Tuesday, June 14, 2005

good recent posts

1."how you became crazy" (Avedon 5 march):

Oddly, I agree with the idea that journalists seem to be referencing each other rather than doing real reporting and analysis, but I don't think that amounts to news that is driven to a liberal slant. See, it doesn't really matter whether more journalists are liberal or conservative if most of the self-identified partisan conservatives are acting as stooges in a Solomon Asch experiment. They come out every day with their talking points, some of which are masterworks of spin that leave all common sense behind. Someone has taken an obvious, well-understood fact (like that the point in an election is to count the ballots) and turned it on its head to the point that you soon have the entire news media declaring that the sky is not blue (or that trying to count the ballots is "stealing the election").

This can only happen if conservatives are prepared to insist - and never express the slightest doubt - on the "truth" of their talking points. The very uniformity of their group-think gives it a power that makes others lose their grasp on reality; the very ability to consider more than one possibility makes one vulnerable to infection by even the most corrupt meme.

If you're unfamiliar with Asch's famous study, let's take a moment now to remember how this works:

You sign up for a psychology experiment, and on a specified date you and seven others whom you think are also subjects arrive and are seated at a table in a small room. You don't know it at the time, but the others are actually associates of the experimenter, and their behavior has been carefully scripted. You're the only real subject.

The point here is that, unbeknownst to you, the others present are committed to lie consistently until you begin to doubt your own perceptions. And it works.

2.Jonathan Schwarz, 19 April:"how america works"
(regarding Thomas Enders's funeral)
[sometimes a blogger ends up offering us his choicest observations in the comments,as is the case here, although I recommend you read the whole thing-HZ]

"...that's why I've always thought Clinton was a much better imperialist than Bush. He always kept the actual $$$ goal in mind. By contrast, the frothing lunatic wing of the Republican party seems to think the whole point is to stand over the body of your vanquished adversary, screeching.

But it's been like that for a long time. As I like to say, the Democrats and Republicans have generally represented the sane evil people and the insane evil people, respectively. Their long-running argument goes like this:

REPUBLICANS: Let's kill everyone and take their money!
DEMOCRATS: I like the way you're thinking. I really do. But if we keep at least SOME of them alive and working for us, we can make even MORE money in the long run!
REPUBLICANS: You commie!"

3. "double anniversary": (Empire Notes, April 30th)
In which NYU prof Rahul Mahajan discusses the Soviet Union's role in defeating the Nazis, among other things. I must admit I've forgotten if W. made those stupid comments apologizing for Yalta before or after this post, but I read it afterwards and was reminded of how arrogant our present president is. Possibly he learned about WWII from watching movies like Patton, idly daydreaming about when he'd finally get the chance to kill people and be macho just like George C. Scott.

4. Dave Neiwert,"the undertow of totalism": (5.11.2005)

Amy Goodman recently had a fascinating interview with Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, who discussed the potency and significance of the religious right as a political force:

The most significant work on totalism was pioneered by Erik Erikson, whose work I've discussed previously in a similar context. One of Erikson's chief disciples and descendants is Robert Jay Lifton, who has done some of the most thorough work examing the totalist mindset. Lifton describes it as consisting of eight key themes, notably:

Milieu control

The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual's communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also -- in its penetration of his inner life -- over what we may speak of as his communication with himself. It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984.