How a Ruthless Network of Super-Rich Ideologues Killed Choice and Destroyed People’s Faith in Politics

By George Monbiot, Evonomics: The Next Evolution of Economics, Originally published at the Guardian,  February 18, 2017

Excerpt from full article – scroll down for content – highlighting by curator of this website

Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party…was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She [Thatcher] … pulled out a dog-eared book…“This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun. The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations…This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy…He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands. Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take. He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion…Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is “an overwhelming case against a free health service for all” and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics. By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek’s doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world’s richest people and businesses, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme. Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism…Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”. It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy…. the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation…The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming. Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st centuryA few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish. The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature. Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

Full text as posted at http://evonomics.com/ruthless-network-super-rich-ideologues-killed-choice-destroyed-peoples-faith-politics/

How a Ruthless Network of Super-Rich Ideologues Killed Choice and Destroyed People’s Faith in Politics

Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph

By George Monbiot, Evonomics: The Next Evolution of Economics, Originally published at the Guardian,  February 18, 2017  http://evonomics.com/ruthless-network-super-rich-ideologues-killed-choice-destroyed-peoples-faith-politics/

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

This, at any rate, is how it was originally conceived. But by the time Hayek came to write The Constitution of Liberty, the network of lobbyists and thinkers he had founded was being lavishly funded by multimillionaires who saw the doctrine as a means of defending themselves against democracy. Not every aspect of the neoliberal programme advanced their interests. Hayek, it seems, set out to close the gap.

He begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

He justifies this position by creating a heroic narrative of extreme wealth. He conflates the economic elite, spending their money in new ways, with philosophical and scientific pioneers. Just as the political philosopher should be free to think the unthinkable, so the very rich should be free to do the undoable, without constraint by public interest or public opinion.

The ultra rich are “scouts”, “experimenting with new styles of living”, who blaze the trails that the rest of society will follow. The progress of society depends on the liberty of these “independents” to gain as much money as they want and spend it how they wish. All that is good and useful, therefore, arises from inequality. There should be no connection between merit and reward, no distinction made between earned and unearned income, and no limit to the rents they can charge.

Inherited wealth is more socially useful than earned wealth: “the idle rich”, who don’t have to work for their money, can devote themselves to influencing “fields of thought and opinion, of tastes and beliefs”. Even when they seem to be spending money on nothing but “aimless display”, they are in fact acting as society’s vanguard.

Hayek softened his opposition to monopolies and hardened his opposition to trade unions. He lambasted progressive taxation and attempts by the state to raise the general welfare of citizens. He insisted that there is “an overwhelming case against a free health service for all” and dismissed the conservation of natural resources. It should come as no surprise to those who follow such matters that he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics.

By the time Thatcher slammed his book on the table, a lively network of thinktanks, lobbyists and academics promoting Hayek’s doctrines had been established on both sides of the Atlantic, abundantly financed by some of the world’s richest people and businesses, including DuPont, General Electric, the Coors brewing company, Charles Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, Lawrence Fertig, the William Volker Fund and the Earhart Foundation. Using psychology and linguistics to brilliant effect, the thinkers these people sponsored found the words and arguments required to turn Hayek’s anthem to the elite into a plausible political programme.

Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

It was inevitable that the blazing, insurrectionary confidence of neoliberalism would exert a stronger gravitational pull than the dying star of social democracy. Hayek’s triumph could be witnessed everywhere from Blair’s expansion of the private finance initiative to Clinton’s repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act, which had regulated the financial sector. For all his grace and touch, Barack Obama, who didn’t possess a narrative either (except “hope”), was slowly reeled in by those who owned the means of persuasion.

As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that – as modern psychology and neuroscience make abundantly clear – human beings, by comparison with any other animals, are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish. The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature.

Hayek told us who we are, and he was wrong. Our first step is to reclaim our humanity.

Originally published here at the Guardian.

2017  February 18

Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are… Conservative

Bill Moyers: Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it’s becoming hard not to. 

by Chris Mooney, billmoyers.com, July 17, 2014 This post originally appeared at Mother Jones.

You could be forgiven for not having browsed through the latest issue of the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences. If you care about politics, though, you’ll find a punchline therein that is pretty extraordinary.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences employs a rather unique practice called “Open Peer Commentary”: An article of major significance is published, a large number of fellow scholars comment on it and then the original author responds to all of them. The approach has many virtues, one of which being that it lets you see where a community of scholars and thinkers stand with respect to a controversial or provocative scientific idea. And in the latest issue of the journal, this process reveals the following conclusion: A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology and even traits like physiology and genetics.

That’s a big deal. It challenges everything that we thought we knew about politics — upending the idea that we get our beliefs solely from our upbringing, from our friends and families, from our personal economic interests, and calling into question the notion that in politics, we can really change (most of us, anyway).

It is a “virtually inescapable conclusion” that the “cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different.”

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a “negativity bias,” meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments. (The paper can be read for free here.) In the process, Hibbing et al. marshal a large body of evidence, including their own experiments using eye trackers and other devices to measure the involuntary responses of political partisans to different types of images. One finding? That conservatives respond much more rapidly to threatening and aversive stimuli (for instance, images of “a very large spider on the face of a frightened person, a dazed individual with a bloody face, and an open wound with maggots in it,” as one of their papers put it).

In other words, the conservative ideology, and especially one of its major facets — centered on a strong military, tough law enforcement, resistance to immigration, widespread availability of guns — would seem well tailored for an underlying, threat-oriented biology.

The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. “One possibility,” they write, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed. (The Pleistocene epoch lasted from roughly 2.5 million years ago until 12,000 years ago.) We had John Hibbing on the Inquiring Minds podcast earlier this year, and he discussed these ideas in depth; you can listen here:

Hibbing and his colleagues make an intriguing argument in their latest paper, but what’s truly fascinating is what happened next. Twenty-six different scholars or groups of scholars then got an opportunity to tee off on the paper, firing off a variety of responses. But as Hibbing and colleagues note in their final reply, out of those responses, “22 or 23 accept the general idea” of a conservative negativity bias, and simply add commentary to aid in the process of “modifying it, expanding on it, specifying where it does and does not work,” and so on. Only about three scholars or groups of scholars seem to reject the idea entirely.

That’s pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that…

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety. [Italics added]

Back in 2003, Jost and his team were blasted by Ann CoulterGeorge Will and National Review for saying this; congressional Republicans began probing into their research grants and they got lots of hate mail. But what’s clear is that today, they’ve more or less triumphed. They won a field of converts to their view and sparked a wave of new research, including the work of Hibbing and his team.

“One possibility,” note the authors, “is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene,” when it would have been super-helpful in preventing you from getting killed.

Granted, there are still many issues yet to be worked out in the science of ideology. Most of the commentaries on the new Hibbing paper are focused on important but not-paradigm-shifting side issues, such as the question of how conservatives can have a higher negativity bias, and yet not have neurotic personalities. (Actually, if anything, the research suggests that liberals may be the more neurotic bunch.) Indeed, conservatives tend to have a high degree of happiness and life satisfaction. But Hibbing and colleagues find no contradiction here. Instead, they paraphrase two other scholarly commentators (Matt Motyl of the University of Virginia and Ravi Iyer of the University of Southern California), who note that “successfully monitoring and attending negative features of the environment, as conservatives tend to do, may be just the sort of tractable task…that is more likely to lead to a fulfilling and happy life than is a constant search for new experience after new experience.”

All of this matters, of course, because we still operate in politics and in media as if minds can be changed by the best honed arguments, the most compelling facts. And yet if our political opponents are simply perceiving the world differently, that idea starts to crumble. Out of the rubble just might arise a better way of acting in politics that leads to less dysfunction and less gridlock…thanks to science.

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster and the host of Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science.

http://billmoyers.com/2014/07/17/scientists-are-beginning-to-figure-out-why-conservatives-are%E2%80%A6-conservative/

Critical thinking or ignorance

37 Percent of People Don’t Have a Clue About What’s Going on By Mark Morford, San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2013...about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright. Or rather, quite shockingly dumb…reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis, which is why most TV shows, all reality shows, many major media blogs and all of Fox News is scripted for a 5th-grade education/attention span…The smarter you are, the less rigid/more liberal you become…

The Decline of Critical Thinking, The Problem of Ignorance by Lawrence Davidson, CounterPunch Weekend Edition April 5–7, 2013the habit of asking critical questions can be taught. However, if you do not have a knowledge base from which to consider a situation, it is hard to think critically about it.  So ignorance often precludes effective critical thinking even if the technique is acquired… loyalty comes from myth-making and emotional bonds. In both cases, really effective critical thinking might well be incompatible with the desired end…The truth is that people who are consistently active as critical thinkers are not going to be popular, either with the government or their neighbors.…

Disrespect, Race and Obama By CHARLES M. BLOW, New York Times, November 15, 2013 …No one has ever accused [Rush] Limbaugh of being a complex thinker, but the intellectual deficiency required to achieve that level of arrogance and ignorance is staggering…simpletons have simple understandings of complex concepts…

Why We Need New Ways of Thinking by Barry Boyce, Shambhala Sun, September 2008 – The same old thing doesn’t work… because when it comes to complex, tough problems—global warming, food crises, civil war, terror, drugs, urban decay, persistent poverty—we have to go beyond the approaches that got us there in the first place…a loose but growing collection of thinkers, activists, academics, and social entrepreneurs who are searching for the “unthinkable”—the new ways that we can’t see because of our old ways of looking…they all firmly believe that the good old world we’ve come to know and love is coming apart at the seams. Systems of all kinds are breaking down and will continue to do so. In response, they champion ways of seeing and acting that acknowledge that the world is a chaotic, deeply interdependent place, a place that won’t yield to attempts to overpower it. We must come to understand, they argue, the nature of complexity, chaos, and interconnectedness—and to train ourselves in ways of acting that embrace this unmistakable reality.

Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson, Com­mon Dreams, June 18, 2012 … Much of what has made the mod­ern world in gen­eral, and the United States in par­tic­u­lar, a free and pros­per­ous soci­ety comes directly from insights that arose dur­ing the Enlightenment. Too bad we’re chuck­ing it all out and return­ing to the Dark Ages. …Now, we seek to oper­ate by revealed truths, not real­ity.  Decrees from on high – often issued by an unholy alliance of reli­gious fun­da­men­tal­ists, self-interested cor­po­ra­tions, and greedy fat cats – are offered up as real­ity by rightwing politicians… Sec­ond, the Enlight­en­ment laid the ground­work for our form of gov­ern­ment. The Social Con­tract is the intel­lec­tual basis of all mod­ern demo­c­ra­tic republics, includ­ing ours… our founders used rea­son, empiri­cism and aca­d­e­mic schol­ar­ship to cob­ble together one of the most endur­ing and influ­en­tial doc­u­ments in human his­tory.  For all its flaws, it has steered us steadily toward a more per­fect union. Until recently…We are, indeed, at an epochal thresh­old.  We can con­tinue to dis­card the Enlight­en­ment val­ues which enabled both an untold increase in mate­r­ial wealth and a sys­tem of gov­ern­ment which turned serfs into cit­i­zens.  A sys­tem which – for all its flaws – often man­aged to pro­tect the rights of the many, against the preda­tory power of the few. Or we can con­tinue our abject sur­ren­der to myths, mag­i­cal think­ing, and self-delusion and the Medieval nation-state those forces are resurrecting. Repub­li­cans and Tea Partiers may be lead­ing this retreat from rea­son, but they are unop­posed by Democ­rats or the Press. And in the end, there is a spe­cial place in Hell for those who allow evil to pros­per by doing nothing.

The Will­ful Igno­rance That Has Dragged the US to the Brink by Sarah Church­well, The Independent/UK, August 2, 2011  - The Tea Party version of the American Revolution is not just fundamentalist. It is also Disneyfied, sentimentalized, and whitewashed..In one sense, it is difficult to know what to say in response to the utter irrationality of the Tea Party’s self-destructive decision to sabotage the American political process – and thus its own country’s economy, and the global economy…the Tea Party has never let facts get in the way of its belief system, and now that belief system is genuinely threatening the well-being of the nation they claim to love…

The Politics of Lying and the Culture of Deceit in Obama’s America: The Rule of Damaged Politics  by Henry A. Giroux - Sep­tem­ber 21, 2009 — In the cur­rent Amer­i­can polit­i­cal land­scape, truth is not merely mis­rep­re­sented or fal­si­fied; it is overtly mocked… it becomes dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish between an opin­ion and an argument …At a time when edu­ca­tion is reduced to train­ing work­ers and is stripped of any civic ideals and crit­i­cal prac­tices, it becomes unfash­ion­able for the pub­lic to think crit­i­cally. Rather than intel­li­gence unit­ing us, a col­lec­tive igno­rance of pol­i­tics, cul­ture, the arts, his­tory and impor­tant social issues, as Mark Slouka points out, “gives us a sense of com­mu­nity, it con­fers citizenship.”…matters of judg­ment, thought­ful­ness, moral­ity and com­pas­sion seem to dis­ap­pear from pub­lic view. What is the social cost of such flight from real­ity, if not the death of demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics, crit­i­cal thought and civic agency? …Obama’s pres­ence on the national polit­i­cal scene gave lit­er­acy, lan­guage and crit­i­cal thought a new­found sense of dig­nity, inter­laced as they were with a vision of hope, jus­tice and pos­si­bil­ity — and rea­son­able argu­ments about the var­ied crises Amer­ica faced and civilized…The pol­i­tics of lying and the cul­ture of deceit are wrapped in the logic of absolute cer­taintyDemoc­racy is frag­ile, and its fate is always uncer­tain…We now find our­selves liv­ing in a soci­ety in which right-wing extrem­ists not only wage a war against the truth, but also seek to ren­der human beings less than fully human by tak­ing away their desire for jus­tice, spir­i­tual mean­ing, free­dom and individuality…

The Virus of GOP Ignorance: Why Don’t Media Protect Us From the Lies Spewed in the Republican Primary? November 23, 2011  …Gingrich…Cain and Bachmann…Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified…but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity….people like alleged “historian” David Barton… and psychologist James Dobson…proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders. Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sportreformed right-winger David Frum writes that a “political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising.…these tea-party champions provide a ghoulish type of news entertainment each time they reveal that they know nothing about public affairs and have never attempted to learn.”

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe? By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers, Alternet.org, April 20, 2011 — Is there any limit to the outrageousness of the GOP lies? Is there any limit to the capacity of a large number of our fellow citizens to accept these lies?…a long string of Republican lies thrown at the public by right-wing politicians and pundits and largely unchallenged by a compliant corporate media. Among them:…Barack Obama was born in Kenya and is a secret Muslim. Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001…Global warming is a gigantic hoax, perpetrated by thousands of deceitful scientists. Obama has raised taxes…These are not “matters of opinion,” they are flatly and demonstrably false. Clear and decisive refutation of all these claims are available to anyone who cares to examine the evidence. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously remarked, while we are entitled to our own opinions, we are not entitled to our own facts…finally, there is the “dogma” —  “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (Ronald Reagan). Market fundamentalism: “A free market [co-ordinates] the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.” (Milton Friedman) Privatization: “Whenever we find an approach to the extension of private property rights [in the natural environment,] we find superior results.” (Robert J. Smith). “There is no such thing as society.” (Margaret Thatcher) “There is no such entity as ‘the public.’” (Ayn Rand) These last two dogmas bear significant implications. For if there is no such thing as “society,” it follows that there are no social problems or “social injustice. Poverty is the fault of individuals who are sinful and lazy. And if there is no “public,” then there is no “public interest,” and thus no need for government to promote same. A large portion of the American public believes these lies, accepts these contradictions, and embraces these dogmas, not because of supporting evidence (there is none) or cogent arguments (there are none), but out of sheer unquestioned repetition in the corporate media. …as long as …millions accept uncritically the lies, myths and dogmas fed to them by the mega-corporations that own our government, there appears to be little hope of a return to economic justice and democratic government that we once enjoyed in the United States of America. But all is not lost…liars tend through time to lose their credibility. We should strive to accelerate this process as it applies to the corporate media by exposing the lies and boycotting the sponsors of those who tell the lies…The restoration of sanity in our public discourse is essential to the restoration of our democracy.

In Ignorance We Trust by Timothy Egan, New York Times, December 13, 2012history, the formal teaching and telling of it, has never been more troubled …we are raising a generation of Americans who are historically illiterate.…And today, in part by design, there’s a lot of know-nothingness throughout the land… in the great void between readable histories and snooze-fest treatises have stepped demagogues with agendas, from Glenn Beck and his paranoid writings on the perils of progressivism, to Oliver Stone and his highly selective retelling of the 20th century.…

The New Know Nothing Party and the High Price of Willful Ignorance by John Atcheson, February 19, 2013 by Common DreamsIgnorance: The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.Here in the 21st Century the Republicans have become the new Know Nothing Party…  Just as the original Know Nothings employed fear, bigotry, ignorance and hate to motivate its base, so too does the Republican Party… one area of willful ignorance eclipses all others in terms of its denial of fact and the consequences of that denial:  Climate change. The scientific consensus is clear at this point, and it’s backed up by empirical evidence…We are trading away children’s future.…So we have a clear and present danger, a strong scientific consensus, and empirical evidence that we are on the verge – or well into – irrevocable global disasters of epic proportion. How does the Party of Willful Ignorance respond?  With intentional ignorance, of course. The question is why. And the answer is simple. They sell ignorance because it is in the interests of their true constituency – the uber wealthy and the corporate special interests.  While tackling climate change would avoid catastrophic costs and create jobs, it will hurt the coal, oil and gas interests. Austerity preserves the status quo on who has and who doesn’t.  Them that has would continue to get, them that doesn’t would lose even more. Hawking government as the problem lets them turn over trillions in retirement and health care profits to the private sector while increasing your individual debt.  It converts education from a public right to a private profit center. It allows them to justify cutting back on regulations so banks can once again screw you with impunity. It trashes your air, pollutes your water, and destroys your climate..We the people must seize control of the political process with our votes.  Progressive principles won the recent election, and a majority of Americans support progressive positions on a case-by-case basis. If we fail to translate these individual beliefs into broader political practices and votes, it’s due largely to the mainstream media, which regularly presents the “debate” about issues as opposed to the reality of the issues.  Thus, Rubio can still trot out the entire Republican playbook of lies and willful ignorance…As a result, our democracy is diminished; our children’s world is compromised; and our economy remains in service only to the uber rich.

The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left by George Monbiot, The Guardian/UK, February 7, 2012 – …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 think tanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologies…they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses..former Republican ideologues, David 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”… Confronted with mass discontent, the once-progressive major parties… triangulate and accommodate, hesitate and prevaricate… 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…


The Persistence of Racial Resentment

By THOMAS B. EDSALL, February 6, 2013

Excerpt

Although there was plenty of discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign about the Hispanic vote and how intense black turnout would be, the press was preoccupied with the white vote: the white working class, white women and upscale whites.

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 …the shifts…within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican… Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters…

what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles – on the gamut of issues from race to rights – will be fought.

Full text

Although there was plenty of discussion during the 2012 presidential campaign about the Hispanic vote and how intense black turnout would be, the press was preoccupied with the white vote: the white working class, white women and upscale whites.

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, but before getting to that, let’s look back at some election results.

In the 16 presidential elections between 1952 and 2012, only one Democratic candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, won a majority of the white vote. There have been nine Democratic presidential nominees who received a smaller percentage of the white vote than Obama did in 2008 (43 percent) and four who received less white support than Obama did in 2012 (39 percent).

In 2012, Obama won 39 percent of the white electorate. Four decades earlier, in 1972, George McGovern received a record-setting low of the ballots cast by whites, 31 percent. In 1968, Hubert Humphrey won 36 percent of the white vote; in 1980, Jimmy Carter got 33 percent; in 1984, Walter Mondale took 35 percent of the ballots cast by whites. As far back as 1956, Adlai Stevenson tied Obama’s 39 percent, and in 1952, Stevenson received 40 percent – both times running against Dwight D. Eisenhower. Two Democratic nominees from Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis in 1988 (40 percent) and John Kerry in 2004 (41 percent), got white margins only slightly higher than Obama’s in 2012 – and worse than Obama’s 43 percent in 2008. In other words, Obama’s track record with white voters is not very different from that of other Democratic candidates.

Ballots cast for House candidates provide another measure of white partisanship. These contests have been tracked in exit polls from 1980 onward. Between 1980 and 1992, the white vote for Democratic House candidates averaged 49.6 percent. It dropped sharply in 1994 when Newt Gingrich orchestrated the Republican take-over of the House, averaging just 42.7 percent from 1994 through 2004. White support for Democrats rose to an average of 46.7 percent in 2006 and 2008 as public disapproval of George W. Bush and of Republicans in Congress sharply increased.

In the aftermath of Obama’s election, white support for Congressional Democrats collapsed to its lowest level in the history of House exit polling, 38 percent in 2010 -  at once driving and driven by the emerging Tea Party. In 2012, white Democratic support for House candidates remained weak at 39 percent.

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 political scientists Michael Tesler of Brown University and David O. Sears of UCLA have published several studies on this theme and they have also written a book, “Obama’s Race: The 2008 Election and the Dream of a Post-Racial America,” that analyzes changes in racial attitudes since Obama became the Democratic nominee in 2008.

In their  2010 paper, “President Obama and the Growing Polarization of Partisan Attachments by Racial Attitudes and Race,” Tesler and Sears argue that 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.

Specifically, Tesler and Sears found that voters high on a racial-resentment scale moved one notch toward intensification of partisanship within the Republican Party on a seven-point scale from strong Democrat through independent to strong Republican.

To measure racial resentment, which Tesler and Sears describe as “subtle hostility towards African-Americans,” the authors used data from the American National Election Studies and the General Social Survey, an extensive collection of polling data maintained at the University of Chicago.

In the case of A.N.E.S. data, Tesler and Sears write:

The scale was constructed from how strongly respondents agreed or disagreed with the following assertions: 1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors. 2) Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class. 3) Over the past few years, blacks have gotten less than they deserve. 4) It’s really a matter of some people not trying hard enough; if blacks would only try harder they could be just as well off as whites.

The General Social Survey included questions asking respondents to rate competing causes of racial discrimination and inequality:

The scale was constructed from responses to the following 4 items: 1) Irish, Italian, Jewish and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors. 2) A 3-category variable indicating whether respondents said lack of motivation is or is not a reason for racial inequality. 3) A 3-category variable indicating whether respondents said discrimination is or is not a reason for racial inequality. 4) A three-category variable indicating whether respondents rated whites more, less or equally hardworking than blacks on 7 point stereotype scales.

Supporting the Tesler-Sears findings, Josh Pasek, a professor in the communication studies department at the University of Michigan, Jon A. Krosnick, a political scientist at Stanford, and Trevor Tompson, the director of the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, use responses from three different surveys in their analysis of “The Impact of Anti-Black Racism on Approval of Barack Obama’s Job Performance and on Voting in the 2012 Presidential Election.”

Pasek and his collaborators found a statistically significant increase from 2008 to 2012 in “explicit anti-black attitudes” – a measure based on questions very similar those used by Tesler and Sears for their racial-resentment scale. The percentage of voters with explicit anti-black attitudes rose from 47.6 in 2008 and 47.3 percent in 2010 to 50.9 percent in 2012.

Crucially, Pasek found that Republicans drove the change: “People who identified themselves as Republicans in 2012 expressed anti-Black attitudes more often than did Republican identifiers in 2008.”

In 2008, Pasek and his collaborators note, the proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes was 31 percent among Democrats, 49 percent among independents, and 71 percent among Republicans. By 2012, the numbers had gone up. “The proportion of people expressing anti-Black attitudes,” they write, “was 32 percent among Democrats, 48 percent among independents, and 79 percent among Republicans.”

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.

Obama’s ascendency to the presidency means that, on race, the Rubicon has been crossed (2008) and re-crossed (2012).

What are we to make of these developments? Is the country more or less racist? How can the percentage of people holding anti-black attitudes have increased from 2006 to 2008 at a time when Obama performed better among white voters than the two previous white Democratic nominees, and then again from 2008 to 2012 when Obama won a second term?

In fact, the shifts described by Tesler and Pasek are an integral aspect of the intensifying conservatism within the right wing of the Republican Party. Many voters voicing stronger anti-black affect were already Republican. Thus, in 2012, shifts in their attitudes, while they contributed to a 4 percentage point reduction in Obama’s white support, did not result in a Romney victory.

Some Republican strategists believe the party’s deepening conservatism is scaring away voters.

“We have a choice: we can become a shrinking regional party of middle-aged and older white men, or we can fight to become a national governing party,” John Weaver, a consultant to the 2008 McCain campaign, said after Obama’s re-election. Mark McKinnon, an adviser to former President George W. Bush, made a similar point: “The party needs more tolerance, more diversity and a deeper appreciation for the concerns of the middle class.”

Not only is the right risking marginalization as its views on race have become more extreme, it is veering out of the mainstream on contraception and abortion, positions that fueled an 11 point gender gap in 2012 and a 13 point gap in 2008.

Given that a majority of the electorate will remain white for a number of years, the hurdle that the Republican Party faces is building the party’s white margins by 2 to 3 points. For Romney to have won, he needed 62 percent of the white vote, not the 59 percent he got.

Working directly against this goal is what Time Magazine recently described as the Republican “brand identity that has emerged from the stars of the conservative media ecosystem: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, and others.”

It is not so much Latino and black voters that the Republican Party needs. To win the White House again, it must assuage the social conscience of mainstream, moderate white voters among whom an ethos of tolerance has become normal. These voters are concerned with fairness and diversity, even as they stand to the right of center. It is there that the upcoming political battles – on the gamut of issues from race to rights – will be fought.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/the-persistence-of-racial-

The Five Strands of Conservatism: Why the GOP is Unraveling

By Drew Westen, Huffington Post, April 16, 2009

Excerpt

…the modern conservative movement…was built on an ideological foundation–and a coalition–that was fundamentally incoherent. It took a charismatic leader to bring it together (Ronald Reagan), a tacit agreement among its coalition partners to give each other what they wanted, and a message machine to start selling the idea that that there was coherence to a conservative “philosophy” that was anything but coherent.

Modern conservatism wove together five discrete strands and interest groups that couldn’t coexist. What is remarkable is how well it held together despite the fact that those strands were actually difficult to interweave.

The first strand is libertarian conservatism, reflected in leaders from Barry Goldwater to Ron Paul. Libertarian conservatives believe government should be small and weak and kept that way through low taxes…

The second strand, with which libertarianism is entirely incompatible, is social conservatism, particularly Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalists of any sort believe that they have privileged knowledge of God’s Will and hence have the right to use whatever methods available–including the instruments of state–to impose that will on others.

The third strand of conservatism is old fashioned fiscal conservatism… essentially soft New Dealers, who accept the premises of the New Deal–that we need a safety net…but prefer the safety net and tax codes to be thin…

The fourth strand, national security conservatism, is a different breed. National security conservatives tend to be hawkish…

The final strand of conservatism is the one Nixon exploited with his Southern Strategy and the Republicans have exploited ever since, whether the issue is voting rights, “welfare queens,” affirmative action, or the fate of “illegals”: prejudice…conservatives don’t have much on their side on this one either, except to the extent that they can block the vote, because demographics are running in the wrong direction for them over the next 50 years.

…the right [is] short on ideas, but they’re long on selling ideas, however vapid. Second, Democrats are exactly the opposite: They’re long on ideas but short on the ability to bundle them into coherent, emotionally compelling narratives that make people want to buy them

Full text

In one sense, it isn’t hard to see why the Republican Party seems to be coming apart at the seams. When you get caught gutting the regulations that had kept us for 70 years from another stock market crash like the crash of 1929 and another collapse of the banking system like the one that occurred during the Great Depression, and when your policies throw millions of people out of their homes, jobs, retirement, and doctors’ offices, the next bottle of elixir you sell is not likely to fly off the shelf, especially if it’s the same whine in a new deCantor.

But at a deeper level, the modern conservative movement, which eventually came to define the GOP (to its benefit for many years), was built on an ideological foundation–and a coalition–that was fundamentally incoherent. It took a charismatic leader to bring it together (Ronald Reagan), a tacit agreement among its coalition partners to give each other what they wanted, and a message machine to start selling the idea that that there was coherence to a conservative “philosophy” that was anything but coherent.

Modern conservatism wove together five discrete strands and interest groups that couldn’t coexist. What is remarkable is how well it held together despite the fact that those strands were actually difficult to interweave.

The first strand is libertarian conservatism, reflected in leaders from Barry Goldwater to Ron Paul. Libertarian conservatives believe government should be small and weak and kept that way through low taxes. From their point of view, the primary role of government is to police the streets, protect private property, and protect the country from external threats (although at times they can get a little histrionic about internal threats as well).

The second strand, with which libertarianism is entirely incompatible, is social conservatism, particularly Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalists of any sort believe that they have privileged knowledge of God’s Will and hence have the right to use whatever methods available–including the instruments of state–to impose that will on others. It is one thing to believe, as many democratic (and increasingly Democratic) evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics do, that life begins at conception. It is another to believe that because you believe that, you have the right to impose your interpretation of the books you consider holy on others who may not share your faith or your interpretation of Scripture. The fundamentalist politics practiced by the likes of Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson over the last 30 years should have been anathema to genuine libertarians, because they run against everything libertarian conservatives believe in vis-à-vis intrusive government. However, the two groups lived happily together as long as libertarians got to keep their taxes low and their rifles loaded and fundamentalists got to keep their kids from learning anything about birth control (leading the Bible Belt to have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and abortion anywhere in the country, although Sarah Palin seems to be leading a one-family crusade to recapture for Alaska the title of Miss Teen Pregnancy).

The third strand of conservatism is old fashioned fiscal conservatism–the kind that once led Bob Dole to garner his party’s nomination for president but would make him unwelcome in the contemporary GOP. Fiscal conservatives are essentially soft New Dealers, who accept the premises of the New Deal–that we need a safety net, that when people lose their jobs because of economic downturns they shouldn’t lose their homes, that people deserve some minimal degree of dignity in old age if they worked hard for 40 years–but prefer the safety net and tax codes to be thin. Fiscal conservatism bears no logical relation to social conservatism, and although it bears a superficial resemblance to libertarian conservatism, the two are fundamentally at odds, with one accepting the premises of the New Deal and the other rejecting them.

The fourth strand, national security conservatism, is a different breed. National security conservatives tend to be hawkish (although they have a curious habit of evading military service when it comes their turn), and they are generally quick to accuse others of being soft on the threat du jour (unless the other side happens to be in an interventionist mood, in which case they often morph into isolationists just for sport, as when George W. Bush attacked Clinton and Gore for “nation building” and then went on a six year binge of it). The militarism of national security conservatism is as far at odds from evangelical Christianity (and hence social conservatism) as it could be, given that Jesus preached most about the evils of war, poverty, and public expressions of piety, but somehow Christian social conservatives have found a way to rationalize militarism (not to mention ignore the plight of the poor or blame them for their poverty and build crystal cathedrals). Indeed, fundamentalist Christians were the strongest supporters of the Iraq War of any demographic group other than the Bush and Cheney families.

The final strand of conservatism is the one Nixon exploited with his Southern Strategy and the Republicans have exploited ever since, whether the issue is voting rights, “welfare queens,” affirmative action, or the fate of “illegals”: prejudice, whether conscious (as when Reagan and Nixon used, let’s say, “colorful” terms, to describe those on welfare) or unconscious (as when Bob Corker ran a race against Harold Ford, a black Congressman from Tennessee, asking, “Who’s the real Tennessean?”, when what he was really activating in the back of voters’ minds was, “he’s not really one of ‘us,’ now is he”?). Given that most white Americans no longer see themselves or want to see themselves as racist, and that they actually consciously eschew racist sentiments and actions such as overt discrimination against people because of the color of their skin, emotional appeals to this segment of the conservative population tend to be strongest when a conscious “text” with some merit (e.g., we can’t simply open the floodgates to all who would want to enter the United States and become citizens) is superimposed on the unconscious “subtext” of prejudice (the people flooding in happen to have dark skin). Although it’s easy to localize this strand of conservatism as Southern, given that the GOP has become a regional party, it is important to note that had the Presidential election only included white voters (the Republicans’ fantasy), McCain would have won in a 63-37 landslide over Barack Obama. But conservatives don’t have much on their side on this one either, except to the extent that they can block the vote, because demographics are running in the wrong direction for them over the next 50 years.

I would never underestimate the ability of the right to find a way to stitch something back together, for two reasons. First, they’re good at it. They’re short on ideas, but they’re long on selling ideas, however vapid. Second, Democrats are exactly the opposite: They’re long on ideas but short on the ability to bundle them into coherent, emotionally compelling narratives that make people want to buy them–except when the GOP is so corrupt, inept, and/or bankrupt (or causing bankruptcy) that even moderate Republicans jump ship.

The reality is that it’s going to be difficult to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, and it’s going to take someone with vision and charisma to figure out which aspects of conservatism to bring back into the center and which to catapult without losing a base that is now seriously out of step with mainstreamAmerica. I don’t see that leader in Bobby “let me tell you a story about my dad and how in America, anything is possible” Jindal, Tim “let me tell you a story before you fall asleep and I have to certify Al Franken” Pawlenty, and Sarah “let me tell a lot of stories and hope no one checks the facts” Palin.

Faux tea parties aren’t going to get them there, either (and if you ask me, they seem more than a little elite (tea?) and, well, gay (don’t real men drink beer?) for a Party determined to “save the institution of marriage.” But perhaps as they clink their porcelain cups in unison for high tea, they’ll have an epiphany about how to replace their predictable and carping Constant Comments about taxes and deficits with a new blend. Perhaps they could borrow some green tea from the President.

Drew Westen, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies, and author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/drew-westen/the-five-strands-of-conse_b_187675.html