A nation lit only by propaganda

Summary: Instead of writing, I’ve spent time listening, reviewing the 28 thousand comments on the FM website. My inferences from this (via induction) might explain much about the politics of 21st century America. We have become nation whose thinking is lit only by propaganda.

Credit at the bottom, but illigable

.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The protests: frantic, fanatic, fevered
  3. America the indoctrinated
  4. Both Left and Right see this
  5. Consequences
  6. Causes and solutions
  7. About this post
  8. For More Information

(1)  Introduction

In 2007 Chet Richards created the FM website, over my protest that it would never find an audience. He said it would find readers, although never have mass appeal. As the traffic built, I changed my opinion. Perhaps fact-rich focused analysis of hot topics would prove not only popular, but influential. Experienced proved me wrong.

The FM website has gone through several cycles of gaining and losing audiences as its focus has evolved during the past 5 years. But the comments suggest it rarely has any influence; I believe the reason why reveals something important about us.

For simplicity what follows is over-generalized in order to highlight the conclusion.

(2)  The protests: frantic, fanatic, fevered

The comments were overwhelming negative. Which is fine, of course. Except for the hate mail and threats (I lost two good authors from these). But the commenters’ most frequent reaction to the facts was fascinating: they were against them.

Articles about torture and the failure of our wars — supported largely by government data — were opposed by believers in the honesty, competence, integrity and wisdom of the military. The more government sources I cited, the stronger the rebuttal. Continued discussion led to more personal attacks, wilder logic, more intense reliance on hope over fact.

Articles about climate science — supported by citing the IPCC and peer-reviewed literature — were opposed by well-meaning people acting in the name of science. The more data and experts shown that challenged their views, the more intense the personal attacks in reply.

Debates with either side seldom progressed to discussions of possible outcomes, values, and goals — complex unknowns I naively thought would be the subject of discussions.

I see a pattern here.

(3)  America the indoctrinated

.

We once had myths about America, religious faith about the nature of life, beliefs about our place in the world. Differences were about our values. The right to keep people in bondage for profit, the rights of States vs. Federal governments, the rights of the government vs. individuals, and other questions of choices and values. These led to the fierce conflicts that comprise much of US history.

Now we fight about facts. People of similar values and identical backgrounds clash about what are often simple matters of fact. Each side accepts what their leaders say, deaf to rebuttals. The cogs on the wheels of reason no longer mesh, so that discussions come to no conclusions.

We have seen this played out scores of times on the FM website. To give two of scores of examples:

  • People insisting even now that Saddam had nukes or chemical weapons.
  • People denying the temperature record, attacking scientists who discuss the pause in global warming (now aprox 15 years long).

We see this dynamic played out on Twitter. Citing facts and authoritative sources produces showers of unfollowers, as Americans run from uncomfortable facts like vampires from a cross.

These are not arguments (though there are, as always, many about these complex and politicized topics). They show people with strong beliefs, unable to support them when challenged — who run away yelling insults.

(4)  Both Left and Right see this

The most fascinating aspect of this problem: we all see it clearly. In our enemies. The Left see it as a behavior of the right, and vice versa.

We Are Not Having A Serious Discussion, Obamacare Edition“, Paul Krugman, New York Times, 1 June 2013:

I fairly often receive mail pleading with me to take a more even tone, to have a respectful discussion with people on the other side rather than calling them fools and knaves. And you know, I do when I can. But the truth is that on most of the big issues confronting us, there just isn’t anyone to have a serious discussion with. Ezra Klein offers a nice illustration of this point today, in his takedown of Avik Roy on Obamacare in California.

… I know that a lot of people wish we lived in a country where debates about things like health care policy were serious, honest discussions of debatable points. I like to hope that by the time I retire I’ll actually live in a country like that. But right now, and surely for years to come, it’s basically facts versus fraud.

This is IMO accurate about the Right (with consequences described here).

It equally well describes the Left’s advocacy of strong action to mitigate climate change, which have abandoned the IPCC consensus and the mainstream of peer-reviewed literature — since these do not well support their increasingly extreme forecasts of doom. Pointing out inconvenient facts and experts’ analysis becomes treason against the planet.

Both Left and Right seek ideological solidarity in defiance of facts. It’s not new behavior. Christian sects and communist splinter parties are famous for doing so to insane degrees. It increases an organization’s cohesion and ability to affect society. But it’s probably unusual to have both Left and Right so afflicted at the same time, involving a large fraction of the population.

(5)  Consequences

This does not imply a false equivalence between Left and Right, or even attempt to weigh them in any way. They behave similarly because both tap the same raw material: the American people.

That we give our allegiance to causes a higher priority than facts is OK for Church or Sports. It’s potentially lethal to the Republic when it enmeshs so many critical public policies.

This indifference to facts — using facts only as props to support politically driven beliefs — also makes us easy to lead. We become blind followers, easily manipulated pawns. That is perhaps the defining characteristic of modern America.

It’s one of the things that makes this a New America.

It’s an aspect of our broken OODA loop about which I’ve so often written (see section 10 here).

(6)  Causes and solutions

I have not a clue as to possible causes. Without some understanding of causes, I cannot even guess as to cures.

I leave that to you, hoping for some readers operating at a higher pay grade.

(7) About this post

Long-time readers will have noticed the decreased frequency of articles, their reduced level of research, and far more subjective than usual content. My business leaves me less time these days. Also, the conclusions of my analysis sap my motivation (scrolling through the comments depressed more than I imagined possible for something with so little personal mpact).

So I am doing what I have previously avoided, giving a purely subjective description of the world.

FWIW.

(7)  For More Information

These are posts about the mainstream media’s misreporting about climate science, contrasting their content with that of the IPCC and peer-reviewed literature.

  1. The facts about the 1970′s Global Cooling scare, 7 December 2009
  2. Quote of the day – hidden history for people who rely on the mainstream media for information, 12 February 2010
  3. The hidden history of the global warming crusade, 19 February 2010
  4. A real-time example of the birth and spread of climate propaganda, 9 March 2010
  5. Lies told under the influence of the Green religion to save the world, 30 July 2010
  6. A new video about global warming, a Leftists’ wet dream pretending to be humor, 1 October 2010
  7. Shaping your view of the world with well-constructed propaganda, 21 June 2012 — About rising sea levels.
  8. Run from the rising waves! (The latest climate catastrophe scare), 27 June 2012
  9. Ignorance and propaganda about extreme climate change, 10 July 2012
  10. Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole., 10 December 2012
  11. Lessons the Left can learn from the Right when writing about climate change, 12 December 2012 — Propagandist Phil Plait
  12. Fierce words about those “wacky professional climate change deniers”, 20 January 2013 — More by propagandist Phil Plait
  13. We can see our true selves in the propaganda used against us, 14 May 2013 — Skillful actually inaccurate article in The Guardian

.

.

43 thoughts on “A nation lit only by propaganda

  1. I have been a reader for years and must comment that the FM site has made my life richer and helped me perceive the world closer to as it really is, so thank you for your work.

    I’m happy to have lost the arguments here that I did. However embarrassing, I’m better for it.

    I’m thankful also for the introduction to thinkers and writers like John Boyd, Chet Richards (Certain to Win), and Barbara Richman among many many others.

    So thanks and I hope the good work keeps coming.

  2. FM – – –

    I will repeat a statement that I have over-used. I don’t know for sure that it is original so I apologize in advance if it is plagiarized:

    “There are two types of people: (1) those who believe what they see and (2) those who see what they believe.”

    It is a sad commentary that the second group appears to have a strong majority because only the first can be reached with facts.

    John Lounsbury

    1. Interesting point.

      As you see in this post, I question what I see. In fact, I suspect that is the major distinguishing feature of the FM website: my observations and conclusions are given with qualifications: maybe, perhaps, probability, guess, etc.

      Note that this emphasis on uncertainty is also a feature of IPCC reports. All conclusions and forecasts about the future are stated in terms of uncertainty — something almost totally ignored by lay climate advocates.

    2. FM – – –

      I recognize that you question what you see, having read this site for a number of years. I guess I would qualify the first type of person to be one who only believes what he sees in confidence if he questions everything. Otherwise mirages would be believed to be real, wouldn’t they.

  3. Don’t give up, please! I’ve only recently found this website. To lose it would be a great loss to all, not just a personal one for me.

    I know that despair very well. It permeates just about everything I do these days. I think partly it has to do with losing my last elder…I am now the Oldest. And I’m only 58. My great-grandparents and half my grandparents lived to their 90’s. Smoking took out most of the men and a whole generation of my family, and alcoholism took out a few more. Anger doesn’t begin to cover my opinions about Corporations of Evil. The Politics of Evil that dominate our nation leave me speechless. This is not the world I was born into.

    This goes way beyond Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” concept. Because of the corruption, the infliction of suffering on total strangers for profit or just to abuse power, is not what we are supposed to be about. This isn’t the world-view that we Boomers were born and raised to.

    I trained in engineering, and it colors my every thought. I was born into engineering on both sides of my family tree. I cannot comprehend the wastefulness of daily corporate or government decisions that affect all life, especially given how much more we know now than we did in the 50’s.

    Perhaps that’s where the REAL Future Shock hit: people rejecting facts because they simply cannot absorb and incorporate them; the psychopaths rejecting responsibility because nobody will hold them accountable; people unable to believe that others would be so evil.

    Technology is easy…complete idiots walk around with Smart Phones. But Consequences are not.

    The latest perversion: so-called liberal, progressive so-called democrats acting as enablers of the corporate psychopaths and warmongers, leaves us no place to turn.

    It is a dark period, worse than the Middle Ages when the Church reigned supreme. Now we have the global corporations in the driver seat. They don’t even have the pretense of operating in Christ’s name to check their greed.

    1. Demeter,

      Thanks for the comment. This struck as powerful:

      Perhaps that’s where the REAL Future Shock hit: people rejecting facts because they simply cannot absorb and incorporate them; the psychopaths rejecting responsibility because nobody will hold them accountable; people unable to believe that others would be so evil.

      …The latest perversion: so-called liberal, progressive so-called democrats acting as enablers of the corporate psychopaths and warmongers, leaves us no place to turn.

      My tweaks on this, and they are small:

      A disturbingly large fraction of our leaders, business and government, appear to be borderline sociopaths (psychopaths seems a bit strong). Allowing hazardous pollution, sending men and women to injury and death if foreign wars, etc. This differs from the past in that they know the it is wrong. They know the damage from the pollution (unlike the past, where they saw only the economic growth, with little awareness of potential for mitigation). They make the wars without the justifying beliefs of them past.

      These sociopaths accept (not reject) responsibility (in the sense of taking control) because the responsibility does not bother them.

    2. About sociopaths in power

      Why Don’t the Corrupt Players On Wall Street and In D.C. Show Remorse for Their Destructive Actions … And Why Don’t We Stop Them?
      http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/07/why-dont-the-psychopaths-on-wall-street-and-in-d-c-show-remorse-for-their-destructive-actions-and-why-dont-we-stop-them.html

      “Organisational sociopaths: rarely challenged, often promoted. Why?”, Richard J. Pech and Bret W. Slade, Society and Business Review, 2007 Vol. 2 Iss: 3, pp.254 – 269
      http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1630654&show=pdf

      Purpose – Organisations sometimes select and promote the wrong individuals for managerial positions. These individuals may be incompetent, they may be manipulators and bullies. They are not the best people for the job and yet not only are they selected for positions of authority and responsibility, they are sometimes promoted repeatedly until their kind populate the highest levels of the organisational hierarchy. The purpose of this paper is to address this phenomenon by attempting to explain why it occurs and why organisational members tolerate such destructive practices. It concludes by proposing a cultural strategy to protect the organisation and its stakeholders from the ambitious machinations of the organisational sociopath.

      Findings – Organisational tolerance and acceptance for sociopathic managerial behaviour appears to be a consequence of cultural and structural complexity. While this has been known for some time, few authors have posited an adequate range of explanations and solutions to protect stakeholders and prevent the sociopath from exploiting organisational weaknesses. Reduction of cultural and structural complexity may provide a partial solution. Transparency, communication of strong ethical values, promotion based on performance, directed cooperation, and rewards that reinforce high performing and acceptable behaviour are all necessary to protect against individuals with sociopathic tendencies.

  4. i hope that the positive comments here serve as encouragement to continue in the face of the negativity that the comments section has generated in the past. i think there are a couple of reasons for why post comments become so contentious. i have no qualifications other than i read a bit and surf the internet, so take it for what you will…

    first problem is the interwebs. FM is not the first site to grapple with trolls in the comment section and won’t be the last–how many newspapers have changed the terms of their comment sections to blunt flame wars in the past couple of years? with the democratization of information comes the democratization of opinion and it’s a lot easier to find your “facts” to fight someone else’s “facts.” when fighting the censorship of autocratic regimes, this is a good thing. but it also means that even bona fide research has to endure inane refutations and rebuttals because people don’t want to accept its conclusions.

    the other corollary to the interwebs is that comments are only posted by those who feel passionate enough to agree or (more likely) disagree. more people lurk than comment. by way of anecdote, i’ve been a reader for years and only commented a handful of times, and usually only when i disagreed. i’ve tried to be thoughtful when doing so (hard when you’re passionate about something) and probably haven’t always succeeded. still, that’s an incomplete measure of my behavior when interacting with this (or any) site. comments tend to encourage and magnify the negative. personally, i’d be curious to see how negative comments stack up against posts in social media (which i would assume would be by and large positive) and reposts for support/rebuttal on other blogs. i think that might be a more accurate picture of how the research on this blog is received.

    the second problem has to do with fundamental human psychology. we’re not good with cognitive dissonance. when presented with views that challenge our own sacred cows we are more likely to reject a well researched contradiction than a poorly founded core belief. this is apolitical behavior and some research has shown that trying to fight it makes it worse–CDC publishes the top ten myths about the flu in order to combat ignorance? it ends up reinforcing those beliefs as participants’ memory of the fact sheet fades. worse, our cognitive bias even infects our research. there was an interesting article in the Atlantic by a researcher who realized that when he designed a survey to test whether liberals or conservatives were smarter he subconsciously designed the questions to challenge liberal orthodoxies in a way that skewed the results towards conservatives being “smarter.” his own political beliefs hijacked what otherwise was a neutral hypothesis. this probably happens with all kinds of research and i’m not sure how good peer review is at catching it.

    if that happens to highly educated academics, us lay folk are probably worse off in understanding where our biases start obscuring the facts. chances are that only someone who is trained in the scientific method of inquiry will be able to adjust their thinking based on factual evidence with regularity. otherwise it would take something traumatic or people with relatively strong psyches to modify their core beliefs when faced with overwhelming evidence to the contrary of their biases. or maybe a systematic campaign of propaganda based on the ‘big lie’ technique to spread the truth.

    i’m not sure that last bit is in any way encouraging of the work that has been presented on this site, but for what it’s worth, i’ve found the discussion fruitful and interesting. i hope you continue. i think you used to describe the FM website as an online replication of the pub discussions of old. i like the analogy. but along with the nostalgia for the raging debates about liberty and democracy that used to take place in the public houses there is also the hazard of people drunk (on their own self righteousness, facts be damned) who will disrupt an otherwise orderly discussion.

    tl; dr–trolls come with the territory.

  5. Your discouragement is shared by many. As the Old Testament prophets would say, there comes a time when a society has to get whacked. I recently got fired for sending a copy of Wilkinson’s “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger” to the CEO of a top 10 US bank. The old time religion stipulates that it will take a collapse to break out of this death spiral, and many innocent people will be hurt. Until the corporations, the virus organizing the disease, are reformed, as the dominant for of social organization on the planet they will follow their extractive master script until the global system itself collapse. Just my guess. An optimistic speculation would be that corporations offering social justice internally would enjoy a comparative advantage, and hence self-correction endogenously would occur. But it doesn’t seem to be happening. The psychopaths at the top hold sway, pursuing narrow self interest.

  6. FM: We admire your website. In fact. we’ve just created our own site, which has a similar purpose to yours. One of us is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor; the other is a WWII veteran with extensive experience in business. Our site’s name is The Contrary Perspective at WordPress. Here: http://contraryperspective.wordpress.com/

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Please check out our fledgling site. I hope we merit a few of your FM followers and readers. Thanks!

    1. I thank wjastore and others for your nice comments. Esp since my post was mostly just whining — giving my inability to provide any useful contributions other than more partial (ie, incomplete) diagnosis of America’s condition.

  7. “We once had myths about American, religious faith about the nature of life, beliefs about our place in the world…now we fight about facts—clash about what are often simple matters of fact.”

    We may be haunted by what seems like a type of impasse today. Where once there was “religious faith about the nature of life,” our contemporary situation assumes the absence of transcendental grounds for supporting forms of social/political order.

    One effect has been a rise in what appears to be an inherent and irreducible contingency to all forms of order and attempts by theorists of all political persuasions to undermine and rupture the authority on which any social order is grounded.

    Consequently we seem to heading for some type of theoretical dead end where debates and polemics are caught in a game of endless on-upmanship (of which I have often participated) where each perspective seeks to assert its own priority over the other without any real ground to arbitrate among them.

    Paradoxically we seem to find ourselves in a post-religious political climate in which our political debates take on more and more the nature of theological disputes.

  8. I still don’t think there is an organized left.left except possibly with regard to the environment, gun control and probably gay and lesbian equality. The old Left that was concerned with economics has been replaced by neoliberalism and the “free market myths” which dominates the Right as well and the Democratic Party has been taken over by the moderate Republicans who were purged by the Right. What remains is the Right and a broad Center which includes center right as well as center left with a few outliers to lend credibility to people like Obama.

    What’s more important there are many people who blog and identify the problems but there does not appear to be cohesion or leadership to fix Them. Neither the Green nor Libertarian Parties seems to have much traction and there doesn’t seem to be other options. Although OWS, Wiki Leaks and Anonymous are still around it’s hard to judge them since only their self reporting is available.

    I also find it interesting and intriguing that the Right like the Tea Party and Golden Dawn are so visible without apparent competition from the left.

    As far as I can tell there are only two organizations who are effecting change. One is Not in Our Town which really isn’t defending the Constitution and The Military Religeose Freedom Foundation which is neither Democratic nor Republican although only the so called Liberal Media will give them any ink.

    In conclusion I keep looking for someone to support but can’t seem to find anything or anyone substantial.

    1. Yaker,

      All too true IMO.

      Now for the very bad news. The Right has won a victory of almost unimaginable scale bu colonizing the Democratic Party. That is, getting the Demos to adopt the Right’s policies on key matters of domestic security (which can no longer accurately be called “law enforcement”), foreign relations (now largely military, with Dept State handling other details), and economics.

      This has solidified the Demos power, giving them the Holy Grail of American politics: ownership of the center.

      The GOP has responded by moving the the right, marginalizing themselves.

      It was a gambit. By sacrificing the GOP, the Right has won the game.

      Deliberate? Accident of history? Fate? Historians will say. But the result remains.

  9. I apologize for the disjointed reply:

    Instead of diagnosing the malaise as “people debate facts now instead of values,” don’t you think another possible diagnosis is that: Since the same powerful interests have co-opted all “mainstream” aspects of the political debate and discourse, any “debate” which occurs about values and facts lacks seriousness because the issues that are debated are only “bread and circus” issues for the peasants. In other words, the national discourse and the Republican v. Democrat shit show is like Seinfeld, a debate about nothing.

    I am throwing this out there because I am skeptical that there was ever a “golden age” where the partisans on the various sides of the issues agreed about the basic facts. I am sure that if we took contentious issues from the past and looked at the propaganda about it, such as Andrew Jackson’s attack on the Second Bank of the United States, we would probably find that the partisans asserted different sets of “facts.”

    Maybe there is a Hegelian dialectic process going on. The rich get richer and trample on the poor for a period of time, and the poor react with a mass movement. A new medium is reached, rinse wash and repeat. Right now things haven’t reached the breaking point yet where a mass movement can really take hold and cause substantive changes with regard to important issues.

    While there are numerous reasons why we have the present malaise, two interesting items to be discussed are the effect on demographic changes on politics (i.e. changing demographics have increased the noise from the nativists, may cause some social disruption and lack of solidarity, but are now beginning to have a serious impact on elections which will only increase over time and perhaps lay the groundwork for some changes); and the effect of government surveillance and police state tactics on chilling free speech, especially on the issues that both parties agree on (police and military authority of government, entrenchment of monied interests).

    Finally, I agree with the comments praising your work.

    1. I understand your skepticism. Statements that this time is different always deserve skepticism.

      But it is easily shown. Look at he Federalist papers — the debate about the Constitution. Or the text of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Or the Oxford Union debate “whether the House will fight for King and Country”.

      There are always elements of dispute about facts, but not to the extent today. We have people indoctrinated so that we cannot communicate with each other.

      It’s a wonderful state for our leaders. Heaven. Less so for us.

  10. Have you seen Yves comment on Naked Capitalism “if something can’t continue it won’t.”I guess my question is When?

    I also wonder if it’s time for another Harry Seldon ” Foundation” like Robb is working on

    1. It is Stein’s Law:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Stein

      While true by definition, it is IMO usually functionally useless. There are no linear trends in nature, which makes most applications of it useless.

      Life is change, which often comes as “punctuated equilibrium”:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

      Regime change in geopolitics happens every few generations. Like 1789 – 1815, and 1914-1945. I believe we are in another such period. My guess is that the result will be nothing like the doomsters predict.

  11. Video on “How To Brainwash A Nation” by former KGB Ideological Subversion specialist

    This amazing interview was done back in 1985 with a former KGB agent who was trained in subversion techniques. He explains the 4 basic steps to socially engineering entire generations into thinking and behaving the way those in power want them to. It’s shocking because our nation has been transformed in the exact same way, and followed the exact same steps.

    .

  12. FM remarks:

    …[T]he commenters’ most frequent reaction to the facts was fascinating: they were against them.

    Articles about torture and the failure of our wars — supported largely by government data — were opposed by believers in the honesty, competence, integrity and wisdom of the military. The more government sources I cited, the stronger the rebuttal. Continued discussion led to more personal attacks, wilder logic, more intense reliance on hope over fact.

    Alas, researchers have found that facts which rebut strongly held belief can actually reinforce the faulty beliefs.

    “Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

    Source: “How Facts Backfire – researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains“, The Boston Globe, 11 July 2010

    Combine this with the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and you’ve got America in 2013:

  13. Hang in there, FM.
    Hang with us.
    Looks quite bad at times, no doubt.
    Critical points arise periodically; then we shall see a small group turn the ship.

    Breton

  14. Also, the left is denying observed facts with regard to:

    The alleged dangers of nuclear power plants. Claim: every nuclear reactor is a Three Mile Island waiting to happen and if we build nuclear power plants we’ll all be irradiated and wind up giving birth to hideous monstrous mutant children while giant tarantulas roam the countryside devouring horses!!! Fact: All the nuclear power plants in history have released far less radiation than coal-fired power plants (because coal ash contains trace amounts of radionuclides released into the atmosphere when coal gets burned).

    The alleged dangers of GMO foodstuffs. Claim: Frankenfoods will make us sterile and deformed and are killing off entire species until the entire world is in danger of mutation and death and starvation from this monstrous genetically engineered threat!!!! Fact: There is no scientific evidence of harm from Genetically Modified Organisms — on the contrary, environmental danger is likely to be much worse from existing crops due to pesticide runoff, etc.

    The alleged evils of food additives and unnatural artificial ingredients in our foodchain and vaccines. Claim: pollutants fill our foods and our water, poisoning our immune systems, while vaccines cause autism which turns our children into gibbering drooling idiots!!!!!!! Fact: Our water and air is far less polluted today than in 1970, and the scientific evidence shows no causal association twixt vaccines and autism.

    Yet the left continues to trumpet these delusions as though they were gospel truth, shouting down anyone who dares dissent. While it’s not accurate to say that “both sides do it” when it comes to denying observed reality — since the Republicans have really taken denial of reality to amazing levels with their denial of evolution and their denial that there were no WMDs in Iraq and their denial that America ever tortured anyone — nonetheless, it remains a fact that liberals are prone to live in a fantasyland of delusions, albeit to much less pronounced extent that conservatives.

    1. More,

      I agree with all of these (to the best of my knowledge). Except the first one: the radiation release from Japan might have put nukes ahead in the radiation released race, depending on the time frame chosen.

      And it has raised legitimate questions about the safety of plants siting and operation.

    2. FM: I have been following your blog ever since I stumbled upon it last year. Thank you for your fact-based thinking and big-picture questions. This is very refreshing in this mediocre gossipy- partisan media climate.
      I am a political outsider. Permanent resident in the US, and product of the French Age of Enlightenment and Napoleon-reformed secondary education system. I have raised amazing and successful American kids in both cultures.
      Further disclosure for the sake of this reply to Thomas: I have been working in the food industry -specifically the supply side of commodities and ingredients -dealing with R&Ds of processed foods manufacturers. I regularly attend IFT meetings (Institute of Food Technology) as a professional insider.

      I do not think that scientific controversies belong to partisan politics.

      As much as I am a climate-change skeptic, I am also a GMO skeptic. That is, as of today, after going through quite a bit of scientific data and facts. I encourage you to get familiarized with the balanced outline of the controversies here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies
      And do your further objective research from there.
      In terms of safety: As of today, there is a scientific consensus that GMOs have not been proven unsafe -so far, and with current testing methods. However this does not mean that current GMOs have been proven safe (for human health and/or the ecosystem). There is a possibility that GMOs (as they are on the market today) could be proven unsafe in the future. New testing methods, longer-term (and fully-independent) studies, etc.
      Therefore there is reasonable doubt. Enough to want GMOs labeled -so that people can make their own decisions.

      There is a history of scientific consensus on mishandled studies in the food world. There are politics and financing issues behind the unscientific conclusions. You can take a glimpse at this (and the consequences) in the thorough analysis of Gary Taubes in his book: Good Calories, Bad Calories.

      Thank you for reading.

    3. How can you prove a negative? GMO cannot be proven safe…only by a disaster can they be proven unsafe.

    4. “Prove” is too strong a word for most public policy questions. We seldom know, there are degrees of certainty. And experts tend to overstate the degree of confidence we should have in their conclusions.

      Look at the biological policies of the early 20th century progressives, most of whom were big on the need for eugenics to prevent decay of the nation (for some, the white race) — and hence civilization. Her lies the origin of planned parenthood and much else, now safely seen as benign with their past forgotten. They knew that the path we are on would lead to doom after a few generations. Perhaps by 2000.

      “Safe” is too strong a word for most public policy questions. Who sets the cost-value calculus? How many die to get the fish and lumber we use (the to most dangerous US occupations)? Who decides that coal companies, like Massey, get to violate safety regulations with only minor penalties? Who decides if the deaths from major construction projects are worth the result.

      When the public graduates beyond child-like discussion of these things, perhaps our leaders will again take us seriously.

    5. Demeter-
      If I had a solution, I would have shared it. What I have is doubts, and the knowledge of a history of scientific consensus on unscientific studies. Do read Gary Taubes book. It is an eye-opener on the process for the public.

  15. Excellent post and … positive comments!
    I re-read the post substituting World for America. It made perfect sense.
    Re 6. “Causes and..” May I suggest a post by invitation to a psychologist?

  16. Demeter, don’t give up and I’d highly recommend you read many of the past articles and posts.

    As usual with all human behaviour there are great stuff here of the highest order, average, and sheer rubbish. FM’s site, which I have been a long term (though not recently due to other commitments) has had a far higher percentage of the ‘highest order’ stuff than many, many other places. Plus it is a place of passion. (our arguments of several areas have been of monumental levels). But that is good. Humans work best when both their intellects and their emotions work together (many psychological studies back this).

    So if you are an intellect free optimist then you are an idiot, equally if you are an emotionally free intellect then you are equally an idiot. In neither cases all the time, but in the end .. reality will catch you up. Because reality is always right. But you can change people, which changes the part of reality that humans as a whole control.

    In terms of most of your life, it is what you and other humans control that affect the majority of your existence (don’t try jumping off a roof though, the impersonal universe’s laws will mean you will meet a very bad end). I should add, to be honest (though not me personally, because I am old enough to remember the old US), there is not a lot of sympathy for Americans these days. In fact what is happening gives a lot of other people in the World schadenfreude.

    “So you are getting poorer, so what, the dictators and economic systems you forced on us did that before.”
    Or
    “Boo hoo about your freedoms, oh the CIA, NSA, etc spy on you and kill you.. they have been doing that to the rest of us for decades now, so now they do that to you and you complain?”

    They are valid comments and complaints, but they ignore the high numbers of Americans who have really tried (and in some cases laid down their lives) to make the whole World a better place .. there is a long, long (very long) list of them. Two come to my mind of encapsulating the highest ideals of America, Rachael Corrie and Bradly Manning. There are of course many, many others.

    Very few societies have ever produced so many people of their type. They are on the losing side right now, while the ‘dark forces’ of American elite culture (which has always been there, though all to often ignored by both the right and the left of your society) win seemingly everything … for now.

    Will it work out for you? I don’t know and frankly, except as I care for my country and the effects on it and the rest of World , I don’t care … not because I am cruel or ‘hate America’ (anything but) but I would prefer my country to try and follow the best that the US created and believed in back in the past. But not as it is now. Only you, the average American can change that and bring it back, not just to an imagined past, but to where it should be… a good place to live and a leader by example.

    Long way to fall yet, long way to grow yet. Personally I have said many times on this site, trend lines are all down .. for the moment .. but the potential future is still great. Then again maybe you should just listen to the songs of Woodie Guthrie, if you are ever in doubt about which way to turn, then those will point you in the right direction.

    1. Tom,

      I think what makes my forecasting record better than that of most commenters here is what you call “rubbish”.

      Your focus on individuals rather than the collective results sounds pretty, but provides a poor basis on which to bet.

      There are always heroes, but it’s what the rest of us do that determines outcomes. That is the point of my articles about our poor choice of heroes. It’s nice to dream that some great men and women will save us while we sit on our butts. That is not going to happen.

      The Founders were great, but the Army — supported by patriots at home — won independence. Lincoln was great but the Army defeated the slavers of the Confederacy, building upon the work of generations of abolitionists.

      The data is clear that we are not rising to this challenge. That might change — life is change — but my guess is that we will not. The Third Republic lies in our future, to be built by another generation.

  17. My view of two potential cause factors for people relying on what they’re told instead of facts:
    1. Gerrymandered political districts. Gerrymandering makes for safe seats. No more competitive races, and no need for candidates to seek the middle ground. Incumbents just need to feed their overwhelmingly liberal or conservative constituents propaganda (a mix of facts and myths) to keep them energized and angry; angry enough to show up at the polls.
    2. Fragmented media. No more “mainstream” media outlets. The proliferation of media outlets means that media sources have to hype the facts to gain viewers/readers. Specialized media also means people can find a media outlet that agrees with their worldview, instead of consuming a media source that occasionally challenges their thinking.
    My thoughts; open to debate. If true, where do we go from here?
    Thanks for sustaining this site.
    Paul

Leave a Reply