We ask the mineshaft: should we be reasonable when arousing America? Perhaps reason plays no role in this battle.

Summary:  We fight for the Republic against its worst enemies, those inside America.  As it has already been in our history.  Is cool logic, reasoned discussion grounded in fact, our best weapon?  Or that just foolish pedantry, and victory only possible by adopting the powerful tools of our enemies:  lies and propaganda? Here we ask the mineshaft.   {Aka ”ask the community”,  from the German “Gemeinschaft”. See Wikipedia}

All paths forward require arousing the American people.  How can we do this? What steps should we take first?

Since opening in November 2007, the FM website has joined several campaigns to revitalize and reform America.  We’ve encouraged people to get involved in elections, to organize their friends and neighbors.  We’ve deployed barrages of fact and logic.  We’ve strived to arouse anger at what America has become.  You can see the trail of these in the posts about solutions below.

So far all of these attempts have been in vain.  Mine and thousands of other workers in the project to save America. Fruitless, literally fruitless.  We must ask why.

The common element of these is our focus on staying in close touch with reality.  Precision.  Accuracy.  Quite unlike the tools of our enemies, who rely on exaggerations, misrepresentations, and outright lies.  They are winning; the Republic dies a little more every day.  Perhaps we must adopt their tools to have a chance of victory.

But is an America that can be saved only by lies an America worth saving?

Give your answers to these questions in the comments.

For more information

For links to other articles about these matters see these FM Reference Pages:

  1. America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?
  2. Information & disinformation, the new media & the old
  3. Good news about America — Let us never forget our past; let’s draw courage from it

Some solutions, ways to reform America

  1. Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
  2. Fixing America: shall we choose elections, revolt, or passivity?, 16 August 2008 — Part One.
  3. Fixing American: taking responsibility is the first step, 17 August 2008 — Part Two.
  4. Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity, 18 August 2008 — Part Three.
  5. How to stage effective protests in the 21st century, 21 April 2009
  6. Correction to my previous posts – not all citizen activism is good…, 16 October 2009
  7. The first step to reforming America (the final version), 7 December 2009
  8. Light the fireworks – the campaign starts today!, 9 March 2010
  9. Question of the Day, about reforming America, 12 March 2010
  10. The project to reform America: a matter for science, or a matter of will?, 16 March 2010
  11. The Tea Party Movement disproves my recommendation for the path to reforming America, 20 April 2010
  12. About the Oath Keepers: boon or bane for the Republic?, 12 June 2010
  13. Can we reignite the spirit of America?, 14 September 2010
  14. The sure route to reforming America, 16 November 2010
  15. Hear the cattle bellowing in the chutes. Will they revolt?, 8 September 2011
  16. Occupy Wall Street, another futile peasants’ protest, 5 October 2011
  17. Fixing America in five steps, 19 October 2011
  18. How do protests like the TP and OWS differ from effective political action?, 26 October 2011
  19. See the power of our ruling elites, displayed by the picture of a kitten,28 October 2011
  20. Civil disobedience by the “Occupy” movement is a challenge to our rulers, 21 November 2011
  21. Ask the mineshaft: how to make America angry and so awaken from our stupor, 11 March 2012

58 thoughts on “We ask the mineshaft: should we be reasonable when arousing America? Perhaps reason plays no role in this battle.

  1. I think, to be frank, the event that jumpstarts the American public against the current political establishment (This includes both the Republican and Democratic party machine’s) will be something out of our control, but one if we’re ready, we can take advantage of.

    I’ve been thinking, if Obama wins in ’12, and really does commit to a (devastating) war in Iran, this may very well be the “Whig” moment for the Democratic Party, as I’m more than certain they won’t remain a stable party after such an obvious betrayal (and a really really stupid move, which would by all accounts plunge our economy into a depression). Such a scenario presents a pretty good opportunity, especially for independent progressive folk.

    Just my 0.02

    1. Good point. You can never underestimate the amount of delusion people who wear partisan blinders have. Then again, I think the situation is a *bit* different. At the time when Bush 43 went forward with our ethnically unsound and devastating wars, we could “afford” it (or so it seemed to certain nitwits). But now, with our record deficits, and the fact a war with Iran would send shockwaves through the oil market, that’s a double edged catastrophic event that may just wake up the Democratic Party lemming base.

      I mean, one of the things Democrats trout out over and over again is that you have to vote for them, or the other guys (Republicans) will cause a devastating war. Many incarnations of this exist (The Palin foil was the most recent example, with the Democrats successfully constructing a narrative that if McCain would win, she’d get her fingers on the nuclear trigger and wipe out humanity). It seems a lot harder to construct that narrative if Obama starts an economically devastating war himself.

      Then again, maybe I’m just being sanguine?

    2. TiradeFaction is accidentally getting to the heart of FM’s question. FM’s big issue is that the average voter has a disturbing pattern:

      • The voter has a problem with the current American government
      • The politicians uses powerful and lurid lies to persuade the voter that they are the best choice to solve the problem. Failure to lie means that the politician will lose to a politician who does lie.
      • The politician wins the election and either does nothing about the problem or makes it worse.
      • The politician avoids the blame for their failure to solve the problem by using bigger lies.
      • The voter votes for the politician again and again and again, getting ever more furious that the problem does not get solved.

      FM’s logical conclusion is that the voter is either incredibly lazy, insane (in the Einstein-defined way) or they don’t want to actually solve the problem, they want to be lied to instead.

      Given this pattern, TiradeFaction, the President can do nearly anything he wants because it will not impact his chances of winning the next election or the public’s view of his party.

      The only apparent way to save America from the liars is to become a bigger and better liar. To quote FM’s last haunting question: “But is an America that can be saved only by lies an America worth saving?”

      My answer is: NO.

      The reason the American voter can get away with this is because America is so big and powerful that it can reshape reality, at least for a little while. This is another version of too-big-to-fail and we’ve all seen how well that worked for the voters. Want to bet that the politicians will be better stewards of the common interest than the Federal Reserve was?

      America’s OODA loop is now completely broken The only really important question right now is how long will it take for reality to reassert itself with sufficient force to get the attention of the American voter. The longer it takes the worse it will be for us and I suspect that the politicians will delay that moment as long as possible. Other important questions will appear once the average American voter finally realizes what a horrible mess they are in.

      That said, there is a considerable amount of work that can be done to shape the next regime while the American voter snoozes. The single most important thing is what this blog is currently doing, providing facts to the people who still care about them and identifying people and trends that will dominate the next regime.

    3. Pluto, thank you for this interesting comment.

      (1) “there is a considerable amount of work that can be done to shape the next regime while the American voter snoozes.”

      Yes, but the Republic’s enemies are the ones making use of this time. They are shaping the next political regime, in ugly ways.

      (2) Some posts about America’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop)

      1. The housing crisis allows America to look in the mirror. What do we see?, 8 March 2009
      2. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
      3. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
      4. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009
      5. The decay of our government, visible for all to see, 3 June 2009
      6. A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
      7. Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009
      8. A new news media emerges for our new world, unseen and unexpected, 9 July 2009
      9. The weak link in America’s political regime, 16 September 2009
      10. Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen, 16 October 2009
      11. Today’s geopolitical analysis. Let’s laugh while America’s wealth flows down the drain., 11 August 2011
      12. A look at an enemy of America, and a discussion about the execution of al-Awlaki, 13 October 2011 — Facts are less important than our tribal loyalty.
      13. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  2. Perhaps there’s a middle ground between cold hard logic and straight up lying?

    When Jesus performed his miracles – feeding the multitude, healing the sick, bringing the dead back to life – it was not that all his followers would get these fringe benefits for all time. It was to get them to *listen*.

    That being said, I think one of the main problems here is lack of reach.

  3. I have found to my chagrin, actually it is now beyond chagrin, that massive numbers of Americans are impervious to facts when the facts contradict their favored opinions. Down market Fox news believers, among others no doubt, many of whom I have known for decades, seem unconcerned about evidence or lack of it, documented facts, scientific knowledge, statistical trend lines and so forth. When they are exposed to these things they just say it is not valid. They cannot be swayed. Their proof axiom operates as follows: If such and such is true then my opinion is valid; therefore such and such is true. That is logical in their minds, and there are many millions who think like that.

    The neocon political philosophy deals with this situation with their esoteric and exoteric dual political reasoning tracks. The truth for those able to absorb it and something palatable, and often imaginary, for the rest. Is this lying? Of course it is. It is also accepting people the way they are, that is to say there are those unable to grasp certain aspects of political reality, but get them on board with whatever it takes, because we need them.

    Everybody has seen this famous Mencken line, but it is so applicable to this topic.

    “The greatest of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”

    1. My experience agrees with mrjoyboy’s. What causes this indifference or rejection of facts? My guess: tribalism. Pack loyalty trumps objective data.

      While always present in any society to some degree, when it becomes a dominant factor a society has taken the sure path to ruin.

    2. Flip the question around: what would human beings that operate purely on logic and facts be like?

      Answer: not human beings.

      Recent evolutionary theory on the topic of human cooperation, while tentative, explains the problem. Cooperation is crucial, but not universally necessary. Human beings are superb social imitators, but sometimes reluctant cooperators. Human beings will cooperate according to evolutionary wiring, and that wiring is set up so that when humans see other humans cooperating “successfully”, then almost always join in. When they see a struggle to cooperate, they rarely join in. The adaptive quality of social learning is high in evolutionary terms, but it does not demand perfection.

      The evolutionary wiring of human beings does not take into account the recent development (in the last 10,000 years) of super-tribes. Societies that are structured as super-tribes place enormous strain on the older evolutionary wiring that functioned fabulously in a tribal setting.

      Super-tribes are highly unstable.

      The idea that human beings can exist outside the limitations imposed on them by their evolutionary wiring is absurd, and that is really what FM’s lament seems to be actually be about: the collapse of the old order’s illusions around the ability of human beings to join with God to shape the Kosmos (or at least to perfect the rules of its operation).

      In reality, the Kosmos continues to unfold in its own fashion, with new technologies and economic models disrupting and making old forms of culture (including the mechanistic model of modernism) outmoded.

      From an integral perspective, there is nothing wrong with people that want the world to run like a fine tuned watch having some kind of role in the Great Chain of Being. The problems start when they

      1) make absolutist claims to be the best model, and
      2) insist that everyone else’s model is inferior.

      Those are vestiges of the very imperialistic culture that is collapsing and under analysis as being problematic.

  4. Anger – FM’s raison d’être – is important and has a place. Could FM’s desire for “precision and accuracy” perhaps involve more than one source of data and some degree of emotional literacy?

    Like conventional weapons, emotions can be respected or abused. People are not asleep to this and neither is your opposition. They just use it for their own ends (but they are not anonymous and therefore can feign integrity based on that). I don’t think you would betray your anger to acknowledge that communication is more than the written word, a single syllable emotion or one strategy alone. It is often a combination of emotions and arguments pointed at the right time, place and direction to persuade people to behave differently. It’s strategic.

    People are not simple, numb or asleep just because they failed to get your point. They are scared. Calling that emotional part of people’s decision-making esoteric is short-sighted. A siege is designed to make people turn in on themselves, to blind them to their supporters and their own goals. Don’t let them.

    It is my observation that comments such as these get a derisive response or are ignored. Fine. Go for it.

    1. Thank you for that well-reasoned comment! A few thoughts in reply.

      (1) “Like conventional weapons, emotions can be respected or abused.”
      Agreed!

      (2) “People are not asleep to this”
      Agreed. “Asleep” is a metaphor. Disengaged and disinterested are more accurate descriptions.

      (3) “…and neither is your opposition. They just use it for their own ends (but they are not anonymous and therefore can feign integrity based on that).”
      Agreed. I’d state that more strongly, that the Republic’s enemies manipulate the public’s emotions skillfully — far better than do the Republic’s supporters.

      (4) “I don’t think you would betray your anger to acknowledge that communication is more than the written word, a single syllable emotion or one strategy alone.”
      Agreed.

      (5) “It is often a combination of emotions and arguments pointed at the right time, place and direction…”

      A point I have made many times, in many ways.

      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 get angry.
      — Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)

      (6) “People are not simple, numb or asleep just because they failed to get your point.”
      I’ve never said that. Rather they are acting on the basis of different values and priorities, which appears likely to result in the death of the Second Republic.

      (7) “They are scared”
      Your evidence for that? I avoid discussing why people act as they do. It’s often the most difficult of questions.

      (8) “Calling that emotional part of people’s decision-making esoteric is short-sighted.”

      I have not done so. Esoteric: Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest.

      (9) “A siege is designed to make people turn in on themselves, to blind them to their supporters and their own goals. Don’t let them.
      That’s interesting, but I don’t understand. Can you explain in more detail?

      (10) “It is my observation that comments such as these get a derisive response or are ignored.”

      Can you cite an example? I observe that comments such as your never get a derisive response (ie, contempt or ridicule), and comments are seldom ignored (I respond to most, time permitting).

    2. Carl, One more reply — a historical detail of some importance to readers of the FM website.

      “Anger – FM’s raison d’être”

      That is not correct. Anger has never been a “reason for existence” of the FM website.

  5. I actually think we have a situation quite similar to that of ancient Athens. We have mobocracy. Masses easily swayed to the benefit of the few and it is dangerous. The fact that the politicians respond – verbally at least – to the slightest pole is evidence. An actual republic went out awhile ago. Mobocracy and his brother, Cleptocracy.

    1. Frank gives a disturbingly insightful analogy. Late Republican Rome is a common analogy, but Athens during the early Peloponesian War might be even more accurate. This worked well when the mob was in the hands of a competent leader, such as Pericles. But mob rule allows lesser folks to easily and rapidly gain power. Ruin follows.

    2. Am I not correct in recalling the earlier opinion from FM that the Plutocrats/Kleptocrats have an interest in, and adeptness at, maintaining the stability of the system? (For their parasitic benefit of course, not out of any sense of the common good or any other noble ideals.)

      Key worlds in the earlier discussion: sheep, fleece, wolf.

  6. No! We must not counter with propaganda or lies. That, is the moral low road and will only lead to swaying into a worse situation. We, have to take the moral high ground.

    Reading this the saying “figures don’t lie but liars figure” came to my mind. People want to know where data came from, they want to know it’s trust worthy. And, they tend to look for something to confirm what they already believe, it’s human nature. Find manners that assures them that it is trustworthy and, give them a means to relate.

    In a thought brought to me by an above comment, Jesus taught in parables…Perhaps we should to? Either way there is a level of dissatisfaction in our nation. It’s a matter of getting the message out, as you corrected me, there are two POWERFUL political parties in this country, and much of the media might as well be their minions.* Numbers are just not on anyone’s side, but their’s right now.

    And we have to remember, there were more Americans that served in the British Army than the Continental Army.(Revolutionary War Statistics)

    *I use the word media broadly.

    1. the appalachianist,

      Thank you for your optimistic comment. And the reminder that in the age of 4GW the moral high ground can often be decisive (as it often has been in history, such as the Revolutionary and Civil Wars).

      One detail: the US Wars website does not cite a source for their assertion that more Americans fought as Loyalists than Rebels. I do not believe it is correct. The numbers they cite look like low estimates for the number of regulars in the Revolutionary Army (and ignore the Navy). There were also a large number of militia.

    2. FM,

      In reference to the US Wars Web Site; Yes, it does ignore the Navy. Militia numbers certainly varied. Records were not exact, Etc. One example is the Battle of Cowpens, many historians don’t buy the numbers quoted (Siting payrolls, pension claims, documents). Groups were showing up through the night, Morgan didn’t have a firm grasp of what he had. One historian estimated the first line under COL Pickens (not the skirmish line) as being about 1,000 men. So, I agree. casualty numbers look very low to me from there as well, but conform to what they apparently records exist (see link). However, I have heard this quoted before. I’ve seen estimates of 100,000 (Smithsonian) and 250,000 men in the Continental Army throughout the war. The only one siting a reference is this site: US History.

      Maybe I should rephrase that in 1779/80 (low points for America during the Revolution) there were more Americans serving the British than than actively serving the Continentals (Not Militia). But, I will continue to research it and get back to you.

      Yes, a little off subject, but we must always strive to set the record straight.

    3. My guess is that if one ignores the militia, during most of the Revolutionary War more Americans served as British Amry regulars than in the Continental Army. But that reflects nothing more than that the incumbent government had superior financial resources. Congress could not pay the small army it had, no matter how many more volunteered.

    4. What happens when the data makes almost everyone look bad? Even the people that are trying to stop the runaway wagon from careening off the edge of an abyss?

      The media is corrupt, and the corruption is well described as being deeply entwined into psyche and culture, regardless of political ideology, which has been captured by the underlying disease: [lifeworld = shard value commitments, local wisdom, etc.] Excerpt: {From Soci 333-Winter 2000 – Notes on Habermas: Lifeworld and System, by Arthur W. Frank (Prof Sociology, U Calgary)}:

      Habermas believes this colonization of lifeworld by system is a crisis, because the system media (money and power) have no legitimacy except that which the lifeworld furnishes. I can’t repeat too often Habermas’s central premise: only at the lifeworld level, in its media, can legitimacy be regenerated. The systems media are always parasitic on the lifeworld. The crisis is that the parasites are destroying their host: that’s what colonization is. The more the systems media colonize the lifeworld, the more they lose legitimacy and crisis ensues. Material reproduction (system level) is crucial for society, but when it destroys symbolic reproduction (lifeworld level); it undercuts itself.

      A final note. Notice how Habermas is updating Durkheim’s notion of anomie, employing Weber’s rationalization, redefining the conditions of Marx’s alienation, and invoking Mead’s community of generalized others. It’s an incredible work of theoretical synthesis. I also find Habermas’s theory empirically compelling. ….

    5. WTF: “What happens when the data makes almost everyone look bad? Even the people that are trying to stop the runaway wagon from careening off the edge of an abyss?”

      I don’t know what you mean by “look bad”. The winners feel good; they’re winning. Their opponents (moi) fail, but that does not mean that we “look bad”.

    6. I was responding to theappalachianist, promoting the virtue of honesty, said: “People want to know where data came from, they want to know it’s trust worthy. And, they tend to look for something to confirm what they already believe, it’s human nature.”

      Side note: those two impulses are frequently in opposition.

      Example of data that makes reformers, or people that are commonly expected to play the role of reformers, look bad: 1/2 of liberals do not trust science. {From “Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010“, Gordon Gauchata, American Sociological Review.

    7. WTF: about the Gauchata study

      A very poorly designed study. It conflates “science”, scientific institutions, and scientists — three very different things. People can trust the first, distrust the current institutions, and consider scientists just regular people (trustworthy or not, depending on your view of such things).

    8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but T.E. Lawrence said “Arabs put their faith in men, not in institutions”. So do many Americans. If Reformers put themselves out there with transparency and being willing to swallow the bitter pill of humility, and they show a true genuine concern, not an agenda but a fundamental change then people can be won. Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not. Will it happen quick? No.

      So, my answer to “looking bad” is simple. Eat crow when you have to, swallow the bitter pill, dust yourself off and stick to your principles. Always call a spade a spade. Never abandon your principles. Don’t over argue a point, people will shut off. Never humiliate people for being mistaken, only humiliate those that absolutely need to be silenced.

      Speaking of reform, what ever became of the Reform Party? Another one to learn from…My thoughts are now open to your critique.

    9. T E Lawrence in the Introduction to Seven Pillars of Wisdom: “Arabs believe in persons, not in institutions.”

      That is true to some degree for America as well.

  7. FM: “Is cool logic, reasoned discussion grounded in fact, our best weapon?

    Yes, it is. And no, as theappalachianist said, lying is not the answer.

    I remember reading somewhere that social scientists say that many more voters are swayed by emotions than by facts and logic, and I think history bears that out. This tells me that logic is always good, but it must be dressed up with the tools of propaganda and commercials. There is no shame in using advertising techniques so long as you are peddling facts and logic.

    1. The reality seems to be that liberals are usually bad at effective lying (Obama may be a mediocre exception), and conservatives usually good at it. (George Lakoff, PhD Linguistics, University of California, Berkeley, attempted to explain this to the Left several years ago, but they didn’t listen.)

    2. WTF: “The reality seems to be that liberals are usually bad at effective lying (Obama may be a mediocre exception), and conservatives usually good at it. ”

      Do you have any evidence for your assertion? Presidents FDR, Kennedy, and Johnson were all extraordinarily skilled liars.

    3. You said that the dead Kennedy’s were conservatives. That would presumably include Johnson?

      FDR was ancient, so he could have either been an exception, or not representative of the current form of liberalism that Lakoff was discussing. there is an audio recording (and possibly a transcript) of an interview of Lakoff by Michael Krasny on KQED radio, San Francisco. I’ll post it if you wish. It isn’t hard to find stuff on Lakoff’s book about Freedom and how liberals and conservatives think differently, via a web search. Lakoff applied the theory of “linguistic framing” to the manner in which conservatives are far more successful at shaping public opinion by distorting issues than are liberals. Lakoff was attempting to help liberals “up their game”.

      My personal experience is that people on the radical, far PC/left are very loud and arrogant liars, but not good liars. The same is true for “polemical” conservatives. In both cases, the prime motivation seems to usually arise from groupthink, not some elaborate or sophisticated strategy.

      If the objective is to sway public opinion (like it or not), then until recently, Rush Limbaugh would have to be “exhibit #1” in the conservative hall of shame for Big Liars.

      On the other side, one could probably nominate Al Gore, but he does not appear to have attracted as large a following of fanatic zombies as has Limbaugh.

    4. WTF: “You said that the dead Kennedy’s were conservatives. That would presumably include Johnson?”

      That’s one of your crazier statements, which is impressive given your average level.

  8. Lies? Propaganda?
    ….as a counter attack.
    No.
    Not because it is morally BK (which it is) but because it is futile and counter productive since too few are concerned nor listening, as well.

    I think we over estimate the number of people who are dissatisfied with America.
    The satsified are not stupid, per se,
    America continues down this (to us) disasterous path simply because it is the path the vast majority of people want and like.
    Overall they truly like the Life they have in the USA.

    And so we have almost exactly the elements we want right here, right now.
    One suspects we are a long time away from any major set of Changes being spoken of (and then ) implemented.

    Breton

  9. The answer to lies, especially damn lies, is not more lies, it is derision; the more skillfully applied the better. Humor, and satire, these are our swards. Skillfully applied, they will cut deep. They will draw blood, just as they did in the hands of Lincoln, Franklin, and many other successful reformers, revolutionaries, and troublemakers too numerous to mention.

    1. The cartoonists tried that. Their stuff is funny, but they are not being listened to by enough people. That being said, it is one of the methods to use. It is just that that will not be enough.

  10. == Enemy strengths ==

    1. Expertise in manipulating public sentiment: raising and/or re-focusing emotion (anger, fear, frustration) to their advantage, or at least so as not to be to their disadvantage.

    2. Expertise in disinformation: limiting the usefulness of reason by keeping it so difficult to separate truth from fiction that most people will lack the time, skill or discipline to discover the difference in any particular case.

    3. Control vast resources and force: in the absence of severe destabilizing events, can afford to keep a critical mass of the population in a state where fear of how much worse their lives could be outweighs discontent with the way things are.

    === Enemy weaknesses ==

    1. Inertia: size and structure makes response to novel events slow and poorly targeted, though it can still be devastating.

    2. Attached to and dependent on mantle of legitimacy: democracy, due process, rule of law, etc.; even vast power and resources would be strained if all obedience had to be compelled by immediate threat of force rather than being freely surrendered.

    3. Vulnerable to deceit: Those who practice disinformation are not immune to its consequences; they also lack accurate information. There is in addition the universal epistemic consequence of authority: they are told what they want to hear, while they tell others what they want others to hear. Thus, we can learn much about them from the lies they tell us, while they can learn little about us from the lies we tell them.

    == Prognoses ==

    1. The system cannot be changed by ordinary “work within the system” because it is already too corrupt. It can counter any attempts at redirection through the political process before they become a serious threat. The rules are designed to place enough bottlenecks in the path of change to make it impossible to exploit weakness 1 through “legitimate” channels.

    2. Weakness 2 can be, and is being, used; but this is problematic. Our society and economy are far too complex, with far too many internal dependencies, to function well with much of the population behaving as laws unto themselves. The more the legitimacy of government is undermined in citizens’ hearts, the more our need for effective political structures will become evident. This leads either to revolution or to reaction/relapse in which the state takes the opportunity to become even stronger and more authoritarian, with the latter being much more likely.

    3. Weakness 3 can be, and is, exploited to *individual* advantage both offensively and defensively (with variable risk and success). However, the larger the operation, the greater the risk of failure; probably the failure rate rises much faster than the potential impact of success, making this a mode of attack which does not scale. Small confusions and disruptions—“civil disobedience” and the like—can be repeated, leading to the same scenarios as prognosis 2, in which the dynamics of power versus servility likely only increase. Witness the effects of the 9/11 attack: this was not only a much larger disruption than could typically succeed, but a much larger and more horrifying disruption than virtually any of us would ever endorse. Yet its effects were almost entirely perverse, doing nothing but providing a pretext to strengthen the system which was attacked. It was far from “large enough” to change anything, except perhaps to accelerate changes those in power already desired.

    4. Our circumstance is like that of a patient with an intractable autoimmune disorder: the immune system is destroying the organs and tissues needed to sustain life, but its destructive activity cannot be blocked without undermining its capacities for protection and stabilization, which are necessary for viability in the world. Absent some new, unforeseeable discovery, the patient will die. There may still be trade-offs regarding quality of life, if we can find ways to influence them.

    5. How we will fall, and what will move in to fill the resultant void, appears unpredictable. Yet this will surely hold far more significance for future centuries than the details of our dotage.

    == Conclusion ==

    Neither truth nor lies, nor emotions awakened, can be effectively utilized in the political context. There are only two things we can do that stand much chance of being worthwhile:

    1. Ameliorate immediate problems—injustice, needless suffering, poverty—without expectation of “solving” anything or turning the larger course.

    2. Build whatever we can (knowledge? culture? science?) that may survive an eventual failure of state and provide something of value to the as-yet-unknown order that will follow.

  11. I don’t think you need to lie, but a little marketing might help. Something us simpletons can grasp onto. How about a “FM’s Most Wanted List” of baddies we can hate. Or how about trying to get the mineshaft to do some specified work like attacking one provision in a bill in some state government.

  12. Briefly, my opinion is that America is not saveable on the terms that Fabius Maximus desires. Not only is saving by lies and deceit not worth it, it is by definition not saving it at all.

    Decay is a natural process and it is not reversible. At this point, frankly, I don’t think “America” has much chance of moving forward as a single entity. Efforts to “save” it strike me as nostalgic and unlikely to succeed. What would probably work better is an effort to make a new beginning. This means neither ceding the battlefield to the “dark side” nor confronting it directly on its own terms. This means neither attempting to “save” the majority of Americans nor giving up on America. This means both rejecting the patterns and principles of the corrupt, decaying status quo, while being ready use its resources in the service of the new system.

    1. Matt,

      What do you mean by “America”? The Second Republic, founded by the Constitution, might be beyond rescue. Several posts on the FM website have discussed that possibility.

      As for the death of America, I discussed that on 4 July 2006 in the first post in this long series: Forecast: Death of the American Constitution.

      No matter what happens, there is no cause for despair.

      • Our wealth is just things (“hardware”), an inheritance from past generations. What we lose we can work to replace. Our aspirations to global hegemony were revealed as a mirage in Vietnam and Iraq, lasting less than two generations after WWII.
      • Our culture is a collection of discordant ideas, mixing lofty and base elements in a manner despised by much of the world – a disgust easily understood by watching our TV shows and movies, or listening to some of our popular music.
      • Our Constitution is just an idea inherited from the founders. We created it, and its death will give us the experience to do better with the next version.

      We are America. We are strong because of our ability to act together, to produce and follow leaders. We are strong due to our openness to other cultures and ability to assimilate their best aspects. We are strong due to our ability to adapt to new circumstances, to roll with defeat and carry on.

      People, Ideas, and Hardware. “In that order!” the late Col John R. Boyd, USAF, would thunder at his audiences.

      We will be what we want to be. The coming years will reveal what that is.

      “There was a dream that was Rome. It shall be realized. These are the wishes of Marcus Aurelius.”
      — Maximus Decimus Meridius, in the movie “Gladiator”

  13. Maybe start with finding some adequate candidates with actual manifestos!
    What makes a good leader ? Sports team manager , business boss , teacher , whatever.
    He /she has a Plan.
    The Plan seems sound , comprehensive , but can be adapted .
    Most of his plans have worked out well .
    He has coped well with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune .
    He develops good teams , includes experts , and knows how to keep them .
    He has no hidden skeletons in his cupboard.
    He is dedicated to the organisation.
    He exploits, rather than criticises , his competitors weaknesses .
    By seeming humble and humane , even his enemies cant help liking him .

    Does he still need big money , in these internet times?Does he need to be an orator,handsome or ablebodied , when he could employ orators or actors ?

    1. Annanic,

      He/She should have Principles. Our political establishments are drowning in plans. Few of them are sound as you hint at. It seems the only plans that succeed are the ones that erode our freedoms. Most resemble schemes.

      “By seeming humble and humane , even his enemies cant help liking him .” There’s two men running that fit that, Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, neither are drawing a great deal of votes. We Americans seem to have a fatal attraction to slick, glossed over candidates. It’s troublesome.

  14. The very first thing that should be accomplished it to determine just what you think is wrong (item by item) and what you think is right. Then you would need to determine what would be needed to fix the items. The Heritage Foundation and all of its clones hire very smart people to come up with ideas as to how to promote their ideology. One has to believe that these people have (somewhere at least) a list of things they support and oppose.

    You can not decide what to do about changing things until you have a comprehensive list of things that you want to change (and a list of things you want to keep).

    1. That works when the house is sound, it just needs a fresh coat of paint, and maybe a few shingles and some new wiring in the kitchen.

      When the core is dysfunctional—as I believe it is in American politics at this time—any change big enough to be effective will introduce many unknowns. If we can reach “escape velocity” from the trap we’re in, it will be only a matter of fortune and will where we end up. We won’t know until after we get there. Plans aren’t enough: a nation needs a mechanism for making decisions “on the battlefield.”

    2. Coutinho,

      Agreed. As I have long said (eg, in December 2010) we’re where the Founders were in 1772 when they formed the Committees of Correspondence, one of the first great engines moving Americans to found the Republic. Years of organizing followed, before the Revolution could begin.

      Perhaps here or elsewhere we will evolve the equivalent to the Committees, perhaps in electronic (virtual) form. If we work together, some of us will find viable paths to a better future for America. Sometime in the future reformers will develop a strategy, then operational plans, and then decide about tactics (the process is, of course, less formal and straightforward in the real world).

    3. At the time of the founding, a paradigm shift away from Monarchical Absolutism had already been well underway since at least the English Civil War (1640s) – see PBS interview with Kevin Phillips about his book “Cousin’s Wars”

      What paradigm shift is it that the current Committees of Correspondence are to be discussing?

      The Enlightenment brought about the archetypes of Apollo (reason) and Prometheus (Industry).

      The information age is about the archetype of Hermes, the god of deception and boundary violations.

    4. The American Revolution was not about the shift from Monarchical Absolutism (which ended in Britain in 1651). We were ruled by the UK Parliament as a colony, without representation. Giving us representation was the initial request. When that was refused, the fuse was lite. I don’t see that as a paradigm shift

      The discussion of today’s Committees of C might focus on how to regain our rights, how to reignite the American people’s interest in governing and love of the Constitution. No paradigm shift required.

    5. The developments of the 1770s didn’t come from “reigniting the people’s interest in […] and love of” any existing political system; they were a process of undermining, then overthrowing, the existing political system.

      Have the people failed the system, or has the system failed the people?

      Fabius, you appear to believe strongly that it is the former. Given that view, how is there a significant analogy to the 1770s?

      I can’t see how the people can fail a system: an essential part of a competent system is that it functions with people as they are and as they develop. If a system requires that people behave in a certain way, then that system must inspire that behavior, or it, not the population, has failed.

      We have not yet discovered a political system that “works” for the ends of Enlightenment ideals — as enunciated, for example, in the Declaration of Independence. (It might fairly be questioned whether we who hold contemporized forms of those ideals are anachronisms.)

      I do see an analogy to the pre-Revolutionary period: we have, in effect, been colonized, though our owners are displaced in wealth and status rather than in location. Our system *as*it*actually*functions* (not just what the documents say) can no more be expected to allow things to be any different than could the British colonial system be expected to serve the needs of the Americas.

      Undermine and overthrow was a risky strategy in the 1770s; a similar path appears absurd and irresponsible today. I don’t see how the “colonial” aspects of this system can be changed without breaking it, but I don’t believe it can be broken without causing more suffering and damage than any sane person can willingly accept.

    6. (1) “Have the people failed the system, or has the system failed the people?”
      I don’t believe that “fail” is an accurate or operationally useful term. I believe that we’ve lost the will for self-government. No system can provide self-govenment for people who lack the will to work the machinery.

      (2) “Given that view, how is there a significant analogy to the 1770s?”
      As you accurately note, the situations are quite different. The solution is, as in so many cases, is organizing as a first step towards collective self-action.

      (3) “If a system requires that people behave in a certain way, then that system must inspire that behavior,”
      You ask a great deal of a system; more than I think any system can do. IMO, that’s backwards. A political system is just machinery. We must summon the energy and will to power the machinery. The machinery expresses our will; it does not carry us.

      (4) “We have not yet discovered a political system that “works” for the ends of Enlightenment ideals”
      We had a Mark Two version that worked for two hundred year. That may soon pass away. We’ll get an opportunity to do better with the Third Republic, if we can build it.

      (5) “we have, in effect, been colonized, though our owners are displaced in wealth and status rather than in location”
      That’s a powerful analogy.

      (6) “can no more be expected to allow things to be any different than could the British colonial system be expected to serve the needs of the Americas”
      I don’t understand. They did not elect their rulers; we do.

      (7) “but I don’t believe it can be broken without causing more suffering and damage than any sane person can willingly accept.”
      Perhaps. It’s too early for such evaluations, IMO. We cannot see too far ahead.

  15. If however the President is just figurehead for a load of vested interests , why not have Morgan Freeman standing for both sides , wearing a different colour t shirt for each . Plenty of experience and sticks to the script.

  16. The major problem we have is that the entire government seems to have abandoned consitutional principles.

    It isn’t just the republicans. Democarats are as bad, and no one listens. I knoew the first timd I wrote to my congressman about something, back in 1973, and his reply was that he disagreed with me and that was that. I knew that the concept of government by representation was gone. The primary reason was that i was in the majolrity about the issue at the time. But itas a first step in my becoming aware that politicna care nothing for those whom they purport to represent, Even Obana, “change you can believe in”, abandoned nearly everything he said he stood for and allowed the rest to be watered down, like the so called health care bill, that he has been nothing more than a trojan horse for the conservatives who now controlthe republican party. Just look at the practices he has allowed to continue and even enhanced. His refusal to prosecute public officials who flouted the onstitution and broked the law, as Obama and the rest continue to do.

    Id there room for reasoned discussion? I believe not, contrary to FM,s optimistic positions. The government has become so completely corrupt that histsory has no comparisons for making any judgments. Blood will run in the streets before all is said and done, and the people really have only themselves tfor the dire situation they have allowed to take complete control.

    1. Fred,

      Thank you for your comment. However, I disagree. We get the system we work to build and maintain. We choose our leaders every 2 years. If nothing changes then the fault is ours. In a Democracy we have the power, and therefore we have the responsibility.

  17. Great discussion… My vote is be reasonable. Theatrics for the sake of attention are ok, so is some exxageration of facts (as long as at the end of the day you lead back to a genuine position). But if you mean appealing to people’s tendency for racism or bigotry, then definitely no.

    ———–

    Offtopic: thinking about actually getting off my butt, I wanted to share this year’s plan:

    Focus on one idea. One simple idea. (inspired by the movie Inception): for example: “The two-party system is bad. If we had instant runoff voting, we wouldn’t always be stuck with two bad choices.” or “the Democrats / Republicans aren’t looking out for your interests anymore” or “they’re lying to you” …

    Then instead of giving a candidate a couple of hundred $$, I’ll try my hand at some guerilla PR. Make a bunch pdf’s with just 1 sentence in big type. A couple hundred black and white photocopies for the telephone poles downtown. Set up a 1-screen website and t-shirts at-cost online, and maybe bumper stickers. Heck, give away a couple thousand bumper stickers to some naughty kids to stick on *other* people’s cars. I’ll be nice and get ones that peel off easy. With Facebook and Craigslist and Meetup.com or whatever there is now, it might be possible to get help quickly. Wonder how far it could go with $500.

    One simple idea. The rest will have to wait.

  18. Does the National Rifle Association lie? Or how about the ACLU?

    Good infrastructure, lobbying pressure, and holds congress accountable.

    Perhaps we need NRA equivalents for the 3rd through 10th amendments?

    Does the NRA keep in close contact with reality? Mmmm… probably not. Does it work? Yes.

    1. You must be kidding about the NRA. It does apply to the ACLU, however.

      (1) One starting point: “National Rifle Association (NRA) Continues to Feed Its Readers Demonstrable Lies and Distortions“, Cliff Lyon, 1 November 2009 — “The gun lobby’s favorite pieces of research – a 1995 study by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz that reported an astounding 2.5 million defense gun uses each year in the US.”

      (2) “NRA claims ‘massive Obama conspiracy’ not to ban guns“, The Raw Story, 23 September 2011 — Six months later and the great conspiracy remains invisible.

    2. This is what I said: “Does the NRA keep in close contact with reality? Mmmm… probably not. ” Perhaps the sarcasm didn’t come across. Yes, they are egregious, but that was my point. Egregious but effective. I am not advocating that FM takes up this style.

  19. One point of interest involves the likelihood that FM’s position is being oversimplified in Pluto’s remark that

    FM’s logical conclusion is that the voter is either incredibly lazy, insane (in the Einstein-defined way) or they don’t want to actually solve the problem, they want to be lied to instead.

    It seems to me that FM, along with many other commentators, has noted that the American people want a great many mutually inconsistent things, and have not thought through the implications of what they tell their elected leaders they want — probably because doing so would force the American peopletso a number of extremely uncomfortable conclusions, and require some drastic changes in their lives.

    For example: the American people want to roar around giant freeways from their isolated suburbs into cities located far away, burning gasoline like crazy…yet the American people don’t want endless unwinnable wars in the middle east. Even a small child recognizes that these two goals represent an inherent antinomy. The American people simply don’t appear to want to face the prospect of enormous wrenching change in their lives that would result from weaning themselves away from the Age of the Automobile, and the freeway-and-suburb architecture of our society.

    Or take another example: the American people want to boast and strut about having “the greatest military on earth” and “being the world’s sole hyperpower” yet they complain when this military grows without bounds to the point where it turns the nation into an armed garrison state and erodes the basic institutions of democracy.

    Or consider another one: the American people swaggeringly trumpet that the USA has “the world’s most dynamic economy,” yet they complain when giant corporations capture our government and corrupt our most basic institutions with bribery.

    Or consider yet another case study: the American people demand dirt-cheap electronics and consumer durables, yet become hysterical with anger when they discover that America’s middle class is getting hollowed out by the offshoring + automation which produces these low low prices.

    Or here’s another one: the American people demand that their open government do something no open government can do — namely, keep them completely secure from future 9/11-style terrorist attacks — and then Americans become enraged and embittered when their elected rulers convert America from an open society into an East-German-style police state where small children are groped by the TSA, every citizen’s email and cellphone records are pawed over by the NSA, the president of the united states starts ordering the assassination of U.S. citizens without charging them with crimes merely because some nameless intelligence officials in some fuhrerbunker deep under the CIA thinks that U.S. citizen might be engaged in a dangerous plot.

    And so on.

    It seems to me that until the American people sort out the inherent impossibilities and self-contradictions in what they demand from their elected officials, we are going to get more of the same. Namely, self-indulgent voters who make mutually contradictory impossible-to-fulfill demands of their leaders, then erupt with tantrums of rage when their leaders kick the can down the road because there is no way to fulfill the voters’ demands. E.g., cheap oil to fuel our gas-guzzling SUVs but no endless middle eastern wars, plentiful inexpensive Chinese gewgaws at giant big-box stores like WalMart but no middle-class jobs offshored, automated 24-hour ATMs and other conveniences but no middle-class jobs lost to computerization and robotics, the world’s most voraciously laissez faire version of no-holds-barred capitalism but no giant corporations holding sway over society and capturing our goernment and basic institutions, total security from terrorist threats yet an open society with no intrusive surveillance or “let me see your papers” police state tactics, etc.

  20. Look at the web link presented below. What is presented (amongst a multitude of other evidence) is HORRIFIC and DEVASTATING for those in POWER in the USA. Chemist Niels Harrit – One of the scientists who found Explosive Thermite in the World Trade Center dust discusses Thermite, Nanothermite, Explosives and Incendiaries:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lU-vu2JvZY

    Well .. I feel sorry for all honorable people of the USA ! September 9/11 was an event TOTALLY SIMILAR to the Pearl Harbour Incident. A FABRICATED EVENT by THE POWERS WHO ARE .. within the USA
    in order to mislead A dumb AND uneducated flock of sheep IN THE DESIRED DIRECTION . There can be NO DOUBT about that .. for any INTELLIGENT PERSON ! THERE IS A long row OF US presidents who deserve nothing but INDICTEMENT and IMPRISONMENT FOR life !

    This list includes President BUSH as well as the current president OBAMA but also all the other presidents and their political wives ( Mrs CLINTON )still living because they are COMPLICIT ! Unfortunately .. such a will NOT occur ! And sadly .. the USA has become a totalitarian POLICE STATE ! A danish Nobel prize author once wrote: “People have the tyrants they deserve …”

    I am aware that the publishers behind FABIUS MAXIMUS attempt an almost heroic battle to wake up the US public … alas.. I fear the battle has Don Quichottian aspects … and people cherish their latest GADGET more than their FREEDOM … until that day when they have been smashed into absolute SUBJUGATION … then probably …some… will cry … too late !

  21. And a bit more from same person inteviewed by an UNFRIENDLY ( and quite stupid ) BBC reporter accidentally with the family name : RUBIN … i leave to the reader to deduct the racial origin of that reporter ( and even if i vehemently maintain ” that even a Jew has the right to be an asshole ” … still gives an additional explanation as to the methods and motive of the interviewer :

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