KNOWLEDGE v. NO-NOTHINGISM: UPDATE

14 08 2009

LLLLL

A journalist has done a good job finding the people who started the “death panel” nonsense.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/health/policy/14panel.html?_r=1&hp

Republicans, and especially conservatives, have specialized in scaring people at least since the 1980s, most memorably in the “Willie Horton” scare that helped to defeat Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign.

The Wikipedia article on “Willie Horton” is informative:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Horton

The misrepresentation concerning Horton and Dukakis was intentional on the part of the Republicans. Look for the name “Lee Atwater” in the Wikipedia article.

I’ve seen this kind of scare tactic used repeatedly by Republicans over my 61 years. Each time the Big Scare is successful I am amazed that people could believe the lie of the moment. Lots of Americans are either stupid and ignorant, I once concluded.

But I think I was unfair in that. Americans can only know the information they’re given. We have a poor education system, and above all a set of media that almost always goes for the most sensational story, and seldom bothers any more to provide background on anything. Go to the websites for major European media, like the BBC (England),  Deutsche Welle (Germany),  and Radio Nederland (Holland), and read and listen for a while. You’ll see the difference.

Why this difference? Why its our old friend PROFIT, of course. In the 1980s and ’90s, as all of US society became much more business-oriented, owners of big media began to adopt the idea that their News Division should become profit centers — no longer the unprofitable public service that they had once been. More profit requires more viewers. More viewers are gotten by showing or printing more sensational,  and less informative, material in the News.

That means there’s not much time for facts in our most of media anymore. It’s as simple as that.

_______________________________________

UPDATE:

“Two minds with but a single thought”:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sue-wilson/its-war-media-war_b_256115.html

_______________________________________

ANOTHER UPDATE:

Another interesting reaction to this story: This one is by the feisty economist / Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/14/opinion/14krugman.html

_______________________________________

PARTING SHOT:

Democratic politicians consistently fail to anticipate the viciousness and sneakiness of Republican attacks (with the notable exception of Mr. Obama in the last election). My favorite theory as to why most Democrats are so dense on this subject is that they fail to step back and take an analytical — in fact, anthropological –, approach to the problem.

If you don’t step outside the American Cultural Box and look at its rather jumbled contents dispassionately, you are likely to consistently miss the fact that Republican laissez faire economics overlap to a degree the most basic form of the foundational myth of American culture, namely the “American dream” (which says that ANYONE who works hard enough can access the opportunities the USA offers and thus become affluent or wealthy.)

If I am poor but believe with almost religious fervor that one day I’m going to be rich, then I won’t be grateful if you create social programs to make the life of the poor easier. I don’t expect to be in that wretched group long enough to enjoy such programs!

And if you tax the rich to pay for such things, then I’m really gonna be pissed off. That’s my future income you’re taking!

You just can’t trifle with a society’s foundational myth without sparking a lot of righteous anger….

Except at those rare times when lots of people wake up and realize that said myth is probably never going to come true in their lives. That happened on a massive scale in the Great Depression. It happened again to a lesser degree during the Viet Nam War in the ’60s — when a lot of draftable young men took notice of the fact that the war could very well kill them before they could even begin their climb toward wealth.

It may be happening again today. Working people may be waking up and noticing the true grimness of their futures in current America. See my post below titled “So THAT’S Why You Both Have to Work!”

This unpleasant awakening from the deteriorating American Dream may be why a lot of people voted Democrat last year.

And it may also be why this year a lot of other people are mobbing health care discussion forums and chanting, “Give us our America back!”

They are in the anger stage of mourning.


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2 responses

14 08 2009
LeeHInAlexandria

Why do we have a poor education system? It is controlled by the liberals and they have turned into propoganda schools.

As for the NYTimes article above, Gawker.com correctly points out (http://bit.ly/xNEjS) that Sarah Palin didn’t and doesn’t write her Facebook stuff. ‘Death Panels’ may have been a little strong but, the National Health Board and MEDPAC are both in the current House bill (HR 3200) which would have required ‘end of life’ counseling sessions for the first time. NRO has a great piece on how Sarah Palin was exactly right and the Senate flinched – http://bit.ly/18yIJs

Lastly, Political Evidence points out who is behind the so-called ‘rationing’ of care that is found multiple times in HR 3200 – http://bit.ly/qyKdQ

Atlas Shrugged covers it as well – http://bit.ly/iYnhM

14 08 2009
nightman1

Thank you for the reference to the novel “Atlas Shrugged”, by Ayn Rand, as it permits me to understand the level of thinking embodied in this comment.

That book, written in the 1940s as part of the then-white-hot worldwide battle between Right and Left, is as full on nuttiness as the writings of Lenin. I read it as a teenager and was seduced by it for about 6 months. Then it gradually occurred to me that for the vast majority of us who were not one of those world-shaking heroes of capitalism that Miss Rand so obviously worshipped, life in her world would pretty much boil down to “serve and keep your mouth shut”.

The title of the novel is a reference to the old Greek myth that Atlas holds up the world. The idea of the book is that if the mighty heroes of capitalism ever stop striding about the world making things happen, the rest of us more sheep-like humans are going to find ourselves up shit creek without a paddle.

This is nonsense on so many levels. First, it is capital and the modern culture of capitalism, and not heroic capitalists, that makes business grow and morph and make new things. Capital IS going to be invested. It takes no heroism to motivate investment. If you’ve got a lot of money today, you are going to go along with the culture of capitalism you were born into and take it as an absolute given that at least some portion that money should grow. And the only way to make it grow is to invest it. I suspect way more capital is invested every day by the spindly, unheroic scions of old monied families than by macho heroes of capitalism. Moreover, wealthy person are likely going to continue to follow their unexamined cultural imperative to keep their piles of money growing by investing it so long as they still retain sizeable piles to invest, even if there are a lot of those dirty things like socialism and unions in their world to siphon off some of it. Only communism, by removing ALL capital from the control of capitalists, stifles all investment.

Atlas, in short, ain’t gonna shrug unless you shoot him.

No such lèse majesté is likely. Since around 1990, no-one much has advocated communism. Even thoroughly socialist leftists like me only advocate just a bit of “spreading the wealth around.” Most of the wealth will still be in the hands of capitalists, and will accordingly be put to its natural use of financing business.

True, there are some true heroes of capitalism. Sometimes wholly new things come about as a result of one or two highly innovative and motivated persons pressing forward with them. The example of Bill Gates comes to mind. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes new things change the world just because they’re obviously so cool that they attract MANY far less macho investors and developers who TOGETHER subject them to steady improvement. The example of radio is one I know about in detail. The first radio receivers and transmitters, as introduced by that world-bestriding heroic capitalist Marconi, were unbelievably simple and limited units. Almost all the good stuff came later, from the work of many persons, including some lowly unheroic sheep who happened to be smart.

Finally, are innovation and growth the ONLY social goods that exist? A book I recently read called “A Sunday Between Wars” covers the history of the US between the Civil War and the 1930s, a period during which heroic, peremptory wielders of capital generated and then deployed vast quantities of it to develop industry rapidly in the USA, particularly the industries of railroading and steel making. But at what cost! On the other side of the status hierarchy from the heroes were the millions of Americans who worked in the heroes’ factories 12 hours a day, 7 days a week fwaves just above those necessary to keep body and soul together. The work of those particular sheep contributed greatly to the creation of vast fortunes, from which they got almost no benefit. Instead, because those fortunes were in the hands of heroic economic monomaniacs, the substantial part of all that money that was not spent on luxuries for the capitalist heroes was ploughed back into the heroes’ businesses, producing a very fast rate of development.

But America had had, after all, a working economy before the heroes set to work, and for those of the sheep who had been comfortable in that more rural economy, where fabrication had been done much more by individual craftsmen exercising skill, and much less by factory workers mindlessly tending machines, than was later the case, the rapid onset of the new economy must have been terrifying and sometimes traumatizing.

The country, in short, could have developed more slowly than the heroes would have liked, and the result would have been less disruption to the lives of people who knew how to live in a familiar way that had worked OK for quite a while.

And there’s the crux of the matter. Did the wishes of those lowly ones matter at all, either before or after the grimy factories sucked them in? Since most of us profess to love democracy these days, one would think that most of us would answer yes to that question.

But not Miss Rand. And apparently not ots of people on the Right today, who still don’t think the wishes of the timid and lowly should ever be taken into account. The world is for, and only for, brawny, risk-taking businesspersons. That’s the only kind of person who deemed to be of substantial intrinsic value.

is there any significant difference between this way of thinking and that which prevailed under feudalism? Under feudalism the lords were and did everything that mattered, and the serfs were only instruments for getting the crops in and fighting the nobles’ wars.

I can’t believe that most of us want to stick with that kind of radically undemocratic valuation of the various sorts of humans in the 21st Century. For those of us who don’t, Ayn Rand is just another of the tiresome mob of extremists who made the 20th Century one long nightmare for much of the world.

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