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