Critical Thought- Internal Resistance
"Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave."
I take in world events daily hoping to see decency and justice practiced; I'll be the first to admit such occurences would put the "new" in the news. But disappointingly I seem to see the same old same old- states using force to jockey for power and control. That's nothing new though I guess. Still, it is the 21st century, it seems that bald faced lies should be exposed pretty quickly, up to our necks in the Information Age, freely available truth should temper leaders tendencies to lie to meet their ends. The will of the people in a limitedly democratic nation should see it safeguarded from rash actions not in the majorities best interests.
The majority of Americans grow up schooled. Could it be we are trained to blindly accept authority, groupthink, and conformity?
Dumb people are no longer merely ignorant. Now they are indoctrinated, their minds conditioned with substantial doses of commercially prepared disinformation dispensed for tranquilizing purposes.
Jacques Ellul, whose book Propaganda is a reflection on the phenomenon, warned us that prosperous children are more susceptible than others to the effects of schooling because they are promised more lifelong comfort and security for yielding wholly:
Critical judgment disappears altogether, for in no way can there ever be collective critical judgment....The individual can no longer judge for himself because he inescapably relates his thoughts to the entire complex of values and prejudices established by propaganda. With regard to political situations, he is given ready-made value judgments invested with the power of the truth by...the word of experts.
People don't think critically on the whole, as best as I can tell, empty phrasings flow from world leaders and are accepted. No thought of current world events, of even recent history. I used to think that perhaps reasoning must be perceived as too much work, maybe folks are disinterested. My sense now is that this phenomena is either unconscious or willful, whatever the case it is a technique to stave off cognitive dissonance. I say this because acceptance of the ludicrous, the hypocritical is practiced even by the people actually writing these pieces, well paid journalists with access to fact checkers, individuals with college degrees with a news organizations staff behind them are comfortable serving up the nonsensical articles to "We the People"- articles that fall on their faces when actually considered for just a moment, when rolled around in the mind and compared/contrasted with given world realities. I'm not talking about specialized knowledge about world events. I'm talking about using mainstream media, the elitist skewed beast itself to further our analysis of what we are told in the mainstream media. Using the corporate media palate to examine corporate media tastes.
Some recent examples:
"All Syrian military and intelligence personnel must withdraw before the Lebanese elections, for those elections to be free and fair," Mr Bush said.
"The Lebanese people have the right to determine their future, free from domination by a foreign power. The Lebanese people have the right to choose their own parliament this spring, free of intimidation."
Now, thinking critically- how were the Iraqi elections "free and fair" under US military occupation if the elections in Lebanon cannot be?
I will not touch on the 8 million Iraqi voter figure we've heard tossed around- getting to the truth of that matter will necessitate delving into the reality based alternative press, which is off topic for this piece.
And about that "domination by a foreign power" thing:
Bremer has ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the interim prime minister he selected, Ayad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi's choices on the elected government that is to take over next year.
Bremer also has appointed Iraqis handpicked by his aides to influential positions in the interim government. He has installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry. He has formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. He named a public-integrity commissioner who will have the power to refer corrupt government officials for prosecution.
Some Iraqi officials condemn Bremer's edicts and appointments as an effort to exert U.S. control over the country after the transfer of political authority. "They have established a system to meddle in our affairs," said Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Governing Council, a recently dissolved body that advised Bremer for the past year. "Iraqis should decide many of these issues."
Title of the linked Washington Post story- "U.S Edicts Curb Power Of Iraq's Leadership". Do you see this reality mentioned? Don't the folks giving us the news read what they offered up on the subject scant months before? Could these instances illustrate a technique to cultivate comfortable dumbness among the populace, the forementioned "tranquilizing" of a public indoctrinated to trust "the experts" rather than weighing the facts for themselves and coming up with an individual point of view that leaves one isolated from the overculture, seemingly alone, outside the comfortable area of the group?
I heard this quote on the radio:
"Israel demands a full implementation of U.N. Resolution 1559 , meaning a complete withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said...
Was there any comment on the blatant hypocrisy exhibited here. None I came across in the US media. A moments thought would remind one that Israel is militarily occupying the West Bank in the face of numerous UN resolutions. To its credit the Israeli newspaper Haaretz touches on this, and more:
The status of this resolution is no different than that of resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israel to withdraw from the territories it conquered. Israel countered these resolutions with a legalistic argument, claiming it was not a case of occupation, but rather of liberation - or at most, a case of administered territories. That is, a deposit. Syria has a literary argument similar to that of Israel: the government of Lebanon invited it into the country. And the United States, of course, came to Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction. But without any such weaponry, it will make due with establishing democracy.
I don't take in televised news, but I have not seen anything approaching the truth offered in this article in print from US mainstream sources. Even it leaves out perhaps for lack of room a full listing of pertinent UN resolutions, such as 237 and the literally scores of others that apply but are ignored without the outrage Syria or for that matter Iraq has generated.
But I'm going off subject again. Knowledge of facts allows us to exercise discernment to make informed judgements. Without informed judgements the citizenry can buffaloed into accepting the well crafted but not necessarily honest views of those in government who would steamroll the populace into accepting thier perspective and policy. The media is complicit in this process. Take the Presidential "Debates", a few minutes of dueling soundbites per canned subject. Afterwords we are offered opinions on style, on appearence. Nothing about the merits of policy, the actual meat of the matter.
Milton Meyer wrote about the phenomenon of a nation of citizens that uncritically believed an emotionally followed the government headed by another Time magazine "Man of the Year".
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.
Sound familiar? People tend to be decent, they tend to trust their leader, legislators, the military- the people on the world stage who represent and manifest our nation.
Meyers interviewee goes on to say:
"The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your "little men", your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about - we were decent people - and kept us so busy with continuous changes and "crises" and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the "national enemies", without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?
We are social beings. In a society so mediated by the press in all its forms thinking differently sets one apart. When Ann Coulter can say this on mainstream tv:
LINDA VESTER (host): You say you'd rather not talk to liberals at all?
COULTER: I think a baseball bat is the most effective way these days. [FOX News Channel, DaySide with Linda Vester, 10/6]
While a non-progressive, non-liberal government is in power on can get a sense that being openly critical can be not only unpopular but actually dangerous. Some tv figures actually posit the idea that dissenting from the group mind is un-American, not patriotic.
"Once the war against Saddam Hussein begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if you can't do that, just shut up.
Americans, and indeed our foreign allies who actively work against our military once the war is underway, will be considered enemies of the state by me.
Just fair warning to you, Barbra Streisand and others who see the world as you do. I don't want to demonize anyone, but anyone who hurts this country in a time like this, well. Let's just say you will be spotlighted.
Talking points invites all points of view and believes vigorous debate strengthens the country, but once decisions have been made and lives are on the line, patriotism must be factored in." --Bill O'Reilly
Our collective will as a nation is being steered by kneejerk emotions, not critically considered fact. Patriotism and loyalty to the leader and his minions is posited as being a good citizen, a member in good standing of the group. A comfortable follower of the dominant mode of "thought"- which requires no individual thought. Individual autonomy and authority is given up to conform, fit in, be welcomed into the fold. At what cost?
All individual passion leads to the suppression of all critical judgment with regard to the object of that passion. Beyond that, in the collective passion created by propaganda, critical judgment disappears altogether, for in no way can there ever be collective critical judgment. Man becomes incapable of "separation," of discernment (the word critical is derived from the Greek krino, separate). The individual can no longer judge for himself because he inescapably relates his thoughts to the entire complex of values and prejudices established by propaganda. With regard to political situations, he is given ready-made value judgments invested with the power of truth
by the number of supporters and the word of experts. The individual has no chance to exercise his judgment either on principal questions or on their implication; this leads to the atrophy of a faculty not comfortably exercised under any conditions.
What the individual loses is never easy to revive. Once personal judgment and critical faculties have disappeared or have been atrophied, they will not simply reappear when propaganda has been suppressed. In fact, we are dealing here
with one of propaganda's most durable effects: years of intellectual and spiritual education would be needed to restore such faculties. The propagandee, if deprived of one propaganda, will immediately adopt another; this will spare him the agony of finding himself vis-a-vis some event without a ready-made opinion, and obliged to judge it for himself. At the same time, propaganda presents facts, judgments, and
values in such confusion and with so many methods that it is literally impossible for the average man to proceed with discernment. He has neither the intellectual capacity nor the sources of information. He is therefore forced either to accept, or reject, everything in toto.
"You have to know you are in prison to escape prison" as Gurdjieff said. Resist. Otherwise we lose our humanity as well as the basic liberties our troops are told they are dying for in Mr Bush' war of choice.
Without fact based vigorous debate by an informed public democracy is that in name only. Without a populace that has the will and mental acuity to critically examine US policy we seem well on our way down the slippery slope of totalitarianism of a distinctly American style. Post American Corporate Democracy®, maybe if I hurry I can get the trademark, cite Iraq as the first franchisee. Anyone have Mr Cheney's email?
The boys at Halliburton are gonna love this.
Seriously though, the combination of an overworked, media saturated citizenry that has been heavily indoctrinated is showing. We saw it in the rush to attack Iraq. We saw it in the 2004 election. I offer no solutions. But I'm scared, Syria, Iran in the sites, things unfolding just as the PNAC
presciently posited it would after "a new Pearl Harbor", 9/11, and in accord with the other NeoCon blueprint "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" written by participants in the Study Group on "A New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000" Richard Perle, American Enterprise Institute, Study Group Leader...
"He rules by fear because he knows there is no underlying support. Support for Saddam, including within his military organization, will collapse after the first whiff of gunpowder." Richard Perle, then-Pentagon Defense Policy Board chairman
How did we get here? If critical thinking had trumped NeoCon PR there would be a lot less death in the Middle East. War is Sell, War is hell, without reality based information sources and critical analysis we all lose.