Question time on the FM website – chapter 13
Ask any question about geopolitics, broadly defined. We — and others reading the FM website — will attempt to answer it in the comments. All answers welcomed!
- Like Jeopardy, your comments must be in the form of a question!
- Please use the REPLY button when replying to a previous comment.
Questions received so far (click on the link to go directly to that thread):
- Now we are all sick of the Eurozone, what’s next weeks crisis?
- Romney or Newt?
- Thoughts about possible US military action against Syria?
- A comment about the Republican Party.
- A question about Israel’s geopolitical strategy.
- About the sun’s influence on crop prices.
- In a general sense, how would you define propaganda?
- A reader’s reply about Israel.
- A reply to #7 about Israel.
- Breaking news about the Strauss-Kahn affair (see below)
- Who are the best writers and thinkers on the Right? By ‘best’ I also mean sane.
- Please comment on “Ben Grierson, Actual Hero” by Gary Brecher (The War Nerd)
- Have your views changed about the Occupy Wall Street movement?
Some interesting reading to start the discussion
(a) Update: breaking news (honey pots, one of the classic covert ops tools to fool the gullible public)
Yes, there is evidence that Strauss-Kahn was set up:
- Short version: “The two hours that sank Strauss-Kahn“, Financial Times, November 2011
- Longer version: “What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn?“, Edward Jay Epstein, New York Review of Books, 22 December 2011
(b) The most important article of the week: “When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?“, David Frum, New York Magazine, 20 November 2011 — “Some of my Republican friends ask if I’ve gone crazy. I say: Look in the mirror.” The key paragraph:
Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment — and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel).
As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.
But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics.
- Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority.
- Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy errors — is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action phony doomed to inevitable defeat.
- Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”
We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.
When contemplating the ruthless brilliance of this system, it’s tempting to fall back on the theory that the GOP is masterminded by a cadre of sinister billionaires, deftly manipulating the political process for their own benefit. The billionaires do exist, and some do indeed attempt to influence the political process. The bizarre fiasco of campaign-finance reform has perversely empowered them to give unlimited funds anonymously to special entities that can spend limitlessly. (Thanks, Senator McCain! Nice job, Senator Feingold!)
Yet, for the most part, these Republican billionaires are not acting cynically. They watch Fox News too, and they’re gripped by the same apocalyptic fears as the Republican base. In funding the tea-party movement, they are actually acting against their own longer-term interests, for it is the richest who have the most interest in political stability, which depends upon broad societal agreement that the existing distribution of rewards is fair and reasonable. If the social order comes to seem unjust to large numbers of people, what happens next will make Occupy Wall Street look like a street fair.