The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

by George Monbiot, The Guardian/UK, February 7, 2012

Excerpt

…we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence….There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking…. tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism….This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies…they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”…But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism. Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It’s turkeys all the way down.

Full text

Self-deprecating, too liberal for their own good, today’s progressives stand back and watch, hands over their mouths, as the social vivisectionists of the right slice up a living society to see if its component parts can survive in isolation. Tied up in knots of reticence and self-doubt, they will not shout stop. Doing so requires an act of interruption, of presumption, for which they no longer possess a vocabulary.

Perhaps it is in the same spirit of liberal constipation that, with the exception of Charlie Brooker, we have been too polite to mention the Canadian study published last month in the journal Psychological Science, which revealed that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence. Paradoxically it was the Daily Mail that brought it to the attention of British readers last week. It feels crude, illiberal to point out that the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own. But this, the study suggests, is not unfounded generalization but empirical fact.

It is by no means the first such paper. There is plenty of research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking.

But, drawing on a sample size of several thousand, correcting for both education and socioeconomic status, the new study looks embarrassingly robust. Importantly, it shows that prejudice tends not to arise directly from low intelligence but from the conservative ideologies to which people of low intelligence are drawn. Conservative ideology is the “critical pathway” from low intelligence to racism. Those with low cognitive abilities are attracted to “rightwing ideologies that promote coherence and order” and “emphasize the maintenance of the status quo”. Even for someone not yet renowned for liberal reticence, this feels hard to write.

This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies.

But what we now see among their parties – however intelligent their guiding spirits may be – is the abandonment of any pretense of high-minded conservatism. On both sides of the Atlantic, conservative strategists have discovered that there is no pool so shallow that several million people won’t drown in it. Whether they are promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US, that man-made climate change is an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy, or that the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics“. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”.

Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today“. The Republican party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to what he calls the “low-information voter”, or the “misinformation voter”. While most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base”.

The madness hasn’t gone as far in the UK, but the effects of the Conservative appeal to stupidity are making themselves felt. This week the Guardian reported that recipients of disability benefits, scapegoated by the government as scroungers, blamed for the deficit, now find themselves subject to a new level of hostility and threats from other people.

These are the perfect conditions for a billionaires’ feeding frenzy. Any party elected by misinformed, suggestible voters becomes a vehicle for undisclosed interests. A tax break for the 1% is dressed up as freedom for the 99%. The regulation that prevents big banks and corporations exploiting us becomes an assault on the working man and woman. Those of us who discuss man-made climate change are cast as elitists by people who happily embrace the claims of Lord Monckton, Lord Lawson or thinktanks funded by ExxonMobil or the Koch brothers: now the authentic voices of the working class.

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties, as Thomas Frank laments in his latest book Pity the Billionaire, triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism.

Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It’s turkeys all the way down.

© 2012 The Guardian

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/02/07-5

prejudice…Canadian study that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence…. research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking…. The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

revisionist history Don’t take my word for it. Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”…. The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

low intelligence – Canadian study that people with conservative beliefs are likely to be of low intelligence…. research showing that low general intelligence in childhood predicts greater prejudice towards people of different ethnicity or sexuality in adulthood. Open-mindedness, flexibility, trust in other people: all these require certain cognitive abilities. Understanding and accepting others – particularly “different” others – requires an enhanced capacity for abstract thinking…This is not to suggest that all conservatives are stupid. There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running thinktanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies…they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls. . The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

revisionist history – Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”…

But when I survey this wreckage I wonder who the real idiots are. The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

progressive non-reaction… once-progressive major parties…triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate, muzzled by what he calls “terminal niceness”. They fail to produce a coherent analysis of what has gone wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism. The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

supremacy of the stupid – Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupid. It’s turkeys all the way down. The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left

Republican obstruction of democracy

The Great American Cleaving by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, November 5, 2010 …We have retreated to our respective political corners and armed ourselves in an ideological standoff over the very meaning of America, having diametrically opposed interpretations of its past and visions for its future….Ideology is slowly becoming rigidly prescriptive and political transcendence is becoming less and less possible or admirable…Instead of moving toward the middle, we are drifting toward the extremes…Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, delivered the opening salvo, saying “our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.” Not jobs? Not the deficit? Not the two interminable wars?
That ripping sound you hear is the fabric of a nation
.

Us vs Them A Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming By James Rohrer, AlterNet.org, July 27, 2012 …We humans are by nature social crea­tures, even the most intro­verted of us, and we tend to trust and fol­low the think­ing of the groups with which we identify…Our groups define “us” and exert pow­er­ful influ­ence on how we think, even how we feel, and how we behave in soci­ety. By def­i­n­i­tion, of course, every group cre­ates “Them”— they are all the ones who are not in our group…most groups have some set of outsiders—some par­tic­u­lar slice of the vast pop­u­la­tion that is “them” –that serves a very spe­cial sym­bolic func­tion in their cos­mos. These are mem­bers of other groups that believe things or advo­cate things that our group opposes. They are the enemy.

Many groups, in fact, are formed specif­i­cally in oppo­si­tion to some other group, and thus are defined pre­cisely by their com­pe­ti­tion or con­flict with “Them.” In this case, between “us” and “them” there can be noth­ing but implaca­ble hostility.

Con­flict, often low level, but some­times vio­lent, is endemic to human social life.…Throughout his­tory, polit­i­cal elites have manip­u­lated social groups to achieve and main­tain power.… in the last two gen­er­a­tions Repub­li­cans have mas­ter­fully used wedge pol­i­tics– pit­ting us against them — to gain and keep power and to imple­ment poli­cies that a clear major­ity of the pop­u­lace dis­likes, but appar­ently can­not find any effec­tive way to change.…Although we live in an irre­ducibly plu­ral­is­tic world, we have yet to learn how to func­tion as a plu­ral­is­tic democracy…

To restore civil dis­course and bring down the level of polar­iza­tion, we need to learn new ways of relat­ing together as us and them.….…The fun­da­men­tal ques­tions need to be raised, because what we imagine—no mat­ter how inchoate it may be—influences the way that we act and the choices that we make every day. Noth­ing is more imme­di­ately prac­ti­cal and polit­i­cal than imagination.…..We have a lot of rehu­man­iz­ing to do. There are pow­er­ful polit­i­cal and eco­nomic inter­ests that want to keep us frag­mented and at one another’s throats rather than work­ing together to estab­lish a more inclu­sive democ­racy. They will do all they can to stir con­tin­ued dis­cord between groups and to use wedge pol­i­tics to defeat our aspi­ra­tions for mean­ing­ful change. Can pro­gres­sives of all per­sua­sions, no mat­ter what our pri­mary inter­est groups may be, at least agree that we will stop doing their job for them?

Race – White resentment

Tim Wise on White Resentment in a Multiracial Society – interview by Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview, March 2, 2012 …it took America – this place where the old divisions would need to be put aside so as to subjugate indigenous persons and maintain chattel enslavement of Africans in the name of “the white race” – to really bring racism, as we know it to fruition…If the elite could make the poor Europeans believe they were members of the same “white” team as the rich Europeans, then the prospects for class-based rebellion would be dampened…it’s not that the election of Obama caused the racism of course, but it certainly gave those with deep seated racial resentments and anxieties a new opportunity to articulate those under the guise of mainstream politics….the sense of otherness surrounding him is even greater. He stands as something of a symbol of the transition from the old, white narrative of America to a new, multicultural, multiracial norm – and it’s a norm for which many, many whites simply are not prepared and about which they are not pleased…

The Persistence of Racial Resentment By THOMAS B. EDSALL, Feb­ru­ary 6, 2013….Largely miss­ing from daily news sto­ries were ref­er­ences to research on how racial atti­tudes have changed under Obama, the nation’s first black pres­i­dent. In fact, there has been an inter­est­ing explo­ration of this sub­ject among academics…Despite how con­tro­ver­sial it has been to talk about race, researchers have gath­ered a sub­stan­tial amount of infor­ma­tion on the opin­ions of white Amer­i­can vot­ers…the evi­dence strongly sug­gests that party attach­ments have become increas­ingly polar­ized by both racial atti­tudes and race as a result of Obama’s rise to promi­nence within the Demo­c­ra­tic Party…At the moment, the pop­u­la­tion of the United States (314 mil­lion) is head­ing towards a majority-minority sta­tus in 2042. The Amer­i­can elec­torate, on the other hand (126 mil­lion) is cur­rently 72 per­cent white, based on the vot­ers who cast bal­lots last Novem­ber

America’s decline

8 Shocking Ways America Leads the World By Lynn Stuart ParramoreAlterNet, July 29, 2013

Crumbling American Dreams By ROBERT D. PUTNAM, New York Times,  August 3, 2013

United States of Paranoia: How the FBI Spied and Lied So Conspiracy Theorists Would Sound Crazy August 20, 2013 

The Corrosion of America by Bob Herbert, New York Times, October 26, 2010 … If this were a first-class society we would rebuild our water systems to the point where they would be the envy of the world, and that would bolster the economy in the bargain. But that would take maturity and vision and effort and sacrifice, all of which are in dismayingly short supply right now…if we could bring ourselves to stop fighting mindless wars and use some of those squandered billions to bring the nation’s infrastructure in the broadest sense up to 21st-century standards.
…there is a desperate need to improve the nation’s infrastructure and a desperate need for the jobs and enhanced economic activity that would come from sustained, long-term infrastructure investment. But somehow the leadership and the will to move forward on the scale that is needed are missing… We can start getting our act together now, or we can pay dearly later…The sorry state of America’s infrastructure is a hard-core reflection of what is really going on in this increasingly hapless society, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

 America Is Far from #1 …[in an] annual rank­ing of 144 coun­tries, on a wide range of fac­tors related to global eco­nomic com­pet­i­tive­ness…Gross Domes­tic Prod­uct is the only fac­tor where the U.S. ranks as #1…Health Care has the U.S. rank­ing #34 on “Life Expectancy,” and #41 on “Infant Mor­tal­ity.” Edu­ca­tion in the U.S. is also mediocre.…The U.S, over­all, is very far from being #1 – not really in con­tention, at all, for the top spot. The rank­ings sug­gest instead that this nation is sink­ing toward the Third World…

Corporate power

…It’s not the powerless who corrupt democracies… it’s the powerful who corrupt democracies. …America’s fiscal problems are a direct result of the Billionaire Class working behind the scenes of our democracy and syphoning off massive amounts of wealth for themselves while paying lower taxes than they’ve paid in a half-century… How the Billionaires Class Is Destroying Democracy By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks 

The corporate-policy network is highly centralized, at both the level of individuals and that of organizations. Its inner circle is a tightly interwoven ensemble of politically active business leaders…” Meet the Elite Business and Think-Tank Community That’s Doing Its Best to Control the World, By Andrew Gavin Marshall posted on Alternet.org June 19, 2013  

How Corporations Are Subverting Attempts to Rein in Their Power By Thomas Mc Donagh, AlterNet, May 23, 2013 |

Wall Street, a Culture of Greed Won’t Let Go Ethics. Values. Integrity By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, July 15, 2013

“The Dumbest Idea in the World”: Corporate America’s False — and Dangerous — Ideology of Shareholder Value by Lynn Stout For at least the past two decades, Americans have been duped into believing that the sole purpose of a corporation is to maximize value for its shareholders…But in reality, it has no basis in the law or American precedent. The scholars, journalists and even corporate leaders are coming to the realization that the American corporation has made a wrong turn based on a false ideology…Fortunately, there’s new movement aimed at challenging the destructive ideology shareholder value…

The Source of Cor­po­rate Power by Robert C. Koehler…Cit­i­zens United vs. Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion case over­turns restric­tions on cor­po­rate spend­ing to influ­ence elec­tion results, giv­ing enti­ties with mil­lions (in some cases, bil­lions) of dol­lars at their dis­posal unlim­ited license to elec­tion­eer for the can­di­date with the friend­liest atti­tude toward their inter­ests. The ten­dency of money and power is to con­cen­trate, of course. The big trick, from a human per­spec­tive, is to make sure our core val­ues remain pre-eminent, that they are served by the ways in which we con­cen­trate power. Democ­racy is the great mech­a­nism for doing so…the con­cept of democ­racy is mor­tally wounded…This is an “activist” judi­cial deci­sion, that is to say, a deci­sion that serves a prior agenda, with any prin­ci­ples cited (e.g., the sanc­tity of free speech) sheer win­dow dress­ing in ser­vice to a larger, and covert, cause…I see lit­tle hope for a gullible nation that allows the tube to hem­or­rhage urgent inani­ties directly into its con­scious­ness for 18 hours a day. This gulli­bil­ity is the source of cor­po­rate power. Democ­racy can only thrive where peo­ple think for themselves.

The Big Picture: A 40-Year Scan of the Right-Wing Corporate Takeover of America By Don Hazen and Colin Greer, AlterNet, October 3, 2011…conservatives have gained more power and ability to control the national debate than they have in the past 75 years…Subsequently, the liberal/progressive side of the political equation has lost much of its influence from the period of the 1970s and early ’80s. How this has happened over time is little understood…beginning of the 1980s, until Reagan, responding to the conservative base, changed the ground rules. And with it, labor’s guaranteed negotiating strength ended…progressive politics became more about winning elections, seeking legislative reform,  and building not-for-profit institutions that represented progressive vision and options. There no longer was a base beyond labor, which was itself shrinking…The fact is, a society grows into tyranny over time as the most powerful cultivate extreme crowd behavior, which, unless resisted can have a contagion effect into the public at large, paralyzing resistance and recruiting frightened supporters…What we are up against is the constant reduction of compassion as the highest priority in how you make public policy and deliver public goods…. we’re missing the point, both in terms of compassion but also that it’s not not about belief in government. It’s about who owns government and what it’s for. Despite the right’s anti-government rhetoric, their practice is pro government. But it is government for them…It’s time to name what is happening in our country without hysteria, but to be clear that the next elections are part of a struggle for a social and cultural threshold that will determine the quality of life and democracy in this country…

Myth of Opportunity

How Inbred Elites Are Tearing America Apart By David Daley, Salon, June 26, 2013 – Chris Hayes’ “Twilight of the Elites” … is a story about inequality and myths: the myth of the meritocracy and the reality of the very uneven society that allows those…As Hayes writes: “Along with all the other rising inequalities we’ve become so familiar with — in income, in wealth, in access to politicians — we confront now a fundamental inequality of accountability… we cannot have a just society that applies the principle of accountability to the powerless and the principle of forgiveness to the powerful. This is the America in which we currently reside.”…we can no longer assume basic competence from those who at least appear to have risen on the merits of intelligence…That kind of institutional rot seems to me one of the most important stories of the day – the problems facing us are so serious and so large, and yet we seem completely unequipped to deal with them forthrightly and seriously – whether in Congress, in the media, in academia…

The Price of Inequality and the Myth of Opportunity by Joseph Stiglitz, June 6, 2012 by Project Syn­di­cate, posted on CommonDreams.org… to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the income and edu­ca­tion of his or her parents? Nowa­days, these num­bers show that the Amer­i­can dream is a myth…The clear trend is one of con­cen­tra­tion of income and wealth at the top, the hol­low­ing out of the mid­dle, and increas­ing poverty at the bottom…It might not be so bad if there were even a grain of truth to trickle-down eco­nom­ics – the quaint notion that every­one ben­e­fits from enrich­ing those at the top… Amer­ica grew far faster in the decades after World War II, when it was grow­ing together, than it has since 1980, when it began grow­ing apart….pol­i­tics is shaped by money…But grow­ing inequal­ity is not inevitable. There are mar­ket economies that are doing bet­ter, both in terms of both GDP growth and ris­ing liv­ing stan­dards for most cit­i­zens. Some are even reduc­ing inequalities…But, most impor­tantly, America’s inequal­ity is under­min­ing its val­ues and iden­tity…Amer­ica can no longer regard itself as the land of oppor­tu­nity that it once was. But it does not have to be this way: it is not too late for the Amer­i­can dream to be restored.

The ‘Merit-Based Society’ by Thomas B. Edsall,  New York Times, July 15, 2012…a merit based sys­tem can quickly con­vert into an entrenched hier­ar­chy as a result of the accu­mu­la­tion of exces­sive wealth and income: The great­est dan­ger is that high inequal­ity cre­ates a soci­ety in which wealthy ‘crony cap­i­tal­ists’ dom­i­nate cor­po­rate and gov­ern­ment poli­cies and use their wealth to sub­vert mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion and to cor­rupt democ­racy in order to main­tain their posi­tion atop the income hierarchy.…Campaign con­tri­bu­tions, accord­ing to Gilens, are highly cor­re­lated with the lever­age of the afflu­ent over pol­icy…the Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ing com­mu­nity that now amounts to a fourth branch of gov­ern­ment, staffed by for­mer Sen­a­tors, Con­gress­men and exec­u­tive branch offi­cials, who work for clients equipped to pay fees of $200,000 or more a year…The super PACs enabled by Cit­i­zens United and related lower-court deci­sions are over­whelm­ingly tilted in Romney’s favor and sup­port­ive of the Repub­li­can Party in gen­eral: Con­ser­v­a­tive super PACs have so far spent $125 mil­lion, while lib­eral groups have spent less than a third of that, $35.2 million…The other side of the coin? … the weak influ­ence the poor exer­cise over pol­icy…

The New Education – Norman Cousins

“The new edu­ca­tion must be less con­cerned with sophis­ti­ca­tion than com­pas­sion. It must rec­og­nize the haz­ards of trib­al­ism. It must teach peo­ple the most dif­fi­cult les­son of all—to look at some­one any­where in the world and be able to see the image of him­self, or her­self. The old empha­sis upon super­fi­cial dif­fer­ences that sep­a­rate peo­ples must give way to edu­ca­tion for cit­i­zen­ship in the human com­mu­nity. With such an edu­ca­tion and with such self-understanding, it is pos­si­ble that some nation or peo­ple may come for­ward with the vital inspi­ra­tion that men need no less than food. Lead­er­ship on this higher level does not require moun­tains of gold or thun­der­ing pro­pa­ganda. It is con­cerned with human des­tiny. Human des­tiny is the issue. Peo­ple will respond.”  Nor­man Cousins

 

 

Social media

Reweaving the Fabric of our Society by Joan Blades, co-founder, MoveOn.org …While the traditional media loves fights, the new and emerging social media loves connections. We can leverage the wisdom and creativity of crowds to find win-win solutions to our common problems. We can scale our efforts to tens of thousands of conversations, giving individuals the power to begin to reweave the social fabric of our communities…

How You Will Change the World with Social Networking by Deanna Zandt, AlterNet.org, July 24, 2010……How we share information, find community, and both connect and disconnect will give us unprecedented influence over our place in the world. Social media technology holds some of the biggest potential for creating tectonic shifts in how we operate, and the overall open-ended promise of technology gives us a great shot at creating the systems for change…I truly believe that through social networking, we can influence the way these conversations affect how change happens. As more conversations are taking place in public, we can represent ourselves. We can break stereotypes. We can transform our new connections into social change…..We are at a critical cultural juncture where it is up to us to experiment and ultimately define how things work in the ecosystem.

Failure of the main stream media

The Radicalization of the GOP is the Most Important Political Story Today

Why Won’t The Press Police Radical Republicans? By Eric Boehlert, Media Matters, October 11, 2013

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead James Fallows Sep 27 2013  –A kind of politics we have not seen for more than 150 years…As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on…This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

The U.S. Behaves Nothing Like a Democracy, But You’ll Never Hear About It in Our ‘Free Press’ By Noam Chomsky, AlterNetAugust 15, 2013

15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media by akadjianFollow, Daily Kos, Aug 07, 2013

Big Media Is Raking in Billions on Political Ads — Here’s a Way to Take Back the Airwaves That Belong to All of Us by Bill Moyers, Alternet.org, March 30, 20132012  |

How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign by Dan Froomkin, Huff­in­g­ton Post, 12/07/2012 — Con­tribut­ing edi­tor, Nie­man Reports … cov­er­age in 2012 was a par­tic­u­larly calami­tous fail­ure, almost entirely miss­ing the sin­gle biggest story of the race: Namely, the rad­i­cal right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Repub­li­can Party, both in terms of its agenda and its rela­tion­ship to the truth… Democ­rats were hardly inno­cent but…the Repub­li­can cam­paign was just far more over the top.”…[Mann and Orn­stein] dra­mat­i­cally rejected the stric­tures of false equiv­a­lency that bind so much of the capital’s media…The 2012 cam­paign …exposed how fab­u­lists and liars can exploit the elite media’s fear of being seen as tak­ing sides… if the story that you’re telling repeat­edly is that they’re all…equally to blame — then you’re really doing a dis­ser­vice to vot­ers, and not doing what jour­nal­ism is sup­posed to do…

Why the Mainstream Media Are Clueless About the Religious Right by Adele M. Stan, AlterNet, August 18, 2011 - Though it has shaped American politics for the last 40 years, the religious right still baffles reporters…From the attitudes shown by media toward the religious right, you’d never know that more than one-quarter of the U.S. population identify as evangelicals…These, by and large, are the people who determine the outcome of the Republican presidential primary…yet, we who cover these races often know very little about the voters whose person-on-the-street interviews they’re recording, except to know that these people are very different from us in their view of the world… the ideology can be traced back to the backers of 1964 campaign of Barry Goldwater. But you’d never know that from reading the mainstream media.

What Watchdog? How the Financial Press Has Failed the American Public, AlterNet [1] / By Laura Gottesdiener [2]  January 9, 2013 …2013 is already shaping up to be another year of government-backed wins for Wall Street. As the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgenson wrote, “If you were hoping that things might be different in 2013 — you know, that bankers would be held responsible for bad behavior or that the government might actually assist troubled homeowners — you can forget it.…”…The lack of outrage or investigation by mainstream media comes in stark contrast to the public response to the settlement announcements.…So if readers are hungering for more information and outrage, why is the mainstream press so soft on Wall Street? Is it the last three decades’ rampant media consolidation, which has put 90 percent of the nation’s media in the hands of only six major corporations? [5] (That’s down from 50 companies in 1983.) Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Dean Starkman, whose 2009 Columbia Journalism Review article “Power Problem [6]outlined just how badly the financial press failed in the lead-up to 2006 [was asked]  what’s the role of the press–if it’s doing its job? [ and said] “To me, journalism is particularly important because it is the oxygen of democracy. At its best, it is the main thing that is capable of explaining complex problems to a mass audience.That’s its most critical role–and its most difficult task.”…

How the US Press Lost its Way By Robert Parry, Con­sor­tium News,  May 21, 2012 …the glory days of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism in the 1970s…the more depress­ing ques­tion of why things then went so ter­ri­bly wrong...with Richard Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion in 1974, it could be said that America’s checks and bal­ances were alive and well. In news­rooms around Wash­ing­ton, there was rea­son to be proud.More broadly, the United States had rea­son to be proud. The Amer­i­can con­sti­tu­tional Repub­lic had shown its capac­ity for self-correction. Not only had brave indi­vid­u­als done their jobs as pro­fes­sion­als – both in media and in gov­ern­ment – but the nation’s insti­tu­tions had worked.The press, the Con­gress, the courts along with an informed pub­lic had demanded and got­ten account­abil­ity and reform.How­ever, the suc­cess of democ­racy, this vic­tory of the rule of law, was frag­ile. The strug­gle between dis­hon­est pols and hon­est reporters – between an engaged peo­ple and behind-the-scenes power­bro­kers – was far from over. Indeed, a new bat­tle was just begin­ning...It was an unset­tling time for the rich white men who held most of the levers of power...many were deter­mined to fight back and some had expe­ri­ence in defus­ing and dis­man­tling social move­ments around the world…gave Nixon’s allies a play­book for how to neu­tral­ize oppo­nents and steer a pop­u­la­tion here at home...hap­pened over the past three-plus decadesulti­mately, they con­sol­i­dated power; they changed laws in their favor; and – over the course of sev­eral decades – they made them­selves even richer, indeed a lot richer, and that, in turn, has trans­lated into even more power.The likes of Richard Mel­lon Scaife and the Koch Broth­ers began invest­ing in right-wing media, in right-wing think tanks, and in right-wing attack groups…Aus­tralian Rupert Mur­doch showed up with mil­lions more to buy up news media prop­er­ties and give them a right-wing bent. Amer­i­can neo­cons also emerged in this time frame. They became the intel­lec­tual shock troops for the Right’s coun­terof­fen­sive…1977…the end of that brief golden era of jour­nal­ism. Jimmy Carter was pres­i­dent at the time. His admin­is­tra­tion was itself a reac­tion to the lies of the Viet­nam War and Water­gate…Then, came Ronald Rea­gan. He was the per­fect pitch­man for this push­back, the ideal front man for ral­ly­ing aver­age Amer­i­cans to betray their own inter­ests…He also could sell nos­tal­gia for a myth­i­cal bet­ter day, a time before all those jar­ring social changes of the 1960s and all those national humil­i­a­tions of the 1970s. After defeat­ing Jimmy Carter in 1980, Rea­gan brought with him a gifted team of P.R. and ad men. And, partly through the con­nec­tion of Reagan’s Vice Pres­i­dent (and for­mer CIA direc­tor) George H.W. Bush…Rea­gan also put one of Richard Nixon’s most cyn­i­cal and unscrupu­lous allies, Bill Casey, in charge of CIA. Casey was a for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cer from the OSS in World War II. He obsessed over the impor­tance of decep­tion and pro­pa­ganda, what he viewed as key ele­ments in defeat­ing the Nazis and later con­tain­ing the Com­mu­nists. Casey under­stood that he who con­trolled the flow of infor­ma­tion had a deci­sive advan­tage in any con­flict...Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion …pol­icy cen­tered around scar­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple about the Soviet men­ace and financ­ing a mas­sive U.S. mil­i­tary buildup to counter Moscow’s sup­posed bid for world­wide conquest. Rea­gan also wanted to assist right-wing dic­ta­tor­ships in Cen­tral Amer­ica as they put down upris­ings by peas­ants, stu­dents, even priests and nuns…But the prob­lem wasn’t just get­ting con­trol of the infor­ma­tion inside the U.S. gov­ern­ment. It also was to get con­trol of the unruly Wash­ing­ton press corpsAt the NSC, Ray­mond was put in charge of a spe­cial inter­a­gency task force for coor­di­nat­ing what was called “pub­lic diplo­macy,” or how to sell U.S. poli­cies around the world. But the office had a more secret and more sen­si­tive domes­tic func­tion. It was tar­get­ing mem­bers of Con­gress and the U.S. press corps – and through them, the Amer­i­can peo­ple…trou­ble­some jour­nal­ists were sim­ply labeled “lib­eral,” a curse word in that period...the Rea­gan team had a name for what they were up to in their domes­tic pro­pa­ganda schemes. They called it “per­cep­tion man­age­ment.” The idea was that if you could man­age how the Amer­i­can peo­ple per­ceived events abroad, you could not only insure their con­tin­ued sup­port of the for­eign pol­icy, but in mak­ing the peo­ple more com­pli­ant domes­ti­cally. A fright­ened pop­u­la­tion is much eas­ier to con­trol...the nation’s two pre­em­i­nent papers… the New York Times and the Wash­ing­ton Post – largely moved to the side­lines when it came to Reagan-era scan­dals.In the 1980s, the two influ­en­tial papers became more solic­i­tous to the Estab­lish­ment than they were com­mit­ted to the qual­ity jour­nal­ism that had con­tributed to the upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s...notion of con­tro­ver­sial­iz­ing reporters may sound silly, but it was a real strat­egy. By the mid-1980s, America’s Right had built up an impos­ing media infra­struc­ture of its own with many news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines…the secret oper­a­tions of Oliver North and to the first story – in June 1985 – about his role fun­nel­ing off-the-books money to the con­tras the Iran-Contra Affair marked an oppor­tu­nity to not only bring impor­tant facts to the Amer­i­can peo­ple but to revive that inde­pen­dent spirit of the U.S. press…There were too many forces sup­port­ing con­tain­ment of the scan­dal and too few com­mit­ted to its full expli­ca­tion.…From my sources, it was clear that a cover-up was under­way to pro­tect Rea­gan and his heir appar­ent Bush.… bureau chief…specifically ordered me not to even read the con­gres­sional Iran-Contra report when it came out in fall 1987. I was reas­signed to work on the Gary Hart sex scan­dal...the con­cept of “per­cep­tion man­age­ment” had car­ried the day in Wash­ing­ton, with remark­ably lit­tle resis­tance from the Wash­ing­ton press corps...Yes, the press corps could get fierce about Bill Clinton’s sex life or Al Gore’s sup­posed exag­ger­a­tions. But when it came to national secu­rity secrets – espe­cially with a Repub­li­can in the White House – the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the world were in much greater dan­ger than they knew.I turned to what was then the new media fron­tier, the Inter­net, and started what was the first inves­tiga­tive news Web site. The site is called Consortiumnews.com…despite the Internet’s promiseThe read­er­ship also is frag­mented, mak­ing it impos­si­ble to have the impact that the New York Times had in the Pen­ta­gon Papers or the Wash­ing­ton Post had dur­ing Water­gate.Sadly, too, my fears about the dan­gers from a Wash­ing­ton press corps that had stopped ask­ing the tough ques­tions on issues of war and peace also proved pre­scient. After George W. Bush seized the White House — and espe­cially after the 9/11 attacks — many jour­nal­ists reverted back their ear­lier roles as stenog­ra­phers to power. They also became cheer­lead­ers for a mis­guided war in Iraq. Indeed, you can track the arc of mod­ern Amer­i­can jour­nal­ism from its apex at the Pen­ta­gon Papers and Water­gate curv­ing down­ward to that cen­ter point of Iran-Contra before reach­ing the nadir of Bush’s war in Iraq…Though every­one knew that Hus­sein had let the inspec­tors in and that it was Bush who had forced them to leave in March 2003, not a sin­gle reporter con­fronted Bush on this lie, which he repeated again and again right through his exit inter­views in 2008...In the era of Water­gate and the Pen­ta­gon Papers, the sys­tem had worked, with indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions uphold­ing their con­sti­tu­tional duties to inform the pub­lic and pun­ish cor­rupt offi­cials. By the era of Iran-Contra, some indi­vid­u­als within the sys­tem con­tin­ued to do their jobs, but the insti­tu­tions had stopped work­ing. Almost no one was held account­able and the cover-up was largely succeeded…Even after George W. Bush took the United States to war in Iraq under false pre­tenses and even after he autho­rized the tor­ture of detainees in the “war on ter­ror,” no one involved in those deci­sions has faced any account­abil­ity at all. When high-flying Wall Street bankers brought the world’s econ­omy to its knees with risky gam­bles in 2008, West­ern gov­ern­ments used tril­lions of dol­lars in pub­lic mon­eys to bail the bankers out. But not one senior banker faced prosecution. Upon tak­ing office in 2009, Pres­i­dent Obama saw lit­tle choice but to “look for­ward, not back­ward.” And, in all hon­esty, given the state of the Amer­i­can political/media process, it is hard to envi­sion how he would have pro­ceeded against what would have been a pow­er­ful pha­lanx of Estab­lish­ment forces opposed to pros­e­cut­ing Bush, Wall Street CEOs and their underlings. …Not only has polit­i­cal power been con­cen­trated in their hands, but the country’s wealth, too…The absence of account­abil­ity has spread from gov­ern­ment to the media itself. The mak­ings are there for yet another catastrophe. So, a sad but – I think – fair con­clu­sion would be that at least for the time being, per­cep­tion man­age­ment has won out over truth. But the strug­gle over infor­ma­tion and democ­racy has entered another new and unpre­dictable phase.

Generational justice

The Earth Is Full by Thomas L. Fried­man, New York Times, June 7, 2011 …we are cur­rently grow­ing at a rate that is using up the Earth’s resources far faster than they can be sus­tain­ably replen­ished, so we are eat­ing into the future. Right now, global growth is using about 1.5 Earths.…That is what hap­pens when one gen­er­a­tion in one coun­try lives at 150 per­cent of sus­tain­able capac­ity….…the consumer-driven growth model is bro­ken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on peo­ple work­ing less and own­ing less.

U.S. Ranks at the Bottom of Child Well-Being Salon.com / By Katie McDonough, April 12, 2013 – The United States ranked in the bottom four of a United Nations report on child well-being. Among 29 countries, America landed second from the bottom in child poverty and held a similarly dismal position when it came to “child life satisfaction.” Keeping the U.S. company at the bottom of the report, which gauged material well-being, overall health, access to housing and education, were Lithuania, Latvia and Romania, three of the poorest countries in the survey….But don’t feel too discouraged, fellow Americans! As the International Business Times notes [3], the U.S. has managed to take first place in plenty of other surveys conducted by global organizations: The United States is No. 1 on many other lists: It spends more on the military than the next 12 nations on the list combined; it’s the best in the world at imprisoning people; and it has the most obese people, the highest divorce rate, and the highest rate of both illicit and prescription drug use.

Why our children’s future no longer looks so bright By Robert J. Samuelson, Washington Post, October 16, 2011— A specter haunts America: downward mobility. Every generation, we believe, should live better than its predecessor…But these expectations could be dashed. For young Americans, the future could be dimmer …Our children’s futures have been heavily mortgaged…The future is never entirely predictable, but downward mobility is not just a scary sound bite. It’s a real possibility.


9 Ways the Right’s Ayn Randian Experiment Screws Over the Young – Blog for Our Future, By RJ Eskow, June 17, 2013 Conservatives keep claiming liberals want a “cradle-to-grave nanny state.” That rhetoric has distracted us from the real social re-engineering taking place all around us. The right, along with its “centrist” collaborators, … Continue reading →

The Decade of Lost Children by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, August 5, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the American Childhood By Colin Greer,Alter­Net, July 19, 2012 -From the 1930s to 1980, child­hood in Amer­ica became a cher­ished space for young­sters to grow in. After 1980, and with increas­ing furor, that space has been under assault and child­hood ter­ri­bly com­pro­mised. Look at what we once did and what we’re now doing.The Rise: Child labor laws, Civil rights pro­tec­tions for all chil­dren., Full and secure employ­ment for par­ents. Play as a mode of learn­ing. Early child­hood as a time to invest in child devel­op­ment through stim­u­lat­ing play…Access to qual­ity edu­ca­tion on an unprece­dented scale…The US moved toward uni­ver­sal inclu­sion from ele­men­tary through post-secondary education.Yet once these gains were fully estab­lished in the top rungs of soci­ety, they began to shut down for the nation’s chil­dren as a whole. For 50 years, the pen­du­lum swung toward pro­tect­ing chil­dren and guar­an­tee­ing a child­hood for all; then it began to swing back when less than half of the pop­u­la­tion had securely achieved these ben­e­fits. So despite the lan­guage of “going too far” in the direc­tion of a pro­tec­tive, even a “nanny state,” we have never in fact gone far enough for the least priv­i­leged of us…Chil­dren in poor and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties are actu­ally work­ing — on the land and in sweat­shops — despite our laws to the con­trary. Chil­dren in this pop­u­la­tion have less than a 10% chance of a col­lege edu­ca­tion. Hunger and home­less­ness among these chil­dren is at shock­ingly high lev­els….The need for both par­ents to work in the face of not only eco­nomic down­turns, but the demand for higher pro­duc­tiv­ity from Amer­i­can work­ers and lower pub­lic ben­e­fits, puts the lives of chil­dren under stresses that we once aimed to eradicate.In describ­ing both the rise and fall of Amer­i­can child­hood, I’ve quoted no data for two rea­sons. One, it is all out there. It’s in the press and in the pro­fes­sional lit­er­a­ture for all to find. Two, the gath­er­ing of data seems to make no dif­fer­ence to pub­lic behav­ior and pub­lic policy.Per­haps it’s time instead for each of us to imag­ine just one child, one who looks like a child you know and love. Each of these chil­dren is the bearer of the accu­mu­lated loss sum­ma­rized in the Rise and Fall.

Old vs. Young By David Leonhardt  …one dividing line has actually received too little attention. It’s the line between young and old……economic slump of the last decade…has still taken a much higher toll on the young…The wealth gap between households headed by someone over 65 and those headed by someone under 35 … gap in homeownership… income gap is also at a recorded high…the young are generally losing out to the old….more than 50 percent of federal benefits flow to the 13 percent of the population over 65…education spending — the area that the young say should be cut the least, polls show — is taking deep cuts… Hammered by the economic downturn…They wish the country would devote more attention to its future, especially on education and the climate. They, of course, will have to live with that future.

Our Three Bombs by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, October 7, 2009-…Today’s youth are growing up in the shadow of three bombs — any one of which could go off at any time and set in motion a truly nonlinear, radical change in the trajectory of their lives.
The first, of course, is still the nuclear threat…But there are now two other bombs our children have hanging over them: the debt bomb and the climate bomb…when one ecosystem collapses, it can trigger unpredictable changes in others that could alter our whole world.
The same is true with America’s debt bomb… it would surely diminish our government’s ability to make public investments and just as surely diminish our children’s standard of living…we’re in effect putting our kids’ future in the hands of the two most merciless forces on the planet: the Market and Mother Nature…we also need to act. If we don’t, we will be leaving our children to the tender mercies of the Market and Mother Nature alone to shape their futures