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Fri, Oct. 18

Letter: Idea laundering


2018 was the first year under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). An April 14 NY Times article commented: “If you’re an American taxpayer, you probably got a tax cut last year. And there’s a good chance you don’t believe it.”

Indeed, recent polls show that only 40% of Americans thought their taxes would be reduced, when the truth is about 90%. The NY Times authors continued: “To a large degree, the gap between perception and reality on the tax cuts appears to flow from a sustained — and misleading — effort by liberal opponents of the law to brand it as a broad middle-class tax increase.” Psychological studies have shown that creating a misleading narrative can change people’s perceptions. That’s likely what happened here.

I researched how campaigns are coordinated to mislead the public. For example, civic leaders in Seattle wanted to combat the current perception of an epidemic of homelessness, addiction, and crime (C Rufo, City Journal, April 16). They hired a PR firm to conduct polling, create messaging contrary to fact, and disseminate the messaging through a network of silent partners in academia, the press, government, and the nonprofit sector. This is called “idea laundering” – creating a misleading narrative and legitimizing it as truth through repetition in a sympathetic media.

It seems politics is becoming largely about idea laundering. That makes solving problems infinitely more difficult. In virtually all fields of endeavor, incorrect information does not make for a good basis for problem solving.

John Acquavella, PhD


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