Summary: After scores of posts attempting to discover the core of America’s problems, recent events highlight one candidate — we don’t see the same world. It makes us easy to rule. We are a gift to the 1%. And the clock’s running out on us.
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, not his own facts.”
— Attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
- In an oligarchy every peon has their own facts.
- Why citizens need clear vision.
- For More Information.
(1) In an oligarchy everyone can have their own facts.
”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
— From “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush” by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.
When starting the FM website I thought we’d present facts that would provoke debate in the comments about their interpretation and analysis, and the resulting recommendations. People would express their different values and forecasts as we ran through the OODA loop, starting with observations, and discussing our Orientations, Decisions, and Actions.
I was naive. We almost never got beyond debate about facts. No matter how authoritative the sources or clear the data, partisans of Left and Right came out to debate the facts. Or more often, ignore them while denying them. I have often written about the similar reasoning and behavior of Left and Right in America (reliance on propaganda, reliance on ideology over facts) — both are Americans, after all — and this is the clearest demonstration.
Both sides love their facts, however fake. Scientists speak to us about the warming pause — its causes and likely duration — while Leftists deny their work (literally, they refuse to see it). Leftists build hysteria over a phony campus rape epidemic.
The Right too has a long history of refusing to see reality. The fiercest discussions on the FM website since 2003 were push-backs to my posts showing that the US was failing in Iraq and Afghanistan; millions still believe we won. Also provoking rebuttals were posts early 2008 about the ample data showing that the US was in recession (the NBER made it official in November 2008). As late as Summer they denied it — believing no recession was possible under Bush Jr. See these quotes from June 3 and some weird ones here.
Many on the Right believed that the government deliberately understates the rate of inflation. Some even pay Shadowstats to confirm their beliefs, despite the overwhelming evidence otherwise (details here). Others have crazy beliefs about Obama — that he’s a foreigner, Muslim, radical Leftist. Or that Saddam did have WMDs, and was an ally of al Qaeda.
(2) Why citizens need clear vision.
“Keep everything hazy in their minds now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in them the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords.”
— The demon Screwtape counseling the 1% about managing the transition from the Second Republic (under the Constitution) to the New America now under construction on its ruins. From The Screwtape Letters (1942).
Peons consume the news as entertainment (see posts about us doing so as we watch Fox News and Ferguson, MO). Citizens need information so they can guide the Republic.
We face a bleak future if we cannot find a common clear vision of our world. We cannot organize and take collective action without a common vision on some aspects of life. And if taking action, it cannot succeed unless based on a foundation of facts.
We see this in the fascinating comment thread to yesterday’s post about the murder of Tamir Rice and “our” (the White middle class’) discovery that the police frequently shoot unarmed Blacks. Since the police seldom hire evil monsters, there must be some reasons for this, however inadequate. Our typical response, erecting mental shields against new ideas (e.g., “denier”, “racist”), leads only to a dead end.
We have to confront our centuries of history. Slavery for Blacks in America, the following century of oppression, then the stormy civil rights era, and then the disintegration of Black families and communities. The result is generations scared by fetal alcohol syndrome, early age malnutrition, eating paint chips, lack of social stimulation in the early years (e.g., left in the crib to cry), absent fathers, minimal schools, and life in high-crime ungoverned zones.
We see the result in the racial disparities in the FBI’s collection of the Uniform Crime Reports by race.
The people who deal with this each day on the streets cannot afford our illusions. It’s a burden that must affect and alter their world views. As the NYPD shows us, we should expect resistance when we impose advice from the bleachers on those working the streets.
If we understand perhaps we can craft solutions that address both inner-city crime and over-policing. But nothing good will happen until we learn to see not just our side’s happy vision but the other side’s disturbing insights.
“… first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
For More Information.
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about propaganda, OODA Loops, and information and disinformation. Especially see these about clear vision:
- Does America have clear vision? Here’s an “eye chart” for our minds., 15 June 2009.
- Are we blind, or just incurious about important news?, 6 July 2009.
- Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011.
- Examples of America’s broken vision. Here’s why we cannot clearly see our world., 21 October 2012.
- What does a “broken OODA loop” look like?, 23 October 2012.
- A nation lit only by propaganda, 3 June 2013.
- Remembering is the first step to learning. Living in the now is ignorance., 29 October 2013.
- The missing but essential key to building a better America, 21 November 2013 — Clear sight about our condition.
- Swear allegiance to the truth as a step to reforming America, 24 November 2013.
- Today you can take the first step to reforming America, 6 February 2014 — Seeing the world clearly is revolutionary.
- We live in an age of ignorance, but can decide to fix this – today, 15 April 2014.
28 thoughts on “If we all saw the same America, perhaps we could fix it.”
I see opinions on this new America constantly (3rd United States government, after Articles of Confederation and the Constitution). Will the previous governments be superior? What will this third US look like in your view?
See all posts about NewAmerica:
I have written nothing pulling together a vision of the New America.
Accepting our Present Circumstances
“Our very first problem is to accept our present circumstances as they are, ourselves as we are, and the people about us as they are. This is to adopt a realistic humility without which no genuine advance can even begin. Again and again, we shall need to return to that unflattering point of departure. This is an exercise in acceptance that we can profitably practice every day of our lives.
Provided we strenuously avoid turning these realistic surveys of the facts of life into unrealistic alibis for apathy or defeatism, they can be the sure foundation upon which increased emotional health and therefore spiritual progress can be built.”
— AS BILL SEES IT, p. 44
I’ve quoted the works of AA several times. It’s perhaps an indicator of our dark state that so many of AA’s insights apply to America today. Here’s some background on that excerpt from As Bill Sees It. From Wikipedia:
As Bill Sees It was first published by AA in 1967, described as …
Here’s a free PDF of it.
My main concern with your past several articles (I don’t doubt that you earnestly desire the creation of a healthier, happier black community), is the chicken or the egg nature of the discussion. My concern is that you demonstrate that prior mistreatment led to the current situation of black America, but suggest that a broken black culture perpetuates black poverty. However it seems as or more reasonable to claim that continued economic and judicial discrimination perpetuates the problems seen as deficits of “black culture”.
Class is certainly a major factor in the inequal treatment of blacks, but discrimination in employment opportunities and policing serve to enforce the position of most blacks as an under-underclass. Here’s an interesting article suggesting that if male incarceration rates and employment rates are controlled for, black culture is not nearly so “broken” as many claim. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/09/the-poverty-of-culture/
Race is certainly a useful tool for keeping the underclass divided. Nothing like a despised and expendable excess workforce to put the fear of god in the underclass. Be thankful your employers are so gracious as to provide you with minimally compensated work, America!
“the chicken or the egg nature of the discussion.”
You go to the heart of this and many other social science problems. Causality is difficult to determine in most sciences, but almost impossible where we cannot do lab experiments.
“suggest that a broken black culture perpetuates black poverty. However it seems as or more reasonable to claim that continued economic and judicial discrimination perpetuates the problems seen as deficits of “black culture”.”
Perhaps so. Who can say? It’s important to note that this is not “Black culture”, as whites in areas like the worst of Appalachia show similar deficits — hence my framing this as a matter of class, not race.
Also, pointing to “economic and judicial discrimination” casts to narrow a loop. As I mentioned in this post, there are a wide range of factors at work. Environmental influences (e.g., lead & other pollutants), pre-natal and early childhood factors (e.g., fetal alcohol exposure, nutrition, stimulation), a culture that puts a low value on education PLUS low-quality schools.
“Race is certainly a useful tool for keeping the underclass divided.”
Again you go to the center of this problem. This is why I agree with those who say framing this as “racism” while true plays into the hands of our foes.
unknowning cites an article that’s well-worth reading! ” The Poverty of Culture” by Jonah Birch & Paul Heideman, Jacobin, 16 September 2014 — “Despite all evidence to the contrary, blaming black culture for racial inequality remains politically dominant. And not only on the Right.”
This in turn cites another interesting article: “The ‘Acting White Theory’ Doesn’t Add Up“, Ivory A. Toldson, The Root, 30 January 2013 — “Show Me the Numbers: Why the academic achievement gap is not rooted in black anti-intellectualism.” Ivory A. Toldson is an Assoc Professor at Howard U, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education.
“Perhaps so. Who can say? It’s important to note that this is not “Black culture”, as whites in areas like the worst of Appalachia show similar deficits — hence my framing this as a matter of class, not race.”
Agree but only 50%. I have no idea where it came from, but there is a definite strain of thought with the black underclass that criticizes anyone trying to get an education, aka “talking white.” I could be wrong, but I just don’t see poor white people *actively* bringing someone down who is trying to get out.
I’ve personally experienced this, and I’m not the only one either. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wzwU7OWq2M
My direct knowledge of these things is zero, but the articles unknowning cites provide a powerful rebuttal to that theory (which I had thought unquestioned).
As for the white Appalachian underclass, my experience (limited, brief, 40 years ago) suggests that education is not valued among them.
I suspect there is some high-quality social science research on this. Any pointers to it would be appreciated.
It’s one thing to assign a low value to an education – anyone from a part of the world where farming is still important will have this; it’s quite another to assign a *negative* value to it. I think that is they key difference.
As the Jacobin articles cited above discuss, the “acting white” and negative value to education look like urban myths. Convenient for Whites, allow blaming Blacks for their problems.
The blame is to be shared. I suspect mass media has a lot to do with it. Until quite recently, blacks have had 3 kinds of role models on TV: a buffoon, an athlete, or a criminal. You don’t need much of an education to be any of these; IMO it creates a negative feedback loop.
Like I suggested on twitter, it would be really great to get some kind of comparative analysis of this. How do black kids adopted into white households fare against the average? Mixed race kids? Kids whose parents immigrated from Africa or the Caribbean?
BTW I think you’ll find an analogous situation in Mexico. There, it is full or almost full-blooded indigenous that are on the bottom. Watch some telenovelas in your spare time; you will see some frankly disgusting stereotypes – witches/faith healers/brujas, buffoons, etc.
I suspect there is a big literature on those questions. Like so much of our knowledge, journalists don’t tap it so we don’t see it.
Just so we’re clear. I’m flattered that you’d write something as the result of some of my comments :).
I’ve got three points for you to consider.
1) I don’t think that my statement of racism being evident in a link negated debate or caused an end to our conversation. I sought clarity on your thought process and got it. I know that charges of racism are a way to shut down debate, but I don’t think it’s a fair characterization of my comments or the comments of other people on that thread.
2) I’m not sure arrival at the same facts is an achievable goal at this point. Corporations and governments know that that is where we like to coalesce and gain momentum and they collude to prevent that. That’s just how the world is at this point and I don’t see a way to get around that. You’re right that we can make conclusions and take actions once we have facts but money and access to the media will negate that ability every time.
From my perspective, it’s less about when and how can we arrive at the facts and more about how and when can we know someone’s lying about facts for someone else’s goals. As mortar fire becomes more accurate and deadly it becomes easier to identify it’s point of origin, same with attempts to disrupt our fact gathering process and phases. The better the powers that be get at messing with us, the easier it becomes to see it in action and know what it is.
Showing people how to read between the lines is, to me, a much more vital skill set than an attempt to get all the facts out there.
3) I get your point about the label of racism being divisive, but ultimately, it’s the racism that causes the division. It’s appropriate for people to push past it to achieve a collective goal, but it’s better still if people avoid causing such discomfort in the first place. And that’s not to say that harsh truths shouldn’t be pointed out and acknowledged, but the way in which that is done matters. Americans need to confront the harsh reality that there are a large number of people in the country that do not matter in any way to this country and that through their own behavior they never will.
(1) “but I don’t think it’s a fair characterization of my comments or the comments of other people on that thread.”
That’s my sloppy writing! I was not referring to this thread, but usage in the wider world — and didn’t mention the change in focus. Thanks for catching this!
(2) “I’m not sure arrival at the same facts is an achievable goal at this point.”
At various points I’ve listed some of the essential requirements for reform of America. I wonder how many of them are possible. But then I’m sure that others had the same doubts when beginning great projects. Samuel Adams when he recruited for the Committees of Correspondence in 1772. Benjamin Franklin when he helped organize the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society in 1785. William Wilberforce when he began his crusade to end the slave trade in British ships in 1887.
(3) “From my perspective, it’s less about when and how can we arrive at the facts and more about how and when can we know someone’s lying about facts for someone else’s goals.”
You are thinking as an individual acting alone. We are powerless so long as we retain that perspective. That works only if you intend to be a spectator.
1) Kudos, I very much appreciate the work you do here. I wouldn’t have written at all otherwise.
2) Given what you’re describing, then I think it’s important to think about the size and scope of the groups that were created. None of these groups (American Revolutionaries or Abolitionists) got to much more than 30-40% of the society they were in. There were large groups of citizens that tried to ignore those groups or actively opposed them. Aiming for facts that reach some but not all is an essential piece to creating a movement, otherwise you’ll spend all your time spinning wheels waiting to get total traction.
3) So my ultimate concern about helping develop skills over developing fact bases is because the powers that be already dominate the fact bases. There are ways to go about building your own political base, but that requires either a) expanding the political base or b) taking from someone else’s base. Neither are easy, although developing skills allows us to expand the base without threatening the existing political powers until we have leverage.
Additionally, once you have a political base, America is really really good at paying off the leadership and ultimately draining any sort of momentum from such groups that aren’t prepared. And I don’t mean that in a conspiratorial sense but that American publishing is quick to offer those doing “exciting” reform work a book deal and the media that thrives of now now now requires a bending of a movement to fit the needs of the media in order to stay relevant. I don’t think that’s a game that can be won. I don’t think that there is victory to be found in playing their game. I might be wrong, but it seems that there’s more value in having some dedicated individuals who are skillfully wreaking the old world than have a large group that will get distracted and bought off.
“None of these groups (American Revolutionaries or Abolitionists) got to much more than 30-40% of the society they were in. There were large groups of citizens that tried to ignore those groups or actively opposed them.”
That’s not really accurate. In all these cases there were three groups: committed to change, opposed to change, weakly committed to either group. Having 30% committed to change accomplishes nothing (unless you’re working for violent revolution in a failed state) without some degree of support from the middle. All of those issues got traction when they gained broad support.
The tactic of building a revolutionary vanguard that eventually captures society has often been attempted. It almost always fails. But it feels good, generating a small closed community of like-minded people who can congratulate each other. It’s a commonplace among those for whom seeking change is a hobby, like stamp collecting. These people turned out in droves for the Occupy movement.
“Having 30% committed to change accomplishes nothing (unless you’re working for violent revolution in a failed state) without some degree of support from the middle.”
I guess I’m more pessimistic. The only way to gain the middle + 30 requires the powers that be relinquishing some of their control to others. It looks like they’re prepared to tear it all down rather than do that. I’m not sure there is an option that doesn’t lead to violence. And your examples (at least the American ones) do suggest that violence is unavoidable at this point. King George is ready to send others to die to keep things as they are, the slave owners are ready to do the same. Is now any different? Regardless, a committee of correspondence sounds like a wise first step.
“The tactic of building a revolutionary vanguard that eventually captures society has often been attempted. It almost always fails.”
I’m curious what your definition of failure is. I can think of at least a dozen successful revolutions/coups that fit the definition of this organization metric. None of them are necessarily the happiest of places to live in these days and the results are not great for the majority of people no matter what they say, but it is a way to gain power that works.
I am interested to see your examples of “revolutionary vanguards” that captured nations without gaining broad support. I can think of a few, but they’re rate.
To clarify — a “revolutionary vanguard” is a highly specific term. It does not include military coups or foreign interventions.
I’m not sure I see much a distinction between a military coup for revolutionary aims (Qadaffi, Saddam) and one executed purely by revolutionary professionals (Bolsheviks,Castro,Hitler). Obviously not every military coup is a revolutionary one (al-Sisi in Egypt comes to mind), but I don’t think of them as so obviously distinctive.
You have a highly specific term in mind though, so tell me your examples and I’ll see where we disagree.
First, the military holds much of the power in a nation, so requires a relatively small base of public support to take over. Hence, these are as common as dirt in weak States. Second, military organizations tend to be conservative — hence seldom “revolutionary”. Third, a takeover by a military using their force to take over — esp when conservative in nature — is seldom consistent with their role as a “vanguard” in society.
What is a “revolutionary vanguard”? See the Wikipedia entry, and the entry at Marxists.org.
It’s a term with a highly specific meaning, and a long history.
For what it’s worth, I think we miscommunicated a little here, I think you’re right about the revolutionary vanguard as a viable means of social transformation. I just think that at the end of the day, fewer but better motivated better connected better informed change agents are more meaningful than getting the majority to agree on anything ahead of time.
A revolutionary vanguard is a highly specific term, not a broad category of tactics as you imply.
“I just think that at the end of the day, fewer but better motivated better connected better informed change agents are more meaningful than getting the majority to agree on anything ahead of time.”
That’s a false dichotomy. They’re not mutually-exclusive alternatives.
I don’t want to take up more of your time than necessary, I know you guys are quite busy. You’re right about the revolutionary vanguard. My intention never was to invoke that particular idea, but more to draw attention to the fact that you really can’t have it both ways. Focusing on getting the majority on your team means you can’t be as focused on building up a passionate following. In a world of limited resources and a constant battle for attention, I really don’t see a way that any sort of reform movement could both gather a majority and not be overtaken by the forces it seeks to reform.
The more practical effort would seem to gather a solid and passionate and prepared minority to take action in the immediate and help prepare the majority to join in as they see fit.
Think of it as marketing a rock band. Getting loyal fans and big record sales are inconsistent goals.
Dynamite article, FM. Hope you follow up with a lengthier post expanding on your statement “I an oligarchy every peon has their own facts.”
Implicit in your statement is the suggestion that our billionaire rulers see the world clearly, but choose to deliberately distort or obfuscate the facts in order to set Americans against one another in a classic divide-and-conquer strategy. As evidence of this, we may consider such evidence as the near-universal evolution denial of high-ranking wealthy Republicans who nevertheless make sure they and their children get vaccinated. (If Darwinian macroevolution didn’t occur, vaccines would prove unnecessary, since they are only needed in response to constantly evolving viruses.)
In short, our oligarch leaders appear to say one thing and do another. This applies to left leaders as well as right — Obama running on the public option for national health insurance then declaring it “off the table” once elected; Obama running on ending the war in Iraq, then perpetuating the war and finally sending troops back in; Obama running against the unconstitutional abuses of power of the Bush maladministration, then affirming and extending those abuses by ordering the murder of U.S. citizens without a trial or charges, signing off on the NDAA bill authorizing the kidnapping and eternal imprisonment of U.S. citizens without a trial or charges, extending universal warrantless wiretapping, etc.
Then if anyone dares criticize this behavior of doing one thing while saying another, armies of supporters (both left and right) surge forward to deny the very facts (Obama didn’t order the murder of a U.S. citizen without a trial or charges, Obama never signed off on the NDAA, Obama hasn’t authorized warrantless wiretapping, etc., similar to the claim that Saddam had WMDs, there was no recession under the Bush administration, there was no terrorist attack on America under George W. Bush, and so on.
This strategy of denying the very fact of what they’re doing seems designed by the oligarchs to short-circuit criticism because it confuses and throws into disarray people who state simple facts, only to find them denied and ridiculed as “fantasy” and “delusion.” Viz., the infamous example of the Obama spokeswoman who, when confronted by an independent journalist who demanded to know “What is Obama doing with his secret kill list?” relied: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” For info on Obama’s secret kill list, see “Obama’s `Secret Kill’ List Proves A Test of Obama’s Principles, Will,” The New York Times, 29 May 2012.
For the flat-out denial of the well-documented fact that Obama has a secret kill list, see the embedded video on Glenn Greenwald’s blog here.
You conflate 2 very different things: that our leaders lie to us is very different than them having contradictory beliefs.
Anyway, everybody has contradictory beliefs. Belief in Christian dogma contradict science, but people have managed to live with such contradictions for centuries. You can know vaccines work yet believe the world I’d turtles all the way down.
People on the Left often believe in human rights (supreme values) and multi-culturalism (there are no supreme values).
It’s just life. We’re neither Vulcans or machines.
Sorry, the second link should go to Glenn Greenwald’s article in The Guardian from 20 October 2012, “The remarkable, unfathomable ignorance of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.”
Ms. Schultz’s kneejerk denial to the blunt facts of Obama’s actions seems like the new standard operating procedure for Democrat base who support of wealthy left oligarchs like Obama and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, akin to the Republican base’s kneejerk denials of the documents facts about wealthy right oligarchs like Mitt Romney (he wasn’t a Gordon Gecko figure who became wealthy by buying companies and loading them up with debt and then firing their workers, Romney never hid any money offshore, Romney never avoided paying taxes, Romney got rich by the sweat of his brow and not by inheriting vast sums, Romney never proposed a health care reform identical to the ACA, Romney never held pro-abortion positions early in his political career, and so on.)