Learning to see beyond the American Pravda

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.

Unless we see & remember, news is the 21st C's opiate of the masses.
Unless we see & remember, news is the 21st C’s opiate of the masses.


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.

The truth emerges, eventually. Graphic from Frictional Games.
The truth emerges, eventually. Graphic from Frictional Games.


  • 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):

  1. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
  2. A great, brief analysis of problem with America’s society – a model to follow when looking at other problems, 4 June 2009
  3. Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009
  4. 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
  5. America’s broken OODA loop in action: a swarming attack by ankle-biters in our intelligentsia, 26 February 2011
  6. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  7. A reminder that debates are fun, not politics: Reagan had Alzheimer’s in 1984 and we didn’t notice., 5 October 2012
  8. Examples of America’s broken vision. Here’s why we cannot clearly see our world., 21 October 2012
  9. How OODA loops break, 26 October 2012

About the mainstream media:

  1. A time-saving tip when reading the daily news, 2 January 2008
  2. The media discover info ops, with outrage!, 22 April 2008
  3. Only our amnesia makes reading the newspapers bearable, 30 April 2008
  4. “Elegy for a rubber stamp”, by Lewis Lapham, 26 August 2008
  5. “The Death of Deep Throat and the Crisis of Journalism”, 23 December 2008
  6. The media doing what it does best these days, feeding us disinformation, 18 February 2009 — About sea ice
  7. The media rolls over and plays dead for Obama, as it does for all new Presidents, 19 February 2009
  8. The magic of the mainstream media changes even the plainest words into face powder, 24 April 2009
  9. The media – a broken component of America’s machinery to observe and understand the world, 2 June 2009
  10. We’re ignorant about the world because we rely on our media for information, 3 June 2009
  11. We know nothing because we read newspapers, 12 October 2009 – About mythical numbers
  12. Journalists, relying on anonymous government sources, attack anonymous bloggers who correct journalists’ errors, 25 July 2010



8 thoughts on “Learning to see beyond the American Pravda”

  1. “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.”

    Yep that’s it in a nutshell.

    That’s what a diet for myths and legends will do to you.

    1. “diet of myths and legends”

      Wonderful phrase, going to what might be the core problem. Every nation has its legendary past. But we seem to have moved into it and lost touch with the reality. This may have somehow screwed up — or contributed to screwing up — our OODA loops.

      It’s something I’ve written a bit about, how our image of our past — esp the 19th century — bears so little resemblance to the actual history. I find people are shocked — to the point of disbelief — when told actual stories of the West.

      Here, as in so much on this subject, I believe I have come to a clear description of the problem. This allows more or less accurate forecasts, the closest one can come to proof in such things. But it is, so far I can see, utterly useless in devising a cure.

      I will write more about this in a few days. Among all the successful forecasts on the FM website, the one to which I’ve put the most energy has proven the most futile and among the most inaccurate.

  2. Unfortunately for those ‘Americans’ who view their history as ‘exemplary’ they long ago were willing to forget the obvious distortions for the hope that things will change and ‘get better’; or are equally complicit in the crimes their country has initiated in their illegal wars of aggression; experienced by each generation since 1776; after the British; then first against the Native Peoples which included genocide as well as total war including germ warfare where they did not win those wars and were forced to bring treaties; then Mexico where they did not win that war either (actually the USA NEVER brings treaties of peace to anyone they can defeat; and they are not winning either of the two illegal wars they are fighting now————-)
    I could go on and on but as a “Native Son” in reality a “prisoner of war of the USA” (who incidentally served as a US Marine, over 40 years ago in order to “earn the right to walk around in the White Man’s world”); I am able to say after many years of study that the USA is currently displaying ALL OF THE CLASSIC SIGNS OF COLLAPSE—-INDEED THEY MAKE THE ROMANS SEEM LIKE RANK AMATUERS —along with that observation I can say this:
    “If the USA were any other criminal nation the ‘Americans’ would invade the USA to keep the world safe; and they would be justified”…………………

    As for Native America; we have been in North America it is now known since at least 15,300 years ago; the Anglo European/Judean/Christian which began in 1492; resulting in mass die offs of Native Americans which even the conservative estimates of 75-100 million human beings makes the Jewish Holocaust seem like “child’s play” in comparison (given the primitive nature of the weapons and tactics used against the Native Americans)———————-is simply a “mark on the wall of our evolution”——————we will be here long after the USA is a terrible memory; and a negative example for humanity. Indeed we will “teach our children” the “negative example of the USA”; in the deepest hopes TO LEARN FROM THEIR MANY MANY ERRORS————–AND NEVER TO REPAT THEM.
    After all this is exactly what the Americans failed to do with the many other historical examples; they believe themselves to be “special”–and hence exempt from the mistakes of the pasts.
    Yet they rush madly to repeat them at every chance.

    Thanks for your time

    1. One aspect of husbandofmoonlight’s comment: about genocide

      Applying genocide to pre-20th century wars between people’s is problematic. But in terms of intent, mass displacement or attempts to exterminate peoples is a commonplace of history. From the Israelite conquest of Canaan to the western colonization era. We can condemn it, which makes us feel good — but since both side are dead, I’m uncertain what it accomplishes.

      If we accept the idea of progress (as I do), than by definition previous people will be inferior to us by our standards. That is the success of their lives and our civilization, and hardly gives us the right to feel superior as we are “standing on their shoulders”.

      “including germ warfare”

      This is a myth based on a small number of references. Most especially, letters to and from Lord Amherst circa 1763. He approved distribution of smallpox-infected blankets. It’s not known on what scale this was actually done, nor certain that this would work. There is little evidence of other such incidents. Also, it is disputed if blankets would effectively spread smallpox (sometimes yes, sometimes no).

      Considering the people’s understandable fear of smallpox epidemics, and the ease with which they spread, it’s not obvious that people would consider biowar then — reasons with still apply today. We have not hesitated to use chemical and atomic weapons — or conventional means to kill millions — but no biowar.

      For more about Lord Amherst see this page: “Bioterrorism, Public Health and the Law“, Law 801 Health Care Law Seminar, Professor Vernellia R. Randall, U Dayton.

  3. How interesting that you would use the excuse of the “commonality of genocide” then refer to the “Israelites and Canaan” (fictional account of the Jewish people-written by the Jewish people and practiced in Palestine even today) while distracting from the “American” rhetoric as ‘being an example’ while they (the USA)actually have been an “example”–the Negative example.
    That is a perfect example of what I refer to as the “convenient conscience of the Americans”—–

    Thanks for making my point.

    1. Husbandofmoonlight,

      I think you have made a reading FAIL. I will mention just two simple errors in your comment, and leave it to you to find the many others.


      Agent orange is a chemical weapon, not a bio weapon. It attacks biological organisms, as do most chemical weapons.

      “Then you fail to mention that the USA is NOT ONLY THE FIRST NATION TO THUS FAR USE NUCLEAR WEAPONS …”

      I explicitly said “We have not hesitated to use chemical and atomic weapons — or conventional means to kill millions”.

      Please read more carefully. Continued errors like this will detonate the FM website’s anti-troll defenses.

      You can do better.

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