A Warning on Propaganda and the Politics of Victimization and Martyrdom

After more than a quarter century of observation, both from the inside then in opposition to the practices of today’s unions, there are a couple of terms that are being thrown out here for consumption: The Politics of Victimization and Martyrdom*.

While both sides (the Right and the Left) have used the tactics described below to varying degrees, it has been the Left that has perfected the use of the Politics of Victimization and Martyrdom in order to achieve goals that have taken us to where we are today.

Following this week’s events surrounding the nationalization of America’s health care, it is vitally important for those opposed to the government takeover (and further encroachments on Liberty) to avoid becoming easy prey to the Left’s well-honed use of the Politics of Victimization and Martyrdom.

What are the Politics of Victimization?

The Politics of Victimization is one of the most widely used tactics by most propagandists.   We have all seen it used countless times…in movies, on TV and, most notably, in politics.

Loosely defined:

The politics of victimization is the most popular political strategy in today’s world. Indeed, the creation of socially-sanctioned victims seems to have become a pastime of the media as well, a phenomenon interacting with special interest groups and bringing a new facet to the contest between political groups vying to establish who has been victimized most grievously.

While the origins of the Politics of Victimization is difficult to trace, it is easily well over a hundred years old, if not much older.  It should also be noted that the practice can be utilized and lead to good change as well as bad.

Examples of the Politics of Victimization that easily spring to mind are The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair, and the muckraking writings of Ida Tarbell.  Both writers used their craft to enact significant change in the United States.

In Sinclair’s case, his work inspired the enactment of the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906, while Tarbell’s writings helped further the cause of breaking up of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

In the union movement, while the Politics of Victimization have always been part and parcel of its efforts to build, it didn’t become as sophisticated and widespread as it is today until the 1990s, most notably when then-SEIU president John Sweeney assumed control of the AFL-CIO.  Since then, Sweeney’s former protegé at the SEIU, Andy Stern and his co-horts (including ACORN co-founder and SEIU boss Wade Rathke) have taken the Politics of Victimization to whole new levels, including the radicalization of the tactic (ala Saul Alinsky).

It is no small coincidence that Barack Obama, like his friends at the SEIU and ACORN, has grown to be a master at the tactics and, moreover, his abilities have helped raise the Democrats’ skill level as well.

As a practice, the Politics of Victimization was the chief weapon used on America over this past year during the health care debates, as the President and his supporters on the Left, in speech after speech, invoked the imagery of some poor, insuranceless victim who had suffered (usually for years) before they (or a loved one) died–all because of those evil profiteers at the insurance companies.

Important point: The Politics of Victimization always, always requires a victim and a villain.

When utilizing the Politics of Victimization, the practitioner must always languish on explaining the victim’s plight before providing the solution on how to deal with the villain (or villainous practice, in the case of public policy).  And, as in the case of health care, the practitioners always have the solution before rolling out the victims.

This, as everyone reading this post already knows, has been the case with health care and, just as importantly, it will continue to be the case with every social re-engineering scheme that the White House and the SEIU have planned for the U.S.

On Martyrdom:

Martyrdom is different than the Politics of Victimization in that the “victim” in victimization is usually cast as the innocent who, but for the evil actions of the villain, would be happy, enjoying a normal life.  The martyr, on the other hand, is the seeker of justice; the person who has put himself (or herself) in harm’s way in order to fight for the victim, to right the wrongs of society, or that the villain is perpetrating.

Faux Martyrdom:

While the Politics of Victimization is an intentional propaganda tool, generally, martyrdom is not–unless, that is, the martyr is a willing accomplice in making himself (or herself) the martyr.  In that sense, martyrdom can become an intentional tool of the propagandist as well.

Having a martyr (real or faux) is a valuable tool for the propagandist as it allows the propagandist to continue invoking the spirit of the martyr as often as possible or necessary.  Further, martyrdom gives the propagandist a “higher” morality against whatever villain the martyr was fighting before obtaining martyrdom.

Combating the Propagandists

In order to beat a propagandist, it is important to first know and be able to identify which form of propaganda is being used (there are many).

In the case of the Politics of Victimization, it is a mistake to ignore the victim and the tactic.  The easiest (and fastest) way to disarm the propagandist is to call him (or her) out on using the tactic without demeaning the victim.   However, the most effective approach is when the tables are turned entirely on the propagandist. How?  By making the propagandist’s victim a victim of the propagandistto the audience.

Remembering that the propagandist is using his victim as a tool to appeal to an audience in order to shape opinion, the propagandist is setting himself (or herself) up to be the solution.  In the case of health care (as you will soon see with Immigration Reform), victim after victim was paraded out (or spoke of) in speech after speech.

To disarm the propagandist, one must first recognize the victim.  Next one must empathize with the victim and the victim’s plight or experience.   Share a similar experience, if possible, while acknowledging that the experience (or existing public policy) is a problem.  Then, one must go after the propagandist.

Shame the propagandist for using the victim in such “a shallow and shameful way.”  By humiliating the propagandist, while empathizing with the victim and acknowledging the problem does three things:

  1. It shows the audience that you “get it”
  2. It allows the audience to understand that they are being manipulated; and
  3. It eviscerates the propagandist in front of the audience he is trying win over

Note:  The fact that much of the “debate” over policy today is being done via television and 30-second sound bytes does not change the strategy.

Avoid the Creation of Martyrs (Real or Faux)

It is not beyond some propagandists to create (or help create) faux martyrs.  Especially ss so many on the Left believe that “the ends justify the means,” it is, therefore, not beyond reason to believe that the creation of faux martyrs is within the arsenal of left-wing propagandists.

When Countering Propaganda Never Let Emotions Lead

The alleged incident of name-calling during last Saturday’s protest in Washington (whether real or not) was a set up.

Members of Congress marching past protesters was purposely designed to incite and, hopefully (to the propagandist), foment a reaction from protesters in order to create martyrs of those Democrats.

More to the point:  The allegations of death threats against Democrats (and families), as well as alleged rock throwing at a Congressional district office gives ammunition to propagandists.  To the propagandist, the more incidents (real or not), the better.

With health care passed, the Politics of Victimization by using “average” Americans will not work for Democrats continued selling of health care.  Further, despite their near-certain attempts to use it for Immigration Reform, it will likely not work during there either.

Therefore, to the Democrats’ propagandists, as Tea Party and conservative activists have had success in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, they must attempt to derail the slaughter they are facing in November.  The best way they can do it is for Democrats to become martyrs at the hands of Tea Party or conservative activists.  Again, the audience is who the propagandist is playing to and, in this case, the audience is the “independent.”

In order to be successful in November and beyond, it is imperative for those who value Liberty to recognize the methods of the Left’s propagandists and, most importantly, don’t become victims to it.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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