I'm more ignorrant than you are. I should get an award.
July 9, 2003 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Where are we headed? An article that popped up on Salon last night discusses a favorite MeFi topic, cognitive dissonance, and the role that the writer sees it playing in the near-term future of the US.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly (55 comments total)
 
What the hell. Day pass seems farged up, can't get through to read the piece.
posted by kgasmart at 11:07 AM on July 9, 2003


Sorry about the day pass thing; it worked for me at first, but is now fucked as described above.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2003


The day passs thing is work for me now (they switched to anotehr ad).

Humans are more or less genetically programmed to accept falsehoods that comfort them during periods of extreme stress.

So what's the terror alert level at today?
posted by Space Coyote at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2003


So, why haven't I been able to choke down all this bushit and call it candy?
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:51 PM on July 9, 2003


How many dictators did Clinton topple with his lie?
posted by goethean at 1:05 PM on July 9, 2003


Believe in it.
posted by hellinskira at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2003


How many dictators did Clinton topple with his lie?

And the meltdown of the American right begins.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:10 PM on July 9, 2003


How many civilians did Clinton kill with his lie?
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:14 PM on July 9, 2003


That depends on whether you use the old Catholic Church definition of civillian, in which case thousands lost their lives on that fateful blue dress.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:26 PM on July 9, 2003


That depends on whether you use the old Catholic Church definition of civillian, in which case thousands lost their lives on that fateful blue dress.

Yeah but they weren't baptized, so who cares about them?
posted by Space Coyote at 1:28 PM on July 9, 2003


Stop making Baby Jesus cry!
posted by cohappy at 1:40 PM on July 9, 2003


But the poor woman could have choked!

Oh, wait, now she's hosting a game show, and wrote a popular book.

What about Hillary?

The hell with her, look at what she got for writing her crappy book!
posted by Veritron at 1:43 PM on July 9, 2003


How many dictators did Clinton topple with his lie?...How many civilians did Clinton kill with his lie??

"Are the crimes we've committed worse that the crimes we've prevented? And the people we've brought down, is the world a better place without them?"
posted by gd779 at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2003


"Are the crimes we've committed worse that the crimes we've prevented? And the people we've brought down, is the world a better place without them?"

1. Maybe
2. Who knows?

Then its settled. What a splendid little war!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:59 PM on July 9, 2003


The very worst you can say about Bush & Co.'s pre-war Iraq statements is that, while in possession of mixed evidence, they chose to believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that this choice may have been incorrect.

Let's imagine George Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld et al. sitting around a conference table with papers we'll call 'evidence' on it.

There's one pile that contains reports to the effect that Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction. Let's even assume that some of this evidence in highly credible; it's from trusted sources. There might even be some photographs of Iraqis destroying banned weapons at sites that the UN has been specifically prevented from searching.

There's one pile that contains reports to the effect that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This evidence is pretty credible, too: until the run-up to the most-recent Iraq war, it was pretty much accepted as true, and not just in Washington. This consists largely of the firm knowledge that Iraq had produced and chemical and possibly biological weapons in the past, and a large, mostly-empty box labelled 'evidence of Iraqi disarmament'.

There's a third pile of evidence consisting of UN reports of Iraqi non-compliance, from Hans Blix and from others before him. There are statements from Blix -- a Swedish diplomat, for Christ's sake, not George Bush's lackey -- to the effect that Iraq's claims to have destroyed their chemical weapons were not particularly credible. There are still more reports about the UN actually finding banned weapons in places they've been allowed to inspect. Iraq's response is to argue about whether the weapons in question are actually banned.

In short, the information in the third pile -- from many non-American, non-Cowboy, non-Unilateralist sources -- shows Iraq behaving as a country with something to hide.

Now, you can reach a number of conclusions based on this information. Perhaps Iraq really had eliminated its banned weapons, and it just didn't want to say as much. Saying so, and allowing the UN in to prove this destruction, would have meant the end of the UN sanctions that the Iraqis had been complaining about for twelve years, but let's assume that they had some even better reason to mislead everyone, to maintain the sanctions, and to remain a pariah state.

Or, if you've got the normal amount of sense that God gave a turnip, you'd assume that Iraq had something to hide, and that this 'something' was likely weaponry or a weapons program that Iraq, having proved in 1990 that it was run by idiots, had been prohibited by the UN from having. When you've got two contradictory statements, it can be hard to determine which one is true and which is false. But when you've got thousands, or millions of pieces of evidence, a small number of which contradict the much larger body, it's hardly lying to decide, based on imperfect information, what you believe to be true and what you don't.

Frankly, it seems to me that grasping at straws while ignoring the wider body of information that contradicts your pet theory is itself a good example of cognitive dissonance.
posted by tino at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2003


They want to believe.
posted by rushmc at 2:15 PM on July 9, 2003


This article is part of an ongoing strategy by the opposition to Bush to deny political reality. People on the left are genuinely baffled by the idea that anyone in their right mind could support Bush. The only possible explanation, this article argues, is that people are emotional, or dupes of a corrupt media that has hypnotized them. As is now customary, the article Godwins itself by including the mandatory Nazi propaganda reference.

The article refuses to explore the possibility that people support Bush because his positions make sense to them, and no one is articulating a sensible response. I'm tired of hearing that the only way to oppose Bush is to treat the majority that supports him as easily manipulated idiots.

Of course people in America are afraid. By denying the legitimacy of that fear, the left generously allows Bush to be the only one who responds to people's real concerns.

The "Bush is evil" strategy failed in the 2002 elections and failed to convince a majority of Americans to oppose the war. Bush will win by a landslide in 2004 unless the left starts trying to convince people in the centre instead of scorning them.

People in the center are not dupes for being attracted to the ideal of opposition to tyranny. That ideal once was the moral province of the left, but the anti-war movement ceded it to Bush. I'm opposed to Bush, but I think that this article, along with the knee-jerk sarcasm in this thread, is helping him tremendously.
posted by fuzz at 2:18 PM on July 9, 2003


...There's one pile that contains reports to the effect that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. This evidence is pretty credible, too

Survey says: ERRRRR! Nice try tino.

Of course people in America are afraid. By denying the legitimacy of that fear, the left generously allows Bush to be the only one who responds to people's real concerns.

If by "respond" you mean "exploit" and by "real concerns" you mean "basest fears," we're in agreement, fuzz.
posted by squirrel at 2:25 PM on July 9, 2003


Frankly, it seems to me that grasping at straws while ignoring the wider body of information that contradicts your pet theory is itself a good example of cognitive dissonance.

Exactly. Which is how we know that Bush & Co. lied.
posted by moonbiter at 2:26 PM on July 9, 2003


fuzz: "we may be wrong, but god damnit,we're popular"
posted by Space Coyote at 2:33 PM on July 9, 2003


your pet theory

My pet theory is that lying and using forged evidence brings into question that which the evidence was presumed to have validated. I am craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:37 PM on July 9, 2003


As is now customary, the article Godwins itself by including the mandatory Nazi propaganda reference.

It's a motto, for feck's sake. An internet motto at that. Not a clincher in an argument, not the slam-dunk of a logical process that makes your opponent run squealing from the debate, shouting "How could I have fallen for that classic error?"

Refute by proof, or wipe egg off your face. While you're at it, saying that you are opposed to the "President" without proposing any strategies for his defeat is not dissimilar to hating the gooks and dodging the draft.

What do you - as an american voter - suggest may defeat the incumbent?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:41 PM on July 9, 2003


Ignatius: Long before the Iraq war, the CIA had been largely pushed aside by this administration in favor of other intelligence agencies. As I understand it, the CIA just isn't in favor right now - ignoring them isn't necessarily lying.
posted by gd779 at 2:45 PM on July 9, 2003


gd779:
That is to assume that the CIA was pushed aside in good faith. Is it mere coincidence that the CIA was rejected (with no substantive or qualitative reasoning provided) at exactly the time that the Office of Special Planning was set up and the DIA given more autonomy and a broader scope? Maybe, but that seeme painfully unlikely.

ignoring them isn't necessarily lying.

True, but claiming to "know" something with any degree of certainty when you have been told otherwise by your only 2 non-political intelligence agencies (CIA, State Intell.) is.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:07 PM on July 9, 2003


I think tino actually brings up some good points, but to me, the bottom line is that whatever they chose to believe, they overstated their case by a longshot. I seem to recall phrases like "proof" and "solid evidence" and "we know". Those imply a level of certitude which I believe the administration was consciously trying to project, but which doesn't (at the moment... it could change) seem justified.

On the one hand, Americans put a premium on honesty and forthrightness; on the other, they appear willing to forgive Bush's exaggerations and hype and the convoluted excuses his administration has offered in the aftermath of war.

This is actually the one thing that I find unforgivable. I think the policy is flawed but not insane. I think he could have built a credible case for changing Iraq. He didn't. He tooted the WMD horn. He tried to lead the nation around like a bunch of idiots, scare tactics, a show of stregth, smoke and mirrors. He isn't the first politician, but I despise it every time it happens.

At one point -- in response to those who questioned the administration's assertions about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- Bush accused his critics of indulging in "revisionist history."

This is something I just don't understand. What does he mean by this? That his critics have claimed he claimed things he never did? That assertions that he claimed to have strong compelling evidence that Iraq had WMDs are not true?
posted by namespan at 3:10 PM on July 9, 2003


In your heart, you know it's flat.
posted by majcher at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2003


The very worst you can say about Bush & Co.'s pre-war Iraq statements is that, while in possession of mixed evidence, they chose to believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and that this choice may have been incorrect.

That's actually the best you could say about Bush's pre-war statements. The worst you could say would be, not being able to find any evidence of Iraq possessing WMDs they chose to deliberately manufactor evidence to fool the American people into accepting that war.

The truth, I'm sure, lies somewhere in-between.
posted by Bonzai at 3:12 PM on July 9, 2003


"The report had already been discredited, said terrance j. wilkinson, a cia advisor present at two white house briefings. this point was clearly made when the president was in the room during at least two of the briefings. bush's response was anger, wilkinson said. he said that if the current operatives working for the cia couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could, wilkinson said. he said he knew the story was true and so would the world after american troops secured the country.

Classic. Absolutely classic.

Remember that David Blaine show, where the girls see Blaine levitate on the street, and say in astonishment 'He floated. He floated'. I'm going round saying, 'He knew. He knew.'
posted by dash_slot- at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2003


There's one large difference between the Clinton and the Bush lies that stand out in my mind after reading the article. The Clinton lies sort of came out of left field. The American public didn't have a chance to pick sides. The current situation with the Bush Administration appears more like a foul during a football game. The ref is going to be simultaneously boo'd and cheered by each teams fans. Nobody wants to believe they were on the losing team. The Bush fans out there would probably like to see this swept under the rug as quickly as possible.
posted by fatbobsmith at 3:33 PM on July 9, 2003


Space Coyote: "Bush may get reelected, but at least I know I'm right and everyone else is just stupid." When people vote against you, maybe it's because you're making the wrong arguments.

dash_slot: My point about Godwin is that you're not going to convince anyone in the center by comparing your opponent to the Nazis. Godwin's Law says that once the discussion degerates to that level, then even if you're right there is no chance of any useful exchange of ideas taking place.

saying that you are opposed to the "President" without proposing any strategies for his defeat is not dissimilar to hating the gooks and dodging the draft.

Or saying that you are guided by your concern for the Iraqi people and failing to propose any workable strategies for opposing their dictator?

What do you - as an american voter - suggest may defeat the incumbent?

Face electoral reality and try to talk to people in language that appeals to them. Stop picking nits about whether Bush lied or not -- without an equivalent of the Pentagon Papers, this issue is an electoral loser. Stop carrying on about the war in the first place. Right or wrong, the left lost the argument, and Bush is getting stronger with centrist voters as long as the issue stays on the front pages.

Explicitly acknowledge that Americans have the right to be afraid before you attack Bush's fearmongering. The only way to convert people in the center on foreign policy is to directly answer the question of how to contain and defeat terrorism. I'm still waiting for someone to propose a concrete plan other than Bush. It shouldn't be hard to propose a better plan than "go to war and establish martial law", but you have to acknowledge the question first.

Focus on Bush's real vulnerability, which is that he's running a kleptocracy in a time of rising unemployment. Make Ken Lay the Willie Horton of this election.

Affirm leftist goals with centrist policies. Appeal to business Republicans who are disgusted by Bush's deficit spending and kowtowing to the religious fanatics. Get a "Sister Souljah" moment in, by slamming the Seattle protest movement and affirming the principle that free trade and economic growth are the ways to relieve poverty. Then denounce Bush's protectionist giveaways to the steel industry and refusal to let developing nations trade their way to prosperity via exclusionary agricultural tarifs.

You may not agree with these ideas, but I am convinced that they are the only way to win the election. Bush has managed to keep an uneasy alliance of business, religious, and nationalist Republicans together. The Democrats have to unite with the center, and that means making ideological compromises.

Or you can stick to your principles and reelect Bush. But don't complain afterwards that he's the one who is a destructive ideologue.
posted by fuzz at 3:39 PM on July 9, 2003


any evidence of Iraq possessing WMDs

any evidence? Well, the fact that the regime was willing to endure crippling sanctions, the front companies, the skimming $$ off of oil for food, the refusal to provide access to scientists and staff, etc. There was plenty of smoke, just precious little fire. Of course, this was a fascist state where people were routinely tortured for petty offences. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that they could keep a secret.

Instead it looks more like the Iraqi regime chose to cultivate the impression that they had WMDs in hopes that this would cause the US to back down --at least that is what anonymous national security officials are telling journalists that mid level Iraqis are saying.

The Salon piece seems to be expressing shock that 1) the case was overstated 2) people know this and 3) they don't particularly care. I for one, cringed when I heard the weak parts of the case because they looked shoddy when there were plenty of good reasons to stomp Saddam without them. I still think it was the right thing to do. This makes me delusional?
posted by ednopantz at 3:41 PM on July 9, 2003


the president was in the room during at least two of the briefings.

There's your Pentagon Papers...
posted by dash_slot- at 3:43 PM on July 9, 2003


Yes ednopantz, it does make you delusional. It makes the entire pro-war, Bush apologizing right delusional. Absolutely.

Concern for the Iraqi people has never been the position of the establishment that brought this invasion upon Iraq. It's been a dirty and disingenuous relationship between the neo-cons and Hussein for decades. As it is with any dictator the US government and her corporate interests it quietly does business with. There has never been a whit of concern for any of the civilians of planet Earth ever.

Now, suddenly that the rationale for the Imperical power-grab was liberation, why then hasn't that been a mainstay of the conservative's fly-by-night rhetoric? Remember the Contract With America? Ten years ago the latest rage among the corrupt republicans some venerate was bringing America back to moralistic basics, shrinking the "size of government" etc. If liberation of the oppressed has always been a cornerstone of republican why then the blind eye towards the Palestinians, the millions of sweatshop workers worldwide, the child-slavery rings, the people-smuggling racket, the diamond industry, the people of the Bikini atoll who are still waiting for the US government to deliver on their long promised cleanup? And we could go on and on. Why not a Contract with the Oppressed Peoples of The World then? The progressive "left's" been doing it for centuries. Now suddenly that corporate lackey republican "representatives" of the people are getting it, that "yeah there is a bunch of fuckin' oppression in the world", all of us can now take it seriously? But only if we do it their way? By bombing the fuck out of a bunch of innocent bystanders going about their lives in an oppressive country that the United States corporate interests helped create by arming and funding Hussein's dispicable military while they weren't on the liberation of Humanity page lo these last 25 years?

You're delusional in the same way one would be delusional in thinking Interstate 90 is the same everywhere along it's 2000+ mile route as it is in the tiny sliver of Idaho it goes through. Never mentioning Seattle, Chicago, NoDak, Boston etc. There is a long and cynical road that got us to this point.

Your president and all that he represents and who represents him, IS the defrauding of every citizen of this country, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on.
posted by crasspastor at 4:20 PM on July 9, 2003


Good god, this is a first. There are _three_ well reasoned and intelligent replies to this thread. One, maybe even two I could have guessed would be made, but three!
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 4:28 PM on July 9, 2003


BBC political editor Andrew Marr says "very senior sources" have virtually ruled out the possibility of finding weapons in Iraq.

And from the same article: But Downing Street insists that the prime minister stands by the comments he made to MPs on the Commons liaison committee on Tuesday - that he is convinced that evidence of Iraq's weapons programme will be found.

The evidence - of cognitive dissonance - piles up all around us.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:38 PM on July 9, 2003


A decision was taken in early 2002 to take over Iraq and oust Hussein; the decision may very well have been taken earlier, perhaps as early as September 2001. After this decision, beginning after Labor Day, 2002, a clever but fraudulent marketing campaign was rolled out to sell an Iraq War to the American people; Tony Blair's government was complicit in this mendacious strategy. Thus the "Coalition."

Lies have been told to support a geopolitical initiative that remains in flagrant violation of international law. As the result of these lies, Iraq has been plunged into turmoil. Good men and women have been sent to death on a false pretense. To date, only oil resources have been "liberated."

It is difficult for hono(u)rable persons to accept that their Government would deliberately begin a war based upon a fraudulent premise. Result: cognitive dissonance. Post hoc rationalization ensues.

Trouserless ed--mon vieux, you are not delusional because you "still" think invading Iraq was "right." You are merely gagging--cognitively speaking, of course--on the fact that to achieve public support for agression in violation of international law, your government lied to you like an infomercial huckster.

American commerce is full of the products of sweatshops the world over; our traditional ally Red China is even kind enough to supply us with special low-priced products made by its political prisoners. If one thinks too much about these facts,
one suffers unacceptable levels of cognitive dissonance. Rationalization ensues.

I still think it would be the "right thing to do" to require China's government to cease and desist from oppressing millions of its people in cruel ways. My goal, however laudable, does not authorize my government to launch a pretextual war to achieve it. Even if we *have* always been at war with Oceania. . . . . .
posted by rdone at 4:50 PM on July 9, 2003


Fuzz is my hero today.

I would like to add one thing -- the one and only reason that Bush's popularity currently exceeds his 2000 electoral performance right now is because it is widely supposed that his administration is protecting us against terrorism. The Dem candidate needs to explode that preposterous myth. While the Clinton administration was trying to pass on information about possible terrorist activity, the incoming administration was spreading stupid infantile lies about missing "W" keys on keyboards. After our furious and certainly misguided counterstrike there's no sign of Bin Laden and the administration is downplaying the importance of dealing with him. What's more, Al Qaeda operates freely in Afghanistan. No attempt was made to intercept the hijacked planes. Some of the 911 terrorists were funded by members of the Saudi Royal family. The Bin Ladens are tight with the Bushes. There is meaningful link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, despite Bush's endless conflation of the two names, which polls show has persuaded a majority of Americans. Real investigation of the NYC attacks has been effectively suppressed, and Bush's and Cheney's phone calls to the House Speaker demonstrate that this is entirely according to their wishes.

Exactly when, where and how has this administration defended us against terrorism? Torpedo this ludicrous misapprehension and the Bush administration loses everything.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:05 PM on July 9, 2003


corrections: ...there is no meaningful link... and change "House Speaker" to "Senate Majority Leader". Phooey.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:07 PM on July 9, 2003




"These findings suggest that selective reduction of emotion is at least as prejudicial for rationality as excessive emotion. It certainly does not seem true that reason stands to gain from operating without the leverage of emotion. On the contrary, emotion probably assists reasoning, especially when it comes to personal and social matters involving risk and conflict."
- Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens
posted by fuzz at 5:35 PM on July 9, 2003


your government lied to you like an infomercial huckster.

Nope. Thanks for playing. It acted more like a prosecuting attorney going after a real thug who will walk unless they win the case. So they throw everything they have at the defendant. Some of it is strong, some is weak, and some in between.

The Niger stuff was junk, at least what we have seen publicly, but the UK govt. stands by the core allegations. I don't know why. The radio intercepts were solid stuff, at least judging from the dismay they caused within the intelligence community when they went public with it.

Of course, unlike the huckster who knows the product is junk, no one in the administration knew for the truth for certain. If so, don't you think the campaign would have stressed something other than the "fraudulent" WMD allegations? Are Tony's spin doctors and Rove's brain trust that stupid?

With 20/20 hindsight critics allege that since the administration is omniscient (and somehow incompetent at the same time), it must have been actively lying. Never mind the rather obvious point that if they expected to be proven wrong, they ignored any possible political fallout, an unlikely scenario.

But then again, Bush is the root of all evil, source of all that is bad in the universe, and has a simplistic good vs evil worldview to boot, damn him!
posted by ednopantz at 6:12 PM on July 9, 2003


With 20/20 hindsight critics allege that since the administration is omniscient (and somehow incompetent at the same time)

Nope:
"The report had already been discredited, said terrance j. wilkinson, a cia advisor present at two white house briefings. this point was clearly made when the president was in the room during at least two of the briefings. bush's response was anger, wilkinson said. he said that if the current operatives working for the cia couldn't prove the story was true, then the agency had better find some who could, wilkinson said. he said he knew the story was true and so would the world after american troops secured the country.
It's Bush who appears to think he's omniscient, and yet is prepared to lie at the same time: a lie to be made truth by executive order. If his experts are telling him a thing is untrue, he's asking for experts who will tell him it's true, because he damn well intends to tell it that way.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:24 PM on July 9, 2003


Never mind the rather obvious point that if they expected to be proven wrong, they ignored any possible political fallout, an unlikely scenario.

You're only proving the point about cognitive dissonance with this sort of grasping-at-straws rationalization. Why does anyone lie, when they can be proven wrong? Why did Nixon? Why did Clinton? Why did Bush? The proof could (and IMO should) have wrecked his candidacy. He had no reason to expect it would not, but he lied anyway, and got away with it. So there's your answer: he believed he could lie and get away with it because he has before.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:40 PM on July 9, 2003


A prosecutor is not ethically allowed to press false charges--whether he or she does so is another mattter.

I said "informercial huckster" to reflect the telling of deliberate falsehoods. If anyone prefers "unethical prosecutor", I will stipulate to the amendment.

Neither Mr. Rove nor Mr. Campbell--as the latter's bravura performance before the recent Parliamentary inquiry showed--is stupid. It is difficult to infer an honest mistake when two surpassingly astute political operatives coordinate to serve up the same inflammatory "bogus" intelligence. Cf. "dodgy dossier" and "Famous Powell UN Speech." At law, one who makes a statement in reckless disregard for its truth or falsity is treated the same as one who intentionally utters an untruth.

Or perhaps Messrs. K & A were merely suffering from cognitive dissonance?

on preview--Touche, George! Falsus in unum, falsus in omnes.
posted by rdone at 6:51 PM on July 9, 2003


".....dash_slot: My point about Godwin is that you're not going to convince anyone in the center by comparing your opponent to the Nazis. Godwin's Law says that once the discussion degerates to that level, then even if you're right there is no chance of any useful exchange of ideas taking place."

Fuzz - Godwin's "Law" is no law at all. It is a sloppy measure - sometimes apt but more often not. Indeed, to invoke a law which claims to discredit any and all comparisons to Nazism or it's tactics amounts to an ill-informed denial of history. You might want to delve into the career of the father of PR and propaganda, Ed Bernays ( cousin to Sigmund Freud ) to learn about the background justification for such comparisons. Bernays, author of the books "Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923); Propaganda (1928); The Engineering of Consent (1947); and his autobiography, Biography of an Idea: Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel Edward L. Bernays (1965)" and long considered the founder of the field of Public Relations ( less charitably called "PR" or simply propaganda ) wrote:

"Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country....we are dominated by a relatively small number of persons....as civilization has become more complex....the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented....I must lead the people. Am I not their servant?

. . .The invisible government tends to be concentrated in the hands of the few because of the expense of manipulating the social machinery which controls the opinions and habits of the masses."


Consider the fact that Bernays invented the methods used by modern PR and advertising, and thought that these projects were a good thing.

"...In the twenties, Bernays fathered the link between corporate sales campaigns and popular social causes, when while working for the American Tobacco Company he persuaded women's rights marchers in New York City to hold up Lucky Strike cigarettes as symbolic "Torches of Freedom." In October of 1929, Bernays also originated the now familiar "global media event," when he dreamed up "Light's Golden Jubilee" a worldwide celebration commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the electric light bulb, sponsored behind-the-scenes -- by the General Electric Corporation.

While Bernays was, by birth, an Austrian Jew, public relations folklore records that Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the notorious Nazi propaganda minister, looked to Bernays' work, and to his vivid writings, for inspiration."

You can argue, of course, that the comparison of Bush Administration PR methods to those of the Nazis is not appropriate, yes, but to deny the validity of any such comparisons amounts to a denial of history.

I don't blame you for being unaware of this chapter of history though - few are, and I only learned of this fairly recently.
posted by troutfishing at 9:23 PM on July 9, 2003


Nice one, troutfishing. Godwin's law doesn't mean that any reference to Nazis in any context invalidates whatever argument is being presented: all it suggests is that any long-running thread (on Usenet, where threads can run for weeks) will get more and more heated to the point where people compare their opponents to Nazis, at which point any hope of rational debate is lost.

The Salon article does no such thing; it refers to Goebbels in a discussion of propaganda. Discussing theories of propaganda without referring to Goebbels is like discussing theories of communism without reference to Marx: possible, but odd.

The main people the article compares Bush to are Bill Clinton and Martha Stewart. Sorry, Kommissar Clinton and Reichsf├╝hrer Stewart.
posted by rory at 4:33 AM on July 10, 2003


Sorry, the Salon article mentions Goering, not Goebbels. Making the same basic point about Nazi use of propaganda, though.
posted by rory at 4:38 AM on July 10, 2003


Or you can stick to your principles and reelect Bush. But don't complain afterwards that he's the one who is a destructive ideologue.
fuzz: The type of pragmatism you're endorsing sounds a lot like the type of thing that'll get you inducted into the 9th Circle.

If the American people are too stupid to see that 10 years of NAFTA hasn't done shit to end poverty, then they need to be taught some critical thinking skills. I can suffer another four years with George W. Bush. I can't suffer living the rest of my life in an uninformed, reactionary democracy.

Your political intuition is flawed anyway. The post-Clintonian Democrats haven't alienated the centrists, they've alienated the leftists by emulating republicans (e.g. welfare reform) and now they're being screwed from both sides of the political spectrum. They no longer represent old school liberals and party-line republicans won't change their votes out of pure habit.

P.S. Godwin's Law has jumped the shark. However, "jumped the shark" is the new Godwin's Law.
posted by Skwirl at 6:05 AM on July 10, 2003


Explicitly acknowledge that Americans have the right to be afraid before you attack Bush's fearmongering.

Fuzz, I think I agree with everything else you said - boiled down: It's the economy, stupid - but this line and all that attends to me I think represents a core disonnect between those who would compromise on the message in order to gain back power and the kind of principle the rest of us want to stand on:

Americans DO have a right to be afraid. But that does not, in turn, give us the right to lash out at any and all we deem a threat to us now or any time in the future.
posted by kgasmart at 6:49 AM on July 10, 2003


rory - fair enough except that since Godwin;s "Law" is not a "Law" in the scientific science - with empirically determined functions and measureable constants, it's meaning is mutable. Godwin can say whatever he wants about the meaning of his "Law" - really mostly a description of commonalities in the behavior of Americans (mostly) in internet discussions - but I would argue that it's meaning is determined by it's useage. This is the convention generally used by linguists, and it is how the meanings ascribed to words, the definitions of words which you find in dictionaries, are determined.

So to me, the meaning of Godwin's "Law" is determined by it's useage - and I have most often observed that, in internet arguments, people "Call Godwin" as a lazy rhetorical device, a Deus Ex Machina to roll out in place of real reason and logic.

So, in my experience, Godwin's "Law" no longer functions in the way it once did, when Godwin observed the phenomenon he canonized by giving it a "Law" - "all it suggests is that any long-running thread (on Usenet, where threads can run for weeks) will get more and more heated to the point where people compare their opponents to Nazis, at which point any hope of rational debate is lost." Because Godwin invented the term "Godwin's Law" to describe this dynamic you describe, people are now aware of the dynamic, and so it has changed. Now, "Godwin's Law" - besides retaining it's original meaning as a descriptive term - has morphed into a rhetorical tool, a bludgeon used to stifle debate.
posted by troutfishing at 7:09 AM on July 10, 2003


troutfishing - Er, yeah. Just to be clear, I was agreeing with your post. By 'nice one' I meant... well, nice one. Good one. Good on you. Nicely said, sir, he responded with a complete absence of sarcasm.

I know the meaning of Godwin's law amusing observation is changing, but (I hope) it hasn't changed completely to the lazy rhetorical meaning; there are, if you like, two meanings battling for supremacy. The lazy rhetorical meaning will only defeat the original if those of us who value the latter never voice our objections to the former. That's what I was doing.

Using "Godwin" to imply that referring to Nazis in a political debate automatically invalidates whatever is said is ridiculous. Those who wish to remove any reference to Nazism, direct or rhetorical, from discussions of post-nineteenth-century politics might be happier reading something else.
posted by rory at 9:31 AM on July 10, 2003


Rory - and furthermore, blah blah blah blah blah!.........blah!

Blah blah, blah. Blah! Blah?

( Looks around. Rubs eyes. Looks around again. Pulls out an improbably huge mallet, with a head the size of a small trash can. Whacks self in the forehead several times. )

Whew. That's better. What was I saying? Something about Godwin? Wasn't I arguing? With whom? Oh yeah, that Rory charactor! What foolish stuff was he saying?

(re-reads post)

Hey! He was actually agreeing with me, complimenting me! (thanks, Rory) I must have been arguing with someone else....maybe it was that damned Fuzz person, or George_Spiggot, or dash_slot - There must be somebody here to argue with. Hey! Where'd you all go? Am I here all alone? I can't be all alone, there must be someone here I can disabuse through my learned discourse, of their ignorance concerning Godwin, and propaganda, language, meaning....

[ Troutfishing climbs down from lecture podium, pulls on a large, grotesque rubber walrus mask, and queries the oysters..... ]

'Oh oysters, come and walk with us' the TroutWalrus did beseech.

A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk along the briny beach.

I cannot do with more than two to give a hand to each....


[ a bit later ].....And all the little oysters stood and waited in a row.

'The Time has come,' The TroutWalrus said, 'to speak of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings - and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings......."

posted by troutfishing at 2:03 PM on July 10, 2003


Lovely!
posted by dash_slot- at 3:18 PM on July 10, 2003


Erasing the stories doesn't erase the fact that we ran articles containing information that, given the source, was probably inaccurate. And it doesn't erase the sad fact that my own arrogance allowed me to be conned.

It will be a long time (and perhaps never) before I trust someone else who comes forward and offers inside information. The next one who does had better be prepared to produce a birth certificate, a driver's license and his grandmother's maiden name.

Any news publication exists on the trust of its readers. Because I depended on a source that was not credible, I violated the trust that the readers of Capitol Hill Blue placed in me. I was wrong. I'm sorry.


Again, props to the guy for the balls to put up his hand to admit he was wrong. That underlines his journalistic ethics.

I still think Bush is a lying sumbitch, I didn't rest my assessment on this alone.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:30 PM on July 10, 2003


'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master - that's all.'

See how they smile like pigs in a sty, see how they snied.
posted by rory at 3:55 PM on July 10, 2003


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