Summary: Our leaders run bold programs to reform American society, building on work done by the Nazi’s and Soviet Union. All of this was described by George Orwell in his magnum opus 1984 (published in 1949). His forecast was a little early, but eerily accurate. This is a follow-up to Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America.
Both factions of our ruling elites exploit the increasing silly and ignorant American people through propaganda. It’s the peaceful way to lead serfs. Here’s a look at the methods preferred by each side.
Full evaluation of both these projects might improve our self-awareness. Perhaps even changing the course of our nation. But now we follow our leaders down the easy road …
“… the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
— the demon Screwtape describing one road to Hell, from chapter VII of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
- The left molds our values and thoughts
- The right molds our history and knowledge
- Make it simple, but not more simple than necessary
- About the futility of lies about the past
(1) The left molds our values and thoughts
The left sought to mold our young though education in new value, often based on a complex foundation of lies.
- Some were simple expansions of traditional values, such as environmentalism (expanding the traditional concept of stewardship of the land) and tolerance ( expanding the definition of the American community).
- Some were radical, such as the redefinition of gender roles called feminism.
- Some were profound, such as the emphasis on cooperation (aka followership) over competition.
- Some were deceptive, such as the doctrine of civic passivity (we are consumers, not citizens).
- Some were the misleading, such the absolutists doctrine called “multiculturalism”. Our values are not the best, our values are the only proper values. Differing values are treasured only when trivial (e.g., food, dress); values contradicting ours are illegitimate or even evil (e.g, about the role of women).
While not complete in any individual or across the population, the result is too-often akin to that which George Orwell ascribes to Newspeak: “to narrow the range of thought so that thoughtcrime becomes impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it” (slightly paraphrased). It works like this:
The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, CRIMESTOP. CRIMESTOP means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.
… What was required in a Party member wa an outlook similar to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that all nations other than his worshipped “false gods”.
This does not mean that we live in a dystopian nightmare or have become believers in Ingsoc (English Socialism). Rather it shows that much of our thinking has been put on rails — becoming fast but channeled — and our critical thinking machinery has atrophied. For more on this, with comparisons to our past, see A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?
The left’s project succeeded on a scale never before seen since Moses created the twelve tribes of Israel by forging a common history and religion. But its momentum appears spent.
(2) The right molds our history and knowledge
The right responded slowly to the left’s hegemonic challenge, but eventually focused on renewed efforts to support their values. At first with a clear trumpet call, as in Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative. But over time they they supercharged their program with fallacies, misrepresentations, and lies.
- Something old: faux economics, aka Austerian or liquidationist economics. Fiscal stimulus programs don’t work; monetary stimulus is destructive; a strong stable currency is best no matter how conditions change; that recessions “purge the rottenness out of the system“; and “a depression is for capitalism like a good, cold douche“.
- Something new. Revisionist history, saying that Reagan’s deficits resulted from too much spending by a Democratic Congress, not too small revenues from his tax cuts (more on this tomorrow). History sent down the memory hole, such as conservative opposition to Reagan’s arms control treaties. The faux history of foreign armies defeating insurgencies. And fantasy, as in their embrace of tax cuts and deficit spending (see this post for details of the beginning).
- Something borrowed, such as the Dolchstosslegende (the stab in the back legend) that we could have won in Vietnam if only the left had not sabotaged the war (Jane Fonda, the news media, Congressional Democrats).
- Something blue: America’s values and even existence is threatened by Islamic fundamentalists, our freedoms by Obama’s socialism (examples here), and our prosperity by the rising power of China.
All of these were seen in the health care debate (an example here).
Orwell’s Ministry of Truth foreshadows this great program, the work to create a false reality in people’s minds. Facts about the present and past give way to this instant’s political needs, with the sheep passively accepting each revision (like sheep, Americans no longer recall the past; for a fine example see this).
(3) Make it simple, but not more simple than necessary
These are oversimplifications. Nor is the division that clear, as I suspect each side uses the other’s methods. Although the obvious examples are the left using the same techniques as the right.
- For the left revising history see the eco-fable of Easter Island and the facts about the 1970′s Global Cooling scare.
- For the left misrepresenting facts see Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world.
(4) About the futility of lies about the past
Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr.: “You never defeated us on the battlefield”
Colonel Nguyen Don Tu: ”That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”
— Conversation on 25 April 1975 in Hanoi. Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr. was Chief of the U.S. Delegation, Four Party Joint Military Team. Colonel Nguyen Don Tu was Chief of the North Vietnamese Delegation. From the introduction to On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War by Harry G. Summers Jr. (1982)