Summary: Here we discuss a powerful article about a serious weakness of America — our broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop. Specifically, our ability to orient our present in term of our history, a broken mechanism because of our amnesia and gullibility. We need not be like this; we can change.
Recommended reading: “Our American Pravda“, Ron Unz, The America Conservative, 29 April 2013 — “The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today?”
The author discusses one of the marvels of our age: how the world is nothing like we saw it a 70 years ago, or even a decade ago. The author discusses a some noteworthy examples of our gullibility and amnesia.
- The serious penetration of communist sympathisers and agents in the US government (although exaggerated by conservatives like McCarthy, Nixon, and Unz).
- The frequent failure of our corporate accounting and regulatory apparatus, as seen in the tech-boom busts (with Enron the last and largest examples) and the banking failures during the great recession.
- The massive campaign of lies surrounding the anthrax attack (so vital in passing the Patriot Act) and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
- And other stories even more thoroughly ignored by the mainstream press, and so remaining unknown to the American people.
Unz’s great article just scratches the surface of the layered deceptions preventing Americans from clearly seeing the world as it is.
Our Presidents, a facade of lies hides the men
US Presidents are among the most closely scrutinized people on the planet. We must know their true nature since they take office only after a successful career and brutally long election. But we don’t. In fact the media help develop characterizations for Presidents & VPs, which becomes “fact” for Americans through intensive indoctrination. Kennedy was a sportsman and family man. Ford was a clumsy. Dan Quayle was dumb. Reagan was a fool. It’s astonishing how consistently wrong these are. Backwards, even.
- Kennedy was almost a cripple, sustained by a diet of powerful drugs. And the opposite of a “family man”.
- Ford was in excellent shape for his age; he was an athlete when younger.
- Quayle was bright, taking positions ahead of his time (the news media often attacks heterodox thinkers). Such as his advocacy for the Patriot missile, and his “Murphy Brown” speech in May 1992 about the adverse effect on children raised by single mothers (I think this will look even more prescient a century from now).
- For many Americans Obama is the Other, one determined to destroy America — some combination of foreign, Islamic, and socialist radical. In fact, and Unz mentions, Obama’s core economic and national security policies have continued those of Bush Jr. Makes a mockery of the election, and voting for change.
Believing in the government as guardian
Perhaps they could fool us about individuals, but certainly we knew the truth about the massive Federal Agencies which protect us. We knew the CIA was an effective secret organization, like the Mission Impossible Force. FBI agents were honest, incorruptible guardians like Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. on the FBI TV show (1965-1974; see Wikipedia).
Again we were fooled. The FBI denied even the existence of the mafia until public pressure forced action. Even the fabled FBI crime lab was found to be fundamentally flawed (see Wikipedia). The CIA was far worse, as revealed by generations of revelations (see Legacy of Ashes for details).
The 1975 Church Committee revealed large-scale long-term violations of laws and basic constitutional rights by FBI, CIA, and NSA. Reforms were implemented, but could be sustained in the face of public amnesia and willingness to believe in the government.
There is a common thread to these things: our eagerness to believe what we are told. The government has lied to us repeated — frequently, consistently — yet we accept each new government statement as gospel truth. This is the golden rule of the War on Terror. Journalist, judge, citizen — all accept what they’re told. No matter how improbably. No matter what the history of lies. No matter how many experts warn otherwise.
President Eisenhower’s officials said that we did not have U-2 overflights of the Soviet Union, a lie intended not to deceive the Soviets (who had shot one down) but the American people. No consequences.
President Bush and his team lied about al Qaeda, the anthrax attacks, and Saddam’s WMDs. We were eager to believe. Revelations that they lied have had little effect.
President Obama tells us lies about the drone assassination program, especially that there have been few (or no) civilian casualties. In fact there have been hundreds, including 3 of the 4 America citizens killed. No consequences.
Even now the Twitter feeds of our geopolitical and political experts quiver with credulous discussions of Obama’s wonderful promises in his latest speech. Yo, we believe!
What this tells us about ourselves
This shows that our problem lies not so much in our amnesia — our inability to learn from experience — or in our gullibility.Nor do I agree with Unz that it’s the fault of journalists.
Rather it might result from our mistaken self-image of ourselves as skeptical people, independent thinkers, distrustful of the government. In fact the vast majority of Americans are eager to believe what supports their views — and will believe obvious lies if presented by their leaders.
The 21st century might prove as harsh a challenge as the 20th. Our forefathers successfully met those of the 20th Century. I doubt we will be able to do so unless we decide to see more clearly, both our present and past. Experience is too dearly bought to squander it.
For More Information
America’s broken observation-orientation-decision-action loop (OODA loop):
- Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
- A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
- Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009
- The Trinity of modern war at work in Afghanistan (more evidence that amnesia is a required to be an American geopol expert), 28 November 2009
- America’s broken OODA loop in action: a swarming attack by ankle-biters in our intelligentsia, 26 February 2011
- Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
- A reminder that debates are fun, not politics: Reagan had Alzheimer’s in 1984 and we didn’t notice., 5 October 2012
- Examples of America’s broken vision. Here’s why we cannot clearly see our world., 21 October 2012
- How OODA loops break, 26 October 2012
About the mainstream media:
- A time-saving tip when reading the daily news, 2 January 2008
- The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
- Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
- “Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham, 26 August 2008
- “The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism”, 23 December 2008
- The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009 — About sea ice
- The media rolls over and plays dead for Obama, as it does for all new Presidents, 19 February 2009
- The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
- The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
- We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009
- We know nothing because we read newspapers, 12 October 2009 – About mythical numbers
- Journalists, relying on anonymous government sources, attack anonymous bloggers who correct journalists’ errors, 25 July 2010