Our rulers are skilled at running information operations (but less so at running America)
Summary: Elections used to determine public policy in America. No longer. More broadly we can now see that information operations determine public policy in America, as our ruling elites realize that they need not engage an increasingly foolish and weak people in serious debate. Instead factions among them compete using skillful propaganda — more often, active events to shape US public opinion.
- The old days
- Examples of information operations in America
- The next step: anger (update)
- Ask the mineshaft!
- For more information
(1) The old days
Candidates offered choices. Sometimes the choices were fake. FDR ran a budget-balancing fiscal conservative in 1932 and promised to keep us out of the war in 1940. Nixon ran as a conservative in 1968, but was the 2nd or 3rd most liberal president of that century.
Although we’ve slowly evolved towards our new order, this new era began in 2008, where the election allowed us to choose between different candidates with almost identical policies. That was not obvious to those that voted for Mr. Hope And Change. Four years experience shows that Obama’s economic and national security policies are almost identical to Bush Jr’s.
(2) Examples of information operations in America
(a) Some classics from the past
- The Tonkin Gulf incident (see Wikipedia for details and links)
- The prelude to the Iraq invasion and occupation: alarm over Iraq’s WMDs and alliance with al Qaeda
(b) Setting the stage for the Senate hearings about global warming
For details see this post about The hidden history of the global warming crusade, an excerpt from an Interview with Timothy Wirth (Senator Colorado 1987-93), Frontline on PBS, broadcast on 17 January 2007:
Believe it or not, we called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer … so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo: it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it.
… What we did was went in the night before and opened all the windows. So that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room and so when the hearing occurred there was not only bliss, which is television cameras in double figures, but it was really hot. … So Hansen’s giving this testimony, you’ve got these television cameras back there heating up the room, and the air conditioning in the room didn’t work. So it was sort of a perfect collection of events that happened that day, with the wonderful Jim Hansen, who was wiping his brow at the witness table and giving this remarkable testimony. …
Result: fantastic success.
(c) The fake National Guard memos smearing Bush Jr.
With these immortal words, Dan Rather justified the document by which he smeared George Bush Jr as “fake but accurate.” For details see the Wikipedia (and its collections of links) about the documents and their authenticity.
Result: success. They were caught at the fake, but still exposed a larger audience to the controversy.
(d) The FBI and NYPD set up terrorists, and then catch them
For details see these posts:
- The US government sponsored jihadist menace, 29 November 2010
- The Iranian Assassination caper was a complete success!, 11 October 2011
- “The Boy Who Cried Lone Wolf“, J. M. Berger, Foreign Policy, 21 February 2012 — “If someone claiming to work for al Qaeda hands you a fully assembled bomb for your attack, you are not a lone wolf.”
Result: fantastic success, building a climate of fear in America.
(e) The fake strategy memo of the Heartland Institute
Pacific Institute President Peter Glick released a “strategy memo” whose incendiary phrases smeared the reputation of the Heartland Institute and, by extension, skeptics of the crusade to stop global warming. It was a pitifully obvious fake (by the evidence, he probably wrote it) 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.
Result: uncertain as yet. Most probably these lies will continue to circulate, and the Heartland Institute’s reputation will take years to recover.
(3) The next step — anger (update)
What is a good reaction to such news? From Re-envisioning the FM website, becoming soldiers in the war for American’s future:
“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.” — Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)
“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.” — Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)
Anger is a dangerous tool — stoking us to take action, but a bad master. I believe is the only path to reform, except in the face of disaster. There is a role for American in our nation other than as consumpers and dupes.
(4) Ask the mineshaft!
As a new feature on the FM website, we “ask the mineshaft” for more information about the topic of each post. AKA ”ask the community”, from the German “Gemeinschaft” (see Wikipedia). Share your answers to these questions. This idea copied from Brad DeLong.
- What other information operations have shaped American opinion?
- What sources of information do you rely on?
(5) For more information
(a) For all posts about this see the FM Reference Page Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.
(b) More good news about our leaders:
- The good news: America’s politics are neither polarized nor dysfunctional. That’s also the bad news., 16 November 2011
- “Those weak losers who care about ‘law’”, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 24 February 2012
(c) Rumors and misinformation (the Internet can make us dumber):
- Cable Cut Fever grips the conspiracy-hungry fringes of the web , 7 February 2008
- Resolution of the Great Submarine Cable Crisis – and some lessons learned , 8 February 2008
- More rumors of war: our naval armada has sailed to Iran!, 9 August 2008 — No, it hasn’t.
- Update on the rumored armada sailing to Iran, 13 August 2008
- A US naval armada is en route to blockade Iran and start WWIII (the story gets better every day), 14 August 2008
- UPI reports on the multi-national armada sailing to Iran, 15 August 2008
- Stop the presses: no naval armada has sailed to blockade Iran!, 20 August 2008
- Proposed legislation prepares the way for war with Iran!, 25 August 2008
- Forensic analysis of propaganda: “Michelle Obama Keeps Socialist Books in the White House”, 19 February 2010
- We are ignorant because we enjoy being lied to. Today we look at lies about the US debt., 8 August 2011
- A small incident that tells much about America – a flag gets lowered in a classroom!, 5 September 2011
- Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011