The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions.

Summary: Part one of this series discussed some dark origins of the New America, and why most discussions of America should touch on NAZI Germany. Today we examine a specific example of this: the big lie as the most effective tool of political persuasion on Americans.

Sam Adams, 21 January 1776
Sam Adams, 21 January 1776.

 

All this was inspired by the principle … that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.

It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.

Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

— From Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (1925).

A major theme of the FM website concerns a discovery made by our leaders during WW2: they can successfully lie to us. Such insights change the course of nations. Sixty years later big lies have become a major tool of political action — for the best of all reasons: they work.

Our leaders lie without consequences, even when they’re caught, because their supporters uncritically believe almost any lie — so long as it supports their politics. These lies create the child-like black-white world we prefer to reality, mirroring the comics-based films that rule in our theaters.

Consider this list, some of the big lies that have had such great effects since WW2:

  1. During the Cold War we lived in the shadow of the powerful Soviet Union: the bomber gap, the missile gap, the Team B project.
  2. Eisenhower looked into our eyes in May 1960 and lied about the downing of the U-2.
  3. We fought the Vietnam War following the attack on US destroyers at Tonkin Gulf in August 1964.
  4. We invaded Afghanistan because it was the staging ground for 9-11 (no, it wasn’t).
  5. We fought the Iraq War to prevent Saddam from using his WMDs.
  6. Obama is a foreigner, a Moslem, an anarchist, a radical Leftist.
  7. ObamaCare will create death panels (here’s the origin of the lie).
  8. The “science is settled” about climate change (not according to the IPCC, which describes a small area of confidence surrounded by uncertainty).
  9. Anthropogenic warming has been the dominate factor for a century or longer (only since WW2).
  10. The Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm, at an accelerating rate (not since roughly 2000).

The widespread use of lies is not partisan issue; everybody does it. Our leaders are not NAZIs because they use big lies, any more than driving on our Interstate Autobahn system in a VW bug means I’m a NAZI. In dynamic societies effectiveness trumps almost all other considerations.

They lie to us because we are gullible.

Truth and lies

“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.”
— From Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (1925)

No matter how pleasing we find these lies, we cannot reform America while lies dominate our political debate. A strong, proud people would not tolerate leaders who treated them with such contempt. Or allow themselves to act so weakly. We were once a strong people, and can become so again.

Each team can reform only its own people; each team must police its own members. Conservatives must protest lies on Fox News and Liberals protest those on MSNBC. Everybody should call out big lies as they see them. Truth can be one point around which we can all rally. But that means putting other values ahead of loyalty to our tribes — our political teams.

Change starts with individuals. Like you and me. Speak out! Each of us is potentially a force for change. Don’t accept lies from leaders of organizations that you support.

To understand the words of our political activists

As the New America emerges, Newspeak becomes the essential toolkit to describe our politics. From George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four:

  • “The key-word here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”
  • Doublethink means … {t}o tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed …”

Newspeak provides new words to describe the New Americans we have become. We have often had deep political fissures across America, but usually over differences in values, or loyalties (religion, race, region). But today we’re divided by facts, as factions tightly grasping big lies that differentiate their group from the others — lies they hope will persuade others to adopt their favored policies.

We see this in the comments sections of the FM website and a thousand others. And so our political gears no longer mesh, and our politics polarize into factions unable to compromise because they no longer share a common world.

This problem probably will work itself out, somehow sometime. I do not see how. Probably painfully.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See the links at the pages About the quiet coup in America and Reforming America: steps to new politics. Also see the other posts in this series…

  1. Describing the problem: Politics in modern America: A users’ guide for journalists and reformers.
  2. The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions.
  3. We cannot agree on simple facts and so cannot reform America.
  4. American politics is a fun parade of lies, for which we pay dearly.
  5. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda.
  6. Important advice: Learning skepticism, an essential skill for citizenship in 21st century America. About “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”.
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59 thoughts on “The secret, simple tool that persuades Americans. That molds our opinions.

  1. The reference for this area is Edward Bernay’s Propaganda: How the Media Molds Your Mind written in the 1920s, available for free as an ePub eBook. He invented the terms PR (Public Relations) and PR Consultant. He was instrumental in devising the strategy and tactics required to brainwash the American people into convincing them that the “Huns” were evil and that all patriotic Americans should help in the WWI effort. This was needed

    • as more Americans were of German than Anglo-Saxon origin and
    • Washington’s Farewell Address admonishing the Americans to avoid foreign entanglements, particularly in Europe, had become the policy of the US government.

    .
    .
    FM Note: It is available for download from the invaluable Pirate Bay.

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    1. Let’s all guess if Steve from VA read more than the title!

      Or perhaps he just has a low level of reading comprehension.

      I vote for … both!

      (Steve, try reading the post again, but more slowly. Vocalize if necessary. Tell us if section Five here has too many big words for you, and I will say it again in simpler terms.)

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    2. Follow-up to Steve from VA

      (1). The active writers of a skeptical Science are not climate scientists, although they often write as if they are. Some write as if they are Popes of Science, better than climate scientists. Some are students in relative fields.

      Try reading articles of actual practicing climate scientists: RealClimate, Climate Etc, or better yet the IPCC website.

      (2) Who argues against “climate change”?

      There are debates about causes of climate change (I.e., relative weights of the various factors). There are debates about the past magnitudes of different kinds of climate change. There are debates about forecasts.

      To phrase it as you did demonstrates near-zero knowledge of this important issue.

      (3) Pointing to a large website as evidence is like pointing to the library. It is a silly gesture. It means nothing.

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    3. Wow, I guess you are uncomfortable talking about propaganda so let’s move on to something else.

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    4. Dealbert,

      You are referring to Steve’s propaganda, that everything in Steve’s comment was false?

      Every single detail. Quite impressive, in its own way, as a demonstration of the Big Lie inaction!

      But I did talk about it. So I don’t understand your comment. Can you explain?

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    5. ” I guess you are uncomfortable talking about propaganda so let’s move on to something”

      Shorter version of my post: our gullibility has grown so great as to imperil much that we value. Time to take the gloves off when dealing with it.

      Tolerating slanderous lies that poison discussion of vital public policy issues are a luxury we can no longer afford. No matter if they’re circulated by well-meaning gullible people. This is a classic example, of the sort that Goebbels would have been proud of: “All of the arguments against climate change come from the fossil fuel, auto and related industries and their paid shills.”

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  2. Climate is always changing on many different timescales. Ice ages are somewhat regular fluctuations that cycle over timescales of 10’s of thousands of years. The last one ended about 15 thousand years ago with Canada buried under a mile of ice. It was dated from carbon-14 analysis of wood.

    In that last thousand years we have fairly good documentation on the medieval warm period and the little ice age when the canals of Holland and the British Thames froze solid.

    In the last 100 years we have seen predictions of a new ice age (circa 1914 and circa 1975), as well as anthropogenic global warming fast enough to submerge cities from melting ice sheets (Hansen’s GISS).

    I’m certainly not going to deny that the climate changes, but what portion of that change is attributable to anthropogenic causes? Gore seems to have started a cult of AGW that blames side-effects of modern energy usage patterns. Michael Crichton compares the state of mind to a religion where the original sin is altering the climate.

    To me, its similar to Aztec ceremonies as a means of population control. The Aztec priests that knew enough math to predict eclipses, and used the predictions to threaten the masses with hellfire if they did not recommit to their religion during an artfully timed revival, scripted to put the eclipse and emotional crescendo to maximum effect.

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    1. There are very few climate scientists who do not believe that much of the warming results from anthropogenic causes. That is the basis of the polls — quoted like a mantra — that 97% (or whatever) of scientists believe in “global warming”.

      It is a minor question — however useful it is for propaganda.

      More interesting would be a poll asking how much of the warming has been caused by anthropogenic factors, over specific timescales. Judging by the literature, that would show a greater diversity of views.

      Such a poll would, I am certain, show a very large consensus that believes that anthropogenic factors have driven most of the warming since the 1950s. That is the basis of reports by the major climate agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, the UK Met, and the IPCC. This consensus rests on a massive basis body of data and research.

      Climate forecasts are, of course, less certain than attribution of past weather. Especially the forecasts of a thousand or more years ahead that have produced the latest set of scary headlines (Florida to be submerged!). However I am certain that a large consensus of climate scientists believe that future warming is extremely likely. The is a large variation in the specific forecasts of timing and magnitudes.

      All of this paints a more complex picture than that given by climate activists, who with the news media’s assistance have worked to confuses these issues (facts are the enemy of propaganda). Recent articles about the pause in major publications — esp British ones (eg, Daily News, BBC, the Economist) — suggest this is changing. For the better.

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  3. “The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.”

    The key words are the last and greatest ect..

    Some big lies are so powerful that they define an entire political and moral mindset. They describe exclusionary worlds, beautiful illusions that liberate there believers from reality.

    Example above, read to anyone other than an certain segment (a large segment) of the American public, and Margret Thatcher, this would promote gales of laughter.

    Read to the aforementioned American, it would promote no rational thought, but seize at a deeply emotional cord, comprising old testament religion, civic religion, and many other layers of american exceptionalism layered carefully over the centuries.

    America is not unique (as much as it wants to be..), the national narrative exists in all counties that become nation states, and usually forms the meta big lie in our unconscious mind.

    What differs with Americas proto big lie, is that as the only thoroughly legitimate nation, it finds it harder to learn from others.
    .
    .
    FM Note: the quote is from Reagan’s First Inaugural speech.
    http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres61.html

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    1. Merocaine,

      That’s a great observation. In how many developed nations do political leaders speak in that grand manner to the public? I don’t know, but my guess is quite few.

      And I am one of those Americans that respond to such words.

      More broadly, we speak to each other that way. The FM website is littered with such language (not having Peggy Noonan on our writing team, nothing as good as Reagan’s speeches).

      Is this a strength or weakness? My guess: it depends on our vision and wisdom. Even the greatest words result in folly for fools.

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  4. Well I would say Fabius, you are cursed with eloquent fore bearers, who’s great triumphs
    hold a mirror to our current shrunken state. The difference between you and peggy, is that you believe more than pretty words are necessary. Your sentiments are lofty, but so is your belief that only continual engagement and had work at the margin will yield profit. Peggy spun sweet words which feed dreams and egos, you force us to look at the reality of our world.

    As for how many other countries do that in there political discourse? I struggle to think of many… eh the soviet union? The British in the 19th century… Maybe the Chinese?

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  5. This entire article is agitprop. An attempt to take possession of Soviet (and more specifically Frankfurt School) propaganda methodology, Marxist political behavioral methods and general propaganda and spin it to mask left wing participation.

    But of course you know this because you are a sociopath.

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    1. Jonathan,

      I must confess that your comment makes no sense to me. Not that means you are wrong, of course.

      Can you provide some additional detail, more explanation for us?

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    2. My “Ẅow” comment above meant that “steve from virginia” tried to change the subject by talking about climate change, itself inadvertently propaganda, rather than have an adult conversation about propaganda, its effects and examples in history, especially US history because, unfortunately, Americans are the people who are most susceptible to it. I lived in France and I can tell you the French, while patriotic/nationalistic, don’t swallow the lies told by their government.

      Jonathan, on the other hand, disturbed and unable to digest the truth throws out accusations, which are trying to deny the general brainwashing of Americans. Unlike you, Fabius, I grew up in the US and am spending my adulthood outside it. Living outside the US is akin to “stepping outside the cave” (Plato).

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Dealbert,

      Thanks for the explanation!

      As a parochial American, I wonder about politics in other nations. Are we exceptional? If so, to what degree and how much?

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    4. Johnathan.. You hit the nail on the head. You have shown that if you hit a nail hard enough and long enough you can drive it into the wood so deep you can’t get it out again. Keep up the good work.

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  6. As a “contrarian” from our blog also on wordpress ” The contrary perspective” I enjoy FM’s tart responses to respondees. That is a level discourse to which American’s no longer really comprehend. As a survivor of the Great Depression and the really great war II I have seen discourse in our country decline to a virtual zero. FM’s article on “propaganda and the big lie’ are at the core of this decline. How often do we hear the words “the good guys ( us , the police, the army,) vs. the bad guys ( every body who isn’t us) no in between. ” You are with us or you are against us”. This binary thinking permeates our politics and our simplistic outlook. Life is lived in the GRAY area, not the black or white area. b. traven

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Traven,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      My replies are written in haste, which often shows in their intemperate nature. Especially to big lies, endlessly repeated — to which I know my rebuttals are ignored. As with climate alarmists, who run from science like vampires from holy water.

      Their love of lies would be of little import, like arguing with creationists or clients of astrologers — except that this gullibility has grown IMO to endanger the Republic. Powerful special interest groups in America have learned to exploit it with great effectiveness.

      So my replies are intemperate not just due to haste, but my awareness of their impotence. Losing is not fun, esp since America is not a game.

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  7. FM. In your opening section you make the statement “In dynamic societies effectiveness trumps all other considerations” That is a statement that one can agree with easily. But the context of that paragraph confuses me as to what you really meant . Are you reaffirming that we are an “effective” society and therefore we will solve our current problems or are you warning us that unless we can again become an “effective”society the problems will worsen. Could you elucidate?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Traven,

      That’s a great question, highlighting an important but unclear point in this post.

      My view, which I’ve written about in several posts (links available upon request), is that we are an effective society. That is, we adapt effectively to change in our world. But that’s an amoral, or morally-neutral sense.

      The Roman Republic’s death and replacement by the Empire was probably effective. The Republic had become dsyfunctional, and the Empire lasted for 5 centuries. But the Empire was not run in the interest of its subjects, even to the marginal degree the Republic was for its citizens.

      Similarly the replacement of the American Second Republic (founded on the Constitution) by a plutocracy might mean increased efficiency in some senses — perhaps in terms of economics, or global power. But the new regime will not run for the benefit of its subjects — which the post-ww2 Republic clearly was, as seen by the growth of the middle class and expanding rights of previously oppressed groups.

      Efficiency is not everything. As citizens it is our job to steer the Republic, guided by a larger set of goals. It is our responsibility; when we surrender it to others (by conquest, sloth, or whatever) the Republic has died.

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  8. FM.. thank you for your prompt answer to my question. Your answer is exquisitely ambiguous and yet helped me see your point. I must also thank you for enlightening me on Roman history. My middle brother , who I never considered very ‘political’ , said to me 25 years ago that our country reminded him of the Roman Empire, to which I replied as the older, wiser, more political brother that he was full of crap. I wish he were alive today so that I could apologize. Thank you FM for educating me.
    I don’t know how old you are but if you have lived through all I have you might have the same apocalyptic view of where our country is today. The McCarthy era looks like child’s play in repressive politics to what I observe today in this country. At that time we still had a number ifnational political figures in both parties who put the constitution and the rule of law before their own personal interests. Today we have one party of sheer ignorance and one of virtually total careerists. Only a handful are ready to sacrifice their ‘jobs’ for the rule of law. Look at yesterdays vote where the Democratic party leadership voted to sustain the most repressive legislation since the Sedition acts of a century ago.
    In my opinion this is a hole so deep that only great suffering and time will get us out of it if at all. Maybe it is Empire uber alles. b. traven

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    1. Traven,

      “Your answer is exquisitely ambiguous”

      It would be quite helpful to me if you would explain what was ambiguous about my answer. It was brief, as suited for a comment. I can provide links to posts that explain this in more detail — if useful to you.

      “for enlightening me on Roman history.”

      It’s a common analogy. Like all historical analogies, it is to spark insights about today rather than point to exact correspondences. Right from the Founding Rome was considered as an example for us — and a warning.

      “but if you have lived through all I have you might have the same apocalyptic view of where our country is today.”

      I understand, I think, why you say this. However, I don’t consider my view as “apocalyptic”. I see the possibility — or even probability — of a change in owners for America. Life will go on. Just that the juice from our work will flow ever more strongly to the 1%.

      “In my opinion this is a hole so deep that only great suffering and time will get us out of it if at all.”

      I don’t see things that way. The hole is quite shallow. The problem lies, IMO, with our comfort in the hope — and our apathy. We could easily change the course of America should we wish to do so. Believe that we are weak is both a symptom of our apathy and excuse for our inaction. The path of reform begins with getting Americans to look at “the man in the mirror”.

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    2. Your first question. …I have lived through VERY extreme times, the pre war depression followed by three years of our wartime army. I also am a student of history.I have seen how out of control authoritarian governments do not merely offer “different” ways for their citizens to live but can kill and eviscerate their lives. The horror of the knock on the door. This has led me to feel that the changes we are seeing now are not just another way of rule but the front door to totalitarianism. From your answers below I see you do not have this apocalyptic view and that I detected in your answer initially and why i referred to it as “ambiguous”. .

      Your last comment is ” the hole ( our current situation ) is quite shallow”. I would hope you are correct but I have found in my life that in difficult situations it is prudent to plan for the worst outcome whilst working for a better outcome.

      I would strongly disagree with your statement that “life will go on” with the implication that it will just be a financial transaction with the 1% getting more. If you haven’t haven’t lived ‘dirt poor’, lost your home, and your parents, as a child that is easy to say but that is the price that many people in our country are now paying . Their life isn’t “just going on” and I know this from my experience in 1937 and today isn’t that different except we didn’t have TV then to brainwash us. We did have a President though who, although not perfect, was a leader and was able to decisively bring the 1% under control rather than compromise with them.

      I would recommend Alfred Doblin’s trilogy on the immediate post WW I Germany’s transition that saw the rise of the Wiemar Republic.,through the deal with Prussian militarists that destroyed the left opposition and established the seeds for 1933. BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ; ROSA AND KARL; & THE BETRAYAL. I am sure you are familiar with Upton Sinclair’s IT CAN HAPPEN HERE. It really can. b. traven

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    3. Traven,

      I appreciate the perspective you bring to this discussion!

      “Your last comment is ” the hole ( our current situation ) is quite shallow”. I would hope you are correct but I have found in my life that in difficult situations it is prudent to plan for the worst outcome whilst working for a better outcome.”

      Everybody needs word to live by. Those are mine. Plan for the worst; hope to be pleasantly surprised.

      “I would strongly disagree with your statement that “life will go on” with the implication that it will just be a financial transaction with the 1% getting more. If you haven’t haven’t lived ‘dirt poor’, lost your home, and your parents, as a child that is easy to say but that is the price that many people in our country are now paying .”

      That is exactly how America has been run since the Civil War. That is the story of the Little House on the Prairie” books. That is the story of the Okies, the Native Americans, the slaves from Africa and their descendants, the blue collar workers is Detroit, and a thousand other groups. We are used to it, and accept the ill treatment.

      Th New Deal and WW2 were a break in this pattern. But reversion to the mean is a Law in sociology like Gravity in physics.

      What happens next? It is up to us.

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  9. FM.. You have a refreshingly long view of things and in our short exchanges your comments have given me a few insights into my own views. You are exactly correct that until the new Deal and WW II this was a very unfair and inhospitable country. for many citizens. I could give you many personal accounts.

    I just really started to wake up after the war. At eighteen, in 1942 I did not know how long I might live. By 1945 a whole new world opened up for my generation. Your comments put in perspective the new world in this country that was fundamentally different from the pre war world. It was a society of really free people who were given a helping hand by their government. One could always get a job and with unions a living wage. A country where the government would give young men like me who had served the country either 52 weeks of unemployment money, a $10,000 low interest loan to buy a house, or the GI bill to pay for a college education. A political system where, in both political parties, one could find many individuals who were intelligent, socially conscious, and unflinchingly dedicated to making the U.S. a better place not just ‘careerists”. . As the years went by the the haters, the empire builders, and the corporatists gained more power, until today they rule the roost in both partys , the judicial ,and the bureaucracy . We are in a very deep hole.
    I want that immediate post war world and that country back. It wasn’t perfect but it was changeable.

    I do not accept that because it “was” that bad before that we have to go back to it. Yes, it is “up to us” but grabbing it back from those greedy and now very powerful forces will only involve a real disruption that will have unknown consequences. The electoral system that from its inception was fundamentally unfair is now moving back to the bad old days.

    Don’t “hope to be pleasantly surprised” ,WORK towards that pleasanter world. We have seen from this president’s words that “hope” is just a word or a slogan that can can mean just the continuation of past. b. traven

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    1. “I do not accept that because it “was” that bad before that we have to go back to it.”

      Quite so.

      “Yes, it is up to us but grabbing it back from those greedy and now very powerful forces will only involve a real disruption that will have unknown consequences.”

      Given the difficulty of the task, and how today it appears almost impossible, I suggest worrying about the consequences is premature.

      “Don’t hope to be pleasantly surprised, WORK towards that pleasanter world.”

      Here you touch upon the core of the problem. You cannot exhort people to work toward ends they do not seek. Today Americans are quite comfortable with the emerging New America; there is little interest in working to restore the old regime or a Third Republic. Rebuilding a desire for self-government, a willingness to pay any price for it, is the core task.

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  10. FM .. Gee, even in Cal I was ready to hit the sack but had to make this last reply.

    Last paragraph. I agree and disagree. You, I, and others are working to change attitudes. But we are the comfortable ones. There is an increasing mass of younger people, who we no longer have direct touch with, who are beginning to feel the crunch. They are very anxious about the future. They have been raised to believe that things will always get better and when they see that the reverse is true they will recalculate.
    They will be an explosive force as oppression drives them to that “willingness to pay any price”, which they will see as cheaper than the price they are paying for a dismal future. All polls show that most citizens are neither confident in our democracy ( congress and president) nor the economy. They are hurting now and very aware of that. At some point because both parties are driving the hearse to the graveyard the people will realize the system is totally broken and there will be unrest that leads to more repression and that will lead to the beast showing its fangs. Syria started with peaceful demonstrations but the people started paying the price when the government wouldn’t bend.
    Things will move faster today than in the past. Our economy is gutted and only the ghost stock market and a few industries are perking up but hopelessness is out there is vast quantities. It may take a year, it may take 4-5 years but the people will arise and the price will be high and a tragedy for the once great democracy. we had

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    1. “Our economy is gutted and only the ghost stock market and a few industries are perking up but hopelessness is out there is vast quantities.”

      I do not believe that is an accurate statement. Most industries are doing just fine. Business profits are at record highs and growing. Business leverage is down from peak levels. Most are investing again, although not in fixed structures, at high levels.

      Employment is growing. Household leverage is down by all measures. Income is rising, albeit slowly.

      The underclass is suffering, and perhaps growing (I’m uncertain of that; it’s difficult to measure). But revolutions very seldom (ie, probably never) start from the bottom — not even the Medievel Peasants Protests.

      Compare us to the periphery of Europe, in their 4th year a severe recession. Yet despite their condition worse than ours by every metric, the consequences you foresee have not (yet) manifested themselves.

      What is the missing element? Perhaps a leadership cadre. Our moderately meritocratic society might successfully coopt potential leaders of revolts. Perhaps its an alternative vision of society; we might lack the charismatic leader to imagine a new order of things.

      Lots of questions. Few answers. Guesses will not help. Extensive research, deep thought, and creativity might show us a path to a better future.

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  11. FM… I guess we live in two alternate worlds. The world I live in is one in which the manufacturing sector of our economy is eviscerated with heavy metal and plastic and other consumer goods, electronics, tools, etc. manufacturing going to China, clothing to Bangladesh, Malaysia, etc., call centers to India, cars to Japan and Germany,furniture to Korea, god knows where, and on and on.

    The world I Iive in has the citizens of many European countries in the streets more and more frequently. jn Spain, Greece, France, et al. Not yet revolutionary but very concerned. Even the Chinese people are beginning to hit the streets. And certainly the Arabs are in it big time There is no resurgence of domestic manufacturing showing itself soon. The only sign I have seen recently was buying a GE ” hybred water heater” with a small heat pump on top that had been made in China but product problems forced GE to move production back to Louisville.

    The stock market is a fantasy world for the rich, not a barometer of the health of our economy. I have done well, but it is on the back of either the tech sector or corporations who are pushing domestic wages down whilst increasing overseas investments and hiding the profits from our tax system.

    The ‘official’ unemployment rate is hovering around 7+% which is almost double of what economists have for years accepted as a ‘healthy’ rate. That figure does not account for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, who have given up looking and add to that the new entries into the job market. Our real rate of unemployment is probably around 12-15%. Incidentally, the unemployment rate amongst the young is much higher than the overall figure. That spells danger.

    The “underclass”? that is a pretty offensive word to use in what is supposed to be the country that is the ‘beacon’ of democracy.

    The one thing I agree with in your comments is that revolutions start from the top. But those children of the ‘top’ are now simmering in our country and will again, like during the vietnam War, start to appear. The fact of a well spoken black president has confused them. I do not feel we will suffer a ‘revolution’ unless the elite decide to duke it out with citizenry protest ( as there is evidence that they will) . I hope our little experiment in democracy survives ,but in my world it looks pretty dark right now. b. traven

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Traven,

      Annecdata and personal observations are almost useless to determine the state if the world. This comes up frequently in discussions of climate and economics. That is why we have – and can rely on – scientifically organized collections of data.

      Manufacturing in the US is doing fine. Exports have been growing for decades, both in dollars and % of GDP. Like farming, automation has reduced the number of jobs. Throwing our shoes into the machines will not stop that trend.

      There is no “real” measure of unemployment — or any economic metric. The BLS has six measures, depending on what you want to measure. All are down from the levels during the recession. All are substantially down from peak levels during the past 40 years. For details see
      https://fabiusmaximus.com/2013/07/05/jobs-employment-52204/

      My point was NOT that we live in paradise, merely that your description was exaggerated. Inaccurate. As a group (nation, society) we are in better shape than during any recession — and during many periods since ww2. We are much better off than any of the EU periphery. US growth is faster than that of most developed nations since the crash.

      Emotional, overheated, inaccurate rhetoric is deadweight in an effort to reform America, IMO. It is a fun luxury we cannot accord. Only the clearest vision will find a path to a better future.

      Is the term “underclass” offensive? Report me to the language Gestapo. It is accurate, reflecting the increasing growth of class divisions in America. That is what I care about. Much of New America I find offensive. So what?

      Like

  12. I am commenting about your remark : “As a parochial American, I wonder about politics in other nations. Are we exceptional? If so, to what degree and how much?”

    There are two points here. One is: To what extent does US behavior resemble the behavior of other countries? Was the US ever exceptional and, if so, is it still or if not, when did it cease to be?

    Since this is your blog, I am not going to go into a long comment detailing a complete answer to these questions. In the limited space to which a commenter is “entitled” I can only mention a few egregious examples.

    I’ll tackle the second question first. If you look at the Founding Fathers of the US, I think, despite their imperfections (slave-ownership, etc.) the US was lucky to be endowed with the quality of their leadership and on the basis of what they did and wrote, you can say that the US was exceptional.

    To my mind, the US became “un pays comme les autres” (just another country) to paraphrase a friend from France,. with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts. It continued in this vein with the War of 1812, which by American brainwashing was a draw, but, in fact, was won by the British as the prime US aim was the conquest of British North America, which the US failed to do.

    As an aside, if you wonder how Chamberlain thought he could appease Hitler, the answer is that the British subsequent to that war practised a policy of appeasing the US in general. So appeasement of the US was a policy that worked for the British for some 125+ years.

    Another example of US misconduct related to its colonial history.

    If you ever read Hannah Arendt’s __The Origin of Toltalitarianism__ or Pynchon’s __V__ for that matter, you would recall her discussion of the German pre-WW I concentration camps and massacre of the Herero and Noma peoples of German South-West Africa (Namibia) . Her thesis was that imperial powers that massacred native peoples abroad and got away with it could become totalitarian and do the same later at home. (There is also the British doing the same with the Boers.)

    Meanwhile at the same time the US was doing the same in the Philippines. A Congressional Committee documents the bodies floating down rivers and the concentration camps. I was arguing with Filipinos in Canada and the US who couldn’t — and wouldn’t — believe it yet it is documented in the hearings of a congressional committee!

    Ultimately, I am afraid, people believe what they want to believe. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. FM.. Since we are looking for facts please let us know exactly what ” Manufacturing” in the US is doing fine..”

    Even Apples, from the fast growing tech sector are manufactured in China. We are putting up a new section to the Bay bridge and the big steel columns have all been manufactured in China. That is not anecdotal, those are substantial industries that once fed our middle class. I helped put myself through college as a union steelworker in Gary. Now look for a big steel mill in Pittsburgh or Gary, once the two biggest steel producing cities in the US.

    Where we are doing fine is letting the banks sell bad paper to other countries and our naive city & state governments. We are also doing fine in the generally low paid service sector which doesn’t manufacture anything. What cars we sell are brands made elsewhere not domestically.

    Like

    1. Traven,

      I feel a wave of futility washing over me. If this is like most comment threads (thousands of them on the FM website) I can pour out facts in an endless stream without affecting your views to the slightest degree. Americans today believe what they want, and either run away when confronted with contrary evidence — or respond by changing to subject to still more disinformation. Let’s see what happens here.

      Your example — Apple — is daft. China is Apples fastest growing markets, and one of their largest. That they are building local manufacturing there does not mean that US manufacturing is in decline. It’s a big world, and for a century to prosper US companies have been building factories abroad to tap these markets.

      I’ll just give two numbers to illustrate my point:

      US manufacturing sales have grown during the past two decades from $377 billion in 1992 to $483 B today (both in current dollars). That’s a growth rate of 1.2%, not bad since most of our growth has been in services (eg, software, entertainment).

      Exports of goods have grown from 3.1% of GDP in 1951 (under 4% for the early 1950s) to 9.6% of GDP today. That means exports of goods have grown faster than the rest of the US economy for 60+ years.

      Like

    2. FM.. Thank you. You have just made my case.
      “Not bad since most of of our growth has been in software and services” . That ain’t manufacturing!
      Let’s avoid a discussion of whether software or entertainment is manufacturing. The cost and value is in the content not the plastic.

      I believe I said that in my earlier comments. We are very fortunate in the Bay area being in the center of this growth but even here the unemployment rate is too high.

      Apple manufactures in China, not because of the Chinese market but because of the very low cost of manufacture. Their profits are obscene for that reason. They can do it because their products have been so innovative and desirable and their marketing top notch. As a result their sales are robust world wide and show up as good figures on fed compilations but have a miniscule effect on the domestic economy. It is only felt in the central hdqtrs. here in Northern Cal. On top of that Apple has found a way to avoid taxes big time and now is under pressure for that. b. traven

      * unless I didn’t understand the figures you present

      Like

    3. “Let’s avoid a discussion of whether software or entertainment is manufacturing. …”

      Software and entertainment are quite obviously not manufacturing. Why would you think such a thing?

      These two fields have been, however, large growth engines for the US — while manufacturing continues slow steady growth. Like agriculture, these are large stable aspects of the US economy.

      Let’s more away from stories (eg, your use of Apple), which are just making stuff up. Can you provide any data to support your drastic assertions?

      As I said, this thread looks to follow most threads down the chute. Facts are unable to quench people’s views, one reason the 1% continues to win. Let’s see if this will be an excerption.

      Like

  14. FM.. Lets not get our britches knotted over this discussion. Be a gentleman. You remind me of my wife’s constant complaint about the way I go for the jugular when I get in a political discussion with friends. That is good, particularly now when people can be really stupid. Anyway neither of us are stupid, OK?

    The other point I want to make involves your statement above that:: ” It’s a big world and for a century, to prosper, US companies have been building factories abroad to tap these markets.”

    The significant push for off shore production came hand in glove with loosened restrictions on imports and federal boosts for moving manufacturing off shore that started in about the 70’s.
    The first big off shore moves were into South Korea, I know this well having done a UN mission there in the early 80’s and having a client in this country who was shifting their production of fishing equipment to Korea. There was absolutely no interest on our clients part in selling in Korea. (market too small and too poor) It was to use the spread between US prices for their brand and the cheaper labor costs in Korea to increase profits. While on my Korean mission I saw NIke, and many other American companies manufacturing there.

    As corporations began to see that they could maintain their brand share and reduce costs with government blessings ( in many forms) and thus increase profit they began a rush to the bottom for reduced labor costs. Mexico, India, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, etc followed This was sold to the American public as helping third world economies. Who could oppose that?

    Then along came China with an authoritarian government and a fully controlled central economy and they got virtually all of it. Now they are the second largest economy in the world with our blessing and machinery and we are sucking hind tit.

    So, is this a long way from your original post on the “big lie”. NO! it supports your central thesis that you can sell any idea, even if it hurts people, if you repeat it long enough. And we have bought that lie about global trade and it is hurting us.

    Like

    1. Traven,

      OK, so this did follow the same course as the previous thousand threads. Modern Americans have their beliefs, and are unwilling to change them in response to contrary data.

      That’s one reason the 1% is winning. And perhaps that is for the best, if we are unwilling to make the effort to govern ourselves — one aspect of which is updating our beliefs to the real world.

      “Lets not get our britches knotted over this discussion. Be a gentleman.”

      Everybody gets to have their false or even delusional beliefs respected. After all, we are all just peons! What difference does it make what we believe, so long as we push the correct buttons at work?

      “You remind me of my wife’s constant complaint about the way I go for the jugular when I get in a political discussion with friends.”

      If it is the same sort of falsehoods and evasions as you show here, then please give her my sympathy. Confident aggressive adherence to falsehoods is depressing to observers.

      “That is good, particularly now when people can be really stupid.

      It’s not a matter of smart or stupid (aka intelligence or education). It’s a matter of values. I value truth over personal beliefs. So far as I can tell, that’s a rare thing in America today. Good news for the 1%.

      An effect reform movement will have sterner requirements than chats in a pub or on a website. Failure is the cost of false beliefs. Giving up cherished beliefs will be the ante.

      Ae you willing to play?

      Like

  15. FM .. I don’t understand. Exactly what “falsehoods” are you referring to? Please name them and I will be happy to answer.

    I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity in my professional life to wear many coats. Through my consulting company I have had insights into many very big and medium sized American businesses and through UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) in countries like So. Korea, Chile, Jamaica, and the Arab States (AIDO) in Morocco. I believe, in the subjects we have been examining together , These insights, not inventions have provided me with personal knowledge, not opinion, that add to the search for truth. If you wish to call them “beliefs’ because you do not agree with them that is your loss.

    I enjoy your site and am disappointed that behind your broad view of developments in our country, which I appreciate, lies an individual who seems to brook no difference of opinion. b. traven

    Like

    1. Traven:

      “Exactly what “falsehoods” are you referring to? Please name them and I will be happy to answer.”

      I will list two.

      (1) “Our economy is gutted and only the ghost stock market and a few industries are perking up”

      Totally false. BTW- the stock market has gone up because corporate earnings have risen, both now at record highs.

      When I asked for specifics you said:

      (2) “I guess we live in two alternate worlds. The world I live in is one in which the manufacturing sector of our economy is eviscerated”

      I live in the real world in which manufacturing is doing OK. I presented two important data series showing that, and asked you for data supporting your view. You bailed, saying it’s not “gentleman-like” to counter disinformation about the US economy.

      I disagree with that, also.

      Like

    2. Traven,

      “which I appreciate, lies an individual who seems to brook no difference of opinion. ”

      That’s not accurate, in several ways.

      (1) Attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” You made specific statements about the current state US economy, which is closely measured by a wide range of government, NGO, and private experts.

      Your statements were not matters of opinion, but facts.

      (2) You have not presented any substantive evidence to support your assertions.

      As I have said so many times, this is not a pub (as are so many websites) — where everybody gets to spout off without hinderance. We deal with serious topics here, searching for truth.

      It’s often not a pretty process. It involves challenging each other. Not everybody can take the heat.

      (3) Many people have proven my views wrong. I acknowledge that, and credit the big ones on the Smackdowns.
      https://fabiusmaximus.com/about/smackdowns/

      Like

    3. Traven,

      I am breaking my reply into segments, since your reply covers different subjects.

      This is the weakest aspect of your reply.

      “These insights, not inventions have provided me with personal knowledge, not opinion, that add to the search for truth.”

      You made specific statements about things which are measured. I cannot imagine why you believe a statement of your background should override clear quantitative data. My guess is that you offer this claim of expertise in lieu of actual supporting evidence.

      Face palm.

      Like

    4. Traven-

      You raise an important methodological point. One that comes up frequently on the FM website.

      These insights, not inventions have provided me with personal knowledge, not opinion, that add to the search for truth.”

      I totally agree. Your comments cover a lot of ground, and many of your statements are ones of belief. Many of those concern things I cannot reliably evaluate.

      How does one evaluate your comment? Nod and move on? It sounds nice, so applaud? I seek testable specifics, such as your comment about manufacturing. If the details are not accurate, that provides readers a basis on which to evaluate the rest.

      So your assertions about the US economy were only a small part of your comments. But they were a testable part. Think of this as taking a sliver of a gold bar for testing. We apply the result to the entire bar, however harsh a judgement.

      Like

    5. FM.. Ah you tax my patience. Why are your ‘facts’ real facts and others facts not real? If you are trying to rely on govt. statistics about the health of our economy you should think twice. Why after the virtual total collapse of our banking system did all those, from the than president to the Secy of the Treasury imply that they were taken by surprise or that there was nothing to worry about ? They were collecting data all along that road to disaster.

      You write a great column on government lies and follow that by drinking their kool aid. Like you there is no skepticism from the government about the economy getting better. Recalculate!

      I understand your skepticism over some yahoo who comes on strong on the internet as though he knows a lot. Unfortunately that is one of the downsides of this kind of impersonal communication that we are getting used to.

      You consistently fail to answer directly the questions I raised with you above, yet you want me to deal with your skepticism. You look at the world somewhat differently from me. Join the crowd.
      I even get that from some of my kids. There are very few like me left around and believe me it makes me feel alone. You will just have to work a bit harder in examining my logic and arguments to see if they stand the test of time. I am not right all of the time but I have hit 51% and that is why at 89 I have the luxury of still trying to change minds, even my kids. b. traven

      Like

    6. “You consistently fail to answer directly the questions I raised with you above,”

      Beause it would obviously be a waste of time. I have done thousands of these threads. As you have seen here, they tend to be as predictable as the tides. The disbelief in economic statistics is also a clear tell (and absurd; the data comes from too many sources to be substantially tilted).

      However, I will explain a bit more. Not that it will have any effect on you, but it might be read by others.

      There are two obvious ways for your to respond after being called on your claim that the US economy was “gutted”. I have done both (unlike your false claim that I don’t accept other opinions).

      (1) “Whoops, I exggerated.” Happens to all of us.

      (2) “Thanks, I didn’t know that.” This type of error is easy to make in economics, with the massive floods of misinformatino and disinformation washing over us. My most serious error on the FM website was like this: belief that the US had a high level of social mobility. That was in 2009; that and similar mistakes have made me more careful.

      It’s not the mistake, but the defense that gets people off the path, into deep water. Worse, it prevents the most important mode of learning. I have learned much from my mistakes. I’m probably not the only one to do so.

      Like

  16. FM.. Gee.”The economy is gutted ” that’s not worth getting knickers into a knot over. Why is your opinion of that statement’s veracity a truth and my opinion a “falsehood”? They are both opinions that I am sure both of us can find support for with economists, so we disagree. No big deal. I would like you to be right but I am hedging my bets because I think I will be.

    Manufacturing? Well according to the statistic you submitted to buttress your argument the bulk of the $483 billion was due to “software. service and entertainment.” Than later, when I raised the question of the fact that they are not manufacturing , you agreed that those were not manufacturing . So you were minimally correct and I was majorly right. I do not look at that as a great victory. Its just part of a discussion to arrive at understanding. I see no falsehoods in any of this nor do I see it as belief vs. fact. Would you agree?

    You are trying to help by expanding your readers minds and are dong a good job at it.
    that is why I started reading you. LIke all of us, you can always learn more. Don’t fight it. b.traven

    PS Many years ago someone told me that you only have to be ‘right’ 51% of the time to be successful. It sort of worked out that way for me. Try it.

    Like

    1. “Well according to the statistic you submitted to buttress your argument the bulk of the $483 billion was due to “software. service and entertainment.”

      Reading FAIL.

      I said nothing remotely like that. It was your misinterpretation, and quite an odd one. Who thinks entertainment is manufacturing?

      “Than later, when I raised the question of the fact that they are not manufacturing , you agreed that those were not manufacturing”

      Reading FAIL.

      As I said, we examine small claims to test for veracity of large ones.

      Like

    1. I wondered about that. It is difficult to tell.

      This is why so many websites have either closed comments or severely limit them.

      As they say, trolls are one of the reasons we cannot have good things.

      Like

  17. Its a deep troll, playing the long game. I think he even profiled you to see what kind of character you would have the most patience with, lets see one one the greatest generation TM…

    Like

  18. The truth, which you wish to uphold in political discourse is often nuanced and has a range of opinions in the details, even when the bigger picture is generally agreed upon. Unfortunately, this nuanced discussion leaves lay people confused (possibly due to the nature of reporting) and does not persuade them to change their behaviour.

    Take climate change as an example: in general most scientists agree that there has been a degree of warming over various timespans. The degree and the time is under debate. Let us assume that the behaviour of the population in general needs to change. Should they be presented with the truth, even if this does not produce a change in behaviour or should they be presented with a (white) lie to produce a change in behaviour that benefits everyone?

    Secondly, given that the tactic is so effective, I can’t see either side giving it up voluntarily. You will get a prisoners dilemma style situation whereby the side that stops telling big lies will lose out to an opponent that continues to lie.

    However, I applaud your stand on principles, even if I consider them inpractical.

    Like

    1. DV Williams,

      You give a compelling version of the standard wisdom. However, I believe events have proven it to be false, for easily understood reasons.

      “Should they be presented with the truth, even if this does not produce a change in behaviour or should they be presented with a (white) lie to produce a change in behaviour that benefits everyone?”

      Life is not a single round game. After 60 years of using your logic, the government has burned off its credibility.

      It’s a shock to read accounts from the 1930s and see how people trusted statements of government leaders. FDR’s fireside chats, Churchill’s speeches show a frank honesty rare today. Ditto the public statements of WW2 generals like Stillwell and Arnold early in the war. “We took a beating, and had better go back and even the score.” “We took a licking. We are going back tomorrow.” (From memory, but roughly correct).

      Now people assume lies. The failure of this tactic is seen in the climate change crusade, run by the Left to gain support for otherwise unpopular policies to increase governments’ control over the economy. After 15 years of one of the most intense propaganda barrages in US peacetime history, what have they to show for it?

      “White lies” are lies. People are not fools.

      Like

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