Two Things I’ve Learned About America

I originally posted this on another blog earlier today.  The subject has been on my mind very much recently and was reinforced by an email I received yesterday.  I wonder about us as a nation.  The 330 million of us who call ourselves Americans.  I am especially interested in the gullibility factor: why does it seem to me that so many of my fellow citizens are so easily led by propaganda?  Why can the masses be so easily bamboozled by slick propagandists?

It came to a head in the past few months during the so-called Health Care debate. It was, of course, not a debate at all. It was a well-funded set of propaganda vs. the truth. The propaganda nearly won out.  And for many who ‘bought the propaganda’ it remains their ‘truth.’  They deeply believe all of the stuff that health care opponents spewed on TV and on the right-wing media outlets all across the land.  It was a study in the effectiveness of propaganda.  And it nearly succeeded.

Bamboozlement is my topic, but I want to go back in time to highlight one other mass-propaganda movement that did, in fact, ‘work.’  It was only 7 years ago and we are still suffering the consequences from that effective propaganda program that was perpetrated on the American people.

Here is my post from earlier today:

Over the last two decades, I have come to two conclusions about the ‘masses’ here in America. First, they are history-illiterate. Second, they are easily propagandized. The combination of the two are a shysters paradise as we Americans learned in 2003: Bush’s War on Iraq.

Those two weaknesses were exploited by a small knot of ideologues whose agenda was a new mission for our nation: military imperialism. That knot was able to weave itself into the highest levels of the Executive Branch of our government and make it’s ‘case’ for imperial preemptive invasions of other nations to ’secure’ the interests of the U.S. Government and its corporations.

This group was named ‘neocons’ short for neoconservatives- a branch of conservatism that believes that the United States needs to use its ‘power’ to intervene in the affairs of other nations. George W. Bush, it was subsequently revealed, bought into this philosophy because he was still hurting from the attacks of September 2001.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice came to the conclusion that Iraq ought to be the target of this first trial of this preemptive policy. There were members of the neocons who wanted such an invasion back in the 1990’s, but were unable to convince George W.H. Bush or Bill Clinton that their idea was ‘right.’ Yet, George W. Bush was an easier target and, fresh from the bin Laden attacks, the younger Bush was persuaded to move forward with their ideas.

Before Bush could implement this policy, he had to convince ‘the masses’ here in America of the need for such preemptive action. It had to be sold to the American citizens. Bush already had a opening with the recent 9-11 attack on NYC and DC. Fear of another attack was an easy sell to the public. With bin Laden safely hidden in the mountain caves, Bush needed another easier villain to demonize and to catch so that he would not appear to be an impotent president.

Saddam Hussein had always been in the cross-hairs of the younger Bush, because his father, Bush 41 had been criticized for not ‘finishing him off’ after the Gulf War. He was the best ‘ruthless dictator’ of the bunch. And he had oil.

And so the propaganda artists were given the task of creating Saddam as the ‘evil’ target of this new preemptive military/economic agenda of the neocons.

This task was relatively easy. First, Americans wanted blood- they needed revenge against some Muslim, any Muslim, for the attacks in September, 2001. They already knew of Saddam Hussein and his aggression back in the 90’s. They knew he was an dictator capable of aggression as he had proven in the Iran-Iraq War . So there wasn’t a better evil dictator on the planet than Saddam.

The second task of the propagandists was more challenging. Even though Iraq was the best target for preemption, still many Americans citizens needed some ‘proof’ that this man was dangerous to the American people- a danger that would necessitate sending our military men and women to that county.

There was no proof of that. Saddam had no navy and no air force. Even though there was no possibility of any Iraqi military long-range bombers or war ships reaching the shores of America, most Americans didn’t know that fact. They ‘assumed’ that we had comparable military forces. That’s where the historical ignorance of the American citizen was a bonus for the propagandists. The neocons hoped that the citizens would make the wrong assumption about the capability of the Iraqi military. They did. Ignorance is bliss.

The next task for the propagandists would be to convince the citizens that Saddam had weapons [even though he couldn’t deliver them]. Enter the infamous ‘WMD.’ Weapons of Mass Destruction! That scared the shit out of many Americans. MASS destruction! the ATOMIC BOMB!

Yes the A-bomb- the ones we dropped on Japan. The game was to give clues to the American citizens that an atomic bomb just might be ready for ‘launch’ [in those imaginary bombers and war ships]. Thus, the infamous “mushroom cloud” that Bush, Cheney and Rice referred to on many occasions. The Bush line, “We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud!”

The ‘final proof’ referred to the hunt for WMD’s by the United Nation inspectors who were, at that very time, looking for them. Looking in the places pointed out during that infamous U.N. speech by Colin Powell. The neocons and Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld were becoming nervous during that U.N. inspection, because none had been found. None. The clock was ticking, but no proof of those dangerous WMD’s.

And so, the decision was made that ‘enough time’ was given to the U.N. inspectors. They were told to leave Iraq. Told to leave by the United States. Many Americans were led to believe that Saddam ‘kicked them out’ and the propagandists just let that lie go unchallenged.

“America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Cannot wait. Cannot wait. Urgency.

The propaganda needed a few extra tweaks like ‘aluminum tubes and uranium ore for Africa.’ And 9-11 of course, in every speech of Bush, Cheney and Rice. In fact, many Americans believed that Saddam and bin Laden were connected. That the two of them worked together in plotting the 9-11 attacks.

As I said at the beginning, the masses of Americans are very easily propagandized. And ignorant of history. And equally ignorant of data and facts.

By March 2003, the propaganda was fully absorbed by the American public. Some 80% of Americans believe all of that propaganda- the WMD’s, the uranium ore, the aluminum tubes, the connection between bin Laden and Saddam, and the mushroom cloud. Absorbed like a dry sponge.

I was not among those 80%. Nor was my wife, family and most of our friends. We were not propaganda sponges nor were we history illiterate. We followed the plan and the propaganda, pointing it out step by step. But we were in the minority. No matter how many Sundays on street corners with NO WAR protest signs in our hands, we were derided, spat upon and called un-American for our stand against the Bush War.

We lost. The 80% won.

Of course, America lost. But now, revisionists and Bush-apologists have ’spun’ this preemptive imperialistic invasion of Iraq.

Interestingly, the fundamentalist christians were strong war-supporters. To me it was perfectly clear why they supported the war. First, most are Republicans, But more importantly, it is my hypothesis that fundamentalists have easily propagandized minds. They were open to propaganda because they are accustomed to having ‘authority figures’ like preachers tell them what to believe. The President, naturally, is THE authority figure, and so the Bush propaganda team had the fundamentalists in their back pocket the entire time.

That was then, but my hypothesis about the gullibility of the American masses to well-done propaganda is still operative as seen in just the past few weeks.

When we we learn better?  I don’t know, and that frightens me.

9 thoughts on “Two Things I’ve Learned About America

  1. You need to keep in mind what P.T. Barnum said:
    “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American People.”

    America is in love with its creation myth of the Frontier farmers driving off the evil British when what happened was actually a civil war which was aided by professional armies.

    Additionally, America has a strong anti-intellectual streak. Dumb it down and make it entertaining is how one presents something to the American public. The American public remains happy as long as it is kept fed and entertained. It want the simple answers, not the hard truths.

    I have to add that some fundamentalist Christians supported the war in Iraq in a hope that the end times will come. You have to remember that this segment of the fundamentalist community wants to bring about the end of the world.

    Fortunately, not all fundamentalists share the same beliefs:

  2. Hello Muddy,
    Good posting because it I want to pass on an incident that happened to me yesterday. I was going to make a post of this but I would rather pass it on here.

    I was walking into the Seaford Library to return some books I had read and this Goofy Lard-Tard got out of his truck and started a conversation. Being polite I returned his greeting and then he started (much like an Evangelical Christian would who wanting to pass on the word of the Lord trying to save my soul in the parking lot of a mall) into informing me that because the U.S. has borrowed so much money that the countries that had been lending money to the U.S. are now no longer doing so. “They Were Cutting Us Off. We Owed Too Much Money Already.”

    My reply was that by funding two wars has brought down many countries economies in the past….not breaking my stride to the library doors. HE then jump in than said that it was not the wars it was because Obama was spending too much money….those wars only cost $200 Billion. It was the Trillion of Dollars that Obama was pissing away and……Well I had enough by now and I was ready to go into the library so I stopped him, and asked, “What was 3 to the exponent of 0?” I just got the typical blank looking stare with his eyes blinking a couple of times. I quickly went on and told him that what I had just asked was a typical first semester 7th grade math question. I then fired off another quick math question, “What is $200 Billion X 10?” Again, just some more eye blinking, blank look, silence.

    I then, in a very calm voice, said that if you want to speak about national economic facts, that he should at least have an education above a 6th grader because any first semester 7th grader would have be able to answer the first question. The second question was so easy that all you had to do was add another zero at the end of the $200 Billion number making it $2 Trillion. I then passed on Lincoln’s quote, “It is better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” How much does it cost for the operation to remove a solder’s limb, give hospital treatments for well over a year plus, purchase a prosthetic limb, rehabilitation so they may learn how to use this limb, sociological / emotional counseling over many years so they can mentally cope in the future, how many solders’ disability treatments for the rest of their lives because they are not able to work for private enterprises, these same solders requiring subsidized housing; is this cost configured into your $200 Billion?!?!? By now CONFUSED, eye blinking, blank looking, silence.

    I then said, but still with kindness in my voice, “Before you try to talk about how bad our National Economic Condition is, you should at least be able to know and demonstrate 7th grade math. My recommendation to you is to turn off the Rush Limbaugh radio show you were just listening to in your truck and forget watching Fox Programming…and go attend some means of night school and get yourself a real education, before you try to pass on your pontifications and criticism of our political leaders.

    I turned, walked through the automatic doors of the library and continued on with my business. Lard-Tard never came in and I did not see him anymore. Maybe he got the message…..which in his case probably means that he needed to listen to more Rush and Fox to learn how to respond to my questions and get the answers.

  3. I’m in sort of a crazy situation at work. The President / Owner of my company has sort of made me a special project. He is very right wing GOP and sort of has the same philosophies espoused by the CATO institute ect.. I don’t think he is a social conservative, just an economic conservative. I’m not sure, but I’m probably about the only person that is remotely progressive leaning at my work place. From time to time he sends me email that for the most part is conservative propaganda. But the style of this propaganda isn’t really the type of propaganda used to convince someone of the “rightness of the cause”. It’s more of an echo chamber type of self justifying propaganda. (My parents get the same type of stuff). I think my pres. want’s to engage me in debate because I think he enjoys that, but I’m pretty uncomfortable as a subordinate to take him on. It is tempting because I too enjoy a good debate, but.. I don’t know.

    The latest thing he sent me is this short sort of narrow view of the history of Argentina up too the economic collapse of 2002. Then the analogy is made that the US is on the same road to economic collapse because we have all the legacy social programs that supposedly buried the Argentine economy. So I pretty much hate being propagandized to, especially obvious and superficial propaganda that is replicated thru the internet like a viral bodily invader. So, maybe due to the hyperfocus of my A.D.D. I’ve become obsessed with Argentina – Argentina history, Argentina economy, The economic meltdown, ect.. So overnight I’ve become an expert on all things Argentina (I was up till 3 in the morning reading scholarly journal articles). So with my new found ammunition of knowledge, facts, and figures, I’m ready to pounce. But I’m back to the uncomfortable position of being a subordinate schooling my boss. I think I will just make a joke (Thank God for Communist China) – and leave it at that.

  4. That a people, even we Americans, could fall for propaganda is not unique. Evil, power-hungry leaders have been lying to their subjects for many , many years. Goebbels, Goering, and Hitler; Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush; and even Fox “News”, Rush Limbaugh, and today’s far-right, ultra-conservative Republican Party have all understood that if you tell a big enough lie and repeat it often enough, it will eventually gain traction and become accepted as truth by a large number—at least for a time. The lie becomes even more accepted and powerful if it can be cloaked in an element of threat or fear.

    The lie, aka propaganda, has become an institutionalized part of American life. Advertisers and businessmen routinely lie to us. Politicians do too. And because the rush-rush, 30 minute easy to digest and unchallenging TV sitcom mentality has become ingrained in us, our attention spans have became dangerously short, and we (most of us, anyway) just don’t take the necessary time or effort to examine what we see on TV or read in print. And that, my friends, is why TV news is so shallow and narrow, how Fox “News” can even exist, and how W got elected in the first place. We want immediate action. We want everything, even our information, to be entertaining and to be presnted before us RIGHT NOW. If we don’t get it that way, we turn away. We don’t want to dig—we want it easy, pleasy, and right NOW. We want life presented to us, and simpler and more entertaining than it really is.

    It’s a sad story how we’ve become so dummyed down, but this country has got to reverse that trend, open our eyes, become more astute and analytical, and basically acquire more smarts!

  5. The thing that makes us make the same the same idiotic choices over and over again is our nature. It’s not a specifically American phenomena. It’s a human phenomena. The details and scale change, but the behaviour is the same.
    Revolution or Riot?
    It’s just your point of view
    The People United or a mindless mad mob…
    It’s just the manipulators
    doing their job.
    It’s hard to view the actions of the portion of the population manipulated by the conservative politicians into the violent actions we are seeing now with out thinking about the 60’s and people opposing the government for totally different reasons being driven to violence.
    The difference? In the 60’s, there really was the threat of a police state.
    We look at Nixon in the context of todays conservatives and wistfully think that he was relatively “liberal”…in some ways and in the context of social issues, perhaps, but in the active cultural war, we saw the National Guard kill students at Kent State. We saw armed groups encouraged by the government break up demonstrations. The violent repression culminated in groups like the Weathermen and the loosely organized anarchists in Michigan who blew up police stations and the CIA office in Ann Arbor.

    Now we see violent rhetoric being used to inspire and mobilize hate from the supposed elected officials. Think Progress has complied a very interesting and scary video of violent rhetoric from conservative politicians, which logically viewed, can only be seen as trying to inspire violence against their opponents. These are the same politicians who are now saying that they never spoke of violence.

    They created this mess, now they own it!

  6. Microdot, we can also add into the list traitor or patriot depending on your point of view.

    I do have to question how manipulated the left was during the 60s. Were there agents provocateurs who pushed a violent agenda? Was the war on poverty derailed by people who coopted the movement to stike fear in the people? The last one is a reference to that PBS programme (war on poverty), but it seemed as if there were elements who demonstrated the worst fears of the people.

    Amazing the quotes at the think progress site: “BACHMANN: I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.”

    I have been curious as to why gun laws have become more lax in the last 30 years, this might explain it.

  7. I realize that my reference to the violence of the 60’s was in a sense provacative. I referred to the governments attempt to control protest and its attempt to deal with groups like the Black Panthers and control public opinion during the War with Vietnam. The Nixonian Presidency’s theorist was a young Dick Cheney, who at the time advanced his ideas of a supremem presidency, the same ideas he tried to implicate during the Bush years. The same flaky unconstitutional theories he tried to use to prove that the office of the Vice Presidency was a unique independant power base.

    At the same time as the social unrest and the popular opinion against the war came to a head, another phenomena was occurring which forever changed America. There was a profound altering of the conciousness which affected in one way or another, most of the country. A lot of the country reacted with violent ignorant fear.

    The government became oppressive which inspired revolutionary thought and radical acts. The motivational force for the radicalism was inspired directly by the actions of the government, but the movement was driven from the bottom up. I was a teenager in the middle of this ideological struggle and it was the genesis of the process I still am experiencing in the evolution of my ideas.

    At the time the ignorant and obedient masses were maipulated by the government to suppress dissent. This was fascistic.
    Today, we see an attempt by our present government to implement socially progressive ideas. The polls would lead us to believe that most of America is sympathetic to these ideas, but we have a powerful. media enhanced opposition which has learned from years of experience how to craft a message using the tools of oppression to mobilize and radicalize their minority base.
    Engineer spoke of his encounter with a person who had his head full of other peoples factoids which he could not explain, but believed. I spoke of my sister who has her head full of fear inspired manipulations regarding the HCR Bill and reacted as if I was insulting her when I suggested sources of facts.
    There is so much more which has been used in this manipulation and we have to be frank and admit that not only economic paranoia but blatant racism plays a huge part in a large portion of the fear driven psyche
    behind the violent acts we are seeing.

    Again, we are seeing the tools of fascism at work. A small portion of the population is driven to commit acts designed to intimidate the rest of the country. We have seen every tool of the fascist dictionary employed. Eliminatiionist rhetoric, dehumanization of one’s opponent, the manipulative role playing, casting oneself as the victim…

    My question is, are Americans able to stand up to this kind of manupulative fear driven activism and not let it intimidte them?

    I ramble as always, but one idea leads to another and finally make a coherent whole.

  8. Another question before my internet quits again….
    Many of the more violent quotes I have read from the teabag fundamentalists refer to David Koresh and his stand in Waco, Texas and also the Okalhoma City Bombing as if these are the logical results of their opposition.
    Isn’t this jihadism? What is the difference beside holding a bible or a koran when the book is used to justify the same ends?

  9. Gentlemen: I am overwhelmed by your sage comments on my posting. Sorry that i could not comment before this, but life does go on.

    I posted this same thesis on another blog and two oh-so righteous fundamentalist christians went ballistic with both my denigration of the Bush War and the suggestion that their spongeon-brains were ripe for the Bush-Cheney propaganda machine.

    One is still defending the invasion while the other is trying to convince us that Saddam DID harbor al Qaeda and because of that Bush HAD to invade Iraq.

    And here we are, the six of us, stating the facts and understanding that the entire gig was a load of propaganda. Now I can more easily understand the success rate of Josef Goebbels.

    Laci @ America has a strong anti-intellectual streak. Dumb it down and make it entertaining is how one presents something to the American public. The American public remains happy as long as it is kept fed and entertained. It want the simple answers, not the hard truths.

    Exactly and sadly correct. I’m taken by your line, “the public remains happy as long as it is kept fed and entertained.” I remember in my youth, there were two ‘crazy’ brothers who came to church on Sunday. As a kid, I didn’t know what was wrong with them, but they gawked around, made noises, and were very odd. My mother told me that ‘these boys were OK as long as they were fed well.’ Interesting old memory that perhaps is true of the masses of Americans these days.

    Engineer- then, in a very calm voice, said that if you want to speak about national economic facts, that he should at least have an education above a 6th grader because any first semester 7th grader would have be able to answer the first question

    You are daring with confronting ‘one of them.’ What if he had a short fuse and was ‘packing.’ You might not be reading this!

    Mathematically-illiterate America. Exactly. Most don’t even understand that basic economic concept of compound interest, let alone why they can’t pay off their credit cards. The Wall street Shysters, Inc. love a mathematically-illiterate pool of dopes because they are minnows afloat in shark-infested waters. Keep ’em dumb and screw ’em!

    Steve- So with my new found ammunition of knowledge, facts, and figures, I’m ready to pounce.

    I always advise [when asked] that facts disarm propaganda like a tazer gun. Facts often get in the way for those who ‘wish’ that X were really Y.

    It’s your call on whether you want to risk your economic situation by debating your boss. Sometimes its best to remain silent and let them think you are ‘dumb.’

    Jack- It’s a sad story how we’ve become so dummyed down, but this country has got to reverse that trend, open our eyes, become more astute and analytical, and basically acquire more smarts!

    Exactly, but what a difficult task, especially with the incurious masses who don’t seem to want to find out what the ‘truth’ is. And with so-called ‘liberal media’ difficult to access, the wide-spread and virulent right-wing media reigns supreme.

    Even mainstream news [CBS, ABC, NBC] does not offer much substance any longer. There is no in-depth analysis, but rather human interest stories mascarading as news. How is this to be rectified? i haven’t a clue.

    Microdot- Think Progress has complied a very interesting and scary video of violent rhetoric from conservative politicians, which logically viewed, can only be seen as trying to inspire violence against their opponents. First impressions last, even when those stating this vitriol deny it later. Isn’t it interestingly nauseous to watch these people deny what is recorded? Lying is becoming a routine thread in the fabric of America.

    I think of those righteous christian bastards in Congress who chat on their wives, get caught, and cry repentance, then go on as if nothing happened.

    What is the difference beside holding a bible or a koran when the book is used to justify the same ends?

    You nailed it! Of course either side will deny it, because their god is better.

    Thanks again, gentlemen, for taking the time to comment.

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