Straw Men, Sheep, and Storytelling: Media Matters Trains Progressives to Deceive the Public by John Sexton 24 Mar 2011 post a comment Share This: The Washington Post deserves credit for letting some embarrassing material slip into this story about Media Matter's efforts to train progressives for TV appearances: The morning was dominated by a PowerPoint presentation by Drew Westen, the Democratic message guru and author of “The Political Brain.” Westen, wearing a boxy jacket, glasses and suspenders, showed examples of the right’s genius for branding (from “government takeover” to “death taxes”) and the left’s relative ineptitude. Westen said that the tea party’s “populist message, tinged with racism” was effective ... Notice that's in quotes: As Brenner sipped tea, Westen pontificated about the similarities between human and sheep brains and then conducted some psychological experiments on the class to demonstrate “a heightened state of latent activation in your brain.” To emphasize the point, he played a Fox News clip, showing anchor Shepard Smith accidentally referencing a sex act in a segment about Jennifer Lopez. Here's the clip they're talking about: [youtube MzV8wrnLfS4] Back to the story: As the class chirped, Westen observed that while “it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” the clip revealed that certain words and images triggered powerful, and usually unspoken, thoughts in the viewer’s mind. Wait ... you mean J-Lo music videos make men think about sex?! Wow, what a brilliant insight. The word “Liberal” then appeared on the screen, surrounded by “elite,” “big government,” “sushi-eating” and “latte-drinking.” Westen explained that the “right has spent 40 years and tens of billions of dollars” tarnishing the once-proud label. “In this room, it’s like: Feminism and lesbianism? Yeah!” he observed approvingly. But TV watchers elsewhere don’t feel the same. In short, anything “liberal” fires the wrong synapses. “For the average person,” Westen said, “this is not a good network to be activating.” In other words, people are like sheep so be careful not to let on that you're a liberal. But it's not all defensive action. Media Matters also had advice on offense: The participants became adept in the craft of the pivot and setting up far-left straw men to make their own left-leaning positions seem more moderate. They jotted their talking points on Media Matters envelopes and heard about the supremacy of storytelling. “A good story is a Trojan horse,” said Pendleton, to “deploy your ideas.” Once the horse is inside the walls, “gut everyone,” Neffinger said, stabbing the air. If you boil down how Media Matters sees the role of progressive spokesmen, it comes down to this: Straw men and storytelling for sheeple. Just something to keep in mind.