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Ask the mineshaft! Questions for you to answer.

26 February 2012

Summary:  After a long series of “ask a question” posts, today we turn the tables.  Today we “ask the mineshaft.  Aka “ask the community”, from the German “Gemeinschaft” (see Wikpedia).  Share your answers to these questions.  This idea copied from Brad DeLong.

Contents

  1. Lies by warmistas
  2. Lies by Republicans
  3. One possible explanation for all these lies
  4. Update:  suggestions for the Smackdown page?
  5. For more information

(1)  Why do warmistas (aka, fanatic believers in anthropogenic global warming leading to climate disruption) lie so often?

Kant said that when judging the morality of an act, we must weigh the intentions of the actor. Was he acting selfishly, to benefit himself, or selflessly, to help others? By this criterion, Gleick’s lie was clearly moral, because he was defending a cause that he passionately views as righteous. Gleick, you might say, is a hero comparable to Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who in 1971 stole and released documents that revealed that U.S. officials lied to justify the war in Vietnam.

… I’ll give the last word to one of my students. The Gleick incident, he said, shows that the “debate” over global warming is not really a debate any more. It’s a war, and when people are waging war, they always lie for their cause.

— “Should Global-Warming Activists Lie to Defend Their Cause?“, John Horgan, Scientific American, 24 February 2012 — Note the author’s obliviousness of the difference between releasing true documents and faking documents.

Much of the propaganda compaign about AGW consists of lies (unlike the debate among climate scientists).  We see this with the news media coverage of the climategate documents from the UK Climate Research Unit (we don’t know they were stolen, as the news media say; they probably came from an insider).

We see this with the forged Heartland Institute strategy memo.  It’s a pitifully obvious fake (by the evidence, probably written by Pacific Institute President Peter Glick) but its lies have been eagerly embraced and disseminated by dozens of warmistas.  (If you have not followed this fascinating story, see Climate Audit, Judith Curry’s and Anthony Watt’s websites.

We see this on the FM website.  What’s the most-common response to posts quoting prominent climate scientists and research from prominent peer-reviewed journals?  “You don’t believe the world has warmed.”  Rather than debate the issues raised, they manufacture a smear.  No matter if the post says the exact opposite.  No matter if the data in the post shows  the exact opposite.  They will repeat the lie, and run away when challenged. For an example see the responses to January’s series about climate science.

For more about this see:

  1. More attempts to control the climate science debate using smears and swarming, 19 October 2009
  2. A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda, 9 March 2010
  3. Fear or Fail: about the melting Greenland ice sheet, 24 May 2010
  4. Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world, 30 July 2010

(2)  Why do Republicans lie so much?

Brad DeLong runs a series of posts “Republicans Lie about Everything, all the time”, providing a large body of evidence.  A few examples:

  1. One of the many examples of Newt’s stories, about saving $500 billion in Federal money.
  2. One of the legendary series of lies about the GSE’s role in the housing bubble.
  3. The fraudulent Ryan budget.
  4. False claims about malpractice Reform in Texas.
  5. Update: “Dutch Puzzled by Santorum’s False Claim of Forced Euthanasia

While no angels, I don’t believe the Democrats exhibit similar behavior.

(3)  One possible explanation for all these lies

Those are examples of a wider trend.  Advocacy groups lie frequently in America because lies work.  As we become weak and foolish as a people, sophisticated propaganda methods become unnecessary.

How they used to do it:  “The CIA and the Media“, Carl Bernstein, Rolling Stone, 20 October 1977 — “How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency, and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up”

Now it’s easier.  Blatant lies become effective.  Undecided become convinced.  No matter how often their leaders lie, followers remain credulous believers of the next lie.  The lies about Iran in 2000 are the lies told about Iran today.  And so it goes.

For more about this theory see:

  1. Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
  2. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 15 September 2010
  3. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011
  4. Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011

What do you think?

(4)  Update:  suggestions for the Smackdown page?

Look at the newly revised FM Reference Page of Smackdowns – corrections & rebuttals to FM posts.  Please comment about anything that should get added.

(5)  For more information

For a full list of posts about this see the FM reference page Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.

Some examples of propaganda and information operations run against us:

  1. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  2. More propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010
  3. Can Obama turn America into something like Zimbabwe?, 22 February 2010
  4. Dumbest headline of the week, 1 March 2010 — Where are the skilled political smear artists?
  5. A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
  6. About the political significance of the conservatives’ health care propaganda, 23 March 2010
  7. The similar delusions of America’s Left and Right show our common culture – and weakness, 26 March 2010
  8. Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
  9. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  10. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
  11. More use of the big lie: shifting the blame for the housing crisis, 29 December 2011
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25 Comments leave one →
  1. Fubar (unattended gmail) permalink
    26 February 2012 5:54 am

    Howard Rheingold has written one of the classics on the subject of the manipulation of public opinion and the destruction of “real” democracy in advanced industrial societies: The Virtual Community.

    Chapter Ten: Disinformocracy — begin at the second section, titled “The Selling of Democracy: Commodification and the Public Sphere”

    The basic idea is that the social mechanisms that were intended to thwart corruption in a democratic republic have instead been twisted in service of narrow special interests, greed and ego gratification (the Achievement Meme run amok).

    There is a false dichotomy in modern western culture that separates the inner psyche and objective reality. Ivan Illich refers to the “missionary” attempts by “transnational pedagogues, therapists and planners” to create a sterile culture, cleansed of the “nests and snakepits” of human nature. Vaclav Havel spoke of this “fragmentation of the psyche” in his critique of dehumanizing Soviet totalitarianism.

    Habermas describes the process in industrial societies of money and power destroying culture, community and meaning. A vacuum is created in which fakes and scammers, particularly religious fakes, proliferate.

    So, modernism is suffering a crisis of legitimization. Rather than being one of several elements of a humanistic society, scientific rationalism became a form of Absolutism at the cultural “center of gravity” in industrial society. In spite of these problems, modernism led to great progress, but eventually, the edifice began to crumbled, and was unable to satisfy the “coherence needs” of an evolving culture that was becoming postmodern, and at the most bleeding edge, holistic.

    The Capitalist modernists (Corporate Plutocrats) began to learn how to cover up the crisis by telling one set of lies, constructing a “myth of progress”. Then they began to employ lunatics on the far right, particularly religious lunatics, to generate populist hate propaganda that mirrored the hate propaganda of the Left. Meanwhile the linear, mechanistic model of the universe at the heart of Modernism marched on, leaving a wake of ugliness across the spiritual and physical landscape of the industrialized world. This marriage of capitalist Absolutism and religious conservatism has reached a level of toxicity that is remarkable.

    The Left is rooted in Romanticism, hatred of the bourgeoisie (as is its cousin ideology, fascism).

    Elements of the Left venerate Rationalism (as an alternative to unhealthy versions of religion), but they are not able to “see” the emptiness, the epistemological aridity, of their position. They make more rational arguments than conservatives, but those arguments do not satisfy other human needs for deeper levels of meaning. (see George Lakoff’s descriptions of how the Right uses “cognitive frames” to elicit emotional support.)

    Thus, the Left also suffers a crisis of legitimacy, and is also unable to fully satisfy the coherence needs of humanity. In order to manipulate the political process, distortion is required. “Warmistas” are a perfect example of how the Left attempts to use distortion (a bad thing) to accomplish an otherwise worthy objective: reducing damage to the planet caused by “dirty” oil extraction and the pollution resulting from use of fossil fuels. The left also shoots itself in the foot by not simply openly challenging oil corporations on their long history of undermining democratization in non-industrial parts of the planet where the resource is extracted. In other words, whereas Big Oil Imperialism is obvious to the rest of the “exploited” world, the energy-hungry consumer cultures are mostly oblivious to it. The Left is AFRAID of “offending” consumers. So, it lies about something “scary” instead – global warming.

    Industrialization itself creates the mass media tools and methods needed by propagandists and polemicists (via newspapers, radio, TV, Internet), but such manipulations of public opinion further destroy the psychological underpinnings and collective ethos of democracy.

    Also see: “Beyond Conservatism: Reclaiming the Radical Roots of Libertarianism“, Keith Preston, American Revolutionary Vanguard — exerpt:

    Just as Adam Smith argued that businessmen are often the greatest enemies of free enterprise, because of their frequent efforts to solicit artificial privilege, policies of protective favoritism or suppression of competitors from the state, so are businessmen often the greatest enemies of “bourgeois values” by simply seeking to make a buck by catering to decidedly non-conservative elements. Indeed, conservative values tend to most often thrive in rural, landlocked, sparsely populated, predominately agricultural communites, while the values of “tolerance” or “multiculturalism” tend to be more frequent in densely populated urban commercial centers and seaports that serve as outposts of trade. …

    Whatever the errors of traditionalist conservatives, their common insistence on the irreconcilable differences between commercial values and conservative values appears to factual in nature. …

  2. jonh permalink
    26 February 2012 7:00 am

    Perhaps AGW propenents and republicans are building their own realities. They can consistently and righteously lie if their ‘world’ supports their ‘truths’.

    • Fubar (unattended gmail) permalink
      26 February 2012 10:52 am

      Yes, the question is “why?”.

    • jonh permalink
      26 February 2012 7:39 pm

      I’m no philosopher but I think your ‘reality’ is the sum of your received inputs (senses) and then you interpretations of them. Partisan TV, Radio, Internet, Friends make your reality different from others.

      Plus as Putnam’s Bowling Alone points out we have degrading social sphere where we interact with other not like us. Cable networks and the Internet exacerbated this by allowing people to choose their own news, choose their own worlds. This is why FM tells people to read mainstream articles like NYT and Economist.

      So the answer to “why?” is that it could be the consequences of social decay at the hand of new communications technology. I would guess this is necessary but not sufficient. There is more going on.

    • 26 February 2012 10:51 pm

      That’s brilliant, esp the reference to Bowling Alone. Thanks for posting!

    • Fubar (unattended gmail) permalink
      27 February 2012 10:07 am

      Almost 30 years ago I was talking to some well educated, but humble, Iranian immigrants with mildly anti-imperialist tendencies. I asked them how technology imports had changed their culture at home. One guy said that everyone has a story about the traditional village/neighborhood tea house where the men always used to congregate when they were kids. The Tea House owner was the more affluent of the common people, so he was the first to buy a TV (1960s?). So, everyone went to the Tea House as usual, but watched TV. Then, as people were able to get better jobs (oil industry, etc.) they got their own TV and stayed home watching it. The village’s culture (Habermas “shared value commitments”) more or less started dying at that point.

      These days, the new communication technology is not “broadcast”, but “interactive” (thus, this conversation over the internet).

      The classic criticism is that such communication, even if “interactive”, is still lacking in depth of meaning and authenticity, generally speaking.

      Perhaps one partial explanation for the extreme nature of partisan political rhetoric (and lies) now is that it mirrors the “flame wars” of the internet?

  3. Fubar (unattended gmail) permalink
    26 February 2012 11:00 am

    Some vivid background on the political realities under discussion:

    Example of how “justice” really works in the USA: an independent, world class journalist with pointed anti-establishment views is arrested for not following quasi-secret rules designed for corporate media during an “Occupy LA” protest: Yasha Levine at the Exiled Online, 2 December 2011

    “There was nothing peaceful or professional about the LAPD’s attack on Occupy LA–not unless you think that people peacefully protesting against the power of the financial oligarchy deserve to be treated the way I saw Russian cops treating the protesters in Moscow and St. Petersburg who were demonstrating against the oligarchy under Putin and Yeltsin, before we at The eXiled all got tossed out in 2008. Back then, everyone in the West protested and criticized the way the Russian cops brutally snuffed out dissent, myself included. Now I’m in America, at a demonstration, watching exactly the same brutal crackdown…

    While people are now beginning to learn that the police attack on Occupy LA was much more violent than previously reported, few actually realize that much—if not most—of the abuse happened while the protesters were in police custody, completely outside the range of the press and news media. And the disgraceful truth is that a lot of the abuse was police sadism, pure and simple:

    * I heard from two different sources that at least one busload of protesters (around 40 people) was forced to spend seven excruciating hours locked in tiny cages on a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. prison bus, denied food, water and access to bathroom facilities. Both men and women were forced to urinate in their seats. Meanwhile, the cops in charge of the bus took an extended Starbucks coffee break. … “

    • Pluto permalink
      26 February 2012 6:11 pm

      The goal of the police behavior is to ensure that people are unwilling to ever be arrested again. In a way it makes sense, frightening people into silence, but I expect it to backfire when a protestor shouts, “They’ll never take me alive” and either runs for it or opens fire.

      The other reason I think the police action is short-sighted is that they aren’t dissuading protestors from protesting, the police are giving the protestors powerful reasons to hate them and to find more effective ways to communicate their message.

      This puts the protestors on a faster (and more painful) learning curve than the cops. Where does that leave the police in 5-10 years when the protestors are ahead of them? Orders to shoot to kill?

    • Fubar (unattended gmail) permalink
      27 February 2012 9:50 am

      Pluto, thanks. You are probably right. My main point was that the appalling behavior of the police toward the OWS LA tells us something about why the political elites (and corporate media) lie the way they do.

      The posture of the Police now is probably no different than in earlier cases of civil disobedience, such as anti-royalty, anti-slavery, anti-monopolist, anti-segregation, anti-war movements, etc.

      When union organizers for western miners used terrorst tactics against the Pinkertons 100 years ago, things escalated and the governor of Idaho was blown up by the miners. When white soldiers in the US Army refused to fire on stiking miners, the establishment sent in Buffalo Soldiers (which scared off the white miners). After a decade or so of that stuff, Teddy Roosevelt got the Owners to agree to a truce (more or less), and unions were made legal. (?)

      I wonder if any such truce will be possible this time around if things escalate similarly?

  4. 26 February 2012 12:35 pm

    As an acknowledger of the Max Headroom observation (explained by the Crystal Gayle principle – see below), when I see a claim like “While no angels, I don’t believe the Democrats exhibit similar behavior,” I conclude that the author’s choice of reading materials and media sources is too narrow.

    The Crystal Gayle principle explains why voters keep electing lying politicians: Low expectations, and hoping against all experience that future benefits will be forthcoming despite the previous abusive relationship.

    “Tell me no secrets, tell me some lies
    Give me no reasons, give me alibis”
    — “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue

    This is a useful complement to the Max Headroom insight: Voice Stress Analyzer Tool

    “How can you tell when a politician is lying?
    His lips move!”
    – Max Headroom (1985)

    The overarching principle is: behavior that is rewarded will tend to increase in frequency, even when the rewards are perverse. As long as voters reward lying by electing and re-electing the liars, they can anticipate an increase in lying behavior until it asymptotically approaches ‘lying all the time about everything”.

    • 26 February 2012 3:33 pm

      (1) “when I see a claim like “While no angels, I don’t believe the Democrats exhibit similar behavior,” I conclude that the author’s choice of reading materials and media sources is too narrow.”

      This is, of course, the classic response: both sides do it. It’s the principle of equivalence, the belief that no judgements need be made because both sides are always equal. So evidence need not be read, considered, or rebutted.

      As a general principle it is daft. History is a process of growing imbalances in society, which produces visible symptoms. Such as we see in the Republican presidential debates and associated political commentary: widespread lies about simple facts — like the examples shown. Something is happening. Its not that politicians never lied before, or that only Republicans lie today — but the frequency and type of lies have changed. It requires a tightly closed pair of eyes to avoid seeing this.

      (2) “The overarching principle is: behavior that is rewarded will tend to increase in frequency, even when the rewards are perverse.”

      Yes. That’s similar to the conclusion of this post: “Advocacy groups lie frequently in America because lies work. As we become weak and foolish as a people, sophisticated propaganda methods become unnecessary.” Now comes the difficult questions: why has this change happened, so that lies work? How can we reverse this?

    • Leper permalink
      26 February 2012 10:51 pm

      To discourage lying, we could attempt to shame politicians after they commit obvious lies. When observing obvious dishonesty, citizens could write to their representative, identifying the lie and demanding to know why the representative said it. Journalists, who have a much larger public voice, could publicly challenge politicians to defend their statements. This approach may work better at the state or local level, due to the sheer volume of noise at the federal level. If a citizen’s letters are ignored, keep sending them and come election time ship copies of all the letters to anyone running against the lying incumbent, who may then use them while campaigning.

  5. Pluto permalink
    26 February 2012 6:16 pm

    You might want to read a book that recently came out, it is call The lifespan of a fact. It discusses how facts can get in the way of a good story and what happens after that.

    • 26 February 2012 10:58 pm

      The book Pluto mentions is The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata (University of Iowa) and Jim Fingal (2012)

      (1) Summary from the publisher

      An innovative essayist and his fact-checker do battle about the use of truth and the definition of nonfiction.

      How negotiable is a fact in nonfiction? In 2003, an essay by John D’Agata was rejected by the magazine that commissioned it due to factual inaccuracies. That essay—which eventually became the foundation of D’Agata’s critically acclaimed About a Mountain—was accepted by another magazine, The Believer, but not before they handed it to their own fact-checker, Jim Fingal. What resulted from that assignment was seven years of arguments, negotiations, and revisions as D’Agata and Fingal struggled to navigate the boundaries of literary nonfiction.

      This book reproduces D’Agata’s essay, along with D’Agata and Fingal’s extensive correspondence. What emerges is a brilliant and eye-opening meditation on the relationship between “truth” and “accuracy” and a penetrating conversation about whether it is appropriate for a writer to substitute one for the other.

      (2) A wonderful Review of the book from the Sunday New York Times, 26 February 2012

  6. NYT: "Dutch Puzzled by Santorum’s False Claim of Forced Euthanasia" permalink
    26 February 2012 11:55 pm

    News flash #1446 from the Republican Freak Show: “Dutch Puzzled by Santorum’s False Claim of Forced Euthanasia“, New York Times, 22 February 2012:

    The Dutch Embassy in Washington declined to comment on Wednesday on recent remarks by Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential candidate, in which he claimed, falsely, that forced euthanasia accounts for 5 percent of all deaths in the Netherlands.

    An embassy spokeswoman, Carla Bundy, explained that the Dutch government preferred not to intervene in an American political campaign. But Ms. Bundy did provide The Lede with documents and official statistics showing that there are no provisions of Dutch law that permit forced euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia, which has been legal since 2002, accounted for about 2 percent of deaths in the Netherlands in 2010.

    As Jonathan Turley, a legal blogger, explained on Monday, the Dutch law permitting euthanasia is unambiguous about the requirement that it be voluntary, and lawmakers mandated that each case be carefully reviewed by an expert panel.

    It not only requires consent but a waiting period. If a doctor dispatches someone without their consent or satisfying the tight controls, he is charged with murder.

    The doctor must document that he or she confirmed that the patient requesting euthanasia or assisted suicide is making a voluntary and informed request. The record must also show that the patient was suffering unbearably and was fully informed about the prospects. Then a second doctor must examine the patient and supply a second written opinion on the satisfaction of the criteria.

    According to a Dutch government report, experts who reviewed 2,667 requests for euthanasia in 2010 “found in nine cases that the physician had not acted in accordance with the due care criteria. In five of these cases, it was the way in which the euthanasia or assisted-suicide procedure was performed that was deemed not to comply with the criteria.”

    As the Web site Buzzfeed reported, Mr. Santorum’s erroneous comments, made at a public forum hosted by the conservative leader James Dobson on Feb. 3, failed to attract much notice until they were fact-checked, and mocked, in the Dutch press last weekend.

    Mr. Santorum’s remarks were not audible in video highlights of the “American Heartland” forum in Columbia, Miss., on his official YouTube channel — edited, music video style, to a driving rock beat. But his claims about the Netherlands were posted on YouTube by Right Wing Watch, a project of People for the American Way. That video showed Mr. Santorum claiming that elderly Dutch people wear a bracelet reading “Do not euthanize me.” Over audible gasps from the audience, he continued:

    Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, but half the people who are euthanized every year — and it’s 10 percent of all deaths for the Netherlands — half of those people are euthanized involuntarily, at hospitals, because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital, they go to another country, because they’re afraid because of budget purposes that they will not come out of that hospital if they go into it with sickness.

    As Buzzfeed noted, Dutch journalists found it easy to refute Mr. Santorum’s statistics, and made fun of his “fact-free” claim that euthanasia was forced on anyone, but they had no idea where he got the idea that the nation’s elderly wear “Do not euthanize me” bracelets.

    Ms. Bundy, the embassy spokeswoman, told The Washington Post, “According to the Ministry of Health, ‘Do not euthanize me’ bracelets do not exist in the Netherlands.”

    Mr. Santorum’s campaign did not respond to a request to explain who or what the candidate’s sources were. Glenn Kessler, who writes The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, suggested on Wednesday that the candidate was repeating unsubstantiated rumors found online.

    A Web site known as Right Wing News last year published an article which asserted that “over 10,000 (Dutch) citizens carry ‘Do not euthanize me’ cards in case they are ever admitted to a hospital unexpectedly.” The source was the Louisiana Right to Life Federation, which in turn cited no specific source except possibly the Nightingale Alliance, which opposes euthanasia. But this group does not appear to have published any actual figures.

    In a letter to The British Medical Journal last year, a Dutch euthanasia specialist wrote that such cards do not exist. “What does exist is a living will (the levenswensverklaring), which is distributed by the Christian Dutch Patient Association,” in which people can “state that active life termination is not an acceptable option.” He wrote that it is unclear how many people had completed such a living will.

    At the end of his post, Mr. Turley, the legal blogger, concluded: “Putting aside these tiny factual disagreements, it is good to finally see a politician willing to take on our greatest threat: the Dutch. Dutch propagandists like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh have already infiltrated our schools and museums. Our leaders (expect Santorum) are deaf to the growing sound of their wooden-shoe stomping, marzipan-eating hordes.”

  7. 27 February 2012 1:31 am

    “Something is happening. Its not that politicians never lied before, or that only Republicans lie today — but the frequency and type of lies have changed”

    Nothing in your post indicates a careful study of frequency. A list of anecdotal examples, however long, is not a satisfactory basis for a claims about relative frequency of lying. Moreover even a simple study of frequency that does not adequately account for the channels of information being monitored, and thus allows for a bogus conclusion based on “counting” at particular sites and events and ignoring other sites and events simply adds to the lying by claiming more than you can possibly know.

    It’s not even clear to me that a valid study could be done, given the imprecision and the decreasing credibility of audience activity measures (see, e.g., recent commentary on the squishy basis of the claims of FACEBOOK audience activity in their IPO filings).

    As long as these conditions prevail, and they seem likely to persist for some time, it is only prudent to discount claims such as yours, just like reasonable observers discount the silly rating agency risk ratings that purport to tell us risk of default to 4 or 5 place accuracy when there is reason to doubt that even the first significant digit is correct. They claim to read the bottom line of the eye chart with perfection, while it’s reasonable to wonder, after myriads of their ‘ultra-safe’ rated issues have blown up, if they can detect which direction the big E on the top line of the chart is pointing.

    “Now comes the difficult questions: why has this change happened, so that lies work? How can we reverse this?”

    This is a question with a hidden and unwarranted assumption, that this phenomenon of “lies working” is only a relatively recent change in the behavior of Americans that needs to be explained. Looking back on many decades of media saturated in lies that ‘worked’ at the time only to emerge, sometimes decades later, I see no reason to take this claim seriously either for Americans, or for other nations. The ‘ship of state’ metaphor had been operational long before Plato noted it and sharpened it so pungently in Republic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_state So far as we can tell, this disconnect between the skills and knowledge which lead to success in grasping the reins of power, and the knowledge required to exercise power wisely has been operational as long as human communities have been around. As long as the holders of the franchise cannot reliably distinguish the lovers of the wisdom from the pretenders to wisdom, and especially if most of them have been persuaded that making that distinction is a worthless exercise, the muddle will persist.

    • 27 February 2012 5:24 am

      “Nothing in your post indicates a careful study of frequency. A list of anecdotal examples, however long, is not a satisfactory basis for a claims about relative frequency of lying. … It’s not even clear to me that a valid study could be done, given the imprecision and the decreasing credibility of audience activity measures.”

      I agree with both points. Unfortunately, what can be measured is often unimportant — and what’s important can often not be measured. This problem is ubiquitous when discussing political and social issues. Unfortunately we must still evaluate and act even without reliable quantitative data.

      I don’t believe anyone with experience watching American politics can look at the Republican presidential candidates and not believe something strange has happened to the the GOP.

  8. Romney on Michigan: where the trees are 'the right height' permalink
    27 February 2012 5:59 am

    Michigan: where the trees are ‘the right height’“, The Maddow Report on MSNBC, 21 February 2012:

    The clip has been making the rounds — we aired an excerpt on last night’s show — but for those who still haven’t seen it, Josh Marshall argues the video “has been scientifically proven to be the best Mitt video in history.”

    For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s Mitt Romney, speaking in Michigan, trying to explain why he loves the state:

    “A little history — I was born and raised here. I love the state. It seems right here. Trees are the right height.

    “I like — I like seeing the lakes. I love the lakes. Something very special here. The Great Lakes but also all the little inland lakes that dot the parts of Michigan.

    “I love cars. I don’t know — I mean, I grew up totally in love with cars…. I love cars. I love American cars.”

    There was apparently some glitch in Romney’s programming during that appearance, but I’ve been assured the campaign tech team has given the candidate a full diagnostic.

    As for why Michigan trees “are the right height” — unlike those other rascally states, where the trees are either too tall or too short — I’m yet to see someone explain what on earth Romney was talking about.
    .
    .

    • Pluto permalink
      27 February 2012 12:15 pm

      He sounds like a candidate who is running on empty trying to get through one more speech. The only thing Mitt honestly believes is that he wants to be President more than anything else. Why he wants it so bad is beyond me. If elected, he’d be the fourth term of George W.

    • 27 February 2012 2:15 pm

      Perhaps Romney believes that we need him, a competent leader. I can understand his belief that we need adult supervision, esp when istening to the cheering crowds — and seeing the high poll numbers — of Donald Trump, then Michelle Bachman, then Herman Cain, then Newt, and now Santorum.

      To lead children one must first promise them what they want. Much as FDR did in 1932 (“balance the budget”) and 1940 (“keep us out of the war”).

  9. 27 February 2012 8:49 am

    “I don’t believe anyone with experience watching American politics can look at the Republican presidential candidates and not believe something strange has happened to the the GOP.”

    It is hard to respond to such a vague complaint. As an ex-adherent (as of the late 1970′s) of one of the centrist wings of the warfare/welfare state’s party duopoly who never found any compelling reason to adhere to the other wing, I would suggest considering that “something strange” (whatever that might be) has been happening to both wings. I would be more precise here: what appears evident to me is a growing loss of credibility and ultimately legitimacy, after which it’s anyone’s guess as to what come next. That’s the nature of polities when the mythological base of their legitimacy is seriously eroded or exploded.

    For many decades (as I began to realize in the early 1980′s after auditing a debate between the founding Chief Actuary of the Social Security system and one of his successors), both wings have competed on the basis of out-promising each other with ‘goodies’ that were left to successors to figure out how to fund. That strategy is reaching its asymptotic limit, as amusingly illustrated in the “National Debt Roadtrip” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5yxFtTwDcc . Let me know when these confederates in control of the levers of power figure out what their next move should be. If they don’t come up with something of a ‘game changing’ nature pretty fast, I expect we will see a drastic discontinuity in the near future. What comes after that? Beats me. That’s the nature of discontinuities: rules-of-thumb translated into whatever elaborate mathematical models you like become inoperative for making meaningful forecasts. Some of our neighbors sense this, however inarticulately (like you, I suspect, they see ‘something strange’ happening, though they are not so fixed on ‘one wing’ of the duopoly) and are planning accordingly: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/21/us-usa-civilization-collapse-idUSTRE80K0LA20120121 (the reader feedback comments are much more interesting that the dismissive main article).

  10. 27 February 2012 9:08 am

    * I heard from two different sources that at least one busload of protesters (around 40 people) was forced to spend seven excruciating hours locked in tiny cages on a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. prison bus, denied food, water and access to bathroom facilities. Both men and women were forced to urinate in their seats. Meanwhile, the cops in charge of the bus took an extended Starbucks coffee break. … “

    This sounds like a re-run of the Stanford Prison Experiment (see Wikipedia), albeit ‘without scientific controls” – but with similar results. It’s “human, all too human” (see Wikipedia).

  11. underscore33 permalink
    29 February 2012 9:49 pm

    maybe i am taking an incredibly complex phenomenon and finding the most simplistic answer but there are two reasons why They (Republicans, politicians, advocacy groups, whatever) lie.

    First, it works. You are more likely to remember an outrageous lie than a nuanced truth. Further, you probably won’t fact check anything that doesn’t challenge some fundamental assumption of your world view. I have nothing to back that up. It’s supposition. But I sincerely suspect it’s true. Your goal as a politician/advocate is to motivate your base so they go to the polls/chamber votes and sway undecided folks. Among your base, unless they hate you or don’t trust you enough to support you, they’re votes are already decided in your favor before the actual counting. For “undecideds,” well, there’s nothing that suggests they are informed voters. And perhaps I am repeating some piece of compelling fiction, but my understanding is that true undecideds make up their mind in the five minutes before they vote. The candidate whose positions they can remember the most without fundamentally disagreeing with is probably going to be the one they support.

    The second reason, which is to me answers the question as to why someone would deliberately and strategically mislead vast portions of the population, is that They don’t trust you. As this site frequently intones, we are sheep, and they feel that it is their charge to lead us into the future, and that we’re not intelligent enough to make an informed decision on our own. Also, some folks do it cynically to enrich themselves and their patrons, but I am not sure if we really seem them with any more frequency than we always have (and I don’t think you can measure that, regardless). Why the GOP seems to have turned the corner to sell lies their patron St. Reagan wouldn’t buy, I don’t know, but I suspect it’s because the “crazies” vote more reliably than the “normies,” refutation by Dems and the press is ignored, and that “moderates” have either lost their seats or become Blue Dog Democrats. As for the global warming folks, I think they truly believe the apocalypse is coming and they can’t wait for the evidence to affirm it, so they’ll lie if they think it will save us. Whatever “saving” us means. But because they have jobs and buy cars and don’t live in caves, we confuse fanaticism with passionate advocacy.

  12. 20 April 2012 2:24 pm

    “maybe i am taking an incredibly complex phenomenon and finding the most simplistic answer but there are two reasons why They (Republicans, politicians, advocacy groups, whatever) lie.”

    Yes, as well as Democrats who realize the folly of running on their record, and the need to “change the subject” and lie by misdirection: “Oh look, there’s a squirrel over there!”

    As his campaign manager David Axelrod has noted, the incumbent needs to manufacture a lot of distracting “issues” to deflect the electorate’s attention away from the clash between his promises of 2008 and the realities of 2012. For discussions of this point, see

    So, as above, I see this perhaps recent fixation on a single wing of the warfare/welfare state duopoly as an odd kind of blindness that afflicts this site and many who comment here. Maybe this would not have been the case if both wings had experienced a contested primary, and there had been more recent exposure to the lying strategies of the other wing. One can hope, anyway.

    • 21 April 2012 1:39 am

      “I see this perhaps recent fixation on a single wing of the warfare/welfare state duopoly ”

      Wrong. One of the great themes of the FM website has been the essentially bipartisan nature of the two parties; their agreement on the most important aspects of foreign and domestic policy. There are dozens of posts discussing this in detail; and it provides the context for most policy discussions.

      The parties differ in operational details. They use different means to attract and retain voters. The GOP has, for example, gone insane — with many of its leaders becoming serial liars. This has proven a powerful tool, shifting the center of US political discourse to the right. The Overton Windon in action.

      For details see:

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