Summary: Our gullibility and trust have made us susceptible to propaganda. After a generation of this, Americans no longer see the same world. This makes broad coalitions difficult. There are two types of possible solutions.
“Divide et impera” (Divide and conquer)
— attributed to Julius Caesar
Other posts in this series:
(2) Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
(3) More use of the big lie: shifting the blame for the housing crisis, 29 December 2011
Years of intense propaganda have divided us into tribes, each clutching to its distinguishing beliefs about basic facts (the Republican Presidential debates are little but this kind of display, a test of allegiance). Political debates in America today beach themselves, like dying whales, on these reefs of disagreement about the shape of the world and the value of pi. These act as shackles on us, preventing the formation of the broad coalitions which are IMO our only way forward.
A generation of well-funded and skillful propaganda has welded these shackles on tightly. They will not come off quickly (for an example see this post, and the comments). My guess is that we will leave that task to our children.
But necessity drives us forward despite the shackles, shuffling slowly if we wish to recover America. How can we do so? I suggest that we look for common values on which we can agree despite our different weltanschauung (wide world view). Perhaps on these we can build a policy consensus allowing us to advance. Our world views may have diverged too far for any useful consensus. In that case perhaps the window of reform opens only following severe conflict or other social troubles.
A record of these conflicts
You can see these clashes clanging among the 17 thousand comments on the FM website. Some discuss the future, about which we can only guess. Some discuss values, where disagreement is inevitable. But most discuss simple things about the present and past.
Here are some examples. All of these are discussed in some depth on the FM website. This is a list of inaccurate statements (some are misrepresentations, some outright myths), with an explanation in parenthesis.
- The social security trust fund backs your SS benefits (write yourself an IOY for a billion dollars; now you can pay the mortgage!).
- There are legions of people who deny the fact of global warming (just stating the problem in this fashion displays near-total ignorance of the debate). I could give dozens more of these, but they’re discussed in depth elsewhere (see section 7 here). In brief, to the warmista true believers: scientists are always right — except when they question AGW dogma; then they’re fools.
- Obama is a radical leftist anarchist non-citizen Moslem (inexplicably running what looks like Bush Jr’s third term).
- The US is bankrupt (said by people who do not know what the word means), just like Greece (except for near-total lack of similarity).
- Tax cuts usually increase government revenue (except that in practice they seldom do).
- US healthcare is the best in the world (except for those who have little access to it, and for many who do)
- European healthcare in our peer nations is a dysfunctional hell hole system (which produce health outcomes much like ours)
- Since WWII foreign armies often (even usually!) defeat locally based insurgencies (except for the near-total record of defeat).
- The US is on the verge of inflation — or even hyperinflation (excerpt for the waves of debt deflation washing across the US).
- We must fear the confidence fairies and invisible bond vigilantes!
- Keynes recommended constant government deficits (except that he said the opposite).
- High savings and a strong currency are always good things (except they’re often seen in weak nations)
- The US dollar has crashed under Obama’s care, unlike the strong dollar seen during Republican Administration (the numbers show the opposite).
- US taxes are so high that they’re slowing growth (except that they’re low vs our past).
- US is so highly regulated so as to greatly slow economic growth (except for the years of faster growth before the great 1978-2000 deregulation wave)
For more information
See the FM Reference Page Information & disinformation, the new media & the old
Some posts about propaganda:
- 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
- Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011