Summary: Why do political regimes die? Perhaps because of accumulated false memories, incidents in the past with which they cannot bring themselves to see. Too many of these can cripple a people’s OODA loop (observation-orientation-decision-action loop) and hence their ability to cope with the present and chart a realistic course into the future. We may have reached that point.
A common — almost ubiquitous — element of political debate today is conservatives faux history. Pleasing, often flattering, lies. Here is a partial list (ten thouand words might not suffice for a complete list). The links provided show only illustrations (detailed descriptions are beyond the scope of this post).
- The westward expansion (economic growth driven largely by stealing Indian’s land)
- The building of America by rugged individualists
- Civil War (Black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy, the Secession was not about slavery)
- the Great Depression (Hoover the interventionist; the effect of the New Deal)
- Vietnam (we could have won if only we’d had greater willpower),
- the Great Society’s role ending oppression of Blacks (more often amnesia rather than lies)
- the history of gold monetary standards (see these posts),
- the history of foreign armies fighting insurgencies (see list of posts at the end)
- belief that Obama is not a US citizen
In all of these conservatives often exhibit a combination of amnesia and outright falsities. It makes rational discussion difficult, often impossible. Worse, this heavy overlay of myth makes rational decision-making difficult on affected issues. Perhaps impossible.
This has not just happened. Our leaders (both left and right) have discovered that they can easily and successfully lie to us. Insights like this change the course of nations. It is our responsibility to be stronger. That they exploit this weakness of ours is the natural course of life.
Although a bipartisan tactic (because it works), the most enthusiastic application of this appears (for now) on the right. As in the lies about Obama’s birth certificate. More importantly and astonishingly, they consistently describe Obama as a radical leftist. While bizarrely false, repetition works! On sheep.
Update: Every society has this to some extent. Everybody’s history has a mythological element to it, covering up dark deeds of the past. That’s the essence of “Whig history”, rearranging history as a tale of progress leading to the wonderfulness of us. But, as always, magnitudes matter. What might distinguish us is the degree of fantasy, so great that it degrades our ability to see and understand the world.
The history of counter-insurgency by foreign armies
It’s not encouraging. Only by exaggerating and distorting history can one make a case that it’s a reasonable thing to attempt.
Posts about this bleak history
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
- Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., 21 June 2010
- A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010
- A look at the history of victories over insurgents. How often do foreign armies win?, 30 June 2010
Also — about the Brit’s suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya:
- “How did they get away with it?“, Bernard Porter, London Review of Books, 3 March 2005
- “Kenyans sue UK for alleged colonial human rights“, Guardian, April 2011 — “Mau Mau insurgents who survived labour camps bring case using files withheld for decades by Foreign Office”
- See the 21 June 2010 post below for a summary
Posts about propaganda
For a complete list see the FM reference page about Information & disinformation.
- How the Soviet Menace was over-hyped – and what we can learn from this, 13 October 2009
- Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
- More propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010
- The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
- Forensic analysis of propaganda: “Michelle Obama Keeps Socialist Books in the White House”, 19 February 2010
- A note about practical propaganda, 22 March 2010
- About the political significance of the conservatives’ health care propaganda, 23 March 2010
- The similar delusions of America’s Left and Right show our common culture – and weakness, 26 March 2010
- Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
- The US government successfully smears Wikileaks, while America sleeps, 22 October 2010
- We have trouble coping with our present because we’ve lost our past, 23 October 2010