a Costa Rican memo scanned from Harpers

December 17, 2007

The Shepherds Discuss How To Guide Their Flock

Here's an internal Costa Rica government memo about their campaign for CAFTA that was leaked and is now in the latest issue of Harper's. Any connoisseur of government lying should read it:

What I like about this is how it demonstrates how few tools these people have. They have to use the same ones over and over again, now matter what they're selling: trade deals, tax cuts for billionaires, wars. In fact, it's so predictable that this is exactly what I would have come up with if I'd had to guess at what they were saying to each other. Here's how it always goes:

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! You might remember this previous leaked memo from the National Association of Manufacturers in 2001, which went out to lobbyists who were going to attend a photo op pushing for Bush's tax cuts for the top 0.1%:

"The theme involves working Americans. Visually, this will involve a sea of hard hats, which our construction and contractor and building groups are working very hard to provide...But the Speaker's office was very clear in saying that they do not need people in suits. If people want to participate -- AND WE DO NEED BODIES -- they must be DRESSED DOWN, appear to be REAL WORKER types, etc. We plan to have hard hats for people to wear."

So it's no surprise this was exactly the plan in Costa Rica.

Be afraid! As with the selling of the Iraq war, so too with CAFTA. There's something scary out there, and you need us to protect you from it.

Be especially afraid of outsiders! The people who run the world are sophisticated internationalists. So as in this memo, they're embarrassed to appeal to atavistic fear of strangers. But if that's what it takes to sway the "simplest people," then they'll use it. They may vacation in Gstaad with the Saudi royal family, but to sell the Iraq war they'll tell you scary stories about Teh Muslim Darkies. They may themselves take orders from Citibank, but to sell CAFTA they'll scream about "foreign influence."

It's not all about the Benjamins! It's not enough to confuse and terrify the rubes—you've also got to give them something to believe, some larger cause. As they write here, "No one is willing to die for free trade, but maybe they would for democracy." I'm sure there are also White House Iraq Group memos saying, "No one is willing to die for American Hegemony in the world's greatest oil-producing region, but maybe they would for democracy."

All in all, this is a great template for keeping power if you believe human beings are sheep.

INTERNET BONUS: You can send email to one of the authors of this memo here.

—Jonathan Schwarz

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