JUNE 5 ROUSING THE RABBLE: Propaganda fueled the BC Liberal election machine

Why did the BC Liberals defy the odds and take the 2013 provincial election? They mastered propaganda says one person.

Numerous articles have appeared in newspapers and on blogs since May 14 in attempts to answer the questions, why did the New Democratic Party (NDP) lose and why did the BC Liberals win?

One of the most enlightening responses, is one written by Anthony Britneff, a former employee of the BC Forest Service, that appeared on Facebook on May 19.

Britneff compares the BC Liberal campaign to that of the 2011 federal Conservative campaign.

He states, “What the strategists of the Harper and Clark campaign have in common is mastery of the propaganda theory of Edward Bernays and of the existential marketing techniques of Madison Avenue, along with an ability to apply them to running successful election campaigns against the odds of winning.

“Good marketing requires recognition of the power of perception over fact and of telling stories, whether true or not, to reinforce a belief system.”

In his book titled Propaganda, Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion is a necessary part of democracy: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country … in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by a relatively small number of persons … who understand the mental processes and the social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

A complete biography titled The Father of Spin written by Larry Tye, a Boston Globe reporter and published in 1998, covers Bernays’ work as a public relations specialist but he is also known as a propagandist

Bernays was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th Century.

Looking at the recent election with Bernays’ philosophy in mind, the slogan  “Strong economy, secure future” used by the Liberals was far more effective than “Change for the better, one practical step at a time” used by the NDP.

One holds promise, the other is open ended.

Youth and disenchanted voters were not convinced by the NDP message.

Playing up the idea that “they’ve had their turn, now we should have ours” wasn’t good enough and the NDP should have realized early in the campaign that it wasn’t.

Britneff reminds us that voters ignored the Liberal record over the past 12 years and fell for the propaganda embellished with the myths of a debt free province, trillions in the bank and jobs for everyone spun out like a mantra by a charismatic Christy Clark who presented herself in everything from a business suit to blue collar clothes and a hard hat.

Adrian Dix was no competition in a grey suit and orange tie “Voters simply lost interest in the NDP campaign,” states Britneff.

Britneff reminds us that the lesson learned is that, “If the election game has no rules and the voter no longer adheres to an ethical code of honesty, decency and honour, then, any tactics justify the end, which is to win. But having won on a campaign based on propaganda, attack ads and savvy marketing, the BC Liberals have cast their own shadow, which will haunt them throughout their four-year term.”

Can voters look forward to good government during the next four years?

That will depend on Christy Clark’s approach as premier. She and those appointed to cabinet have an opportunity to fulfill the promise she made on election night that the Liberals will govern for everyone, not just those who voted for them.

– Roy Ronaghan is columnist for the Grand Forks Gazette