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Groupthink

News Science, Pseudoscience and Society Recommended Links Conformism Conformism pressures in large organizations Cognitive Regulatory Capture
Disciplined Minds Cargo Cult Science Introduction to Lysenkoism Scientific Fraud Caused by Social Pressures Belief coercion within religious groups What's the matter with Kansas
Confirmation bias Workplace mobbing Pollyanna creep Propaganda Pseudoscience and Scientific Press The Real War on Reality
Bureaucracy as a Political Coalition Bureaucratic avoidance of responsibility Bureaucratic Collectivism Bureaucracies Bureaucratic ritualism Does the Government Bureaucracy Stifle Innovation?
Gaslighting Financial Groupthink and 401K investors Corporate sociopaths Bully Managers in IT Workplace: Humor Etc

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."--Voltaire

"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."

Voltaire, 1694-1778

"Once spirit was God, then it became man, and now it is even becoming mob."

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Introduction


Etymology: group + -think (as in doublethink): a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics

merriam-webster.com

Groupthink is a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972). It occurs when a group or individual makes faulty decisions because  social pressure in the group to which individual belongs lead to a deterioration of “mental efficiency, ability to decider the reality, and moral judgment”.

The term "groupthink" is closely related to such terms as propaganda, social influences on individuals, group cohesiveness, and, especially, brainwashing. There are several similar terms with the most popular alternative term being "political correctness". Another closly related term is conformism (which is more of a an individual trait of the person -- inability to withstand group pressure). Also related are “herd mentality” and, satirically, “Freedom Fries” mentality.

Ideology os one of the main forces for enforcing groupthink in larger groups such as nations, which secure a high level of cohesiveness within the group. Abnormal level of groupthink when ideology prevent prudent actions can be seen in such phenomena as Cognitive Regulatory Capture  observed under neoliberalism. Some think that American Exeptionalism is a special kind of Groupthink too (as any other form of nationalism).  

In its essence groupthink can be viewed iether as:

From this point of view skeptics can be viewed as people with high natural or trained ability to withstand group pressure. This is a dangerous social trait. As social importance of group conformity is high they were often persecuted. Some heretics were burned on stake during Middle Ages.  At the same time many achievements of humanity (for example dominance of secular states) are due to people who sacrificed their lives for defending their own view of things and events. Which during Middle Ages was related to questioning the religious dogma. 

Groupthink is  "a mode of thinking" people engage in when cohesiveness is high" (Blumberg and Golembiewski 134). Beating the war drums is a sur way to increase group cohesiveness and was used and abused by elite since antiquity.

The Challenger space shuttle explosion, The Bay of Pigs invasion, The Korean War debacle, Vietnam War, Iraq Invasion  all can to certain extent be viewed as examples of situations where group communication failed and groupthink prevail.  Although in case of wars we probably have more of have a deliberate effort of the elite to enforce their views of society via propaganda mechanisms.

Groupthink leads to poor decision making and typically results in a lack of creativity. but there is always an opportunity for creative things even within a strict limits of religious dogma, so no amount of groupthink in a social group can suppress skeptics. 

The key problem with groupthink that while it is fundamental, immanent feature of social groups, it is often cultivated and amplified by the elite.  Extreme forms of "cultivated groupthink" (via MSM brainwashing) such as McCarthyism witch hunt is the cornerstone of corporatism and is related to very dangerous forms of social organization of society as neo-fascism. Bolsheviks, Italian fascist under Mussolini,  and NSDAP were probably pioneers among political parties, leaders of which understood the power of groupthink in the society and managed to use it for obtaining and preserving the political power.  In the same way it is also used by various "high demand" religious cults

Moral Man and Immoral Society -- Reinhold Niebuhr views on groupthink

In subtle, indirect way the term groupthink suggests that social groups as well as the society "at large" often behaves as a psychopathic individual. Reinhold Niebuhr in his  famous book, Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932) said that individuals may strive to be moral. But collectively, human beings are prone to immorality, even evil.

Note:

Reinhold Niebuhr was a moral philosopher, was one of the most significant religious thinkers this country; he is mostly known for his Serenity Prayer. The original prayer he drafted was, "God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

He noted that groupthink is applicable both to small groups and nations:

"Perhaps the most significant moral characteristic of a nation is its hypocrisy. We have noted that self-deception and hypocrisy is an unvarying element in the moral life of all human beings. It is the tribute which morality pays to immorality . . . ." (95, 117, 141, 177f.)

The idea that persons who look and act morally in personal lives, quickly revert to immoral behavior as the members of the group is not new. Niebuhr just exposed the hypocrisy of the arguments the ruling group use to justify their favored position and to restrict the opportunities and participation of the other groups that are marginalized.  Lord John Acton's (1834-1902) famous sentence, "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (Letter to Bishop Creighton, April 5, 1887) reflects the same idea. In other words, the phenomenon was recognized long before fascism conducted its large-scale social experiment on German and Italian people and Bolsheviks brainwashed Russian population, creating a secular religion out of Marxists philosophy.

Because we cannot fathom the whole of humanity, our loyalty will always be to a group. That means that the highest form of altruism will always be to sacrifice for a group. If it is in the interest of a group to coerce another group, then the individuals in that first group will feel loyal and altruistic and moral coercing another group. As simple as that. The question here is limits. Absence of limits means horrible things: we can say that fascism is an ideological groupthink taken to the extreme.  But this is slightly off topic.

Groupthink as a spontaneous consensus-seeking tendency in groups

Groupthink is essentially a natural mechanism (humans are social animals) related to a spontaneous consensus-seeking tendency in groups, attempt to find the balance between interests of the individual and the group. An intersection between interests of the individual and the group can be called the collective self-interest of the group, and it plays the role of the glue that binds members together and strengthens the group. And so this self-interest is a powerful binding force that is woven into the dialog and  the slang used by the group to amplify its separate identity. The term groupthink is more related to the issues of social pressure within social groups, while a similar term conformism is more related to the propensity of some individuals too easily succumb to group pressure.  While in minimal dozes it is necessary for group functioning, groupthink is a double-edge sword and excessive amount of groupthink typically endanger both the group and affected individual.

There are three basic premises of groupthink:

  1. "Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things."
  2. "The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society."
  3. "These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters."

Individual actors on social scheme adjust their actions based on both pressures and contributions of others as well as the way they view the social scene. The latter is connected with the important concept of reference group.

Groupthink is a defining feature of Corporatism

Groupthink is a defining feature of the current social order -- Corporatism in its various forms. It is cultivated by state using powerful propaganda mechanism.  It emphasizes the rule by elites and adherence to the state.  The modern USA is actually a nation of conformists to the extent that would make even Soviet citizen shrug.  As John Ralston Saul  noted this interesting fact in his (The Unconscious Civilization):

"new all-powerful clockmaker god -- the marketplace - and his archangel, technology. Trade is the marketplace's miraculous cure for all that ails us. . . I would suggest that Marxism, fascism and the marketplace strongly resemble each other. They are all corporatist, managerial and hooked on technology as their own particular golden calf." Pp19-20

Corporatism, asserts Saul, creates conformists who behave like cogs in organizational hierarchies, not as responsible citizens. Moreover, today's managerial-technocratic elite, while glorifying free markets, technology, computers and globalization, is, in Saul's opinion, narrowly self-serving and unable to cope with the economic stagnation (aka permanent recession). 

People differ in the level of acceptance of interests of the group as their own. Again, extreme cases in which individuals tend to demonstrate more or less blind, uncritical acceptance are called Conformists. Each person has some "built-in" level of conformism and this susceptible to groupthink, but when this tendency overshoot and not balanced by personal interests, intellect and understanding of different existing group factions (which often happens in case of presence of strong, charismatic leader) the results for the particular group member (and sometimes the group as a whole) of such a blind devotion can be quite devastating: group members lose any control over the direction and activities of the group. Such group is autocratically ruled by a leader, effectively turning group into a sect. 

Janus definition of Groupthink

Janis gave the following definition of Groupthink:

A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action.

Explanation of Theory: The result when group cohesion leads all members of the group to abandon realistic evaluation of the situation and follow the corporate group ideal.

Theorists:

Irving Janis
Date: 1972
Primary Article:
Janis, I. L, (1972). Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes (2nd edition). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Individual Interpretations:
Groupthink is a theory that was developed in hindsight. All of the examples given in the original theory were offered post hoc which is problematic. Since its inception it has been revisited and studies have raised viable questions about the validity of the assumptions made in groupthink.

Metatheoretical Assumptions:
Being a Scientific theory the following metatheoretical assumption should be advanced.

Ontological Assumptions:
Scientific research suggest that human nature is deterministic. Humans do not have control what they do.

Epistemological Assumptions:
Scientific research suggests that there is one truth, or big "T" truth.

Axiological Assumptions:
Research should not be value laden. Research offers objective results.

The most authoritative documentation on the subject still remains the works of the founder of the concept, Irving Janis. Janis, in his book Groupthink, defines the terms involved and presents examples. Beyond Groupthink is a text written by Eric Stern et al. that deals with Groupthink in small groups. The authors believe that a certain amount of Groupthink can be beneficial in small groups. 

Irving Janis  wondered why intelligent groups of people sometimes made decisions that led to disastrous results. Janis focused on the political arena. He studied The Bay of Pigs conflict, The Korean War, Pearl Harbor, The conflict in Vietnam, The Cuban Missile Crisis, makings of The Marshall Plan, and Watergate (Janis 9-13). Janis was puzzled by the inability of very intelligent people to make sound decisions. His answer was a condition he termed Groupthink.

Janis defines Groupthink as a "a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action" (Janis 9). Janis further states that "Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures" (Janis 9). Groupthink can lead to bad judgments and decisions being made. It serves as a simple way to deal with difficult issues.

The symptoms of Groupthink are clear. The "illusion of invulnerability" happens when a group thinks that they cannot go wrong. Confidence among the members of the group is remarkably high and is reflected in the decisions that they make (Keil 1). A "belief in inherent morality of the group" occurs when the group thinks tremendously of their morality. The group believes that it is doing the right thing in all circumstances. "Collective rationalization" is another symptom of Groupthink. Groups who experience this believe that nothing can be wrong with their plan even if there is significant evidence to prove otherwise (Keil 2). A lack of creativity and a disregard for others' options is a characteristic of groups with "out-group stereotypes." Groups often pay little attention to what outsiders have to say, and this can be detrimental (Keil 2). "Self-censorship" occurs when group members don't share their ideas with the rest of the group because of fear of being rejected (Keil 2). The "illusion of unanimity" explains that silence can often be interpreted as acceptance. All of these are symptoms of Groupthink. If one or more of these are commonplace in a particular group, change must occur.

Janis offers many suggestion to help prevent Groupthink. An easy answer is to put one person in charge of making all decisions and dealing with problems. This is not desirable in most cases, however (Janis 260-61). Groups are often able to accomplish tasks more rapidly and precisely than individuals can (Cartwright and Zander 56-57). The distribution of power in a group usually assures that no single person is able to take control. The plan of one person is more likely to be flawed than the plan of a group. More people inputting their opinion will help the group formulate a creative and complete plan.

One way of preventing Groupthink is to make each member of the group a "critical evaluator" (Janis 262). Group members will attempt to find problems in group solutions by evaluating them individually. The leader must accept criticism if this is to work (Janis 262). But making each member of the group analyze solutions individually is problematic. Group members can spend too much time debating when there is an important deadline. Feelings can be hurt when the ideas of individual group members are criticized. Some group members may not have the skills to think critically about the presented solutions (Janis 262-63).

Groupthink as a side effect of cohesiveness in groups was first discussed by Lewin in the 1930s. It is an important factor to consider in decision processes, such as election complains, boards of directors, committees, workshops, meetings, conferences,  etc.

In academia groupthink tends to create lasting intellectual empires were consensus is not result of seeking truth but is the result of intergroup pressures typical for groupthink.  Which can even outlast the initial charismatic leader.

Conditions that are conductive to Groupthink

Certain conditions are conductive to Groupthink. Among them:

The Internet has emerged as the crucial location for political activities such as volunteer recruitment, fund-raising, and, above all, "conversation" if one can accept that as a euphemism for the churning mess of interconnected blogs, most of them partisan, that every day are looking for opportunities to score points against their enemies. In their 2006 book "The Way to Win", veteran Washington journalists Mark Halpern and John Harris give a colorful and evocative name to this style of groupthink in politics: the Freak Show. The chief appeal for the viewer in a freak show is not information but rather a peculiar brand of entertainment.

The chief appeal for the viewer in a freak show is not information but rather a peculiar brand of entertainment.

For example,  the monitoring of the political contest before the elections if often done not on key issues, but in "who hit whom" manner, that is similar to manner as one keeps scores in a boxing match. A daily assemblage of tiny ad hominimum stories about politicians (nanostories) became another typical feature of Freak Show.

The word "Freak" in the term "Freak Show" suggests the tendency in modern political discourse, where elite interest are protected by swayed away electorate from key issues with second rate issues, presented as primary.  This was it is easier to force people to vote against their economic interests (the situation, which is reflected in a catch phase "What's the matter with Kansas") . Due to high effectiveness of this strategy, it is no exaggeration to say that in modern politics Freak Show became the only show  available.  See also Two Party System as Polyarchy

Typical negative outcomes of Groupthink

  1. The group limits its discussion to only a few "politically correct" alternatives.
  2. As any leader solution is favored by most members it is never restudied to seek out more or less obvious pitfalls. The group fails to reexamine those alternatives originally disfavored by the majority.
  3. Expert opinion is not sought for reason stated above.
  4. The group is highly selective in gathering and attending to available information
  5. The group is so confident in its ideas that it does not consider contingency plans.

A few methods to prevent Groupthink

Leaders who assign tasks to a group must be impartial and must not lead the group to believe that a certain outcome is expected (Janis 263). Group members will not attempt to conform with beliefs of the leadership if they are unsure of what the leader wants. Problems arise because the leader often feels that there is no centralized control within the group.

Many different groups can work on the same problem under separate leaders (Janis 264). Every group would come up with different ideas, and the pressure to conform is not as great. In some instances security can be a problem. Information is more likely to leak out if more people are aware of the information. Problems also arise when a group assumes that another group will examine the pieces to the solution that have been missed. It is much easier to allow someone else to complete the task (Janis 264-65). When only one group is working on a particular problem this doesn't happen.

Groups should divide into two or more subgroups occasionally (Janis 265). Each group should be led by a different chairperson. Both groups can eventually come together and discuss ideas. Groups that do this are less likely to be locked into one solution.

Outside experts can be brought in to observe the group functioning (Janis 266). The experts should have the ability to question the decisions of the group. The experts need to be very qualified and skilled in their ability to sort through and analyze solutions of the group. The experts must also be able to criticize the group in a fashion that will not turn the group away from the expert. Good communication skills are essential. It is important that experts become a part of the group before a general consensus is reached among all group members (Janis 266).

Every group should include a specific member who has the job of playing "devil's advocate." This person should seriously question much of what the group members say. The "devil's advocate" must be willing to vocally share his ideas with the rest of the group (Janis 267). This strategy will force the group to take a second look at every decision that is made. The "devil's advocate" of the group must be taken seriously and be allowed to speak at will if this strategy is to be effective.

One of the best way to avoid Groupthink is to have an understanding and awareness of it. Groups that constantly question decisions are likely to never encounter Groupthink. Groups are useful and necessary in many situations. They often solve problems that individuals cannot. Groupthink can limit the value of groups. Groupthink problems can be recognized by identifying a set of characteristics including an illusion of invulnerability, self censorship, and others. Janis recommends many strategies for avoiding Groupthink. Groups can assign the role of critical evaluator to each member, divide into subgroups, invite experts to sit in on meetings, and so on. Groupthink is a problem that can have destructive consequences. If group members are aware of Groupthink and are constantly checking for it the damaging effects of this condition can be avoided.

Here are some recommendations:

  1. Appoint a devil's advocate
  2. Encourage everyone to be a critical evaluator
  3. Do not have the leader state a preference up front
  4. Set up independent groups
  5. Divide into subgroups
  6. Discuss what is happening with others outside the group
  7. Invite others into the group to bring fresh ideas
  8. Gather anonymous feedback via a suggestion box or an online forum

Groups affected by groupthink tend to ignore alternatives and take irrational actions

Groups affected by groupthink tend to ignore alternatives and take irrational actions. This is typical for religious groups such as cults. As an individual is especially vulnerable to groupthink when he/she is insulated from outside opinions, enforcing such an isolation is typical strategy of so called "high-demand" cults.  See

Groupthink dominate many scientific and engineering disciplines such as economics which for an outsiders are the beacon of academic freedom. The key job requirement for an economist is "ideological conformity", or the ability to exercise creativity within firm political limits.

What are typical symptoms of Groupthink?

Janis listed eight symptoms that show that concurrence seeking has led the group astray. The first two stem from overconfidence in the group’s powers. The next pair reflect the tunnel vision members use to view the problem. The final four are signs of strong conformity pressure within the group.

  1. Self-Censorship: people only offer equivocal or tempered opinions. Not seeking expert or outside opinions. Feeling pressure to conform within group; members withhold open criticisms.
  2. Illusion of Invulnerability, group Exceptionalism: Janis summarizes this attitude as ‘‘everything is going to work out all right because we are a special group." In reality group is engaged in quasi-religious, detached from reality thinking and ignore (often to its peril) important facts or alternatives.
  3. Belief in Inherent Morality of the Group: under the sway of groupthink, members automatically assume the rightness of their cause. If some facts counter this perception they are brushed away or written down as accidental "bad apples".
  4. Collective Rationalization: A delusion of behaving and observing rationally while being highly selective in gathering information.
  5. Out-group Stereotypes. Perception of external world as a aliens that cannot understand and appreciate the "cause" the cements the group.
  6. Illusion of Unanimity. Individual group members look to each other to confirm theories.
  7. Direct Pressure on Dissenters. Pressure to protect group from negative views or information.
  8. Self-Appointed Mindguards: these ‘‘mindguards" protect a leader from assault by troublesome ideas.

As we mentioned before on individual psychology level this phenomenon is often studies as  conformism. (See famous Asch conformity experiments, were people frequently followed the majority judgment, even when the majority was wrong.).

Groupthink often occurs when group members become so focused on achieving concurrence that the search for consensus overrides any realistic assessment of deviant or unpopular views. It represents a deterioration in an individual's mental efficiency and ability to perceive the reality as a result of social pressure.

Groupthink and the News Media

From http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

Knowledge is power and we as citizens and as a nation are becoming less powerful.  We face an administration that believes in operating under high levels of secrecy.  The American press, especially the television news media, has let down the American people and the American people have allowed this to happen.  US television news is geared more toward providing entertainment than information.  When one compares the news Americans received about the “war on terrorism” and “war in Iraq” with the news citizens of other countries received, it is easy to see why many Americans were eager to launch an attack on Saddam Hussein while most of the world thought this was not a good idea.  The major news networks eagerly voiced almost exclusively the Bush administration’s (questionable) justifications for the attack on Iraq and ignored the voices of millions who knew that other ways of addressing the issues were still possible.  Furthermore, the rapid pace of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News opinion programs makes it difficult for viewers to process information in any depth.  Americans need a press that serves as a devil’s advocate to alleviate the ongoing groupthink concerning the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.

Review the following consequences of groupthink and consider how many of them apply to the Bush administration’s handling of the ‘war on terrorism’ and the issues related to Iraq and Saddam Hussein: 

      a) incomplete survey of alternatives

      b) incomplete survey of objectives

      c) failure to examine risks of preferred choice

      d) failure to reappraise initially rejected alternatives

      e) poor information search

      f) selective bias in processing information at hand

      g) failure to work out contingency plans

      h) low probability of successful outcome 

 

"Assigned curiosity" of scientists as groupthink

The book Disciplined Minds develops this argument in quite an illuminating way. The first part that includes discussions of jurors (professionals for a week), imposters, and disbarred attorneys. But the main topic is the “assigned curiosity” of physicists, who tailor their work to receive government funding and then hide the military applications of their research behind technical language.

Professionalism in our society becomes more and more centrally controlled, the way that reminds control exercised in the USSR. The process of selecting and schooling professionals became by its nature more a mean to weed out potential troublemakers then select the most qualified candidates.

Critique

Being a Scientific theory it should be critiqued using Chaffee & Berger's criteria.

Ideas and Implications:

It is very important to understand groupthink because of the implications of groups in today's society. We need to know why and how groups make bad decisions and groupthink offers one explanation. However the theory of groupthink should be carefully examined before it is offered as the sole truth of what happens in groups.

Example: The Abbaline Paradox

Confirmation bias as a form of Groupthink

Confirmation bias is a strong tendency of people to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions,  independently of whether they are true or false. People can reinforce their existing attitudes by selectively collecting new evidence, by interpreting evidence in a biased way or by selectively recalling information from memory. People tend to test hypotheses in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and neglecting alternatives.

People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people's conclusions. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.

Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in political and organizational contexts.

Confirmation bias intersects and interacts with groupthink is several ways, for example in phenomenon known as "Persistence of discredited beliefs" This is pretty common phenomenon is cults especially in high demand cults; see also Failed end of the world predictions from 30 to 1920 CE

There are a lot of interesting studies of confirmation basis and its influence on investment decisions. In a way persistent bulls or bears (perma bears) are people with strong confirmation bias tendencies.

dead hobo, June 11th, 2010 at 8:48 am

The bias in media and in media analysis is to promote optimism and optimistic people. Optimism sells and business needs optimism to make money. People without optimism for any reason (realism based or not) are shunned by those who want to make money because people will buy from optimists. It is consistent to ridicule or expose those who are not optimistic because they would be bad for business for those who require optimism to succeed. Disaster is good for business if it currently exists because crisis is good for profits. Possible or potential disaster is bad for business because it keeps the looky-loos home. Disasters are best ignored until they can’t be ignored any longer. Then they become annuities. Nobody in media ridicules the perma-bulls who are right until they’re not. Bloomberg supports the bulls and castigates he bears because it is good business to do it. Without hopium, there is no reason to read Bloomberg. Optimism is good for business. Especially if it is promoted by ‘recognized experts’ who can bring in the customers.

... ... ...

Besides, if both optimism and realism were promoted equally, the end result might be an educated consumer of investment services.

An educated consumer would be able to see through the bullshit much easier than the current and historical consumer. Such an event would be terrible for many on Wall Street. Better to keep the rubes optimistic and trusting than teach them anything of value that might be used against Wall Street.

... ... ...

Besides, most business reporters really suck. CNN makes me want to wretch with regularity. God those people are dumb.

As Wikipedia noted:

In finance

Confirmation bias can lead investors to be overconfident, ignoring evidence that their strategies will lose money.[4][86] In studies of political stock markets, investors made more profit when they resisted bias. For example, participants who interpreted a candidate's debate performance in a neutral rather than partisan way were more likely to profit.[87] To combat the effect of confirmation bias, investors can try to adopt a contrary viewpoint "for the sake of argument".[88] In one technique, they imagine that their investments have collapsed and ask themselves why this might happen.[4]

Groupthink and Reference groups

As Tamotsu Shibutani stated:

Martyrs of one sort or other are apparently found in all societies, and they usually become objects of curiosity, if not of vituperation. Less unusual men also attract attention - the dedicated scientist who carelessly uses his pay check as a bookmark, the mountaineer who risks his life scaling dangerous peaks, or the boy in the tenement who practices his violin doggedly amid the taunts of his neighbors. Such conduct has been explained in several different ways, but an especially plausible hypothesis is suggested by Thoreau's famous lines: "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer."

Most [such] individualists tend to be somewhat estranged from those immediately around them, but rarely do they live in complete isolation.

Such extreme cases of non-conformity provide a point of departure for the study of more frequently found forms of diversity. Deliberately, intuitively, or unconsciously each person performs for some kind of audience; in the drama of life, as in the theater, conduct is oriented toward certain people whose judgment is deemed important. In a complex society like ours, in which there are so many audiences, it often becomes necessary to identify the one for which an individual is performing in order to make his behavior comprehensible. The current popularity of the concept of "reference group" rests in part upon its utility in explaining behavior that is oriented toward audiences that are not obviously represented on the scene. Sociologists have long been concerned with audiences, for they usually explain conduct in terms of social control.

"Social control" refers not so much to deliberate influence or to coercion but to the fact that each person generally takes into account the expectations that he imputes to other people. The kinds of observations that have been accounted for in terms of what has been called the "normative function" of reference groups, one of the two "functions" they are alleged to have (21, 28), can he explained through the application of a long-familiar theory of social control to the conditions prevailing in modern mass societies. What is implied in the writings of Cooley, Dewey, Mead, Park, and Sapir must be stated more explicitly, however, since most of these men did not address themselves specifically to the study of mass societies. This task can be facilitated by making a distinction between (a) the perspective that is imputed to an audience and '(b) the people who make up an audience.

Annotated Bibliography

From http://www.psysr.org/about/pubs_resources/groupthink%20overview.htm

Books

Hart, P.  (1994). Government: A study of small groups and policy failure. Baltimore:

 The Johns Hopkins University Press

 

In the first book-length study of groupthink since Janis’s work, Paul ‘t Hart has provided a rigorous and systematic version of this influential theory which opens several new avenues for research. Groupthink in government examines the circumstances most likely to produce or counteract groupthink, and applies the theory to issues such as leadership style, risk taking, accountability, and prevention. ‘t Hart’s elaborate case study of the Iran-Contra scandal demonstrates the continuing relevance of the groupthink theory in the examination of flawed decision making.

 Janis, I.L. (1972). Victims of groupthink: A psychological study of foreign policy

 decisions and fiascoes. Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

Janis defines groupthink as the psychological drive for consensus at any cost that suppresses disagreement and prevents the appraisal of alternatives in cohesive decision-making groups. In this, the first edition, Janis showed how this phenomenon contributed to some of the major U.S. foreign policy fiascoes of recent decades: the Korean War stalemate, the escalation of the Vietnam War, the failure to be prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Bay of Pigs blunder. He also examined cases, such as the handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the formulation of the Marshall Plan, where GROUPTHINK was avoided.

Janis, I.L. (1982). Groupthink: A psychological study of policy decisions and fiascoes.

Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

In this edition (2nd), Janis applies his hypothesis to the Watergate cover-up, portraying in detail how GROUPTHINK helped to put the participants on a disastrous course and keep them there. In addition, he presents some new ideas on how & why GROUPTHINK occurs, and offers suggestions for avoiding it.

 

 Kowert, P.A. (2002). Groupthink or deadlock: When do leaders learn from their

 advisors? Albany: Blackwell Publishing.

 

This book argues that too much advice can lead to policy deadlock depending on leadership style. The danger of groupthink is now standard fare in leadership training programs and a widely accepted explanation, among political scientists, for policy-making fiascoes. Efforts to avoid groupthink, however, can lead to an even more serious problem-deadlock. Groupthink or Deadlock explores these dual problems in the Eisenhower and Reagan administrations and demonstrates how both presidents were capable of learning and consequently changing their policies, sometimes dramatically, but at the same time doing so in characteristically different ways. Kowert points to the need for leaders to organize their staff in a way that fits their learning and leadership style and allows them to negotiate a path between groupthink and deadlock.

 

Journal Articles

 

Ahlfinger, N. R. & Esser, J. K. (2001). Testing the groupthink model: Effects of

promotional leadership and conformity predisposition. Social Behavior &

            Personality: An International Journal, 29(1), 31-42.

 

This article discusses two hypotheses that were derived from groupthink theory and were tested in a laboratory study which included measures of the full range of symptoms of groupthink, symptoms of a poor decision process, and decision quality. The hypothesis that groups composed of members who were indisposed to conform would be more likely to fall victim to groupthink than groups whose members were no predisposed to conform received no support. It is suggested that groupthink research is hampered by measurement problems.

 

Esser, J.K. (1998). Alive and well after 25 years: A review of groupthink research.

 Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 116-141.

 

This article provides a summary of empirical research on groupthink theory. Groupthink research, analyses of historical cases of poor group decision making are included, and laboratory tests are reviewed. Results from these two research areas are briefly compared. Theoretical and methodological issues for future groupthink research is identified and discussed.

 

Fuller, S.R. & Aldag, R.J. (1998). Organizational Tonypandy: Lessons from a quarter

 century of the groupthink phenonmenon. Organizational Behavior & Human

 Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 163-184.

 

In this paper, Fuller and Aldag argue that the quarter-century experience with groupthink represents an unfortunate episode in the history of group problem solving research. There has been remarkably little empirical support for the groupthink phenomenon, and that the phenomenon rests on arguable assumptions, that published critiques of groupthink have generally been ignored by groupthink researchers, and that groupthink is presented as fact in journal articles and textbooks. They see continued advocacy of groupthink as a form of organizational Tonypandy, in which knowledgeable individuals fail to “speak out” against widely accepted, but erroneous beliefs. They explore the nature and causes of the Tonypandy and encourage researchers to cast off the artificial determinism and constraints of the groupthink model, and instead, seek to inform the general group decision making literature.

 

Kramer, R.M. (1998). Revisiting the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam decisions 25 years later:

 How well has the groupthink hyposthesis stood the test of time? Organizational

 Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 236-271.

 

This paper explains how in the twenty five years since the groupthink hypothesis was first formulated, new evidence, including recently declassified documents, rich oral histories, and informative memoirs by key participants in these fiasco decisions have become available to scholars. This casts a new light on the decision making process behind both the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. Much of the new evidence does not support Janis’s original characterization of these processes. In particular, it suggests that dysfunctional group dynamics stemming from group members’ strivings to maintain group cohesiveness were not as prominent a causal factor in the deliberation process as Janis argued. Viewed in aggregate, this new evidence suggests that the groupthink hypothesis overstates the influence of small group dynamics, while understating the role political considerations played in these decisions. 

 

Hart, P. (1998). Preventing groupthink revisited: Evaluating and reforming groups in

 government. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3),

 306-326.

 

This article critically examines Janis’s recommendations for preventing groupthink in high-level policymaking. It puts forward three models of small group functioning in government, each of which highlights different dimensions of collegial policymaking and distinct criteria for evaluating group performance. Each model also inspires different proposals for groupthink prevention and improvement of group performance in general. The article concludes with an agenda for increasing the policy relevance and practical feasibility of research on political decision groups.

 

McCauley, C. (1998). Group dynamics in Janis’s Theory of groupthink: Backward and

 forward. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 142-

162.

 

This paper traces groupthink to its theoretical roots in order to suggest how a broader and a more consistent use of research in group dynamics can advance understanding of decision-making problems. In particular, the paper explores and reinterprets the groupthink prediction that poor decision- making is most likely when group cohesion is based on the personal attractiveness of group members.

 

Moorhead, G., Neck, C.P. & West, M.S. (1998) The tendency toward defective decision

 making within self-managing teams: The relevance of groupthink for the 21st

 century. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 327-

351.

 

Groupthink theory has continued relevance to organizations because of the organizational trend toward self-managing work teams. A typology is developed linking the key differentiating characteristics of self-managing teams to groupthink antecedents of group cohesion, structural faults of the organization, and provocative situational context. Building upon this framework, we more specifically examine variables that will impact the occurrence of groupthink within self-managing teams. Implications for the prevention of groupthink in self-managing teams are discussed.

 

Paulus, P.B. (1998). Developing consensus about groupthink after all these years.

 Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 362-374.

 

In the context of these papers of this special issue, the models of groupthink are evaluated. The major focus is on the basis for its impact and its scientific status. The groupthink perspective is seen as consistent with some other contributions to the group’s literature. Interesting parallels between the groupthink and the brainstorming literature are noted. It is conclude that many of the issues raised by the groupthink model are worthy of further examination in a broad-based study of group decision processes. 

 

Peterson, R.S., Owens, R.D., Tetlock, P.E., Fan, E.T. & Martorana, P. (1998). Group

 dynamics in the top management teams: Groupthink, vigilance, and alternative

 models of organizational failure and success. Organizational Behavior & Human

 Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 272-305.

 

This study explored the heuristic value of Janis’ (1982) groupthink and vigilant decision-making models as explanations of failure and success in top management team decision making using the Organizational Group Dynamics Q-sort (GDQ). Top management teams of seven Fortune 500 companies were examined at two historical junctures—one when the team was successful (defined as satisfying strategic constituencies) and one when the team was unsuccessful. Results strongly supported the notion that a group’s decision-making process is systematically related to the outcomes experienced by the team. The results illustrate the usefulness of the GDQ for developing and empirically testing theory in organizational behavior from historical cases.

 

Raven, B.H. (1998). Groupthink, Bay of Pigs, and Watergate reconsidered.

 Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 352-361.

 

In this paper, Raven argues that group decisions have often been seen as offering the benefits of collective wisdom, but may also lead to disastrous consequences. Groupthink then focuses on the negative effects of erroneous group decisions, the two major examples being the disastrous Bay of Pigs, which then led to the Watergate scandal. While Janis seems to suggest that groupthink will ultimately lead the group to fail in its ultimate endeavors, we need to consider the frightening possibility that in the case of the Nixon group, the group actions came close to being successful.

 

Schwartz, J. & Wald, M. L. (2003, March 03). Smart people working collectively can be

 dumber than the sum of their brains: “Groupthink”is 30 years old, and still going

 strong. NY Times. Retrieved February 20, 2004, from Ebsco database.

 

This issue came into sharp focus in Houston in 2003 at the first public hearing of the board investigating the Columbia disaster last month.  Reprinted at: http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2003/Smart-People-Dumber9mar03.htm.

 

Street, M. D. & Anthony, W. P. (1997). A conceptual framework establishing the

             relationship between groupthink and escalating commitment.  Small Group

 Research, 28(2), 267-294.

 

This article presents three propositions designed to demonstrate a theoretical relationship between the groupthink and escalation commitment models. Proposition that groups exhibiting groupthink characteristics are more likely to escalate commitment to a losing course of action than are groups not exhibiting groupthink characteristics. 

 

Turner, M. E. & Pratkanis, A. R. (1998). Twenty-five years of groupthink theory and

 research: Lessons from the evaluation of a theory. Organizational Behavior &

 Human Decision Processes, 73(2-3), 105-115. Retrieved January 20, 2004, from

 Ebsco database.

 

This is from a special issue on theoretical perspectives of groupthink, a twenty-fifth anniversary appraisal. The article examines the historical development of the groupthink model of decision-making processes and discusses recent responses to the body of empirical evidence amassed on the model. The article concludes by articulating general lessons implied by the evolution of research on the groupthink model.   

 

Whyte, G. (1998). Recasting Janis’s groupthink model: The key role of collective

 efficacy in decision fiascoes. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision

 Processes, 73(2-3), 185-209.

This paper advances an explanation for decision fiascoes that reflects recent theoretical trends and was developed in response to a growing body of research that has failed to substantiate the groupthink model (Janis, 1982). In this new framework, the lack of vigilance and preference for risk that characterizes groups contaminated by groupthink are attributed in large part to perceptions of collective efficacy that unduly exceed capability. High collective efficacy may also contribute to the negative framing of decisions and to certain administrative and structural organizational faults. In the making of critical decisions, these factors induce a preference for risk and a powerful concurrence seeking tendency that, facilitated by group polarization, crystallize around a decision option that is likely to fail. Implications for research and some evidence in support of this approach to the groupthink phenomenon are also discussed.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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Old News ;-)

[Jun 26, 2021] Groupthink inherently discounts primary evidence in favor of social affirmation

Jun 26, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

gcjohns1971 2 hours ago

Personalities of the Left are group-thinkers, not critical-thinkers.

Group-thinkers have two giant vulnerabilities: They're easily misled by ANYONE with harisma, and psychopaths actively exploit that weakness. And inasmuch as group-think inherently discounts primary evidence in favor of social affirmation, group-think is ALWAYS wrong.

[Jun 12, 2021] America's Covid Groupthink Functioned Like China's Repression by Gerard Baker

Jun 07, 2021 | www.wsj.com

Marching in ideological lockstep is less forgivable in a society where one has a choice in the matter.

...In this country, scientists, bureaucrats, journalists and executives of Big Tech companies suppressed the story not out of fear of imprisonment or death, but of their own volition, out of ideological or even venal motives. You may well ask: Whose culpability is greater?

It's not simply that the lab-leak theory was "debunked," as news organizations repeatedly told us when anyone tried to raise it a year ago. It wasn't even permitted to be considered. Discussion of the topic was deliberately extinguished on tech platforms, in the respectable scientific journals and in newsrooms.

...Thanks to a recent release of emails under the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that some of the scientists dismissing the idea had themselves expressed concerns that the zoonotic explanation they were publicly championing might not be right. We also know that in the case of the Lancet letter , some of the correspondents were involved in similar research and had a strong professional interest in denying the possibility of an engineered virus.

...Last year, many scientists beclowned themselves by bowing to the prevailing political pieties with their absurd assertion that taking part in protests on behalf of Black Lives Matter was literally salubrious, whereas taking part in protests against lockdowns was lethally reckless.

If too many American scientists failed to help us get a proper understanding of the origins of Covid, they seem to have been abetted by like-minded people in the permanent bureaucracy. Emails to and from Anthony Fauci uncovered last week show that while there were some genuinely diligent officials determined to get to the truth, too many in positions of power seemed keen to stamp out a proper investigation.

As Katherine Eban reported in Vanity Fair last week, officials from two separate bureaus in the State Department warned against a proper investigation for fear of opening a "can of worms."

Again we have good grounds to suspect that officials in a bureaucracy that had already undermined Donald Trump's presidency with baseless allegations about Russian collusion seemed intent on suppressing any suggestion, however well-supported it might be, that Trump officials might be right about a critical issue of state.

Yet the largest responsibility for the failure to consider in a timely fashion the lab-leak theory lies with the media.

Journalists were once marked by their curiosity. Now the only thing that's curious about many of them is their lack of curiosity when a story doesn't fit their priors.

...It seems increasingly likely that Chinese officials mishandled research and misrepresented and misinformed the public. But they did so under pain of punishment, even death, in a system designed to suppress that kind of information.

In this country, constitutionally protected, free and independent scientists, bureaucrats, journalists and others did the same. What's their excuse?

[May 05, 2021] a "cult" is characterised by slavish reverence and obedience to the personal doctrines of an individual or collective of human beings having no particular, and certainly no substantive, claim to deity. That's especially so when the gurus have an identifiable ulterior motive (Scientology comes to mind an independently intelligent thinker might be compelled to ask how can people be so dumb?).

May 05, 2021 | www.unz.com

Ultrafart the Brave , says: Website May 5, 2021 at 7:07 am GMT • 11.4 hours ago

@Rev. Spooner

Please define the difference between a religion and cult in plain English if you feel offended.

Actually, I'm not offended, just intrigued by the question.

At a first cut, I'd suppose

Ultrafart the Brave , says: Website May 5, 2021 at 7:07 am GMT • 11.4 hours ago
@Rev. Spooner ion and just start making shit up, then that probably qualifies as a "cult".

Bottom line, it's probably all in the eye of the beholder. If you're a true believer, then it's a "religion". If you have neither belief in a religious species nor respect for its adherents, then it's a "cult".

An alternative view might be that "religions" are based around life philosophies that recognise a larger reality than we can perceive here in the material realm, whereas "cults" probably not so much. The more enduring religions seem to have quite a legacy of spooky stuff that so-called "modern science" might have difficulty in resolving (perhaps not so much nowadays, seeing how "science" has become such an arbitrary discipline subject to social and political whim).

All in the eye of the beholder.

[Mar 14, 2021] How Partisan Politics Rots Your Brain

Mar 14, 2021 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by David D'Amato via Libertarian Institute & Libertarianism.org,

Recent research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques is allowing us to peer into the connections, yet shrouded in mystery, between local brain activity, cognitive processes, and partisan attachment. This developing body of knowledge has revealed the profound importance of evolution in shaping the ways in which our brains process all kinds of information, in particular political information. At the center of this evolutionary journey is the importance of groups -- of being initiated and accepted into them, of aligning ourselves with them, of being loyal to them regardless of philosophical considerations. The social dynamics of group membership and participation are programmed more deeply into our brains than is abstract philosophizing. "In other words, people will go along with the group, even if the ideas oppose their own ideologies -- belonging may have more value than facts. " Because we once moved from place to place as nomads, such groups are our homes even more than any physical locations are.

We now have decades of research suggesting -- if not proving -- " the ubiquity of emotion‐​biased motivated reasoning ," reasoning that is qualitatively different from the kind operating when subjects are engaged in "cold reasoning," where the subjects lack a "strong emotional stake" in the subjects at issue. Coupled with a growing literature on the startling character and extent of political ignorance , the current state has dire implications for human freedom. The stakes are high: in their 2018 study of why and how partisanship impairs the brain's ability to process information objectively, NYU researchers Jay J. Van Bavel and Andrea Pereira note that "partisanship can alter memory, implicit evaluation, and even perceptual judgments."

One recent study, published last fall by a team from Berkeley, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins, set out to better understand how partisan biases develop in the brain. The researchers had subjects watch a series of videos, using fMRI to explore the "neural mechanisms that underlie the biased processing of real‐​world political content." The results showed that partisan team members process identical information in highly biased and motivated ways. The researchers locate this neural polarization in the part of the brain known as the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a region associated with understanding and formulating narratives. The study also found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that to the extent a given participant's brain activity during the videos aligned with that of the "average liberal" or "average conservative," the participant was more likely to take up that group's position .

The study accords with years of previous research showing that partisans' opinions on important social, political, and economic issues are affected by subconscious brain processes -- processes of which they're neither aware nor in control . This ought to be deeply concerning to everyone who belongs to a political team: processes are taking place in your brain, underneath or beyond the level of direct awareness, that are informing your conclusions about important social and political issues. To reflect on this for even a moment should fill anyone who aspires to critical thinking or rationality with a kind of dread, for loyalty to the team seems to be overriding the higher faculties of the mind .

But, the authors are careful to note, it's important not to interpret these results as pointing to some kind of determinism, whereby we can't choose how to think or what we believe. As one of of the study's authors, Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, says, "Critically, these differences do not imply that people are hardwired to disagree." Rather, these neural pathways seem to be carved largely by the kinds and sources of the media we consume . From the data yielded by such research, among many other similar studies, a picture begins to emerge of partisanship as a kind of mind poisoning , an infection that leads to serious and, importantly, measurable cognitive impairment . Evidence suggests that, under the influence of partisanship, we can't even understand our own thoughts and opinions.

In another important, recent experiment, researchers wanted to understand the relative accuracy of participants' introspective constructs. The researchers set out to gauge people's ability to understand their own choices, to see clearly "the elements of internal argumentation that lead to [their] choices." In particular, the researchers wanted to know how subjects would deal with choices that had been manipulated -- that is, whether subjects would "notice mismatches between their intended choice and the outcome they are presented with." Would subjects recognize that something was off? If they failed to notice the manipulation, would they offer justifications for choices they had not even made? The assumption is that subjects who fail to notice the mismatches must not really understand the reasons for their choices or "the internal processes leading to a moral or political judgment."

The results revealed a conspicuous "introspective blindness to the internal processes leading to a moral or political judgment." People didn't seem to understand why they had made the decisions they'd made (or had not made), though some exhibited what the researchers call " unconscious detection of self‐​deception " -- these subjects were unable to detect the manipulations of their answers, but they did register lower confidence in the manipulated choices, which the authors suggest points to "the existence of a neural mechanism unconsciously monitoring our own thoughts."

Once one has chosen and joined a team, she has very little control over her own thoughts. When they are introduced, new data are distorted, misinterpreted, or discarded based on their consistency with what we may describe as a program running in the background: partisanship leads the team member into a cognitive position of unconscious self‐​deception . Few of us, if fully understanding this phenomenon, would choose it for themselves -- at least that's the hope of many who study this area. As the authors observe, "reflecting on our beliefs may help to develop free societies." They suggest that if citizens better understood the brain mechanics of the cognitive impairment and self‐​deception brought on by partisanship, they'd be positioned to make better decisions. Research has shown that " reflecting on how we make decisions leads to better decisions ."

Similar research on self‐​deception in politics has also confirmed the presence of the Dunning‐​Kruger effect (to summarize, people think they know a lot more than they actually do). Further, the effect is exaggerated within the context of politics, with low‐​knowledge participants describing themselves as even more knowledgeable than usual once partisanship is made a conspicuous factor . Vitor Geraldi Haase and Isabella Starling‐​Alves posit that the kind of self‐​deception that is such "a major characteristic of political partisanship probably evolved as an evolutionary adaptive strategy to deal with the intragroup‐​extragroup dynamics of human evolution." Objective truth, meaning roughly an accurate model of reality, is not important, at least not anywhere near as important, as conformity and indeed submission, which we may associate with social reality .

Whatever its flaws , evolutionary psychology offers us several promising leads on the question of just why the brain isn't able to perform on partisanship. This notion of social reality is an important clue. At this juncture, it is important to underline the fact that when we speak of partisanship, we are not speaking of ideology; the relationship between partisan identification and political ideology is complicated, the connection between the two not particularly strong. Ideologues tend to think systematically, and the philosophical contents of their beliefs are deeply important to them. What is important to the partisan is not what she believes, but that she aligns her beliefs with those of her team or in-group -- or else, as may be the case, that she is loyal to and supportive of the party group despite any real or perceived ideological nonconcurrences.

Americans tend to vastly overestimate the differences in political ideology and policy preferences between Democrats and Republicans. In fact, most Americans are not at all ideological , can't describe ideologies accurately ( as their proponents would describe them ), and have almost no information on either the history of ideas or the empirical evidence that bears on particular political or policy questions. Interestingly, partisanship doesn't necessarily seem to be about politics in the normative or philosophical sense, as "people place party loyalty over policy, and even over truth ." There are actually relatively weak correlations between partisan identity and concrete policy preferences. "[P]artisan affect is inconsistently (and perhaps artifactually) founded in policy attitudes."

Indeed, strong partisanship is necessarily an impediment to ideological thinking insofar as ideology is predicated on an integrated and consistent approach to policy questions, as against the blind, team‐​rooting approach associated in the literature with partisanship. Ideological people, whatever their flaws, hold political actors and government bodies to account. Partisans change positions readily and shamelessly, depending on anything from who is living in the White House, to the vagaries of party leaders, to what is perceived as popular at the moment. Further, individual Americans' political opinions are remarkably unstable over time, vacillating between glaring contradictions, relying on a confused amalgam of elite opinions. Partisanship as we know it rather seems to be a holdover from humankind's history of tribal loyalty , with " selective pressures hav[ing] sculpted human minds to be tribal ." That is, evolution selected for just the kinds of cognitive biases we find in partisans on both sides today (importantly, neither "team" is immune).

A recent paper published by the American Psychological Association suggests that from a cognitive and psychoneurological standpoint, partisans of the left and right are much more like each other than they are like nonpartisans. As study co‐​author Leor Zmigrod writes , "Regardless of the direction and content of their political beliefs, extreme partisans had a similar cognitive profile." Specifically, partisans of all stripes show lower levels of cognitive flexibility; importantly, even when processing information that has no political character, they are more dogmatic, less adaptable , and less able to complete tasks that require an " ability to adapt to novel or changing environments and a capacity to switch between modes of thinking ."

Partisanship quite literally makes one dumb -- or is it that dumb people are just more likely to be committed partisans? Zmigrod is careful to point out that the study can't give us the answer to that question, that we would need longitudinal studies in order to better understand the causal direction and causal phenomena at play. As soon as partisanship is introduced, as soon as a question mentions a politician or political party, subjects are unable to accurately assess basic facts . Indeed, remarkably, tinging a question with a political shade renders many subjects unable to answer a simple question even when they are given the answer . Relatedly, studies have shown that one's political affiliations even affect her ability to perform basic math : given an operation that yields a statistic contradicting a subject's partisan view, the subject will tend to question the result rather than updating based on the evidence or attempting to reconcile the new information with her politics.

In a groundbreaking study published last summer , a team of researchers led by the University of Exeter's Darren Schreiber attempted to address the lack of brain imaging research specifically aimed at better understanding nonpartisans , a group that has been neglected as almost all such research has focused on the differences between the brains of partisans of the left and right. The study found that nonpartisans' brains are different from those of their brainwashed brethren, particularly in " regions that are typically involved in social cognition. "

It may be that the next stage in human evolution will involve rewiring our brains to accept the fact that current groups are artificially and arbitrarily defined -- that all human beings are one people. For just as there is harmful, toxic tribalism, there is also socially beneficial, cooperative, cosmopolitanism. As social policy expert Elizabeth A. Segal writes , "Ultimately our goal should be to build the tribe we all belong to: that of humanity." Libertarians take this lesson quite seriously, for we tend to see ourselves as part of a common global community of connected individuals who are perfectly capable of dealing with one another through peaceful and mutually‐​beneficial interactions. We celebrate social, cultural, religious, and linguistic differences as the spice of life rather than see them as dividing lines or impediments to willing collaboration. If we can understand and think clearly through partisanship, we can begin to build a freer world based not on arbitrary divisions and compromised reasoning, but on mutual respect and renewed emphasis on rigorous critical thinking.

[Dec 28, 2020] The biggest shakeup to my world view came with Russiagate.

Dec 28, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org

librul , Dec 27 2020 14:58 utc | 2

I will elaborate.


The biggest shakeup to my world view came with Russiagate.

I had previously believed that intelligence sat at the top of the hierarchy for how people process information and get their belief systems.

Now I know that intelligence is a sub-layer in the hierarchy, and not even second.

Levels:

1) People identify with groups and get their beliefs from that group - herds.
2) People mimic their herd.
3) People apply intelligence to rationalize the beliefs that they already hold.


Trying to deprogram a headline-reader or ingestor of the MSM (aka MIC-mouthpiece)
by interacting with them at level #3 is like "spooning against the tide". You are not even getting close to level #1.
This is actually reinforcing people's delusion that they are operating primarily from an intelligence level - a catch-22.
You are telling them that their beliefs originate from intelligently gathered information. That isn't helping them.

Start paying attention to how often you trigger a mimic's cliche function.
It can be amusing. Then notice that you yourself were under the delusion that their beliefs originated intelligently.
That is why you are interacting with them in intelligent conversation, isn't it?
You believe that something that was birthed from intelligence can be untangled with your intelligent argument. Think again.

They have their beliefs that they mimic and then "confirmation bias" cements it,
and cementing it is the function of the endlessly repeated lies of the MIC-mouthpieces.
The repeated lies are kept fresh by putting them into new forms - Russiagate became Ukrainegate became Bountygate became Vaccinegate
(with occasional side trips into such places as MH17-gate, Skripal-gate and Assange-gate, etc).
You can spend your time showing them, for example, that the Skripal false-flag was a clown performance at best - the facts are out there for all to read.
But then, even if successful with that one, "what about this-gate and that-gate" - you haven't even scratched the surface of their
collective McCarthyism and thus by informing them about Skripal-gate "you are defending Russia". Good luck with that.

People are mimics that let their herd do their thinking for them. They have various skill levels at rationalizing to themselves the beliefs that they already hold.

p.s.

Put the three-level hierarchy to the test by considering people's religious beliefs.

People are typically born into those religious groups - level 1. They will consistently mimic the same cliches, for example, "G-d will curse those that do not support the Jews", "Jesus will throw you into a Lake of Fire", "Have a Blessed Day".

Do you think they all independently discovered these identical "Truths" on their own, and so, so many more, by their own personal study of the Bible?

They are mimicking - level 2. Now go and approach them at level 3 - the intelligence level - but don't neglect to carry a barf bag with you. Maybe you can succeed in reinforcing their delusion that their religious beliefs are intelligence based, but you will not even nudge them from their identity group - level 1. And you will only get for your trouble an ear full of mimicry.

---
I wrote the above last summer. Since then there have been more "-gates" such as the latest Multiple-US-agencies-Solarwinds-hack-gate. I mentioned Vaccinegate above and I had to stop and think about what that had been about as the public is being hosed with so much crap these days. Vaccinegate - supposedly the Russians had hacked our vaccine research.
---
recommended reading:
https://woodybelangia.com/what-is-mimetic-theory/


c1ue , Dec 27 2020 18:53 utc | 22

@librul #2
I think you overegg your view.
A significant part of the "me too" views these days is "rice bowl religion" - that is, belief maintained because the holder think they have to, in order to continue the economic prosperity.
Another significant part comes from the pervasiveness of mainstream media - both traditional and social media.

migueljose , Dec 27 2020 21:04 utc | 33

librul @ 2
Thanks Librul. Very insightful and accurate framing and description. Caitlin Johnstone also lays out the same perspective but yours stands alone as impressive.
Hope we're in the same herd! LOL!

[Nov 25, 2020] "Social" media as a cancer: it creates tightly insulated echo chambers which masturbate our confirmation bias and hide any information which might cause us cognitive dissonance

Nov 25, 2020 | caitlinjohnstone.com

ROUNDBALL SHAMAN / NOVEMBER 24, 2020

"social media is notorious for the way it creates tightly insulated echo chambers which masturbate our confirmation bias and hide any information which might cause us cognitive dissonance by contradicting it. Whole media careers were built on this phenomenon "
.
So-called "social" media is a cancer eating away at our humanity and our sense of community with every passing moment. It is a devil's brew of the worst of human thought and behavior that seeks to lower the level of human interaction with every click and toxic retort. It may be the tool that actually does us in even more than the other big threats to our existence.
.
"Splitting the public up into two oppositional factions who barely interact and can't even communicate with each other because they don't share a common reality keeps the populace impotent, ignorant, and powerless to stop the unfolding of the agendas of the powerful."
.
People today have short attention spans. They don't have any depth of thinking and they certainly don't want shades of grey. The Dark Powers successfully exploit this weakness to their benefit with little pushback from an easily amused public. Those who love simplicity don't want anything more challenging and they certainly aren't the least bit concerned about those who are actively doing them in.
.
"You should not be afraid of your government being too nice to China. What you should worry about is the US-centralized power alliance advancing a multifront new cold war conducted simultaneously against two nuclear-armed nations for the first time ever in human history. "
.
We should indeed be concerned about Empires measuring the size of their manhoods against each other but since that has nothing to do with reporting on our neighbors for not wearing masks or the speed of our internet connections or the latest video of some fool acting the fool on the web we won't be concerned about it. You gotta have priorities, you know.

[Oct 11, 2020] Cover Your Ass-- The Guiding Principle Of Our Time -

Oct 11, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

Authored by Louis-Vincent Gave via Gavekal Research,

What is the dominant guiding principle of western societies today?

At the risk of sounding crass, let me suggest that it is the "cover your ass" or CYA principle. This principle has always been fairly prominent in participative democracies. But now it has gone into hyper-drive - so much so, that the CYA principle is also now an important driving force even in financial markets.

CYA and Covid-19

Take the response to Covid-19 as an example of the CYA principle in action. Is there any doubt that the rush to lock down economies and suspend normal civil rights -- to go to church, to attend school, to visit friends -- in the face of Covid was driven largely by policymakers' fears that if large numbers of people died, they would be held accountable in the court of public opinion?

Of course, no policymakers want a surge in deaths on their watch. But economies did not get shut down during the 2009 swine flu pandemic, nor during Sars in 2003, the Hong Kong flu pandemic of 1969, nor even the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. So what changed between the time of Sars and the time of Covid? One obvious answer is the rise of social media.

Now that every policy choice is reviewed and debated in real time by millions of people around the world, CYA has become all-important. Politicians have to put policies in place to hedge against the wildest tail risks imaginable. At the same time, the first instinct of policymakers (and of investors -- but more on this later) is to avoid doing anything that diverges too far from the pack. Any policymaker anywhere looking at the opprobrium heaped on Sweden will surely agree with John Kenneth Galbraith's observation that "it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone".

Once Denmark and Norway had decided to follow Italy's lead and lock down their populations, any western government that did not follow suit risked being accused of playing Russian roulette with people's lives, regardless of the epidemiological evidence. Unfortunately, we still seem stuck in this mindset, even as the weekly death tolls across western countries have dipped to generational lows, almost regardless of the Covid policies they adopted (see the chart below).

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So, we should all be grateful that Donald Trump appears to be bouncing back from his brush with Covid having taken little harm. Firstly, of course, Trump is human, and it doesn't do to wish harm on another human. Secondly, if Covid were to have taken Trump's life, it would have claimed the highest profile victim possible. And after the death of the US president, who can doubt that anti-Covid measures would become even more liberticidal. Regardless what you think of Trump, that would be a very bearish development, at least for "Covid-victims" such as energy names, airlines, casinos, hotels, and restaurants , all of which are desperate for policymakers to acknowledge that Covid-19 no longer seems to be as lethal as it was six months ago.

CYA and the fiscal and monetary policy mix

Moving on to the far less controversial fiscal and monetary policy responses to the recession, can there be any doubt -- again -- that policy is being driven above all by the CYA principle? What policymaker wants to espouse the Hippocratic principle of "first, do no harm," and let markets and prices find their own footing? None. As Anatole has argued, policymakers are scrambling always to do more, with ever-bigger budget deficits funded by ever-more money printing ( see Will A Keynesian Phoenix Arise From Covid? ).

Can this new enthusiasm for budget deficits and money printing guarantee prosperity? It seems to for some individual stocks. But for the broad market? Perhaps not, or at least not in "real terms". Take the equal-weighted S&P 500 as a proxy for the typical equity portfolio (appropriate now a handful of mega-cap names dominate the cap-weighted index), and discount it by the gold price to get a picture of equity returns adjusted for currency debasement.

When US governments keep spending under control, as Bill Clinton's did in the 1990s or the Tea-Party-led Congress did after 2011, the broad equity market goes through long phases of "rerating" against gold (see the chart below).

And when the government embraces expanding budget deficits funded by the Federal Reserve, as with George W Bush's "guns and butter" policies or Donald Trump's rapid deficit expansion, gold massively outperforms the broad equity market. Where does this leave us today? Since 2014, the equal-weighted S&P 500 has delivered the same returns as a pet rock -- gold. This is because the index has lost a third of its value since making a high in September 2018, and has basically been flat-lining since late April (see the chart below).

This may help to put the current debate on US stimulus into context. First, does anyone doubt that the US government will release a tsunami of new spending after the election? Because of the CYA principle, what policymaker will want to be seen to be blocking recovery? Secondly, will this increase in budget deficits, funded by the printing press, trigger stronger economic growth? If so, why weren't we doing it before? Will it lead to higher asset prices? If so, why are we so far off the 2018 high? Or will it mean further currency debasement? Looking at the ratio between the equal-weighted S&P 500 and the gold price, will a new round of stimulus mean a return to the February 2020 high? Or will it see the March 2020 low taken out?

Another way to look at this problem is through the prism of the US dollar. Will another round of fiscal stimulus be dollar-bullish? Or will it be dollar-bearish? The answer matters greatly to all those foreign investors currently seeking shelter in US equities. For them, the return on US equities has been flat since late May - and going further back, flat since mid-2019.

So, if another round of stimulus weakens the US dollar, as seems likely if the stimulus is funded by the Fed, then foreign investors will have to hope that increased equity values will more than compensate for their foreign exchange losses.

CYA and indexing

This brings me to what is likely the most important element of all this for readers: the CYA principle and investing. Gavekal has written at length about the dangers of indexing (see, for example, Exponential Optimization). We have also argued that indexing is the new in-vogue form of socialism. Capital is not allocated according to its marginal return -- the foundation on which capitalism rests. Instead, capital is allocated according to the size of companies. Just as in the days of the old Soviet Union or Maoist China, the bigger you are, the more capital you get. It is hard to think of a stupider way to allocate one of the key resources on which future growth relies. So why is indexing so popular? Simple: it is the ultimate CYA strategy.

As Charlie Munger likes to say: "Show me the incentives, and I will show you the outcome." In a world where every money manager is told his or her target is to achieve a performance close to that of the index, it is hardly surprising that ever-more money ends up getting indexed ( see Indexation = Parasitism ). As a consequence, over the years the dispersion of results among money managers has become smaller and smaller.

Now, the Holy Grail of money management is to achieve decent long term returns combined with low volatility in those returns. However, in a world where ever-more capital is directed into investments that outperform -- playing momentum rather than mean reversion -- you inherently end up with greater volatility all round. Take the past few years as an example: since January 2018, the S&P 500 equal-weighted index has suffered six corrections of -10% or greater, including one -20% drop and one -40% drop. In contrast, in the preceding two years -- January 2016 to January 2018 -- the S&P 500 did not see a single -10% drop, while the July 2016 to January 2018 period didn't even see a -5% drop. Clearly, something in the environment has changed.

More indexing makes sense from a CYA perspective, but ends up delivering lower returns and higher volatility all round. This stands to reason. If capital is allocated only according to marginal variations in the price of an asset, then the more the asset's price rises, the more capital money managers will allocate to that asset. And the more an asset's price falls, the less capital is allocated to it. Such momentum-based investing inevitably creates an explosive-implosive system, which swings wildly from booms to busts and back again. And in the process, capital gets misallocated on a grand scale.

In the 20th century, the goal of every socialist experiment was for everybody to earn the same salary. In the 21st century, it seems that the goal of indexing is for everybody to earn the same return. As we now know, fixing everyone's return on labor at the same price was a disaster. People stopped working, and economic growth plummeted. Fast forward to today, and why should we expect a different outcome if the end-goal of our investment strategy is to ensure that everyone gets the same return, not on the their labor but on their capital? Isn't the entire world of money management now oriented towards delivering this remarkable ambition?

And should we really be surprised if the growth rates of our economies continue to slip? Why should we expect a positive growth outcome from an epic misallocation of capital? Take the current Big Tech craze as an example: everything is organized for investors to sink ever more capital into those very companies that need it least, and whose best use for this gusher of money is typically to buy back their own shares.

This CYA investment-decision-making process appears to be one of the key drivers behind the recent divergence between the S&P 500 market-capitalization-weighted index, and the S&P 500 equal-weighted index.

But it may also explain an interesting point raised by my friend Vincent Deluard, strategist at StoneX. In a recent tweet (he's well worth following) he noted that each of the last four major market corrections bottomed out in the last week of the quarter, just after the index futures expired. Now, this could be a remarkable coincidence. On the other hand, it might say a great deal about how capital is allocated today.

Conclusion

In A Study Of History, Arnold Toynbee reviewed the rise and fall of the world's major civilizations. He showed that throughout history, when any civilization was confronted with a challenge, one of two things could occur. The elite could step up and tackle the problem, allowing the civilization to continue to thrive. Alternatively, the elite could fail to deal with the problem. In this case, as the problem grew, their failure led to one of three outcomes.

1) A change of elite. An example is the clear-out of the French political class at the time of decolonization. As the old Fourth Republic stalwarts struggled to meet the challenges of Asian and African independence movements, they were replaced by Charles de Gaulle who brought in new personnel and established the institutions of the Fifth Republic.

2) A revolution. Obvious examples include the French revolution, with the bourgeoisie taking over from the aristocracy, and the American revolution, with the local elite taking power from the British king.

3) A civilizational collapse. Examples include the collapse of the Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilizations following the arrival of the conquistadores. Another is the disappearance of the Visigoths in Spain and North Africa following the Arab-Muslim invasions at the start of the eighth century.

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With this framework in mind, how does CYA as an organizational policy approach help in dealing with challenges? The obvious answer is that if CYA is your guiding principle, the problems you chose to tackle will be those where there is little controversy within the elite about the required solutions.

This explains the constant hectoring about tackling climate change. Here, policymakers can promise to spend lots of money, without leaving their backsides too exposed. This accounts for the dramatic divergence between the performance of green energy producers (who produce energy) and carbon energy producers (who also produce energy).

It may also explain the rush towards ever-more European integration, as if the real challenge facing Europe today is a resurgence of the Franco-German rivalry that tore the continent apart in the 19th and 20th centuries. Policymakers can spend entire weekends in summit meetings debating European integration. This allows them to feel useful and important, even if their debates increasingly seem about as relevant as the debates of the Byzantines over the gender of angels even as the Turks were storming their city. But while pushing for more European integration might not tackle any of the issues European voters actually care about, at least it doesn't leave your behind exposed.

This brings me back to Karl Popper's theory that at any one time, there is a set amount of risk in the system. Any attempt to contain this risk either displaces it to somewhere else, or stores it up for later. If Popper was right, then the extreme aversion of our policymakers to taking risks means that the risk must appear elsewhere. But where? Perhaps in financial markets? It does seem not only that spikes in the Vix have been getting sharper lately, but that the Vix is also staying more elevated than you would expect in the middle of a roaring bull market.

Or, to put it another way, over the past few years, it does seem that the "downside gaps" in markets have started to become more vicious.

So perhaps CYA makes sense in today's financial markets. The challenge, of course, has become finding the instruments that allow you to cover your posterior. In March 2020, as equity markets tanked, government bonds did not diversify portfolios adequately. And in September, as equities fell -10% from peak to trough, bonds also failed to deliver offsetting positive returns.

This new development -- that US treasuries no longer offer CYA protection for equity investors in difficult times -- is an important one. It makes allocating capital to either equities or bonds a lot more challenging. Or at least it becomes a lot more challenging if you are compelled to follow contemporary western society's all-important guiding principle: CYA.

[Sep 24, 2020] Antifa Conspiracy Theories and America's Unraveling by Nickolas Kristof

Antifa and BLM are just shows with stunts designed to distract people from the level they are fleeced by MIC and financial oligarchy. As well as restore the legitimacy of Clinton wing of neoliberal oligarchy which was badly shaken during 2016 election, when their candidate was send packing.
Nicholas Kristof is member of "Clinton gang of neoliberals" and a part of this effort to distract people. The number of people who pay attention to Nicholas Kristof bloviations is astounding. Few understand that we do not know the facts and the real issue if the tight grip of MIC and financial oligarchy on the society. What is interesting is that s in California, there are 8.5 million residents born outside the country and about 150,000 homeless. "The melting pot burned over. It is now a ... salad.
For example, if money spend on wars were used to manage thoseforests with difficult terrain and perioc drauts, would the outcome be different?
Can those fires and destruction be viewed as God punishment for war the USA unleashed? As Thomas Jefferson said "I tremble for my country when I consider that God is just."
BTW, the number of commenters with Russian paranoia symptom is frightening. Of course NYT attracts specific audience, but still. In this sense NYT columnists including Nickolas Kristof are just warmongering bottom feeders of MIC crumps. It is pathetic how he tries to hide the lack of money for forest management and mismanagement if this issue by Oregon Dem politician under the broad banner of "climate change" Existence of climate change does not mean that fire should burn uncontrollably.
MIC steals half trillion dollars and then financial oligarchy steals probably another half, if not more. What is left is not enough for proper maintenance of land, water and environment in general. Stupid situation, but this is neoliberalism my friend, where "greed is good". And people chose this mousetrap themselves in 1970th by electing first Carter and then Reagan and then Clinton , allowing financial oligarchy to dismantle New Deal Capitalism. Clinton presidency was especially destructive, In a way he should be views as the top villain in this story, a real criminal boss.
Below I selected only more or less sane comment (which constitute probably less 1% of the total)
Notable quotes:
"... How about a judicious Forrest management? ..."
"... So much for our useless 750 Billion dollar military budget. ..."
"... Amazing how ,close minded people become when, for them, everything is political. ..."
Sep 24, 2020 | www.nytimes.com


Dr B
San Diego Sept. 20

Wouldn't the conspiracy theories and concerns about antifa be lessened if progresses were as vitriolic about violence committed in the name of equity, diversity and inclusion as they are about violence committed in support of MAGA? Would the right have anything to crow about if the NYT was as critical of physical altercations caused by social justice warriors as they are of white supremacists? Wouldn't we all have more trust in MSM if they investigated the facts before accusing Nick Sandman of racism or claiming a garbage pull was a noose? One sided reporting and editorials like these fan the flames rather than squelch them.

Ralphie
CT Sept. 20
It's amazing. You can write a column in the NY Times full of conspiracy theories -- all fully believed by the left -- and accuse the right of being prone to believing conspiracy theories. From Russia - collusion to rubes in the red states --a majority of dems share a set of beliefs that are as delusional as anything a small group on the right might believe. But, that's Kristof and the Ny Times for you.

Richard
Vermont Sept. 20
People seemed to have lost a sense of what is plausible. While few of us know the news first hand, we have to both trust and evaluate what is reported. Nothing is absolute. Jurors are asked to decide cases beyond a reasonable doubt. That is how I feel taking in the news. But within that sliver of doubt, within the fact that nothing is absolute is where conspiracy theories begin to fester. It is where some have found solace to confirm what they want to choose to believe despite how much there might be to question that. Events like this create an opportunism to demonize those you hate and in doing so the essence of what we should be debating is lost. How to prevent these fires in the first place? We will probably continue to debate it despite the evidence on climate change, whether there is a deep state trying to discredit Trump, whether the seriousness of covid is a hoax. Yes there is no absolute certainty but there is taking an educated guess as opposed to an emotional response. I'll go with the educated guess. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, I will say it is a duck and accept that sliver of possibility I might be wrong.

Neel Krishnan
Brooklyn, NY Sept. 20
The social fabric has unraveled, y'all pundits need to catch up.
Steve Fankuchen Oakland, CA Sept. 20
Why do people attach themselves to "conspiracy theories?" It's actually quite simple. Take QAnon for example: it is functionally just another religion competing for adherents. As with any religion, it offers its believers an explanation of what they deem is wrong while offering a path to right those wrongs. Certainty and simplicity: those are the essential elements of cults/religion/bumpersticker politics. And the internet guarantees that whatever you believe will be "validated." "Conspiracy theories" are, for the most part, not theories, merely assertions. A theory is subject to proof and disproof by evidence. In a world where truth has no inherent monetary value, don't expect it. Why the rapid spread? To paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the internet, Stupid!" Follow the money: Agenda + Clickbaitability = Profit That is the business model of the internet, a medium where "news" is whatever will produce the most clicks. As in profit. Unless and until the youngest generation developes a means of communication that does not depend on megacorporations, nothing will change. In the Sixties, a generation which disbelieved and had no honest access to the traditional media, created its own, the "alternative press." Hopefully, today's teenagers will develope their own way to communicate that is reliable. It is 100% guaranteed that if their "opposition" becomes an actual threat to the profits of Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, and the rest of their ilk, they will be cut off.
RP NYC Sept. 20
The antifa movement has grown since the 2016 United States presidential election. As of August 2017, approximately 200 groups existed, of varying sizes and levels of activity.[73] It is particularly present in the Pacific Northwest.[74] Wikipedia
Mark Nuckols Moscow Sept. 20
Well, Americans are notoriously gullible.

Steve Griffith
Oakland, CA Sept. 20
In an age when the US Justice Department is anything but just, more closely resembling something akin to "just us," I call to mind Thomas Jefferson, in a somewhat different context: "I tremble for my country when I consider that God is just."
The Poet McTeagle California Sept. 20
We spend hundred of billions of dollars every year on the types of weapons that won WWII, while the real threat to our Republic and yes, our civilization, is ,,, It's funny and tragic, simultaneously.
Sigmond C. Monster Point Magu Sept. 20
Antifa has done a lot of things. They have chosen to step into the arena. Whether they did it or not, this is accusation is a result of wading into the fight. If Antifa doesnt like to be accused of things and cant handle it, then Antifa should step off. Or does Antifa only want praise? Because that isnt going to happen. Many people dont like Antifa nor trust Antifa. And rightfully so. Ask any career criminal how many times they've been wrongfully accused of something. If an individual or group doesnt want to be accused of things, then dont get involved from the start.
Larry Klein Walnut Creek Ca Sept. 20
When people are uneducated, they do not understand what is happening around them. So they make up explanations to calm their uncertainty...
JQGALT Philly Sept. 20
Except that about a dozen people have been arrested and charged with starting the forest fires. Shouting "without evidence!" doesn't make it so. Facts matter.

Andy
MD Sept. 20
@JQGALT There are always people who are setting fires whether accidentally or intentionally. Do you have any proof that these arsonists were politically motivated I any way ?
99percent downtown Sept. 20
Why does NYT bend over to support Antifa? Kristof's 2nd headline should be changed to: "Absolute Defense of Antifa is a symptom of a deeper unraveling, and a sign of danger ahead." We know for a fact: BLM/Antifa destroyed thousands of buildings across the country in the last 90 days. Literally thousands. Minneapolis alone lost 700: https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/06/16/minneapolis-issues-map-showing-extent-of-buildings-damaged-in-unrest-over-george-floyds-death / We know for a fact: At least 6 arsonists set fires in Oregon - one of which was the largest outbreak: https://www.oregonlive.com/wildfires/2020/09/rash-of-oregon-arson-cases-fuel-fear-conspiracy-theories-during-devastating-wildfires.html We are justified to assume: Other fires were set by arsonists, but were not caught. One man all alone with a pack of matches is hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to be Antifa. But common sense supports what we believe in our own hearts: the individual radical arsonists are most likely Antifa. Why does NYT bend over to support Antifa? 9 Recommend Share
Thomas Shapley Washington State Sept. 20
Yet the Almeda fire in Oregon that destroyed more than 2,300 homes was, according to NYT reporting, caused by human activity and is subject of a "criminal investigation." Perhaps it would be wise to reserve total judgment until that investigation is completed.

Observer of the Zeitgeist
Middle America Sept. 20
Who needs rumors? The organization showed what it is made of when it created its free zone in downtown Seattle and had the highest crime and murder rate per capita in its short life in the country.

joe
atl Sept. 20
Rational people know that Antifa is not staring forest fires. However, burning and looting and using fireworks as weapons in the recent riots make even the dumbest claims of Trump supporters more believable.
LV USA Sept. 20
Leftwing activists have literally been arrested for starting some of these fires. There is video of arsonists being caught, yet the media ignores this, and actively denies it. Gee, why could that be?

Andy
MD Sept. 20
@LV Do you have any proof that these people were were left wing activist or just the kind of people who are always starting fires ad they have in the past ?

Cloudy
San Francisco Sept. 20
Oh, I guess all those videos of protesters in Portland burning down police stations were fake. Good to know.

me again
NYC- SF Sept. 20
The [neoliberal] left spends 24/7 preaching to their choir about Trump fascists dictatorship, an illegal government installed by a foreign power, destroying the constitution while preparing to seize power and ignore coming election results. There is a zero factual evidence for it, such as a refusal to follow judicial injunctions for example, but their well educated audiences are buying it whole day long. So what is so baffling that a rural audience after watching night after night Portland burning by arson and accompanied by "peaceful protest" graphics on TV would buy into arson speculations and rumors and ignore your disclaimers?

Socrates
Verona, N.J. Sept. 20
Facebook needs to be regulated since it has effectively organ-harvested the critical thinking skills of a significant portion of the population. It'd be better if thinking people simply deleted Facebook and let Facebook shrink and become the right-wing agit-prop tool that it truly is. Mark Zuckerberg is happy to to destabilize society with his little toy invention. You'd think with all that money, he could afford a conscience. What a wrecking ball Facebook is.

Reasonable
Orlando Sept. 20
"All this rumormongering leaves me feeling that the social fabric is unraveling, as if the shared understanding of reality that is the basis for any society is eroding." Ya think?

AU
San Diego, CA Sept. 20
@California Scientist Amen. We are more like an international terminal at this point. A bunch of people gathered by happenstance, heading in different directions, and often with very little in common.

Steve Bolger
New York City Sept. 20
@California Scientist: It is even worse than when Adlai Stevenson noted that there aren't enough educated people to elect a liberal government in the US.
MegWright Kansas City Sept. 20
@LV - The point is that "urbanites" aren't able to boss anyone around. It's the low population rural areas that have outsize political power thanks to the unfortunate design of our government. Every state gets two senators, regardless of population, and that also factors into the allocation of Electoral College votes, so that an EC vote from WY is worth 4 times as much as an EC vote from CA, for example. In 2016, Senate Democrats got 20 million more votes than Senate Republicans, yet Republicans kept control. In 2018, Senate Democrats got "only" 11.5 million more votes, and consequently lost seats. We're being governed by a minority in may areas of the country, and nationally, yet the "rural rubes" or whatever you want to call them, insist that they don't have nearly enough power.

M
CA Sept. 20
Six accused of starting Oregon blazes amid devastating wildfire season - NYPost
Robert Out west Sept. 20
Nice try at making it seem these loons started the big fires. https://www.oregonlive.com/wildfires/2020/09/rash-of-oregon-arson-cases-fuel-fear-conspiracy-theories-during-devastating-wildfires.html They're loons, okay? Just loons.

Rolfe
Shaker Heights Ohio Sept. 20
Strange that anyone living in or just knowing the west would NOT know that arsonists could not burn down huge chunks of forest if they where not so very dry.

Augury Unhappy
Bird Watcher, State of Grave Doubt Sept. 20
The ugly truth of Oregon's political past is asserting itself...we aren't in "Portlandia" anymore Nick.

Victor
Yokohama Sept. 20
The social fabric in the United States was never tightly knit and tolerance has always been in short supply...

Dang
Vermont Sept. 20
The adage "A sucker is born every day" has never rung truer. That people believe these rumors says a whole lot about how gullible many people are...

Schrodinger
Northern California Sept. 20
Ominous! There are two information ecosystems in this country and Americans increasingly live in different realities. Much of the media is in the business of massaging the egos of their readers by feeding them stories that confirm their biases and make them feel clever. There is less and less fact based news and more and more propaganda. A lot of people aren't really interested in facts. They just want to be told how right they are and how stupid and evil the people who disagree with them are. Media corporations are providing the market with what it desires, and what it desires is poisonous.
JRM Melbourne Sept. 20
The fires and storms, the pandemic, stupid conspiracy theories, Black Lives Matter, Trump and his sycophants...

Ilene Bilenky
Ridgway, CO Sept. 20
There is a reptilian brain need to believe this nonsense and to propagate it- because the believers are so terrified of the facts of the truth (and the lack of knowing what might be done to address those facts). The people who are true believers are pointless to discuss. They are too frightened. They need to believe this stuff. It is hopeless to address them. Dark times, indeed.

stormy
raleigh Sept. 20
With the natural buildup of combustible matter, combined with houses everywhere now and little land management, these fires will happen and will cause problems. Lots of things can start them and they will.
Len Arends California Sept. 20
You left out "a century of zero-tolerance policies toward wildland fires (creating precariously dense underbrush), and resistance to traditional controlled burning at the human/wilderness interface". It's not the whole story, but neither is climate change which, due to global technological leveling, is evermore the responsibility of China and India than Western civilization. Signed, a moderate progressive endlessly frustrated with breathless liberalism

Cenvalman
Fresno, CA Sept. 20
If only there were no arsonists. Here is a video of a woman who found a man on her property with matches in his hand (and no cigarettes, which was his excuse for having matches in his hand). She made a citizen's arrest. This happened in peaceful Oregon. Don't listen if you can't handle harsh language by a woman who is trying to save her property. Arson is real, and it is no joke. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJW_M4pBCnY A man was arrested for arson in Southern Oregon. His fire damaged or destroyed numerous homes. https://abcnews.go.com/US/man-charged-arson-connection-almeda-fire-southern-oregon/story?id=72960208 Rumors of antifa notwithstanding, people in Oregon were looking for arsonists because there are arsonists.
Steve Fankuchen Oakland, CA Sept. 20
"Conspiracy theories" are, for the most part, not theories, merely assertions. A theory is subject to proof and disproof by evidence. In a world where truth has no inherent monetary value, don't expect it. To paraphrase President Clinton, "It's the internet, Stupid!" Follow the money: Agenda + Clickbaitability = Prominence That is the business model of the internet, a medium where "news" is whatever will produce the most clicks. As in profit. Unless and until the youngest generation developes a means of communication that does not depend on megacorporations, nothing will change. In the Sixties, a generation which disbelieved and had no honest access to the traditional media, created its own, the "alternative press." Hopefully, today's teenagers will develope their own way to communicate that is reliable. It is 100% guaranteed that if their "opposition" becomes an actual threat to the profits of Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, and the rest of their ilk, they will be cut off. As to why people attach themselves to "conspiracy theories", it's actually quite simple. Take QAnon for example: it is functionally just another religion competing for adherents. As with any religion, it offers its believers an explanation of what they deem is wrong while offering a path to right those wrongs. Certainty and simplicity: those are the essential elements of cults/religion/bumpersticker politics. And the internet guarantees that whatever you believe will be "validated."

Steve Fankuchen
Oakland, CA Sept. 20
"Conspiracy theories" are, for the most part, not theories, merely assertions. A theory is subject to proof and disproof by evidence. In a world where truth has no inherent monetary value, don't expect it. To paraphrase President Clinton, "It's the internet, Stupid!" Follow the money: Agenda + Clickbaitability = Prominence That is the business model of the internet, a medium where "news" is whatever will produce the most clicks. As in profit. Unless and until the youngest generation developes a means of communication that does not depend on megacorporations, nothing will change. In the Sixties, a generation which disbelieved and had no honest access to the traditional media, created its own, the "alternative press." Hopefully, today's teenagers will develope their own way to communicate that is reliable. It is 100% guaranteed that if their "opposition" becomes an actual threat to the profits of Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter, and the rest of their ilk, they will be cut off. As to why people attach themselves to "conspiracy theories", it's actually quite simple. Take QAnon for example: it is functionally just another religion competing for adherents. As with any religion, it offers its believers an explanation of what they deem is wrong while offering a path to right those wrongs. Certainty and simplicity: those are the essential elements of cults/religion/bumpersticker politics. And the internet guarantees that whatever you believe will be "validated."
AU San Diego, CA Sept. 20
" All this rumormongering leaves me feeling that the social fabric is unraveling, as if the shared understanding of reality that is the basis for any society is eroding." You betcha. (Palin doesn't look half bad compared to the current batch.) It's a simple formula: social media driven disinformation + extreme capitalism which leaves us with no real will to address it + legitimate grievances like racism and financial insecurity = craziness on all sides, fanned by a president whose personal agenda takes precedence over absolutely everything. All societies are constantly dealing with potentially destabilizing threats. Their institutions, media, leadership, and understanding of a common good are their immune system. Ours is compromised, we are destabilized.
Ludmilla Wightman Princeton NJ Sept. 20
How about a judicious Forrest management? We live in a period of global warming because of our planet axis precision, aggravated by the presence of an unprecedented population explosion needing more water, more food, the production of which needs more arable land, cutting trees, displacing wild animals, exhausting the aquifer. Cutting trees increases the CO2 in the atmosphere. More people in India, more cattle emitting methane, more old fashioned way of cooking food and producing more CO2 ... Permanent frost melting also sends more methane in the atmosphere ... The climate is extremely complex to permit exact modeling, but it is clear that if we want to stay healthy, it is vital to regularly clear our western forests of dead wood in order to prevent today's disaster of millions of people, particularly children with asthma and old people breathing the heavily polluted air. It is time to move to solar, wind power, electric trucks, cars etc. The technology is here. Let's hope that Biden will support clean air as means to better health. If all these years instead of using abstract terms like global warming or climate change, we have been appealing to people to keep the air clean in order to have better health, perhaps they would have stopped buying the behemoths cars, producing so much pollution?

Peter
Texas Sept. 20
As Nicholas and many readers on this page already know, this commentary is more evidence of how needlessly and recklessly polarized our country has become. When tribal instincts push people to look for anything - fact, fiction or fantasy - on social media or "rage commentary" that supports and validates their identities they will glom onto it faster than maggots on dead flesh. It is a sad state of affairs when so many people of all political persuasions will not take the time - even a few minutes - to question and investigate the latest "truth" being promoted. The new culture of low information consumers seems to be spreading as fast as a pandemic despite the heroic efforts of honest journalism. I wonder if low information consumption was so endemic to the citizens of Ancient Rome and Greece - long before Twitter, Facebook and Rage TV? People, please take a moment to "click" one step further to see if the latest conspiracy story is true. Why help propagate lies? It will only come back to haunt you, or your children.
ST New York, NY Sept. 20
Antifa or not, at least some of the big fires have been started by arsonists. Of this fact we have video proof. By downplaying or even denying it, the media are just as bad as the conspiracy theorists in promoting disinformation.

Bob Koelle
Livermore, CA Sept. 20
This reminds me of a time when people saw "Reds" behind anything that was going wrong in the country. Nothing new, but just as pathetically paranoid. I wonder how many people, or their parents, fit into both groups?

AT
Idaho Sept. 20
Here's another urban myth. Ok, more a lefty myth. That we can just keep adding people to this country (urban, suburban, rural, big city, anywhere and everywhere) and it won't have any effect. With the corollary that it's just a matter of "green new deal" or everybody getting a Prius or the dummies in the sticks realizing climate change is real and then we can just go on like this forever. We can't. Not only is our much hated lifestyle, which from what I can see, nobody really wants to give up, killing us, but believing 330 million Americans that add 2-3 million more a year is not a problem at all. Our entire way of life: endless population and economic growth is unsustainable. We don't need to wait until 2050 to see it. Just step outside.
Robert Out west Sept. 20
It is very difficult to teach people that "research," doesn't mean you go to some TV show or website you like and root around for stuff that tells you what you want to hear. One prob seems to be really simple: it takes actual work to do it right. Another is that research, done well, has an ugly habit of forcing you to think at least a little about whether your own ideas make any sense. And a third is that people really, really don't like it when their political views start getting contradicted by reality. It seems to be easier to change reality than to change views, even a little. Oh, and another prob? Too few Americans really read anything worth reading. I'm all for funsies (and I've probably read more crummy science fiction than all y'all put together) but one of the joys of walking around in Paris is seeing that the kiosks and bookstores still sell a ton of stuff on philosophy, lit, economics, and that everywhere, people actually read them. Books teach thought. Newsmax don't.
Steve Bolger New York City Sept. 20
@Beer Can Boyd: As a native-born American, I think the US fell down when the Congress put "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1953, ostensibly to preclude anyone thinking about Godless communism, and gave itself a stroke.

J. Park
Seattle Sept. 20
We, all of us, need to stop accepting assertions without a source of any sort identified.

Donald
Florida Sept. 20
... So much for our useless 750 Billion dollar military budget.

Joe Smith
Chicago Sept. 20
Societies are supposed to evolve. Instead, we are descending backwards into the age of witch hunts.

Pop
PA Sept. 20
Amazing how ,close minded people become when, for them, everything is political.

Toto
Looking for Dorothy Sept. 20
The melting pot burned over. It is now a word salad. But appears there is a method to the madness. It is hard for the world to tell the madness from the method
ARL Texas Sept. 20
@Carolyn then there are the lies and the demonization of China and Russia by both parties to top it off. How can voters believe anything and decide before they vote?

Harcourt
Florida Sept. 20 Times Pick
Supporting this atmosphere of potential violence are some of my republican friends. They are mostly educated and not stupid. Yet they continue to support a man whom I think holds the responsibility for most of the violence if it comes. Now I want to get down to my point about these supporters. I believe they have succumbed to a cult-like dynamic. I say this because no rational person could possibly support Trump. Religious cults create this same addiction and irrationality. When my friends disagree with me, they try to put our friendship hostage to no further discussion of politics. They are unwilling to even be confronted with objections to their support of Trump. I have decided that I can always make new friends. What I do not want to do is take on the task of building a new country because I stayed silent.
Robbie J. Miami Florida Sept. 20
@Harcourt "They are mostly educated and not stupid." In my opinion, educated persons who behave as you describe never benefited from their education. Even worse, to me it seems like persons who behave like that are of the opinion that what they learnt in school is only for the purpose of writing the exams they needed to pass to get out of school. It was all just noise to them.

CA
Vermont Sept. 20 Times Pick
You nailed it. There is no longer "a shared reality" in America. So we have wildly different views of who Joe Biden and Donald Trump are. And how serious climate change is. And whether it's important to wear a mask. And if left-wing anarchists set forest fires. Thank you, Internet. Thank you, social media barons who refuse to ban Russian propaganda and manipulated videos. Thank you FCC that does not rein in Fox News and their promotion of lies. Who will step in and stop this madness?
AU San Diego, CA Sept. 20
@CA I agree with you completely except for the refusal to stop Russian interference. We can't. We can't unless we stop US interference in the process. The problem is that US interference, and rumor mongering, are the business model of these platforms which happen to be some of our largest companies. Extreme capitalism is preventing us from addressing any and all issues propagated by these companies. Russia is just a speck.

Objectivist
Mass. Sept. 20
Antifa adherents and wildfires ? Seems pretty far-fetched. Even ridiculous. But setting fire to occupied apartment buildings in Portland ? Oh yes, definitely. It happened, and more is on the menu, as well as municipal and federal buildings. Don't believe it ? Read the news releases for yourself, on the Portland Police Bureau's website.

James Thurber
Mountain View, CA Sept. 20
An excellent discussion of the perils of social media. Although newspapers, TV, radio, magazines have a historical principal of "generally" telling the truth, social media has opened up the world to every single Tom, Dick and Harry who with to spread their message. I believe that how we, as a nation, as a species, handle social media will define what happens over the next decade.
vw pgh Sept. 20
The state of this country is absolutely terrifying. While the shift to ever more conservative, insular, xenophobic, coroporate-controlled government has been going on for years, with the faux election of trump democracy is what has become fake, while common sense, empathy, and both fiscal and environmental responsibility have virtually disappeared. The US has gone off the deep end...

Mike S.
Eugene, OR Sept. 20 Times Pick
One of my neighbors has a bumper sticker that Covid is a Scamdemic and Plandemic...

Andy Makar
Mason County WA Sept. 20
Years ago I read a science fiction short story that is unsettling in its analogy to this situation. I starts with aliens visiting the Earth and accidently leaving behind a device that can allow metal to be manipulated by softening it, then hardening it. The device gets copied and mass produced. When they returned a year later, they come back and cannot fathom how their device could have resulted in anarchy. THAT is the internet. 5 Recommend Share
GP Oakland Sept. 20
@Andy Makar One supposes that is a reference to the origins of metalworking? And the societal changes it produced? Not bad.

GP
Oakland Sept. 20
Let me ask you all a question. If your neighbor told you the fire in a nearby Oregon town was started by antifa, how would you disprove it? Since you cannot provide evidence for a negative statement, it's difficult. There is actually some evidence that antifa did start the fire: a voice said it on the radio, and tv showed them lighting fireworks in Portland. This isn't very good evidence, but it is evidence, and you can't produce any evidence that antifa did not do it (because there can't be any.) So you are in the position of asking your neighbor to look at the quality of the evidence. This is something very few outside the legal and scientific world are capable of. But that is all you have. Ultimately, it really does go back to belief. How many of us could independently prove that the earth turns around the sun? Those of us who aren't astronomers choose to accept this belief based on what we've been told, and that's how it is with antifa starting the fires.

Blaise Descartes
Seattle Sept. 20
Kristof is afraid that fires in the West represent the new normal. The evidence suggests that this fear is well-founded. He is concerned about the government's paralysis. That is partly due to Trump, who stands a good chance of being reelected on November 3. He is worried about ordinary citizens seeking oversimplified answers and finding them in the conspiracy theories presenting the fire as the work of antifa. I am more worried about the breakdown in credibility of news sources like the NY Times, which finds itself in competition with Fox News and a host of online sources. Indeed, you-tube and facebook will select news stories for you, confirming whatever bias you bring to your reading of the news. There is no guarantee that democracy will survive. One of the things that keeps me up at night is the realization that not only the right, but the left, is subject to oversimplified presentations of global warming. Global warming is a consequence of too much population growth. But as we argue over freedoms for LGBTQ minorities liberals have neglected the importance of freedom of speech. And voices which have warned about population growth have been simply ignored by the left. It isn't enough to shift from Fords using gasoline to Teslas running on electricity. We also need to control population growth. The population of earth will double again by 2072 if current rates continue. Population growth threatens to overwhelm the attempts to move to clean energy. 2 Recommend

secular socialist dem
Bettendorf, IA Sept. 20
The scientific consensus will also conclude that not allowing wildfires to burn compounds the problem. While what I am about to type is not science, continued development in fire prone areas amplifies and compounds every aspect of the problem. From my perspective the system has evolved to socializing cost and privatizing cost in every way. I don't see it getting better, until such time as individuals are held accountable this should be considered normal.
deb inWA Sept. 20
@secular socialist dem PG&E just paid billions in fines and PLEADED GUILTY in starting last year's Paradise fire. They also have already admitted fault in several fires started by their faulty, untended grid. "Individuals" don't need to be held accountable unless there are rules in place for them to follow regarding wildfire. There already are. Most already do. Why do folks act so proud about their 'anti-science' opinion? It's not like this conversation isn't ongoing; nobody argues that development in fire prone areas' carries risks. So does rebuilding in Oklahoma, Florida and Louisiana..... You're right (although confused) about socializing RISK and privatizing PROFIT. See PG&E above.
S Day Texas Sept. 20
Unsure how people lighting fires directly indicates climate change is corroborated. The fellow who was arrested in Tacoma, WA: https://thepostmillennial.com/antifa-activist-charged-for-fire-set-in-washington Looking to past wildfires, like the one's in Montana & Idaho in 2008, 5.5 million acres were burned and certain interest groups advocated for them to burn out because it's apart of the natural cycle. Federal government shouldn't send assistance unless it's possibly to communities in threat of burning, who are humans to say we ought to stop mother nature? It's natural to let these fires burn, if you try to hinder it's course you are stopping the cycle.
Doug Terry Maryland, Washington DC metro Sept. 20 Times Pick
Why do people believe wild stupid things more than actual facts? Partly it is because they like the wild stupid thing more, it gives them some weird comfort. It is also because people are busying with their lives and don't have time to gather enough information to counter the wild rumor that flies around faster than the speed of sound. The most important aspect of successful conspiracy theories is they impart to the person holding them the idea that they are smarter than other people and have "cracked the code" that explains everything or a lot of big things that people don't understand. Reading, thinking, considering and re-considering can seem like hard work, particularly if it is foreign to one's experience and life training. Why not just lock on to a cool idea that comes around, even if it is weird? .

.. ... ...

Murphy San Francisco Sept. 20 Times Pick
This story highlights for me an equally growing problem, the "selective framing" by media outlets on the left and right (NYT and Fox as just two examples). To read Mr Kristof's version, you may believe that arsonists are wild figments of the unhinged radical right imagination. To read the same story on Fox, Antifa arsonists are working their way up your street.

Kristin
Portland, OR Sept. 20 Times Pick
"...the shared understanding of reality that is the basis for any society is eroding." And yet reality still exist. Normally, if someone starts to exhibit the kind of behavior that these "vigilantes" are - screaming about boogeymen, thinking people are out to get them, engaging in aggressive behavior based on paranoid fantasies, creating self-reinforcing delusions, becoming obsessed with baseless conspiracy theories - we would rightly diagnose them as being mentally ill, and to the extent that they represent a danger to others, confine them. I don't think we can afford to see this as just a time of extreme differences of opinion. Facts, truth and reality are still actual, tangible things. And those who have become so disassociated from them that they are stopping vehicles and hunting down their fellow citizen need to be dealt with appropriately.

phornbein
Colorado Sept. 20
We have been witnessing the start of the Second Civil War in America. If we accept the definition of a civil war as a conflict between factions of citizens for either secession or control of the government--including organizations within the existing government--then we are in the beginning stages of a Second Civil War. The question is what the level of violence will be (not will there be violence, but how much violence). We are beginning to see indications of that level. When naturally or accidentally caused wildfires are attributed to one faction as a way to stoke the fires of civil violence, then physical violence between factions is a heartbeat away simply because of the falsity and extremity of the accusations. The era of peaceful protest has passed because of the intensity of feelings on both sides; the anger produced when a government begins denying civil rights, e.g., Freedom of Speech and the Right to Assemble, through legal actions where protest organizers could be charged with sedition (see Barr's comments, 9/16/2020, NYT), which then suggests that all protests become illegal, the fires of violence are stoked. With a heavily-armed populace on both sides, gunfire is a hair-trigger pull away. If Trump and the Republican's intention was to remake America in their image (I leave it to you to supply that image), they are succeeding. If Putin's intention was to bring down America, he is succeeding. If Xi's intention was to dominate the world, he is on that path. Vote 33 Recommend Share
Jumblegym Longmont CO Sept. 20
@phornbein They may have already done it. Keep your powder dry.

Mac
New York Sept. 20
The social fabric has unraveled. Aided and abetted by the world of the social networks....
Brooklyncowgirl USA. Sept. 20
... There's an old saying "Those who the gods would destroy they first make mad." I have come to the conclusion that America has gone qute a long way down that road.
Jontavious Atlanta Sept. 20
And yet, Mr. Kristoff, you never make mention of the real threat that groups like Antifa and other radical left rioters pose to this country (forgetting about attacks on federal buildings in Portland? Attempts to firebomb courthouses? Violence against law enforcement officers?). No, instead it's always Trump, or Trump supporters who are your focus. I do not know whether Antifa has been involved in any of these recent fires, but I do know that these violent elements on the left pose a massive danger to our democracy. You are correct about one thing, though: We should brace ourselves. It's just "what" we need to brace for that is off mark in your article...
Jean CA Sept. 19
It's heartbreaking to watch these three West Coast states burned. For days, the sky was red and the air was unbreathable. But the saddest part was the feeling of helplessness.

Aram Hollman
Arlington, MA Sept. 19
40 years ago, I hitchhiked around the Pacific Northwest during the summer after Mt. St. Helens blew up. Mt. Rainier was ash-coated, as were the wild blueberries I often ate. Epic and Biblical are words inadequate to describe that destruction near Mt. St. Helens, with millions of huge, old trees blown down, piles of mud, and rivers diverted. Yet I and others knew that eventually, that land would regrow, and it did.
Stephanie Wood Montclair NJ Sept. 20
I see a lot of egotism and self-love on both sides. The so-called progressives in our community are breeding at baby boom levels, driving SUVs, and, before the pandemic, you'd see a dozen school buses idling outside every school. Development is out of control as people flee from the city, and people flee from here, or downsize, and breed and breed and breed. Two years ago, we had a flash flood and our street was under water, and there was a lot of damage all over town. Hurricane Irene in 2011 left many with over a foot of water in their basements. And let's not even start on Sandy. My friend lives in Pensacola; their downtown area is under three or four feet of water from Hurricane Sally. It's not just fire, it's floods, and it's not just the GOP which is the problem...
Ted Magnuson Portland OR Sept. 19
That the fires have become a political football is well covered in this piece. As was the climate change crisis...

John Brown
Idaho Sept. 19
I don't blame anyone for guarding their roads if they think arsonists are about. The Tillamook Burn was larger and more devastating than these fires but are we to blame climate change ? Environmentalists and Liberals who do not even live out West, who did not rely upon Logging, placed their concerns about the Spotted Owl and Virgin Forests about the danger of Forest Fires and the livelihood of Loggers and the Towns and Peoples who depended upon Logging. Managed Logging of Forests is not an inherently evil act. Clearing the bush and dead trees is not bad in and of itself. Let Logging companies responsibly manage sections of the Forrests, let Towns clear fire breaks around their perimeters. Place large Water towers in strategic points throughout the Forests, huge mounds of dirt/sand/gravel next to them so that the Firefighters have what they need to fight the fires. Force developers to build houses 50 feet apart. Require fireproof roofs, require thinning of trees in housing developments. Require volunteer Fire Departments in every neighborhood so that if they do nothing else, they can cut a fire break, water down the grasses around their neighborhoods, chase and extinguish embers, something/anything versus fleeing their homes without putting up a fight.

Robert
Seattle Sept. 19
"... dry conditions exacerbated by climate change coupled with an unusual windstorm ..." May I add that a couple of other things have also contributed to making the fires worse or making them harder to manage? For a century or so, in California, Oregon and Washington we have not been letting the normal, periodic fires burn. Consequently, a great deal of fuel has built up on the forest floor. Second, folks have increasingly been building homes or even neighborhoods in places which have historically seen such normal, periodic fires.

Elizabeth
CA Sept. 20
@Robert Yes. But now controlled burns are a bit problematic, given the droughts, the heat, the massive fuel loads from all the dead trees. It's just so easy for the controlled burns to get out of control.

Carver
Oregon Sept. 19
Hi, I am from Clackamas County metro. Every time a FaceBook "Friend" (and I personally know all of mine) posted a rumor, I tried to find the footage from any of our 4 local news stations to depute their post but they just shared another one. One said she didn't trust KGW 8 the local NBC station and when I told her the same story was on KPTV 12, the local Fox station. She said, "I'm just stressed"
M.i. Estner Wayland, MA Sept. 19
@David Biesecker Remember that half the people are of below average intelligence. That may answer the existence of the small percentage of conspiracy theorists. One problem is social media provides free and outsized loudspeaker systems that enables them to find each other.

GreenSpirit
Pacific Northwest Sept. 19
@M.i. Estner First, let me identify myself as a liberal Democrat who has a masters degree. I find it more than disheartening when half of the country, or half of rural or not formally educated folks are said to have low intelligent quotas, critical thinking skills or analytical abilities. You better believe that when a highly trained Eastern Oregon firefighter is assessing how to save peoples lives, homes and land, has to quickly act with their many faceted skill set and are calling on abilities you or I would not be able to fathom. Same with farmers of large pieces of complicated crops and land. Same with city managers, librarians, and social workers for the elderly--all having low city budgets. What about the veterinarians, doctors and nurses in rural areas? This is exactly the same as calling Black or Hispanics people of lower intelligence. And, there are different types of intelligence. I know a literary critic, a liberal Democrat, who doesn't have the critical thinking skills to run her own home or raise her children. If you look, you can see these same differences in any group. It has to do with the way people are raised, what they are using their skill sets for, what information they are used to consuming, money, ideology, etc...And it has to do with being devalued for growing your food, producing your meat, chicken and eggs. I'm not excusing the violence, guns, racism and hatred. These divides have been with us for ages. Please don't stoke the fires.

Usok
Houston Sept. 19
If we have a selfish federal government, then we will have selfish states and people. Everyone is for himself or herself. No one will think about other people or public good. It all started from the top
Kathy Lollock Santa Rosa, CA Sept. 19
In 2017, 2018, and 2019 northern California's new phenomenon of forceful 40 to 60 miles per hour winds - in Fall, no less - caused old and aging electrical equipment to malfunction. As a consequence, too much of Santa Rosa burnt to the ground, and the entire town of Paradise ceased to exist. This year during the heat of a hotter than usual summer following yet another dry winter, we had dry lightning strikes from Sonoma County to Santa Clara County and beyond.

Stuck on a mountain
New England Sept. 19
Yes, the science is clear and you fail to mention it. The forest fires reach critical mass and spread because of the surplus of dead or dying trees. They are there because the federal government essentially no longer allows logging on its vast landholdings and also fails to allow controlled burns to clean out the tinderbox. I won't bother attaching a link because any Google search proves the point. Why focus on hysteria and rumermongering among the Deplorables? Come on, Mr. Kristof, you were a Deplorable once (when you were a kid growing up in the countryside) as was I. Please defend them sometimes, particularly when the actual causes are so well documented.

Jorn
Sagebrush Country Sept. 19
@Stuck on a mountain Western States are working to clear the brush from forests where, due to our previous incomplete understanding of forest ecology, fires were suppressed for a century. However, the cost is astronomical and there are millions of acres left to clear. Spending their entire forest management budgets fighting current wildfires doesn't help. We've been doing controlled burns for decades but in many areas, they're now too dangerous. Dry forests and a dense understory can quickly turn a "controlled burn" into a conflagration. Many ranchers and timber companies who profit from our state and national forests seem unwilling to pay to keep those forests healthy. People who live in or near forests mostly have incomes too low to pay for forest management. The National Forest Service, Department of the Interior and USDA have made some progress, but the problem is huge. Saying we can prevent forest fires by allowing larger timber harvests is an oversimplification. No solution to this complex issue will be simple, perfect or cheap.

Glenn Ribotsky
Queens Sept. 19
Wacky conspiracy theories to explain seemingly bizarre and unusual occurrences have been around since the dawn of human cognition. But in an electronic/social media age, these get spread even faster than a wind-blown fire climbs a canyon hillside. Previously, they were spread one set of ears at a time; now millions of eyes can read them every second. And that is a major part of the problem.

DeHypnotist
West Linn, Oregon Sept. 19
As a grad student in sociology, having lived through the 60s and participated in the counterculture, I was deeply intrigued by the social construction of reality - how we come to share a taken-for-granted world. This is a long-standing concern within sociological social psychology. We examined how language, interpersonal communications, media and social structure shaped ones perception of one's self, what is real, what's important. At the time, however, this was considered theoretical and academic. 40 years later, understanding how Americans' realities have come to diverge is no longer armchair social science. It's urgent and in our faces, as is the question of how can we heal this terrible fracturing of our world?

Alex B
Newton, MA Sept. 19
@DeHypnotist Yes. When studying for the degree in and then teaching sociology in my early years, I learned that, too. But, I have to admit, it's actually taken all the decades of life since then, and now the obvious confirmation of it by this current 'reality' to actually realize, deep down in my guts, that we 'make up' our so-called 'social reality' simply to serve the most basic of biological requirements: the need to dominate in the deadly completion with the other 'tribes' of our species just to survive. We are, after all, animals like all the others, no matter how much we blab about how much 'smarter' we are.

Metaecongary
Show Low, AZ Sept. 20
@Alex B The primal driver, deep in the core of our brain, is usefully thought of as "reptilian." Cold-blooded. Egoistic. Hedonistic. And, in extreme cases, narcissistic, and, heaven forbid when all three are present...

Linda
Anchorage Sept. 19
I lived for a few years in Brazil when it was a dictatorship. The similarities between Brazil and what is happening in the US is startling. The police were being used to quell peaceful protesters and the justice system co-opted by authorities, fear mongering were present, just as now in the US....

Lois Ruble
San Diego Sept. 19
I didn't live in the US from 1977-1999, only visiting on short trips. That enabled me to see changes in society that were slow and not seen by those residing here. And when I came back permanently I could feel immediately a deep change....

JD Athey
Oregon Sept. 20
@Thomas Murphy 'Pandering to the lowest common denominator is how they play their game, and always have:'
Agoldstein Pdx Sept. 19
Perhaps an apt metaphor for the "danger sign ahead" is the approach of a Category three hurricane and it's increasing in intensity. One of the stark disconnects is between the message in an article like this and the politicians and citizens who are little concerned about tempering rhetoric and elevating the importance of eschewing misinformation. We are in the Misinformation Age and the victims of a cyber war, evolving into a civil war.
Giogio Houston Sept. 20
@ML What is happening here? These are the beginnings of what happened in Germany in the 30s. Over there the reason was the loss of WWI. Here, is the obvious decline of the American lifestyle and we have not seen anything yet. The range of the economic decline is covered by 7 trillion dollars in phony money. I fervently hope and pray that is not too late to stop the process. All men and women of goodwill have to rally to restore a sane, and one, country . Stay safe! It is going to get worse before it gets better.

grennan
green bay Sept. 19
@FunkyIrishman Right on. Water is an enormous issue waiting to happen here -- and Wisconsin is estimated to have between 10 and 20 percent of the world's fresh water (depending on how it's calculated and whether that includes some of Lakes Michigan and Superior. A Dept. of Climate, Weather and Water would be a logical cabinet department.

poslug
Cambridge Sept. 20
@FunkyIrishman And polluting the potable water continues sometimes by the most resolvable modern approaches: sewers and water treatment plants. Reagan ended federal funding for sewers leaving septic systems (and now ancient sewers) where sewers would lead to protected fresh water. All the medicines, chemicals, and toxins seep unseen but very real into fresh and also salt water. We are not a modern nation any more.

[Jul 21, 2020] Why We Shouldn't Believe Polling About Trump by Lord Pettigrew

Highly recommended!
If not this also about conformism? Social desirability == conformism.
Notable quotes:
"... Mark Twain is credited with introducing into the American vernacular the phrase, "Lies, damned lies and statistics." One of the pervasive damned lies people take for granted is the results of political polls, especially in the Trump era. Most polls show him behind several of the myriad candidates vying to represent Democrats in the 2020 election. But the American Association for Public Opinion Research confirms that "national polls in 2016 tended to under-estimate Trump's support significantly more than Clinton's." ..."
"... Social desirability is a concept first advanced by psychologist Allen L. Edwards in 1953. It advances the idea that when asked about an issue in a social setting, people will always answer in a socially desirable manner whether or not they really believe it. Political polling, whether by telephone or online, is a social setting. Respondents know that there is an audience who are posing the questions and monitoring their response. As a result, despite a respondent's true belief, many will answer polling questions in what may appear to be a more socially desirable way, or not answer at all. ..."
Jul 21, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

Why We Shouldn't Believe Polling About Trump

Authored by Lord Pettigrew, op-ed via Townhall.com,

Many conservatives are concerned about polling results regarding conservative issues, especially about President Trump. For example, the latest CNN poll found that 51% of voters believe the president should be impeached. How much credence should conservatives give these polls?

Mark Twain is credited with introducing into the American vernacular the phrase, "Lies, damned lies and statistics." One of the pervasive damned lies people take for granted is the results of political polls, especially in the Trump era. Most polls show him behind several of the myriad candidates vying to represent Democrats in the 2020 election. But the American Association for Public Opinion Research confirms that "national polls in 2016 tended to under-estimate Trump's support significantly more than Clinton's."

We are inundated with the latest polling on President Trump's approval rating and how people are likely to vote in the 2020 election. Both bode poorly for the president, but he doesn't believe them and neither should we. As an academic, I ran a research center that conducted local, state-wide and national public opinion polls and took a year's leave of absence from my university to work for Lou Harris, founder of the Harris Poll.

Social Desirability

The reason why we shouldn't believe most of the current or future polling results about President Trump can be summarized in two words: Social Desirability.

Social desirability is a concept first advanced by psychologist Allen L. Edwards in 1953. It advances the idea that when asked about an issue in a social setting, people will always answer in a socially desirable manner whether or not they really believe it. Political polling, whether by telephone or online, is a social setting. Respondents know that there is an audience who are posing the questions and monitoring their response. As a result, despite a respondent's true belief, many will answer polling questions in what may appear to be a more socially desirable way, or not answer at all.

When it comes to President Trump, the mainstream media and academics have led us to believe that it is not socially desirable (or politically correct) to support him. When up against such sizable odds, most conservatives will do one of three things:

1) Say we support someone else when we really support the president (lie);

2) tell the truth despite the social undesirability of that response;

3) Not participate in the poll (nonresponse bias).

This situation has several real consequences for Trump polling. First, for those in the initial voter sample unwilling to participate, the pollster must replace them with people willing to take the poll. Assuming this segment is made up largely of pro-Trump supporters, finding representative replacements can be expensive, time-consuming and doing so increases the sampling error rate (SER) while decreasing the validity of the poll. Sampling error rate is the gold standard statistic in polling. It means that the results of a particular poll will vary by no more than + x% than if the entire voter population was surveyed. All else being equal, a poll with a sampling error rate of + 2% is more believable than one of + 4% because it has a larger sample. Immediate polling on issues like President Trump's impeachment may provide support to journalists with a point of view to broadcast, but with a small sample and high sampling error rates, the results aren't worthy of one's time and consideration.

Some political pollsters often get around the necessity of repeated sampling over the course of an election by forming a panel of people who match the demographics (party affiliation, age, gender, race, location, etc.) of registered voting public. Polling companies often compensate panel members and use them across the entire election cycle. Such panels are still subject to the effects of social desirability and initial substitution error.

Interpretive Bias

Another factor to consider is the institution that is conducting the poll and those reporting the data. Their progressive sensibilities are thumbing the scale of truth. In my experience, polls conducted by media companies are less credible since they are often guilty of the same biases seen in their news reports. The perfect example of this is The New York Times's " Poll Watch ," which provides a weekly review of their political poll. My experience is that it reflects strongly the Times's negative opinions about President Trump and conservative ideas and the paper's heavy political bias.

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Even the Harris Poll, when Lou was alive, suffered somewhat from this bias. Lou Harris was the first person to conduct serious political polling on a national level and is credited with giving John Kennedy the competitive advantage over Richard Nixon in the 1960 election. He made political polling de require for future elections. While many people point to Nixon's twelve o'clock shadow during the televised debate, Harris gave Kennedy the real competitive advantage -- a more complete grasp of what issues voters thought were most important and how to tailor his policy pitches toward that end.

I worked for Lou between 1999-2000. During the election season we would get the daily tab read-outs. While the results were pristine, Lou would interpret those numbers on NPR and in other media in a way that showed his clear Democrat bias. His wishful thinking that Al Gore would beat George W. Bush would color his interpretation of what the numbers meant. In the end, by a razon thin margin, Bush took the White House and Gore was relegated to inconvenient environmental truths. Similarly, the 2016 election saw Trump beat favorite Hillary Clinton by a significant electoral margin, despite the vast majority of polls giving Mrs. Clinton the edge by between 3-5%.

Where We Go from Here

Public opinion polling is generally not junk science although with some companies it can be. Companies like Gallup and Pew consistently do a good job of chronicling political opinion in America. At issue is the fact that these polling stalwarts don't work for media companies and use large national samples from current voter rolls; they also tend to not put their thumbs on the interpretation of data. President Trump is a president unlike any other and most of his supporters don't participate in political polls. Even Trump's own pollsters were surprised by his 2016 win. We would do well during these fractured times to ignore political opinion polls for they will continue to be much to do about nothing.

Just be sure to vote your conscience and that is nobody's opinion but your own. AntiSocial , 5 hours ago

The polls are skewed, intentionally by the pollsters and unintentionally by anyone with the common sense not to identify as a Trump supporter.

Would you tell the Nazi Party questioner you were anti - Nazi? How do you feel about Josef Stalin might be the last question someone would ever answer. Trump people have an overwhelmingly justified reason to keep it to themselves. Especially in the age of digital record keeping, and Neo fascism on the Left.

Trump vs: a man whose brain is dying should be a landslide, and could be. BUT the democrats have succeeded in making the entire population sick to death of hearing about Trump Is The Devil.

People en masse are not very intelligent and generally do what everyone else is doing, whatever it is. This time they may know instinctively that the Biden regime will be American history's biggest failure but they just don't want to hear about Trump anymore, or Covid, or BLM, and will vote for Biden making just hoping to make it all go away. After that they will find that when you make mistakes on purpose you usually get what you deserve.

Hawkenschpitt , 6 hours ago

There is another bias besides the article's "interpretive bias." I call it "assumption bias."

I am one of those whom Pew samples on a regular basis, and across a wide range of issues. In responding to their queries, I have in the back of my mind how I perceive my responses are going to show up in the aggregations and the public reporting. It certainly is a consideration when the survey question is double-edged. For example, given a series of questions surrounding my perceptions of "climate change" overlooks the wide variance of what is exactly meant by climate change: are the questions related to the natural dynamism of the earth's climate, or are they surrogates for Anthropogenic Global Warming? Their questions assume an agreed-upon definition, and my responses will vary, depending upon what I perceive to be the underlying basis to the series of questions. This introduces a bias in my responses.

A recent poll had a series of questions about my activities during these coronavirus lock-downs: e.g. how does the lock-down affect various of my activities (charitable donations, volunteer services, neighborly assistance)? Do I do more? Less? About the same? The wording of the questions shows that they had made an underlying, but false, assumption that the coronavirus affects my actions.

At the end of every Pew survey, they ask whether I perceived bias in the questions; they also allow comments on the survey. I take them to task when I encounter these kind of things. I can only hope that they take my remarks under consideration for their next efforts.

Homer E. Rectus , 6 hours ago

This article spends most of its words trying to convince us that polls are junk science and then says Pew and Gallup are not. How are they not also junk if they fail to get truthful answers?

isocratic , 6 hours ago

You have to be really special to trust polls after 2016.

Im4truth4all , 9 hours ago

Polls are just another example of the propaganda...

DrBrown314 , 10 hours ago

Public polls have been rubbish for decades. They average a 0.9% response rate. That is not a random sample folks. If only 1 person in 100 will agree to take a poll you have a self selecting sample. Pure garbage. The pollsters have resorted to using "invitation" polling on the internet and claim this is a probability sample. It is not. It too is rubbish. But you already knew that because of what the polls said in 2016 and what actually happened. qed.

Alice-the-dog , 10 hours ago

Not to mention that I'm sure there are many like me, who has lied profusely in answer to every polling call I've gotten ever since I became eligible to vote in 1972. In fact, I strongly suspect that Trump voters are the most likely demographic to do so.

The Herdsman , 11 hours ago

Bottom line; the polls are fake. We already saw this movie in 2016, we know how it ends. Back in 2016 you might be fooled by the polls but we already know empirically that they are rigged. We literally saw it all with our own eyes.... never let anyone talk you out of what you saw.

Ex-Oligarch , 11 hours ago

This article gives way too much credit to the pollsters.

Polls are constructed to produce a desired result. The respondents selected and the questions asked are designed to produce that result.

If they do not produce that result, the data can be altered. No one polices this sort of manipulation, formally or informally.

Adding spin to the result when it is "interpreted" is only the last step. The narrative promoted in this article that pollsters are honest social scientists carried away by unconscious biases is a crock.

We have seen articles blaming the respondents for the failures of pollsters over and over again. This narrative that Trump voters are ashamed of supporting him and so lie to the pollsters is just more spin designed to make republicans look insincere, amoral and devious.

Hook-Nosed Swede , 12 hours ago

Mark Twain was quoting Benjamin Disraeli and admitted he wasn't sure the PM actually ever used that phrase. Incidentally, Twain threw his Confederate uniform away and headed West in the middle of America's Civil War. I don't see support for Jefferson Davis or Abraham Lincoln there.

whatisthat , 12 hours ago

I would observe every intelligent and experienced person knows that political based polling data is suspect to corruption and used as propaganda...

hootowl , 13 hours ago

Political and media polls are used to persuade people to vote for the demonunists by purposely exaggerating the numbers of demonunists in their polling samples to deceive the public in order to try to swing the vote to the demonunists and/or to dissuqade conservatives into believing it is futile to vote because the demonunists are too numerous to overcome.

Ignore the political polls because they are largely conducted by paid liars, manipulators, and propagandists. The 2020 presidential election is easy to assess. Do you want to elect a senile, old , treasonous, crook and his family into the WH; or a man, who may, at times make you a little upset with his abrasive rhetoric, but can be trusted to do what he thinks is best for his fellow Americans, while he is continuously beset by the worst political cadre of communists, demonunists, lying MSM/academia, and anti-American deep state crooks in the history of our great republic.

Gold Banit , 13 hours ago

This is the end for the corrupt racist DemoRat party.

The DemoRats and their fake news media are in a panic and are very desperate and this is why they are promoting this rioting looting destroying and burning cause their internal polling has Trump wining 48 states in a landslide....

[Jul 11, 2020] The Groupthink Pandemic -

Jul 11, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

The Groupthink Pandemic by Tyler Durden Sat, 07/11/2020 - 07:00 Twitter Facebook Reddit Email Print

Authored by Kevin Smith via Off-Guardian.org,

Groupthink is all around us. Decision-making in government, in the media and at work. It's slowly killing the world.

In the background of the most important events, the Covid-19 response and increasing tension and conflict in the world, it might be worth looking through some of this in a bit more detail.

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I've experienced groupthink working for large organisations, most notably in my last job. We were tasked with investigating and solving complex problems. Some technical expertise helped but was not crucial to the role.

Critical thinking and balancing evidence and differing viewpoints was key.

Yet the organisation decided that this was no longer required and changed the whole operating model to a one-size fits all type of call-centre. This new high-risk approach was recommended to us by the outside consultants Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) who were clueless about our business.

Those of us who were experienced in the role argued that the model wouldn't work. But the organisation ploughed on regardless. It was obvious from day one that the financials didn't stack up which they tried to deny and later concealed.

The executive largely ignored our concerns to start but then paid limited lip-service when the wheels started to come off. Anyway, in the end they offered us redundancy while employing fresh university graduates to replace us. As far as I know the place is still in denial and heading down the pan.

Groupthink is described as follows:

https://lockerdome.com/lad/13084989113709670?pubid=ld-dfp-ad-13084989113709670-0&pubo=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zerohedge.com&rid=www.zerohedge.com&width=890

Groupthink is a term first used in 1972 by social psychologist Irving L. Janis that refers to a psychological phenomenon in which people strive for consensus within a group. In many cases, people will set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group.

People who are opposed to the decisions or overriding opinion of the group as a whole frequently remain quiet, preferring to keep the peace rather than disrupt the uniformity of the crowd'.

Groupthink is common where group members have similar backgrounds and particularly where that group is placed under stress, resulting in irrational decision outcomes.

These are the main behaviors to watch out for:

  1. Illusions of invulnerability lead members of the group to be overly optimistic and engage in risk-taking.

  2. Unquestioned beliefs lead members to ignore possible moral problems and ignore the consequences of individual and group actions.

  3. Rationalising prevents members from reconsidering their beliefs and causes them to ignore warning signs.

  4. Stereotyping leads members of the in-group to ignore or even demonise out-group members who may oppose or challenge the group's ideas.

  5. Self-censorship causes people who might have doubts to hide their fears or misgivings.

  6. "Mindguards" act as self-appointed censors to hide problematic information from the group.

  7. Illusions of unanimity lead members to believe that everyone is in agreement and feels the same way.

  8. Direct pressure to conform is often placed on members who pose questions, and those who question the group are often seen as disloyal or traitorous.

There are two further observations I made in the workplace, particularly relevant to groups going through major change or/and a crisis.

Firstly, they tend to swing from the status quo to the complete opposite. In our organisation, we definitely needed some changes and tweaks but we lurched towards a model which was completely unsuitable and unsustainable operationally and financially.

The other thing I noticed was our employers became control freaks. They started to talk down to us and our customers like children. They introduced office slogans such as 'let's crack on' or 'we're all in this together' and deflected from the problems of the disastrous reorganisation towards 'celebrating diversity' in the workplace. Critical thinking, creativity and expression were sucked out of the place.

The obvious analogy for all these behaviors is the response to Covid-19 when government ministers were collectively panicked into making extreme decisions on lockdown , using just one preferred source of 'expertise'.

At the same time, they sidelined dissenters and independent experts who could have offered a calm, rational perspective and a targeted response to Covid-19.

In summing up this thinking and behavior, I'm reminded of these observations from Dr Malcolm Kendrick and Lord Sumption about the response to Covid-19. Dr Kendrick here :

We locked down the population that had virtually zero risk of getting any serious problems from the disease, and then spread it wildly among the highly vulnerable age group. If you had written a plan for making a complete bollocks of things you would have come up with this one".

And Lord Sumption writing in the Mail on Sunday :

The Prime Minister, who in practice makes most of the decisions, has low political cunning but no governmental skills whatever. He is incapable of studying a complex problem in depth. He thinks as he speaks – in slogans.

These people have no idea what they are doing, because they are unable to think about more than one thing at a time or to look further ahead than the end of their noses.

THE BBC – A CASE-STUDY

A large organisation which has a high opinion of its news service . But of course, the reality is the opposite. There are so many groupthink case-studies but the BBC is as good as any, particularly in terms of making a bollocks of things.

The executives at the BBC and some senior correspondents will no doubt be aware that they run a politicised agenda of bias and misinformation on a grand scale. Outsiders who've researched their coverage will recognise this too. But this won't be obvious to the vast majority of BBC employees, the victims of groupthink.

This came across in some of Andrew Marr's incredulous reactions to Noam Chomsky's observations about the media during their interview :

Andrew Marr: How can you know I'm self-censoring?

Noam Chomsky: I'm not saying you're self-censoring. I'm sure you believe everything you say. But what I'm saying is if you believed something different you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting.

I believe the foreign affairs reporting of the BBC is where this problem stands out most. Real expertise and impartiality has been completely absent from any reporting I've seen in recent years.

First, while not unusual in this profession, most journalists employed by the BBC will have a degree. Typically, when you look at today's 'top' BBC journalists, many have attended the elite universities which tends to create a culture of like-minded people of similar backgrounds. This has been identified as one cause of creating groupthink.

Also, the younger journalists will be impressionable within the BBC hierarchy to the views and ways of the senior house-hold name journalists.

It's sometimes said that there aren't specific rules within the BBC and other media stating what a journalist can and can't report and write and they generally don't knowingly mislead. But they will learn almost instinctively to self-censor and operate within a set of unwritten, unspoken rules and a strait-jacket narrative.

The other problem in foreign affairs reporting is that BBC journalists and most others rarely visit the warzones. On Syria, they typically report from Lebanon or Turkey only occasionally venturing into a government or relatively safe terrorist or Kurd held area. So unlike previous conflicts, such as Bosnia where I remember at least a tiny degree of balance, journalists seldom see what is actually going on.

Under the pressure of deadlines they rely on dubious sources such as Al Qaeda terrorists and Bellingcat and pre-determined assumptions which conveniently slot in with the anti-Assad narrative of the BBC and establishment.

Recently, some grave doubts emerged about the OPCW report on the Douma incident , a huge story which has wider implications.

The investigations of Robert Stuart into a likely previously staged incident involving BBC journalist s was swept under the carpet. Both matters have been ignored because the BBC have no way or will to refute evidence which goes against their bias.

On the other hand, the BBC are more than happy to provide extensive coverage to more allegations against Russia and Trump from anonymous sources, providing no background or balance within the overall of climate of related allegations which have collapsed or are unproven.

And in recent days the BBC has provided coverage on Hong Kong which looks like it's come from a script .

It's well known BBC journalists are silent on malpractice. We saw this with the Jimmy Savile scandal and decades of sexual abuse. This attitude is similar to what I experienced with my employer who were very vocal and proud of their anti-bullying and mental health policies. Yet when the staff were surveyed anonymously, bullying rates were through the roof.

The other obvious signs of groupthink within the BBC, particularly during the Covid-19 crisis, is dumbing-down and its slogan-filled website written as though their readers are idiots.

Another strong theme is a preoccupation with race and diversity, American affairs and general tittle-tattle, to the detriment of more pressing matters such as the longer-term and wider impact of the world's current problems.

Covid-19 and our response to it is probably the most important event of our lifetime but there's barely a peep about whether the response is necessary and proportionate. Instead, this totally rational viewpoint is only ever mentioned in the context of BBC articles about Covid-19 'conspiracy theories' .

Many of the examples I've described neatly fit in with groupthink behaviors and experiences I encountered in a large organisation.

But I think the biggest groupthink problem is with senior BBC journalists. Ultimately their lazy arrogance has trickled down to the newer journalists and so over time, wrong behavior has been normalised throughout.

THE BBC 'GRANDEES'

A few months ago Huw Edwards made some comments about accusations of bias directed towards the BBC, defending the corporation and journalists. These are some of the specific comments he made which to me showed a complete lack of understanding of the concerns people have.

The BBC is not, to put it politely, run like some newspapers, with an all-powerful proprietor and/or editor making his or her mark on the tone and direction of the coverage [ ] BBC News is a rather unsettling mix of awkward, contrary and assertive people who (in my very long experience) delight in either ignoring the suggestions of managers or simply telling them where to get off. That's how it works."

Around this time, I also recall Edwards arguing on Twitter on the subject and he said that it was ridiculous to say that journalists within the BBC were willfully misleading the public. His Twitter opponent replied that this was not what he had said and was simply stating that the BBC had fallen victim to groupthink. Edwards just couldn't get his head past this, while continuing to attack and misrepresent BBC critics.

This defensive attitude and stereotyping of critics is classic groupthink behavior in which he, Nick Robinson and others have taken part.

I used to admire John Simpson and in the 1980s he visited Iran post-revolution. He wrote a book of the visit which I enjoyed. But in recent years, he has shown that he doesn't understand modern geo-politics and like the BBC can only assess it in terms of the ethno-centric British view on the world and our influence.

In this President Putin press conference he asked the most ridiculous question imaginable which confirms he's lost the plot. His question was about Russian behavior in the world and whether Putin wanted to create a new Cold War.

Putin wiped the floor with him pointing out the hundreds of NATO bases and numerous wars which put Simpson's aspersions into their rightful place.

Jeremy Bowen is another who has lost his way. I saw a recent report from him from the position of a Christian militia unit fighting terrorists in Syria.

Again, BBC arrogance was on full display . His report made generalised comparisons between him meeting Serbs in Bosnia in the 1990s and these Syrian fighters, clearly indicating that he doesn't listen and is not interested in Syrian views on western complicity and the White Helmets.

In the usual group-speak he described the Syrian Government 'the regime' and Al Qaeda as 'rebels'. His report simply rubber-stamped the BBC coverage of the whole conflict.

This arrogance is typical of journalists who rely on their past achievements, creating an air of gravitas to impress their audience. The reality is his reporting is based on no substance and outdated and lazy assumptions.

THE MADNESS OF JOHN SWEENEY NEVER MISS THE NEWS THAT MATTERS MOST

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Ex-BBC nowadays, John Sweeney's arrogance is off the scale. These days he spends his time on Twitter attacking lockdown sceptics , like Peter Hitchens accusing him of 'killing' his Mail on Sunday column readers with his views on Covid-19 lockdown.

Sweeney is off his trolley but the reality is he probably always was as this clip during his BBC days shows.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/mjlo4u_8g60

This behaviour, extreme as it is, certainly suggests groupthink played a big part somewhere in his career.

AN ILLUSION OF SANITY

BBC Dateline is a current affairs TV panel discussion which I occasionally watched. The panel which changed regularly were seemingly well qualified with foreign writers and journalists which included Russia or Arab affairs experts.

Sitting around that table they gave the impression of people who knew what they were talking about.

However, when you listened carefully to what they were saying, there was very little substance. Their arguments, all based on a simple premise that Russia/Syria are bad, the West is good, tempered with a little occasional criticism of western policy to give the illusion of balance.

Occasionally you would have a more pro-Russia expert on but with the prevailing consensus of the rest of the panel, his or her views would be ridiculed. It got to the point any dissenting panel member started to self-censor to sound more credible, perhaps to remain on the panel. This is the dilemma for any progressively minded BBC guest nowadays.

Peter Hitchens who complains the BBC never invite him on, appeared on Good Morning Britain (GMB) recently. As is normal with many GMB debates, the discussion on Covid-19 descended to retorts and abuse and was simply not the forum for Hitchens to get across his well thought out points on the big picture.

But I don't think he would have fared any better on the BBC. The BBC create an illusion of civilised, intelligent discussion but the reality is there is no substance, depth or balance. The crucial discussion points about Covid-19 or conflict in the world don't get a hearing. The premise and the rules are already set in stone before the guests arrive.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are many reasons why the world is in its current madness and on the brink of serious conflict.

Groupthink in government, the media and the general public is probably a key factor as this represents the thinking culture alongside and below the psychopaths and war criminals who pull the strings.

It's almost impossible to break this cycle by chipping away at it. But it's possible a large event connected to Covid-19 or a major war will be the catalyst which might shock us out of our distorted view of reality.

In the meantime, independent commentators and ex-MSM like Peter Hitchens, Anna Brees and Tareq Haddad , are putting their careers on the line and self-interests aside. We can only encourage others employed by the BBC and other media to be brave and do the same.

Certainly, the consequences will be far more disastrous doing nothing and not speaking up.

In the sudden, new founded willingness to demonstrate on the streets perhaps those participating might be better reflecting on who and what the real enemy is.

Party politics, Brexit and Black Lives Matter really don't matter.

Groupthink, escalating world conflict, All Lives Matter, including Syrians, Libyans, Palestinians and Blacks,(including those outside of US,UK and Europe) together with the post-Covid-19 march to an uncertain 'new normal', are the issues which matter right now.

[Jun 23, 2020] On Choosing a Belief System by Ken Melvin

Belief system is not chosen. The individual is indoctrinated into it via socialization process. Only few can break this bond.
Notable quotes:
"... Social or Cultural Norms are standards for behavior engendered from infancy by parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, and others in one's life. Social Norms are the shared expectations and rules that guide the behavior of people within social groups; Social Norms can go a long way toward maintaining social order. Engendered, Social or Cultural Norms can be enforced by something as subtle as a gesture, a look, or even the absence of any response at all. At the extremes, aberrant social behavior becomes a crime. One could adopt Social Norms as a part or all of their Belief System. ..."
"... Religions were an early form of Social Norms. Yet and still, all Religious Beliefs address Social Behavior, Social Norms. As with Social Norms, most, if not all, Religions have slowly evolved over time. As with Social Norms, Religious Beliefs are often engendered from infancy by parents; handed down from generation to generation. Most Religions require one's Believing; Believing that the precepts of the Religion come down to us from a supreme being or deity via a prophet or inspired teacher. Whereas science asks questions in the quest for knowledge, Abrahamic religions hold that any questioning of their particular beliefs is blasphemous, a great sin. Rather than welcome questions in re validity, religions insist that, first and foremost, adherents believe. Religions might be a part of the whole of one's Belief System. ..."
"... Can we even have stable societies without Belief Systems? Is it possible to build a Society around Science, Philosophy, and/or Reason? Can we, benefitting from Science and Philosophy: Improve the quality of our Belief Systems? Of our Religions? Can Beliefs become Informed Opinions? Will future societies' Belief Systems be based more on Science and Philosophy, and less on opinion and belief? Do they have a choice? It seems that the more successful societies have long since chosen to give the thinking of Science and Philosophy precedence over Believing. Darwin tells us that survival goes to those that adapt. ..."
Jun 22, 2020 | angrybearblog.com

Belief Systems, these prisms through which we view the world, have been around from our earliest days. Not so long ago, the Ancient Greeks separated the concept of what we might call belief into two concepts: pistis and doxa with pistis referring to trust and confidence (notably akin the regard accorded science) and doxa referring to opinion and acceptance (more akin the regard accorded cultural norms).

In quest of a personal Belief System, should one: Go with the flow and adapt to the Social or Cultural Norm? Follow the Abrahamic admonishment to first believe? Follow their own Reasoning? Or, should one look to Science?

Social or Cultural Norms are standards for behavior engendered from infancy by parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, and others in one's life. Social Norms are the shared expectations and rules that guide the behavior of people within social groups; Social Norms can go a long way toward maintaining social order. Engendered, Social or Cultural Norms can be enforced by something as subtle as a gesture, a look, or even the absence of any response at all. At the extremes, aberrant social behavior becomes a crime. One could adopt Social Norms as a part or all of their Belief System.

Most modern Religions are handed down from times long past, times before much was known about anything. Most, if not all, early Religions were based on mythology. Later on, some Religions found more of their basis in whatever evidence and reasoning skills were available to a people. From the earliest times, human cultures have developed some form or another of a Belief System premised on Religion.

Humans are, uniquely it seems, given the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking in an orderly rational way; they are given the faculty of Reason. To Reason is to use the faculty of Reason so as to arrive at conclusions; to discover, formulate, or conclude by way of a carefully Reasoned Analysis. One might base a part or all of their Belief System on Reason.

Science can be seen as an endeavor to increase knowledge, to understand; to reduce ignorance and misunderstanding. Science encourages active skepticism. Science, the word comes from the Latin word for knowledge, is premised on verifiable empirical evidence and best thinking. Science employs our faculty to Reason. Belief is not a scientific criterion but is rather a bias to be filtered out of any scientific experiment. We have confidence in the knowledge afforded us by Science to the extent that we have confidence in the validity of the evidence and the rigor of the Reasoning, and in Scientific Methodology. Science can form the basis of one's Belief System to the extent that they have confidence in Science.

Religions were an early form of Social Norms. Yet and still, all Religious Beliefs address Social Behavior, Social Norms. As with Social Norms, most, if not all, Religions have slowly evolved over time. As with Social Norms, Religious Beliefs are often engendered from infancy by parents; handed down from generation to generation. Most Religions require one's Believing; Believing that the precepts of the Religion come down to us from a supreme being or deity via a prophet or inspired teacher. Whereas science asks questions in the quest for knowledge, Abrahamic religions hold that any questioning of their particular beliefs is blasphemous, a great sin. Rather than welcome questions in re validity, religions insist that, first and foremost, adherents believe. Religions might be a part of the whole of one's Belief System.

As is to be expected, Science is often in conflict with religious beliefs. This dichotomy between the Reasoning of Science and the Believing of Religion goes back at least to early Egypt, Greece, and India; has played, and still plays, a huge role for philosophers, scientists, and others given to thought.

While most modern societies have moved away from a Religious dominance of their culture; at the extremes, we still have theocracies where Religious Belief is given reign over culture and politics, and, to some extent or another, thought itself.

Preceding statute law, Religious associated Belief Systems played an important role in mankind's development. Down through the centuries, religious behavioral standards have provided societies personal security, social stability. Religious Beliefs have long been, are still being, codified into law.

Codified laws can also be based on 'Social Norms', on philosophy and reason ( love of learning, the pursuit of wisdom, a search for understanding, ); or on yet other Belief Systems.

Can we even have stable societies without Belief Systems? Is it possible to build a Society around Science, Philosophy, and/or Reason? Can we, benefitting from Science and Philosophy: Improve the quality of our Belief Systems? Of our Religions? Can Beliefs become Informed Opinions? Will future societies' Belief Systems be based more on Science and Philosophy, and less on opinion and belief? Do they have a choice? It seems that the more successful societies have long since chosen to give the thinking of Science and Philosophy precedence over Believing. Darwin tells us that survival goes to those that adapt.

He didn't say it quite that way, but that is what he meant.

This seeming need of humans to Believe can be abused. The atrocities of Colonial Spain and Portugal and the Era of Slavery were ostensibly committed under the aegis of Christian Belief. Nazi Germany, Jonestown, ISIS, and a Trump Presidency are examples of some of the more negative consequences of aberrant Belief Systems.

Demagogues prey on this need to Believe by telling the people what to Believe; by giving them something to Believe. Fox News, by telling its viewers what to Believe, gives them this thing they need; something to Believe. All those arbiters of opinion we see and read on the media are trying to sell Beliefs to their audience; an audience that needs something to Believe. Fox News has become a Belief System for millions. So too, the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and Shawn Hannity.

Adolph Hitler and Jim Jones gave their needy followers something to Believe. Osama bin Laden/Al-Qaeda and ISIS gave their needy followers something to Believe. Donald J. Trump is giving his needy followers something to Believe.

Thinking's too hard.

Obviously, existing well-meaning Belief Systems can be co-opted by unsavory persons, societies. Equally obvious, Belief Systems can be instilled into a population. From the days of slavery and for these 150 yrs hence, whites in the Southern States have engendered racism into their progeny. For 150 yrs now they propagated a false version of history in their schools. They created and propagated a Belief System premised on mendacity.

Though many Belief Systems are based on Religious Tenets; we also see them based on economic models, personality cults, , even in science. Economic dogma can be instilled in a society as a Belief System to the extent that any challenge thereto is considered to be heretical, blasphemous. One can be born a Republican, a Baptist, or both, as were their parents and their parents' parents. People have been being born Catholic for 2,000 yrs. Joseph Smith, a come lately, instilled.

Some positive consequences of Belief Systems include: higher moral standards, the great art and science flowing from the Renaissance; the science, philosophy, and art from The Age of Reason/The Enlightenment. More recently: the ending of slavery, the ending of Colonialism, the ending of apartheid, the codification of LGBT rights, and the struggle to end racism correlate with changes in Belief Systems. Pending challenges for Belief Systems include such as freedom from hunger, access to housing, and alleviating economic disparity. Belief Systems can carry us forward. Belief Systems can hold us back.

Is tweeting believing?

To what Belief System, if any, is this our Age of Technology attributable? Has Technology itself become a Belief System?

A very famous frog once said, "It is not easy being green."

Closely held, long-held, Beliefs are hard to give up; especially if they have been engendered via emulation, imprinting, repetition, , since infancy. In America, the most technologically advanced economy ever known; our technology, our scientific achievements, are all based on science. Yet today we have upwards of half of our politicians pandering to one or another Religious group that, for the most part, denies Science. Quid pro quo: the pols get the Religious groups' vote, the Religious group gets the laws, and the judges and justices, they want. Perhaps in part as a consequence of this support, most of this same group of politicians would govern all the while making little effort to acquaint themselves with Science, with technology, in this day and age of Science and Technology. Many, maybe most, of these same politicians hold fast to theories of economics and law that are, themselves, based on Belief.

John Prine, recently departed, not a frog, wrote the tune "In Spite of Ourselves".

In spite of ourselves, we humans mumble and fumble our way as is our wont.

Ron (RC) Weakley (a.k.a., Darryl for a while at EV) , June 22, 2020 8:35 am

" Darwin tells us that survival goes to those that adapt.

He didn't say it quite that way, but that is what he meant "

[No he did not say it that way because that is not what he meant. Human beings just like to misrepresent Darwin that way because it follows along with their own narrative of innovative superiority and control of their own fate. To transpose biological mutation from the natural selection process of biological evolution over to social evolution is a bit of a stretch, but clearly it would favor diversity and freedom over rigid authoritarian orthodoxy. It comes with no guaranty of course, but it also more accidental or incidental than contrived.]

Ron (RC) Weakley (a.k.a., Darryl for a while at EV) , June 22, 2020 9:18 am

Reason is not the same as logic, not pure logic at least. Impure logic is mostly sophistry. Reason is not necessarily sophistry, but still depends upon assumptions which in life may be less reliable than in math.

Nietzsche and Machiavelli were notable philosophers of celebrated capacity for reason. By my own anti-intellectual biases I have found them both intolerable as human beings and deceptive as arbiters of truth. Science, when correctly applied, has evolved far beyond its roots in philosophy. I am skeptical of both incorrect science and any philosophy that I am not taking an active roll in. Any valid philosophy should be about the present rather than the past. Kant and William James are tolerable, but still insufficient despite their well meaning morality.

[Jun 23, 2020] Scary Signs - Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Failure to blame all problems suffered by minorities on racism ..."
"... Groupthink must be fun for many people. Emoting without as much as a thread of a connection to knowledge of history and careful ..."
"... But what today most scares me – a true liberal to my marrow – is the rabid mobthink on the political and ideological left. My fear is neither my forgiving nor tolerating the many prejudices and idiocies rampant on the right. I despise these unconditionally. But today – June 12th, 2020 – I fear more the prejudices and idiocies rampant on the left, if only because these seem to me to be today more widespread and socially encouraged. ..."
Jun 12, 2020 | cafehayek.com
Scary Signs

by Don Boudreaux on June 12, 2020

in Current Affairs , Philosophy of Freedom

Tweet

Reading David Henderson's recent EconLog post titled " Why Don't People Speak Up? " prompts me to offer a more general yet personal point, which is this:

These are, at least for me, especially scary times. I refer here not principally to the covid lockdown (although that, too, is scary in its own way). Instead, I refer to the tsunami of virtue signaling now drowning the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Frank and honest disagreement with any parts of the narrative that dominates the mainstream media is treated by too many people as proof of evil intentions or, at best, of indifference to evil.

Underway now is something far more extreme than a mere loss of nuance. The world is now painted exclusively in the darkest black and brightest white. (Please, do not interpret my use of "black and white" as referring to anything other than the traditionally used example of the starkest of distinctions.)

Failure to blame all problems suffered by minorities on racism – failure to denounce loudly and angrily American bourgeois society's allegedly inherent bigotry, greed, and rapaciousness – failure to acknowledge that America today is a brutal and cruel place for all but the elite, and hellish especially for blacks, women, and gay, bi, and transgender people – is frequently interpreted as sympathy for dark-ages-like superstition and prejudices.

Equally bad, in the eyes of the Virtuous, are attempts at offering historical perspective. Even if accompanied by a sincere and express acknowledgement that serious problems remain, the mere suggestion that at least some of these problems were more widespread and worse in the past – the slightest hint that over time there's been some real improvement for anyone but white, heterosexual, high-income Christian males – is treated as evidence of blindness or malignant bias.

Groupthink must be fun for many people. Emoting without as much as a thread of a connection to knowledge of history and careful consideration of the facts is the practice of very many people today. And it's de rigueur now to treat one's emotions – along with rioting-crowds' outrage and passions – as sources of understanding and knowledge more reliable than an actual understanding of history and economics.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, this irrationality centered in the political left spawns irrationality on the right. I've heard it said that George Floyd wasn't killed by Derek Chauvin, or that Floyd deserved his fate. I hear it said that any success at reforming government police departments would undermine law and order. Nonsense, of course. Pure nonsense.

But what today most scares me – a true liberal to my marrow – is the rabid mobthink on the political and ideological left. My fear is neither my forgiving nor tolerating the many prejudices and idiocies rampant on the right. I despise these unconditionally. But today – June 12th, 2020 – I fear more the prejudices and idiocies rampant on the left, if only because these seem to me to be today more widespread and socially encouraged.

Seldom have I been as distraught as I am now.

[Jun 14, 2020] Anonymous Berkeley Professor Shreds BLM Injustice Narrative With Damning Facts And Logic

Highly recommended!
A strange mixture of Black nationalism with Black Bolshevism is a very interesting and pretty alarming phenomenon. It proved to be a pretty toxic mix. But it is far from being new. We saw how the Eugène Pottier famous song International lines "We have been naught we shall be all." and "Servile masses arise, arise." unfolded before under Stalinism in Soviet Russia.
We also saw Lysenkoism in Academia before, and it was not a pretty picture. Some Russian/Soviet scientists such as Academician Vavilov paid with their life for the sin of not being politically correct. From this letter it is clear that the some departments already reached the stage tragically close to that situation.
Lysenkoism was "politically correct" (a term invented by Lenin) because it was consistent with the broader Marxist doctrine. Marxists wanted to believe that heredity had a limited role even among humans, and that human characteristics changed by living under socialism would be inherited by subsequent generations of humans. Thus would be created the selfless new Soviet man
"Lysenko was consequently embraced and lionized by the Soviet media propaganda machine. Scientists who promoted Lysenkoism with faked data and destroyed counterevidence were favored with government funding and official recognition and award. Lysenko and his followers and media acolytes responded to critics by impugning their motives, and denouncing them as bourgeois fascists resisting the advance of the new modern Marxism." The Disgraceful Episode Of Lysenkoism Brings Us Global Warming Theory
Notable quotes:
"... In the extended links and resources you provided, I could not find a single instance of substantial counter-argument or alternative narrative to explain the under-representation of black individuals in academia or their over-representation in the criminal justice system. ..."
"... any cogent objections to this thesis have been raised by sober voices, including from within the black community itself, such as Thomas Sowell and Wilfred Reilly. These people are not racists or 'Uncle Toms'. They are intelligent scholars who reject a narrative that strips black people of agency and systematically externalizes the problems of the black community onto outsiders . Their view is entirely absent from the departmental and UCB-wide communiques. ..."
"... The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians ..."
"... Would we characterize criminal justice as a systemically misandrist conspiracy against innocent American men? I hope you see that this type of reasoning is flawed, and requires a significant suspension of our rational faculties. Black people are not incarcerated at higher rates than their involvement in violent crime would predict . This fact has been demonstrated multiple times across multiple jurisdictions in multiple countries. ..."
"... If we claim that the criminal justice system is white-supremacist, why is it that Asian Americans, Indian Americans, and Nigerian Americans are incarcerated at vastly lower rates than white Americans? ..."
"... Increasingly, we are being called upon to comply and subscribe to BLM's problematic view of history , and the department is being presented as unified on the matter. In particular, ethnic minorities are being aggressively marshaled into a single position. Any apparent unity is surely a function of the fact that dissent could almost certainly lead to expulsion or cancellation for those of us in a precarious position , which is no small number. ..."
"... The vast majority of violence visited on the black community is committed by black people . There are virtually no marches for these invisible victims, no public silences, no heartfelt letters from the UC regents, deans, and departmental heads. The message is clear: Black lives only matter when whites take them. Black violence is expected and insoluble, while white violence requires explanation and demands solution. Please look into your hearts and see how monstrously bigoted this formulation truly is. ..."
"... The claim that black intraracial violence is the product of redlining, slavery, and other injustices is a largely historical claim. It is for historians, therefore, to explain why Japanese internment or the massacre of European Jewry hasn't led to equivalent rates of dysfunction and low SES performance among Japanese and Jewish Americans respectively. ..."
"... Arab Americans have been viciously demonized since 9/11, as have Chinese Americans more recently. However, both groups outperform white Americans on nearly all SES indices - as do Nigerian Americans , who incidentally have black skin. It is for historians to point out and discuss these anomalies. However, no real discussion is possible in the current climate at our department . The explanation is provided to us, disagreement with it is racist, and the job of historians is to further explore additional ways in which the explanation is additionally correct. This is a mockery of the historical profession. ..."
"... Donating to BLM today is to indirectly donate to Joe Biden's 2020 campaign. This is grotesque given the fact that the American cities with the worst rates of black-on-black violence and police-on-black violence are overwhelmingly Democrat-run. Minneapolis itself has been entirely in the hands of Democrats for over five decades ; the 'systemic racism' there was built by successive Democrat administrations. ..."
"... The total alliance of major corporations involved in human exploitation with BLM should be a warning flag to us, and yet this damning evidence goes unnoticed, purposefully ignored, or perversely celebrated. We are the useful idiots of the wealthiest classes , carrying water for Jeff Bezos and other actual, real, modern-day slavers. Starbucks, an organisation using literal black slaves in its coffee plantation suppliers, is in favor of BLM. Sony, an organisation using cobalt mined by yet more literal black slaves, many of whom are children, is in favor of BLM. And so, apparently, are we. The absence of counter-narrative enables this obscenity. Fiat lux, indeed. ..."
"... MLK would likely be called an Uncle Tom if he spoke on our campus today . We are training leaders who intend, explicitly, to destroy one of the only truly successful ethnically diverse societies in modern history. As the PRC, an ethnonationalist and aggressively racially chauvinist national polity with null immigration and no concept of jus solis increasingly presents itself as the global political alternative to the US, I ask you: Is this wise? Are we really doing the right thing? ..."
Jun 12, 2020 | www.zerohedge.com

Dear profs X, Y, Z

I am one of your colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley. I have met you both personally but do not know you closely, and am contacting you anonymously, with apologies. I am worried that writing this email publicly might lead to me losing my job, and likely all future jobs in my field.

In your recent departmental emails you mentioned our pledge to diversity, but I am increasingly alarmed by the absence of diversity of opinion on the topic of the recent protests and our community response to them.

In the extended links and resources you provided, I could not find a single instance of substantial counter-argument or alternative narrative to explain the under-representation of black individuals in academia or their over-representation in the criminal justice system. The explanation provided in your documentation, to the near exclusion of all others, is univariate: the problems of the black community are caused by whites, or, when whites are not physically present, by the infiltration of white supremacy and white systemic racism into American brains, souls, and institutions.

Many cogent objections to this thesis have been raised by sober voices, including from within the black community itself, such as Thomas Sowell and Wilfred Reilly. These people are not racists or 'Uncle Toms'. They are intelligent scholars who reject a narrative that strips black people of agency and systematically externalizes the problems of the black community onto outsiders . Their view is entirely absent from the departmental and UCB-wide communiques.

The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians . Instead, it is being treated as an axiomatic and actionable truth without serious consideration of its profound flaws, or its worrying implication of total black impotence. This hypothesis is transforming our institution and our culture, without any space for dissent outside of a tightly policed, narrow discourse.

A counternarrative exists. If you have time, please consider examining some of the documents I attach at the end of this email. Overwhelmingly, the reasoning provided by BLM and allies is either primarily anecdotal (as in the case with the bulk of Ta-Nehisi Coates' undeniably moving article) or it is transparently motivated. As an example of the latter problem, consider the proportion of black incarcerated Americans. This proportion is often used to characterize the criminal justice system as anti-black. However, if we use the precise same methodology, we would have to conclude that the criminal justice system is even more anti-male than it is anti-black .

Would we characterize criminal justice as a systemically misandrist conspiracy against innocent American men? I hope you see that this type of reasoning is flawed, and requires a significant suspension of our rational faculties. Black people are not incarcerated at higher rates than their involvement in violent crime would predict . This fact has been demonstrated multiple times across multiple jurisdictions in multiple countries.

And yet, I see my department uncritically reproducing a narrative that diminishes black agency in favor of a white-centric explanation that appeals to the department's apparent desire to shoulder the 'white man's burden' and to promote a narrative of white guilt .

If we claim that the criminal justice system is white-supremacist, why is it that Asian Americans, Indian Americans, and Nigerian Americans are incarcerated at vastly lower rates than white Americans? This is a funny sort of white supremacy. Even Jewish Americans are incarcerated less than gentile whites. I think it's fair to say that your average white supremacist disapproves of Jews. And yet, these alleged white supremacists incarcerate gentiles at vastly higher rates than Jews. None of this is addressed in your literature. None of this is explained, beyond hand-waving and ad hominems. "Those are racist dogwhistles". "The model minority myth is white supremacist". "Only fascists talk about black-on-black crime", ad nauseam.

These types of statements do not amount to counterarguments: they are simply arbitrary offensive classifications, intended to silence and oppress discourse . Any serious historian will recognize these for the silencing orthodoxy tactics they are , common to suppressive regimes, doctrines, and religions throughout time and space. They are intended to crush real diversity and permanently exile the culture of robust criticism from our department.

Increasingly, we are being called upon to comply and subscribe to BLM's problematic view of history , and the department is being presented as unified on the matter. In particular, ethnic minorities are being aggressively marshaled into a single position. Any apparent unity is surely a function of the fact that dissent could almost certainly lead to expulsion or cancellation for those of us in a precarious position , which is no small number.

I personally don't dare speak out against the BLM narrative , and with this barrage of alleged unity being mass-produced by the administration, tenured professoriat, the UC administration, corporate America, and the media, the punishment for dissent is a clear danger at a time of widespread economic vulnerability. I am certain that if my name were attached to this email, I would lose my job and all future jobs, even though I believe in and can justify every word I type.

The vast majority of violence visited on the black community is committed by black people . There are virtually no marches for these invisible victims, no public silences, no heartfelt letters from the UC regents, deans, and departmental heads. The message is clear: Black lives only matter when whites take them. Black violence is expected and insoluble, while white violence requires explanation and demands solution. Please look into your hearts and see how monstrously bigoted this formulation truly is.

No discussion is permitted for nonblack victims of black violence, who proportionally outnumber black victims of nonblack violence. This is especially bitter in the Bay Area, where Asian victimization by black assailants has reached epidemic proportions, to the point that the SF police chief has advised Asians to stop hanging good-luck charms on their doors, as this attracts the attention of (overwhelmingly black) home invaders . Home invaders like George Floyd . For this actual, lived, physically experienced reality of violence in the USA, there are no marches, no tearful emails from departmental heads, no support from McDonald's and Wal-Mart. For the History department, our silence is not a mere abrogation of our duty to shed light on the truth: it is a rejection of it.

The claim that black intraracial violence is the product of redlining, slavery, and other injustices is a largely historical claim. It is for historians, therefore, to explain why Japanese internment or the massacre of European Jewry hasn't led to equivalent rates of dysfunction and low SES performance among Japanese and Jewish Americans respectively.

Arab Americans have been viciously demonized since 9/11, as have Chinese Americans more recently. However, both groups outperform white Americans on nearly all SES indices - as do Nigerian Americans , who incidentally have black skin. It is for historians to point out and discuss these anomalies. However, no real discussion is possible in the current climate at our department . The explanation is provided to us, disagreement with it is racist, and the job of historians is to further explore additional ways in which the explanation is additionally correct. This is a mockery of the historical profession.

Most troublingly, our department appears to have been entirely captured by the interests of the Democratic National Convention, and the Democratic Party more broadly. To explain what I mean, consider what happens if you choose to donate to Black Lives Matter, an organization UCB History has explicitly promoted in its recent mailers. All donations to the official BLM website are immediately redirected to ActBlue Charities , an organization primarily concerned with bankrolling election campaigns for Democrat candidates. Donating to BLM today is to indirectly donate to Joe Biden's 2020 campaign. This is grotesque given the fact that the American cities with the worst rates of black-on-black violence and police-on-black violence are overwhelmingly Democrat-run. Minneapolis itself has been entirely in the hands of Democrats for over five decades ; the 'systemic racism' there was built by successive Democrat administrations.

The patronizing and condescending attitudes of Democrat leaders towards the black community, exemplified by nearly every Biden statement on the black race, all but guarantee a perpetual state of misery, resentment, poverty, and the attendant grievance politics which are simultaneously annihilating American political discourse and black lives. And yet, donating to BLM is bankrolling the election campaigns of men like Mayor Frey, who saw their cities devolve into violence . This is a grotesque capture of a good-faith movement for necessary police reform, and of our department, by a political party. Even worse, there are virtually no avenues for dissent in academic circles . I refuse to serve the Party, and so should you.

The total alliance of major corporations involved in human exploitation with BLM should be a warning flag to us, and yet this damning evidence goes unnoticed, purposefully ignored, or perversely celebrated. We are the useful idiots of the wealthiest classes , carrying water for Jeff Bezos and other actual, real, modern-day slavers. Starbucks, an organisation using literal black slaves in its coffee plantation suppliers, is in favor of BLM. Sony, an organisation using cobalt mined by yet more literal black slaves, many of whom are children, is in favor of BLM. And so, apparently, are we. The absence of counter-narrative enables this obscenity. Fiat lux, indeed.

There also exists a large constituency of what can only be called 'race hustlers': hucksters of all colors who benefit from stoking the fires of racial conflict to secure administrative jobs, charity management positions, academic jobs and advancement, or personal political entrepreneurship.

Given the direction our history department appears to be taking far from any commitment to truth , we can regard ourselves as a formative training institution for this brand of snake-oil salespeople. Their activities are corrosive, demolishing any hope at harmonious racial coexistence in our nation and colonizing our political and institutional life. Many of their voices are unironically segregationist.

MLK would likely be called an Uncle Tom if he spoke on our campus today . We are training leaders who intend, explicitly, to destroy one of the only truly successful ethnically diverse societies in modern history. As the PRC, an ethnonationalist and aggressively racially chauvinist national polity with null immigration and no concept of jus solis increasingly presents itself as the global political alternative to the US, I ask you: Is this wise? Are we really doing the right thing?

As a final point, our university and department has made multiple statements celebrating and eulogizing George Floyd. Floyd was a multiple felon who once held a pregnant black woman at gunpoint. He broke into her home with a gang of men and pointed a gun at her pregnant stomach. He terrorized the women in his community. He sired and abandoned multiple children , playing no part in their support or upbringing, failing one of the most basic tests of decency for a human being. He was a drug-addict and sometime drug-dealer, a swindler who preyed upon his honest and hard-working neighbors .

And yet, the regents of UC and the historians of the UCB History department are celebrating this violent criminal, elevating his name to virtual sainthood . A man who hurt women. A man who hurt black women. With the full collaboration of the UCB history department, corporate America, most mainstream media outlets, and some of the wealthiest and most privileged opinion-shaping elites of the USA, he has become a culture hero, buried in a golden casket, his (recognized) family showered with gifts and praise . Americans are being socially pressured into kneeling for this violent, abusive misogynist . A generation of black men are being coerced into identifying with George Floyd, the absolute worst specimen of our race and species.

I'm ashamed of my department. I would say that I'm ashamed of both of you, but perhaps you agree with me, and are simply afraid, as I am, of the backlash of speaking the truth. It's hard to know what kneeling means, when you have to kneel to keep your job.

It shouldn't affect the strength of my argument above, but for the record, I write as a person of color . My family have been personally victimized by men like Floyd. We are aware of the condescending depredations of the Democrat party against our race. The humiliating assumption that we are too stupid to do STEM , that we need special help and lower requirements to get ahead in life, is richly familiar to us. I sometimes wonder if it wouldn't be easier to deal with open fascists, who at least would be straightforward in calling me a subhuman, and who are unlikely to share my race.

The ever-present soft bigotry of low expectations and the permanent claim that the solutions to the plight of my people rest exclusively on the goodwill of whites rather than on our own hard work is psychologically devastating . No other group in America is systematically demoralized in this way by its alleged allies. A whole generation of black children are being taught that only by begging and weeping and screaming will they get handouts from guilt-ridden whites.

No message will more surely devastate their futures, especially if whites run out of guilt, or indeed if America runs out of whites. If this had been done to Japanese Americans, or Jewish Americans, or Chinese Americans, then Chinatown and Japantown would surely be no different to the roughest parts of Baltimore and East St. Louis today. The History department of UCB is now an integral institutional promulgator of a destructive and denigrating fallacy about the black race.

I hope you appreciate the frustration behind this message. I do not support BLM. I do not support the Democrat grievance agenda and the Party's uncontested capture of our department. I do not support the Party co-opting my race, as Biden recently did in his disturbing interview, claiming that voting Democrat and being black are isomorphic. I condemn the manner of George Floyd's death and join you in calling for greater police accountability and police reform. However, I will not pretend that George Floyd was anything other than a violent misogynist, a brutal man who met a predictably brutal end .

I also want to protect the practice of history. Cleo is no grovelling handmaiden to politicians and corporations. Like us, she is free. play_arrow

LEEPERMAX , 12 seconds ago

Donations to Black Lives Matter are funneled through a Democratic fundraising group ...

seryanhoj , 36 seconds ago

This guy is not playing by the rules of US political discourse. His sins are:

1). Using real facts

2). Making logical deductions from the facts

3) Making assertions not in line with the script from his party, social group or race.

There is no future for such a man. We are in a time which prefers hysteria , lies and epic partisanship

simpson seers , 36 minutes ago

white muricans aren't racist, they kill equally....

https://www.fort-russ.com/2020/01/u-s-regime-has-killed-20-30-million-people-since-world-war-ii/

https://www.fort-russ.com/2020/02/former-american-drone-operator-us-military-worse-than-nazis/

Aubiekong , 36 minutes ago

Blacks will always be poor and fucked in life when 75% of black infants are born to single most likely welfare dependent mothers... And the more amount of welfare monies spent to combat poverty the worse this problem will grow...

taketheredpill , 37 minutes ago

Anonymous....

1) Is he really a Professor at Berkeley?

2) Is he really a Professor anywhere?

3) Is he really Black?

4) Is he really a He?

LEEPERMAX , 44 minutes ago

BLM is an international organization. They solicit tax free charitable donations via ActBlue. ActBlue then funnels billions of dollars to DNC campaigns. This is a violation of campaign finance law and allows foreign influence in American elections.

CRM114 , 44 minutes ago

I've pointed this out before:

In 2015, after the Freddie Gray death Officers were hung out to dry by the Mayor of Baltimore (yes, her, the Chair of the DNC in 2016), active policing in Baltimore basically stopped. They just count the bodies now. The clearance rate for homicides has dropped to, well, we don't know because the Police refuse to say, but it appears to be under 15%. The homicide rate jumped 50% almost immediately and has stayed there. 95% of homicides are black on black.

The Baltimore Sun keeps excellent records, so you can check this all for yourself.

Looking at killings by cops; if we take the worst case and exclude all the ones where the victim was armed and independent witnesses state fired first, and assume all the others were cop murders, then there's about 1 cop murder every 3 years, which means that since has now stopped and the homicide rate's gone up...

For every black man now not murdered by a cop, 400 more black men are murdered by other black men.

taketheredpill , 46 minutes ago

"As an example of the latter problem, consider the proportion of black incarcerated Americans. This proportion is often used to characterize the criminal justice system as anti-black. However, if we use the precise same methodology, we would have to conclude that the criminal justice system is even more anti-male than it is anti-black ."

It is the RATIO of UNARMED BLACK MALES KILLED to UNARMED WHITE MALES KILLED in RELATION TO % OF POPULATION. RATIO.

RATIO. UNARMED.

BLACK % POPULATION 13% BLACK % UNARMED MEN KILLED 37%

WHITE % POPULATION 74% BLACK % UNARMED MEN KILLED 45%

Is there a trend of MORE Black people being killed by police?

No. But there is an underlying difference in the numbers that is bad.

>>>>> As of 2018, Unarmed Blacks made up 36% of all people UNARMED killed by police. But black people make up 13% of the (unarmed) population.

UNARMED KILLINGS BY POLICE

UNARMED KILLINGS BY POLICE

YEAR Black Hispanic White

2015 36 19 31

2016 18 9 20

2017 19 12 24

2018(Apr) 7 1 10

2019 15 11 25

YEAR Black Hispanic White

2015 42% 22% 36%

2016 38% 19% 43%

2017 35% 22% 44%

2018(Apr) 39% 6% 56%

2019 29% 22% 49%

AVG 37% 18% 45%

% POPN 13% 16% 72%

ARMED > 18 YRS OLD TOY WEAPON

Black Hispanic White

2019 5 3 11

26% 16% 58%

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/fatal-police-shootings-of-unarmed-people-have-significantly-declined-experts-say/2018/05/03/d5eab374-4349-11e8-8569-26fda6b404c7_story.html

radical-extremist , 47 minutes ago

There's a massive Silent Majority of Americans , including black Americans, that are fed up with this absurd nonsense.

While there's a Vocal Minority of Americans : including Democrats, the media, corporations and race hustlers, that wish to continue to promulgate a FALSE NARRATIVE into perpetuity...because it's a lucrative industry.

Gaius Konstantine , 57 minutes ago

A short while ago I had an ex friend get into it with me about how Europeans (whites), were the most destructive race on the planet, responsible for all the world's evil. I pointed out to him that Genghis Khan, an Asian, slaughtered millions at a time when technology made this a remarkable feat. I reminded him the Japanese gleefully killed millions in China and that the American Indian Empires ran 24/7 human sacrifices with some also practicing cannibalism. His poor libtard brain couldn't handle the fact that evil is a human trait, not restricted to a particular race and we parted (good riddance)

But along with evil, there is accomplishment. Europeans created Empires and pursued science, The Asians also participated in these pursuits and even the Aztec and Inca built marvelous cities and massive states spanning vast stretches of territory. The only race that accomplished little save entering the stone age is the Africans. Are we supposed to give them a participation trophy to make them feel better? Is this feeling of inferiority what is truly behind their constant rage?

Police in the US have been militarized for a long time now and kill many more unarmed whites than they do blacks, where is the outrage? I'm getting the feeling that this isn't really about George, just an excuse to do what savages do.

lwilland1012 , 1 hour ago

"Truth is treason in an empire of lies."

George Orwell

You know that the reason he is anonymous is that Berkley would strip him of his teaching credentials and there would be multiple attempts on his life...

Ignatius , 1 hour ago

" The vast majority of violence visited on the black community is committed by black people . There are virtually no marches for these invisible victims, no public silences, no heartfelt letters from the UC regents, deans, and departmental heads. The message is clear: Black lives only matter when whites take them. Black violence is expected and insoluble, while white violence requires explanation and demands solution. Please look into your hearts and see how monstrously bigoted this formulation truly is."

PhD thesis, right there. ..

Templar X , 1 hour ago

Ex-fed who trained Buffalo cops says shoved activist 'got away lightly'

By Craig McCarthy

June 12, 2020 | 12:31pm

A former fed who trained the police in Buffalo believes the elderly protester who was hospitalized after a cop pushed him to the ground "got away lightly" and "took a dive," according to a report.

The retired FBI agent, Gary DiLaura, told The Sun he thinks there's no chance Buffalo officers will be convicted of assault over the now-viral video showing the longtime peace activist Martin Gugino fall and left bleeding on the ground.

" I can't believe that they didn't deck him. If that would have been a 40-year-old guy going up there, I guarantee you they'd have been all over him, " DiLaura said.

" He absolutely got away lightly. He got a light push and in my humble opinion, he took a dive and the dive backfired because he hit his head. Maybe it'll knock a little bit of sense into him, " added the former fed, who trained Buffalo police on firearms and defensive tactics, according to the report...

https://nypost.com/2020/06/12/ex-fed-who-trained-buffalo-cops-elderly-activist-got-away-lightly/

NanoRap , 17 minutes ago

It's a great brainwashing process, which goes very slow[ly] and is divided [into] four basic stages. The first one [is] demoralization ; it takes from 15-20 years to demoralize a nation. Why that many years? Because this is the minimum number of years which [is required] to educate one generation of students in the country of your enemy, exposed to the ideology of the enemy. In other words, Marxist-Leninist ideology is being pumped into the soft heads of at least three generations of American students, without being challenged, or counter-balanced by the basic values of Americanism (American patriotism).

The result? The result you can see. Most of the people who graduated in the sixties (drop-outs or half-baked intellectuals) are now occupying the positions of power in the government, civil service, business, mass media, [and the] educational system. You are stuck with them. You cannot get rid of them. T hey are contaminated; they are programmed to think and react to certain stimuli in a certain pattern. You cannot change their mind[s], even if you expose them to authentic information, even if you prove that white is white and black is black, you still cannot change the basic perception and the logic of behavior. In other words, these people... the process of demoralization is complete and irreversible. To [rid] society of these people, you need another twenty or fifteen years to educate a new generation of patriotically-minded and common sense people, who would be acting in favor and in the interests of United States society.

Yuri Bezmenov

American Psycho , 16 minutes ago

This article was one of the most articulate and succinct rebuttals to the BLM political power grab. I too have been calling these "allies" useful idiots and I am happy to hear this professor doing the same. Bravo professor!

[May 13, 2019] I studied this phenomenon experientially for over 8 years among conservative Republican followers, and believe it is totally Cult behavior.

May 13, 2019 | discussion.theguardian.com

MindandHeart , 13 Sep 2016 01:23

I studied this phenomenon experientially for over 8 years among conservative Republican followers, and believe it is totally Cult behavior. I've seen contrary evidence literally "switch off" the thinking brain, erasing it, then finding the appropriate Party Line to answer. There seems to be no way to "de-program," that I know of. It is impervious to reason, evidence, or facts. When they were left with no other choices, I saw how Donald Trump was transformed from an initially appalling character to them into an image of a "leader of the Free World," in their realities. They had already been conditioned by some 30 years of Hillary bashing, to unmercifully hate her. Their leaders used the same propaganda machine on Obama. "Liberals" were the ultimate "enemy" and to blame for all our ills.

Barring further evidence to the contrary, I concluded that those most vulnerable to this Cult phenomenon had a strong, authoritarian religious upbringing in childhood, and perhaps some significant life hurt or trauma.

Many of our religious "leaders" have jumped on the gravy train, to control and exploit them, using the same methods used by Donald Trump. Scapegoating is constant. Questioning and critical thinking are not allowed. These folks were "primed" to believe and follow the superb conservative Republican media propaganda machine that now boasts 24/7 coverage "coast to coast." I read that the average American watches television 5 hours a day. The average American over 65 watches it 7 hours a day. Adolf Hitler would have loved it. Such fertile ground for dictators and demagogues. Now we have some, what, 13 million? programmed American zombies on our hands. Not only that, but ALL of us have been "affected" by the Hillary/Obama/"liberal" bashing to some extent. I don't know a single individual personally who speaks out enthusiastically for Hillary, even those going to vote for her: they always use apologies, excuses, caveats. By odds, that's just not normal. As John Dean wrote, Republicans can no longer govern, but they are superb at the "politics of personal destruction." They successfully purged their own moderates and liberals, turned the Grand Old Party's principles upside down, and created a Trump Godzilla. They've become a gang of thugs and thieves, the Poison Party. Some are playing "coy" right now, for the limelight they love -- and trying to hedge their bets. But if Trump wins he'll be welcomed with open arms, and he will fit right in, with what's now left of the GOP.

[Jan 07, 2019] Joining a Group Makes Us Nastier to Outsiders

Notable quotes:
"... By Michal Bauer, Associate Professor of Economics, CERGE-EI and Charles University; Jana Cahlíková, Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance; Dagmara Celik Katreniak, Assistant Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow; Julie Chytilová, Associate Professor of Economics, Charles University; Researcher, CERGE-EI; Lubomír Cingl, Assistant Professor, University of Economics, Prague; and Tomáš Želinský, Associate Professor, Technical University of Košice. Originally published at VoxEU ..."
"... The economic consensus is that groups behave in a more self-regarding way than individuals, which affects their members' decision-making. This column describes new evidence from experiments in Slovakia and Uganda that supports an alternative hypothesis from social psychology that simply being a member of a group makes us more anti-social to outsiders. Within-group cohesion in organisations may also have a dark side, fostering hostility to outsiders. ..."
"... See original post for references ..."
"... anti social ..."
Jan 07, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Joining a Group Makes Us Nastier to Outsiders Posted on January 5, 2019 by Yves Smith By Michal Bauer, Associate Professor of Economics, CERGE-EI and Charles University; Jana Cahlíková, Senior Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance; Dagmara Celik Katreniak, Assistant Professor, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow; Julie Chytilová, Associate Professor of Economics, Charles University; Researcher, CERGE-EI; Lubomír Cingl, Assistant Professor, University of Economics, Prague; and Tomáš Želinský, Associate Professor, Technical University of Košice. Originally published at VoxEU

The economic consensus is that groups behave in a more self-regarding way than individuals, which affects their members' decision-making. This column describes new evidence from experiments in Slovakia and Uganda that supports an alternative hypothesis from social psychology that simply being a member of a group makes us more anti-social to outsiders. Within-group cohesion in organisations may also have a dark side, fostering hostility to outsiders.

Plato wrote about the limits of democracy, as did the founding fathers of the American constitution. More recently, social scientists have also worried about the dynamics of group decision-making, speculating that being part of a group may increase the motivation to harm outsiders and destroy social welfare. The causal effect of group membership on decision-making has been prominent on the research agenda in behavioural economics in the past 20 years, partly because so many political, military, and business decisions are made by groups rather than individuals.

Across many laboratory experiments, a pattern has emerged. Group decisions are less pro-social and cooperative than individual decisions. Groups are less willing to sacrifice their resources to increase social welfare, or to achieve a fair allocation. The consensus interpretation is that groups behave in a more self-regarding way. They are more likely to maximise a group payoff, and disregard the welfare of others (Charness and Sutter 2012, Kugler et al. 2012).

It is usually assumed that group members communicate among themselves, helping them to recognise a profit-maximising strategy. This interpretation suggests that group decisions can be modelled as more rational and less 'behavioural' than individual decisions, an important implication for economic theory.

Why Are Groups Less Cooperative Than Individuals?

Our recent paper (Bauer et al. 2018) uses an alternative explanation for the difference in cooperative behaviour of groups, compared to individuals. Social psychologists have a long-standing hypothesis that simply being a member of a group may inspire aggressively competitive anti-social behaviour (Durlauf 1999, Hewstone et al. 2002, Sambanis et al. 2012).

This hypothesis implies that groups do not cooperate less because they are self-regarding, but because they are more inclined to cause harm to outsiders – even at a cost to themselves. We define anti-social behaviour as non-strategic destructive behaviour that is costly for the decision maker, reduces welfare of others, and is not a response to inequality or a hostile behaviour of a counterpart. Experiments in previous research, including the Prisoners' Dilemma game, Trust game, and Dictator game, were designed to measure the positive side of human social behaviour. They do not, however, distinguish whether a lack of willingness to cooperate or share has been caused by greater selfishness, or by this anti-social behaviour.

These distinctions matter if one wants to predict willingness to engage in self-destructive conflict:

Being anti-social is very different from being self-regarding. Economic agents motivated purely by self-interest will destroy the resources of others only when they stand to gain. But there is much more scope for harming others if they also derive utility from relative status or feel pleasure from beating an opponent. It is also important to understand whether simply being placed into a group creates an 'us versus them' psychology that influences behaviour of group members, or whether the behavioural difference is an outcome of deliberation. If the mere fact of deciding in a group makes an individual more willing to cause harm, a broad range of situations may create an increased tendency to behave anti-socially.

Measuring Anti-Social Behaviour

Our experiments were conducted among large and diverse samples of adolescents in two very different settings – Uganda (N=1,679) and Slovakia (N=630) – using a comparable design. We compare the (anti-)social behaviour of individuals, and the team decision of groups made up of three randomly selected individuals.

The experiment is designed to distinguish self-regarding from anti-social motivations, and also to decompose the overall group effect into the effect of group decision-making, and the effect of the group context on individual behaviour.

To do so, we complement the prisoners' dilemma game, a standard experiment to measure willingness to cooperate, with the joy of destruction game, an experiment that uncovers anti-social behaviour.

Also, to separate the effects of group context on individual behaviour and the effect of group deliberation and decision-making, we elicit individual choices made in isolation, preferences of individual group members for group decisions before a group deliberation, and the ultimate group decisions.

Groups Behave More Anti-Socially Than Individual Decision-Makers

Groups are less likely than individuals to cooperate in the prisoners' dilemma game, in line with findings in previous experiments. Importantly, however, they are also more likely to harm opponents in the joy of destruction game, in which the dominant strategy for self-regarding agents is not to engage in destructive behaviour. This is primarily due to a greater prevalence of anti-social behaviour among groups.

The stronger anti-social behaviour of groups as compared to individuals cannot be explained by differences in beliefs, reciprocal motives, inequality aversion or diffusion of individual responsibility. Groups are more willing than individuals to pay to cause harm even when they respond to a kind act from an experimental counterpart, and when destroying resources increases inequality.

Furthermore, anti-social behaviour in a group setting is elevated simultaneously with willingness to enter competition with outsiders, as measured in the competitiveness game in Uganda (Niederle and Vesterlund 2007). Together, these findings indicate that individuals in groups are more aggressively competitive.

Decomposing the overall group effects shows that both the group context as well as deliberation among group members matter. Group context makes individuals more willing to engage in anti-social behaviour and to compete, whereas the group decision-making slightly increases the prevalence of self-regarding choices.

All these effects are strikingly similar across the Slovak (Figure 1) and Ugandan (Figure 2) samples, suggesting that the preference for competing aggressively when deciding in a group is a deeply rooted response.

Figure 1 Slovakia: The effect of group decision-making on choices in the joy of destruction game and the prisoners' dilemma game

Source : Bauer et al. (2018).

Figure 2 Uganda: The effect of group decision-making on choices in the joy of destruction game and the prisoners' dilemma game

Source : Bauer et al. (2018).

Concluding Remarks

Earlier research on identity has shown that creating coherent teams fosters efficiency in military and business-oriented organisations (Akerlof and Kranton 2005, Goette et al. 2006, Costa and Kahn 2001), by making in-group cooperation easier. Our results suggest that this may come at the expense of aggressive competitiveness against members of other groups.

This may help to explain the ubiquity of inter-group violence (Blattman and Miguel 2014) or mutually destructive competition within and across firms. It also strengthens the case for policies to counteract narrow group identities.

Competitiveness also has an import role when determining individual career choices. Economists are attempting to identify factors which may foster competitiveness in individuals (Gneezy et al. 2009, Andersen et al. 2013, Almås et al. 2015) and design institutions that help to close gender gaps in willingness to compete (Sutter et al. 2016, Niederle et al. 2013, Balafoutas and Sutter 2012). Our findings show that the factor that increases willingness to enter competitive environment also raises anti-social behaviour, and thus suggests there is a potential trade-off. Competitive environments may lead to efficiency gains in some settings, but also to more socially harmful behaviour.

See original post for references

witters , January 5, 2019 at 4:12 am

So individuals without group loyalty are intrinsically better people?

Sound of the Suburbs , January 5, 2019 at 4:58 am

Labour unions were never very co-operative and kept looking after the interests of their members.

Big business realised they needed to smash the unions.

The Rev Kev , January 5, 2019 at 5:05 am

When I want good advice on brickwork, I would ask for advice from a bricklayer. I would certainly not go looking for advice on bricks from an upholsterer. In the same vein, if I was looking for solid information on a sociological issue, I would not necessarily go believing people with a background in economics or tax law & finance as is the case here. The general point of this article seems to be either the justification of the atomization of individuals or an anti-democratic diatribe showing how certain individuals are better qualified than others.
They may try to use the prisoners' dilemma game or the the joy of destruction game as proof of their thoughts but sociologists have shown the falsehood of applying western standard games to other countries when these standards were found to be entirely based in ( http://hci.ucsd.edu/102b/readings/WeirdestPeople.pdf ) Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) people.
Humans are social animals which is why they do not generally cope well when put alone. That is why solitary confinement is regarded as a punishment. Groups may be more likely to maximize a group payoff and disregard the welfare of others but that is a flexible concept and not set in cement. In fact, it is scalable. As an example, take a look at Afghanistan which is normally full of infighting. There, they say me against my brother, my brother and I against our cousin, my brother and I and our cousin against the outsider. See? These groups are scalable.
They do mention cohesive groups with the military but miss the significance. Military organization is based on the squad which is the basic building block and as akin to a hunting band. Back in Roman times it was called a Contubernium which shows how long this basic organizational principle has been working. Next up is the company which is an analogue to an extended family. Above that is the battalion which is an analogue to the maximum number of people that you can know i.e. a tribe. The Romans had the Cohort here and the British had the Regiment. All these organizations are built on the foundations of basic human psychology and cannot be ignored or refuted as the authors do here.

Norb , January 5, 2019 at 8:29 am

Trouble is introduced when sociopathic individuals gain control of the organizational structures that you describe. My experience is that most people are reasonable, but can be easily manipulated to perform questionable tasks. It is a question of leadership and social goals.

During a crisis, there are individuals dedicated to turning towards the direction of crisis, while the majority can be seen running in the opposite direction due to raw self-preservation. Fire, police, medical, and military services are just some examples.

Economists in a neoliberal era are the last people to turn to for answers to social ills. Their worldview and sentiment created the problems in the first place and perpetuate the continuance of suffering on many levels.

Gambling and speculating must be relegated to a much lower level of social acceptance then what is tolerated today. It truly is madness.

Brooklin Bridge , January 5, 2019 at 11:43 am

:-) If it was news you wanted, would you go to a reporter or anchor (Rachel Maddow comes to mind) first or would you go instead to a financial analyst and economist that has started her own blog with a name that might even be considered racy by some? (thinking NC here). :-)

Couldn't resist, though I agree with your conclusions. Whether it's the substance of an argument first and source credibility second or visa-versa would seem to depend on context at the very least.

knowbuddhau , January 5, 2019 at 3:15 pm

Amen, Rev! On the provenance of horsessh!t, tho, as in that post about NYC sidewalks, who better than an economist to ask? This economist's assumptions about human nature just reek.

In social psychology, Baiting Crowd and Bystander Apathy research looked into this, too. Leon Festinger et al described Deindividuaion beginning in the mid 50s. Robert Wicklund delved into Objective vs Subjective Self-Awareness.

Kitty Genovese was murdered in her NYC apartment, while many witnesses heard her screams. The Group failed her. Crowds often egg on people signifying suicide. We do things, when masked, we don't dare do when known.

It was thought that, the more one felt as a singular, individuated, objectively defineable, person-in-society, the more pro-social would be ones behavior. When we're knowing ourselves subjectively, especially if we "lose ourself" in a crowd, we're more selfish and willing to "go off the reservation."

I went down the Empathic Altruism Hypothesis rabbit hole. Turns out, it meets up with sociobiology's Reciprocal Altruism.

Back to basics: how do groups work? First, you can't draw a one-sided distinction; for every inside, there's an outside. Ingroup/outgroup arise mutually. As soon as you think, "I am!", in that same moment, there They are.

Us "versus" them is fundamentally flawed: it's Us&Them. The proper basis for being human, in ones self and in society, is compassion. Naturally, amirite?

Tommy S. , January 6, 2019 at 9:15 am

just one note .the kitty story was mostly false since the beginning .much new info on web now..

Barry , January 6, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Humans are social animals which is why they do not generally cope well when put alone.

On top of meaning humans don't cope well alone, being social animals means we are evolved to be parts of groups. A corollary to that is that we know how to be part of the group; how to process group interests as well as personal interests. This includes not only an adjustment of the prioritization of options but an awareness of who is in-group and who is out-group.

Any model of political economy that denies this or posits that it is a problem to be overcome is starting from false premises that will lead to false conclusions.

But pushing individualism on the world makes perfect sense to me as a ploy by a very powerful in-group (e.g. the Kochtopus) to dissipate the power and threat of other groups (governments, communities, unions ).

Steve H. , January 5, 2019 at 6:23 am

The Naked Capitalism commentariat is the best commentariat.

Louos Fyne , January 5, 2019 at 7:09 am

You beat me to post the exact same thing.

Unfortunately people here lean/skew/are open-minded to be iconoclasts. need a spine and smarts to be one.

Unfortunate cuz (arguably) humans are default programmed to herd behavior.

Donald , January 5, 2019 at 10:47 am

Yeah, me too. Though I really do think this group is less bad than others. The commentariat at The American Conservative is the best commentariat anywhere, because the ideological range is very wide and the best commenters there have some respect for each other despite their differences. They become smarter, able to see common ground where it exists.

But most blog comment sections are extremely tribal. Step even slightly outside the local consensus and you will be mobbed.

Simeon Hope , January 6, 2019 at 2:17 am

I've found that, too. I'm atheist and over several years I've tried commenting in various atheist blogs and forums. They seem to be highly sensitive to even small criticisms, such as my suggesting that not all believers are evil. Usually, they instantly block me.

Arizona Slim , January 5, 2019 at 7:52 am

Does this mean that we are a group?

diptherio , January 5, 2019 at 9:15 am

Yeah! Now who wants to go beat the tar out of some those Marginal Revolution commenters? Some may say that it will make us look bad, but I say they've got it coming!

Craig H. , January 5, 2019 at 11:32 am

Isn't Zero Hedge the preferred hangout of people we throw bricks at?

Also Groucho Marxists.

Dave , January 5, 2019 at 7:38 am

Funny, I have always said to my spouse and kids I am skeptical and not fond of our species on a global scale. On an individual basis I am quite good at being accepting and open to dialogue and interaction.

This article helps me understand my predicament.

Samuel , January 6, 2019 at 11:39 pm

Theoretical background:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realistic_conflict_theory

Potential solution:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superordinate_goals

David , January 5, 2019 at 8:03 am

I'm not impressed, because this provides us with absolutely no insights into how groups behave in real life. And Plato thought that democracy led to tyranny, not to bad behaviour to outsiders.
There's a huge anthropological and historical literature to do with how groups actually function, and their functioning depends on the surrounding circumstances, the nature of the group and the way in which it came together. The authors could have started by reading some of it.
The fundamental distinction is between groups which arise naturally (usually based on territory, ethnicity, family relations), groups which arise by affiliation (religious, political, trades unions etc) and groups which are thrown together in response to some threat or difficult circumstances. There's obviously some overlap. In general, groups set up in opposition to others, or to protect against others will be, by their very nature, hostile. So various sorts of Marxist groups, feminists, religious factions etc. who take as a point of departure that they are right and others are wrong, and that they are threatened and must stick together, will almost by definition be hostile to outsiders. A reading circle, a charitable association, or even just a traditional community will be much less so.
In addition, groups cooperate with each other according to rules. The Arabic proverb cited by the Rev is a case in point, and the organisation of tribal life in the Middle East and South Asia (including Afghanistan) is highly complex and goes well beyond the simple dichotomies proposed here. In fact, it's hardly worth continuing to pick holes on this study – go and research something where you are qualified, guys.

pjay , January 5, 2019 at 8:51 am

"There's a huge anthropological and historical literature to do with how groups actually function "

That's one of the key problems. Experimental research like this, even with a cross-cultural sample of subjects, is supposedly designed to filter out such messy anthropological, historical, or sociological (Rev Kev) factors. Such social psychological research can be informative if the limits are recognized. But when artificial lab games are projected as objective reality without social context, you have problems similar to those in the economics Yves and NC so effectively criticize.

hemeantwell , January 5, 2019 at 8:28 am

Whew, this is sure a horse that's been around the track a few times.

Back in the Studies in Prejudice days in the mid-20th c, the idea was that tendencies of this sort can be weakened if individuals, or the group itself, is aware of the tendency. Social science isn't about describing our fate, it's about helping us to liberate ourselves from it.

Off The Street , January 5, 2019 at 9:28 am

Leaders play a role and influence their groups. If notions of good faith and fair play are deemed important, for example, then they stand a better chance of being communicated and enforced through a type of group ethic. History has shown that people individually and in groups are quite capable of rising above their worst tendencies. That takes work. It may be instructive to identify the malign influences and influencers that undermine human dignity.

pjay , January 5, 2019 at 10:42 am

"Social science isn't about describing our fate, it's about helping us to liberate ourselves from it."

"History has shown that people individually and in groups are quite capable of rising above their worst tendencies. That takes work. It may be instructive to identify the malign influences and influencers that undermine human dignity."

Thanks for these statements. In my opinion, the best social scientists always recognize this. The worst ones claim to have discovered the "fundamental" causes of human behavior, social organization, history, etc. and derive their theories accordingly.

Brooklin Bridge , January 5, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Some of this is just common sense and depends on such things as whether or not the group in question perceives the interaction with outsiders to be beneficial or harmful. When tourists first started going to Spain after it's civil war, they were largely accepted quite well since they were bringing desperately needed money with them and since they were not all that obtrusive. As the numbers swelled by the 70's, and particularly as the tourists themselves became more obnoxious; USA, USA, nasty-fat-and-drunk-all-day, the sentiment of the general population changed quite a bit and might even have been considered, anti social .

JW , January 5, 2019 at 3:33 pm

What a bit of America-bashing.

American tourists to Spain are vastly outnumbered by European tourists. 2.7 million US while 18.8 million UK, 11.9 million German, 11.3 million France, and millions more from other countries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Spain

The objections to tourism everywhere are locals being priced out of housing and other markets, and the dubious economic value of all these low-wage and highly seasonal jobs.

Not to mention, between the Spanish Civil war and the 1970s, the country was ruled by a fascist dictatorship, which might have had something to do with blunting criticism of tourism or anything else, if what you said were true.

Brooklin Bridge , January 5, 2019 at 5:55 pm

Oh please. While not all Americans were obnoxious, those who were had such a knack for it that they tended to color people's perception of them in general. The obnoxious ones were truly odious; they certainly didn't need me to bash them. They did a magnificent job of that all by themselves. In close to a decade of living abroad, I never once saw any other nationality pull off what an obnoxious American could do in 5 minutes flat (and back then I could have produced at least two – and probably more – European tour guides that would have corroborated that point without a heart beat of hesitation – but with endless stories).

As to numbers, I didn't in any way limit them to national origin in my comment; my reference to Americans was hardly exclusive except for the obnoxious ones (and I stick by that). That said, 1) at a certain point, sheer numbers of ALL tourists did indeed have a highly negative effect and were often perceived as the cause of the points you made as well as a host of others – such as making the Spanish feel inferior, like servants 2) the obnoxious foreigners always stood out even when they were not the majority and yes they were more often than not of North American origin. My point was that groups react to externals depending on what benefit or harm they perceive the outsiders bring, and my experience in Spain tended to support the claim that sufficiently large numbers was a significant marker and either caused or exacerbated negative issues (such as resource inflation). Such inflation won't occur without the numbers.

I lived in Spain in 1969 and spoke fluently enough, back then alas, to have all night discussions with friends who pulled no punches in describing a general attitude towards Americans that went well beyond the general discomfort they felt with the general hordes of tourists (of all nationalities).

These people were terrified of Franco – they literally wouldn't talk about him, often even among themselves. But about tourists, and Americans in particular? They loved to talk about them – and they had an almost affectionate, if frustrated, way of characterizing Americans with a broad brush – because of the few – even while they understood perfectly – and usually with a healthy sense of humor – that such stereotypes were just that. But again, more generally, it was simply a numbers game.

polecat , January 5, 2019 at 1:57 pm

You wanna example of an extremely nasty group found nakedly exposed .. groping for credibility ??

I give you exhibit H ( for the Hate factor !! ) : the Integrity Initiative

If there ever was a more vile hive of scum and villainy

Samuel Conner , January 5, 2019 at 2:28 pm

I wonder whether it might be that groups are more likely to have antisocial decision-makers. Roughly 4% of the population is reckoned to have sociopathic traits. I read somewhere (maybe in Martha Stout's "The Sociopath Next Door") that the upper reaches of hierarchies tend to have more sociopaths than the population at large. Cooperators in a group led by antisocial leaders might tend to cooperate with antisocial group behavior when they would behave more pro-socially on their own.

shinola , January 5, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Not quite sure why, but this article made me think back to the recent articles about Libertarians and CalPERS.

Curious George , January 5, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Um from a purely instinctive level having been part of groups throughout my life (armed forces, faculty, political party, youth groups (formal and informal)) in different countries (continental Europe and NA) my first thought on reading the study was – of course. As is my second, third and fourth thought.

After all why do groups always form internal cultures, be that a uniform, ranks, language, behavioural patterns, or simple things such as greetings.

And if one really would like to see the ugliness of a group – be part of one and raise questions about the behaviour of the group while part of it. Fun times.

Human nature may impact our desire to form a group or be part of one but we should never loose sight of the individual. The study reinforces that notion.

Grebo , January 5, 2019 at 6:10 pm

Behavioural economics, baby steps.

I don't get the impression from this that the authors are advocating atomization. They are merely saying that previous economic assumptions are incorrect, and it's worse than they thought.

No-one else is surprised though.

dk , January 5, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Joining a group puts one in a better position to decline to interact with unreliable people.

The cohesion of a group demonstrates and consolidates trust within the group. If the group cannot collectively establish and maintain trust, it will collapse.

Outsiders have not participated in the group's trust-building, and are granted less initial trust. This is simple precaution.

So the article is pretty much an argument against verification of trust. It is not, as the authors assert, anti-social to evaluate trustworthiness, it normal and appropriate social behavior. Violation of trust, and bad faith activity generally, are anti-social behaviors, and groups form in part to recognize and discourage such activity.

Social behaviors take time, they are not instantaneous transactions and their resolutions generally remain dynamic (despite complaint of formalists). Thus, examinations of narrowly limited sets of events are without context, insufficient for the development of reliable conclusion about human behavior.

Steve K , January 6, 2019 at 8:44 am

The Rev Kev is correct about the insights from anthropology and some interpretive research, which throw into sharp relief the biases inherent in mainstream group and organizational studies, their bedrock theory of social identity theory (SIT), and SIT's primary investigative tool of the zero-history group.

At the center of SIT is the not necessarily true assumption that participants in experimental groups identify with a group, and that the "group" need be little more than a symbol (i.e., group A, team Red) the experimenter places upon test subjects ("participants" in today's language). Furthermore, in SIT experiments researchers "know" participants identify with a group by their decisions for or against an out-group, not as a result of any tangible observed relations and/or identification to the in-group. Those choices, meanwhile, occur in an artificial context where the status of "we" is under threat from a "them" in a zero-sum struggle for the group's perceived social value compared to others.

SIT is a powerful theory, in that it captures/creates simple situations, defined by intra-group conflict requiring either-or choices among individuals which collectively stand in place of actual collective decisions. It is a narrowly defined perspective, useful in limited cases. Despite those readily available facts, SIT has somehow grown to define how academic group/org research (and virtually all group/org research that get's funding) understand ALL groups.

SIT cannot measure the "group-ness" of the individuals it tests, much less any feature of the complex socio-cultural-political conditions that shape group membership, history, and relations. Studies such as the one reported here have little value outside of the laboratory, and zero relevance in the infinitely complex world of actually existing intra- and inter-group relations. Throw in a few economists from "The Church of Rational-Choice" and you've got a brew that fills the room with a fog of toxic speculation about how groups act in the world; a mist that, over the years, has escaped the learned journals and left a dirty film upon the minds of other specializations and general populations.

georgieboy , January 6, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Try Kevin MacDonald's works for intense scrutiny of in-group vs out-group conduct. Evolution and intentional direction of evolution (culture).

Temporarily Sane , January 6, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Kevin McDonald the far-rights's favorite intellectual. He thinks Jews as a group are undermining and destroying western civilization from within by disempowering the European Christian majority while empowering ethnic and social minorities. This is an evolutionary survival strategy, he says, designed to protect Jews from the deadly waves of antisemitism that culminated with the Nazi Holocaust.

When neo Nazis/the alt-right blame "the Jew" for gay marriage, non-white immigration and everything else they despise, McDonald's writing is what they reach for when they need intellectual cover.

McDonald, for his part, is an enthusiastic supporter of the antisemites and far righters who revere his work.

(I've been noticing an increase in posters popping up in various forums and casually dropping couched hard-right talking points into the conversation or "helpfully" recommending facsistic/antisemitic ideologues for further reading.)

cat sick , January 7, 2019 at 3:38 am

Interestingly I had never heard of this Kevin McDonald, googling him seems to get zero hits of anyone that would seem to be the character who you allude to, however he is the first hit on Bing , whatever his message is it would seem google want to uninvent him .

eg , January 6, 2019 at 2:24 pm

As Peter Gabriel's "Not One of Us" puts it,

How can we be in
If there is no outside?

[Jan 06, 2019] If people don't/won't believe the truth they're being told -- particularly truth that undermines long-held expectations/narratives -- than telling the truth is essentially worthless as those people are unwilling/incapable of changing their minds

Notable quotes:
"... Then there's the zombified/ catatonic segment of society that won't change its mind no matter how much truth it's drowned in. ..."
"... It is as if they have (willingly or unwillingly perhaps) joined a religious cult that has promised them false riches if they cut themselves off from reality and believe and do as they are tol ..."
"... This is the creepy part: our propagandists actually do believe in what they create and disseminate ..."
Jan 06, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

karlof1 , Dec 17, 2018 7:41:13 PM | link

78, 79 & 80--

As Caitlin notes in her essay I linked to, if people don't/won't believe the truth they're being told -- particularly truth that undermines long-held expectations/narratives -- than telling the truth is essentially worthless as those people are unwilling/incapable of changing their minds so they then do the right thing in promoting their interests instead of the 1%'s.

Then there's the zombified/ catatonic segment of society that won't change its mind no matter how much truth it's drowned in. I'm not suggesting we cease truth telling; rather, I'm just saying that truth telling isn't as all powerful as it ought to be thanks to centuries of indoctrination and self-censorship.

Jen , Dec 17, 2018 7:37:08 PM | link
Karlof1 @ 77:

Yes I have, thanks.

I don't think it is the general public so much who needs to hear our ridicule - it seems to me that the less university or college education people have had, or the less exposure to so-called "quality news media" they have had, the more skeptical and cynical they are of what they are told to believe - as it is those whose business and livelihoods revolve around creating and delivering the propaganda and the false narratives that are part and parcel of it.

It is as if they have (willingly or unwillingly perhaps) joined a religious cult that has promised them false riches if they cut themselves off from reality and believe and do as they are tol d.

This is the creepy part: our propagandists actually do believe in what they create and disseminate .

[Jan 02, 2019] That madness of the US neocons comes from having no behavioural limits, no references outside of groupthink, and manipulating the language. Simply put, you don't know anymore what's what outside of the narrative your group pushes. The manipulators ends up caught in their lies.

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Some years ago, I noticed the American media and politicians were sort of going soft (actually mushy) in the brain department, but I was told not to be so judgemental. As the months went by, I saw more and more people saying "they have gone nuts". So, it turns out I am not alone after all. ..."
"... That madness comes from having no behavioural limits, no references outside of your own opinion but groupthink, and manipulating the language to suit your ambitions (the Orwellism of the US media has been repeatedly pointed at). Simply put, you don't know anymore what's what outside of the narrative your group pushes, you go nuts. The manipulators ends up caught in their lies. All the more when they makes money out of it, which would be the case of all those think tanks and media. ..."
"... War or the threat of war is needed to distract attention from rapidly devolving societal bonds and immense economic inequality. ..."
Jan 02, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

Lea , Feb 21, 2018 6:16:53 AM | link

Some years ago, I noticed the American media and politicians were sort of going soft (actually mushy) in the brain department, but I was told not to be so judgemental. As the months went by, I saw more and more people saying "they have gone nuts". So, it turns out I am not alone after all.

That madness comes from having no behavioural limits, no references outside of your own opinion but groupthink, and manipulating the language to suit your ambitions (the Orwellism of the US media has been repeatedly pointed at). Simply put, you don't know anymore what's what outside of the narrative your group pushes, you go nuts. The manipulators ends up caught in their lies. All the more when they makes money out of it, which would be the case of all those think tanks and media.

One could argue that they are not going mad, that they know full well they are lying, but I beg to differ: they don't see anymore how ridiculous or how dumb or smart their arguments are. That would be congruent with a real loss of touch with reality.

One wonders what they see when they look at themselves in a mirror, a garden variety propagandist or a fearless anti-Putin crusader?

Another example of the narrative gone mad: they are sending CNN journos to meet pro-Trump folks who "have been influenced by Russian trolls on social media". https://twitter.com/yashalevine/status/966177091875168256

WJ , Feb 21, 2018 6:38:11 AM | link
War or the threat of war is needed to distract attention from rapidly devolving societal bonds and immense economic inequality.
Ger , Feb 21, 2018 7:52:44 AM | link
Dan @ 4

It is partially tied direct to the economy of the warmongers as trillions of dollars of new cold war slop is laying on the ground awaiting the MICC hogs. American hegemony is primarily about stealing the natural resources of helpless countries. Now in control of all the weak ones, it is time to move to the really big prize: The massive resources of Russia. They (US and their European Lackeys) thought this was a slam dunk when Yeltsin, in his drunken stupors, was literally giving Russia to invading capitalist. Enter Putin, stopped the looting .........connect the dots.

Guy Thornton , Feb 21, 2018 9:10:47 AM | link
Watching the USA these days is like watching a loved one with progressive dementia. I've reached the stage where I think the sooner it's over the better for everyone.

[Dec 14, 2018] Hidden neoliberal inner party : US chamber of commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and The Business Roundtable

Notable quotes:
"... The American Chamber of Commerce subsequently expanded its base from around 60,000 firms in 1972 to over a quarter of a million ten years later. Jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers (which moved to Washington in 1972) it amassed an immense campaign chest to lobby Congress and engage in research. The Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs 'committed to the aggressive pursuit of political power for the corporation', was founded in 1972 and thereafter became the centrepiece of collective pro-business action. ..."
"... Nearly half the financing for the highly respected NBER came from the leading companies in the Fortune 500 list. Closely integrated with the academic community, the NBER was to have a very significant impact on thinking in the economics departments and business schools of the major research universities. ..."
"... In order to realize this goal, businesses needed a political class instrument and a popular base. They therefore actively sought to capture the Republican Party as their own instrument. The formation of powerful political action committees to procure, as the old adage had it, 'the best government that money could buy' was an important step. ..."
"... The Republican Party needed, however, a solid electoral base if it was to colonize power effectively. It was around this time that Republicans sought an alliance with the Christian right. The latter had not been politically active in the past, but the foundation of Jerry Falwell's 'moral majority' as a political movement in 1978 changed all of that. The Republican Party now had its Christian base. ..."
"... It also appealed to the cultural nationalism of the white working classes and their besieged sense of moral righteousness. This political base could be mobilized through the positives of religion and cultural nationalism and negatively through coded, if not blatant, racism, homophobia, and anti feminism. ..."
"... The alliance between big business and conservative Christians backed by the neoconservatives consolidated, not for the first time has a social group been persuaded to vote against its material, economic, and class interests ..."
"... Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold. ..."
"... Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. ..."
"... By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. ..."
"... Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'postmodernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s. ..."
"... Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. 'Strength', he wrote, 'lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations'. The National Chamber of Commerce, he argued, should lead an assault upon the major institutions––universities, schools, the media, publishing, the courts––in order to change how individuals think 'about the corporation, the law, culture, and the individual'. US businesses did not lack resources for such an effort, particularly when they pooled their resources together. ..."
Nov 27, 2018 | discussion.theguardian.com

Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:42

The American Chamber of Commerce subsequently expanded its base from around 60,000 firms in 1972 to over a quarter of a million ten years later. Jointly with the National Association of Manufacturers (which moved to Washington in 1972) it amassed an immense campaign chest to lobby Congress and engage in research. The Business Roundtable, an organization of CEOs 'committed to the aggressive pursuit of political power for the corporation', was founded in 1972 and thereafter became the centrepiece of collective pro-business action.

The corporations involved accounted for 'about one half of the GNP of the United States' during the 1970s, and they spent close to $900 million annually (a huge amount at that time) on political matters. Think-tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institute, the Center for the Study of American Business, and the American Enterprise Institute, were formed with corporate backing both to polemicize and, when necessary, as in the case of the National Bureau of Economic Research, to construct serious technical and empirical studies and political-philosophical arguments broadly in support of neoliberal policies.

Nearly half the financing for the highly respected NBER came from the leading companies in the Fortune 500 list. Closely integrated with the academic community, the NBER was to have a very significant impact on thinking in the economics departments and business schools of the major research universities. With abundant finance furnished by wealthy individuals (such as the brewer Joseph Coors, who later became a member of Reagan's 'kitchen cabinet') and their foundations (for example Olin, Scaife, Smith Richardson, Pew Charitable Trust), a flood of tracts and books, with Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia perhaps the most widely read and appreciated, emerged espousing neoliberal values. A TV version of Milton Friedman's Free to Choose was funded with a grant from Scaife in 1977. 'Business was', Blyth concludes, 'learning to spend as a class.

In singling out the universities for particular attention, Powell pointed up an opportunity as well as an issue, for these were indeed centers of anti-corporate and anti-state sentiment (the students at Santa Barbara had burned down the Bank of America building there and ceremonially buried a car in the sands). But many students were (and still are) affluent and privileged, or at least middle class, and in the US the values of individual freedom have long been celebrated (in music and popular culture) as primary. Neoliberal themes could here find fertile ground for propagation. Powell did not argue for extending state power. But business should 'assiduously cultivate' the state and when necessary use it 'aggressively and with determination'

In order to realize this goal, businesses needed a political class instrument and a popular base. They therefore actively sought to capture the Republican Party as their own instrument. The formation of powerful political action committees to procure, as the old adage had it, 'the best government that money could buy' was an important step. The supposedly 'progressive' campaign finance laws of 1971 in effect legalized the financial corruption of politics.

A crucial set of Supreme Court decisions began in 1976 when it was first established that the right of a corporation to make unlimited money contributions to political parties and political action committees was protected under the First Amendment guaranteeing the rights of individuals (in this instance corporations) to freedom of speech.15 Political action committees could thereafter ensure the financial domination of both political parties by corporate, moneyed, and professional association interests. Corporate PACs, which numbered eighty-nine in 1974, had burgeoned to 1,467 by 1982.

The Republican Party needed, however, a solid electoral base if it was to colonize power effectively. It was around this time that Republicans sought an alliance with the Christian right. The latter had not been politically active in the past, but the foundation of Jerry Falwell's 'moral majority' as a political movement in 1978 changed all of that. The Republican Party now had its Christian base.

It also appealed to the cultural nationalism of the white working classes and their besieged sense of moral righteousness. This political base could be mobilized through the positives of religion and cultural nationalism and negatively through coded, if not blatant, racism, homophobia, and anti feminism.

The alliance between big business and conservative Christians backed by the neoconservatives consolidated, not for the first time has a social group been persuaded to vote against its material, economic, and class interests the evangelical Christians eagerly embraced the alliance with big business and the Republican Party as a means to further promote their evangelical and moral agenda.

Themiddlegound -> Themiddlegound , 11 Jun 2013 05:23

Any political movement that holds individual freedoms to be sacrosanct is vulnerable to incorporation into the neoliberal fold.

The worldwide political upheavals of 1968, for example, were strongly inflected with the desire for greater personal freedoms. This was certainly true for students, such as those animated by the Berkeley 'free speech' movement of the 1960s or who took to the streets in Paris, Berlin, and Bangkok and were so mercilessly shot down in Mexico City shortly before the 1968 Olympic Games. They demanded freedom from parental, educational, corporate, bureaucratic, and state constraints. But the '68 movement also had social justice as a primary political objective.

Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multiculturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the the Construction of Consent desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.

In the early 1970s those seeking individual freedoms and social justice could make common cause in the face of what many saw as a common enemy. Powerful corporations in alliance with an interventionist state were seen to be running the world in individually oppressive and socially unjust ways. The Vietnam War was the most obvious catalyst for discontent, but the destructive activities of corporations and the state in relation to the environment, the push towards mindless consumerism, the failure to address social issues and respond adequately to diversity, as well as intense restrictions on individual possibilities and personal behaviors by state-mandated and 'traditional' controls were also widely resented. Civil rights were an issue, and questions of sexuality and of reproductive rights were very much in play.

For almost everyone involved in the movement of '68, the intrusive state was the enemy and it had to be reformed. And on that, the neoliberals could easily agree. But capitalist corporations, business, and the market system were also seen as primary enemies requiring redress if not revolutionary transformation: hence the threat to capitalist class power.

By capturing ideals of individual freedom and turning them against the interventionist and regulatory practices of the state, capitalist class interests could hope to protect and even restore their position. Neoliberalism was well suited to this ideological task. But it had to be backed up by a practical strategy that emphasized the liberty of consumer choice, not only with respect to particular products but also with respect to lifestyles, modes of expression, and a wide range of cultural practices. Neoliberalization required both politically and economically the construction of a neoliberal market-based populist culture of differentiated consumerism and individual libertarianism. As such it proved more than a little compatible with that cultural impulse called 'postmodernism' which had long been lurking in the wings but could now emerge full-blown as both a cultural and an intellectual dominant. This was the challenge that corporations and class elites set out to finesse in the 1980s.

In the US case a confidential memo sent by Lewis Powell to the US Chamber of Commerce in August 1971. Powell, about to be elevated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, argued that criticism of and opposition to the US free enterprise system had gone too far and that 'the time had come––indeed it is long overdue––for the wisdom, ingenuity and resources of American business to be marshaled against those who would destroy it'.

Powell argued that individual action was insufficient. 'Strength', he wrote, 'lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations'. The National Chamber of Commerce, he argued, should lead an assault upon the major institutions––universities, schools, the media, publishing, the courts––in order to change how individuals think 'about the corporation, the law, culture, and the individual'. US businesses did not lack resources for such an effort, particularly when they pooled their resources together.

[Aug 27, 2018] Chemically induced fanaticism. We have no idea which of our 'opinion leaders' have undergone such antidepressant induced change

Notable quotes:
"... Further to my idea, what distinguishes the person on antidepressants is the complete self assurance with which they say the most ridiculous things. ..."
"... If one in ten people use the drugs, and more than one in ten higher up the social ladder, then each of us deals every day with someone who looks normal but displays chemically induced fanaticism. ..."
Aug 27, 2018 | www.unz.com

Gordon Pratt , says: July 23, 2018 at 6:23 pm GMT

@AnonFromTN

Thank you for replying to my post.

And you may be right. Scam artists know how easy it is to convince a mark of something silly once the mark has dollar signs in his eyes.

Further to my idea, what distinguishes the person on antidepressants is the complete self assurance with which they say the most ridiculous things. It is that inability to say "I could be wrong, but " which is the giveaway plus of course the unquestioning belief they are right.

If one in ten people use the drugs, and more than one in ten higher up the social ladder, then each of us deals every day with someone who looks normal but displays chemically induced fanaticism.

A chap I have known for forty years used to be shy, sensitive, well-read and funny. Now he is spending his retirement playing World of Warcraft and has nothing to say. Big Pharma says antidepressants turn introverts like him into extroverts. In fact the drugs have turned him into a jerk.

We have no idea which of our 'opinion leaders' have undergone a similar change.

[Mar 25, 2018] Surveillance is the DNA of the Platform Economy

Creating a malware application which masks itself as some kind of pseudo scientific test and serves as the backdoor to your personal data is a very dirty trick...
Especially dirty it it used by academic researchers, who in reality are academic scum... An additional type of academic gangsters, in addition to Harvard Mafia
Notable quotes:
"... By Ivan Manokha, a departmental lecturer in the Oxford Department of International Development. He is currently working on power and obedience in the late-modern political economy, particularly in the context of the development of new technologies of surveillance. Originally published at openDemocracy ..."
"... The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who, in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald's window during a demonstration. ..."
"... But as Christopher Wylie, a twenty-eight-year-old Canadian coder and data scientist and a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, stated in a video interview , the app could also collect all kinds of personal data from users, such as the content that they consulted, the information that they liked, and even the messages that they posted. ..."
"... All this is done in order to use data to create value in some way another (to monetize it by selling to advertisers or other firms, to increase sales, or to increase productivity). Data has become 'the new oil' of global economy, a new commodity to be bought and sold at a massive scale, and with this development, as a former Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff has argued , global capitalism has become 'surveillance capitalism'. ..."
"... What this means is that platform economy is a model of value creation which is completely dependant on continuous privacy invasions and, what is alarming is that we are gradually becoming used to this. ..."
"... In other instances, as in the case of Kogan's app, the extent of the data collected exceeds what was stated in the agreement. ..."
"... What we need is a total redefinition of the right to privacy (which was codified as a universal human right in 1948, long before the Internet), to guarantee its respect, both offline and online. ..."
"... I saw this video back in 2007. It was originally put together by a Sarah Lawrence student who was working on her paper on social media. The ties of all the original investors to IN-Q-Tel scared me off and I decided to stay away from Facebook. ..."
"... But it isn't just FB. Amazon, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Apple, Microsoft and many others do the same, and we are all caught up in it whether we agree to participate or not. ..."
"... Platform Capitalism is a mild description, it is manipulation based on Surveillance Capitalism, pure and simple. The Macro pattern of Corporate Power subsuming the State across every area is fascinating to watch, but a little scary. ..."
"... For his part, Aleksandr Kogan established a company, Global Science Research, that contracted with SCL, using Facebook data to map personality traits for its work in elections (Kosinski claims that Kogan essentially reverse-engineered the app that he and Stillwell had developed). Kogan's app harvested data on Facebook users who agreed to take a personality test for the purposes of academic research (though it was, in fact, to be used by SCL for non-academic ends). But according to Wylie, the app also collected data on their entire -- and nonconsenting -- network of friends. Once Cambridge Analytica and SCL had won contracts with the State Department and were pitching to the Pentagon, Wylie became alarmed that this illegally-obtained data had ended up at the heart of government, along with the contractors who might abuse it. ..."
"... This apparently bizarre intersection of research on topics like love and kindness with defense and intelligence interests is not, in fact, particularly unusual. It is typical of the kind of dual-use research that has shaped the field of social psychology in the US since World War II. ..."
"... Much of the classic, foundational research on personality, conformity, obedience, group polarization, and other such determinants of social dynamics -- while ostensibly civilian -- was funded during the cold war by the military and the CIA. ..."
"... The pioneering figures from this era -- for example, Gordon Allport on personality and Solomon Asch on belief conformity -- are still cited in NATO psy-ops literature to this day ..."
"... This is an issue which has frustrated me greatly. In spite of the fact that the country's leading psychologist (at the very least one of them -- ex-APA president Seligman) has been documented taking consulting fees from Guantanamo and Black Sites goon squads, my social science pals refuse to recognize any corruption at the core of their so-called replicated quantitative research. ..."
Mar 24, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Yves here. Not new to anyone who has been paying attention, but a useful recap with some good observations at the end, despite deploying the cringe-making trope of businesses having DNA. That legitimates the notion that corporations are people.

By Ivan Manokha, a departmental lecturer in the Oxford Department of International Development. He is currently working on power and obedience in the late-modern political economy, particularly in the context of the development of new technologies of surveillance. Originally published at openDemocracy

The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who, in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald's window during a demonstration.

On March 17, The Observer of London and The New York Times announced that Cambridge Analytica, the London-based political and corporate consulting group, had harvested private data from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their consent. The data was collected through a Facebook-based quiz app called thisisyourdigitallife, created by Aleksandr Kogan, a University of Cambridge psychologist who had requested and gained access to information from 270,000 Facebook members after they had agreed to use the app to undergo a personality test, for which they were paid through Kogan's company, Global Science Research.

But as Christopher Wylie, a twenty-eight-year-old Canadian coder and data scientist and a former employee of Cambridge Analytica, stated in a video interview , the app could also collect all kinds of personal data from users, such as the content that they consulted, the information that they liked, and even the messages that they posted.

In addition, the app provided access to information on the profiles of the friends of each of those users who agreed to take the test, which enabled the collection of data from more than 50 million.

All this data was then shared by Kogan with Cambridge Analytica, which was working with Donald Trump's election team and which allegedly used this data to target US voters with personalised political messages during the presidential campaign. As Wylie, told The Observer, "we built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons."

'Unacceptable Violation'

Following these revelations the Internet has been engulfed in outrage and government officials have been quick to react. On March 19, Antonio Tajani President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, stated in a twitter message that misuse of Facebook user data "is an unacceptable violation of our citizens' privacy rights" and promised an EU investigation. On March 22, Wylie communicated in a tweet that he accepted an invitation to testify before the US House Intelligence Committee, the US House Judiciary Committee and UK Parliament Digital Committee. On the same day Israel's Justice Ministry informed Facebook that it was opening an investigation into possible violations of Israelis' personal information by Facebook.

While such widespread condemnation of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is totally justified, what remains largely absent from the discussion are broader questions about the role of data collection, processing and monetization that have become central in the current phase of capitalism, which may be described as 'platform capitalism', as suggested by the Canadian writer and academic Nick Srnicek in his recent book .

Over the last decade the growth of platforms has been spectacular: today, the top 4 enterprises in Forbes's list of most valuable brands are platforms, as are eleven of the top twenty. Most recent IPOs and acquisitions have involved platforms, as have most of the major successful startups. The list includes Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Waze, Uber, Lyft, Handy, Airbnb, Pinterest, Square, Social Finance, Kickstarter, etc. Although most platforms are US-based, they are a really global phenomenon and in fact are now playing an even more important role in developing countries which did not have developed commercial infrastructures at the time of the rise of the Internet and seized the opportunity that it presented to structure their industries around it. Thus, in China, for example, many of the most valuable enterprises are platforms such as Tencent (owner of the WeChat and QQ messaging platforms) and Baidu (China's search engine); Alibaba controls 80 percent of China's e-commerce market through its Taobao and Tmall platforms, with its Alipay platform being the largest payments platform in China.

The importance of platforms is also attested by the range of sectors in which they are now dominant and the number of users (often numbered in millions and, in some cases, even billions) regularly connecting to their various cloud-based services. Thus, to name the key industries, platforms are now central in Internet search (Google, Yahoo, Bing); social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat); Internet auctions and retail (eBay, Taobao, Amazon, Alibaba); on-line financial and human resource functions (Workday, Upwork, Elance, TaskRabbit), urban transportation (Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, BlaBlaCar), tourism (Kayak, Trivago, Airbnb), mobile payment (Square Order, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet); and software development (Apple's App Store, Google Play Store, Windows App store). Platform-based solutions are also currently being adopted in more traditional sectors, such as industrial production (GE, Siemens), agriculture (John Deere, Monsanto) and even clean energy (Sungevity, SolarCity, EnerNOC).

User Profiling -- Good-Bye to Privacy

These platforms differ significantly in terms of the services that they offer: some, like eBay or Taobao simply allow exchange of products between buyers and sellers; others, like Uber or TaskRabbit, allow independent service providers to find customers; yet others, like Apple or Google allow developers to create and market apps.

However, what is common to all these platforms is the central role played by data, and not just continuous data collection, but its ever more refined analysis in order to create detailed user profiles and rankings in order to better match customers and suppliers or increase efficiency.

All this is done in order to use data to create value in some way another (to monetize it by selling to advertisers or other firms, to increase sales, or to increase productivity). Data has become 'the new oil' of global economy, a new commodity to be bought and sold at a massive scale, and with this development, as a former Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff has argued , global capitalism has become 'surveillance capitalism'.

What this means is that platform economy is a model of value creation which is completely dependant on continuous privacy invasions and, what is alarming is that we are gradually becoming used to this.

Most of the time platform providers keep track of our purchases, travels, interest, likes, etc. and use this data for targeted advertising to which we have become accustomed. We are equally not that surprised when we find out that, for example, robotic vacuum cleaners collect data about types of furniture that we have and share it with the likes of Amazon so that they can send us advertisements for pieces of furniture that we do not yet possess.

There is little public outcry when we discover that Google's ads are racially biased as, for instance, a Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney found by accident performing a search. We are equally hardly astonished that companies such as Lenddo buy access to people's social media and browsing history in exchange for a credit score. And, at least in the US, people are becoming accustomed to the use of algorithms, developed by private contractors, by the justice system to take decisions on sentencing, which often result in equally unfair and racially biased decisions .

The outrage provoked by the Cambridge Analytica is targeting only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is infinitely larger as there are countless equally significant instances of privacy invasions and data collection performed by corporations, but they have become normalized and do not lead to much public outcry.

DNA

Today surveillance is the DNA of the platform economy; its model is simply based on the possibility of continuous privacy invasions using whatever means possible. In most cases users agree, by signing the terms and conditions of service providers, so that their data may be collected, analyzed and even shared with third parties (although it is hardly possible to see this as express consent given the size and complexity of these agreements -- for instance, it took 8 hours and 59 minutes for an actor hired by the consumer group Choice to read Amazon Kindle's terms and conditions). In other instances, as in the case of Kogan's app, the extent of the data collected exceeds what was stated in the agreement.

But what is important is to understand that to prevent such scandals in the future it is not enough to force Facebook to better monitor the use of users' data in order to prevent such leaks as in the case of Cambridge Analytica. The current social mobilization against Facebook resembles the actions of activists who, in opposition to neoliberal globalization, smash a McDonald's window during a demonstration.

What we need is a total redefinition of the right to privacy (which was codified as a universal human right in 1948, long before the Internet), to guarantee its respect, both offline and online.

What we need is a body of international law that will provide regulations and oversight for the collection and use of data.

What is required is an explicit and concise formulation of terms and conditions which, in a few sentences, will specify how users' data will be used.

It is important to seize the opportunity presented by the Cambridge Analytica scandal to push for these more fundamental changes.



Arizona Slim , , March 24, 2018 at 7:38 am

I am grateful for my spidey sense. Thanks, spidey sense, for ringing the alarm bells whenever I saw one of those personality tests on Facebook. I never took one.

Steve H. , , March 24, 2018 at 8:05 am

First they came for

The most efficient strategy is to be non-viable . They may come for you eventually, but someone else gets to be the canary, and you haven't wasted energy in the meantime. TOR users didn't get that figured out.

Annieb , , March 24, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Never took the personality test either, but now I now that all of my friends who did unknowingly gave up my personal information too. I read an article somewhere about this over a year ago so it's really old news. Sent the link to a few people who didn't care. But now that they all know that Cambridge Analytical used FB data in support of the Trump campaign it's all over the mainstream and people are upset.

ChrisPacific , , March 25, 2018 at 4:07 pm

You can disable that (i.e., prevent friends from sharing your info with third parties) in the privacy options. But the controls are not easy to find and everything is enabled by default.

HotFlash , , March 24, 2018 at 3:13 pm

I haven't FB'd in years and certainly never took any such test, but if any of my friends, real or FB, did, and my info was shared, can I sue? If not, why not?

Octopii , , March 24, 2018 at 8:06 am

Everyone thought I was paranoid as I discouraged them from moving backups to the cloud, using trackers, signing up for grocery store clubs, using real names and addresses for online anything, etc. They thought I was overreacting when I said we need European-style privacy laws in this country. People at work thought my questions about privacy for our new location-based IoT plans were not team-based thinking.

And it turns out after all this that they still think I'm extreme. I guess it will have to get worse.

Samuel Conner , , March 24, 2018 at 8:16 am

In a first for me, there are surface-mount resistors in the advert at the top of today's NC links page. That is way out of the ordinary; what I usually see are books or bicycle parts; things I have recently purchased or searched.

But a couple of days ago I had a SKYPE conversation with a sibling about a PC I was scavenging for parts, and surface mount resistors (unscavengable) came up. I suspect I have been observed without my consent and am not too happy about it. As marketing, it's a bust; in the conversation I explicitly expressed no interest in such components as I can't install them. I suppose I should be glad for this indication of something I wasn't aware was happening.

Collins , , March 24, 2018 at 9:14 am

Had you used your computer keyboard previously to search for 'surface mount resistors', or was the trail linking you & resistors entirely verbal?

Samuel Conner , , March 24, 2018 at 10:15 am

No keyboard search. I never so much as think about surface mount components; the inquiry was raised by my sibling and I responded. Maybe its coincidental, but it seems quite odd.

I decided to click through to the site to generate a few pennies for NC and at least feel like I was punishing someone for snooping on me.

Abi , , March 25, 2018 at 3:24 pm

Its been happening to me a lot recently on my Instagram, I don't like pictures or anything, but whenever I have a conversation with someone on my phone, I start seeing ads of what I spoke about

ChiGal in Carolina , , March 25, 2018 at 10:12 am

I thought it came out a while ago that Skype captures and retains all the dialogue and video of convos using it.

Eureka Springs , , March 24, 2018 at 8:44 am

What we need is a total redefinition of the right to privacy (which was codified as a universal human right in 1948, long before the Internet), to guarantee its respect, both offline and online.

Are we, readers of this post, or citizens of the USA supposed to think there is anything binding in declarations? Or anything from the UN if at all inconvenient for that matter?

https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Platforms like facebook allow individuals to 'spy' on each other and people love it. When I was a kid i always marveled at how some households would leave a police scanner on 24/7. With the net we have this writ large with baby, puppy and tv dinner photos. Not to forget it's a narcissist paradise. I have friends who I've tried to gently over time inject tidbits of info like this article provides for many years and they still just refuse to try and get it. If they looked over their shoulder and saw how many people/entities are literally following them everywhere they go, they would become rabid gun owners (don't tread on me!) overnight, but the invisible hand/eye registers not at all.

Pelham , , March 24, 2018 at 9:13 am

A side note: If Facebook and other social media were to assume ANY degree of responsibility for content appearing on their platforms, they would be acknowledging their legal liability for ALL content.

Hence they would be legally responsible just as newspapers are. And major newspapers have on-staff lawyers and editors exquisitely attuned to the possibility of libelous content so they can avoid ruinous lawsuits.

If the law were applied as it should be, Facebook and its brethren wouldn't last five minutes before being sued into oblivion.

albert , , March 24, 2018 at 6:27 pm

" being sued into oblivion ." If only.

Non-liability is a product of the computer age. I remember having to agree with Microsofts policy to absolve them of -any- liability when using their software. If they had their druthers, -no- company would be liable for -anything-. It's called a 'perfect world'.

Companies that host 'social media' should not have to bear any responsibility for their users content. Newspapers employ writers and fact checkers. They are set up to monitor their staff for accuracy (Okay, in theory). So you can sue them and even their journalist employees. Being liable (and not sued) allows them to brag about how truthful they are. Reputations are a valuable commodity these days.

In the case of 'social media' providers, liability falls on the authors of their own comments, which is only fair, in my view. However, I would argue that those 'providers' should -not- be considered 'media' like newspapers, and their members should not be considered 'journalists'.

Also, those providers are private companies, and are free to edit, censor, or delete anything on their site. And of course it's automated. Some conservative Facebook members were complaining about being banned. Apparently, there a certain things you can't say on Facebook.

AFAIC, the bottom line is this: Many folks tend to believe everything they read online. They need to learn the skill of critical thinking. And realize that the Internet can be a vast wasteland; a digital garbage dump.

Why are our leaders so concerned with election meddling? Isn't our propaganda better than the Russians? We certainly pay a lot for it.
. .. . .. -- .

PlutoniumKun , , March 24, 2018 at 9:52 am

It seems even Elon Musk is now rebelling against Facebook.

Musk Takes Down the Tesla and SpaceX Facebook Pages.

Today, Musk also made fun of Sonos for not being as committed as he was to the anti-Facebook cause after the connected-speaker maker said it would pull ads from the platform -- but only for a week.

"Wow, a whole week. Risky " Musk tweeted.

saurabh , , March 24, 2018 at 11:43 am

Musk, like Trump, knows he does not need to advertise because a fawning press will dutifully report on everything he does and says, no matter how dumb.

Jim Thomson , , March 25, 2018 at 9:39 am

This is rich.

I can't resist: It takes a con to know a con.
(not the most insightful comment)

Daniel Mongan , , March 24, 2018 at 10:14 am

A thoughtful post, thanks for that. May I recommend you take a look at "All You Can Pay" (NationBooks 2015) for a more thorough treatment of the subject, together with a proposal on how to re-balance the equation. Full disclosure, I am a co-author.

JimTan , , March 24, 2018 at 11:12 am

People are starting to download copies of their Facebook data to get an understanding of how much information is being collected from them.

JCC , , March 24, 2018 at 11:29 am

A reminder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRT9On7qie8

I saw this video back in 2007. It was originally put together by a Sarah Lawrence student who was working on her paper on social media. The ties of all the original investors to IN-Q-Tel scared me off and I decided to stay away from Facebook.

But it isn't just FB. Amazon, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, Apple, Microsoft and many others do the same, and we are all caught up in it whether we agree to participate or not.

Anyone watch the NCAA Finals and see all the ads from Google about being "The Official Cloud of the NCAA"? They were flat out bragging, more or less, about surveillance of players. for the NCAA.

Platform Capitalism is a mild description, it is manipulation based on Surveillance Capitalism, pure and simple. The Macro pattern of Corporate Power subsuming the State across every area is fascinating to watch, but a little scary.

oh , , March 24, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Caveat Emptor: If you watch YouTube, they'll only add to the information that they already have on you!

HotFlash , , March 24, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Just substitute "hook" for 'you" in the URL, you get the same video, no ads, and they claim not to track you. YMMV

Craig H. , , March 24, 2018 at 12:21 pm

Privacy no longer a social norm, says Facebook founder; Guardian; 10 January 2010

The Right to Privacy; Warren & Brandeis; Harvard Law Review; 15 December 1890

It was amusing that the top Google hit for the Brandeis article was JSTOR which requires us to surrender personal detail to access their site. To hell with that.

The part I like about the Brandeis privacy story is the motivation was some Manhattan rich dicks thought the gossip writers snooping around their wedding party should mind their own business. (Apparently whether this is actually true or just some story made up by somebody being catty at Brandeis has been the topic of gigabytes of internet flame wars but I can't ever recall seeing any of those.)

Ed , , March 24, 2018 at 2:50 pm

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-03-23/digital-military-industrial-complex-exposed

" Two young psychologists are central to the Cambridge Analytica story. One is Michal Kosinski, who devised an app with a Cambridge University colleague, David Stillwell, that measures personality traits by analyzing Facebook "likes." It was then used in collaboration with the World Well-Being Project, a group at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center that specializes in the use of big data to measure health and happiness in order to improve well-being. The other is Aleksandr Kogan, who also works in the field of positive psychology and has written papers on happiness, kindness, and love (according to his résumé, an early paper was called "Down the Rabbit Hole: A Unified Theory of Love"). He ran the Prosociality and Well-being Laboratory, under the auspices of Cambridge University's Well-Being Institute.

Despite its prominence in research on well-being, Kosinski's work, Cadwalladr points out, drew a great deal of interest from British and American intelligence agencies and defense contractors, including overtures from the private company running an intelligence project nicknamed "Operation KitKat" because a correlation had been found between anti-Israeli sentiments and liking Nikes and KitKats. Several of Kosinski's co-authored papers list the US government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, as a funding source. His résumé boasts of meetings with senior figures at two of the world's largest defense contractors, Boeing and Microsoft, both companies that have sponsored his research. He ran a workshop on digital footprints and psychological assessment for the Singaporean Ministry of Defense.

For his part, Aleksandr Kogan established a company, Global Science Research, that contracted with SCL, using Facebook data to map personality traits for its work in elections (Kosinski claims that Kogan essentially reverse-engineered the app that he and Stillwell had developed). Kogan's app harvested data on Facebook users who agreed to take a personality test for the purposes of academic research (though it was, in fact, to be used by SCL for non-academic ends). But according to Wylie, the app also collected data on their entire -- and nonconsenting -- network of friends. Once Cambridge Analytica and SCL had won contracts with the State Department and were pitching to the Pentagon, Wylie became alarmed that this illegally-obtained data had ended up at the heart of government, along with the contractors who might abuse it.

This apparently bizarre intersection of research on topics like love and kindness with defense and intelligence interests is not, in fact, particularly unusual. It is typical of the kind of dual-use research that has shaped the field of social psychology in the US since World War II.

Much of the classic, foundational research on personality, conformity, obedience, group polarization, and other such determinants of social dynamics -- while ostensibly civilian -- was funded during the cold war by the military and the CIA. The cold war was an ideological battle, so, naturally, research on techniques for controlling belief was considered a national security priority. This psychological research laid the groundwork for propaganda wars and for experiments in individual "mind control."

The pioneering figures from this era -- for example, Gordon Allport on personality and Solomon Asch on belief conformity -- are still cited in NATO psy-ops literature to this day .."

Craig H. , , March 24, 2018 at 3:42 pm

This is an issue which has frustrated me greatly. In spite of the fact that the country's leading psychologist (at the very least one of them -- ex-APA president Seligman) has been documented taking consulting fees from Guantanamo and Black Sites goon squads, my social science pals refuse to recognize any corruption at the core of their so-called replicated quantitative research.

I have asked more than five people to point at the best critical work on the Big 5 Personality theory and they all have told me some variant of "it is the only way to get consistent numbers". Not one has ever retreated one step or been receptive to the suggestion that this might indicate some fallacy in trying to assign numbers to these properties.

They eat their own dog food all the way and they seem to be suffering from a terrible malnutrition. At least the anthropologists have Price . (Most of that book can be read for free in installments at Counterpunch.)

[Mar 14, 2018] Washington policies as the result of a monumental unconscious group-think based on individual self interest

Individual are highly rewarded i f they "accept the party-line" that masquerades as US interests".
Rebels, individual thinkers tend to get fired, not promoted, snubbed
Notable quotes:
"... The individuals who work in our State Dept., CIA, DOD, corporate defense contractors, lobbyists, politicians, media......these individuals appear to benefit on an indivdual level (promotions, high paying jobs, social acceptance, nice neighborhoods and schools for their kids) when they "accept the party-line" that masquerades as US interests". ..."
Mar 14, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com

walter, March 2018 at 03:03 PM

Jack, in my opinion, there is no "US". The "US" doesn't have an interest.

There are individuals who behave in their own individual self interest.

The individuals who work in our State Dept., CIA, DOD, corporate defense contractors, lobbyists, politicians, media......these individuals appear to benefit on an indivdual level (promotions, high paying jobs, social acceptance, nice neighborhoods and schools for their kids) when they "accept the party-line" that masquerades as US interests".

Its a monumental unconscious group-think based on individual self interest.

This is my understanding of "the Borg" and "US interests", "US foreign policy goals"....they are actually individual interests shaped by what individuals who work in this realm believe they should believe and espouse to achieve their own goals. Rebels, individual thinkers tend to get fired, not promoted, snubbed

[Feb 11, 2018] Social psychologists have long talked about how emotional manipulation can work effectively to snooker a large percentage of the population, to get them, at least temporarily, to believe the exact opposite of the facts

Notable quotes:
"... These techniques are known in the intelligence community as "perception management," and have been refined since the 1980s "to keep the American people compliant and confused," as the late Robert Parry has reported . ..."
"... Population in the country was very poorly informed any how. And now, they, The Ruling Establishment which includes Media, have completely messed the people up -- making them compliant and confused. ..."
"... Does any body have idea how they are going to bring an end to this completely concocted bizarre drama? ..."
Feb 09, 2018 | consortiumnews.com

Originally from: 'This is Nuts' Liberals Launch 'Largest Mobilization in History' in Defense of Russiagate Probe – Consortiumnews By Coleen Rowley and Nat Parry

... ... ...

Social psychologists have long talked about how emotional manipulation can work effectively to snooker a large percentage of the population, to get them, at least temporarily, to believe the exact opposite of the facts.

These techniques are known in the intelligence community as "perception management," and have been refined since the 1980s "to keep the American people compliant and confused," as the late Robert Parry has reported .

We saw this in action last decade, when after months of disinformation, about 70% of Americans came to falsely believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 when the truth was the opposite – Saddam was actually an enemy of the Al Qaeda perpetrators.

... ... ...

Coleen Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI's pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine's "Persons of the Year" in 2002.

Nat Parry is co-author of Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush . weilunion , February 9, 2018 at 5:35 pm

"Social psychologists have long talked about how emotional manipulation can work effectively to snooker a large percentage of the population, to get them, at least temporarily, to believe the exact opposite of the facts. These techniques are known in the intelligence community as "perception management," and have been refined since the 1980s "to keep the American people compliant and confused," as the late Robert Parry has reported. We saw this in action last decade, when after months of disinformation, about 70% of Americans came to falsely believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 when the truth was the opposite -- Saddam was actually an enemy of the Al Qaeda perpetrators."

Cognitive dissonance, lack of critical thinking, reliance on authority, in this case a former head of a criminal organization called the FBI.

People have no class consciousness. They have no idea who their enemies ar or how to organize.

This is the sad case of liberalism melting like warm butter while the fascists congeal.

Joe Tedesky , February 9, 2018 at 7:27 pm

Nicely put.

Dave P. , February 10, 2018 at 2:51 am

"Social psychologists have long talked about how emotional manipulation can work effectively to snooker a large percentage of the population, to get them, at least temporarily, to believe the exact opposite of the facts. . ."

Yes. On any bar counter, just start some conversation with the person sitting to you. With all this bizarre drama -- Russia-Gate, Iran, memos, dossier . . . going on TV, and in Washington being enacted knowingly by the the Powers who rule -- both, so called Liberals and Conservatives -- one can see how this emotional manipulation has worked to snooker just about most of the population. I just had the experience today during lunch at a bar counter. In our conversation, the person sitting next to me was ready to nuke Iran, N. Korea, and go after Russia; and go after Hillary too.

Population in the country was very poorly informed any how. And now, they, The Ruling Establishment which includes Media, have completely messed the people up -- making them compliant and confused.

Does any body have idea how they are going to bring an end to this completely concocted bizarre drama?

[Feb 10, 2018] The generals are not Borgists. They are something worse ...

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... The post WW2 promotion process in the armed forces has produced a group at the top with a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively. ..."
"... These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board." ..."
"... If asked at the top, where military command and political interaction intersect, what policy should be they always ask for more money and to be allowed to pursue outcomes that they can understand as victory and self fulfilling with regard to their collective self image as warrior chieftains. ..."
"... In Trump's time his essential disinterest in foreign policy has led to a massive delegation of authority to Mattis and the leadership of the empire's forces. Their reaction to that is to look at their dimwitted guidance from on high (defeat IS, depose Assad and the SAG, triumph in Afghanistan) and to seek to impose their considerable available force to seek accomplishment as they see fit of this guidance in the absence of the kind of restrictions that Obama placed on them. ..."
"... Like the brass, I, too, am a graduate of all those service schools that attend success from the Basic Course to the Army War College. I will tell you again that the people at the top are not good at "the vision thing." They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers ..."
"... Academia reinforces the groupthink. The mavericks are shunned or ostracized. The only ones I have seen with some degree of going against the grain are technology entrepreneurs. ..."
"... "They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I have found this to be the case with 80 to 90% of most professions. A good memory and able to perform meticulously what they have been taught, but little thinking outside that narrow box. Often annoying, but very dangerous in this case. ..."
"... Since Afghanistan and the brass were mentioned in the editorial statement, here is an immodest question -- Where the brass have been while the opium production has been risen dramatically in Afghanistan under the US occupation? "Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan" by Paul Craig Roberts: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/02/06/heroin-addiction-america-spearheaded-us-led-war-afghanistan/ ..."
"... A simple Q: What has been the role of the CENTCOM re the racket? Who has arranged the protection for the opium production and for drug dealers? Roberts suggests that the production of opium in Afghanistan "finances the black operations of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies." -- All while Awan brothers, Alperovitch and such tinker with the US national security? ..."
"... God help the poor people of Syria. ..."
"... thanks pat... it seems like the usa has had a steady group of leaders that have no interest in the world outside of the usa, or only in so far as they can exploit it for their own interest... maybe that sums up the foreign policy of the usa at this point... you say trump is disinterested.. so all the blather from trump about 'why are we even in syria?', or 'why can't we be friends with the russia?' is just smoke up everyone's ass... ..."
"... Predictably there is always someone who says that this group is not different from all others. Unfortunately the military function demands more than the level of mediocrity found in most groups ..."
"... A lot of technology entrepreneurs--especially those active today--are stuck in their own groupthink, inflated by their sense that they are born for greatness and can do no wrong. ..."
"... The kind of grand schemes that the top people at Google, Uber, and Facebook think up to remake the universe in their own idea of "good society" are frightening. That they are cleverer (but not necessarily wiser) than the academics, borgists, or generals, I think, makes them even more dangerous. ..."
"... They [the generals] seem to have deliberately completely ignored the issues and policy positions Trump ran on as President. It isn't a case of ignorance but of wilful disregard. ..."
"... So true and as others commented this is a sad feature of the human race and all human organizations. Herd mentality ties into social learning ..."
"... Our massive cultural heritages are learned by observing and taken in as a whole. This process works within organizations as well. ..."
"... I suspect a small percentage of the human race functions differently than the majority and retains creative thinking and openness along with more emphasis on cognitive thinking than social learning but generally they always face a battle when working to change the group "consensus", i.e. Fulton's folly, scepticism on whether man would ever fly, etc. ..."
"... This is an interesting discussion. The top in organisations (civil and military) are increasingly technocrats and thinking like systems managers. They are unable to innovate because they lack the ability to think out of the box. Usually there is a leader who depends on specialists. Others (including laymen) are often excluding from the decision-making-proces. John Ralston Saul's Voltaires Bastards describes this very well. ..."
"... Because of natural selection (conformist people tend to choose similar people who resemble their own values and ways-of-thinking) organizations have a tendency to become homogeneous (especially the higher management/ranks). ..."
"... In combination with the "dumbing" of people (also of people who have a so-called good education (as described in Richard Sale's Sterile Chit-Chat ) this is a disastrous mix. ..."
"... That's true not only of the US military but of US elites in general across all of the spectra. And because that reality is at odds with the group-think of those within the various elements that make up the spectra it doesn't a hearing. Anyone who tries to bring it up risks being ejected from the group. ..."
"... "The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country. This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011." https://goo.gl/8pj5cD ..."
"... "They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I've often pondered that concept. Notice how many of radical extremist leaders were doctors, engineers and such? Narrow and deep. ..."
"... Long ago when I was a professor, I advised my students that "the law is like a pencil sharpener, it sharpens the mind by narrowing it." I tried to encourage them to "think backwards". ..."
"... Col, I think it might help people to think of "the Borg" - as you have defined & applied it - in a broader context. It struck me particularly as you ID'd the launching of our modern military group-think / careerism behavior coming from the watershed of industrialized scale & processes that came out of WWII. ..."
"... We note parallel themes in all significant sectors of our civilization. The ever-expanding security state, the many men in Gray Flannel Suits that inhabit corporate culture, Finance & Banking & Big Health scaling ever larger - all processes aimed to slice the salami thinner & quicker, to the point where meat is moot ... and so it goes. ..."
"... I just finished reading Command & Control (about nuclear weapons policy, systems design & accidents). I am amazed we've made it this far. ..."
Feb 10, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com

(Editorial Statement)

The Borgist foreign policy of the administration has little to do with the generals. To comprehend the generals one must understand their collective mentality and the process that raised them on high as a collective of their own. The post WW2 promotion process in the armed forces has produced a group at the top with a mentality that typically thinks rigorously but not imaginatively or creatively.

These men got to their present ranks and positions by being conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board."

If asked at the top, where military command and political interaction intersect, what policy should be they always ask for more money and to be allowed to pursue outcomes that they can understand as victory and self fulfilling with regard to their collective self image as warrior chieftains.

In Obama's time they were asked what policy should be in Afghanistan and persuaded him to reinforce their dreams in Afghanistan no matter how unlikely it always was that a unified Western oriented nation could be made out of a collection of disparate mutually alien peoples.

In Trump's time his essential disinterest in foreign policy has led to a massive delegation of authority to Mattis and the leadership of the empire's forces. Their reaction to that is to look at their dimwitted guidance from on high (defeat IS, depose Assad and the SAG, triumph in Afghanistan) and to seek to impose their considerable available force to seek accomplishment as they see fit of this guidance in the absence of the kind of restrictions that Obama placed on them.

Like the brass, I, too, am a graduate of all those service schools that attend success from the Basic Course to the Army War College. I will tell you again that the people at the top are not good at "the vision thing." They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers. pl


Jack , 09 February 2018 at 05:42 PM

Sir

IMO, this conformism pervades all institutions. I saw when I worked in banking and finance many moons ago how moving up the ranks in any large organization meant you didn't rock the boat and you conformed to the prevailing groupthink. Even nutty ideas became respectable because they were expedient.

Academia reinforces the groupthink. The mavericks are shunned or ostracized. The only ones I have seen with some degree of going against the grain are technology entrepreneurs.

Fredw , 09 February 2018 at 06:26 PM
You remind me of an old rumination by Thomas Ricks:

Take the example of General George Casey. According to David Cloud and Greg Jaffe's book Four Stars, General Casey, upon learning of his assignment to command U.S. forces in Iraq, received a book from the Army Chief of Staff. The book Counterinsurgency Lessons Learned from Malaya and Vietnam was the first book he ever read about guerilla warfare." This is a damning indictment of the degree of mental preparation for combat by a general. The Army's reward for such lack of preparation: two more four star assignments.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/02/07/cmon-man-meathead-generals-and-some-other-things-that-are-driving-me-crazy-about-life-in-this-mans-post-911-army/

Peter AU , 09 February 2018 at 06:37 PM
"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I have found this to be the case with 80 to 90% of most professions. A good memory and able to perform meticulously what they have been taught, but little thinking outside that narrow box. Often annoying, but very dangerous in this case.
Anna , 09 February 2018 at 06:48 PM
Since Afghanistan and the brass were mentioned in the editorial statement, here is an immodest question -- Where the brass have been while the opium production has been risen dramatically in Afghanistan under the US occupation? "Heroin Addiction in America Spearheaded by the US-led War on Afghanistan" by Paul Craig Roberts: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/02/06/heroin-addiction-america-spearheaded-us-led-war-afghanistan/

" in 2000-2001 the Taliban government –with the support of the United Nations (UNODC) – implemented a successful ban on poppy cultivation. Opium production which is used to produce grade 4 heroin and its derivatives declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. The production of opium in 2001 was of the order of a meager 185 tons. It is worth noting that the UNODC congratulated the Taliban Government for its successful opium eradication program. The Taliban government had contributed to literally destabilizing the multibillion dollar Worldwide trade in heroin.

In 2017, the production of opium in Afghanistan under US military occupation reached 9000 metric tons. The production of opium in Afghanistan registered a 49 fold increase since Washington's invasion. Afghanistan under US military occupation produces approximately 90% of the World's illegal supply of opium which is used to produce heroin. Who owns the airplanes and ships that transport heroin from Afghanistan to the US? Who gets the profits?"

---A simple Q: What has been the role of the CENTCOM re the racket? Who has arranged the protection for the opium production and for drug dealers? Roberts suggests that the production of opium in Afghanistan "finances the black operations of the CIA and Western intelligence agencies." -- All while Awan brothers, Alperovitch and such tinker with the US national security?

J , 09 February 2018 at 07:05 PM
Colonel,

There needs to be a 're-education' of the top, all of them need to be required to attend Green Beret think-school, in other words they need to be forced to think outside the box, and to to think on their feet. They need to understand fluid situations where things change at the drop of a hat, be able to dance the two-step and waltz at the same time. In other words they need to be able to walk and chew gum and not trip over their shoe-laces.

By no means are they stupid, but you hit the nail on the head when you said 'narrow thinkers'. Their collective hive mentality that has developed is not a good thing.

divadab , 09 February 2018 at 07:16 PM
God help the poor people of Syria.
james , 09 February 2018 at 07:30 PM
thanks pat... it seems like the usa has had a steady group of leaders that have no interest in the world outside of the usa, or only in so far as they can exploit it for their own interest... maybe that sums up the foreign policy of the usa at this point... you say trump is disinterested.. so all the blather from trump about 'why are we even in syria?', or 'why can't we be friends with the russia?' is just smoke up everyone's ass...

i like what you said here "conformist group thinkers who do not stray outside the "box" of their guidance from on high. They actually have scheduled conference calls among themselves to make sure everyone is "on board." - that strikes me as very true - conformist group thinkers... the world needs less of these types and more actual leaders who have a vision for something out of the box and not always on board... i thought for a while trump might fill this bill, but no such luck by the looks of it now..

David E. Solomon , 09 February 2018 at 07:50 PM
Colonel Lang,

Your description of these guys sounds like what we have heard about Soviet era planners. Am I correct in my understanding, or am I missing something?

Regards,

David

DianaLC , 09 February 2018 at 07:56 PM
As a young person in eighth grade, I learned about the "domino theory" in regard to attempts to slow the spread of communism. Then my generation was, in a sense, fractured around the raging battles for and against our involvement in Vietnam.

I won't express my own opinion on that. But I mention it because it seems to be a type of "vision thing."

So, now I ask, what would be your vision for the Syrian situation?

Bill Herschel , 09 February 2018 at 09:11 PM
This has been going on for a long time has it not? Westmoreland? MacArthur?

How did this happen?

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:40 PM
Bill Herschel

Westmoreland certainly, Macarthur certainly not. This all started with the "industrialization" of the armed forces in WW2. we never recovered the sense of profession as opposed to occupation after the massive expansion and retention of so many placeholders. a whole new race of Walmart manager arose and persists. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:48 PM
DianaC

The idea of the Domino Theory came from academia, not the generals of that time. They resisted the idea of a war in east Asia until simply ordered into it by LBJ. After that their instinct for acting according to guidance kicked in and they became committed to the task. Syria? Do you think I should write you an essay on that? SST has a large archive and a search machine. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 09:55 PM
David E. Solomon

I am talking about flag officers at present, not those beneath them from the mass of whom they emerge. There are exceptions. Martin Dempsey may have been one such. The system creates such people at the top. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:08 PM
elaine,

Your usual animosity for non-left wing authority is showing. A commander like the CENTCOM theater commander (look it up) operates within guidance from Washington, broad guidance. Normally this is the president's guidance as developed in the NSC process. Some presidents like Obama and LBJ intervene selectively and directly in the execution of that guidance. Obama had a "kill list" of jihadis suggested by the IC and condemned by him to die in the GWOT. He approved individual missions against them. LBJ picked individual air targets in NVN. Commanders in the field do not like that . They think that freedom of action within their guidance should be accorded them. This CinC has not been interested thus far in the details and have given the whole military chain of command wide discretion to carry out their guidance. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:12 PM
J

Thank you, but it is real GBs that you like, not the Delta and SEAL door kickers. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:24 PM
Gaikomainaku

"I am not sure that I understand what makes a Borgist different from a military conformist." The Borg and the military leaders are not of the same tribe. they are two different collectives who in the main dislike and distrust each other. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:27 PM
Anna. Their guidance does not include a high priority for eradicating the opium trade. Their guidance has to do with defeating the jihadis and building up the central government. pl
turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:30 PM
Peter AU

Predictably there is always someone who says that this group is not different from all others. Unfortunately the military function demands more than the level of mediocrity found in most groups. pl

turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 10:44 PM
james

Trump would like to better relations with Russia but that is pretty much the limit of his attention to foreign affairs at any level more sophisticated than expecting deference. He is firmly focused on the economy and base solidifying issues like immigration. pl

Peter AU , 09 February 2018 at 11:01 PM
The medical profession comes to mind. GP's and specialists. Many of those working at the leading edge of research seem much wider thinking and are not locked into the small box of what they have been taught.
turcopolier , 09 February 2018 at 11:16 PM
Peter AU

The GPs do not rule over a hierarchy of doctors. pl

J -> turcopolier ... , 09 February 2018 at 11:22 PM
Combat Applications Group and SEALS don't even begin to compare, they're not in the same league as 'real deal' GBs. The GBs are thinkers as well as doers, whereas Combat Applications Group and SEALs all they know is breach and clear, breach and clear.

There is more to life than breach and clear. Having worked with all in one manner or another, I'll take GBs any day hands down. It makes a difference when the brain is engaged instead of just the heel.

kao_hsien_chih -> Jack... , 09 February 2018 at 11:22 PM
A lot of technology entrepreneurs--especially those active today--are stuck in their own groupthink, inflated by their sense that they are born for greatness and can do no wrong.

The kind of grand schemes that the top people at Google, Uber, and Facebook think up to remake the universe in their own idea of "good society" are frightening. That they are cleverer (but not necessarily wiser) than the academics, borgists, or generals, I think, makes them even more dangerous.

FB Ali , 09 February 2018 at 11:23 PM
Col Lang,

They are indeed "narrow thinkers", but I think the problem runs deeper. They seem to be stuck in the rut of a past era. When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can't seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now.

Of course, these policies ensure that they continue to be well-funded, even if the US is bankrupting itself in the process.

turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 01:03 AM
dogear

He is still the Saudi Mukhtar for the US and most of the generals are still narrow minded. pl

LondonBob , 10 February 2018 at 06:59 AM
They [the generals] seem to have deliberately completely ignored the issues and policy positions Trump ran on as President. It isn't a case of ignorance but of wilful disregard.
turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 07:55 AM
LondonBob

I think that is true but, they were able to talk him into that, thus far. pl

DianaLC said in reply to turcopolier ... , 10 February 2018 at 09:23 AM
I've been reading this blog for some time. My question was facetious and written with the understanding of your statement about the generals not having a good grasp of "the vision thing" on their own.
Terry , 10 February 2018 at 09:25 AM
So true and as others commented this is a sad feature of the human race and all human organizations. Herd mentality ties into social learning. Chimps are on average more creative and have better short term memory than humans. We gave up some short term memory in order to be able to learn quickly by mimicking. If shown how to open a puzzle box but also shown unnecessary extra steps a chimp will ignore the empty steps and open the box with only the required steps. A human will copy what they saw exactly performing the extra steps as if they have some unknown value to the process. Our massive cultural heritages are learned by observing and taken in as a whole. This process works within organizations as well.

I suspect a small percentage of the human race functions differently than the majority and retains creative thinking and openness along with more emphasis on cognitive thinking than social learning but generally they always face a battle when working to change the group "consensus", i.e. Fulton's folly, scepticism on whether man would ever fly, etc.

One nice feature of the internet allows creative thinkers to connect and watch the idiocy of the world unfold around us.

"A natural desire to be part of the 'in crowd' could damage our ability to make the right decisions, a new study has shown."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141216212049.htm

TV , 10 February 2018 at 10:18 AM
The military by definition is a rigid hierarchical structure. It could not function as a collection of individuals. This society can only breed conforming narrow leaders as an "individual" would leave or be forced out.
Barbara Ann , 10 February 2018 at 10:22 AM
That part of our brain responsible for the desire to be part of the 'in crowd' may affect our decision-making process, but it is also the reason we keep chimps in zoos and not the other way around. Or, to put it another way; if chimps had invented Facebook, I might consider them more creative than us.
Babak Makkinejad -> Terry... , 10 February 2018 at 10:30 AM
Do you think chimps are, per the Christian Docrine, in a State of Fall or in a State of Grace?
Adrestia , 10 February 2018 at 10:32 AM
This is an interesting discussion. The top in organisations (civil and military) are increasingly technocrats and thinking like systems managers. They are unable to innovate because they lack the ability to think out of the box. Usually there is a leader who depends on specialists. Others (including laymen) are often excluding from the decision-making-proces. John Ralston Saul's Voltaires Bastards describes this very well.

Because of natural selection (conformist people tend to choose similar people who resemble their own values and ways-of-thinking) organizations have a tendency to become homogeneous (especially the higher management/ranks).

In combination with the "dumbing" of people (also of people who have a so-called good education (as described in Richard Sale's Sterile Chit-Chat ) this is a disastrous mix.

Homogeneity is the main culprit. A specialists tends to try to solve problems with the same knowledge-set that created these.

Not all (parts of) organizations and people suffer this fate. Innovations are usually done by laymen and not by specialists. The organizations are often heterogeneous and the people a-typical and/or eccentric.

(mainly the analytical parts of ) intelligence organizations and investment banks are like that if they are worth anything. Very heterogeneous with a lot of a-typical people. I think Green Berets are also like that. An open mind and genuine interest in others (cultures, way of thinking, religion etc) is essential to understand and to perform and also to prevent costly mistakes (in silver and/or blood).

It is possible to create firewalls against tunnel-vision. The Jester performed such a role. Also think of the Emperors New Clothes . The current trend of people with limited vision and creativity prevents this. Criticism is punished with a lack of promotion, job-loss or even jail (whistle-blowers)

IMO this is why up to a certain rank (colonel or middle management) a certain amount of creativity or alternative thinking is allowed, but conformity is essential to rise higher.

I was very interested in the Colonel's remark on the foreign background of the GB in Vietnam. If you would like to expand on this I would be much obliged? IMO GB are an example of a smart, learning, organization (in deed and not only in word as so many say of themselves, but who usually are at best mediocre)

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg -> gaikokumaniakku... , 10 February 2018 at 11:58 AM
Isn't the "Borg" really The Atlantic Council?
ISL , 10 February 2018 at 12:58 PM
Dear Colonel,

Would you then say that a rising military officer who does have the vision thing faces career impediments? If so, would you say that the vision thing is lost (if it ever was there) at the highest ranks? In any case, the existence of even a few at the top, like Matthis or Shinseki is a blessing.

ex-PFC Chuck said in reply to FB Ali ... , 10 February 2018 at 01:08 PM
FB Ali:
"When the US was indeed the paramount military power on the globe, and the US military reigned supreme. They can't seem to accept the reality of the world as it is now."
That's true not only of the US military but of US elites in general across all of the spectra. And because that reality is at odds with the group-think of those within the various elements that make up the spectra it doesn't a hearing. Anyone who tries to bring it up risks being ejected from the group.
Adrestia , 10 February 2018 at 02:03 PM
I forget an important part. I really miss an edit-button. Comment-boxes are like looking at something through a straw. Its easy to miss the overview.

Innovations and significant new developments are usually made by laymen. IMO mainly because they have a fresh perspective without being bothered by the (mainstream) knowledge that dominates an area of expertise.

By excluding the laymen errors will continue to be repeated. This can be avoided by using development/decision-making frameworks, but these tend to become dogma (and thus become part of the problem)

Much better is allowing laymen and allowing a-typical people. Then listen to them carefully. Less rigid flexible and very valuable.

kooshy , 10 February 2018 at 02:19 PM
Apparently, according to the last US ambassador to Syria Mr. Ford, from 2014-17 US has spent 12 Billion on Regime change in Syria. IMO, combinedly Iran and Russia so far, have spent far less in Syria than 12 billion by US alone, not considering the rest of her so called coalition. This is a war of attrition, and US operations in wars, are usually far more expensive and longer than anybody else's.

"The United States spent at least $12 billion in Syria-related military and civilian expenses in the four years from 2014 through 2017, according to the former U.S. ambassador to the country. This $12 billion is in addition to the billions more spent to pursue regime change in Syria in the previous three years, after war broke out in 2011." https://goo.gl/8pj5cD

J , 10 February 2018 at 02:49 PM
Colonel, TTG, PT,

FYI regarding Syria

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/sen-tim-kaine-demands-release-secret-trump-war-powers-memo-n846176

Richardstevenhack -> turcopolier ... , 10 February 2018 at 02:56 PM
It may "demand" it - but does it get it? Soldiers are just as human as everyone else.

I'm reminded of the staff sergeant with the sagging beer belly who informed me, "Stand up straight and look like a soldier..." Or the First Sergeant who was so hung over one morning at inspection that he couldn't remember which direction he was going down the hall to the next room to be inspected. I'm sure you have your own stories of less than competence.

It's a question of intelligence and imagination. And frankly, I don't see the military in any country receiving the "best and brightest" of that country's population, by definition. The fact that someone is patriotic enough to enter the military over a civilian occupation doesn't make them more intelligent or imaginative than the people who decided on the civilian occupation.

Granted, if you fail at accounting, you don't usually die. Death tends to focus the mind, as they say. Nonetheless, we're not talking about the grunts at the level who actually die, still less the relatively limited number of Special Forces. We're talking about the officers and staff at the levels who don't usually die in war - except maybe at their defeat - i.e., most officers over the level of captain.

One can hardly look at this officer crowd in the Pentagon and CENTCOM and say that their personal death concentrates their mind. They are in virtually no danger of that. Only career death faces them - with a nice transition to the board of General Dynamics at ten times the salary.

All in all, I'd have to agree that the military isn't much better at being competent - at many levels above the obvious group of hyper-trained Special Forces - any more than any other profession.

dogear said in reply to Terry... , 10 February 2018 at 02:59 PM
That is well put.most important is the grading system that is designed to fix a person to a particular slot thereby limiting his ability to think "outside the box" and consider the many variables that exist in one particular instant.

Creative thinking allows you to see beyond the storm clouds ahead and realize that the connectedness of different realities both the visible and invisible. For instance the picture of the 2 pairs of korean skaters in the news tells an interesting story on many levels. Some will judge them on their grade of proffiency, while others will see a dance of strategy between 2 foes and a few will know the results in advance and plan accordingly

https://www.google.com.au/amp/www.nbcolympics.com/news/north-south-korean-figure-skating-teams-practice-side-side%3famp?espv=1

Mark Logan said in reply to Peter AU... , 10 February 2018 at 03:30 PM
Peter AU

"They are not stupid at all but they are a collective of narrow thinkers." I've often pondered that concept. Notice how many of radical extremist leaders were doctors, engineers and such? Narrow and deep. STEM is enormously useful to us but seems to be a risky when implanted in shallow earth.

turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:03 PM
Mark Logan

These narrow "but deep" thinkers were unable to grasp the nature of the Iraq War for the first couple of years. They thought of it as a rear area security problem, a combat in cities problem, anything but a popular rebellion based on xenophobia and anti-colonialism The IED problem? They spent several billion dollars on trying to find a technology fix and never succeeded. I know because they kept asking me to explain the war to them and then could not understand the answers which were outside their narrow thought. pl

turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:13 PM
ISL

War College selectees, the national board selected creme de la creme test out as 50% SJs (conformists lacking vision) in Myers-Briggs terms and about 15% NTs (intellectuals). To survive and move upward in a system dominated by SJs, the NTs must pretend to be what they are not. A few succeed. I do not think Mattis is an intellectual merely because he has read a lot. pl

outthere , 10 February 2018 at 05:19 PM
Long ago when I was a professor, I advised my students that "the law is like a pencil sharpener, it sharpens the mind by narrowing it." I tried to encourage them to "think backwards".

My favorite example was a Japanese fisherman who recovered valuable ancient Chinese pottery. Everyone knew where an ancient ship had sunk, but the water was too deep to dive down to the wreck. And everyone knew the cargo included these valuable vases. And the fisherman was the first to figure out how to recover them. He attached a line to an octopus, and lowered it in the area, waited awhile, and pulled it up. Low and behold, the octopus had hidden in an ancient Chinese vase. The fisherman was familiar with trapping octopuses, by lowering a ceramic pot (called "takosubo") into the ocean, waiting awhile, then raising the vase with octopus inside. His brilliance was to think backwards, and use an octopus to catch a vase.

turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:24 PM
TV

By your calculation people like Joe Stilwell and George Patton should not have existed. pl

turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 05:31 PM
Adrestia

the original GBS were recruited in the 50s to serve in the OSS role with foreign guerrillas behind Soviet lines in th event of war in Europe. Aaron Bank, the founder, recruited several hundred experienced foreign soldiers from the likely countries who wanted to become American. By the time we were in VN these men were a small fraction of GBs but important for their expertise and professionalism. pl

ked , 10 February 2018 at 05:56 PM
Col, I think it might help people to think of "the Borg" - as you have defined & applied it - in a broader context. It struck me particularly as you ID'd the launching of our modern military group-think / careerism behavior coming from the watershed of industrialized scale & processes that came out of WWII.

We note parallel themes in all significant sectors of our civilization. The ever-expanding security state, the many men in Gray Flannel Suits that inhabit corporate culture, Finance & Banking & Big Health scaling ever larger - all processes aimed to slice the salami thinner & quicker, to the point where meat is moot ... and so it goes.

I note many Borgs... Borgism if you will. An organizational behavior that has emerged out of human nature having difficulty adapting to rapidly accelerating complexity that is just too hard to apprehend in a few generations. If (as many commenters on STT seem to...) one wishes to view this in an ideological or spiritual framework only, they may overlook an important truth - that what we are experiencing is a Battle Among Borgs for control over their own space & domination over the other Borgs. How else would we expect any competitive, powerful interest group to act?

In gov & industry these days, we observe some pretty wild outliers... attached to some wild outcomes. Thus the boring behavior of our political industries bringing forth Trump, our promethean technology sector yielding a Musk (& yes, a Zuckerberg).

I find it hard to take very seriously analysts that define their perspective based primarily upon their superior ideals & opposition to others. Isn't every person, every tribe, team or enterprise a borglet-in-becoming? Everybody Wants to Rule the World ... & Everybody Must Get Stoned... messages about how we are grappling with complexity in our times. I just finished reading Command & Control (about nuclear weapons policy, systems design & accidents). I am amazed we've made it this far.

Unfortunately, I would not be amazed if reckless, feckless leaders changed the status quo. I was particularly alarmed hearing Trump in his projection mode; "I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity, without a major event where people pull together, that's hard to do.

But I would like to do it without that major event because usually that major event is not a good thing." It strikes me that he could be exceptionally willing to risk a Major Event if he felt a form of unity, or self-preservation, was in the offing. I pray (& I do not pray often or easily) that the Generals you have described have enough heart & guts to honor their oath at its most profound level in the event of an Event.

turcopolier , 10 February 2018 at 06:00 PM
babak

As a time traveler from another age, I can only say that for me it means devotion to a set of mores peculiar to a particular profession as opposed to an occupation. pl

Barbara Ann -> outthere... , 10 February 2018 at 06:00 PM
Great example outthere.

Another springs to mind: James Lovelock (of Gaia hypothesis fame) was once part of the NASA team building the first probe to go to Mars to look for signs of life. Lovelock didn't make any friends when he told NASA they were wasting their time, there was none. When asked how he could be so sure, he explained that the composition of the Martian atmosphere made it impossible. "But Martian life may be able to survive under different conditions" was the retort. Lovelock then went on to explain his view that the evolution of microbial life determined the atmospheric composition on Earth, so should be expected to do the same if life had evolved on Mars. Brilliant backwards thinking which ought to have earned him the Nobel prize IMHO (for Gaia). Lovelock, a classic cross-disciplinary scientist, can't be rewarded with such a box-categorized honor, as his idea doesn't fit well into any one.

Another example of cross-disciplinary brilliance was Bitcoin, which has as much to do with its creator's deep knowledge of Anthropology (why people invented & use money) as his expertise in both Economics and Computer Science.

This is they key to creative thinking in my view - familiarity with different fields yields deeper insights.

[Dec 31, 2017] Brainwashing as a key component of the US social system by Paul Craig Roberts

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Whitehead documents how hard a not guilty verdict is to come by for an innocent defendant. Even if the falsely accused defendant and his attorney survive the prosecutor's pressure to negotiate a plea bargain and arrive at a trial, they are confronted with jurors who are unable to doubt prosecutors, police, or witnesses paid to lie against the innocent defendant. ..."
"... The question is: why do Americans not only sit silently while the lives of innocents are destroyed, but also actually support the destruction of the lives of innocents? Why do Americans believe "official sources" despite the proven fact that "official sources" lie repeatedly and never tell the truth? ..."
"... The only conclusion that one can come to is that the American people have failed. We have failed Justice. We have failed Mercy. We have failed the US Constitution. We have failed Truth. We have failed Democracy and representative government. We have failed ourselves and humanity. We have failed the confidence that our Founding Fathers put in us. We have failed God. If we ever had the character that we are told we had, we have obviously lost it. Little, if anything, remains of the "American character." ..."
"... The failure of the American character has had tremendous and disastrous consequences for ourselves and for the world. At home Americans have a police state in which all Constitutional protections have vanished. Abroad, Iraq and Libya, two formerly prosperous countries, have been destroyed. Libya no longer exists as a country. One million dead Iraqis, four million displaced abroad, hundreds of thousands of orphans and birth defects from the American ordnance, and continuing ongoing violence from factions fighting over the remains. These facts are incontestable. Yet the United States Government claims to have brought "freedom and democracy" to Iraq. "Mission accomplished," declared one of the mass murderers of the 21st century, George W. Bush. ..."
"... The question is: how can the US government make such an obviously false outrageous claim without being shouted down by the rest of the world and by its own population? Is the answer that good character has disappeared from the world? ..."
"... Or is the rest of the world too afraid to protest? Washington can force supposedly sovereign countries to acquiesce to its will or be cut off from the international payments mechanism that Washington controls, and/or be sanctioned, and/or be bombed, droned, or invaded, and/or be assassinated or overthrown in a coup. On the entire planet Earth there are only two countries capable of standing up to Washington, Russia and China, and neither wants to stand up if they can avoid it. ..."
"... For whatever the reasons, not only Americans but most of the world as well accommodate Washington's evil and are thereby complicit in the evil. Those humans with a moral conscience are gradually being positioned by Washington and London as "domestic extremists" who might have to be rounded up and placed in detention centers. Examine the recent statements by General Wesley Clark and British Prime Minister Cameron and remember Janet Napolitano's statement that the Department of Homeland Security has shifted its focus from terrorists to domestic extremists, an undefined and open-ended term. ..."
"... Americans with good character are being maneuvered into a position of helplessness. ..."
"... When Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was asked if the Clinton's regime's sanctions, which had claimed the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children, were justified, she obviously expected no outrage from the American people when she replied in the affirmative. ..."
"... ... Americans are "intentionally ignorant" of other countries' rights and sovereignty while other countries had been well-informed of America's malicious intents of destroying other countries' rights and sovereignty ... ..."
"... No, I don't think Americans are intentionally ignorant, any more than other nationalities. What they are tribal. Tribal peoples don't care whether their policies are right or wrong; they are instinctively loyal to them and to those who formulate them. ..."
"... "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind." -- Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda ..."
"... "Americans need to face the facts. The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise." ..."
"... "When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility." ..."
"... Look at the demographics of the Western Hemisphere. If you have a shred of honesty you just can't hang the blame on 'whites', put it on a bumper sticker or a #shittyhashtagmeme and go back to fucking off. The disgusting fraud of Manifest Destiny was a fig leaf to hide the enormity of these crimes; but, they are most obviously European crimes....& has Europe changed since the West was settled? Did Europeans even stop their warring amongst themselves? ..."
"... "The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise." ..."
"... I agree with Paul Craig Roberts. He asks "Why" and "How." Well, Paul, here is my answer. Decades of Public Education and over 50 years of mass media monopoly. In an age where FOX is the top rated News station and CNN is considered liberal? Where kids in Public school are offered Chocolate milk and frozen pizza for school breakfast before going to class rooms with 30-40 kids. When Texas political appointees chose school text book content for the nation? A nation where service has ended, replaced with volunteer soldiers signing up for pay and benefits, instead of just serving as service, like we did in the 70's? ..."
"... There is a difference between IGNORANCE and STUPIDITY. As Ron White said, "YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID". In todays information age, ignorance is a choice. ..."
"... The problem is that we have no "Constitution." That is a fable. The constitution of the separation of powers has been undermined from almost day one. Witness the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. ..."
"... Yes sir. Globalization has failed us. The infinite growth paradigm has failed us, as we knew it would. Castro's Cuba, based in a localized agrarian economy, is looking pretty good about now. Localization is the only way back to sustainability. ..."
"... Books? Who said books? You mean reading books? Let me throw a couple out there: I read 'The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events In America' last year, it was published 50+ years ago by a very recommended writer and accomplished historian. Boorstin's observations are truer today and even more concerning thanks to our modern, ubiquitous "connectivity". http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/159979.The_Image ..."
"... Adorno famously pointed out in 1940 that the "Mass culture is psychoanalysis in reverse." ..."
"... He doesn't blame the masses because he simply points out the fact that Americans are completely ignorant and blindly believe anything MSM spoon-fed to them. ..."
"... Paul Craig Roberts believe that the people are capable of creating a better and more just society. Instead the people have voted against their own best interest and overwhelmingly believe the propaganda. ..."
"... "... the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise ..." ..."
"... Governments were created by the history of warfare, which was always organized crime developing on larger and larger scales. In the context, the greater problem is that people like Paul Craig Roberts are reactionary revolutionaries, who provide relatively good analysis, followed by bogus "solutions" based upon impossible ideals. ..."
"... The "American People" are the victims of the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy. As Cognitive Dissonance has previously stated on Zero Hedge: "The absolute best controlled opposition is one that doesn't know they are controlled." ..."
"... The article above was another illustration of the ways that the typical reactionary revolutionaries, Black Sheeple, or controlled opposition groups, respond to recognizing the more and more blatant degrees to which there has been an accelerating "transformation of government into a criminal enterprise." THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY CONTINUE TO STAY WITHIN THE SAME OLD-FASHIONED BULLSHIT-BASED FRAME OF REFERENCE, INSTEAD, AROUND AND AROUND WE GO, STUCK IN THE SAME DEEPENING RUTS, since they do NOT more fully "face the facts" regarding how and why the only realistic solutions to the real problems would require developing better organized crime. INSTEAD, they continue to promote the same dualities based upon false fundamental dichotomies, and the associate bogus "solutions" based upon impossible ideals ... ..."
Jul 25, 2015 | Zero Hedge

Original title: The Eroding Character Of The American People

Paul Craig Roberts

How can the life of such a man
Be in the palm of some fool's hand?
To see him obviously framed
Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land
Where justice is a game.-Bob Dylan, "Hurricane"

Attorney John W. Whitehead opens a recent posting on his Rutherford Institute website with these words from a song by Bob Dylan. Why don't all of us feel ashamed? Why only Bob Dylan?

I wonder how many of Bob Dylan's fans understand what he is telling them. American justice has nothing to do with innocence or guilt. It only has to do with the prosecutor's conviction rate, which builds his political career. Considering the gullibility of the American people, American jurors are the last people to whom an innocent defendant should trust his fate. The jury will betray the innocent almost every time.

As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book (2000, 2008) there is no justice in America. We titled our book, "How the Law Was Lost." It is a description of how the protective features in law that made law a shield of the innocent was transformed over time into a weapon in the hands of the government, a weapon used against the people. The loss of law as a shield occurred prior to 9/11, which "our representative government" used to construct a police state.

The marketing department of our publisher did not appreciate our title and instead came up with "The Tyranny of Good Intentions." We asked what this title meant. The marketing department answered that we showed that the war on crime, which gave us the abuses of RICO, the war on child abusers, which gave us show trials of total innocents that bested Joseph Stalin's show trials of the heroes of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the war on drugs, which gave "Freedom and Democracy America" broken families and by far the highest incarceration rate in the world all resulted from good intentions to combat crime, to combat drugs, and to combat child abuse. The publisher's title apparently succeeded, because 15 years later the book is still in print. It has sold enough copies over these years that, had the sales occurred upon publication would have made the book a "best seller." The book, had it been a best seller, would have gained more attention, and perhaps law schools and bar associations could have used it to hold the police state at bay.

Whitehead documents how hard a not guilty verdict is to come by for an innocent defendant. Even if the falsely accused defendant and his attorney survive the prosecutor's pressure to negotiate a plea bargain and arrive at a trial, they are confronted with jurors who are unable to doubt prosecutors, police, or witnesses paid to lie against the innocent defendant. Jurors even convicted the few survivors of the Clinton regime's assault on the Branch Davidians of Waco, the few who were not gassed, shot, or burned to death by US federal forces. This religious sect was demonized by Washington and the presstitute media as child abusers who were manufacturing automatic weapons while they raped children. The charges proved to be false, like Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction," and so forth, but only after all of the innocents were dead or in prison.

The question is: why do Americans not only sit silently while the lives of innocents are destroyed, but also actually support the destruction of the lives of innocents? Why do Americans believe "official sources" despite the proven fact that "official sources" lie repeatedly and never tell the truth?

The only conclusion that one can come to is that the American people have failed. We have failed Justice. We have failed Mercy. We have failed the US Constitution. We have failed Truth. We have failed Democracy and representative government. We have failed ourselves and humanity. We have failed the confidence that our Founding Fathers put in us. We have failed God. If we ever had the character that we are told we had, we have obviously lost it. Little, if anything, remains of the "American character."

Was the American character present in the torture prisons of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and hidden CIA torture dungeons where US military and CIA personnel provided photographic evidence of their delight in torturing and abusing prisoners? Official reports have concluded that along with torture went rape, sodomy, and murder. All of this was presided over by American psychologists with Ph.D. degrees.

We see the same inhumanity in the American police who respond to women children, the elderly, the physically and mentally handicapped, with gratuitous violence. For no reason whatsoever, police murder, taser, beat, and abuse US citizens. Every day there are more reports, and despite the reports the violence goes on and on and on. Clearly, the police enjoy inflicting pain and death on citizens whom the police are supposed to serve and protect. There have always been bullies in the police force, but the wanton police violence of our time indicates a complete collapse of the American character.

The failure of the American character has had tremendous and disastrous consequences for ourselves and for the world. At home Americans have a police state in which all Constitutional protections have vanished. Abroad, Iraq and Libya, two formerly prosperous countries, have been destroyed. Libya no longer exists as a country. One million dead Iraqis, four million displaced abroad, hundreds of thousands of orphans and birth defects from the American ordnance, and continuing ongoing violence from factions fighting over the remains. These facts are incontestable. Yet the United States Government claims to have brought "freedom and democracy" to Iraq. "Mission accomplished," declared one of the mass murderers of the 21st century, George W. Bush.

The question is: how can the US government make such an obviously false outrageous claim without being shouted down by the rest of the world and by its own population? Is the answer that good character has disappeared from the world?

Or is the rest of the world too afraid to protest? Washington can force supposedly sovereign countries to acquiesce to its will or be cut off from the international payments mechanism that Washington controls, and/or be sanctioned, and/or be bombed, droned, or invaded, and/or be assassinated or overthrown in a coup. On the entire planet Earth there are only two countries capable of standing up to Washington, Russia and China, and neither wants to stand up if they can avoid it.

For whatever the reasons, not only Americans but most of the world as well accommodate Washington's evil and are thereby complicit in the evil. Those humans with a moral conscience are gradually being positioned by Washington and London as "domestic extremists" who might have to be rounded up and placed in detention centers. Examine the recent statements by General Wesley Clark and British Prime Minister Cameron and remember Janet Napolitano's statement that the Department of Homeland Security has shifted its focus from terrorists to domestic extremists, an undefined and open-ended term.

Americans with good character are being maneuvered into a position of helplessness. As John Whitehead makes clear, the American people cannot even prevent "their police," paid by their tax payments, from murdering 3 Americans each day, and this is only the officially reported murders. The actual account is likely higher.

What Whitehead describes and what I have noticed for many years is that the American people have lost, in addition to their own sense of truth and falsity, any sense of mercy and justice for other peoples. Americans accept no sense of responsibility for the millions of peoples that Washington has exterminated over the past two decades dating back to the second term of Clinton. Every one of the millions of deaths is based on a Washington lie.

When Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was asked if the Clinton's regime's sanctions, which had claimed the lives of 500,000 Iraqi children, were justified, she obviously expected no outrage from the American people when she replied in the affirmative.

Americans need to face the facts. The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise.

benb

The American people have been scientifically mis-educated, propagandized, and beaten down. A disproportionate number of the under 30's are societal DOAs thanks to ... weaponized TV. But I am being too optimistic...

PrayingMantis

... Americans are "intentionally ignorant" of other countries' rights and sovereignty while other countries had been well-informed of America's malicious intents of destroying other countries' rights and sovereignty ...

BarnacleBill

No, I don't think Americans are intentionally ignorant, any more than other nationalities. What they are tribal. Tribal peoples don't care whether their policies are right or wrong; they are instinctively loyal to them and to those who formulate them.

Also, I have to say that I believe the US empire is a long, long, way from collapse. It is still expanding, for goodness sake. Empires collapse only when the shrinking process is well under way. (The recent Soviet Empire was exceptional, in this regard.) It will take several more generations before the darkness lifts, I'm afraid.

macholatte

The only conclusion that one can come to is that the American people have failed.

It's now official, PCR is a complete dipshit.

Hey Paul, how about you get your head out of the clouds and stop looking down your nose at everyone long enough to read a couple of books about brainwashing and then get back to us. Maybe you start with this: http://edward-bernays.soup.io/post/19658768/Edward-Bernays-Propaganda-19...

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."
-- Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda

OldPhart

"Americans need to face the facts. The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise."

I think that happened August 13, 1971, but didn't get fully organized (as in Mafia) until 2000.

PT

The majority have their nose to the grind stone and as such can not see past the grind stone. They rely on "official sources" to put the rest of the world in order for them, but have no time to audit the "official sources". Would public education suffer if mothers and fathers were monitoring what the children were learning? But who has got time for that when both parents are working? How many non-work organizations were your parents and grand-parents involved in (both the wage-earner and the housekeeper)? How many organizations are you involved in?

Do you constantly hassle your local politicians or do you just say, "I'll vote 'em out in four years time"? (Yes, I know, you just don't vote. Fair enough, this question is for the voters.)

Yes, some of us are guilty of not fighting back. We had "Shut up and do as you're told" and "Well, if you're not happy with what you've got then work harder" beaten into us. Some of us are a little awake because, despite all our efforts, the grind stone was removed from us and then we got to see the larger picture of what lies behind the grind stone. Others are still busy, nose to the wheel, and all they see is the wheel.

And that is before we even consider HypnoToad on the Idiot Box. Some "need" the idiot box to help them wind down. Some can no longer enjoy the silence. (Remember Brave New World? It's true. Many people can no longer stand to be around silence, with nothing but their own thoughts.) I tell everyone that TV is crap. Radio is crap. Newspapers are crap. Turn that shit off for six months to a year, then go back to it and see what you really think of it. But they can't handle the thought of being away from "the background noise".

Ever spoken to grandparents who remember wars and depressions? And even amongst the rations and the hardships they still find positive memories? Time to talk to them again. Or not. I guess we'll get first-hand experience soon enough.

AlaricBalth

Allow me for a moment to share a brief anecdote about the new "American Character".

Last Sunday I was at the local supermarket. I was at the bakery counter, when suddenly a nicely dressed, Sunday best, non-Caucasian woman barrels into my cart riding a fat scooter. She rudely demands from the counter person a single cinnamon bun and then wheels off towards the front. Curious, I follow her up the aisle as she scarfs down the pastry in three bites. She then proceeds to stuff the empty bag between some soda bottles and scooters through the checkout without paying for her item. In the parking lot she then disembarks from her scooter, easily lifts it into the trunk of her Cadillac and walks to the drivers side, gets in and speeds off with her kids, who were in the back seat.

Amazed at what I had just witnessed, I went back into the store, retrieved the empty bag, included it in my few items at checkout and then went to the manager to share this story with him. He laughed and said there was nothing he could do.

The new "American Character" is that of a sense of entitlement and apathy.
I weep for the future.

Headbanger

Having character is not politically correct. Plus there's no need to develop character anymore because there's no jobs requiring any!

Consumption is the ONLY value of the inDUHvidual today.

And the less character they have, the more shit they'll consume to feel fulfilled cause they can't get that from themselves.

clymer Sat, 07/25/2015 - 07:34

Macholatte, i don't think PCR is writing from a point of view that is haughty and contemptful of the American people, per se, but rather from a perspective that is hopeless and thoroughly depressed after contemplating what the American people of many generations ago has taken for themselves as natural rights from a tyrranical government, only to see the nation slowly morph into something even worse than what was rejected by the founders.

"A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within...
He rots the soul of a nation; he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city; he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist."

ThroxxOfVron

"The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise. "

"I think that happened August 13, 1971 "

The entirety of the Western Hemisphere, not just 'The United States', was seized by invaders from Europe.

It is not an 'American' disease: it is a European disease and always was.

The indiginous populations of the Western Hemisphere were suystemaically and with forethought expropriated, ensalved, and slaughtered. The indiginous persons that dwelled within the geographical domain that presently comprise the USA were still being margialized, forcibly relocated, and murdered, long after the so-called 'American Civil War' had been decided.

...& As much as it is fashionable and/or politically expedient to vilify and blame the 'white' Europeans both for this history and extenuate that history to inform the present state of affairs, the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese, and the Spanish ( most eggregiously IMHO) were brutal and savage.

Look at the demographics of the Western Hemisphere.

If you have a shred of honesty you just can't hang the blame on 'whites', put it on a bumper sticker or a #shittyhashtagmeme and go back to fucking off.

The disgusting fraud of Manifest Destiny was a fig leaf to hide the enormity of these crimes; but, they are most obviously European crimes.

...& has Europe changed since the West was settled? Did Europeans even stop their warring amonsgst themselves?

See for yourself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conflicts_in_Europe

That would be: Hell NO.

Neither in Europe itself, nor in the settled West.

The Pacific Ocean wasn't named for calm waters.

It was named thusly because it is the natural geographic boundary where the mayhem and brutality and genocide ceased, if only because the greedy and ruthless Europeans had run out of land in the Western Hemisphere with people upon it to plunder and murder...

El Vaquero

The US will collapse within the next decade if some serious new technology is not developed and the infrastructure to use it is put in. There is too much debt and not enough material resources to continue growing the ponzi scheme that is our monetary system at an exponential rate without something breaking. The question is, will it be at the end of this boom-bust cycle, or the next? And if you look at what is being done on the financial front, which is the backbone of our neo-empire, that is shrinking.

The USD is slowly falling out of favor. There will come a point where that rapidly accelerates. We've been in a state of collapse for 15 years.


Abitdodgie

ignorance is choice these days and Americans love it.

AetosAeros

Not only a choice, but the ONLY choice they are prepared to accept. Cognitive Dissonance at it's finest. And to make matters worse, in only the best American fashion, we've asked if if it can be Supersized to go along with the Freedom Lies we feed ourselves.

I've seen the enemy, and....

But only if I'm willing to look in the mirror. Today's American doesn't look for what's right there in front of him/her, we look for all the new 'Social Norms' that we aren't living up to. This article is completely on target, and I hope Roberts hasn't decided to do any remodeling, cause too many idle nails guns make for a great Evening News sidebar mention.

Damnit all to hell.

Fun Facts

Fun Facts's picture

Rubicon727

We educators began seeing this shift towards "me-ism" around 1995-6. Students from low to middle income families became either apathetic towards "education" or followed their parent's sense of "entitlement." Simultaneously, the tech age captured both population's attention. Respecting "an education" dwindled.

Fast forward to the present: following the 2007-8 crash, we noted clear divisions between low income vs middle/upper class students based on their school behavior. Low to slightly middle income students brought to school family tensions and the turmoil of parents losing their jobs. A rise in non-functioning students increase for teachers while the few well performing students decline significantly.

Significant societal, financial shifts in America can always be observed in the student population.

reader2010

Mission Accomplished.

"When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; a culture-death is a clear possibility."

- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, 1985

Lea

"The American people have been scientifically mis-educated".

You've got the answer there. The education system is the root cause of the problem. I'm from Europe, but if I've understood correctly, the US education policy is to teach as little as possible to children, and expect them to fill in the gaps in the Universities, past a certain age.

Only, it can't work. Children WILL learn, as childhood is the time when most informations are stored. If the schools don't provide the knowledge, they will get it from the television, movies or games, with the consequences we can see: ignorance, obsession with TV and movies stars, inability to differentiate life from movies, and over-simplistic reasoning (if any).

In Europe, we knew full well children learn fast and a lot, and that was why the schools focused on teaching them as much general knowldge as possible before 18 years old, which is when - it is scientifically proved - the human brain learns best.

Recently, the EU leading countries have understood that having educated masses doesn't pay if you want to lead them like sheep, so they are perfidiously trying to lower the standards... to the dismay of parents.

My advice, if I may presume to give any, would be to you USA people: teach your children what they won't learn at school, history, geography, literature (US, European and even Asian, why not), a foreign language if you can, arts, music, etc; and keep them away from the TV, movies and games.

And please adapt what you teach them to their age.

Refuse-Resist

Bang on! One anecdotal example: insisting that all 3rd graders use calculators "to learn" their multiplication tables. If I didn't do flashcards at home with my kids they wouldn't know them. As somebody who majored in engineering and took many many advanced math courses, I always felt that knowing your 'times tables' was essential to being successful in math.

What better way to dumb down otherwise intelligent children by creating a situation where the kid can't divide 32 by 4 without a calculator. Trigonometry? Calculus? Linear Algebra? Fuggedaboudit.

doctor10

The CB's and MIC have Americans right where they want them. the consequences of 3-4 generations of force feeding Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny

ThroxxOfVron

Some of US were never fucking asleep. Some of us were born with our eyes and minds open. We were, and are: hated, and reviled, and marginalized, and disowned for it. The intellectual repression was, and is, fucking insane and brutal. Words such as ethics and logic exist for what purpose? What are these expressions of? A bygone time? Abstractions?

Those that have tried to preserve their self awareness, empathy, and rationality have been ruthlessly systematically demeaned and condemed for confronting our families, our culture and institutions. We all have a right to be angry and disgusted and distrustful of the people and institutions around us. I am very fucking angry, and disgusted, and distrustful of the people and institutions around me.

But I still have hope. Nothing lasts forever.. This self-righteous nation called The United States, this twisted fraud of a culture called America, is most dangerously overdue for receipt of chastisment and retribution. It would be best if the citizenry of the United States taught themselves a lesson in stead of inviting Other nations and cultures to educate them.

A serious self education may be tedious and imperfect; but, it would be far far cheaper than forcing someone to come all the way over those oceans to educate Americans at the price they will be demanding for those lessons...

I do not require representation. I will speak my own mind and act of my own accord.

Every time other so-called Americans take a shit on me for thinking and speaking and acting differently it is a badge of honor and a confirmation of my spiritual and intellectual liberty. They don't know it but they are all gonna run out of shit before I run out of being free.

ThroxxOfVron

"The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise. "

"I think that happened August 13, 1971 "

The entirety of the Western Hemisphere, not just 'The United States', was seized by invaders from Europe. It is not an 'American' disease: it is a European disease and always was.

The indiginous populations of the Western Hemisphere were suystemaically and with forethought expropriated, ensalved, and slaughtered. The indiginous persons that dwelled within the geographical domain that presently comprise the USA were still being margialized, forcibly relocated, and murdered, long after the so-called 'American Civil War' had been decided.

...& As much as it is fashionable and/or politically expedient to vilify and blame the 'white' Europeans both for this history and extenuate that history to inform the present state of affairs, the Dutch, the French, the Portuguese, and the Spanish ( most eggregiously IMHO) were brutal and savage.

Look at the demographics of the Western Hemisphere. If you have a shred of honesty you just can't hang the blame on 'whites', put it on a bumper sticker or a #shittyhashtagmeme and go back to fucking off. The disgusting fraud of Manifest Destiny was a fig leaf to hide the enormity of these crimes; but, they are most obviously European crimes....& has Europe changed since the West was settled? Did Europeans even stop their warring amongst themselves?

See for yourself: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conflicts_in_Europe

That would be: Hell NO. Neither in Europe itself, nor in the settled West. The Pacific Ocean wasn't named for calm waters. It was named thusly because it is the natural geographic boundary where the mayhem and brutality and genocide ceased, if only because the greedy and ruthless Europeans had run out of land in the Western Hemisphere with people upon it to plunder and murder...

Mini-Me

"The loss of character means the loss of liberty and the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise."

I agree with the first part. As for the latter, "government," by definition, is a criminal enterprise. It doesn't start out pure as the driven snow and then change into something nefarious over time. Its very essence requires the initiation of violence or its threat. Government without the gun in the ribs is a contradiction.

The fact that those in power got more votes than the losing criminals does not magically morph these people into paragons of virtue. They are almost without exception thoroughly deranged human beings. Lying is second nature to them. Looting is part of the job description. Killing is an end to their means: the acquisition and aggrandizement of power over others, no matter how much death and destruction results.

These people are sick bastards. To expect something virtuous from them after an endless string of wanton slaughter, theft and abuse, is simply wishful thinking.

Jack Burton

I agree with Paul Craig Roberts. He asks "Why" and "How." Well, Paul, here is my answer. Decades of Public Education and over 50 years of mass media monopoly. In an age where FOX is the top rated News station and CNN is considered liberal? Where kids in Public school are offered Chocolate milk and frozen pizza for school breakfast before going to class rooms with 30-40 kids. When Texas political appointees chose school text book content for the nation? A nation where service has ended, replaced with volunteer soldiers signing up for pay and benefits, instead of just serving as service, like we did in the 70's?

Paul Craig Roberts points out the police war against the people. That comes right from the very top, orders filter down to street cops. Street Cops are recruited from groups of young men our fathers generation would have labeled mental! But now they are hired across the board, shaved heads, tatoos, and a code of silence and Cops Above Justice.

The people have allowed the elites to rule in their place, never bothering to question the two fake candidates we are allowed to vote for.

Jtrillian

There is a difference between IGNORANCE and STUPIDITY. As Ron White said, "YOU CAN'T FIX STUPID". In todays information age, ignorance is a choice.

Part of the problem that no one is talking about or addressing is the population explosion. And it's not linear. Those who are the least educated, fully dependent others for their survival (welfare), the most complacent, and often with violent criminal records are breeding the fastest.

Evolution is not guaranteed. It can be argued that the apathy we experience today is a sign of the human race de-evolving. It takes a certain amount of cognitive ability to observe and question what is going on.

Further, the society we have created where "60 is the new 40" creates very little time to pay attention to what is going on in the world. Many people rely on mainstream media which is not really news any more. When six corporations control more than 90% of the news, it's the message of the corporate elite that we are fed. This becomes painfully obvious when you start turning to other sources for information like social media and independent news. Mainstream media today is full of opinion bias - injecting opinion as though it were fact. They also appeal to the lowest commmon denominator by focusing on emotionally charged topics and words rather than boring facts. Finally, the mainstream media is extremely guilty of propaganda by omission, ignoring important events altogether or only presenting one side of the story as is being done with regard to ISIS, Syria, and Ukraine today. People who watch the mainstream media have no idea that the US played a significant role in arming ISIS and aided in their rise to power. They have no idea that it was likely ISIS that used chemical weapons in Syria. They have no idea that the US has propped up real life neo nazis in high government positions in Ukraine. And they have ignored the continuing Fukushima disaster that is STILL dumping millions of gallons of radioactive water into the ocean every single day.

To sum up, democracies only work when people pay attention and participate. People are either too stupid, too overworked, are are looking to the wrong sources for information.

Until we break up mainstream media, remove incentives for those who cannot even care for themselves to stop breeding, and make fundamental changes to our society that affords people the time to focus on what is happening in the world, it will only get worse.

Much worse.

serotonindumptruck

A dying empire is like a wounded, cornered animal.

It will lash out uncontrollably and without remorse in a futile effort to save itself from certain death.

Enough Already

The problem is that we have no "Constitution." That is a fable. The constitution of the separation of powers has been undermined from almost day one. Witness the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.

In the centuries since then, there has been no "separation of powers." Marbury v Madison (1803) gave the Supreme Court the right to "decide" what the "law" was. Although, only in the 20th century did the "Supreme" court really start "legislating" from the bench.

We're just peons to the Overall Federal Power; the three "separate" parts of the federal government have been in collusion from the first. But like all empires, this one is in the final stage of collapse; it has just gotten too big.

gswifty

Yes sir. Globalization has failed us. The infinite growth paradigm has failed us, as we knew it would. Castro's Cuba, based in a localized agrarian economy, is looking pretty good about now. Localization is the only way back to sustainability.

napples

Books? Who said books? You mean reading books? Let me throw a couple out there: I read 'The Image: A Guide To Pseudo-Events In America' last year, it was published 50+ years ago by a very recommended writer and accomplished historian. Boorstin's observations are truer today and even more concerning thanks to our modern, ubiquitous "connectivity". http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/159979.The_Image

Another by Boorstin, The Discoverers was my fav, like Bryson's 'Short History' on steroids:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_J._Boorstin

I'm currently trying to fathom all of the historical implications of the claims Menzies is making in his book '1434', where apparently everything I learned about history is a lie. While he's making a lot of claims(hoping some sticks?) I'm not truly convinced. It is a very good, believable thought experiment. It almost makes perfect sense given the anglo/euro history of deceit & dishonesty, but I digress:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gavin_Menzies

This one took a long time to grok, Dr Mandelbrot tried to warn us:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/665134.The_Mis_Behavior_of_Markets#

Benoit's friend & protege tried to warn us too:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Swan_%282007_book%29

Put them together and you get the financial meltdown's 'Don't say we didn't warn you' manifesto from 2006(not a book, but a compelling read):
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/5372968a-ba82-11da-980d-0000779e2340.html

OK, I'm tired. Time to unplug.

reader2010

Adorno famously pointed out in 1940 that the "Mass culture is psychoanalysis in reverse." It takes 75 years for someone such as PCR to reiterate. He doesn't blame the masses because he simply points out the fact that Americans are completely ignorant and blindly believe anything MSM spoon-fed to them.

George Orwell once remarked that the average person today is about as naive as was the average person in the Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of what Adorno called Culture Industry and MSM, no matter what. Today we are indeed in another Dark Age

PoasterToaster

"Americans" are not one person. Individuals are not fungible. Reasoning from the "average American" leads to false conclusions.

reader2010

Jacques Derrida says, "The individualism of technological civilization relies precisely on a misunderstanding of the unique self. It is the individualism of a role and not of a person. In other words it might be called the individualism of a masque or persona, a character [personnage] and not a person." There are many Americans but they all play the same role in the Pursuit of Happiness, aka wage slaves, career slaves, debt slaves, information junkies, and passive consumers.

Moccasin

Paul Craig Roberts believe that the people are capable of creating a better and more just society. Instead the people have voted against their own best interest and overwhelmingly believe the propaganda.

When do the people or the society take responsibility for its greater good or own the crimes of those they put into power?

Blaming the aristocracy or the oligarchs seems like a scapegoat when the people have never stood up to the corruption in a cohesive or concerted way. imho, After a few generations of abuse and corruption the people need to take responsibility for their future. I expect that most will just buy into the charade and live the lie, on that basis as a society we are doomed to live in a corporatocracy fascist state.

Aldous Huxley called it a scientific dictatorship, Edward Bernays referred to us as a herd.

Moccasin

In the USA being white, monied and having the capacity to afford a good education is privileged. To his credit he speaks to the greater population, the 'average citizen' and not the plutocratic class.

MSorciere

What we have is the result of conditioning and commoditizing a population. The country is filled with consumers, not citizens. Teach the acquisition of money and goods as the main goal and individualism as the only acceptable social unit. We end up with a nation of insatiable sociopaths, ruled by power-hungry psychopaths.

Divisive politics, jackbooted authority from the DC scumpond down to the cop on the beat, the constant preaching of the cult of the individual as a sustitute for true liberty... all of these have served to destroy a sense of community and decentness between Americans.

The ONLY thing that could threaten the ruling class is a banding together of the people - in large numbers. 'They' have purposefully and effectively quashed that.

TrulyStupid

Shifting responsibility to the usual suspects is simply a manifestation of the American moral collapse. Man up and do some self evaluation.

T-NUTZ

"what I have noticed for many years is that the American people have lost, in addition to their own sense of truth and falsity, any sense of mercy and justice for other peoples"

Unfortunately, Paul, the American people have lost any sense of mercy and justice for their own people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXRDq9nKJ0U

Phillyguy

Painful as it may be, we need to rationally look at US history/society. The nascent US was formed by stealing land from the native population and using human capital (read African Slaves) to generate wealth (it took a civil war with circa 500K casualties to stop this- one could argue the US "civil war" never ended). More recently, the US has been almost continuously at war since 1940, we dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Currently, the US/NATO war theater extends from the Levant, to Caspian Basin, Persian Gulf, China Sea, Indian Ocean, Horn of Africa (Saudi/US war on Yemen), the Maghreb and E Europe and Russian Border.

Radical Marijuana

"... the transformation of government into a criminal enterprise ..."

Governments were created by the history of warfare, which was always organized crime developing on larger and larger scales. In the context, the greater problem is that people like Paul Craig Roberts are reactionary revolutionaries, who provide relatively good analysis, followed by bogus "solutions" based upon impossible ideals.

The "American People" are the victims of the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy. As Cognitive Dissonance has previously stated on Zero Hedge: "The absolute best controlled opposition is one that doesn't know they are controlled."

It is practically impossible to exaggerate the degree to which that is so, on such profound levels, because of the ways that most people want to continue to believe that false fundamental dichotomies and impossible ideals are valid, and should be applied to their problems, despite that those mistaken ideas cause the opposite to happen in the real world, because those who promote those kinds of false fundamental dichotomies and their related impossible ideals, ARE "controlled opposition."

Rather, the place to begin would be by recognizing that all human beings and civilizations must necessarily operate as entropic pumps of energy flows, which necessarily are systems of organized lies operating robberies. Everyone has some power to rob, and power to kill to back that up. Governments assembled and channeled those powers. There was never a time when governments were not organized crime. There could never be any time when governments were not organized crime. The only things that exist are the dynamic equilibria between different systems of organized lies operating robberies. Those dynamic equilibria have become extremely unbalanced due the degree that the best organized gangs of criminals were able to control their opposition.

Paul Craig Roberts, as well as pretty well all of the rest of the content published on Zero Hedge, are presentations of various kinds of controlled opposition groups, most of which do not recognize that they are being controlled by the language that they use, and the philosophy of science that they take for granted. THAT is the greatest failure of the American People, as well as most of the rest of the people everywhere else. They believe in false fundamental dichotomies, and the related impossible ideals, and therefore, their bogus "solutions" always necessarily backfire badly, and cause the opposite to happen in the real world.

After all, the overwhelming vast majority of the American People operate as the controlled opposition to the best organized gangs of criminals that most control the government of the USA. Therefore, the FAILURES of the American People are far more profound and problematic than what is superficially presented by guys like Paul Craig Roberts, and also, of course, his suggested bogus "solutions" are similarly superficial.

The ONLY things which can actually exist are the dynamic equilibrium between different systems of organized lies operating robberies. The degree to which the American People, as well as most of the rest of the people in the world, FAIL to understand that is the degree to which they enable the best organized gangs of criminals to control them, due to the vast majority of people being members of various controlled opposition groups. Controlled opposition always presents relatively superficial analysis of the political problems, which are superficially correct. However, they then follow that up with similarly superficial "solutions." Therefore, magical words are bandied about, that express their dualities, through false fundamental dichotomies, and the related impossible ideals.

Governments must exist because organized crime must exist. Better governments could be achieved through better organized crime. However, mostly what get presented in the public places are the utter bullshit of the biggest bullies, who dominate the society because they were the best organized gangs of criminals, who were also able to dominate their apparent opposition. Therefore, instead of more realistic, better balancing of the dynamic equilibria between different systems of organized lies operating robberies, we get runaway developments of the best organized gangs of criminals being able to control governments, whose only apparent opposition is controlled to stay within the same bullshit frame of reference regarding everything that was actually happening.

The mainline of the FAILURES of the American People have been the ways that the international bankers were able to recapture control over the American public "money" supply. After that, everything else was leveraged up, through the funding of the political processes, schools, and mass media, etc., being more and more dominated by that fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting system. Of course, that FAILURE has now become more than 99% ... Therefore, no political possible ways appear to exist to pull out of that flaming spiral nose dive, since we have already gone beyond the event horizon into that social black hole.

Most of the content on Zero Hedge which is based upon recognizing that set of problems still acts as controlled opposition in that regard too. Therefore, the bogus "solutions" here continue to deliberately ignore that money is necessarily measurement backed by murder. Instead of accepting that, the controlled opposition groups like to promote various kinds of "monetary reforms." However, meanwhile, we are actually already headed towards the established debt slavery systems having generated debt insanities, which are going to provoke death insanities.

In that context, the only realistic resolutions to the real problems would necessarily have to be monetary revolutions, that may emerge out of the future situations, after the runaway debt insanities have provoked death insanities. Indeed, the only genuine solutions to the problems are to develop different death control systems, to back up different debt control systems, which must necessarily be done within the context that governments are the biggest forms of organized crime, controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals.

The various controlled opposition groups do not want to face those social facts. Rather, they continue to want to believe in the dualities expressed as false fundamental dichotomies and the related impossible ideals, which is their greatest overall FAILURE. In my view, the article above by Roberts contained a lot of nostalgic nonsense. There was never a time when there were any governments which were not based on the applications of the principles and methods of organized crime, and there could never be any time in the future when that could be stopped from being the case.

The greatest FAILURE of the American People, as well as most of the rest of the world's people, has been to become so brainwashed to believe in the biggest bullies' bullshit world view, that there is no significant opposition that is not controlled by thinking inside of the box of that bullshit. The government did NOT transform into a criminal enterprise. The government was necessarily ALWAYS a criminal enterprise. That criminal enterprise has become more and more severely UNBALANCED due to the FAILURE of the people to understand that they were actually members of an organized crime gang, called their country. Instead, they were more and more scientifically brainwashed to believe in bullshit about everything, including their country.

The ONLY connection between human laws and the laws of nature is the ability to back up lies with violence. The development of the government of the USA has been the developed of integrated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence. Those systems of ENFORCED FRAUDS have been able to become more extremely unbalanced because there is almost nothing which is publicly significant surrounding that core of organized crime but various controlled opposition groups.

Of course, it seems politically impossible for my recommendations to actually happen within the foreseeable future, as the current systems of debt slavery drive through debt insanities to become death insanities, but nevertheless, the only theoretically valid ideas to raise to respond to the real problems would have to based upon a series of intellectual scientific revolutions. However, since we have apparently run out of time to go through those sorts of paradigm shifts sufficiently, we are stuck in the deepening ruts of political problems which guys like Roberts correctly present to be the case

... HOWEVER, ROBERTS, LIKE ALMOST EVERYONE ELSE, CONTINUE TO PRESUME UPON DUALITIES, AND THEREFORE, HAVE THEIR MECHANISMS REGARDING "SOLUTIONS" ABSURDLY BACKWARDS.

Rather, we should start with the concept of SUBTRACTION, which then leads to robbery. We should start with the recognition that governments are necessarily, by definition, the biggest forms of organized crime. Governments did NOT transform into being that. Governments were always that. The political problems we have now are due to the best organized gangs of criminals, which currently are primarily the biggest gangsters, which can rightly be referred to as the banksters, having dominated all aspects of the funding of politics, enough to capture control over all sociopolitical institutions, so that the American People would more and more be subjected to the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy, which was built on top of thousands of years of previous history of Neolithic Civilizations being based on backing up lies with violence.

The runaway systems of ENFORCED FRAUDS, or the integrated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, that more and more dominate the lives of the American People are due to the applications of the methods of organized crime, and could not be effectively counter-balanced in any other ways. However, the standing social situation is that there is no publicly significant opposition that is not controlled to stay within the same frame of reference of the biggest bullies, which is now primarily the frame of reference of the banksters. Indeed, to the degree to which people's lives are controlled by the monetary system, they are debt slaves. Moreover, the degree to which they do not understand, and do not want to understand, that money is necessarily measurement backed by murder, then they think like controlled opposition groups, who have their mechanisms absurdly backwards, when they turn from their superficial analysis of what the political problems, to then promote their superficial solutions of those problems.

I AGREE that "Americans need to face the facts." However, those facts are that citizens are members of an organized crime gang, called their country. "Their" country is currently controlled by the best organized gangs of criminals. However, there are no genuine resolutions for those problems other than to develop better organized crime. Since the controlled opposition groups that are publicly significant do not admit any of the deeper levels of the scientific facts regarding human beings and civilizations operating as entropic pumps of energy flows, but rather, continue to perceive all of that in the most absurdly backward ways possible, the current dynamic equilibria between the different systems of organized lies operating robberies continue to become more and more extremely UNBALANCED.

In the case of the article above, Roberts does NOT "face the facts" that governments were always forms of organized crime, and must necessarily be so, because human beings must live as entropic pumps of energy flows. Rather, Roberts tends to illustrate how the controlled opposition takes for granted certain magical words and phrases, such as "Liberty" or "Constitution," that have no adequate operational definitions to connect them to the material world.

We are living inside of an oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, which has applied the progress in science primarily to become better at backing up lies with violence, while refusing to allow scientific methods to admit and address how and why that has been what has actually happened. Therefore, almost all of the language that we use to communicate, as well as almost all of the philosophy of science that we take for granted, was based on the biggest bullies' bullshit, which is now primarily manifested as the banksters' bullshit, as that bullshit developed in America to become ENFORCED FRAUDS.

ALL of the various churches, corporations, and countries are necessarily various systems of organized lies operating robberies. Those which are the biggest now were historically the ones that were the best at doing that. The INTENSE PARADOXES are due to human systems necessarily being organized lies operating robberies, wherein the greatest social successfulness has been achieved by those who were the best professional liars and immaculate hypocrites. That flows throughout ALL of the established systems, which are a core of organized crime, surrounded by controlled opposition groups.

The degree to which the American People, as well as the rest of the world's people, have been more and more scientifically brainwashed to believe in bullshit about governments in particular, and human beings and civilizations in general, is the degree to which the established systems based upon ENFORCED FRAUDS are headed towards some series of psychotic breakdowns. For all practical purposes, it is politically impossible to get enough people to stop acting like incompetent political idiots, and instead start acting more like competent citizens, because they do not understand, and moreover have been conditioned to not want to understand that governments are necessarily organized crime.

Roberts ironically illustrated the deeper nature of the political problems that he also shares, when he perceives that governments have somehow transformed into being criminal enterprise, when governments were always necessarily criminal enterprises. Similarly, with those who recognize that, but then promote the impossible solutions based upon somehow stopping that from being the case, which is as absurdly backwards as stopping human beings from operating as entropic pumps of energy flows, which then also presumes that it would be possible to stop human civilizations from being entropic pumps of energy flows.

Rather, the deeper sorts of intellectual scientific revolutions that we should go through require becoming much more critical of the language that we use to communicate with, and more critical about the philosophy of science that we presumed was correct. Actually, we were collectively brainwashed to believe in the biggest bullies' bullshit, which is as absurdly backwards as it could possibly be. However, due to the collective FAILURES of people to understand that, as reflected by the ways that the core of organized crime is surrounded by nothing which is publicly significant than layers of controlled opposition, there are no reasonable ways to doubt that the established debt slavery systems will continue to drive even worse debt insanities, which will provoke much worse death insanities. Therefore, to be more realistic about the foreseeable future, the development of new death control systems will emerge out of the context of crazy collapses into chaos, wherein the runaway death insanities provide the possible opportunities for new death controls to emerge out of that situation.

Of course, the about 99% FAILURE of the American People to want to understand anything that I have outlined above indicates that the foreseeable future for subsequent generations shall not too likely be catalyzed transformations towards enough people better understanding their political problems, in order to better resolve those problems. Rather, what I mostly expect is for the psychotic breakdowns of the previous systems of ENFORCED FRAUDS to give opportunities to some possible groups of controlled opposition to take advantage of that, to perhaps emerge as the new version of professional liars and immaculate hypocrites, who will be able to operate some new version of organized lies, operating robberies, who may mostly still get away with being some modified versions of still oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, due to social success still being based upon the best available professional liars and immaculate hypocrites, who were able to survive through those transformations, so that the new systems arise from some of the seeds of the old systems.

At the present time, it is extremely difficult to imagine how the human species could possibly reconcile progress in physical science by surpassing that with progress in political science. Rather, what mostly exists now is the core of organized crime, which gets away with spouting the bullshit about itself, such as how the banksters dominate the mass media, and the lives of everyone else who depend upon the established monetary system (which is dominated by the current ways that governments ENFORCE FRAUDS by privately controlled banks), while that core of organized crime has no publicly significant opposition that is not controlled by the ways that they think, which ways stay within the basic bullshit world view, as promoted by the biggest bullies for thousands of years, and as more and more scientifically promoted to brainwash the vast majority of people to believe in that kind of bullshit so completely that it mostly does not occur to them that they are doing that, and certainly almost never occurs to them that they are doing that in the most profoundly absurd and backward ways possible.

That is how and why it is possible for an author like Roberts to correctly point out the ways in which the government of the USA is transforming into being more blatantly based on organized crime ... HOWEVER, Roberts is not willing and able to go through deeper levels of intellectual scientific revolutions, in order to recognize how and why governments were always necessarily manifestations of organized crime. Therefore, as is typically the case, Roberts does not recognize how ironically he recommends that Americans should "face the facts," while he himself does not fully do so.

The whole history of Neolithic Civilizations was social pyramid systems based on being able to back up lies with violence, becoming more sophisticated systems of legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, which currently manifest as the globalized electronic frauds of the banksters, were are backed up by the governments (that those banksters effectively control) having atomic bombs. Those are the astronomically amplified magnitudes of the currently existing combined money/murder systems. Therefore, it appears to be politically impossible at the present time to develop better governments, due to the degree that almost everyone is either a member of the core groups of organized crime, or members of the surrounding layers of groups of controlled opposition, both of which want to stay within the same overall bullshit frame of reference, because, so far, their lives have been socially successful by being professional liars and immaculate hypocrites.

Ironically, I doubt that someone like Roberts, or pretty well everyone else whose material is published on Zero Hedge is able and willing to recognize the degree to which they are actually controlled opposition. Indeed, even more ironically, as I have repeated before, even Cognitive Dissonance, when he previously stated on Zero Hedge: "The absolute best controlled opposition is one that doesn't know they are controlled." DOES NOT "GET IT" regarding the degree to which he too is controlled opposition, even while superficially attempting to recognize and struggle with that situation. (Indeed, of course, that includes me too, since I am still communicating using the English language, which was the natural language that most developed to express the biggest bullies' bullshit world view.)

Overall, I REPEAT, the deeper problems are due to progress in physical science, NOT being surpassed by progress in political science. Instead, while there EXIST globalized electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs, practically nothing regarding the ways of thinking that made that science and those technologies possible has found any significant expression through political science, because political science would have to go through even more profound paradigm shifts within itself in order to do that.

The INTENSE PARADOXES continue to be the manifestation of the oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, that deliberately refuses to become any more genuinely scientific about itself. Therefore, the banksters have been able to pay for the best scientific brainwashing that money could buy, for generation after generation, in order to more and more brainwash most of the American People to believe in the banksters' bullshit world view. While there exist electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs, practically nothing regarding the physical science paradigm shifts that made that possible have even the slightest degree of public appreciation within the realms of politics today, which are almost totally dominated by the biggest bullies' bullshit world view, despite that being as absurdly backwards as possible, while the controlled opposition groups, mostly in the form of old-fashioned religions and ideologies, continue to stay within that same bullshit world view, and adamantly refuse to change their perceptual paradigms regarding political problems.

However, I REPEAT, the issues we face are NOT that governments have transformed to become criminal enterprises, but that governments were always necessarily criminal enterprises, which had the power to legalized their own lies, and then back those lies up with legalized violence. Thereby, the best organized criminals, the international bankers, as the biggest gangsters, or the banksters, were able to apply the methods of organized crime through the political processes. Meanwhile, the only "opposition" that was allowed to be publicly significant was controlled, to basically stay within the same bullshit world view, which is what Roberts has done in his series of articles, as well as what is almost always presented in the content published on Zero Hedge.

The NEXT LEVEL of "the need to face the facts" is to recognize that the political economy is based upon ENFORCED FRAUDS, or systems of debt slavery backed by wars based on deceits. However, the NEXT LEVEL "the need to face the facts" is the that the only possible changes are to change the dynamic equilibria between the different systems of organized lies operating robberies, i.e., change those ENFORCED FRAUDS, in ways which CAN NOT STOP THOSE FROM STILL BEING ENFORCED FRAUDS, because of the degree to which money is necessarily measurement backed by murder.

For the American People, as well as the rest of the world's people, to stop being such dismal FAILURES would require them to become more competent citizens. However, at the present time they appear to be totally unable to do that, because they are unwilling to go through the profound paradigm shifts that it would take them to become more competent citizens inside of world where there exist globalized electronic frauds, backed by atomic bombs. The vast majority of the American People would not like to go through the severe cognitive dissonance that would be required, to not only recognize that "their" government was a criminal enterprise, but that it also must be, and that they too must necessarily be members of that organized crime gang. However, without that degree of perceptual paradigm shifts of the political problems, then enough of the American People could not become more competent citizens.

Somehow, most people continue to count on themselves never having to think about how and why progress was achieved in physical science, by going through series of profound paradigm shifts in the ways that we perceived the world. Most people continue to presume that it is not necessary for their perception of politics to go through profound paradigm shifts, that surpass those which have already been achieved in physical science. We continue to live in an oxymoronic scientific dictatorship, that employs science and technology to become better at being dishonest and violent, but does not apply science and technology to "face the facts" about that scientific dictatorship as a whole.

At the present time, technologies which have become trillions of times more capable and powerful are primarily used as special effects within the context of repeating the same old-fashioned, stupid social stories, such as promoted by the biggest bullies, and their surrounding controlled opposition groups. Ironically, especially when it comes to politics, that tends to manifest the most atavistic throwbacks to old-fashioned religions and ideologies being relied upon to propose bogus "solutions," despite that those kinds of social stories adamantly refuse to change their paradigms in light of the profound paradigms shifts which have been achieved in physical science.

The article above was another illustration of the ways that the typical reactionary revolutionaries, Black Sheeple, or controlled opposition groups, respond to recognizing the more and more blatant degrees to which there has been an accelerating "transformation of government into a criminal enterprise." THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY CONTINUE TO STAY WITHIN THE SAME OLD-FASHIONED BULLSHIT-BASED FRAME OF REFERENCE, INSTEAD, AROUND AND AROUND WE GO, STUCK IN THE SAME DEEPENING RUTS, since they do NOT more fully "face the facts" regarding how and why the only realistic solutions to the real problems would require developing better organized crime. INSTEAD, they continue to promote the same dualities based upon false fundamental dichotomies, and the associate bogus "solutions" based upon impossible ideals ...

Given that overall situation, that there there almost nothing which is publicly significant than the core of organized crime, surrounded by controlled opposition groups, I see no reasonable hopes for the foreseeable material future of a civilization controlled by ENFORCED FRAUDS, since there is no publicly possible ways to develop better dynamic equilibria between the different systems of organized lies operating robberies, since the biggest forms of doing that were most able to get away with pretending that they are not doing that, which was facilitated by their controlled opposition promoting the opinions that nobody should do that, while actually everyone must be doing that.

Roberts' article above, to me, was another typical example of superficially correct analysis, which implies some bogus "solutions" because those are based upon the same superficiality. It is NOT good enough to recognize "transformation of government into a criminal enterprise," unless one goes through deeper levels of analysis regarding how and why that is what actually exists, and then, one should continue to be consistent with that deeper analysis when one turns to proposing genuine solutions to those problems, namely, I REPEAT THAT the only realistic resolutions to the real political problems requires the transformation of government into a better organized criminal enterprise, which ideally should be based upon enough citizens who are competent enough to understand that they are members of an organized crime gang, which should assert themselves to make sure that their country becomes better organized crime.

[Nov 04, 2017] Who's Afraid of Corporate COINTELPRO by C. J. Hopkins

Highly recommended!
These tactics do not just suppress information. They enforce conformity at much deeper level.
Notable quotes:
"... I am using the Orwellian verb "unperson" playfully, but I'm also trying to be precise. What's happening isn't censorship, technically, at least not in the majority of cases. While there are examples of classic censorship (e.g., in the UK, France, and Germany), apart from so-called "terrorist content," most governments aren't formally banning expressions of anti-corporatist dissent. This isn't Czechoslovakia, after all. This is global capitalism, where the repression of dissent is a little more subtle. The point of Google unpersoning CounterPunch (and probably many other publications) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists like Hedges is not to prevent them from publishing their work or otherwise render them invisible to readers. The goal is to delegitmize them, and thus decrease traffic to their websites and articles, and ultimately drive them out of business, if possible. ..."
"... Another objective of this non-censorship censorship is discouraging writers like myself from contributing to publications like CounterPunch, Truthdig, Alternet, Global Research, and any other publications the corporatocracy deems "illegitimate." Google unpersoning a writer like Hedges is a message to other non-ball-playing writers. The message is, "this could happen to you." This message is meant for other journalists, primarily, but it's also aimed at writers like myself who are making a living (to whatever degree) writing and selling what we think of as "literature." ..."
"... These tactics do not just suppress information. They enforce conformity at much deeper level. ..."
"... Chomsky explains how this system operates in What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream . It isn't a question of censorship the system operates on rewards and punishments, financial and emotional coercion, and subtler forms of intimidation. Making examples of non-cooperators is a particularly effective tactic. Ask any one of the countless women whose careers have been destroyed by Harvey Weinstein, or anyone who's been to graduate school, or worked at a major corporation. ..."
"... C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23 , is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org . ..."
Nov 04, 2017 | www.unz.com

On November 30, 2016, presumably right at the stroke of midnight, Google Inc. unpersoned CounterPunch. They didn't send out a press release or anything. They just quietly removed it from the Google News aggregator. Not very many people noticed. This happened just as the "fake news" hysteria was being unleashed by the corporate media, right around the time The Washington Post ran this neo-McCarthyite smear piece vicariously accusing CounterPunch, and a number of other publications, of being "peddlers of Russian propaganda." As I'm sure you'll recall, that astounding piece of "journalism" (which The Post was promptly forced to disavow with an absurd disclaimer but has refused to retract) was based on the claims of an anonymous website apparently staffed by a couple of teenagers and a formerly rabidly anti-Communist, now rabidly anti-Putin think tank. Little did most people know at the time that these were just the opening salvos in what has turned out to be an all-out crackdown on any and all forms of vocal opposition to the global corporate ruling classes and their attempts to quash the ongoing nationalist backlash against their neoliberal agenda.

Almost a year later, things are much clearer. If you haven't been following this story closely, and you care at all about freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and that kind of stuff, you may want to take an hour or two and catch up a bit on what's been happening. I offered a few examples of some of the measures governments and corporations have been taking to stifle expressions of dissent in my latest piece in CounterPunch , and there are many more detailed articles online, like this one by Andre Damon from July, and this follow-up he published last week (which reports that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges has also been unpersoned). Or, if you're the type of soul who only believes what corporations tell you, and who automatically dismisses anything published by a Trotskyist website, here's one from last December in The Guardian , and an op-ed in The New York Times , both of which at least report what Google, Twitter, and Facebook are up to. Or you could read this piece by Robert Parry , who also has "legitimate" (i.e., corporate) credentials, and who hasn't been unpersoned just yet, although I'm sure they'll get around to him eventually.

I am using the Orwellian verb "unperson" playfully, but I'm also trying to be precise. What's happening isn't censorship, technically, at least not in the majority of cases. While there are examples of classic censorship (e.g., in the UK, France, and Germany), apart from so-called "terrorist content," most governments aren't formally banning expressions of anti-corporatist dissent. This isn't Czechoslovakia, after all. This is global capitalism, where the repression of dissent is a little more subtle. The point of Google unpersoning CounterPunch (and probably many other publications) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists like Hedges is not to prevent them from publishing their work or otherwise render them invisible to readers. The goal is to delegitmize them, and thus decrease traffic to their websites and articles, and ultimately drive them out of business, if possible.

Another objective of this non-censorship censorship is discouraging writers like myself from contributing to publications like CounterPunch, Truthdig, Alternet, Global Research, and any other publications the corporatocracy deems "illegitimate." Google unpersoning a writer like Hedges is a message to other non-ball-playing writers. The message is, "this could happen to you." This message is meant for other journalists, primarily, but it's also aimed at writers like myself who are making a living (to whatever degree) writing and selling what we think of as "literature."

Yes, as you've probably guessed by now, in addition to writing political satire, I am, as rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone so aptly put it once, an "elitist wanker." I've spent the majority of my adult life writing stage plays and working in the theater, and it doesn't get any more elitist than that. My plays are published by "establishment" publishers, have won a few awards, and have been produced internationally. I recently published my "debut novel" (which is what you call it if you're an elitist wanker) and am currently trying to promote and sell it. I mention this, not to blow my little horn, but to the set the stage to try to illustrate how these post-Orwellian intimidation tactics (i.e., unpersoning people from the Internet) work. These tactics do not just suppress information. They enforce conformity at much deeper level.

The depressing fact of the matter is, in our brave new Internet-dominated world, corporations like Google, Twitter, and Facebook (not to mention Amazon), are, for elitist wankers like me, in the immortal words of Colonel Kurz, "either friends or they are truly enemies to be feared." If you are in the elitist wanker business, regardless of whether you're Jonathan Franzen, Garth Risk Hallberg, Margaret Atwood, or some "mid-list" or "emerging" author, there is no getting around these corporations. So it's kind of foolish, professionally speaking, to write a bunch of essays that will piss them off, and then publish these essays in CounterPunch. Literary agents advise against this. Other elitist literary wankers, once they discover what you've been doing, will avoid you like the bubonic plague. Although it's perfectly fine to write books and movies about fictional evil corporations, writing about how real corporations are using their power to mold societies into self-policing virtual prisons of politically-correct, authoritarian consumers is well, it's something that is just not done in professional elitist wanker circles.

Normally, all this goes without saying, as these days most elitist wankers are trained how to write, and read, and think, in MFA conformity factories, where they screen out any unstable weirdos with unhealthy interests in political matters. This is to avoid embarrassing episodes like Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize lecture (which, if you haven't read it, you probably should), and is why so much of contemporary literature is so well-behaved and instantly forgettable. This institutionalized screening system is also why the majority of journalists employed by mainstream media outlets understand, without having to be told, what they are, and are not, allowed to report. Chomsky explains how this system operates in What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream . It isn't a question of censorship the system operates on rewards and punishments, financial and emotional coercion, and subtler forms of intimidation. Making examples of non-cooperators is a particularly effective tactic. Ask any one of the countless women whose careers have been destroyed by Harvey Weinstein, or anyone who's been to graduate school, or worked at a major corporation.

Or let me provide you with a personal example.

A couple weeks ago, I googled myself (which we elitist wankers are wont to do), and noticed that two of my published books had disappeared from the "Knowledge Panel" that appears in the upper right of the search results. I also noticed that the people "People Also Search For" in the panel had changed. For years, consistently, the people you saw there had been a variety of other elitist literary wankers and leftist types. Suddenly, they were all rather right-wing types, people like Ilana Mercer and John Derbyshire, and other VDARE writers. So that was a little disconcerting.

I set out to contact the Google Search specialists to inquire about this mysterious development, and was directed to a series of unhelpful web pages directing me to other unhelpful pages with little boxes where you can write and submit a complaint to Google, which they will completely ignore. Being an elitist literary wanker, I also wrote to Google Books, and exchanged a number of cordial emails with an entity (let's call her Ms. O'Brien) who explained that, for "a variety of reasons," the "visibility" of my books (which had been consistently visible for many years) was subject to change from day to day, and that, regrettably, she couldn't assist me further, and that sending her additional cordial emails was probably a pointless waste of time. Ms. O'Brien was also pleased to report that my books had been restored to "visibility," which, of course, when I checked, they hadn't.

"Whatever," I told myself, "this is silly. It's probably just some IT thing, maybe Google Books updating its records, or something." However, I was still perplexed by the "People Also Search For" switcheroo, because it's kind of misleading to link my writing to that of a bunch of serious right-wingers. Imagine, if you were a dystopian sci-fi fan, and you googled me to check out my book and see what else I had written, and so on, and my Google "Knowledge Panel" popped up and displayed all these far-right VDARE folks. Unless you're a far-right VDARE type yourself, that might be a little bit of a turn-off.

At that point, I wondered if I was getting paranoid. Because Google Search runs on algorithms, right? And my political satire and commentary is published, not only in CounterPunch, but also in The Unz Review, where these far-right-wing types are also published. Moreover, my pieces are often reposted by what appear to be "Russia-linked" websites, and everyone knows that the Russians are all a bunch of white supremacists, right? On top of which, it's not like I'm Stephen King here. I am hardly famous enough to warrant the attention of any post-Orwellian corporate conspiracy to stigmatize anti-establishment dissent by manipulating how authors are displayed on Google (i.e., subtly linking them to white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others of that ilk).

So, okay, I reasoned, what probably happened was over the course of twenty-four hours, for no logical reason whatsoever, all the folks who had been googling me (along with other leftist and literary figures) suddenly stopped googling me, all at once, while, more or less at the exact same time, hundreds of right-wingers started googling me (along with those white supremacist types they had, theoretically, already been googling). That kind of makes sense when you think about it, right? I mean, Google couldn't be doing this intentionally. It must have been some sort of algorithm that detected this sudden, seismic shift in the demographic of people googling me.

Or, I don't know, does that possibly sound like a desperate attempt to rationalize the malicious behavior of an unaccountable, more or less god-like, global corporation that wields the power of life and death over my book sales and profile on the Internet (a more or less god-like global corporation that could do a lot of additional damage to my sales and reputation with complete impunity once the piece you're reading is published)? Or am I simply getting paranoid, and, in fact, I've developed a secret white supremacist fan base without my knowledge? Only Google knows for sure.

Such are the conundrums elitist literary wankers have to face these days that is, those of us wankers who haven't learned to keep our fucking mouths shut yet. Probably the safest course of action, regardless of whether I'm being paranoid or Google does have me on some kind of list, is to lay off the anti-corporatist essays, and definitely stop contributing to CounterPunch, not to mention The Unz Review, and probably also give up the whole dystopian satire novel thing, and ensure that my second novel conforms to the "normal" elitist wanker rules (which every literary wanker knows, but which, technically, do not exist). Who knows, if I play my cards right, maybe I can even sell the rights to Miramax, or okay, some other corporation.

Once that happens, I assume that Google will want to restore me to normal personhood, and return my books to visibility, and I will ride off into the Hollywood sunset with the Clintons, Clooneys, and Pichais, and maybe even Barack Obama himself, if he isn't off jet skiing with Richard Branson, or having dinner with Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, who just happen to live right down the street, or hawking the TPP on television. By that time, CounterPunch and all those other "illegitimate" publications will have been forced onto the dark web anyway, so I won't be giving up all that much. I know, that sounds pretty cold and cynical, but my liberal friends will understand I just hope all my new white supremacist fans will find it in their hearts to forgive me.

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23 , is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org .

anonymous , • Disclaimer November 3, 2017 at 12:15 pm GMT

Thank you for mustering the courage and then taking the time to spell out these outrages in a straightforward, unemotional way. I've appreciated the humor that centers your other essays, but there's not a damned thing funny about this.

But why are things as they are? With billions aplenty, our rulers must be driven by their libido dominandi. We're left to wonder only whether they get off more on ostracizing the Hopkinses, on buying the politicians, or on herding the sheep from bathrooms to statues to flags.

[Nov 01, 2017] The Political Organization Men

Notable quotes:
"... The Organization Man ..."
"... What Whyte ran across was the sub-culture of the workplace as followed by those who set themselves upon a "career path" within a specific organization. The stereotypical examples are those, to quote Whyte , "who have left home spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life. [They adopt an ethic that] rationalizes the organization's demand for fealty and gives those who offer it wholeheartedly a sense of dedication." ..."
"... Today, some private-sector organizations have moved away from the most extreme demands of such conformity, but some other career lines have not, two examples being the military and career party politics. ..."
"... The Power Elite ..."
"... The Organization Man. ..."
"... hose who make their careers within these entities, especially the military and the government, are ideologically conditioned to identify their well-being with the specific goals of their chosen organizations. That means they must bind themselves not only to the goals, but also to the ethics of their workplace. ..."
"... Those who balk are eventually punished and cast out of the organizations. Those who guide these organizations, and essentially decide how rules and ethics will be interpreted and applied, are Mills's "power elite." ..."
"... It may come as a surprise to the reader that party politics as practiced by many of the Western democracies is quite similar. The "power elites" who reside at the top of the so-called greasy pole, holding positions as the head of ruling and contesting parties, are likely to demand the same sort of obedience to orders as any military officer. ..."
"... Rafe explained it this way ..."
"... Leaders of political parties can control their organizations in dictatorial fashion. They have power to reward or punish their party's cohorts in a fashion that can make or break careers. For instance, they control the dispersal of party funds from monies for elections right down to one's office budget; they determine whether a candidate will have to face a primary challenge; they make all committee assignments; they can promote and demote within the party ranks. ..."
"... As Rafe Mair observed, the possibilities for both reward and punishment are almost endless. In this way elected officials become bound to the diktats of their party's leaders. They cannot normally vote their conscience or reliably represent their constituency unless doing so coincides with the desires of their party's leadership. ..."
"... Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest ..."
"... America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood ..."
"... This is an excellent summary of the basis in mentality of what is factually a 21st century version of a fascist regime. Even though two political parties and the shell forms of republican government may exist, the reality is that the parties are factions and the way things operate is via conformity and loyalty to an authoritarian power structure. ..."
Nov 01, 2017 | consortiumnews.com

Many working-class Americans voted for Donald Trump believing he would address their needs, not those of rich Republicans. But all pols, it seems, end up conforming to their political group's priorities, as Lawrence Davidson explains.

By Lawrence Davidson

In 1956, William H. Whyte published a book entitled The Organization Man about America's societal changes in the post-World War II economy. Basing his findings on a large number of interviews with CEOs of major American corporations, Whyte concluded that, within the context of modern organizational structure, American "rugged individualism" had given way to a "collectivist ethic." Economic success and individual recognition were now pursued within an institutional structure – that is, by "serving the organization."

Whyte's book was widely read and praised, yet his thesis was not as novel as it seemed. "Rugged individualism," to the extent that it existed, was (and is) the exception for human behavior and not the rule. We have evolved to be group-oriented animals and not lone wolves. This means that the vast majority of us (and certainly not just Americans) live our lives according to established cultural conventions. These operate on many levels – not just national patriotism or the customs of family life.

What Whyte ran across was the sub-culture of the workplace as followed by those who set themselves upon a "career path" within a specific organization. The stereotypical examples are those, to quote Whyte , "who have left home spiritually as well as physically, to take the vows of organization life. [They adopt an ethic that] rationalizes the organization's demand for fealty and gives those who offer it wholeheartedly a sense of dedication."

Today, some private-sector organizations have moved away from the most extreme demands of such conformity, but some other career lines have not, two examples being the military and career party politics.

For insight in this we can turn to the sociologist C. Wright Mills , whose famous book The Power Elite was published the same year as Whyte's The Organization Man. Mills's work narrows the world's ruling bureaucracies to government, military and top economic corporations. T hose who make their careers within these entities, especially the military and the government, are ideologically conditioned to identify their well-being with the specific goals of their chosen organizations. That means they must bind themselves not only to the goals, but also to the ethics of their workplace.

Those who balk are eventually punished and cast out of the organizations. Those who guide these organizations, and essentially decide how rules and ethics will be interpreted and applied, are Mills's "power elite."

How this works out in the military is pretty obvious. There is a long tradition of dedication to duty. At the core of this dedication is a rigid following of orders given by superiors. This tradition is upheld even if it is suspected that one's superior is incompetent.

It may come as a surprise to the reader that party politics as practiced by many of the Western democracies is quite similar. The "power elites" who reside at the top of the so-called greasy pole, holding positions as the head of ruling and contesting parties, are likely to demand the same sort of obedience to orders as any military officer.

The Organization Man or Woman in Politics

Running for and holding office in countries like the United States and Canada often requires one to "take the vows of organization life." Does this support democracy or erode it? Here is one prescient answer: the way we have structured our party politics has given us "an appalling political system which is a step-by-step denial of democracy and a solid foundation for a 'soft' dictatorship."

One of the elegant rooms at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club. (Photo from maralagoclub.com)

Those are the words of the late Rafe Mair , a Canadian politician, broadcaster, author and a good friend of this writer. Rafe spent years in Canadian politics, particularly in his home province of British Columbia, and his experience led him to the conclusion expressed above. How does this translate into practice?

Rafe explained it this way : "In a parliamentary [or other form of representative] democracy the voter transfers his rights to his member of parliament [congressperson, senator or state legislator] to exercise on his behalf – the trouble is, by running for his political party the [elected person, in turn, is led to] assign your [the voter's] rights to the [party] leader for his exclusive use!"

There is no law that makes the elected official do this. However, the inducements to do so are very powerful.

Leaders of political parties can control their organizations in dictatorial fashion. They have power to reward or punish their party's cohorts in a fashion that can make or break careers. For instance, they control the dispersal of party funds from monies for elections right down to one's office budget; they determine whether a candidate will have to face a primary challenge; they make all committee assignments; they can promote and demote within the party ranks.

As Rafe Mair observed, the possibilities for both reward and punishment are almost endless. In this way elected officials become bound to the diktats of their party's leaders. They cannot normally vote their conscience or reliably represent their constituency unless doing so coincides with the desires of their party's leadership.

... ... ...

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest ; America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood ; and Islamic Fundamentalism . He blogs at www.tothepointanalyses.com .

Stephen J. , October 30, 2017 at 9:19 am

I believe we are prisoners of a corrupted "democracy."
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- –
July 13, 2017
The Prisoners of "Democracy"

Screwing the masses was the forte of the political establishment. It did not really matter which political party was in power, or what name it went under, they all had one ruling instinct, tax, tax, and more taxes. These rapacious politicians had an endless appetite for taxes, and also an appetite for giving themselves huge raises, pension plans, expenses, and all kinds of entitlements. In fact one of them famously said, "He was entitled to his entitlements." Public office was a path to more, and more largesse all paid for by the compulsory taxes of the masses that were the prisoners of "democracy."
[more info on this at link below]
http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2017/07/the-prisoners-of-democracy.html

Sam F , October 30, 2017 at 11:42 am

Yes, our ertswhile democracy has been completely corrupted. Thanks to Lawrence Davidson, William Whyte, C. Wright Mills, and Rafe Mair for this consideration of the systemic corruption of political parties. The diseases of conformity within party organizations are a nearly inherent problem of democracy.

The improper influence which determines the policies conformed to by parties is the central problem, and stems largely from influence of the economic Power Elite, directing the policies to which the Organization Man must be obedient to be chosen. This distortion can be eliminated by Amendments to the Constitution to restrict funding of mass media and elections to limited individual contributions.

Our problem is that we cannot make such reforms because those tools of democracy are already controlled by oligarchy, which never yields power but to superior force. Talk of justice and peace is not in their language of might makes right, and has no effect whatsoever. They yielded to the 1964 Civil Rights Act only because their fear of riots in the streets led them to pretend that MLK et al had been persuasive.

The foreign wars may be stopped by the defeat, isolation, and embargo of the US by foreign powers. But within the US, the full price of democracy must again be paid the People of the US. The oligarchy must be defeated by superior force: only those who deny enforcement to oligarchy and terrify the rich will bring them to yield any power. That is likely to await more severe recessions and inequities caused by the selfish and irresponsible rich.

mike k , October 30, 2017 at 3:42 pm

You are exactly right Sam F. Unfortunately time is quickly running out for our corrupt "civilization." The time to cultivate and practice wisdom has passed. The sad truth is that our goose is cooked; there will be no cavalry showing up to save us. We are now "eating our karma" and will reap our just deserts. Not because I or anyone say so, but because implacable laws of nature will now play out. Dominant intellectual species occupy a precarious position in planetary evolution, and we are on the verge of a great fall – and all the King's horses and all the King's men will not be able to put our extincting species together again ..

Sam F , October 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Your reply touches a responsive chord, in that humanity seems to have made so little permanent progress in its million years or so, mostly in its last few hundred years, an insignificant fraction of planetary history. But the history and literature of temporary progress lost is significant as the repository of ideas for future democracies, at those rare moments when they are designed.

Our diseased society is but one tree in the forest of democracies. The US is or will be like the apparently healthy tree that took down my power lines last night, a pretty red oak with brilliant autumn leaves, but sideways now and blocking the road. But like the leaves on that tree, we can see the problem and still hope to be as happy as this year's leaves on healthier trees.

As in what I like to call the universal mind of humanity, individuals may have foresight and thoughts beyond their apparent functions, which survive in that greater mind of their thoughts recorded or just passed along, and in that way their learning is not in vain.

Drew Hunkins , October 30, 2017 at 10:34 am

Trump did nix out the TPP and did desire a rapprochement of sorts with Moscow. He also regularly asserted that he wanted to re-build American manufacturing in the heartland and wanted to rein in Washington's footprint across the globe. Of course Trump ultimately capitulated to the militarist Russophobes. One can only put so much stock in campaign pronouncements, but he did come off as less bellicose than Killary, that was clear to any fair minded observer.

Trump's also been a nightmare as it comes to workers' rights in general, consumer and environmental protections and fair taxation as it relates to regressive vs progressive rates. He was also an Islamophobe when it comes to Iran and fell right in line with Adelson and the other ZIonist psychopaths.

The most welcoming aspect of Trump was his desire to make peace with Russia, this has been completely sabotaged by the deep state militarists. This is the reason the Corkers, Flakes and much of the establishment mass media browbeat and attack him relentlessly. Most of them ignore what he actually should be admonished for opting for nuclear brinkmanship instead.

exiled off mainstreet , October 30, 2017 at 11:25 am

This is the best description I have seen about Trump's role.

Bob Van Noy , October 30, 2017 at 10:37 am

Thank you CN and Lawrence Davidson for what I think is a accurate explanation of the failure of our Democracy. I especially like the reference to C. Wright Mills who is a heroic character for me. I think Mr. Mill's book on the Power Elite was prescient, as was his thinking in general. He published a little known book "Listen, Yankee" (1960) that was very insightful about the then current Cuban Revolution. It seems in retrospect that there was plenty of warning at the time for America to wake up to the goals of Big Government and Big Business but it was either successfully repressed or ignored by those who might have made a difference, like Labor. At any rate, C. Wright Mills died too early, because he seemed uniquely suited to make a difference. His writing remains current, I'll add a link.

http://www.cwrightmills.org

mike k , October 30, 2017 at 3:47 pm

I am a big CW Mills fan too. We have had many warnings – now we are going to experience the fate of those who ignore wisdom.

tina , October 30, 2017 at 10:31 pm

Hey, college UWM 1984- 1987 Mass Comm, I did not graduate , but we studied Mills, Lewis Mumford, and my favorite, Marshall McLuhan. Also, first time I was introduced to Todd Gitlin and IF Stone. While I did not pursue a life in journalism, I so appreciate all those who did the hard work. I still have all my college required reading books from these people, it is like a set of encyclopedias, only better. And better than the internet. Keep up the work CN , I am not that talented, but what you do is important.

BobH , October 30, 2017 at 12:04 pm

First, let me commend Lawrence Davidson for his selection of two of the most insightful writers of the sixties to use as a springboard for his perceptive essay. A third(John Kenneth Galbraith) would complete a trilogy of the brilliant academic social analysis of that time. Galbraith's masterpiece(The Affluent Society) examined the influence of the heavy emphasis corporate advertising had on American culture and concluded that the economic/social structure was disproportionately skewed toward GDP(gross domestic product) at the expense of educational investment. This was in direct contrast with the popular novels and essays of Ayn Rand, the goddess of greed whose spurious philosophy had come to epitomize the mindset that continues to plague the globe with the neoliberal ideals that have been reinvented under many names over time; i.e. laissez faire, trickle down,the Laffer curve, free market economics and monetarism.

Zachary Smith , October 30, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Usually such claims are themselves no more than campaign hot air. However, in their ignorance, voters may well respond to such hot air, and the result can be a jump from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. U.S. voters seem to have taken just such a leap when they elected Donald Trump president.

Nowhere in this essay are either of the terms "Hillary" or "Clinton" mentioned. U.S. voters had the choice of a known evil on the "D" side of the ballot, or another person well understood to be a shallow, self-centered, rich *****. They were going to end up with an unqualified person either way the voting went. Quite possibly the nod went to Trump because 1) his promises were surely more believable than those of Clinton and 2) Trump wasn't yet the known destroyer of entire nations.

Describing the predicament of the voters as "ignorance" just isn't fair when looking at the overall picture.

mike k , October 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Yes. Voters were put in a no win situation. That's why I did not participate in the "show" election.

Realist , October 31, 2017 at 4:33 am

What were Obama's reasons for failing to take a stand, once elected, on all the promises he made during his campaigns? He mostly gave away the store to the other side, and insulted his supporters while doing so. Talk about progressives not getting a "win" even after carrying the elections. Two terms earlier, the media called the contest one of two "moderates" between Bush and Gore. If that was "moderation" practiced by Dubya, I need a new dictionary. Most recent elections have been pointless, especially when the Supreme Court doesn't allow a complete recount of the votes. In a field of 13(!) primary candidates last year, the GOP could not provide one quality individual. The Dems cheated to make sure the worst possible of theirs would get the nomination. I see nothing but mental and moral midgets again on the horizon for 2020. I don't expect Trump to seek re-election. He will have had a bellyful should he even survive.

Stephen J. , October 30, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I believe what has happened to all of us is: "The Imposition of a New World Order." This plan has been helped by puppet politicians. Therefore the question must be asked: "Is There An Open Conspiracy to Control the World'?
[More info on this at link below]
http://graysinfo.blogspot.ca/2014/12/is-there-open-conspiracy-to-control.html

john wilson , October 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Stephen: why do you ask the question to which you already know the answer? Yes, we're all screwed and have been for years. The bankers already control the world and the military make sure its stays that way.

Stephen J. , October 30, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Very true john wilson. Questions beget answers and information.
cheers Stephen J.

mike k , October 30, 2017 at 3:52 pm

It's like the Purloined Letter by Poe – the truth of our enslavement is so obvious, that only the deeply brainwashed can fail to see it.

Zachary Smith , October 30, 2017 at 12:48 pm

The parts of The Organization Man I found most interesting were the chapters about "Testing The Organization Man". The companies were deliberately selecting for people we currently label Corporate Psychopaths. Whyte suggested memorizing some "attitudes" before taking one of the tests. Among them:

I loved my father and my mother, but my father a little bit more
I like things pretty much the way they are
I never worry much about anything
I don't care for books or music much
I love my wife and children
I don't let them get in the way of company work

You can substitute any number of things that you won't allow to get in the way of company work .

Ecology. Laws. Regulations. Integrity. Religion.

"Screw planet Earth. Exxon comes first!" Or "screw Jesus and the horse he rode in on. We need to cut taxes and balance the budget. People are poor because they're too lazy to get a job."

mike k , October 30, 2017 at 3:53 pm

Good points. Brainwashing in action revealed.

john wilson , October 30, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Democracy is another word for consensual slavery. In a communist system or a dictatorship etc you are told you are a slave because you have no voice or choice. In a democracy you do have a choice and its between one salve master and another. If you vote Democrat you are just as much a slave to the system as you are if you vote Republican. The possibility of a third choice which might just free you from your chains, is a fantasy and only there as window dressing to give democracy some credibility. The term for this dilemma is called being TOTALLY SCREWED!!

mike k , October 30, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Amen John. You got it right brother.

exiled off mainstreet , October 31, 2017 at 11:01 am

This is an excellent summary of the basis in mentality of what is factually a 21st century version of a fascist regime. Even though two political parties and the shell forms of republican government may exist, the reality is that the parties are factions and the way things operate is via conformity and loyalty to an authoritarian power structure.

[Sep 13, 2017] The Rape of the American Mind

Notable quotes:
"... Repeat mechanically your assumptions and suggestions, diminish the opportunity for communicating dissent and opposition. This is the formula for political conditioning of the masses. ..."
"... I-dont-care reaction ..."
"... Confusing a targeted audience is one of the necessary ingredients for effective mind control." ..."
"... Ennui of the bureaucrat, entropy of an inability to change, and the credibility trap of failed ideologies in a failing empire. ..."
"... Not so for the financiers and their minions. They will not be quiet, alas. The more badly they behave, the louder they seem to become. ..."
"... Although a child is limited by lack of faculty and experience, the speculator is hampered by vanity, a self-imposed lack of human development, and an almost obsessive preoccupation with drinking, favorite objects, and teats. ..."
jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
"He who dictates and formulates the words and phrases we use, he who is master of the press and radio, is master of the mind. Repeat mechanically your assumptions and suggestions, diminish the opportunity for communicating dissent and opposition. This is the formula for political conditioning of the masses.

The big lie and monotonously repeated nonsense have more emotional appeal in a cold war than logic and reason.

The continual intrusion into our minds of the hammering noises of arguments and propaganda can lead to two kinds of reactions. It may lead to apathy and indifference, the I-dont-care reaction, or to a more intensified desire to study and to understand. Unfortunately, the first reaction is the more popular one. Confusing a targeted audience is one of the necessary ingredients for effective mind control."

Joost Meerloo, The Rape of the Mind

There is going to be another financial crisis within the next two years, and it will be global, and it may be much more consequential than the other two or three we have seen since the Fed embarked on this course of its long and checkered career.

It is also avoidable, and in their quiet, private moments the really good economists can see it coming. Why don't they say anything? Ennui of the bureaucrat, entropy of an inability to change, and the credibility trap of failed ideologies in a failing empire.

They did not get to where they are by 'rocking the boat.' And so they will be quiet, unless they see some advantage in it for them, most ordinarily in a pay for say.

Not so for the financiers and their minions. They will not be quiet, alas. The more badly they behave, the louder they seem to become.

They are short term, and almost infantile in the self-centered reasoning. Although a child is limited by lack of faculty and experience, the speculator is hampered by vanity, a self-imposed lack of human development, and an almost obsessive preoccupation with drinking, favorite objects, and teats.

They see something and they want it, they know only what they can feel in the desire of the moment, morally they are undeveloped, and when they make a mess they cry loudly, until an adult comes to clean it up for them. But unlike a child they have no gratitude, no sense of their own dependency, or natural affection for others.

Have a pleasant evening

[Aug 20, 2017] These days, with the internet, it is far easier for a smaller fraction to gravitate to an echo chamber, reinforce group think, and believe their numbers are much larger than what, in reality, exists.

Notable quotes:
"... Reminds me of the 60's and the SDS and their ilk. A large part of the under 30 crowd idolized Mao's Little Red Book and convinced themselves the "revolution" was imminent. So many times I heard the phrase "Up Against the Wall, MFs." Stupid fools. Back then people found each other by "teach-ins" and the so called "underground press." In those days it took a larger fraction to be able to blow in each other's ear and convince themselves they were the future "vanguard." ..."
Aug 20, 2017 | turcopolier.typepad.com

doug -> Tyler... , 18 August 2017 at 10:40 AM

-"Trump isnt our last chance. Its your last chance."

Reminds me of the 60's and the SDS and their ilk. A large part of the under 30 crowd idolized Mao's Little Red Book and convinced themselves the "revolution" was imminent. So many times I heard the phrase "Up Against the Wall, MFs." Stupid fools. Back then people found each other by "teach-ins" and the so called "underground press." In those days it took a larger fraction to be able to blow in each other's ear and convince themselves they were the future "vanguard."

These days, with the internet, it is far easier for a smaller fraction to gravitate to an echo chamber, reinforce group think, and believe their numbers are much larger than what, in reality, exists. This happens across the board. It's a rabbit hole Tyler. Don't go down it.

[Jan 13, 2017] They pretend to make statements that corresponded to reality, and we pretend to believe them.

Notable quotes:
"... For him, the Soviet Union was once a stable, entrenched, conservative state and the majority of Russian people -- actually myself included -- thought it would last forever. But the way people employ language and read ideologies can change. That change can be undetectable at first, and then unstoppable. ..."
Jan 08, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Igor Biryukov on November 1, 2012

A cautionary tale

" In America there was once a popular but simplistic image of the Soviet Russia as the Evil Empire destined to fall, precisely because it was unfree and therefore evil. Ronald Reagan who advocated it also once said that the Russian people do not have a word for "freedom". Not so fast -- says Alexei Yurchak. He was born in the Soviet Union and became a cultural anthropologist in California. He employs linguistic structural analysis in very interesting ways. For him, the Soviet Union was once a stable, entrenched, conservative state and the majority of Russian people -- actually myself included -- thought it would last forever. But the way people employ language and read ideologies can change. That change can be undetectable at first, and then unstoppable.

Yurchak's Master-idea is that the Soviet system was an example of how a state can prepare its own demise in an invisible way. It happened in Russia through unraveling of authoritative discourse by Gorbachev's naive but well-meaning shillyshallying undermining the Soviet system and the master signifiers with which the Soviet society was "quilted" and held together. According to Yurchak "In its first three or four years, perestroika was not much more than a deconstruction of Soviet authoritative discourse". This could a cautionary tale for America as well because the Soviet Union shared more features with American modernity than the Americans themselves are willing to admit.

The demise of the Soviet Union was not caused by anti-modernity or backwardness of Russian people. The Soviet experiment was a cousin of Western modernity and shared many features with the Western democracies, in particular its roots in the Enlightenment project. The Soviet Union wasn't "evil" in late stages 1950-1980s. The most people were decent. The Soviet system, despite its flaws, offered a set of collective values. There were many moral and ethical aspects to Soviet socialism, and even though those values have been betrayed by the state, they were still very important to people themselves in their lives. These values were: solidarity, community, altruism, education, creativity, friendship and safety. Perhaps they were incommensurable with the "Western values" such as the rule of law and freedom, but for Russians they were the most important. For many "socialism" was a system of human values and everyday realities which wasn't necessarily equivalent of the official interpretation provided by the state rhetoric.

Yurchak starts with a general paradox within the ideology of modernity: the split between ideological enunciation, which reflects the theoretical ideals of the Enlightenment, and ideological rule, which are the practical concerns of the modern state's political authority. In Soviet Union the paradox was "solved" by means of dogmatic political closure and elevation of Master signifier [Lenin, Stalin, Party] but it doesn't mean the Western democracies are immune to totalitarian temptation to which the Soviet Union had succumbed. The vast governmental bureaucracy and Quango-state are waiting in the shadows here as well, may be ready to appropriate discourse.

It is hard to agree with everything in his book. But it is an interesting perspective. I wish Alexei Yurchak would explore more implications of Roman Jacobson's "poetic function of language" and its connection to Russian experiment in communism. It seems to me, as a Russian native speaker, that Russians put stress on form, sound, and poetics. The English-language tradition prioritizes content and meaning. Can we speak of "Hermeneutics" of the West versus "Poetics" of Russia? Perhaps the tragedy of Russia was under-development of Hermeneutics? How does one explain the feeble attempts to throw a light of reason into the loopy texts and theories of Marks, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin? Perhaps the Russians read it as a kind of magical text, a poetry, a bad poetry -- not Pasternak or Blok -- but kind of poetry nevertheless?

Nils Gilman on April 23, 2014

A brilliant account of the interior meaning of everyday life for ordinary soviet citizens

Just loved this -- a brilliant study of how everyday citizens (as opposed to active supporters or dissidents) cope with living in a decadent dictatorship, through strategies of ignoring the powerful, focusing on hyperlocal socialities, treating ritualized support for the regime as little more than an annoying chore, and withdrawal into subcultures. Yurchak demolishes the view that the only choices available to late Soviet citizens were either blind support (though his accounts of those figures who chose this path are deeply chilling) or active resistance, while at the same time showing how many of the purported values of Soviet socialism (equality, education, friendship, community, etc) were in fact deeply held by many in the population. While his entire account is a tacit meditation on the manifold unpleasantnesses of living under the Soviet system, Yurchak also makes clear that it was not all unpleasantness and that indeed for some people (such as theoretical physicists) life under Soviet socialism was in some ways freer than for their peers in the West. All of which makes the book function (sotto voce) as an explanation for the nostalgia that many in Russia today feel for Soviet times - something inexplicable to those who claim that Communism was simply and nothing but an evil.

The theoretical vehicle for Yurchak's investigation is the divergence between the performative rather than the constative dimensions of the "authoritative discourse" of the late Soviet regime. One might say that his basic thesis is that, for most Soviet people, the attitude toward the authorities was "They pretend to make statements that corresponded to reality, and we pretend to believe them." Yurchak rightly observes that one can neither interpret the decision to vote in favor of an official resolution or to display a pro-government slogan at a rally as being an unambiguous statement of regime support, nor assume that these actions were directly coerced. People were expected to perform these rituals, but they developed "a complexly differentiating relationship to the ideological meanings, norms, and values" of the Soviet state. "Depending on the context, they might reject a certain meaning, norm or value, be apathetic about another, continue actively subscribing to a third, creatively reinterpret a fourth, and so on." (28-29)

The result was that, as the discourse of the late Soviet period ossified into completely formalist incantations (a process that Yurchak demonstrates was increasingly routinized from the 1950s onwards), Soviet citizens participated in these more for ritualistic reasons than because of fervent belief, which in turn allowed citizens to fill their lives with other sources of identity and meaning. Soviet citizens would go to cafes and talk about music and literature, join a rock band or art collective, take silly jobs that required little effort and thus left room for them to pursue their "interests." The very drabness of the standardizations of Soviet life therefore created new sorts of (admittedly constrained) spaces within which people could define themselves and their (inter)subjective meanings. All of which is to say that the book consists of a dramatic refutation of the "totalitarianism" thesis, demonstrating that despite the totalitarian ambitions of the regime, citizens were continually able to carve out zones of autonomy and identification that transcended the ambitions of the Authoritative discourse.

[Jan 13, 2017] Hypernormalisation

Notable quotes:
"... Normalisation is what has historically happened in the wake of financial crises. During the booms that precede busts, low interest rates encourage people to make investments with borrowed money. However, even after all of the prudent investment opportunities have been taken, people continue borrowing to invest in projects and ideas that are unlikely to ever generate profits. ..."
"... Eventually, the precariousness of some of these later investments becomes apparent. Those that arrive at this realization early sell up, settle their debts and pocket profits, but their selling often triggers a rush for the exits that bankrupts companies and individuals and, in many cases, the banks which lent to them. ..."
"... By contrast, the responses of policy-makers to 2008's financial crisis suggest the psychology of hypernormalisation. Quantitative easing (also known as money printing) and interest rate suppression (to zero percent and, in Europe, negative interest rates) are not working and will never result in sustained increases in productivity, income and employment. However, as our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions, they have to pretend that they are working. ..."
"... Statistical chicanery has helped understate unemployment and inflation while global cooperation has served to obscure the currency depreciation and loss of confidence in paper money (as opposed to 'hard money' such as gold and silver) that are to be expected from rampant money printing. ..."
"... The recent fuss over 'fake news' seems intended to remove alternative news and information sources from a population that, alarmingly for those in charge, is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is . Just this month U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act into law. United States, meet your Ministry of Truth. ..."
"... Great article. I think it does describe the USSA at the present time. Everything works until it doesn't. ..."
"... The funny thing is I had almost identical thoughts just a few days ago. But I was thinking in comparison more of East Germany's last 20 years before they imploded - peacefully, because not a single non-leading-rank person believed any of the official facts anymore (and therefore they even simply ignored orders from high command to crush the Leipzig Monday demonstrations.) ..."
"... I'm ok with a world led by Trump and Putin. ..."
"... I recall the joke from the old Soviet Union: "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work." In the USSA these last few years, Barry pretends to tell the truth. Libtards pretend to believe him. ..."
"... Wrong. They believe him. Look at the gaggle of libtard/shiteaters at Soetero's Friday night bash at the White House. ..."
"... Reagan used to quip that in the Soviet Union, the people pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. We're not the Soviet Union, but we have become a farce. Next stop - the fall. Followed by chaos, then onto something new. The new elites will just be the old elites, well, the ones that escape the noose. ..."
"... The real ugly problem with the Soviet Union is that whatever they broke it into isn't working well either. ..."
"... Russia's problem post collapse was the good ol' USSA and its capitalist, plunderer banking mavens. ..."
"... The only way to normalize banking in a contemporary banking paradigm of QE Infinity & Beyond is to start over again without the bankers & accountants that knowingly bet the ranch for a short term gain at the expense of long term profitability. In Japan an honourable businessman/CEO would suicide for bringing this kind of devastation to the company shareholders. ..."
"... In America they don't give a shit because it is always someone else other than the CEO that takes the fall. ..."
"... This, after I'd point out his evasion and deflection every time I addressed his bias and belief in the MSM propaganda mantras of racism, misogyny, xenophobia - all the usual labeling bullshit up to insinuating Russia hacked the election ..."
"... I've been using the term Hypernormalisation to describe aspects of western society for the last 15 years, before Adam Curtis's brilliant BBC documentary Hypernormalisation , afflicting western society and particularly politics. There are lies and gross distortions everywhere in western society and it straddles/effects all races, colours, social classes and the disease is most acute in our politics. ..."
"... We all know the hypernoprmalisation in politics, as we witness stories everyday on Zerohedge of the disconnect from reality ..."
"... It is called COGNITIVE DISSONANCE .. ..."
"... "When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit with the core belief." ..."
"... During their final days as a world power, the Soviet Union allowed cognitive dissonance to rule its better judgment as so many Americans are doing in 2012. The handwriting on the wall was pretty clear for Gorbachev. The Soviet economy was failing. They did none of the necessary things to save their economy. In 2012, the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear for the American people. The economy is failing. The people and the Congress do none of the necessary things to save their economy. Why? Go re-read the definition of cognitive dissonance. That's why. We have a classic fight going on between those who want government to take care of them who will pay the price of lost freedom to get that care, and those who value freedom above all else. ..."
"... to me the PTB are "Japanifying" the u.s. (decades of no growth, near total demoralization of a generation of worker bees (as in, 'things will never get any better, be glad for what little you've got' etc... look what they've done to u.s. millenials just since '08... fooled (crushed) them TWICE already) ..."
"... But the PTB Plan B is to emulate the USSR with a crackup, replete with fire sale to oligarchs of public assets. ..."
Jan 08, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Submitted by Bryce McBride via Mises Canada,

This past November, the filmmaker Adam Curtis released the documentary Hypernormalisation.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/-fny99f8amM

The term comes from Alexei Yurchak's 2006 book Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. The book argues that over the last 20 years of the Soviet Union, everyone knew the system wasn't working, but as no one could imagine any alternative, politicians and citizens were resigned to pretending that it was. Eventually this pretending was accepted as normal and the fake reality thus created was accepted as real, an effect which Yurchak termed "hypernormalisation."

Looking at events over the past few years, one wonders if our own society is experiencing the same phenomenon. A contrast with what economic policy-makers term "normalisation" is instructive.

Normalisation is what has historically happened in the wake of financial crises. During the booms that precede busts, low interest rates encourage people to make investments with borrowed money. However, even after all of the prudent investment opportunities have been taken, people continue borrowing to invest in projects and ideas that are unlikely to ever generate profits.

Eventually, the precariousness of some of these later investments becomes apparent. Those that arrive at this realization early sell up, settle their debts and pocket profits, but their selling often triggers a rush for the exits that bankrupts companies and individuals and, in many cases, the banks which lent to them.

In the normalisation which follows (usually held during 'special' bank holidays) auditors and accountants go through financial records and decide which companies and individuals are insolvent (and should therefore go bankrupt) and which are merely illiquid (and therefore eligible for additional loans, pledged against good collateral). In a similar fashion, central bank officials decide which banks are to close and which are to remain open. Lenders made freshly aware of bankruptcy risk raise (or normalise) interest rates and in so doing complete the process of clearing bad debt out of the system. Overall, reality replaces wishful thinking.

While this process is by no means pleasant for the people involved, from a societal standpoint bankruptcy and higher interest rates are necessary to keep businesses focused on profitable investment, banks focused on prudent lending and overall debt levels manageable.

By contrast, the responses of policy-makers to 2008's financial crisis suggest the psychology of hypernormalisation. Quantitative easing (also known as money printing) and interest rate suppression (to zero percent and, in Europe, negative interest rates) are not working and will never result in sustained increases in productivity, income and employment. However, as our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions, they have to pretend that they are working.

To understand why our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions such as interest rate normalization and banking reform one only needs to understand that while such policies would lay the groundwork for a sustained recovery, they would also expose many of the world's biggest banks as insolvent. As the financial sector is a powerful constituency (and a generous donor to political campaigns) the banks get the free money they need, even if such policies harm society as a whole.

As we live in a democratic society, it is necessary for our leaders to convince us that there are no other solutions and that the monetary policy fixes of the past 8 years have been effective and have done no harm.

Statistical chicanery has helped understate unemployment and inflation while global cooperation has served to obscure the currency depreciation and loss of confidence in paper money (as opposed to 'hard money' such as gold and silver) that are to be expected from rampant money printing.

Looking at unemployment figures first, while the unemployment rate is currently very low, the number of Americans of working age not in the labour force is currently at an all-time high of over 95 million people. Discouraged workers who stop looking for work are no longer classified as unemployed but instead become economically inactive, but clearly many of these people really should be counted as unemployed. Similarly, while government statistical agencies record inflation rates of between one and two percent, measures that use methodologies used in the past (such as John Williams' Shadowstats measures) show consumer prices rising at annual rates of 6 to 8 percent. In addition, many people have noticed what has been termed 'shrinkflation', where prices remain the same even as package sizes shrink. A common example is bacon, which used to be sold by the pound but which is now commonly sold in 12 ounce slabs.

Meanwhile central banks have coordinated their money printing to ensure that no major currency (the dollar, the yen, the euro or the Chinese renminbi) depreciates noticeably against the others for a sustained period of time. Further, since gold hit a peak of over $1900 per ounce in 2011, central banks have worked hard to keep the gold price suppressed through the futures market. On more than a few occasions, contracts for many months worth of global gold production have been sold in a matter of a few minutes, with predictable consequences for the gold price. At all costs, people's confidence in and acceptance of the paper (or, more commonly, electronic) money issued by central banks must be maintained.

Despite these efforts people nonetheless sense that something is wrong. The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump to the White House represent to a large degree a rejection of the fake reality propagated by the policymaking elite. Increasingly, people recognize that a financial system dependent upon zero percent interest rates is not sustainable and are responding by taking their money out of the banks in favour of holding cash or other forms of wealth. In the face of such understanding and resistance, governments are showing themselves willing to use coercion to enforce acceptance of their fake reality.

The recent fuss over 'fake news' seems intended to remove alternative news and information sources from a population that, alarmingly for those in charge, is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is . Just this month U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act into law. United States, meet your Ministry of Truth.

Meanwhile, in India last month, people were told that the highest denomination bills in common circulation would be 'demonetized' or made worthless as of December 30th. People were allowed to deposit or exchange a certain quantity of the demonetized bills in banks but many people who had accumulated their savings in rupee notes (often the poor who did not have bank accounts) have been ruined. Ostensibly, this demonetization policy was aimed at curbing corruption and terrorism, but it is fairly obvious that its real objective was to force people into the banking system and electronic money. Unsurprisingly, the demonetization drive was accompanied by limits on the quantity of gold people are allowed to hold.

Despite such attempts to influence our thinking and our behaviour, we don't need to resign ourselves to pretending that our system is working when it so clearly isn't. Looking at the eventual fate of the Soviet Union, it should be clear that the sooner we abandon the drift towards hypernormalisation and start on the path to normalisation the better off we will be.

DontGive Jan 7, 2017 9:03 PM

CB's printing is not a bug. It's a feature.

Long debt bitches.

Doña K TBT or not TBT Jan 8, 2017 12:05 AM

I did not learn anything from that movie. One man's collage of events.

We just take revenge on the system by living well.

Luc X. Ifer TBT or not TBT Jan 8, 2017 12:06 AM

Correct. I seen with sufficient level of comprehending consciousness the last 5 years of it - copy-cat perfection with the current times in US(S)A, terrifying how similar the times are as it is a clear indication of the times to come.

HRH Feant Jan 7, 2017 9:06 PM

Great article. I think it does describe the USSA at the present time. Everything works until it doesn't.

malek HRH Feant Jan 7, 2017 11:40 PM

The funny thing is I had almost identical thoughts just a few days ago. But I was thinking in comparison more of East Germany's last 20 years before they imploded - peacefully, because not a single non-leading-rank person believed any of the official facts anymore (and therefore they even simply ignored orders from high command to crush the Leipzig Monday demonstrations.)

navy62802 Jan 7, 2017 9:14 PM

I'm ok with a world led by Trump and Putin.

christiangustafson Jan 7, 2017 9:17 PM

Great piece!

I was just thinking that the whole economic world sees us in a sort of equilibrium at the moment. There will be some adjustments under Trump, but nothing serious. We shall see ..

Eeyores Enigma Jan 7, 2017 9:17 PM

Repeat something often enough and it becomes hypernormalised. With that in mind the number of eyes/minds/hits is all that matters. This has been known and exploited for hundreds of years.

That a handful of individuals can have a monopoly over the single most important aspect of whether you live or die is the ultimate success of hypernormalisation. CENTRAL BANKING.

Manipuflation Jan 7, 2017 9:22 PM

Mrs.M is of the last Soviet generation. Her .gov papers say so. There is never a day when I don't hear something soviet. She still has a her red pioneer ribbon. I have tried to encourage her to write about it on ZH so that we know. Do you think she will? No. She's says that we can't understand what it was like no matter what she says.

Mrs.M was born in 1981 so she has lived an interesting life. I married her in 2004 after much paperwork and $15000. I wanted that female because we got along quite well. She is who I needed with me this and I would do it all over again.

Needless to say, I do not support any aggression towards Russia. And to my fellow Americans, I advise caution because the half you are broke ass fucks and are already ropes with me.

That is the only news anyone needs to know.

wisebastard Jan 7, 2017 9:25 PM

the monkeys made me think ZH should make a post with monkeys evolving into humans that then de-evolve into Paul Krugman

GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 9:34 PM

I recall the joke from the old Soviet Union: "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work." In the USSA these last few years, Barry pretends to tell the truth. Libtards pretend to believe him.

BabaLooey GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 11:05 PM

Wrong. They believe him. Look at the gaggle of libtard/shiteaters at Soetero's Friday night bash at the White House.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2017/01/07/stars-obamas-white-hou...

Fucks. ALL of them.

max_leering GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 11:35 PM

Geezer, I'd change only one thing... I believe libtards bought Barry's bullshit hook, line and sinker... it was the rest of us who not-so-subtly were saying WTF!!!

Salzburg1756 Jan 7, 2017 9:35 PM

White Nationalists have lived in the real world for decades; the rest of you need to catch up.

JustPastPeacefield Jan 7, 2017 10:06 PM

Reagan used to quip that in the Soviet Union, the people pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. We're not the Soviet Union, but we have become a farce. Next stop - the fall. Followed by chaos, then onto something new. The new elites will just be the old elites, well, the ones that escape the noose.

evokanivo JustPastPeacefield Jan 7, 2017 10:23 PM

what noose? you think joe 6p is going to identify the culprits? i think not. "no one saw this coming!!!" is still ringing in my ears from the last time.

jm Jan 7, 2017 10:14 PM

I really don't know how people can keep on getting clicks with this tired crap. It didn't happen in 2008 just get over it. The delusional people are the people that think the world is going to end tomorrow.

wwxx jm Jan 8, 2017 6:08 AM

Maybe the world has ended, for 95 million? I haven't paid a single Fed income tax dollar in over 8 yrs., for a specific reason, I refuse to support the new normal circus, and quite frankly I would have gotten out during the GWBush regime, but I couldn't afford to at the time.

wwxx

EndOfDayExit Jan 7, 2017 10:17 PM

The real ugly problem with the Soviet Union is that whatever they broke it into isn't working well either. Same with the USSA. No one really knows what to do. Feudalism would probably work, but it is not possible to go back to it. My bet is that we will end up with some form of socialism, universal income and whatever else, just because there is no good alternative for dealing with lots and lots of people who are not needed anymore.

BingoBoggins EndOfDayExit Jan 8, 2017 6:15 AM

Do you mean useless eaters or fuckers deserving the guillotine? Russia's problem post collapse was the good ol' USSA and its capitalist, plunderer banking mavens.

NAV Jan 7, 2017 10:23 PM

The Soviet Union pushed its old culture to near destruction but failed to establish a new and better culture to replace it, writes Angelo M. Codevilla in "The Rise of Political Correctness," and as a result the U.S.S.R fell, just as America's current "politically correct" and dysfunctional "progressive utopia" will implode.

As such, Codevilla would agree that the US population " is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is."

As for the U.S.S.R., "this step turned out instead to destroy the very basis of Soviet power," writes Codevilla. "[C]ontinued efforts to force people to celebrate the party's ersatz reality, to affirm things that they know are not true and to deny others they know to be true – to live by lies – requires breaking them , reducing them to a sense of fearful isolation, destroying their self-esteem and their capacity to trust others. George Orwell's novel 1984 dramatized this culture war's ends and means : nothing less than the substitution of the party's authority for the reality conveyed by human senses and reason. Big Brother's agent, having berated the hapless Winston for preferring his own views to society's dictates, finished breaking his spirit by holding up four fingers and demanding that Winston acknowledge seeing five.

"Thus did the Soviet regime create dysfunctional, cynical, and resentful subjects. Because Communism confused destruction of 'bourgeois culture' with cultural conquest, it won all the cultural battles while losing its culture war long before it collapsed politically. As Communists identified themselves in people's minds with falsehood and fraud, people came to identify truth with anything other than the officials and their doctrines. Inevitably, they also identified them with corruption and privation. A nd so it was that, whenever the authorities announced that the harvest had been good, the people hoarded potatoes; and that more and more people who knew nothing of Christianity except that the authorities had anathematized it, started wearing crosses."

And if you want to see the ruling class's culture war in action today in America, pick up the latest issues of Vogue Magazine or O, The Oprah Magazine with their multitude of role reversals between whites and minorities. Or check out the latest decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court forcing people to acknowledge that America is not a Christian nation, or making it "more difficult for men, women and children to exist as a family" or demanding via law "that their subjects join them in celebrating the new order that reflects their identity."

As to just how far the ruling class has gone to serve the interests and proclivities of its leaders and to reject the majority's demand for representation, Codevilla notes, "In 2012 no one would have thought that defining marriage between one man and one woman, as enshrined in U.S. law, would brand those who do so as motivated by a culpable psychopathology called 'homophobia,' subject to fines and near-outlaw status. Not until 2015-16 did it occur to anyone that requiring persons with male personal plumbing to use public bathrooms reserved for men was a sign of the same pathology

"On the wholesale level, it is a war on civilization waged to indulge identity politics."

http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-rise-of-political-correctness/

Yen Cross Jan 7, 2017 11:11 PM

This article is so flawed! People[impoverished] aren't trying to jump over a wall patrolled by guards into Mexico -YET. Tyler, why do you repost shit like this?

daveO Yen Cross Jan 8, 2017 12:56 AM

That's because the Yankees, fleeing high taxes, can move to the sunbelt states w/o freezing. The USA went broke in 2008. Mexico got a head start by 22 years when oil prices collapsed in '86.

MASTER OF UNIVERSE Jan 7, 2017 11:28 PM

The only way to normalize banking in a contemporary banking paradigm of QE Infinity & Beyond is to start over again without the bankers & accountants that knowingly bet the ranch for a short term gain at the expense of long term profitability. In Japan an honourable businessman/CEO would suicide for bringing this kind of devastation to the company shareholders.

In America they don't give a shit because it is always someone else other than the CEO that takes the fall. 08 was proof that America is not equipped to participate in a Multinational & Multipolar world of business & investment in business. America can't get along in business in this world anymore. Greed has rendered America unemployable as a major market participant in a Globally run network of businesses.

America is the odd man out these days even though the next POTUS promises better management from a business perspective. Whilst the Mafia Cartel bosses trust TrumpO's business savvy the rest of the planet Earth does not.

Yen Cross Jan 7, 2017 11:53 PM

Are you kidding me??? >

Hypernormalisation I think we need a few MOAR syllables connected by fake verb/adjective < reverse /destruction- of the English language.

Manipuflation Yen Cross Jan 8, 2017 1:23 AM

Yen, I have a bottle of Bacardi rum here. It was on sale. Should I open it up? We could become experts....well at least I could.:-)

BingoBoggins Jan 8, 2017 8:12 AM

A liberal friend laid this movie on me to show me why he supported Hillary. A smart cookie, a PHd teaching English in Japan. A Khazarnazi Jew, he even spent time in Kyiv, Ukraine pre-coup, only mingling with "poets and writers". He went out of his way to tell me how bad the Russians were, informed as he was prior to the rejection of the EU's usurious offer.

He even quite dramatically pulled out the Anti-Semite card. I had to throw Banderas in his face and the US sponsored regime. I had respect for this guy and his knowledge but he just - could - not - let - go the cult assumptions. I finally came to believe Liberal Arts educators are victims of inbred conditioning. In retaliation, he wanted to somehow prove Putin a charlatan or villian and Trump his proxie.

This, after I'd point out his evasion and deflection every time I addressed his bias and belief in the MSM propaganda mantras of racism, misogyny, xenophobia - all the usual labeling bullshit up to insinuating Russia hacked the election. Excerpts from a correspondence wherein I go full asshole on the guy follow. Try and make sense of it if you watch this trash:

HyperNormalization 50:29 Not Ronald Rayguns, or Quadaffi plays along. Say what? They're, i.e. Curtis, assuming what Q thought?

1:15 USSR collapses. No shit. Cronyism in a centralized organization grown too large is inevitable it seems. So the premise has evolved to cultural/societal "management". Right. USSR collapses but let's repeat the same mistakes 'cause "it's different this time". We got us a computer!

Then Fink the failed Squid (how do Squids climb the corporate ladder?) builds one and programs historical data to,,,, forecast? I heard a' this. Let me guess. He couldn't avoid bias, making his models fallacious. Whoops. Well, he does intend to manipulate society, or was that not the goal? Come again? Some authority ran with it and ... captured an entire nation's media, conspired with other like-minded sycophants and their mysterious masters to capture an election by ... I may be getting ahead of myself.

Oh, boy, I have an inkling of where this is going. Perceptions modified by the word, advanced by the herd, in order to capture a vulnerable society under duress, who then pick sides, fool themselves in the process, miss the three hour tour never to live happily ever after on a deserted isle because they eschew (pick a bias here from the list provided). The one you think the "others" have, 'cause, shit, we're above it all, right? " Are we not entertained" is probably not the most appropriate question here.

Point being, Curtis, the BBC documentarian, totally negates the reality of pathological Imperialism as has been practiced by the West over the last half century, causing so many of the effects he so casually eludes to in the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Russia, the US and elsewhere. Perhaps the most blatant is this; Curtis asserts that Trump "defeated journalism" by rendering its fact-checking abilities irrelevant. Wikipedia He Hypernormalizes the very audience that believes itself to be enlightened. As for my erstwhile friend, the fucker never once admitted all the people *killed* for the ideals he supported. I finally blew him off for good.

To Hell In A Ha... Jan 8, 2017 7:06 AM

I've been using the term Hypernormalisation to describe aspects of western society for the last 15 years, before Adam Curtis's brilliant BBC documentary Hypernormalisation , afflicting western society and particularly politics. There are lies and gross distortions everywhere in western society and it straddles/effects all races, colours, social classes and the disease is most acute in our politics.

We all know the hypernoprmalisation in politics, as we witness stories everyday on Zerohedge of the disconnect from reality...

jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 7:44 AM

It is called COGNITIVE DISSONANCE ..

Allow me to quote something here ..

Enter Operation Stillpoint: William Colby, William Casey and Leo Emil Wanta.

At the time it started, President Reagan wanted to get a better handle on ways to keep the Soviets from expansionary tactics used to spread Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin's philosophy of communism around the world. He looked to his Special Task Force to provide a means of doing so. One thing was certain: The economy of the Soviets had never been strong and corruption, always present in government and always growing at least as fast as a government grows, made the USSR vulnerable to outside interference just as the United States is today.

According to Gorbachev's Prime Minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, the "moral [nravstennoe] state of the society" in 1985 was its "most terrifying" feature: "[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this – from top to bottom and from bottom to top."

Again, it sounds like today's America, doesn't it?

Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze made equally painful comments about the lawlessness and corruption dominating the Soviet Union. During the winter months of 1984-85, he told Gorbachev that "Everything is rotten. It has to be changed."

"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong," Frantz Fanon said in his 1952 book Black Skin, White Masks (originally published in French as Peau Noire, Masques Blancs). "When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit with the core belief."

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

During their final days as a world power, the Soviet Union allowed cognitive dissonance to rule its better judgment as so many Americans are doing in 2012. The handwriting on the wall was pretty clear for Gorbachev. The Soviet economy was failing. They did none of the necessary things to save their economy. In 2012, the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear for the American people. The economy is failing. The people and the Congress do none of the necessary things to save their economy. Why? Go re-read the definition of cognitive dissonance. That's why. We have a classic fight going on between those who want government to take care of them who will pay the price of lost freedom to get that care, and those who value freedom above all else.

On one day we have 50 state attorneys general suing Bank of America for making fraudulent mortgages, and on the next we have M.F. Global losing billions upon billions of customer dollars because they got mixed with the firm's funds – which is against the law – or we have J.P. Morgan Chase losing $2 billion (or is it $5 billion?) in bad investments. As Eduard Shevardnadze said, "Everything is rotten. It has to be changed." As I would say it, "There is no Rule of Law in America today. There has been no real Rule of Law since George Herbert Walker Bush took office."

No one listened then; no one is listening in America now. The primary reason? Cognitive dissonance. -- Chapter 2, "Wanta! Black Swan, White Hat" (2013)

Okay then, forget what was said in 1985, that was later reported in 2013 ..

Let's fast forward to Oct. 30, 2016 ..

Shall we? I mean, it is a bit MOAR -- relevant!

https://youtu.be/8tYTSR9gheQ

And, for those that must have further amplification .. (And, some .......... fun!)

https://www.youtube.com/user/fooser77/playlists

BingoBoggins jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 8:20 AM

You reminded me I bookmarked this on Chrome, so I dared to venture there to retrieve it;

https://books.google.com/books?id=cbC_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PP21&lpg=PP21&dq=crony...

Vageling jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 9:16 AM

Lee Wanta. I've heard of him before. He was screwed over for some bullshit charges. And the CIA made a firm warning... How long did that dude spent in jail?

Just looked up his story as it was blurry. Cronyism at its finest. So now that I got my refreshing course. Trump stole/adopted (however you want to look at that) his plan and the project the gov (DOT) proposes sucks donkey balls compared to Wanta's.

So where are all the climate hoaxers now by the way? You'd figure they'd be all over this.

American Gorbachev Jan 8, 2017 10:10 AM

to me the PTB are "Japanifying" the u.s. (decades of no growth, near total demoralization of a generation of worker bees (as in, 'things will never get any better, be glad for what little you've got' etc... look what they've done to u.s. millenials just since '08... fooled (crushed) them TWICE already)

But the PTB Plan B is to emulate the USSR with a crackup, replete with fire sale to oligarchs of public assets. They will Japan as long as they can (so it will be difficult to forecast any crackup anymore than six months beforehand). Hope they have a Gorbachev lined up, to limit the bloodshed

[Oct 30, 2016] The form of nationalism that prevails now can be called cultural nationalism not ethnonationalism . In a sense cultural nationalism is more inclusive, but it can be as radical as national socialism in the past. American exceptionalism is a good example of this type of nationalism.

Notable quotes:
"... Even if experience has shown it's futile, I still feel compelled to repeat the point that "tribalism" is a racist and imperialist pejorative ..."
"... "tribalism" is used to describe the very same racist ideological currents that give the term its rhetorical power in the first place. ..."
"... In essence, anything that relies on identification with an in-group against those outside the group. In that sense, nearly all of Trump's support base is tribalist, while only some could be described as racist/white nationalist. ..."
"... The term "Tribalism" implicitly stresses the ethnic/racial component in the complex phenomena that modern nationalism represents. That's a major weakness. ..."
"... Even in modern Ukrainian nationalism cultural elements are stronger then ethnic. ..."
"... 'Cultural nationalism' seems to come closest, at least in the Australian and British contexts I'm familiar with, because the so-called 'tribalists' seem to be people who have a strong idea about who are the 'right kind' of Australians (or Britons), and it is a mixture of cultural and racial/ethnic characteristics. ..."
"... Populations can be racialized according to literally any conceivable physical, social, or cultural characteristic - the idea that it can only depend on specific differentiating factors like one's melanin count or descent from Charlemagne or whatever is itself a racist idea, an attempt to reify particular forms of racism as rooted in some immutable aspect of "the way things are". ..."
"... "the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death" ..."
"... Except unlike with Quiggin's definition of tribalism @ 32, racism is explicitly a political and economic phenomenon to use a particular ingroup/outgroup differentiation as a way to systematically disenfranchise and subjugate the outgroup , which seems like the only reason we'd bother talking about it as a specific mass political movement at all. ..."
Oct 30, 2016 | crookedtimber.org
WLGR 10.30.16 at 10:30 am 16

Even if experience has shown it's futile, I still feel compelled to repeat the point that "tribalism" is a racist and imperialist pejorative (basically this imagery condensed into a single signifier) that shouldn't play such a pivotal role in any remotely serious understanding, let alone one in which "tribalism" is used to describe the very same racist ideological currents that give the term its rhetorical power in the first place.

As described in an earlier thread about all of this, my preference would be not to beat around the bush and go with "fascism" plain and simple, and even if one isn't comfortable making that assertion directly, "ethnonationalism" seems like it could play an equivalent role to "tribalism" in this analysis with little or no extra clarification needed. Call me crazy but this seems like a pretty minor lexical sacrifice to make for combating racist imagery in one's own language.

Call me crazy but this seems like a pretty minor lexical sacrifice to make for combating racist imagery in one's own language.

likbez 10.30.16 at 12:05 pm

@16

"ethnonationalism" seems like it could play an equivalent role to "tribalism" in this analysis with little or no extra clarification needed.

While I agree that "tribalism" a bad term that clouds the issue, I think the form of nationalism that prevails now can be called "cultural nationalism" not "ethnonationalism". In a sense "cultural nationalism" is more inclusive, but it can be as radical as national socialism in the past. American exceptionalism is a good example of this type of nationalism.

John Quiggin 10.30.16 at 7:33 pm

@WLGR I'm happy to reconsider terminology. But I've been using "tribalism" for a kind of politics that's not necessary as extreme as ethno-nationalism, let alone fascism.

In essence, anything that relies on identification with an in-group against those outside the group. In that sense, nearly all of Trump's support base is tribalist, while only some could be described as racist/white nationalist.

likbez 10.30.16 at 7:39 pm

@20

The term "Tribalism" implicitly stresses the ethnic/racial component in the complex phenomena that modern nationalism represents. That's a major weakness.

Even in modern Ukrainian nationalism cultural elements are stronger then ethnic.

Val 10.31.16 at 6:22 am

I tend to agree with what WLGR is saying about 'tribalists'. What porpoise @43 said is interesting historically, but I don't think it removes the overlay from later colonial and imperial associations of 'tribes' with 'primitives'/inferiors. So I don't think tribalism is a good word here, but not sure what would be a better one.

'Cultural nationalism' seems to come closest, at least in the Australian and British contexts I'm familiar with, because the so-called 'tribalists' seem to be people who have a strong idea about who are the 'right kind' of Australians (or Britons), and it is a mixture of cultural and racial/ethnic characteristics.

Here in Australia, it is certainly possible for people from non-Anglo backgrounds to be at least conditionally accepted by the 'tribalists' if they appear to embrace the tribalists' idea of Aussie culture (although it's conditional because the 'tribalists' who are 'accepting' the non-Anglo immigrants unconsciously see their ability to pass judgement as related to their own Anglo/white background, I think). Complicated, I am getting tied in knots, but I agree tribalist isn't the best word.

WLGR 10.31.16 at 3:52 pm

likbez @ 16,

It seems to me that the effort to differentiate race-based from culturally based ultranationalism is still tangled in the weeds of a colloquial understanding of "race" and "racism".

Populations can be racialized according to literally any conceivable physical, social, or cultural characteristic - the idea that it can only depend on specific differentiating factors like one's melanin count or descent from Charlemagne or whatever is itself a racist idea, an attempt to reify particular forms of racism as rooted in some immutable aspect of "the way things are".

Although from my understanding Ukrainian citizenship like that in most of Europe is primarily determined by jus sanguinis, and like most of Europe it's still deep in the muck of racial discrimination toward e.g. the Roma, so unless I'm misreading things it seems like a stretch to put too much distance between Ukraine (or Europe in general) and even a very colloquial sense of "ethnonationalism". It can be articulated more explicitly by outright fascists or more obliquely by mainstream centrist parties, but it's still there.

And as long as we're talking about academic definitions of racism (I'm partial to the definition proffered by Ruth Wilson Gilmore, "the state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death", although Emmett Rensin's obnoxiously thorough definition is also good) funnily enough they tend to point at something pretty much identical to what Quiggin appears to mean by "tribalism".

Except unlike with Quiggin's definition of tribalism @ 32, racism is explicitly a political and economic phenomenon to use a particular ingroup/outgroup differentiation as a way to systematically disenfranchise and subjugate the outgroup , which seems like the only reason we'd bother talking about it as a specific mass political movement at all.

And again, as annoying as it is to have pigheaded reactionaries accuse us of twisting language and "playing the race card" and so on, putting up with this noise is preferable to sacrificing useful concepts like racism and fascism from one's everyday understanding of the world,

[Oct 16, 2016] The Deep State

Notable quotes:
"... "deep state" - the Washington-Wall-Street-Silicon-Valley Establishment - is a far greater threat to liberty than you think ..."
"... Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. ..."
"... Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called "groupthink," the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town's cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." ..."
Feb 28, 2014 | The American Conservative

Steve Sailer links to this unsettling essay by former career Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren, who says the "deep state" - the Washington-Wall-Street-Silicon-Valley Establishment - is a far greater threat to liberty than you think. The partisan rancor and gridlock in Washington conceals a more fundamental and pervasive agreement.

Excerpts:

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi's regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least £100m to the United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country's intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an "establishment." All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State's protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

More:

Washington is the most important node of the Deep State that has taken over America, but it is not the only one. Invisible threads of money and ambition connect the town to other nodes. One is Wall Street, which supplies the cash that keeps the political machine quiescent and operating as a diversionary marionette theater. Should the politicians forget their lines and threaten the status quo, Wall Street floods the town with cash and lawyers to help the hired hands remember their own best interests. The executives of the financial giants even have de facto criminal immunity. On March 6, 2013, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Eric Holder stated the following: "I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy." This, from the chief law enforcement officer of a justice system that has practically abolished the constitutional right to trial for poorer defendants charged with certain crimes. It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice - certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee. [3]

The corridor between Manhattan and Washington is a well trodden highway for the personalities we have all gotten to know in the period since the massive deregulation of Wall Street: Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, Henry Paulson, Timothy Geithner and many others. Not all the traffic involves persons connected with the purely financial operations of the government: In 2013, General David Petraeus joined KKR (formerly Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) of 9 West 57th Street, New York, a private equity firm with $62.3 billion in assets. KKR specializes in management buyouts and leveraged finance. General Petraeus' expertise in these areas is unclear. His ability to peddle influence, however, is a known and valued commodity. Unlike Cincinnatus, the military commanders of the Deep State do not take up the plow once they lay down the sword. Petraeus also obtained a sinecure as a non-resident senior fellow at theBelfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The Ivy League is, of course, the preferred bleaching tub and charm school of the American oligarchy.

Lofgren goes on to say that Silicon Valley is a node of the Deep State too, and that despite the protestations of its chieftains against NSA spying, it's a vital part of the Deep State's apparatus. More:

The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction. Washington is the headquarters of the Deep State, and its time in the sun as a rival to Rome, Constantinople or London may be term-limited by its overweening sense of self-importance and its habit, as Winwood Reade said of Rome, to "live upon its principal till ruin stared it in the face."

Read the whole thing.

... I would love to see a study comparing the press coverage from 9/11 leading up to the Iraq War with press coverage of the gay marriage issue from about 2006 till today. Specifically, I'd be curious to know about how thoroughly the media covered the cases against the policies that the Deep State and the Shallow State decided should prevail. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy here, not at all. I'm only thinking back to how it seemed so obvious to me in 2002 that we should go to war with Iraq, so perfectly clear that the only people who opposed it were fools or villains. The same consensus has emerged around same-sex marriage. I know how overwhelmingly the news media have believed this for some time, such that many American journalists simply cannot conceive that anyone against same-sex marriage is anything other than a fool or a villain. Again, this isn't a conspiracy; it's in the nature of the thing. Lofgren:

Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called "groupthink," the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town's cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time. Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it's 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one's consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: "You mean the number of terrorist groups we are fighting is classified?" No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one's surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn't know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.

When all you know is the people who surround you in your professional class bubble and your social circles, you can think the whole world agrees with you, or should. It's probably not a coincidence that the American media elite live, work, and socialize in New York and Washington, the two cities that were attacked on 9/11, and whose elites - political, military, financial - were so genuinely traumatized by the events.

Anyway, that's just a small part of it, about how the elite media manufacture consent. Here's a final quote, one from the Moyers interview with Lofgren:

BILL MOYERS: If, as you write, the ideology of the Deep State is not democrat or republican, not left or right, what is it?

MIKE LOFGREN: It's an ideology. I just don't think we've named it. It's a kind of corporatism. Now, the actors in this drama tend to steer clear of social issues. They pretend to be merrily neutral servants of the state, giving the best advice possible on national security or financial matters. But they hold a very deep ideology of the Washington consensus at home, which is deregulation, outsourcing, de-industrialization and financialization. And they believe in American exceptionalism abroad, which is boots on the ground everywhere, it's our right to meddle everywhere in the world. And the result of that is perpetual war.

This can't last. We'd better hope it can't last. And we'd better hope it unwinds peacefully.

[May 09, 2016] The general press is incapable of independent thought

Notable quotes:
"... Not sure about that level of group think, although I would agree that the general press is incapable of independent thought. Unfortunately, even the CEOs read and follow that junk. ..."
"... Remember, the Chairman of EOG was threatening to outdrill the Saudis until he was replaced in late Dec., and Hamm sold all his hedges in early 2015, because he was sure oil would be back to 100 in a few months. However, no one can fire Hamm. ..."
"... In Q3 demand goes up by about 1.5 million barrels a day as fir example the Saudis U.S. oil to generate power for A/C. Demand stays at this level thru Q4. ..."
"... The decline of US tight oil production has been masked by offshore oil projects coming on line. That addition is about done, and the 1.5 million barrels per day per year decline rate will take effect. ..."
"... Last week we had the Saudi oil minster fired. Is this a change in the Saudis holding down prices by over producing. ..."
"... IMO prices may go up faster than many expect. ..."
05/08/2016 at 2:13 pm
Not sure about that level of group think, although I would agree that the general press is incapable of independent thought. Unfortunately, even the CEOs read and follow that junk.

Remember, the Chairman of EOG was threatening to outdrill the Saudis until he was replaced in late Dec., and Hamm sold all his hedges in early 2015, because he was sure oil would be back to 100 in a few months. However, no one can fire Hamm.

In support of group think, I do remember reading something that indicated that many believed something was beginning to go amiss in July. However, December is not usually a big drilling month, anyway. Drilling units only dropped 11 in December 2014, which is not a huge drop for December.

clueless , 05/08/2016 at 6:31 pm
In the fall of 2013, on their quarterly conference call Transocean said that "there is an ill wind blowing."

They had to be among the earliest to see the problem.

Hamm sold his hedges in late 2014.

R DesRoches , 05/08/2016 at 9:00 am
It looks like this summer will see a big change in S/D.

In Q3 demand goes up by about 1.5 million barrels a day as fir example the Saudis U.S. oil to generate power for A/C. Demand stays at this level thru Q4.

The decline of US tight oil production has been masked by offshore oil projects coming on line. That addition is about done, and the 1.5 million barrels per day per year decline rate will take effect.

We are at the point where decline rates will pick up speed.

The fires in Canada has shut in about 1 million a day in production. How long it will take to come back on line is still unknown.

Last week we had the Saudi oil minster fired. Is this a change in the Saudis holding down prices by over producing.

IMO prices may go up faster than many expect.

[Apr 07, 2016] How Cults Manipulate People

www.aibi.ph

Many people now agree that cults frequently psychologically manipulate their membership to ensure conformity and control. Steve Hassan's excellent book "Combating Cult Mind-Control" is a great starting point. The following points come from numerous sources. Not all of these are found in every cult but enough of them are found in most cults to make them very frightening places that inflict deep psychological damage on their membership.

1. Submission to Leadership - Leaders tend to be absolute, prophets of God, God Himself, specially anointed apostle, or just a strong, controlling, manipulative person who demands submission even if changes or conflicts occur in ideology or behavior.

2. Polarized World View - The group is all that is good; everything outside is bad.

3. Feeling Over Thought - Emotions, intuitions, mystical insights are promoted as more important than rational conclusions.

4. Manipulation of Feelings - Techniques designed to stimulate emotions, usually employing group dynamics to influence responses.

5. Denigration of Critical Thinking - Can go so far as to characterize any independent thought as selfish, and rational use of intellect as evil.

6. Salvation or Fulfillment can only be realized in the group.

7. End Justifies the Means - Any action or behavior is justifiable as long as it furthers the group's goals. The group (leader) becomes absolute truth and is above all man-made laws.

8. Group Over Individual - The group's concerns supersede an individual's goals, needs, aspirations, and concerns. Conformity is the key.

9. Warnings of severe or supernatural sanctions for defection or even criticism of the cult - This can go so far as to apply to negative or critical thought about the group or its leaders.

10. Severing of Ties with Past, Family, Friends, Goals, and Interests - Especially if they are negative towards or impede the goals of the group.

11. Barratrous Abuse - Some cults use "cult lawyers' to sue ex-cult members and critics often using fabricated evidence and causing financial stress by repeated trivial law suits. The cult's aim is not so much to win the lawsuit (though they often do) as to harass and intimidate their critics into silence.

Cult Conversion Techniques

Conversion into a cult is usually the result of two interacting dynamics. The first is the personal vulnerability of the potential recruit. This vulnerability may be enhanced by, but not limited to, transitional situations such as divorce, abuse, job or career change, moving away from home or leaving college, an illness, or death of a loved one.

The second dynamic are the tactics used to convert, indoctrinate (brainwash) and hold the members. Some groups attempt a radical and rapid conversion over an intensive week-end or week, such as The Forum or Scientology. Others have a more subtle approach which may take weeks or months, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. The following are techniques of unethical thought reform and mind control:

The importance of cognitive dissonance

Any person will act so as to reduce conflict between their thoughts, their emotions and their behavior. When these things are at odds with each other a person experiences 'dissonance" (the opposite of harmony). Cognitive dissonance is when what a person knows is right is at odds with either what they feel is right or what they are doing. Cults quickly move to control four key areas of a person's life during the conversion process -

Behavior - by intense involvement in activity and isolation from others. Behavior is closely prescribed and carefully supervised.

Emotions - a new recruit is often "love bombed" and greeted enthusiastically and told they are very special. They are made to feel that everyone in the cult loves them and that "nothing could be wrong with such a loving group of people". However this does not last. Emotions are sent on a roller coaster and the only hope of emotional stability is total conformity and pleasing the cult leadership.

Thought - indoctrination, extended "teaching sessions", memorization of cult dogma, "auditing sessions" where inner secrets are revealed and thought processes exposed - all are a part of attempts at thought control so that the thought life of the convert is taken up entirely with the group.

Information - isolation from peers, TV, radio, newspapers, (often labeled as "Satanic") and careful control of associations ensures that little or no material critical of the cult reaches the new recruit during the conversion process.

The combination of all these factors make it very likely that if the new recruit stays in the cult for any length of time they will come to believe in it utterly. We are not as objective as we like to think and when all these powerful forces combine then very intelligent people will be "converted" but not by God.

A Quick List of Nasty Practices

1. A Focus on felt needs, defects, with exaggerated promises of fulfillment.

2. Rigid Control of Time and Activities - Often physically and emotionally draining activities leaving little time for reflection, questioning and privacy.

3. Information Control - Cutting off or denigrating outside sources of information especially if it is critical of the group. This can also include misrepresentation and information overload.

4. Language Manipulation - Ascribing new "inside" meanings in ordinary words or the use of an exclusive vocabulary subtly moving a person to want to become an insider.

5. Discouraging Critical, Rational Thought and Questions - For instance, comments like, "Satan is the cause of all doubt; he wants to keep you from the Truth", or, "one must move beyond the cognitive left-brain and get in touch with one's higher self, his right-brain, intuitive self for true knowledge".

6. Instruction and Repetition in Trance Induction Techniques - These include progressive relaxation, chanting, hypnosis, meditation, trance states, guided imagery or visualization, deep breathing exercises, all of which make a person highly suggestible, often unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and can cause psychopathology such as relaxation induced anxiety.

7. Confession Sessions - Promoting full disclosure of all secret sins, thoughts, temptations which can become a powerful tool to manipulate, blackmail, and emotionally bond people to the leader or group. It is actually a depersonalization or stripping of the inner self , a forced submission to the group.

8. Guilt, Fear - Weapons used to maintain group loyalty, suppress questions and defections.

9. Control of Sexuality and Intimacy within the Cult - This may extend to marriage decisions (Moonies), sexual relations, promiscuity (Children of God), group sex (New Age Therapy groups), child sex, adultery, and polygamy (Branch-Davidians).

10. Excessive Financial Obligations - More and more money is needed to attain higher degrees of spirituality (Scientology), or complete submission to God requires one to give up everything to the group or leader (pp. 26-29).

The more points of ideology and conversion methodology that are in place, and the degree of intensity of their application is proportionate to the effect and damage of mind control.

These factors tend to make normal evangelism, or even dialogue, much more difficult. Therefore, some people have looked to deprogrammers or exit-counselors to help break the mental head-locks of their loved ones in an attempt to rescue them from the cult.

Can an Orthodox Christian Group Get Like This ?

Yes they can!!! Just because the theology is straight down the line does not mean the behavior will be. I was in a mission society that in a particular place under the influence of a leader with a great deal of charisma and authority became "cultic" for a year or so. That has been corrected but much damage was done.

Some Christian groups start off great -like the "children of God' and end up utterly wrong and evil. The church needs strong leaders, but they must always be accountable to Scripture and to other wise Christians.

We must allow people to be critical, to think for themselves and to understand scripture freely apart from the dictates of any leader. we must allow a great deal of emotional and intellectual freedom and renounce our desires to control others if we are to have healthy churches where people rejoice in the Truth.

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.

[Jan 31, 2016] Jesses Café Américain Deep State Inside Washingtons Shadowy Power Elite

Notable quotes:
"... But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, the deciders. ..."
"... Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called groupthink , the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the towns cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. ..."
"... As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. ..."
jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
"Our plutocracy, whether the hedge fund managers in Greenwich, Connecticut, or the Internet moguls in Palo Alto, now lives like the British did in colonial India: ruling the place but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; to the person fortunate enough to own a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension, and viable public transportation doesn't even compute. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?"

― Mike Lofgren, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government

"Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise.

But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."

Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Princeton 2014

"As a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security and possessing a top secret security clearance, I was at least on the fringes of the world I am describing, if neither totally in it by virtue of full membership nor of it by psychological disposition.

But, like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, 'the deciders.'

Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called groupthink, the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town's cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive.

As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.'"

Mike Lofgren

[Dec 08, 2015] Confirmation bias - Wikipedia

While groupthink is sociological phenomenon, it is related to several psychological phenomena, such as confirmation bias

Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.

It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning.[2] People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations).

A series of experiments in the 1960s suggested that people are biased toward confirming their existing beliefs. Later work re-interpreted these results as a tendency to test ideas in a one-sided way, focusing on one possibility and ignoring alternatives. In certain situations, this tendency can bias people's conclusions. Explanations for the observed biases include wishful thinking and the limited human capacity to process information. Another explanation is that people show confirmation bias because they are weighing up the costs of being wrong, rather than investigating in a neutral, scientific way.

Confirmation biases contribute to overconfidence in personal beliefs and can maintain or strengthen beliefs in the face of contrary evidence. Poor decisions due to these biases have been found in political and organizational contexts.

[Nov 30, 2015] Is Balanced Growth Really the Answer

Notable quotes:
"... Reich would also, in a less orthodox move, seek legislative and other changes that might move corporations back toward what they were a half-century ago: organizations that saw themselves as answering not just to stockholders but to a broader set of stakeholders, including workers and customers. ..."
Nov 30, 2015 | Economist's View

Dan Kervick, November 30, 2015 at 11:12 AM

Just as was the case with his work on financial instability, Hyman Minsky's analysis of the problems of poverty and inequality in a capitalist economy, as well as his understanding of the political dysfunctions that would result from treating these problems in the wrong way, were prophetic. See this piece by Minksy's student L. Randall Wray, especially Section 2:

http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/wp_515.pdf

The centerpiece of Minsky's preferred approach was based on a government commitment to "tight full employment". He believed that neither human capital investment, economic growth, nor redistribution would be sufficient on their own to address the problem.

As part of the critique of the human capital approach, Minsky argued that:

"it is unjust to tell the poor that they must change before they will be entitled to work-whether it is their skills set or their character that is the barrier to work... Minsky always argued that it is preferable to "take workers as they are," providing jobs tailored to the characteristics of workers, rather than trying to tailor workers to the jobs available before they are allowed to work (Minsky 1965, 1968, 1973)."

Minsky accurately foresaw the way in which a welfare approach to poverty, as opposed to a full employment approach, would politically divide working people among themselves:

"Further, NIT (and other welfare programs) would create a dependent class, which is not conducive to social cohesion (Minsky 1968). Most importantly, Minsky argued that any antipoverty program must be consistent with the underlying behavioral rules of a capitalist economy (Minsky no date, 1968, 1975a). One of those rules is that earned income is in some sense deserved."

"With the perspective of the 1980s and 1990s now behind us, it is hard to deny Minsky's arguments-President Reagan successfully turned most Americans against welfare programs and President Clinton finally "eliminated welfare as we know it." According to Minsky, a successful antipoverty program will need to provide visible benefits to the average taxpayer."

We can note that this political problem has only gotten worse, as can be seen from the deepening ugliness of our domestic politics, and the poll results that MacGillis cites.

Minsky also understood the unhealthy political and economic dynamics of an undirected aggregate demand approach to poverty, and promoted, following ideas of Keynes, a measure of socialized investment and direct job creation:

"Minsky feared that using demand stimulus to reduce poverty would necessarily lead to "stop-go" policy. Expansion would fuel inflation, causing policy makers to reverse course to slow growth in order to fight inflation (Minsky 1965, 1968). Because wages (and prices) in leading sectors would rise in expansion, but could resist deflationary pressures in recession, there would be an upward bias to rising wages in those sectors. However, in the lagging sectors, wage increases would come slowly-only with adequate tightening of labor markets-and could be reversed in recession. Hence, Minsky argued that a directed demand policy would be required-to raise demand in the lagging sectors and for low wage and unemployed workers. For this reason, he concluded
that a direct job creation program would be required."

All this adds up to a more activist role for the government sector.

likbez ->Dan Kervick...

My impression is that "human capital" is one of the most fundamental neoliberal myths. See, for example What Exactly Is Neoliberalism by Wendy Brown https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/booked-3-what-exactly-is-neoliberalism-wendy-brown-undoing-the-demos

As for people betraying their own economic interests, this phenomenon was aptly described in "What's the matter with Kansas" which can actually be reformulated as "What's the matter with the USA?". And the answer he gave is that neoliberalism converted the USA into a bizarre high demand cult. There are several characteristics of a high demand cult that are applicable. Among them:

  • "The group is preoccupied with making money."
  • "Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished."
  • "Mind-numbing techniques (for example: meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group or its leader(s)." Entertainment and, especially sport events in the US society serves the same role.
  • "The group's leadership dictates – sometimes in great detail – how members should think, act, and feel." Looks like this part of brainwashing is outsourced to economy departments ;-)
  • "The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity)."
  • "The group has a polarized, "we-they" mentality that causes conflict with the wider society."
  • "The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, clergy with mainstream denominations)."
  • "The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means (for example: collecting money for bogus charities) that members would have considered unethical before joining."
  • "The group's leadership induces guilt feelings in lower members for the lack of achievement in order to control them."
  • "Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group."
  • "Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members."

It is very difficult to get rid of this neoliberal sect mentality like is the case with other high demand cults.

kthomas,

"...it's driven be resentment..."

No, its driven by racism. White trash will take with one hand, then walk right into a voting both and screw themselves because they think they sticking it to blacks, mexicans, gays, etc.

Syaloch -> kthomas...

Racism is certainly part of it, but it's really more fundamental than that.

"This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments. That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint of moralists in all ages."

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/Smith/tms133.html

bakho

This misreads the politics. People who are disconnected from the job market very easily get disconnected from the political process. They don't vote. The people who do have jobs and are worried about keeping them and being paid too little are voting against the "losers" who they see as parasites. Never mind that the Malefactors of Great Wealth are the true parasites. Elections in the US are won or lost on voter turnout.

Syaloch

Mark: "If the distribution of income is determined by something other than productivity, as it appears to be -- if income that was not earned through higher productivity flows to those at the top of firms due to unequal bargaining power or other forces -- then returning that income to those who did earn it is not taking something unjustly..., instead it is restoring justice. The trick is to get people to understand that."

That's what Reich is attempting to do in Saving Capitalism. I like his coinage of "predistribution" and his focus on changing the allocation of market income so that it truly reflects what is "earned" rather than settling for redistribution after the fact, which allows the simple-minded to argue that you're taking what's "mine" and giving it to anonymous others who it's easy to cast as undeserving.

From Krugman's review:

"These [predistribution] changes would include fairly standard liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, reversing the anti-union bias of labor law and its enforcement, and changing contract law to empower workers to take action against employers and debtors to assert their interests against creditors. Reich would also, in a less orthodox move, seek legislative and other changes that might move corporations back toward what they were a half-century ago: organizations that saw themselves as answering not just to stockholders but to a broader set of 'stakeholders,' including workers and customers."

While I fully support all of the above I think we need to go further. For one thing I would like to see more benefits without means testing; ideally this would amount to a guaranteed minimum income, since I think that's what we're going to need anyway to cope with increasing automation.

I also think the direct job creation approach described by Dan above is worth considering. The challenge there is that for an increasing percentage of jobs it is no longer possible to "take workers as they are" given the specialized skills required. Subsidized retraining and re-credentialing can help to some degree, but there will always be some portion of the population incapable of acquiring the needed skills.

[Nov 23, 2015] Who Turned My Blue State Red?

economistsview.typepad.com
Fred C. Dobbs said...
Who Turned My Blue State Red?
http://nyti.ms/1kLMLSC
NYT - ALEC MacGILLIS - NOV. 20

It is one of the central political puzzles of our time: Parts of the country that depend on the safety-net programs supported by Democrats are increasingly voting for Republicans who favor shredding that net.

In his successful bid for the Senate in 2010, the libertarian Rand Paul railed against "intergenerational welfare" and said that "the culture of dependency on government destroys people's spirits," yet racked up winning margins in eastern Kentucky, a former Democratic stronghold that is heavily dependent on public benefits. Last year, Paul R. LePage, the fiercely anti-welfare Republican governor of Maine, was re-elected despite a highly erratic first term - with strong support in struggling towns where many rely on public assistance. And earlier this month, Kentucky elected as governor a conservative Republican who had vowed to largely undo the Medicaid expansion that had given the state the country's largest decrease in the uninsured under Obamacare, with roughly one in 10 residents gaining coverage.

It's enough to give Democrats the willies as they contemplate a map where the red keeps seeping outward, confining them to ever narrower redoubts of blue. The temptation for coastal liberals is to shake their heads over those godforsaken white-working-class provincials who are voting against their own interests.

But this reaction misses the complexity of the political dynamic that's taken hold in these parts of the country. It misdiagnoses the Democratic Party's growing conundrum with working-class white voters. And it also keeps us from fully grasping what's going on in communities where conditions have deteriorated to the point where researchers have detected alarming trends in their mortality rates.

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process. ...

(Indeed. Why are impoverished, federal-dollar absorbing states typically So Red? It's a good question. But Kentucky, Iowa & Maine are not good examples.
Kentucky has always been on the very edge of the Old South. Iowa is deeply evangelical. And Maine is just Maine.)

Young Economists Feel They Have to be Very Cautious'

August 23, 2015 |

From an interview of Paul Romer in the WSJ:

...Q: What kind of feedback have you received from colleagues in the profession?

A: I tried these ideas on a few people, and the reaction I basically got was "don't make waves." As people have had time to react, I've been hearing a bit more from people who appreciate me bringing these issues to the forefront. The most interesting feedback is from young economists who say that they feel that they have to be very cautious, and they don't want to get somebody cross at them. There's a concern by young economists that if they deviate from what's acceptable, they'll get in trouble. That also seemed to me to be a sign of something that is really wrong. Young people are the ones who often come in and say, "You all have been thinking about this the wrong way, here's a better way to think about it."

... ... ...

Posted by Mark Thoma on Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 12:27 AM in Economics, Macroeconomics, Methodology | Permalink Comments (7)

pgl said...

Very interesting interview on many fronts. What you highlighted - "The most interesting feedback is from young economists who say that they feel that they have to be very cautious, and they don't want to get somebody cross at them. There's a concern by young economists that if they deviate from what's acceptable, they'll get in trouble." - is itself troubling. Young scholars should dare to be different. Fama and Shiller viewed financial economics from very different perspectives and we are all the better for it as the Nobel Prize committee recognized.

djb said...

For young economists caution is a rational approach

Preferably get an advisor whose work you agree with or encourages your intellectual explorations

But the formula: Get on, get honored, get honest is probably the best approach

tom said...

The story is true for young academics in general. As in many areas, the rules don't apply to the superstars, or to those expressing the views held by the establishment....

Peter K. said in reply to tom...

"The story is true for young academics in general."

Or many jobs or careers in general? It's a nice by-product of loose labor markets where employers hold all of the cards.

Go along to get along. Don't make waves.

DeDude said...

This is one of the unfortunate side-effects of human tribalism. When you challenge the tribe you belong to (or say something in support of a competing tribe), you are viewed as "one of them" rather than "one of us". That will inevitably make you less likely to gain support from the tribe you belong to and in early stage careers that could be detrimental to your success. Tribalism is a basic human character flaw that we cannot get rid of no matter how much we would like. Maybe we could try to create a "tribe of truth" where the thing that will get you "one of them'ed" is a failure to seek the truths, regardless. I know -99% of scientist will claim that this is exactly what they are doing (just like they will claim they are above average). But how about holding their feet to the fire on that.

Benedict@Large said...

When I first heard the expression "dismal science", I thought, what is so dismal about economics? Now that I've learned economics however, whenever i hear the the expression "dismal economics", I think, what is so science about it?

Lafayette said...

{There's a concern by young economists that if they deviate from what's acceptable, they'll get in trouble.}

Sad, very sad. Whatever happened to Intellectual Freedom in the US?

It's hidden in a blog behind a pseudonym?

1984! Group Think!

I submit this trend started with the Rabid Right and Reckless Ronnie in the 1980s. Let's hope it is coming to its well-deserved end.

But, maybe not ...

[Jul 18, 2015] Like Humans, Apes Are Susceptible to Spin

Apes respond to framing:

...The susceptibility to positive framing is what scientists call an irrational bias, and it is very powerful. To better understand why our psyche responds so deeply, Christopher Krupenye, a Duke University graduate student in evolutionary anthropology, and his colleagues Alexandra Rosati of Yale University and Brian Hare of Duke gathered 40 of our closest living relatives-23 chimpanzees and 17 bonobos-and offered them options for choosing food: either one or two fruits versus a constant number of peanuts. Sometimes the apes were shown one piece of fruit each time they made the selection, but half the time they were given two: positive framing. In other trials, the apes were initially presented two pieces of fruit, but half the time they got only one: negative framing. Regardless of the framing, the apes ended up with an identical quantity of fruit. Yet they were more likely to choose fruit when they were offered the single fruit with its frequent "bonus" than the double fruit with its frequent "loss."

Because these framing effects are shared with our nonhuman relatives, Krupenye says, the results suggest that these biases are hardwired into our biology and may have conferred some evolutionary benefit as apes foraged for food. Yet a hardwired tendency does not have to be a sentence. Although susceptibility to framing is in our blood, being aware of the bias can help us avoid making poor decisions. ... Chances are, you can use your brain to outwit your biology.

The sexes are not equally swayed by spin..., in the Duke study ... male apes were more affected than females by how their choices were framed. ...

[Jul 04, 2015]The New Ukrainian Exceptionalism

"...Russian-backed aggression, relentless propaganda and meddling in Ukraine's domestic politics have pushed many Ukrainians to adopt a deeply polarized worldview, in which constructive criticism, dissenting views, and even observable facts are rejected out of hand if they are seen as harmful to Ukraine. This phenomenon might be termed the new Ukrainian exceptionalism, and it is worrisome because it threatens the very democratic values Ukrainians espouse, while weakening Ukraine's case for international support."
.
"...The same goes for the country's far right political forces. Cite the rise of Praviy Sektor, or Right Sector, during and after the Euro-Maidan, and many Ukrainians will point to the radical right movement's poor performance in last year's presidential and parliamentary elections. Point to the resurgence of symbols and slogans of the Second World War ultra-nationalist Union of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN, or the newly passed laws banning "Soviet symbols," canonizing controversial Ukrainian nationalist figures Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, and they will say that Ukraine has every right to define its own history, even if it does so with blatant disregard and disrespect for that of millions of its citizens now living under Russian occupation or otherwise not fully represented in the government. The new Ukrainian exceptionalism makes it possible for undercurrents of intolerance and extreme nationalism to cohabit with stated commitments to pluralism and democracy."
.
"...These steps set a dangerous precedent for limitation of human rights without wide public discussion. Exceptionalism effectively gives carte-blanche to the government to act in the name of Ukraine's security"
June 23, 2015 | yaleglobal.yale.edu

Ukrainian leaders, under siege from Russian and separatist forces, resist constructive criticism

Russia on the dock, Ukraine not without blemish: Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, left, walks past Russian President Vladimir Putin during an international gathering (top); bellicose Ukrainian Semen Semenchenko grandstanding

WASHINGTON: The slow boiling war in Southeastern Ukraine is by now well known to the world. It has been projected in stark moral and political terms and in gruesome detail by the international press, Ukrainian and Western political leaders, and ordinary Ukrainian citizens. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Ukraine is engaged in a struggle not only for its sovereignty, but for its very survival as a nation-state.

In this hour of need, every Ukrainian citizen and every self-described friend of Ukraine in the international community should not only speak but act in support of Ukraine. But speaking out and taking action in support of Ukraine have become increasingly fraught in recent months. Russian-backed aggression, relentless propaganda and meddling in Ukraine's domestic politics have pushed many Ukrainians to adopt a deeply polarized worldview, in which constructive criticism, dissenting views, and even observable facts are rejected out of hand if they are seen as harmful to Ukraine. This phenomenon might be termed the new Ukrainian exceptionalism, and it is worrisome because it threatens the very democratic values Ukrainians espouse, while weakening Ukraine's case for international support.

The new Ukrainian exceptionalism comes at a high price for Ukrainian civil society and for the international community focused on helping Ukraine. There have already been cases in which prominent Ukrainian thought leaders have been threatened and even attacked for expressing views critical of the government, nationalist politicians, or volunteer militias. Likewise, among Ukraine's friends abroad there is precious little tolerance for views that dissent from the dominant party line that Ukraine's current government is the best it has ever had, and that the West must provide not only political and financial support, but also supply it with lethal weapons to fight the Russians in Donbas.

There is little tolerance for views that dissent from the dominant party line in Ukraine.

This exceptionalist worldview is nowhere more evident than in the discourse around Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko is a billionaire confectionary baron who also owns banking and agricultural assets, and several influential media platforms, most notably Ukraine's Fifth Channel, and who served in high government posts, including as Yanukovych's minister of economic development and minister of foreign affairs under Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Today, Poroshenko presides over a state and a government that has committed to a reform campaign it styles as "de-oligrachization."

Yet when queried about whether, as an oligarch himself, Poroshenko can be effective in removing oligarchic influence from Ukraine's politics and economy, many Ukrainians feel compelled to defend their wartime leader by denying that he is, in fact, an oligarch in the first place. Or if he is one, they say, he's a different kind of oligarch, certainly the best of the bunch. After all, they reason, he has used his wealth and influence to help Ukraine and fight Russia, and anyway, his business interests are more transparent and of more value to the country than those of his rivals. Instead of selling his businesses, as he promised to do during last year's presidential campaign, Poroshenko has held onto them, demonstrating that even in the new Ukraine, politics and the private sector remain inseparable.

Exceptionalists argue: While oligarchy in general might be bad, Ukraine's patriotic oligarchs are not.

The exceptionalism does not stop with Poroshenko. In fact, the same tortured logic extends to support for other "good" oligarchs: Lviv's mayor Andriy Sadovyi, who has run that city for nearly a decade, owns major media, electrical utility and financial assets, and has backed his own party in the national parliament, is described as having made Lviv a "lighthouse" for Ukrainian reform, on the model of neighboring Poland. Even Dnipropetrovsk's Ihor Kolomoiskiy, who himself embraces the oligarch moniker, has spent millions in defense of Ukraine against Russian aggression, served as governor of a vulnerable frontline region and held it together, and besides, his Privat Bank group is a pillar of Ukraine's financial stability. So, while oligarchy in general might be bad, Ukraine's most patriotic oligarchs, the exceptionalists argue, are not.

The same goes for the country's far right political forces. Cite the rise of Praviy Sektor, or Right Sector, during and after the Euro-Maidan, and many Ukrainians will point to the radical right movement's poor performance in last year's presidential and parliamentary elections. Point to the resurgence of symbols and slogans of the Second World War ultra-nationalist Union of Ukrainian Nationalists, OUN, or the newly passed laws banning "Soviet symbols," canonizing controversial Ukrainian nationalist figures Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych, and they will say that Ukraine has every right to define its own history, even if it does so with blatant disregard and disrespect for that of millions of its citizens now living under Russian occupation or otherwise not fully represented in the government. The new Ukrainian exceptionalism makes it possible for undercurrents of intolerance and extreme nationalism to cohabit with stated commitments to pluralism and democracy.

New Ukrainian exceptionalism: Undercurrents of intolerance cohabit with commitments to democracy.

The Euro-Maidan was dubbed a Revolution of Dignity because it represented the victory of the people in defense of basic human rights and human dignity. But a year after that victory, the parliament has approved a decree limiting Ukraine's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. So far, the decree applies only to portions of the two oblasts, or regions, of Donetsk and Luhansk where the war is going on, but it has been accompanied by allegations of torture and unlawful detention by Ukrainian authorities. These steps set a dangerous precedent for limitation of human rights without wide public discussion. Exceptionalism effectively gives carte-blanche to the government to act in the name of Ukraine's security, while it fragments and diminishes the human rights activist community that was once a bulwark of the new Ukraine.

Finally, raise the problem of private armies in Ukraine, and one is told that the famous "volunteer battalions" are actually completely legal and legitimate police, interior ministry or army units that have been integrated under a single, responsible national command. This would be a reasonable position and an extremely important step to constrain possible future internecine violence, corporate raiding and other abuses in Ukraine, if only it were true.

The same goes for so-called soldier deputies, commanders of the volunteer battalions elected to the parliament last October, many of whom still appear in uniform and demonstrate scant regard for the boundaries between civilian and military authority. Dashing but bellicose figures like Serhii Melnychuk, Semen Semenchenko and Dmytro Yarosh, we are told, are not really soldiers any more, their grandstanding is just a PR exercise. Maybe so, but their message hardly confirms Ukraine's commitment to rule of law, civilian control of the military, and national reconciliation. With prominent exceptions like these in the new Ukraine, it is increasingly difficult to identify the rule.

Without a doubt, Ukraine now faces its most severe crisis of the post-1991 period. In the face of attacks by Russia and its separatist allies, Ukraine deserves the support of its citizens and the wider world. Yet the enthusiasm of the world to help Ukraine will be diminished and the damage from Russian aggression magnified if Ukrainians succumb to the kind of exceptionalism described above. Instead, Ukrainians should seek to preserve what have actually been their most exceptional characteristics – a rare and genuine commitment to pluralism, civic freedom, and human dignity that make Ukraine a cause worth fighting for.

Matthew Rojansky is director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC; Mykhailo Minakov is associate professor/docent in philosophy and religious studies at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and was a Fulbright-Kennan Scholar in 2012-13.

Selected Skeptical Comments

Western Educated Russian, my 5 cents, 28 June 2015

That is not today Ukrainians decided to find a way to differentiate themselves from Russians. That is the way how ethnic genesis works. So in the situation when multinational state (USSR) collapsed, Ukrainian national elites became interested in doing so even more. What could be a difference to strong order of Moscow, the answer is illusory freedom.

Consequentially, Ukrainian mass media and even academic sources such as Yale draw a picture of Russia as a place where there is a fallout of human rights, corruption, and democracy and at the same time whitening Ukrainian far right guys as a fighters against "double evil" of communists and fascists.

The reality of course is different. Russia is just a powerful player that is emerged after collapse of Soviet Union while Ukraine failed to do so. Russians respect Ukrainians and Ukrainian language, and what is more important overall have more freedoms that even Westerns do. The only thing Russians care about is comparative advantage. Ukrainian politics is irresponsible, and thus destabilize the whole region of Eastern Europe and former Soviet Union.

It is actually not so funny because the US thinks about itself as a warrant of stability. In reality stability of many Eurasian territories in the hands of Russia. We should not forget civil war in Tadjikistan, war between Georgia and Ossetia, Armenia and Azerbaidjan. All those conflicts were stopped because of Russia's actions. If Ukraine won (= lose anyway), there will be hundreds of different uncontrolled conflicts, economic downfall and millions of additional immigrants to Europe.

Whether Europeans like it or not, it is better to have strong Russia with good relationship that can guarantee stability over many territories than one more Africa with nuclear weapon on the backyard and Greece (sorry Ukraine).

Jim Kovpak , OUN, 28 June 2015

The OUN thing pisses me off when they say Ukraine has the right to define its own heroes- excuse me, but when did these "heroes" represent Ukraine? The OUN and UPA never attracted more than a fraction of Ukrainians even in the region where it was most popular, and even then many people were conscripted into its ranks. Later, many of them deserted in droves, including a large number who switched to the Soviet side.

But it is not simply to appease the population in the East that these organizations should be condemned. They have a clear connection to the Holocaust via the role the OUN-B played in organizing the militia and Ukrainian police who took part in pogroms that killed thousands of Jews. Many of those police personnel then ended up in the ranks of the UPA. Add to that the ethnic cleansing of Poles and you see why these thugs, which DO NOT represent Ukraine, don't deserve to be called heroes.

Eastern Ukrainians are always told they need to give up the past, so why can't these other people give up that past, which in most cases doesn't have anything to do with them?

Of course many Ukrainians I talk to swear up and down that Bandera and the OUN aren't really so popular in post-Maidan Ukraine -- okay then, watch what happens when someone says people ought not to fly the flags and there shouldn't be memorials to the OUN and UPA. Suddenly the Bandera-cultists emerge from the woodwork, enraged. It's a lot like defenders of the Confederate flag in the US.

[May 19, 2015]How To Spot Groupthink Among Economists

May 19, 2015 | Zero Hedge

As GMO's James Montier says in his latest white paper today "it seems one can hardly open a financial newspaper or read a blog these days without tripping over some academic-cum-central banker talking about the once arcane notion of the equilibrium real interest rate."

Sure enough, it is the laughable concept of the equilibrium real interest rate (laugable because if it can be quantified and put into an equation, it becomes tangible and central banks are convinced they can recreate it, perfect it and implement it to "fix the economy"... usually with disastrous results) that is the topic of his latest must read piece "The Idolatry of Interest Rates Part I: Chasing Will-o'-the-Wisp", which not only makes a mockery of central planners but also the intellectual conceits they all hold so dear, and which they will all hold dear all the way until the now inevitable collapse of "New Keynesian" economics.

And while there is much to discuss in his full 13 page paper, the following excerpt discussing how to spot groupthink in crowds (of economists) is what we found most relevant and amusing, perhaps because the entire world is now caught in a groupthink mode, and what's worse, a groupthink that is peddling the wrong solution to the worldwide problem that can be summarized as simply as "$200 trillion in debt."

From Jim Montier:

Wisdom of crowds or groupthink extraordinaire?

One could take the view that so many bright individuals all coalescing around a single framework was evidence of the wisdom of crowds. However, rather than representing the power of consensus, it appears to me to be evidence of extreme groupthink – it is very telling that not one of the aforementioned luminaries has questioned the framework itself.

One of the preconditions for the wisdom of crowds to hold is that people must be independent. This clearly isn't the case with the above coterie of economists, many of whom trained at the same university under the same teacher. As Steve Keen pointed out, "If I were describing a group of thoroughbred horses, alarm bells would already be ringing about a dangerous level of in-breeding."

The term "groupthink" was coined by Irving Janis in 1972. In his original work, Janis cited the Vietnam War and the Bay of Pigs invasion as prime examples of the groupthink mentality. However, modern examples are all too prevalent.

Groupthink is often characterised by:

  • A tendency to examine too few alternatives;
  • A lack of critical assessment of each other's ideas;
  • A high degree of selectivity in information gathering;
  • A lack of contingency plans;
  • Poor decisions are often rationalised;
  • The group has an illusion of invulnerability and shared morality;
  • True feelings and beliefs are suppressed;
  • An illusion of unanimity is maintained;
  • Mind guards (essentially information sentinels) may be appointed to protect the group from negative information.

Perhaps it is just me, but these traits seem to pretty much capture the nature of mainstream economics these days.

SMG

Groupthink among economists only? Heck most of Western Civilization is in groupthink. Everything is Awesome! TM Remember.

NoDebt

Guys, again, let's think a little deeper here. It's not so much that they all believe it to be true, it's because they all NEED it to be true.

First off, the alternative to the current "low interest rates will stimulate the economy" (i.e. throw money at anything that moves) is what, exactly? Either it doesn't stimulate the economy or has no effect. Leaving them in a heluva lurch.

But this is small beans. Here's what really matters: their own self-interest.

If this argument (fairy tale) is shown not to be true or correct, their little ivory tower crashes down, their plum positions get vacated for another, their friends experience similar catastrophe and their self-supporting power network will be swept away and replaced with another, including their buddies in "academia" from which they sprang.

Given that even the slowest-witted among them must by now realize this fantasy of money printing stimulating the economy didn't work and is NEVER going to work, they have no choice but to either circle the wagons and close ranks or start getting picked off one by one. They are a union, a cabal, a society and, as such, must provide a united front, unassailable by mere facts.

The word has already been spread: hang together or hang separately. For this and other reasons they MUST have groupthink.

[Dec 27, 2014] Why do we cling to beliefs when they're threatened by facts?

Why do we cling to beliefs when they're threatened by facts?
People who read a passage that contradicted their viewpoint saw it as opinion.
By Cathleen O'Grady
Dec 6 2014
<http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/12/why-do-we-cling-to-beliefs-when-theyre-threatened-by-facts/>

People hold beliefs for a complex variety of reasons. Some of these beliefs may be based on facts, but others may be based on ideas that can never be proved or disproven. For example, people who are against the death penalty might base their belief partly on evidence that the death penalty does not reduce violent crime (which could later be shown to be false), and partly on the notion that the death penalty violates a fundamental human right to life. The latter is an unfalsifiable belief, because it can't be changed purely by facts.

According to a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, unfalsifiability is an important component of both religious and political beliefs. It allows people to hold their beliefs with more conviction, but it also alows them to become more polarized in those beliefs.

Currently, very little is known about why certain worldviews gain more mindshare in some populations, while others remain on the fringes. We also currently know only a little about how and why people continue to hold a belief in the face of contradictory evidence. Sometimes people argue on the basis of fact, questioning the quality of the evidence against their position, for example.

But it seems that people can also resort to emphasizing unfalsifiable reasons for holding a belief. This "defensive" function of unfalsifiability plays a role in both religion and politics; people can also use the unfalsifiability of their beliefs to defend them when they are threatened. The researchers also look at what they call the "offensive" function of unfalsifiability, which increases the strength of people's religious and political beliefs.

To test the offensive function, the researchers manipulated how 103 participants perceived the falsifiability of religion. They used a survey to gauge participants' existing level of religiosity, and then divided them randomly into two groups. Both groups read a fake news article reporting on an academic conference, with one version of the article reporting that science could one day solve the question of whether the supernatural exists, and the other version reporting that science can never know whether the supernatural exists-that is, that belief in the supernatural is unfalsifiable.

After reading, people completed a survey about their beliefs. Participants with higher religiosity saw their beliefs increase in strength if they had read the story with the unfalsifiable slant. People with lower religiosity did not show the same effect, indicating that "individual differences in the strength of … ideology predict the extent to which people turn to unfalsifiability," write the authors.

However, they note, there could be another individual difference at work, driving both the high religiosity and the susceptibility to unfalsifiability, so they conducted another study on political beliefs. They asked 179 participants about their level of support for President Barack Obama, and then asked them to rate Obama's performance on five issues: the health of American people, the happiness of American people, foreign policy, job creation, and the housing market. One group was told that the issues of job creation and housing could be objectively determined by evidence, while the other group was never told that Obama's performance could be assessed with data.

The results showed that unfalsifiability led to polarization of beliefs. Opponents rated Obama's performance more negatively than supporters, but the difference was larger in those who were never told about the data. This held true across all five issues, even though only two had been earmarked as falsifiable.

This indicates that just a mention of the possibility of falsifiability had created a "general mindset" where thinking about evidence was valued, according to the researchers. While this possibly needs more investigation, the overall results seem to indicate that unfalsifiability leads to more polarized beliefs.

[snip]

[Jul 30, 2014] The 'We-Hate-Putin' Group Think by Robert Parry

See also Ukraine...dangerous groupthink threatens us all - YouTube
March 7, 2014 | Consortiumnews

Exclusive: The only foreign policy show on the U.S. media dial this past week has been the bashing of Russian President Putin over the Ukraine crisis – with a slap or two at President Obama for having worked with Putin on Syria and Iran. Lost in this "group think" is the why behind this demonization, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The U.S. political-media elites, which twisted themselves into a dangerous "group think" over the Iraq War last decade, have spun out of control again in a wild overreaction to the Ukraine crisis. Across the ideological spectrum, there is rave support for the coup that overthrew Ukraine's elected president – and endless ranting against Russian President Vladimir Putin for refusing to accept the new coup leadership in Kiev and intervening to protect Russian interests in Crimea.

The "we-hate-Putin" hysteria has now reach the point that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has deployed the "Hitler analogy" against Putin, comparing Putin's interests in protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine with Hitler citing ethnic Germans in Eastern Europe to justify aggression at the start of World War II.

"I just want people to have a little historic perspective," the reputed 2016 Democratic presidential frontrunner told a question-and-answer session at UCLA on Wednesday, confirming reports of her using the Hitler analogy during an earlier private fundraiser.

Some Clinton backers suggested she made the provocative comparison to give herself protection from expected right-wing attacks on her for having participated in the "reset" of U.S. policy toward Russia in 2009. She also was putting space between herself and President Barack Obama's quiet effort to cooperate with Putin to resolve crises with Iran and Syria.

But what is shocking about Clinton's Hitler analogy – and why it should give Democrats pause as they rush to coronate her as their presidential nominee in 2016 – is that it suggests that she has joined the neoconservative camp, again. Since her days as a U.S. senator from New York - and as a supporter of the Iraq War - Clinton has often sided with the neocons and she's doing so again in demonizing Putin.

Democrats might want to contemplate how a President Hillary Clinton would handle that proverbial "3 a.m. phone call," perhaps one with conflicting information about a chemical weapons attack in Syria or muddled suspicions that Iran is moving toward a nuclear bomb or reports that Russia is using its military to resist a right-wing coup in neighboring Ukraine.

Would she unthinkingly adopt the hawkish neocon position as she often did as U.S. senator and as Secretary of State? Would she wait for the "fog of war" to lift or simply plunge ahead with flame-throwing rhetoric that could make a delicate situation worse?

There's also the question of Clinton's honesty. Does she really believe that Putin protecting ethnic Russians from an illegitimate government that seized power in a right-wing coup on Russia's border is comparable to Hitler invading Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland?

Media Endorsement

Normally, anyone who uses a Hitler analogy is immediately chastised for both absurd hyperbole and anti-Semitism. Besides the extreme exaggeration involved, the Hitler analogy trivializes the scope of Hitler's crimes both in provoking World War II and carrying out the Holocaust against European Jews.

Usually neocons are among the first to protest this cheapening of the Holocaust's memory, but apparently their determination to take down Putin for his interference in their "regime change" plans across the Middle East caused some neocons to endorse Clinton's Hitler analogy. One of the Washington Post's neocon editorial writers, Charles Lane, wrote on Thursday: "Superficially plausible though the Hitler-Putin comparison may be, just how precisely does it fit? In some respects, alarmingly so."

Yet, outside of this mad "group think" that has settled over Official Washington, Clinton's Hitler analogy is neither reasonable nor justified. If she wanted to note that protecting one's national or ethnic group has been cited historically to justify interventions, she surely didn't have to go to the Hitler extreme. There are plenty of other examples.

For instance, it was a factor in the Mexican-American War in the 1840s when President James Polk cited protecting Texans as a justification for the war with Mexico. The "protect Americans" argument also was used by President Ronald Reagan in justifying his invasion of the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983. Reagan said he was protecting American students at the St. George's Medical School, even though they were not in any real physical danger.

In other conflicts, human rights advocates have asserted the right to defend any civilians from physical danger under the so-called "responsibility to protect" - or "R2P" - principle. For example, neocons and various U.S.-based "non-governmental organizations" have urged a U.S. military intervention in Syria supposedly to protect innocent human life.

However, if anyone dared compare Ronald Reagan or, for that matter, R2P advocates to Hitler, you could expect the likes of Charles Lane to howl with outrage. Yet, when Putin faces a complex dilemma like the violent right-wing coup in Ukraine – and worries about ethnic Russians facing potential persecution – he is casually compared to Hitler with almost no U.S. opinion leader protesting the hype.

Who Were the Snipers?

There is also new evidence suggesting that the sniper shootings in Kiev - a pivotal moment in the uprising to overthrow President Viktor Yanukovych - may have been the work of neo-Nazi provocateurs trying to foment a coup, not the police trying to stop one.

According to an intercepted phone conversation between Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Paet reported on a conversation that he had with a doctor in Kiev who said the sniper fire that killed protesters was the same that killed police officers. As reported by the UK Guardian, "During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters."

Paet said, "What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides.

"So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it's really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don't want to investigate what exactly happened. … So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition."

Ashton replied: "I think we do want to investigate. I didn't pick that up, that's interesting. Gosh."

However, the sniper fire has been cited by the U.S. government and major U.S. news outlets as evidence of Yanukovych's depravity, thus justifying his violent removal from office last month when he was forced to flee for his life after neo-Nazi militias seized control of government buildings.

Yet, despite the new evidence suggesting that the coup-makers may have been responsible for instigating the violence, the mainstream U.S. press continues to revise the preferred narrative by putting white hats on the coup-makers and black hats on the Yanukovych government. For instance, the New York Times has stopped reporting that more than a dozen police officers were among the 80 or so people killed as protests in Kiev turned violent. The typical new version in the U.S. press is simply that Yanukovych's police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators, killing 80 of them.

And to take a contradictory view of this conventional wisdom marks you as "crazy." When Yanukovych and Putin raised questions about who actually opened fire, the U.S. news media dismissed their suspicions as "conspiracy theories" and proof of "delusional" thinking. It is now a virtual consensus across the U.S. news media that Putin is "unstable" and "disconnected from reality."

The Washington Post called Putin's Tuesday news conference "rambling." However, if you read the transcript, it is anything but "rambling" or "delusional." Putin comes across as quite coherent, expressing a detailed understanding of the Ukraine crisis and the legal issues involved.

Putin begins his response to reporters' questions by puzzling over the reasons for the violent overthrow of Yanukovych, especially after the Ukrainian president agreed to European terms for surrendering much of his power, moving up elections and ordering police to withdraw. But that Feb. 21 agreement lasted only two hours, ended by neo-Nazi extremists seizing control of government buildings and forcing Yanukovych to flee for his life.

Putin said, "There can only be one assessment: this was an anti-constitutional takeover, an armed seizure of power. Does anyone question this? Nobody does. There is a question here that neither I, nor my colleagues, with whom I have been discussing the situation in Ukraine a great deal over these past days, as you know – none of us can answer. The question is why was this done?

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that President Yanukovych, through the mediation of the Foreign Ministers of three European countries – Poland, Germany and France – and in the presence of my representative (this was the Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin) signed an agreement with the opposition on February 21.

"I would like to stress that under that agreement (I am not saying this was good or bad, just stating the fact) Mr. Yanukovych actually handed over power. He agreed to all the opposition's demands: he agreed to early parliamentary elections, to early presidential elections, and to return to the 2004 Constitution, as demanded by the opposition.

"He gave a positive response to our request, the request of western countries and, first of all, of the opposition not to use force. He did not issue a single illegal order to shoot at the poor demonstrators. Moreover, he issued orders to withdraw all police forces from the capital, and they complied. He went to Kharkov to attend an event, and as soon as he left, instead of releasing the occupied administrative buildings, they [the armed militias] immediately occupied the President's residence and the Government building – all that instead of acting on the agreement.

"I ask myself, what was the purpose of all this? I want to understand why this was done. He had in fact given up his power already, and as I believe, as I told him, he had no chance of being re-elected. Everybody agrees on this, everyone I have been speaking to on the telephone these past few days. What was the purpose of all those illegal, unconstitutional actions, why did they have to create this chaos in the country?"

Now, there also is independent evidence suggesting that elements of the right-wing militias may have killed both protesters and police to destabilize the Ukrainian government and justify the coup.

U.S. Hypocrisy

In the same news conference, Putin noted the U.S. government's hypocrisy in decrying Russia's intervention in Crimea. He said: "It's necessary to recall the actions of the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, where they acted either without any sanction from the U.N. Security Council or distorted the content of these resolutions, as it happened in Libya. There, as you know, only the right to create a no-fly zone for government aircraft was authorized, and it all ended in the bombing and participation of special forces in group operations."

There is no denying the accuracy of Putin's description of U.S. overreach in its interventions in the Twenty-first Century. Yet, Secretary of State John Kerry has ignored that history in denouncing Russia for using military force in the Crimea section of Ukraine. Kerry said on Tuesday: "It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not Twenty-first Century, G-8, major-nation behavior."

Despite Kerry's bizarre lack of self-awareness - as a senator he joined in voting to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq - it is Putin who gets called "delusional." While virtually all mainstream U.S. news outlets join in the demonization of Putin, there have been almost no words about the truly delusional hypocrisy of U.S. officials. Ignored is the inconvenient truth that the U.S. military invaded Iraq, still occupies Afghanistan, coordinated a "regime change" war in Libya in 2011, and has engaged in cross-border attacks in several countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Though we've seen other examples of the U.S. political/media elite losing its collective mind – particularly during the crazed run-up to war in Iraq in 2002-2003 and the near stampede into another war with Syria in 2013 – the frantic madness over Putin and Ukraine is arguably the most dangerous manifestation of this nutty Official Washington "group think."

Not only does Putin lead a powerful nation with a nuclear arsenal but his cooperation with President Obama on Syria and Iran have been important contributions toward tamping down the fires of what could become a wider regional war across the Middle East.

Yet, it is perhaps Putin's assistance in finding peaceful ways out of last year's Syrian crisis as well as getting Iran to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program – rather than pressing for violent "regime change" in the two countries – that earned Putin the undying enmity of the neocons who still dominate Official Washington and influence its "group think."

Maybe that enmity explains part of the mysterious why behind the Ukraine crisis and the endless demonization of Putin.

Elliott Abrams, a leading neocon who oversaw Middle East policy on President George W. Bush's National Security Council staff, was quick to pounce on the Ukraine crisis and the pummeling of Putin to urge a new push for legislation that would pile on more sanctions against Iran, a move that President Obama has warned could kill negotiations.

"This would be a very good time for Congress to pass the Menendez-Kirk legislation," Abrams wrote. "One lesson of events in Ukraine is that relying on the good will of repressive, anti-American regimes is foolish and dangerous. Another is that American strength and strength of will are weakened at the peril of the United States and our friends everywhere."

While at the NSC, Abrams was one of the neocon hardliners – along with Vice President Dick Cheney – who ""were all for letting Israel do whatever it wanted" regarding attacking Iran's nuclear facilities, according to former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his memoir, Duty.

That attack-Iran argument nearly carried the day during the final months of the Bush-43 administration since, according to Gates, "Bush effectively came down on Cheney's side. By not giving the Israelis a red light, he gave them a green one."

But a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, representing the views of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran had stopped work on a nuclear weapon four years earlier. Bush has acknowledged that this NIE stopped him from going forward with military strikes on Iran.

The neocons, however, have never given up that dream. Now, with the "we-hate-Putin" group think gripping Official Washington, they may feel they have another shot. [For more, see Consortiumnews.com's "What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis."]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

The Rise of the New Groupthink by Susan Cain

January 13, 2012 | NYTimes.com

Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption. And the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They're extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They're not joiners by nature.

One explanation for these findings is that introverts are comfortable working alone - and solitude is a catalyst to innovation. As the influential psychologist Hans Eysenck observed, introversion fosters creativity by "concentrating the mind on the tasks in hand, and preventing the dissipation of energy on social and sexual matters unrelated to work." In other words, a person sitting quietly under a tree in the backyard, while everyone else is clinking glasses on the patio, is more likely to have an apple land on his head. (Newton was one of the world's great introverts: William Wordsworth described him as "A mind for ever/ Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone.")

Solitude has long been associated with creativity and transcendence. "Without great solitude, no serious work is possible," Picasso said. A central narrative of many religions is the seeker - Moses, Jesus, Buddha - who goes off by himself and brings profound insights back to the community.

Culturally, we're often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process.

... ... ...

Intentionally so. In his memoir, Mr. Wozniak offers this guidance to aspiring inventors:

"Most inventors and engineers I've met are like me ... they live in their heads. They're almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone .... I'm going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone... Not on a committee. Not on a team."

And yet. The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I'm talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has "a room of one's own." During the last decades, the average amount of space allotted to each employee shrank 300 square feet, from 500 square feet in the 1970s to 200 square feet in 2010.

Our schools have also been transformed by the New Groupthink. Today, elementary school classrooms are commonly arranged in pods of desks, the better to foster group learning. Even subjects like math and creative writing are often taught as committee projects. In one fourth-grade classroom I visited in New York City, students engaged in group work were forbidden to ask a question unless every member of the group had the very same question.

The New Groupthink also shapes some of our most influential religious institutions. Many mega-churches feature extracurricular groups organized around every conceivable activity, from parenting to skateboarding to real estate, and expect worshipers to join in. They also emphasize a theatrical style of worship - loving Jesus out loud, for all the congregation to see. "Often the role of a pastor seems closer to that of church cruise director than to the traditional roles of spiritual friend and counselor," said Adam McHugh, an evangelical pastor and author of "Introverts in the Church."

SOME teamwork is fine and offers a fun, stimulating, useful way to exchange ideas, manage information and build trust.

But it's one thing to associate with a group in which each member works autonomously on his piece of the puzzle; it's another to be corralled into endless meetings or conference calls conducted in offices that afford no respite from the noise and gaze of co-workers. Studies show that open-plan offices make workers hostile, insecure and distracted. They're also more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, stress, the flu and exhaustion. And people whose work is interrupted make 50 percent more mistakes and take twice as long to finish it.

Many introverts seem to know this instinctively, and resist being herded together. Backbone Entertainment, a video game development company in Emeryville, Calif., initially used an open-plan office, but found that its game developers, many of whom were introverts, were unhappy. "It was one big warehouse space, with just tables, no walls, and everyone could see each other," recalled Mike Mika, the former creative director. "We switched over to cubicles and were worried about it - you'd think in a creative environment that people would hate that. But it turns out they prefer having nooks and crannies they can hide away in and just be away from everybody."

Privacy also makes us productive. In a fascinating study known as the Coding War Games, consultants Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister compared the work of more than 600 computer programmers at 92 companies. They found that people from the same companies performed at roughly the same level - but that there was an enormous performance gap between organizations. What distinguished programmers at the top-performing companies wasn't greater experience or better pay. It was how much privacy, personal workspace and freedom from interruption they enjoyed. Sixty-two percent of the best performers said their workspace was sufficiently private compared with only 19 percent of the worst performers. Seventy-six percent of the worst programmers but only 38 percent of the best said that they were often interrupted needlessly.

Solitude can even help us learn. According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that's most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you "go directly to the part that's challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class - you're the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time."

[Feb 21, 2014] Anatomy of the Deep State BillMoyers.com by Mike Lofgren

February 21, 2014 | billmoyers.com

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power. [1]

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country…

... ... ...

Cultural assimilation is partly a matter of what psychologist Irving L. Janis called "groupthink," the chameleon-like ability of people to adopt the views of their superiors and peers. This syndrome is endemic to Washington: The town is characterized by sudden fads, be it negotiating biennial budgeting, making grand bargains or invading countries. Then, after a while, all the town's cool kids drop those ideas as if they were radioactive. As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one. As Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

A more elusive aspect of cultural assimilation is the sheer dead weight of the ordinariness of it all once you have planted yourself in your office chair for the 10,000th time. Government life is typically not some vignette from an Allen Drury novel about intrigue under the Capitol dome. Sitting and staring at the clock on the off-white office wall when it's 11:00 in the evening and you are vowing never, ever to eat another piece of takeout pizza in your life is not an experience that summons the higher literary instincts of a would-be memoirist. After a while, a functionary of the state begins to hear things that, in another context, would be quite remarkable, or at least noteworthy, and yet that simply bounce off one's consciousness like pebbles off steel plate: "You mean the number of terrorist groups we are fighting is classified?" No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one's surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn't know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.

[Feb 02, 2014] Groupthink

oregonstate.edu

Groupthink occurs when a homogenous highly cohesive group is so concerned with maintaining unanimity that they fail to evaluate all their alternatives and options. Groupthink members see themselves as part of an in-group working against an outgroup opposed to their goals. You can tell if a group suffers from groupthink if it:

  1. overestimates its invulnerability or high moral stance,
  2. collectively rationalizes the decisions it makes,
  3. demonizes or stereotypes outgroups and their leaders,
  4. has a culture of uniformity where individuals censor themselves and others so that the facade of group unanimty is maintained, and
  5. contains members who take it upon themselves to protect the group leader by keeping information, theirs or other group members', from the leader.

Groups engaged in groupthink tend to make faulty decisions when compared to the decisions that could have been reached using a fair, open, and rational decision-making process. Groupthinking groups tend to:

  1. fail to adequately determine their objectives and alternatives,
  2. fail to adequately assess the risks associated with the group's decision,
  3. fail to cycle through discarded alternatives to reexamine their worth after a majority of the group discarded the alternative,
  4. not seek expert advice,
  5. select and use only information that supports their position and conclusions, and
  6. does not make contigency plans in case their decision and resulting actions fail.

Group leaders can prevent groupthink by:

  1. encouraging members to raise objections and concerns;
  2. refraining from stating their preferences at the onset of the group's activities;
  3. allowing the group to be independently evaluated by a separate group with a different leader;
  4. splitting the group into sub-groups, each with different chairpersons, to separately generate alternatives, then bringing the sub-groups together to hammer out differences;
  5. allowing group members to get feedback on the group's decisions from their own constitutents;
  6. seeking input from experts outside the group;
  7. assigning one or more members to play the role of the devil's advocate;
  8. requiring the group to develop multiple scenarios of events upon which they are acting, and contingencies for each scenario; and
  9. calling a meeting after a decision consensus is reached in which all group members are expected to critically review the decision before final approval is given.

[Jan 20, 2014] GroupThink on Parade Christie, Crowley and Sunday Shows

January 19, 2014 Crooks and Liars
karoli
Pundits assume they're right because most pundits agree. They're wrong.

Sunday morning, Candy Crowley carried the torch for "politics as usual" on her show. Using talking points provided by Governor Christie's office, Crowley proceeded to try and paint Mayor Dawn Zimmer as somehow naive about how politics works.

"Why are you here now?" Crowley asked. "We have seen you say in a tweet that you're so glad Chris Christie is our governor. So, can you square that for me? Because coming at this point, what the Chris Christie office says, this is just politics."

Meet the Press went the same way, with David Gregory carrying water while interviewing factually challenged Rudy "911" Giuliani.

Otherwise, viewers were left with the impression that quid pro quo politics which includes holding up federal funds for disaster relief to citizens is considered "politics as usual."

The danger of groupthink, writ large right there. Why didn't pundits challenge that claim rather than echoing it?

My theory goes two ways. First, they don't challenge it because they're invested in having Christie rehabilitated in time for 2016. That's certainly a possibility.

But I think the second reason is probably more likely. When a group of people -- journalists or otherwise -- become desensitized to things ordinary people find abhorrent, they stop being objective. I don't know very many people who would willingly agree that leveraging disaster relief funds in exchange for preferred zoning is simply the business of political gladhanding.

It is as if we should simply accept that which our gut rejects because the pundits say so, and the more they say it, the more we're compelled to believe it.

[Jan 02, 2014] Fatal hit-and-run crashes on rise in U.S.

Compare with terrorism losses per year and amount of funds devoted to fighting terrorism: "Perhaps more significantly, the 13.7% increase in hit-and-run deaths over that three-year period occurred while traffic deaths overall were falling 4.5%, from 33,883 in 2009 to 32,367 in 2011."

November 10, 2013 | usatoday.com

Hit-and-run crashes are increasing in many major cities, and hit-and-run fatalities are rising nationally as legislators in several states look to toughen laws to address this troubling "plague."

These crashes have reached such epidemic proportions in Los Angeles that, during one recent year, nearly half of all collisions in the city involved a driver who fled the scene.

Crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the number of fatal hit-and-run crashes is trending upward, from 1,274 in 2009, to 1,393 in 2010, to 1,449 in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics were available.

Perhaps more significantly, the 13.7% increase in hit-and-run deaths over that three-year period occurred while traffic deaths overall were falling 4.5%, from 33,883 in 2009 to 32,367 in 2011.

"The problem is bigger than I think most people are aware," says Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The foundation's analysis of hit-and-run crashes found that about one in five of all pedestrian fatalities are hit-and-runs, and 60% of hit-and-run fatalities have pedestrians as victims, he says. "Alcohol is a major, major part of the problem, from the driver's perspective, especially. The main thing we can do as a society to sort of combat this problem is to simply be more alert as pedestrians," Kissinger says.

"People find themselves in these situations, and what do you do?" says Sara Solnick, chairwoman of the Department of Economics at the University of Vermont, who has studied hit-and-run crashes. "Drivers are more likely to run if they feel there is a reason to do so. They're more likely to have high blood-alcohol content, or they're driving without a license, or they're very young drivers."

In a recent high-profile hit-and-run case, a 22-year-old Ohio man confessed in an online video that went viral to killing a man in a drunken-driving crash in June. Matthew Cordle of Dublin, was sentenced last month to 6½ years in prison for aggravated vehicular homicide and DUI in a wrong-way interstate crash that killed Vincent Canzani, 61.

Los Angeles has been ground zero for hit-and-run crashes. LA Weekly reported that there were 20,000 such incidents in the city each year, with 4,000 resulting in injuries or death. In 2009, the newspaper reported, 48% of the city's crashes were hit-and-run, compared with 11% nationally.

"There is a values problem," says California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area who introduced a bill that extended the statute of limitations for hit-and-run offenses from three to six years. The bill was signed into law last month and takes effect July 1.

"I had been reading the stories that Los Angeles had this just absolute plague ... of hit-and-run accidents," Gatto says. "It really comes down to folks being left for dead on the side of the road by the person who is in a best position to call 911. When it comes down to it, the legislature speaks for society's values. Unless we did something, we were failing from a values standpoint."

Following the LA Weekly story, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck released a report that maintained that the city's hit-and-run crash rate compared favorably with other major cities, such as New York, Chicago and Houston.

Around the USA, the rise in hit-and-run crashes is leading to tougher laws in some of the states with the highest rates of resulting deaths.

  • In Texas, legislators moved to close a loophole that police officers said encouraged intoxicated drivers involved in crashes to flee the scene. Before Sept. 1, the maximum penalty for failing to render aid was just half that for causing a drunken-driving crash death. The penalty for leaving the scene of a crash was raised from a third-degree felony, with a maximum 10-year prison term, to a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison - same as for intoxicated manslaughter.
  • In Florida, where the State Patrol says there were nearly 70,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2012 and three of every five road fatalities were pedestrians struck by hit-run drivers, legislators are considering a bill that would impose a mandatory sentence of at least three years on hit-and-run drivers. The sentence would be seven years if someone is seriously injured and 10 years in fatal crashes.
  • In 2012, Arizona enacted a law requiring that any driver who leaves the scene of a crash resulting in serious injury automatically has their license suspended for five years. If there's a death, the automatic suspension is 10 years, not including time in jail.
  • Also last year, Colorado enacted a law that made a hit-and-run crash with serious bodily injury a Class 4 felony, which carries the same penalty as driving while drunk.

Ukraine unrest shouldn't be ignored Opinionline

Is all Western media completely corrupt due to being owned by a few oligarchs? How it can be that joining the trade block, which dictate pretty humiliating the term of joining mean "independent future". Also how a "failed state", almost bankrupt nation can be independent? Something is wrong with Chicago Tribune ;-)

Chicago Tribune, editorial: "The European Union needs to sweeten its trade deal to counter Putin's promised short-term payoff. It also needs to get across how unification with a wealthy, 500-million-strong trade bloc is a far superior option to what Putin is offering a nation that has to reboot its economy. The West offers Ukraine something Putin can't: an independent future."

Pierre Briançon, Reuters: "Putin's handout doesn't solve the country's fundamental economic problems, and it increases the risk that the end of the Yanukovich era won't be peaceful. ... Buying Ukrainian bonds at market rates hardly qualifies as help - at current yields, it could even pass for theft. It is risky, but not necessarily costly, to hold a small part of the reserve fund in Ukrainian bonds. And the gas price 'concession' only brings the price down to a little below what the rest of Europe pays."

Bloomberg, editorial: "Ukrainians have braved both the cold and the riot police for the last three weeks in Kiev to protest Yanukovych's rule. That suggests they understand that greater integration with Europe ... has more to offer them than Russia's bear hug."

[Aug 27, 2013] The Unconscious Civilization by John Ralston Saul

Amazon.com

Writing in the same iconoclastic spirit he brought to Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, Canadian writer Saul offers a damning indictment of what he terms corporatism, today's dominant ideology. While the corporatist state maintains a veneer of democracy, it squelches opposition to dominant corporate interests by controlling elected officials through lobbying and by using propaganda and rhetoric to obscure facts and deter communication among citizens.

Corporatism, asserts Saul, creates conformists who behave like cogs in organizational hierarchies, not responsible citizens. Moreover, today's managerial-technocratic elite, while glorifying free markets, technology, computers and globalization, is, in Saul's opinion, narrowly self-serving and unable to cope with economic stagnation.

His prescriptions include eliminating private-sector financing from electoral politics, renewing citizen participation in public affairs, massive creation of public-service jobs and a humanist education to replace narrow specialization. His erudite, often profound analysis challenges conservatives and liberals alike with its sweeping critique of Western culture, society and economic organization.

LeeBoy (Pine Bluff, Arkansas)

A coup d'etat in slow motion?, August 12, 2005

A key premise of the book is that a life worth living, the so-called examined life, the fully aware life cannot take place without individuals in the society being fully conscious - or without seeking the kind of self-knowledge that readily can be translated into action.

Saul maintains that we have a "new religion," the blind pursuit of self-interest. It is led by an ideology of "corporatism," which has deformed the American ideal of a life worth living into one devoid of a concept of the common public good. Through it, one of America's most noble ideas, that of "rugged individualism" has been sullied, distorted and transformed into an ideology of selfishness; an ideology that has so manipulated our reality that our the language and knowledge, usually placed in the service of actions and designed to improve our way of life, has become useless.

The corporate compartmentalization of, and distortion of public knowledge, and the accompanying enforced conformity has so confused us and has so muted our voices that knowledge no longer has any effect on our consciousness nor on our actions. Individual selfishness as "modeled" by corporate self-interest has hi-jacked Western civilization as we have come to know it.

The book describes how corporatism has accomplished this feat: It has used its own ideology of self-interest (and the promise of certainty that all ideologies promote) to render us passive and conformist in areas that matter and non-conformist in those that do not. This new pseudo or false individualism has the effect of immobilizing and disarming our civilization intellectually and thus renders it unconscious.

The most important way it does this is by denying and undermining the legitimacy of the individual as the primary unit and defender of, as well as the center of gravity of the public good. The public good becomes deformed by, and subordinate to, and equated with the narrow pursuit of corporate self-interests, as most often defined by the pursuit of profits and associated corporate perks. The hedonistic model of the corporate life is projected on to society writ large as the only life worth living.

The impetus for placing corporate interests (and the corporate model of our humanity) at center stage in the drama of Western Civilization, seems to have come about through the misconception that rugged individualism, democracy and our current understanding of the public good were once defined by, depend on, and proceed directly from, the pursuit of economic interests. This is a misconception because in actual fact exactly the reverse is true: It was notions of the public good as defined by democracy and individualism that gave rise to economic interests, and not the other way around.

Moreover, economic models have been so spectacularly wrong and unsuccessful, that they could not have survived without an ideology that renders the public unconscious. Saul suggests that even the best economic models amount to little more than passive tinkering. The fact that we have come to rely on them -- even though we know they are seriously flawed and have little or no basis in reality -- is compelling evidence of our lack of memory and thus, of our lack of collective consciousness.

According to the author, it is the proper use of knowledge and memory that renders us conscious (and thus by extension, also renders us human). The misuse of knowledge and memory through corporate and technological, manipulation, specialization and compartmentalization is just a deeper form of collective denial.

Said differently, (corporate generated) specialization creates its own illusions. When knowledge actually becomes confused and is sufficiently narrowed, compartmentalization promotes the illusion that knowledge is multiplied when in fact it has shrunken. It leaves the impression that more rather than less knowledge is being created. It promotes the illusion that truth is only what the specialist can measure; that "managing is doing," (and more importantly that a managerial class is important and necessary). Finally, it creates the illusion that the ideology, which promotes corporatism, produces certainty (the main job of any ideology).

These illusions all have facilitated the corporate takeover of what would otherwise be seen as, the public interest. By doing so, the legitimacy of the individual as the center of gravity of the public good is crowded out, undermined and denied.

Thus the management elite, (with their suitcases full of money to buy off our elected representatives) like a cancer, is let loose on society. It lives within its own insulated cocoon creating an artificially interiorized sense of its own importance, wellbeing and its own distorted vision of civilization as a whole. Insulated from within, the management elite is free to grow without bounds, without accountability, and in complete disregard for the reality "out there," and always only to satisfy and service its own selfish needs. Truth is not in the world "out there" but is in what the professionals can measure and whatever is reported to these insulated elites. The deeper the insulated managerial class retreats into its own interiorized illusions of reality, the more confused language becomes and the less likely knowledge can be translated into actions that will effect the wider reality, and thus the public good.

In its pursuit to deny the legitimacy of the public good and to replace it with corporate econometric models of reality, Saul has traced the history of this process and gives many examples of how it works: through media propaganda, films, ads, music, sports and style-and always through insinuations of what is considered proper thought and ways of behaving.

One of the better examples he gives is how unemployment keeps getting redefined downward with no relation to the reality of the labor market but mostly to suit the needs of the neo-cons (the courtiers of the corporate elites). Or how, even as companies are losing money and are laying-off large numbers of ordinary workers, the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites continue to rise - often even until the very day the companies actually go bust.

Another example given is how through the process of globalization, that by the year 2020 the U.S. will be fully reduced to a Third World country. We are told that our future standard of living will depend entirely on globalization. Here globalization (like its companion concept, productivity) is a synonym for pegging workers' wage rates to the lowest wages available worldwide. It is never mentioned in such discussions that the salaries and incentive packages of the managerial elites will actually rise significantly as this "mother of all least common denominators economic formulas" is being applied to the lower end of the economic class scale. Taken to its logical conclusion, the salary of U.S. workers will equal those of Chinese peasants by 2020; and the corporate elites all will be filthy rich like Sam Walton. This "Wal-Martization" of America is already well in train.

Why are we so susceptible to being manipulated by corporate generated ideology and power? Saul gives an answer: We have an addictive weakness for large illusions that are tied to power and that can simplify our worldview by promising emotional certainty. The examples he gives are none other than the great religions themselves, and their spin-offs of Marxism, fascism and most of the autocratic governments of the past, including Hitler's Third Reich.

The roads to serfdom, or to fascism or communism (or pick your own ism) all intersect at the same ideology reference points: they begin as enforced social and political orthodoxy and conformity: first fashion and style; then the social enforcement of ways of thinking; and then patriotism is made into a religious-like requirement; after which rights and free speech are suppressed in the name of national security or loyalty to the state. One-by-one laws are suspended and then arbitrary arrests and disappearances begin; and finally the country is rendered completely passive and unconscious - compressed into a pseudo-patriotic religious trance.

In the modern era, this progression is by now all too familiar: It leads directly to the de-legitimatization of the citizen as the primary defender of the public good. This just as inevitably leads to handing over power to those whose self-interests are larger than their dedication to the preservation of the public good or even to the preservation and defense of the state itself.

The citizen then ceases to be able to determine what is, and is not real. He becomes immobilized like a child, unable to judge what is in his own best interests -- let alone what is in the best interest of the public good or the state. He is then forced to sing for his dinner and to dance to the corporate tune for any sense of wellbeing or self-worth. The "public good" becomes completely subordinate to the "corporate good."

What Saul admonishes us about is already imminently clear: that the kind of society we have is determined by where the true source of legitimacy lies. Today legitimacy in America -- that is its power, organization, and influence -- lies not in the vote and in stylized but impotent public citizen participation, but in the hands of the lobbyists, the technocrats, and the anti-democratic and anti-patriotic corporate vampires.

Saul did not need to tell us that all the serious decisions are now made in the back rooms without consulting the people. The best "the people" can hope for (and indeed what they yearn for) is that the decisions made over their heads will at least retain a semblance of emotional ideological purity.

While the corporate robber barons sneak out the back door to their off-shore tax havens (with the nations valuables in tow), the public good has been distorted and transformed into little more than "What I have" or into bumper sticker sized emotionalisms: the advancement of creative design and the right to post the Ten Commandments on the court house steps, abortion and gun rights, anti-Affirmative Action, states rights, etc. Because of its lack of consciousness, Americans have lost the ability to conceptualize a common good larger than their own immediate individual narrowly defined self-interests.

How do we get out of this coup d'etat in slow motion? Saul's answer is that we must change the dynamics of the process but he gives few specifics on how this can be done. This a great and very sobering read. Five stars.

Joyce (Bonham, Texas)

Makes the complex understandable, November 29, 2012

Saul has unusual skill in making complex entanglements understandable, colorful, and often humorous. His satire is biting. His irony is satisfying. His writing is dense with fresh insights about difficult subjects, so reading him is challenging at times but worth the effort. In this book, Saul explores how the dictatorship of reason unbalanced by other human qualities (common sense, ethics, intuition, creativity, memory) leads to the rational but antidemocratic structures of corporatism. He lays out the historical roots of corporatist doctrines (going back to Plato) and how they are so woven into our social fabric that they threaten the practice of democracy. He notes how our civilization is blinded to its true character by sentiment and ideology and argues that while Fascism was defeated in World War II, its corporatist doctrines are powerfully influencing our society today.

For Saul, one central aspect of the corporatist doctrine is its hijacking of the term "individualism," defining it as self-absorption or selfishness. Both Left and Right positions are based upon that definition. The Left agrees with the Right that individualism is selfishness, only it wants individual rights to be equally distributed and more fair. Whereas Saul talks about individualism thus:

"Rights are a protection from society. But only by fulfilling their obligations to society can the individual give meaning to that protection. . . Real individualism then is the obligation to act as a citizen."

And further:

"The very essence of corporatism is minding your own business. And the very essence of individualism is the refusal to mind your own business. This is not a particularly pleasant or easy style of life. It is not profitable, efficient, competitive or rewarded. It often consists of being persistently annoying to others as well as being stubborn and repetitive."

And further still:

"Criticism is perhaps the citizen's primary weapon in the exercise of her legitimacy. That is why, in this corporatist society, conformism, loyalty, and silence are so admired and rewarded."

Saul discusses the role that four economic pillars play in either accentuating or reducing our unconscious state as citizens: (1) the marketplace, (2) technology, (3) globalization, and (4) money markets.

Here is my summary of his lessons on these four.

  1. The danger of using the marketplace as our guide is that we are limiting ourselves to the narrow and short-term interests of exclusion. If we wish to lead society we must calculate inclusive costs.
  2. Business schools (following the "scientific management" Frederick Taylor brought to Harvard) treat men and women as mechanisms to be managed along with machines. And we are lining up students behind machines, educating them in isolation when what is really needed is to show them how they can function together in society.
  3. Trade cannot in and of itself solve societal problems. The main effect of globalization has been to shift the tax burden from large corporations onto the middle class. Adam Smith's repeated admonition has been ignored. It is: high wages are essential to growth and prosperity.
  4. Money is not a value in itself. Money in money markets is not available for taxation, and it doesn't really exist. It is pure speculation. We must see what is truly of value to society and reward those things.

This is only a bit of the clarity Saul's book gives us as citizens about what we are dealing with, empowering us with weaponry to overcome the Fascistic creation of corporatism.

Christopher (Seattle, Washington, USA)

A roundhouse shot at corporatist, group-think American life, March 19, 2002

"Are we truly living in a corporatist society that uses democracy as little more than a pressure release valve?"

Not satisfied with hurtling the literary hand-grenade of the 1990's, "Voltaire's Bastards", into the midst of our oblivious Western society, John Ralston Saul has now equipped his metaphorical sniper rifle, and in his crosshairs is the 'deviant class' which has destabilized our American dream. In "The Unconscious Civilization", Saul targets `corporatist' groups, the special interests (both economic and social) which have lulled citizens into replacing their own thoughts with those of factions who magically (and absurdly) claim to represent their beliefs and dreams.

"One of the difficulties faced by citizens today is making sense of what is presented as material for public debate, but is actually no more than the formalized propaganda of interest groups. It is very rare now in public debate to hear from someone who is not the official voice of an organization."

Characteristic of Saul's previous work, "The Unconscious Civilization" is a firm, wind-knocking shot to the gut. But luckily for you, your opponent is also teaching you how to fight. Hear him shout: `Stand up, slothful citizen. Your constitution is failing.'

"The statistics of our crisis are clear and unforgiving. Yet they pass us by--in newspapers, on television, in conversations--as if they were not reality. Or rather, as if we were unable to convert knowledge into action."

Do you feel protected by the Internet, by the millions of voices which you feel will conglomerate to represent you? So how's it working for you so far? Sure we have information, but what the hell good is it doing for the spirit of our nation?

"Knowledge is more effectively used today to justify wrong being done than to prevent it. This raises an important question about the role of freedom of speech. We have a great deal of it. But if it has little practical effect on reality, then it is not really freedom of speech. Without utility, speech is just decorative."

In this work, Saul scopes out the corporatist mindset, the coalescence of many minds into one body with only one voice (corpus from Latin, meaning body), which has invaded business, politics, and civil society alike. The result is chilling, for when we rise to speak, we find our individual words have different meanings to each of these bodies. As a consequence, we are learning to speak less.

"In a corporatist society there is no serious need for traditional censorship or burning, although there are regular cases. It is as if our language itself is responsible for our inability to identify and act upon reality."

We may be blind to the corporatist processes, but we should be able to fairly see their results. In politics: 38% voter turnout rates, lowest political convention viewership, the quashing of third-party voices; in business: the plastering of disclaimers, sloganeering, and that opaque wall of business-speak between every salesman and their customer; in civil society: the inability to progress in conversation without soundbites, and the number of people who flat-out don't want to talk to you.

This partition of words has not obstructed John Ralston Saul, though. An advocate of "aggressive common sense", Saul portrays himself correctly as a classic liberal, defender and klaxon for the citizen, neither champion nor foe of the marketplace.

"The market does not lead, balance, or encourage democracy. However, properly regulated it is the most effective way to conduct business."

"Every important characteristic of both individualism and democracy has preceded the key economic events of our millennium. What's more, it was these characteristics that made most of the economic events possible, not vice-versa."

John Ralston Saul's work consists of five chapters loosely based off a series of 1995 lectures at the University of Toronto. Like "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul here is discursive and entertaining; each chapter is a new dive into an invigorating Arctic lake of realization. Chapter One, "The Great Leap Backwards" launches the assault. The remaining chapters focus on reconstruction... their titles: "From Propaganda to Language", "From Corporatism to Democracy", "From Managers and Speculators to Growth", "From Ideology Towards Equilibrium".

Moderately mistitled (resulting in a one-point demerit in the overall review score), a more appropriate title for this book would have been "The Corporatist Civilization". A true attack on the `unconscious' among us would have been welcome, though Saul does meander briefly into this realm, with a few sections that fit cozily into the overall thesis:

"Perhaps the difficulty with the psychoanalytic movement is that from the beginning it has sent out a contradictory message: Learn to know yourself--your unconscious, the greater unconscious. This will help you to deal with reality. On the other hand, you are in the grip of great primeval forces--unknown and unseen--and even if you do know and see them, it is they who must dominate."

One-quarter the size of "Voltaire's Bastards", Saul this time out initiates a concise attack: on utopias, ideology, technocracy, demagoguery, and group mentality... all of which direct the individual to replace their view of the world with that of an `official spokesman', eerily reversing the vector of our society towards a fascist state. An insightful read; terse, but somewhat condensed and abstract at places. The trade-offs are more than acceptable, though. Steel yourself for a barrage of Truth.

seydlitz89

Lacks The Big Picture, July 3, 2000

John Ralston Saul is considered one of the great humanist essayists of this time. That is true but he is also very much a man of our times, with both the advantages and disadvantages of the current Weltanschauung. I bought this book after having read some rather rave reviews and had high expectations. I can't say that I have got anything from this book that I didn't already have or suspect. He's reinforced some of my opinions without adding to my empherical knowledge to back them. The concept of the individual, individualism if you will, is dominant today, representing a narrow and superficial deformation of the Western idea. Market Capitalism does not guarantee democracy; you can have poor democracies and prosperous dictatorships. Today we are in an unconscious process of masochistic suicide destroying the very substance of our public institutions, institutions which were the products of decades of thought and democratic debate, all in the pursuit of making things more `effective', more `business-like'. . . So according to Saul, and on target IMHO, but what does this all mean? What can we draw from these intermediate conclusions?

He then goes on to describe the crisis that grips the West, which he dates from 1973. Bureaucratic thinking and rationalization continue to manipulate our perceptions, dominate and drive our existence, controlled by what he describes as `Corporatism'. He states,

"the corporatist movement was born in the nineteenth century as an alternative to democracy. It proposed the legitimacy of groups over that of the individual citizen." Pp16-17

Napoleon, Hegel and Bismarck helped the process along by emphasizing rule by elites and adherence to the state. This was all only a lead up to the great

"new all-powerful clockmaker god - the marketplace - and his archangel, technology. Trade is the marketplace's miraculous cure for all that ails us. . . I would suggest that Marxism, fascism and the marketplace strongly resemble each other. They are all corporatist, managerial and hooked on technology as their own particular golden calf." Pp19-20

...Weber warned of the dangers of bureaucracy, of how capitalism mated with ever increasing rationalization and technological innovation would become a very difficult beast to control. He also warned against the subversion of democratic institutions by powerful non-democratic groups with oligarchic tendencies. Saul's view on the triumph of rationalism is also, by the way, influenced by Weber. So instead of damning Weber he should be thanking him. Here we see the tendency so common among US (and Canadian) intellectuals today of putting the blame for their perceived crisis on foreign thinkers (usually German or French) who have some how lead the well-intentioned, but all too trusting North Americans astray. Alan Bloom, on the right, was guilty of the same thing in his The Closing of the American Mind. In all, this tendency represents a mixing up of cause and effect. If you want to look for a foreign culpret, how about the English Utilitarians who put morally accepted self-interest and quest for profit in the service of individual gain above anything else? An attitude that has since then been enthusisatically and uncritically accepted by the mass of American intellectuals.

What is Saul's solution? Persistent public commitment by the citizenry can turn the tables on corporatism. But how, given the power that Saul says the elites have to manipulate and control all the spheres of our existence? What of their ability to define "freedom" in wholly consumerist terms, making it a mere matter of material choice? As long as the US Constitution allows for majority rule, the public will have the last say, but how to mobilize the public, how to educate them as to defending their best interests when the reigns of mass communication are in the hands of the corporatists? How do we make the interests of society take priority over the interests of profit? The moral dilemma in all this is ignored by Saul who distrusts anyone who even mentions it. Unable to follow Nietzsche's lead he stumbles. Nietzsche, alas a foreigner, was also primarily a moralist. Morals are important since they shape the way that we adjust to the struggle for our very existence in an ever more competitive world. While a sense of the spiritual is necessary, the vast bulk of our actions, the reality we must deal with in our every day lives, is economic due to the pervasive market system which is the very air we breathe. It is therefore very much man-made, synthetic, something that has been grafted onto society, not a component of it. Morals are as necessary now as when we lived in small farming communities, since it is by working together, by accepting each others' strengths and weaknesses, by learning to control our own impulses and irrational drives and by accepting the inate worth of each person that we insure not only our own but the survival of our species in the coming hard winter. A, "myth-building" exercise you say, but is it any more a myth than that of "the Market corrects itself and all we need do is trust in it"?

Since the end of the 18th Century we in the West have lost almost every remnant of our pre-Capitalist past. We have forgotten our entire community or social or human-to-human history, we are unable to recall when an action did not infer some sort of self-benefit. We fail to see that the so-called Third World is as we were two hundred years ago. It is not a question of scientific or technological or commercial progress, in the most human sense, but of the maturing and decay of an ideological-based social system.

Saul's main drawback is that he lacks the in-depth knowledge of the numerous disciplines necessary for this very complex subject. That and `distance' since he approaches the problem with far too many preconceptions. A much better book in a related subject is Karl Polanyi's The Great Transformation. His history of the market economy provides much of the background necessary to illuminate our current situation. Few if any thinkers today have the breadth of knowledge to provide the big picture of our current post-modern situation. Men like Max Weber, who had a encyclopedic knowledge of several wide fields of study no longer walk the earth. Still a much more refined, yet wide view which would include a fuller understanding of social economics, history, political science, sociology, theology and philosophy is necessary in order to get a grip on the tendencies which are slowly eating away our society and threaten to turn us all into what Max Weber described as "a culture of specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart".

Herbert L Calhoun

Wake up and Smell the Oil Wal-Mart Shoppers, August 10, 2005

If the doubling, in less than a year, of the price of oil for no discernable reason (with no end in sight), and with absolutely no reaction from us or our government is not evidence that something is terribly wrong with our collective mind. Then surely an order of magnitude increase in the cost of medical care and prescription drugs, and the quintupling of our health insurance (for those of us who have any), should be.

Or, one might have imagined that the juxtaposition of soaring corporate profits (in these very same areas) with an effective reduction in "actual wages" everywhere else, would also have shaken us from our deep collective slumber?

Or maybe the fact that we have been led into yet another war for no defensible reasons and without either an exit strategy or a fighting plan -- a war whose justifications and rationale keeps changing with each increased attack from the terrorists as our national debt continues to soar -- would have shaken us out of our passivity.

While our government's response to the needs of the "rank-and-file" is increasingly non-existent, or completely ineffectual, and the "managerial class" continues to rob us blind as they laugh all the way to the bank; we are obsessed with the risk of breast implants, abortion rights, hanging the Ten Commandments in the public square, reality shows (that are anything but real), Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, and how to continue to win at the game of "Democrats and Republicans (or liberals and conservatives, or Blacks versus Whites, or males versus females, or pick your own senseless emotional dichotomy)."

But the very best evidence yet of our lack of consciousness and proof that our society is being thrown under the bus while we watch in horror with our eyes wide open, is when the most devastating critique of our own slothfulness is also the sanest, most compassionate and most eloquent.

Saul in this trenchant sanity check of the society that leads the Western World realizes that the time for vitriol and shouting has long since passed. That is why with eloquence, understated passion and with measured but devastating logic and reason (that quality he so distrusts), he has issued a broadside at the foundation stone of what ails our society most: Rampant and immoral Corporatism.

And even though in the end, his prescription for how we are to extricate ourselves from this dilemma is unconvincing, he has laid the necessary groundwork for serious thinking to begin. If "the people" in Western Democracies are ever to regain control of their minds, and then eventually their societies; Saul's ideas in this small volume must inevitably be contended with.

A Customer

Saul is a modern secular prophet!, March 28, 1999

You can add the name John Ralston Saul to those of Noam Chomsky, Ivan Illich, Franz Fanon (and who else?) on your list of the key late 20th century 'global conspiracy theorists' - people who are visionary seers/prophets who have unorthodox views and make outrageous pronouncements on this and that, but with whom you have to broadly agree. Because they operate outside the conventions of fixed ideologies, they're able to see the broader picture, and see more deeply into the nature of things.

The Unconscious Civilization - the 1995 Massey Lectures - was written in an oral style by Canadian freelance intellectual, essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul.

His thesis is disarmingly simple: in the long line of history's totalitarianisms, we can now add undemocratic 'corporatism'.

Our society, he argues, is only superficially based on the individual and democracy.

[Apr 01, 2013] Authorities $600M scheme incubated in NC town By MITCH WEISS

Luck of retirement funds force you to believe in scams. Beware this trap " free cheese is available only in a mousetrap". Same for investments that bring dramatically more then safe "inflation plus 2%" return available from TIPs. Actually there is something troubling about the level of gullibility and groupthink demonstrated in the article below: "And so were more and more people in Lexington, including doctors, lawyers and accountants..."
Yahoo/Associated Press

In this Feb. 28, 2013 photo, Sarah Chavez, center, sits with her son Bidal, right, and daughter Sarahi, front, at her home in Lexington, N.C. Desperate to raise money for their …more 6-year-old daughter's cancer treatments last summer, friends told Jose and Sarah Chavez of a way to quickly turn their meager savings into a small fortune. But what the Chavez family and many others didn't know was that state and federal regulators for months had received complaints that ZeekRewards was a scam.

LEXINGTON, N.C. (AP) - In the hardware store on South Main Street, the owner pulled Caron Myers aside to tell her about the best thing to happen in years to this once-thriving furniture and textile town.

Did she hear about the online company ZeekRewards? For a small investment, she could make a fortune. He had invested. So had his grandsons. And so were more and more people in Lexington, including doctors, lawyers and accountants.

Skeptical at first, Myers drove a few blocks to the company's one-story, red-brick office and spotted a line of people circling the building. She was sold, and plunked down several thousand dollars. But months later, Myers, like hundreds of thousands of others, discovered the truth: ZeekRewards was a scam.

"I was duped," Meyer said. "We trusted this man. The community is still in shock."

Authorities say owner Paul Burks was the mastermind of a $600 million Ponzi scheme - one of the biggest in U.S. history - that attracted 1 million investors, including nearly 50,000 in North Carolina. Many were recruited by friends and family in Lexington, a quintessential small town where neighbors look out for each other.

But what investors didn't know was that regulators had received nearly a dozen complaints about ZeekRewards and the related site Zeekler.com, but failed to take action for months, leaving the company free to recruit tens of thousands of new victims.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which closed the operation Aug. 17, said Burks was selling securities without a license. The Ponzi scheme was using money from new investors to pay the earlier ones.

Burks has agreed to pay a $4 million penalty and cooperate with a federal court-appointed receiver trying to recover hundreds of millions of dollars.

Investigators say Burks, a former nursing home magician, siphoned millions for his personal use. But he has not been charged.

In his first public comments, Burks told The Associated Press he couldn't discuss details because of lawsuits by victims trying to recoup money.

"Everything will come out in time," said Burks, 66, standing in the doorway of his home.

Asked if he had anything to say to victims, he shook his head.

"I never told anyone to invest more money than they could afford," Burks snapped. "I didn't tell them to do that. Never."

He said if they lost money, "it's their fault. Not mine. Don't blame me."

But Cal Cunningham, a former prosecutor representing investors in a lawsuit, slammed Burks - and regulators for taking so long to act.

"It's why we need a full hearing on what happened in a court of law - whether that be our civil case or a criminal proceeding. A lot of people were hurt," he said.

____

Burks started Zeekler in early 2010 as an online penny auction site. His business experience included nearly four decades in multilevel marketing programs - such as Amway - including failed attempts to launch similar businesses of his own.

In penny auctions, consumers compete to pay pennies on the dollar for name brand products such as iPads. Each bid costs as much as $1, so participating can become expensive and the sites can earn nice profits when multiple users bid against each other.

In January 2011, he incorporated aspects of multilevel marketing into the business when he launched ZeekRewards. The program offered a share of the penny auction's profits to people who invested money, promoted the company on other websites and recruited other participants. Under a complicated formula, investors were issued "profit points" that grew every day.

Investments were capped at $10,000, but people could invest on behalf of their spouses, children or other relatives. Some mortgaged homes to raise their investment.

At first, ZeekRewards complied when investors sought to cash out. And that became the best ad of all: happy investors with their checks in Facebook photos.

People who didn't trust the mail traveled long distances to drop off checks at the cramped office building where security guards allowed only seven inside at a time. Employees collected money and wrote out receipts at the office cluttered with dozens of plastic mail bins stuffed with check-filled envelopes. To withdraw money, investors filed an online request - or called - and then had to wait for a check.

By the end of 2011, it seemed like everybody in Lexington was talking about ZeekRewards. Many saw it as a way to make extra cash to pay bills or help family.

"No one was in it to get rich," said Mary Bell, a 75-year-old seamstress from Lexington who scraped together money to invest.

Sarah Chavez wanted extra money for her daughter's frequent hospital visits for leukemia. Her husband worked in a factory, and they invested $7,000.

"It's hard to believe in something like that. But everyone told us it was a sure thing," she said.

Burks mostly kept to himself, and few locals knew anything about the quiet, balding man with thick glasses.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the Shreveport, La., native toured nursing homes in the South as a magician with country singer David Houston. Burks moved to Lexington in the early 1990s because his wife was from the area. In 2000, Burks ran for the state House as a Libertarian, but he collected only 330 votes. Then he became a local celebrity. Most afternoons, he ate lunch at the same downtown restaurant with an entourage of managers. Conference calls with investors were posted on YouTube. He produced glossy brochures touting the company.

"In addition to the mind-blowing savings, you can create more wealth than you have ever thought possible with ZeekRewards' geometrically progressive matric compensation plan," the brochure said.

Burks also hired some of the industry's top attorneys and analysts to promote his company.

The publicity paid off. When the Association of Network Marketing Professionals held its annual convention in March 2012, it called ZeekRewards the model of legal compliance.

___

But behind the scenes, there were troubling signs, according to documents, company emails and consumer complaints reviewed by the AP.

In early June, the state of Montana gave ZeekRewards the boot. Montana requires multilevel marketing companies to register. But ZeekRewards didn't submit any paperwork - even after warnings, said Luke Hamilton, a spokesman for the attorney general's office.

"We started getting a lot of complaints," he said.

In August, a North Carolina employees' credit union warned customers not to invest in ZeekRewards because it was a "fraudulent company."

But regulators received complaints long before then.

In a Nov. 23, 2011, complaint filed with the North Carolina Attorney General's office, Wayne Tidderington of Florida called ZeekRewards an "illegal" Ponzi scheme. He said a relative had invested $8,000 and the company guaranteed a return of 125 percent every 90 days.

The attorney general's office can ask a judge to shut down a business because of deceptive trade practices. But it forwarded Tidderington's complaint to the secretary of state's office because it looked like it might involve securities. The secretary of state's office, however, declined to take action because it didn't believe it had the jurisdiction, spokeswoman Liz Proctor said.

The complaint died.

"I put it all together," Tidderington told the AP. "I gave them the roadmap. I said, 'Here's a snake. Here's the gun. Here's the bullets. Shoot the snake.' But they ignored me."

Over the next seven months, the attorney general's office received nearly a dozen more complaints.

But it wasn't until July 6 that it issued an order giving Burks until the end of the month to turn over all Zeek-related documents. He missed that deadline.

Kevin Anderson, senior deputy attorney general for consumer protection, insisted his agency correctly handled the case, saying his office receives thousands of complaints a year.

"We have to have more concrete evidence than a couple of consumer complaints before we go to court," he said.

The SEC received similar complaints during the same period, but the agency didn't begin its investigation until the summer.

SEC spokeswoman Christine D'Amico declined to comment on the investigation, except to say the agency took action "as soon as we believed we had sufficient evidence to obtain an emergency court order to halt the fraud."

___

Months later, people in Lexington are wondering what's next.

Kenneth Bell, the court-appointed receiver, said ZeekRewards may have taken in $800 million. So far, he's recovered $312 million. Hundreds of millions were paid out to investors. Just how much is missing? He doesn't know.

Myers said the community is still recovering - but the wounds are deep. People are wondering why investigators didn't act more quickly and why no one, including Burks, has been charged.

"There are thousands and thousands of victims who might not have lost a penny had the government intervened more quickly," she said.

[Feb 07, 2013] Dear Mr. Chilton, RE the Gold Market In NY This Morning

Jesse's Café Américain

"If you follow issues like Too-Big-To-Fail or Wall Street corruption long enough, you realize that the reason things don't get done about them by our government has very little to do with ideology or even politics, in the way most of us understand politics.

Instead, it's a bizarre, almost tribal mentality that rules our capital city – a kind of groupthink that makes extreme myopia and a willingness to ignore the tribe's ostensible connection to the people who elected them a condition for social advancement within."

Matt Taibbi, Neil Barofsky's Adventure in Groupthink

Personally I think this is the corrosive influence of the credibility trap, the amorality of careerism, and of course, an ambivalence towards white collar corruption as the inherent entitlement of privilege. There seems to have been a shift in perspective amongst the new ruling class from noblesse oblige to droit du seigneur. This is what Robert Johnson calls 'the audacious oligarchy.'

While it is recovering much of this sudden, five minute loss even now, with spot back to 1680 already, the hit on the gold market in the New York trade this morning was fairly blatant.

Perhaps it was just some innocent who had the desire to drop a boatload of contracts into a quiet market, and knock the price down while maximizing their selling loss. Or another 'fat finger' mishap, which seem to happen quite a bit around option expiration for example.

Or perhaps it was some wiseguy trader who looked at the market, having some advantageous insight into the order books, and decided to 'run the stops.'

Thank God the US has the CFTC, whose job it is to look at this sort of thing and to tell us whether it was legitimate, or not.

And we should hear back about this, perhaps as early as January, 2017. And maybe even sooner on this one: 24 Tonnes of Paper Gold Dumped at Market

But it is nice to see that the CFTC is doing something. They are asking the court to overturn the $30 million fine on the Amaranth trader who was caught manipulating the natural gas market, because another regulator did their job for them.

Groupthink or Gross Incompetence Groupthink or Gross Incompetence The 2003 Invasion of Iraq

groupthinkorgrossincompetence.blogspot.com

What conditions or combination of antecedent variables cause a four-star general, war hero, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state with a popularity rating that could win him the presidency to promote and defend publicly a course of action about which he has "serious misgivings?" (Powell, 2006). High stress? Low self-esteem? The individual in question is, of course, none other than former Secretary of State Colin Powell. The course of action is the invasion of Iraq on March 23, 2003, otherwise known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The conditions or combination of antecedent variables being considered are proposed in the theory by Irving Janis known as groupthink. Specifically, this paper asks: Was the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 the result of groupthink? It focuses on the five principal foreign policy actors George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice during the sixteen-month period between September 11, 2001 and March 23, 2003. In particular, it considers to what extent each of the individual actors led in the decision-making process, and to what extent each followed.

According to Janis, groupthink is a mode of decision making by a cohesive group lacking a tradition of impartial leadership and norms requiring methodical procedures. Driven by a false sense of unanimity, invulnerability, and self-righteousness, the group ignores policy options and makes faulty decisions without sufficiently considering potential outcomes (Janis, 1972). To put it more simply, specific factors within groups lead to poor decision-making, which in turn lead to policy failure. Janis suggests that decisions grounded in groupthink can be disastrous. In four case studies of U.S. foreign policy decisions, Janis found that when groupthink was apparent the policies failed, and when it was not apparent the policies were successful.[1] Janis offers as a caveat, however, that good quality decision-making does not always lead to successful policy outcomes (Janis, 1972).

Janis suggests that groupthink is most likely to occur when certain antecedent conditions exist. These conditions include group cohesiveness, insulation of the decision-making group, lack of tradition of impartial leadership, lack of norms requiring methodical procedures, homogeneity of members' social background and ideology, high stress from external threats with low hope of a better solution than the leader's, and low self-esteem temporarily induced by either recent failure, excessive difficulties on current decision-making tasks, or moral dilemmas. While Janis does not attribute groupthink to any of these antecedent conditions per se, he suggests that the conditions do tend to allow for certain symptoms to develop. The symptoms include an overestimation of the group (the illusion of invulnerability and a belief in the inherent morality of the group), closed mindedness (collective rationalization and stereotyping of out-groups), and pressure towards uniformity (self-censorship, illusion of unanimity, direct pressure on dissenters and self-appointed mindguards).

J. David Singer (1961, 78-80) suggests that there are three functions of an analytical model: description, explanation, and prediction. When describing a phenomenon, the goal is to "present as complete and undistorted a picture as is possible." When explaining a phenomenon, which is the primary purpose of theory according to Singer, the goal is to offer a valid and parsimonious explanation of the causal mechanism. It is important that valid explanation be given priority over accurate description if the two are in conflict. Finally, an analytical model should provide for some level of reliable prediction. Singer insists that the most important decision any researcher makes is in matching the research with the proper level of analysis, whether systemic or sub-systemic. The contribution this case study makes is that it analyzes the internal dynamics of the top decision-makers in arguably one of the most dynamic periods in American foreign policy. This study concludes that the groupthink model is valuable in its ability to help us describe the decision-making process, explain the actions of the Bush administration, and predict whether groupthink will be a potential problem in future administrations.

The paper begins by briefly discussing the relevant literature. Then it addresses those antecedent conditions present in the George W. Bush administration between September 11, 2001 and March 23, 2003. Finally, it examines the symptoms of groupthink and identifies which appear to be present and which do not.

Group Insulation Group insulation is the first structural condition in Janis's groupthink model. Group insulation refers to "insulation of the decision-making group from the judgments of qualified associates, who, as outsiders, are not permitted to know about the new policies under discussion until after a final decision has been made" (Janis, 1972, 197). This particular antecedent condition was undeniably present in the Bush administration between September 11, 2001 and March 23, 2003. As former Nixon aide John W. Dean wrote, "George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have created the most secretive presidency of my lifetime. Their secrecy is far worse than during Watergate" (quoted in Wittkopf and Jones, 2008, 329). The administration secretly planned and prepared for war without disclosing it to the general public. Planning began in November of 2001 and included upgrading airfields in various Gulf countries, moving supplies to the region and the construction of necessary facilities. By April 2002, the planning and preparation for war was also being hidden from Congress. Bush had instructed General Tommy Franks not to make financial requests through Washington. "Anything you need, you'll have." The money would no longer be appropriated through congress. By the end of July 2002, Bush had approved more than thirty projects totaling over $700 million. Congress had no knowledge or involvement (Woodward, 2004, 122). In December of 2002, Bush and Rumsfeld agreed to start secretly deploying troops into the theatre so as not to attract the attention of the press or the rest of the world. The first deployment order went out on December 6, 2002 and deployments continued every two weeks or so thereafter. Troops were given less than a week's notice at times. In January 2003, the Bush administration arranged for much of its humanitarian relief to be disguised as general contributions to conceal its war planning from the NGO recipients. Yet, when asked about Iraq, Bush's favorite response was "I have no war plans on my desk." At one point or another after the planning began, nearly every member of the administration publicly denied any plans to go to war with Iraq (Woodward, 2004, 129).

Lack of Tradition of Impartial Leadership This is the second structural variable. According to Janis, this condition prevails in groups whose leader disregards "organizational tradition" and instead pursues his or her own "preferred policies" (Janis, 1983, 249). Again, one would be hard-pressed to find a better example of this particular antecedent variable since President Richard Nixon. Even though each of the four major foreign policy players enjoyed direct access to the president, they worked "for a man who doesn't tolerate being upstaged" (Woodward, 2004). Bush relied heavily on Rice to inform him of various policy options, and then he made the final decisions. Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill puts it eloquently. Speaking of Rice he states: "She doesn't drive to consensus. Rather she drives toward clarity. Then he [Bush] decides what the consensus is" (Burke, 2005, 236). On the morning of September 11, 2001, when President Bush was informed of the attacks, he decided on his own, right then and there that the nation was going to war: "I made up my mind at that moment that we were going to war" (Renshon, 2008, 393). The Bush II administration began with a foreign policy based on realism and selective engagement. Bush advocated selective engagement early on, while Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld were all realists in the early days of the administration (Purdum, 2003). Rice summarized the administration's position in a concise article that clearly prioritized "national interest" over "humanitarian interests." Rice asserted that "the Clinton administration has often been so anxious to find multilateral solutions to problems that it has signed agreements that are not in America's interest." Rice specifically noted treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Comprehensive Test ban Treaty as "instructive." The Bush II administration would focus on "power politics, great powers and power balances." It would have no need of the recent foreign policy tradition of multilateralism (Rice, 2000, 47-8). The Bush administration also broke with its own realist policies to pursue a neoconservative agenda of Wilsonian-style nation-building. In his 2000 presidential campaign, Bush "scorned 'nation-building' as a woolly-headed ambition that risked diluting America's priorities and diverting its military into insoluble conflicts around the world" (Purdum, 2003, 11). Yet by August 2002, "the tone of the Bush administration's rhetoric changed sharply." Republican realists were deeply concerned with the administration's break with the realist tradition. Individuals such as Scowcroft and Baker spoke out in disagreement with the administration. They saw Powell as their only remaining ally inside the inner circle. Scowcroft warned that a war with Iraq "could turn the whole region into a cauldron." Retired General Anthony Zinni was present when Cheney gave a speech in Nashville on August 26, 2002. As he listened to the vice president state that "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," Zinni "nearly fell off his chair." Zinni "had seen nothing to support Cheney's certitude" (Ricks, 2006, 46-7, 49-50). Still, in spite of nearly universal opposition, President Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. He argued that the United States had to intervene in Iraq in order to prevent terrorists from training in Iraq, to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using weapons of mass destruction against America, and to bring democracy and freedom to the Iraqi people (The White House, 2003). The most important break with organizational tradition came with the Bush administration's push toward the "imperial presidency." This transition was marked by a myriad of developments including the passage of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act) otherwise known as the Patriot Act (The White House, 2006). The passage of the Patriot Act both reflected and contributed to a significant shift in the balance of power away from Congress and in favor of the executive office. The USA PATRIOT Act was passed by Congress within weeks and signed by President Bush on October 26, 2001, just fifteen days after the attacks. While the reach of this act is unprecedented, overriding some 48 state laws regarding civil liberties, the USA PATRIOT Act was just one of many developments that significantly increased the power of the executive office. The Bush administration's shift to the "imperial presidency" has been marked by a number of developments from an intensification of secrecy to the rejection of international treaties requiring Senate ratification to the doctrine of preventive war giving the president the power to unilaterally decide to go to war.[10] While a complete enumeration of these developments is beyond the scope of this paper, the administration's strong push to empower the presidency demonstrates a major break with organizational tradition. But which actor emerges as the clear leader in this administration, if any? Regarding decisions concerning military intervention, a major pillar of the Bush administration's foreign policy, "the President generally defers to the Vice-President on all these issues" (Hersh, 2008, 378). Cheney "harbored a deep sense of unfinished business about Iraq." The vice president was in favor of what George Schultz coined "hot preemption" (Woodward, 2004, 9, 129). As mentioned earlier in this paper, it was Cheney that worked so arduously to empower the executive branch. Yet Cheney was clearly chosen by Bush to serve his preferences, and not the other way around. Wolfowitz had been the preeminent neoconservative in the group. He earned his PhD in political science from the University of Chicago, "a cradle of what came to be called neo-conservative thinking on foreign policy and a hotbed of the anti-détente school during the Cold War." Wolfowitz was a strong advocate for toppling Saddam, seeing Iraq as a threat as early as 1979. After September 11, 2001 he argued that there was a "10 to 50 percent chance that the Iraqi leader had been involved in the 9/11 attacks" (Purdum, 2003, 10, 13). Given the core of the Bush administration was carefully and methodically assembled by Bush himself, he emerges as the primary leader in the administration; a leader who proved well-equipped to manage the talents and Washington contacts possessed by his inner circle. In the post-9/11 world, with the return of the "imperial presidency" as represented by the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act and a host of other developments, a lack of traditional leadership is almost a given. When one then considers the Bush administration's clear break with recent foreign policy tradition, a lack of tradition of impartial leadership remains the only viable option. This antecedent condition was definitely present.

Lack of Norms Requiring Methodical Procedures "According to the groupthink hypothesis, members of any small cohesive group tend to maintain esprit de corps by unconsciously developing a number of shared illusions and related norms that interfere with critical thinking and reality testing" (Janis 1972, 36). In other words, policy determines intelligence, not the other way around. This antecedent condition was also present without a doubt. A widely known account regarding the decision to invade Iraq is CIA Director George Tenet's alleged conversation with Pentagon advisor Richard Perle at the White House on (or around) September 12, 2001.[11] In a now famous interview with CBS 60 Minutes in 2007, George Tenet told his side of the story. According to Tenet, Perle told him: "Iraq has got to pay a price for what happened yesterday, they bear responsibility." But Tenet explicitly denied the existence of any intelligence connecting Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda: "We could never verify that there was any Iraqi... complicity with al Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America. Period." Yet the Bush administration publicly linked Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda in an effort to blame 9/11 on Iraq. Tenet also denied the existence of any explicit evidence that supported Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction. Tenet insists that he consistently reported that in the intelligence community's judgment "Iraq will not have a nuclear weapon until the year 2007, 2009." As for chemical and biological weapons, the intelligence community believed Saddam had the capacity to produce them, but they had no knowledge that Saddam possessed them.[12] Still the Bush administration heavily justified the war in Iraq based on the alleged existence of such intelligence. In fact, Colin Powell reported to the United Nations, "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent." What is even more incriminating for Tenet than for Powell, is that Tenet was present at the briefing. Furthermore, despite the fact that the CIA denied the existence of any intelligence supporting Saddam Hussein's attempts to obtain uranium from Africa, even demanding the allegation be removed from two previous presidential speeches, President Bush made the allegation anyway in his 2003 State of the Union Address (60 Minutes, 2007). According to Pillar (2008, 238-9), the Bush administration reversed the methodical procedures, instead of using intelligence to drive policy, it used "policy to drive intelligence." Still worse, Pillar states that the "Bush administration deviated from the professional standard... in aggressively using intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war." Pillar points out that the administration's "cherry-picking" of intelligence to support its agenda completely disregarded the intelligence community's recommendations and judgments. Why would the Bush administration proceed in this direction? As previously discussed, the administration is alleged to have been planning and preparing for war with Iraq since as early as November 2001. Hoffman (2006, 1-2) argues that Cheney and Rumsfeld were "enraged" by the Clinton administration's failure to act unilaterally and proclaim U.S. hegemony. He writes, "When George W. Bush came to power, September 11 provided what seemed an unchallengeable opportunity for a drastic change in strategy and in diplomacy." This development, of course, begs the question: "Just how far back did their desire to invade Iraq extend?" On September 12, 2001, Rumsfeld suggested to the war cabinet that the attacks presented "an 'opportunity' to launch against Iraq." Cheney favored the idea, but suggested the administration wait for fear the United States would lose its "rightful place as good guy" (Woodward, 2004, 25).[13] Lobe (2002) offers a little history lesson regarding the emergence of the policy of unilateralism as it predates George W. Bush, but clearly pinpointing the implementation of it during the Bush administration's first term. Lobe described the appearance of a certain document that had been leaked to the New York Times in the spring of 1992. That document, written by Paul Wolfowitz and Irve Lewis Libby (who at the time worked at the Pentagon under Dick Cheney), was the draft Defense Policy Guidance (DPG). The draft DPG called for American unilateralism, military hegemony and a policy of preemption. Lobe wrote that the draft DPG was described by one U.S. senator as "literally a Pax Americana." Lobe himself states that the draft DPG was "essentially a vision of a world dominated by the unilateral use of US military power." Its intended goal was to "prevent the rise of any possible challenger for the foreseeable future." This sounds strikingly familiar. [14] Obviously, quite a bit had changed between the spring of 1992 (when the draft DPG was first leaked) and September 11, 2001. The controversy caused by the leaked draft DPG led then-National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Secretary of State James Baker to insist that "the final DPG was toned down to the point of unrecognizability." By September 11, 2001, Cheney had risen to vice president, Wolfowitz to deputy defense secretary, and Libby to Cheney's chief of staff. In its first year in office, the Bush administration "engineered what former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke recently described as a 'radical break with 55 years of bipartisan tradition' in US foreign policy making" (Lobe, 2002).

[Feb 24, 2012] Monoculture How Our Era's Dominant Story Shapes Our Lives Brain Pickings

2011/09/02 | brainpickings.org

That's exactly what F. S. Michaels explores in Monoculture: How One Story Is Changing Everything - a provocative investigation of the dominant story of our time and how it's shaping six key areas of our lives: our work, our relationships with others and the natural world, our education, our physical and mental health, our communities, and our creativity.

The governing pattern a culture obeys is a master story– one narrative in society that takes over the others, shrinking diversity and forming a monoculture. When you're inside a master story at a particular time in history, you tend to accept its definition of reality. You unconsciously believe and act on certain things, and disbelieve and fail to act on other things. That's the power of the monoculture; it's able to direct us without us knowing too much about it." ~ F. S. Michaels

During the Middle Ages, the dominant monoculture was one of religion and superstition. When Galileo challenged the Catholic Church's geocentricity with his heliocentric model of the universe, he was accused of heresy and punished accordingly, but he did spark the drawn of the next monoculture, which reached a tipping point in the seventeenth century as humanity came to believe the world was fully knowable and discoverable through science, machines and mathematics - the scientific monoculture was born.

Ours, Micheals demonstrates, is a monoculture shaped by economic values and assumptions, and it shapes everything from the obvious things (our consumer habits, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear) to the less obvious and more uncomfortable to relinquish the belief of autonomy over (our relationships, our religion, our appreciation of art).

A monoculture doesn't mean that everyone believes exactly the same thing or acts in exactly the same way, but that we end up sharing key beliefs and assumptions that direct our lives. Because a monoculture is mostly left unarticulated until it has been displaced years later, we learn its boundaries by trial and error. We somehow come to know how the mater story goes, though no one tells us exactly what the story is or what its rules are. We develop a strong sense of what's expected of us at work, in our families and communities - even if we sometimes choose not to meet those expectations. We usually don't ask ourselves where those expectations came from in the first place. They just exist - or they do until we find ourselves wishing things were different somehow, though we can't say exactly what we would change, or how." ~ F. S. Michaels Neither a dreary observation of all the ways in which our economic monoculture has thwarted our ability to live life fully and authentically nor a blindly optimistic sticking-it-to-the-man kumbaya, Michaels offers a smart and realistic guide to first recognizing the monoculture and the challenges of transcending its limitations, then considering ways in which we, as sentient and autonomous individuals, can move past its confines to live a more authentic life within a broader spectrum of human values.

[Aug 15, 2011] Globalisation and groupthink by Claire Jones

August 15, 2011 | FT.com

As the IMF knows only too well, groupthink played a key role in policymakers' inability to spot the risk of a major financial crisis. Could it be that globalisation contributed to this rise of groupthink? Central Bank of Ireland governor Patrick Honohan thinks so.

Since the era of David Ricardo, most – though not all – economists have extolled the virtues of global trade.

Mr Honohan's comments are far from a damning critique. But the central bank governor points out that globalisation can "turbo charge" booms and busts in small open economies such as Ireland's. Why?

The governor makes the oft-heard point that globalisation leads countries to rely too heavily on producing only a handful of goods. He then claims – rather more unusually – that this hollowing out occurs not only in productive capacity, but also in economic policy.

I will also touch on another, not unrelated, globalization-related theme, namely the tendency for globalized economies to be structurally incomplete or "hollowed-out" both in productive capacity (concentration on a limited range of economic sectors), and in the repertoire of macro-fiscal and prudential policy tools (as reliance is increasingly placed on (i) external markets for components or factors of production and on (ii) external institutions and analyses for the design and in some cases delivery of policy.) This tendency can feed the turbocharger and restrict the capacity for policy response to emerging problems.

Ireland's accession to the eurozone was, he says, very much a case in point.

As Ireland joined the monetary union in 1999, its status among the most globalized economies in the world was confirmed. In the following years, its finances would be submerged in those of the euro area – with international flows often not even being separately measured and assessed as attention focused on the euro area as a whole. The idea that much of macro policy had been largely outsourced to the European Central Bank took hold in policy circles. A sizable fragmentation of policy thereby occurred: domestic policymakers no longer took full ownership of macro issues. Finance Minister McCreevy's stated views about fiscal policy ("when I have it I spend it") disavowed any stabilization role for fiscal policy.

Ouch. Low interest rates, imported from Europe, fed the boom – as did profligate credit from abroad and a lack of exchange-rate risk – and Ireland ended up with "a world-beating construction and property price bubble".

At the same time as McCreevy's finance ministry had abdicated responsibility for macro-fiscal policy, the financial regulator was embracing the global trend towards light-touch regulation.

International convergence of economic and regulatory policies towards liberalization and light-touch, unfortunately embraced also by Ireland, and ridiculously easy availability of credit from abroad (eventually helped by the removal of exchange rate risk across the euro area) were key factors in the international environment that masked the vulnerabilities associated with the emergence of evident imbalances in the trend towards a construction monoculture: extreme house price inflation, a skewed revenue base for the Government accounts and a seemingly inexorable erosion of wage competitiveness.

Mr Honohan's argument that globalisation led to a hollowing out of domestic policymaking, with groupthink replacing it, is compelling.

In contrast, early indications are that what counts as macro-prudential policy will differ from country to country. Some emerging markets have labelled capital controls – which stem the tide of financial globalisation – as macroprudential. Are we seeing a backlash against the phenomenon that Ireland's governor describes?

[Jul 14, 2011] Links Bastille Day

July 14, 2011 | naked capitalism

Valissa:

"Remarkably virtually everyone in developed countries desperately tries to believe that they are immune to indoctrination. They think they think for themselves and readily know the difference between truth and falsity, fantasy and reality, superstition and science, fact and fiction.

Technologically sophisticated cultures are conditioned to accept belief systems, behaviors, and values that would have been rejected out of hand by their stone-age predecessors. Primitives would instantly sense the obvious threats to survival and adjustment, or simple nonsense, inherent in many of the treasured beliefs of modern society." – Wilson Bryan Key

[Jun 30, 2011] Authority or Authoritarianism Dynamics of Power in the Contemporary Orthodox Rabbinate

Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

The Authoritarian Worldview

According to scholars who have studied the phenomenon, an authoritarian worldview is characterized by the following ideas (each is illustrated with a position popular in at least some quarters of the Orthodox community.)

The world is made up of "Us" and "Them."

The fractionalization of Orthodox groups creates smaller and more particularistic in-groups that place all other Jews in the out-group category. Freud referred to this type of phenomenon as "the narcissism of small differences."

Although the existence of multiple groups may superficially appear to represent diversity, in fact each group is authoritarian, requiring more and more conformity in order to fit in and carry its particular label. For example, Frumster, a dating website, asks its members to self-describe by choosing one of seven categories for Orthodox, four for the Orthodox-Conservative continuum, and one for everyone else.

"We" are good, and "They" are bad.

Many Orthodox people argue that we are a holy people-but non-Jews and their culture are at the root of most of the evil in the world; the rest is attributed to the rebellion of Conservative and Reform Jews.

We need to get them before they get us!

This is a defensive posture that perceives threats everywhere and leads to intolerance, hatred, and even violence. Furthermore, this stance leads to the interpretation of any action that we don't like as anti-Semitism.

The ends justify the means.

Since "our" values are right and true, we are justified in doing whatever we need to maintain our power and position. Financial fraud is accepted among some Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis, if they believe it is to the advantage of a worthy cause of theirs.

It is fine to have punitive attitudes toward the weak.

Authoritarians disdain those who are weak or of lesser status. Choosing conversion as an arena in which to exert power reflects this attitude-prospective converts are very low status; they are weak and vulnerable. Sexual exploitation of prospective converts and of children are crimes that demonstrate this attitude-they are two of the most vulnerable and powerless groups. Additionally, failure to resolve the institutional oppression of agunot reflects institutional indifference to these most powerless women.

Subservience toward authority is vital.

Authoritarians disdain those they view as below themselves and are very submissive toward those they see as being strong and above themselves. Rabbis in the Hareidi or Hassidic hierarchy defer to those with more (perceived) power-even if it means backtracking from a position that they had taken-even a public one-and they often claim that they had been "deceived" into taking the original position.

The Rabbinical Council of America's capitulation to the Israeli Rabbanut regarding conversion procedure and personnel credentialing is another sorry example. Despite widespread acknowledgment of the Rabbanut's deficiencies of integrity, competence, and reliability, the perceived power of the Rabbanut was sufficient reason for the RCA to overturn centuries of the Diaspora tradition of local rabbinical autonomy and leadership.

Groupthink

Authoritarianism and the abuse of power by rabbinic leaders are not the only sources of behavior and thought control in the Orthodox community. Groupthink exerts an additional set of pressures to conform to an increasingly narrow, exclusionist view of what it means to be a Torah committed Jew, and is perhaps even more nefarious since it arises from within the community membership. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, groupthink is a type of thinking that occurs in cohesive groups, where the desire to remain a member of the group and to maintain consensus, overrides critical thinking and leads to faulty group decisions. Irving Janis, who researched historical fiascos created by groupthink, defined it as "A mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive in-group, when the members' strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action." While group cohesion provides the foundation needed for groupthink to develop, Janis has suggested that insular, homogeneous groups that have directive leaders and that experience stress from external threats are particularly vulnerable to groupthink. We suggest that these are attributes of current Orthodox Judaism, and that our community displays all of the symptoms of groupthink described by Janis and his colleagues. The symptoms are listed below, followed by real-life examples from within the Orthodox community.

Symptoms of groupthink

  1. Illusions of invulnerability create excessive optimism and encourage risk-taking.

    Example:
    There is a widespread belief that social problems such as substance abuse, spousal or child abuse, and addictive gambling are less prevalent in the Orthodox community than elsewhere, even when there are no reliable statistics, or that the statistics indicate otherwise. When a scientific study by Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., Michelle Friedman, M.D., Talli Y. Rosenbaum, P.T., Ellen Labinsky, Ph.D., and James Schmeidler, Ph.D., published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that the Orthodox women in their sample were sexually abused at about the same rates as other women, Avi Shafran, representative of Agudath Israel, sprang into action, claiming not only that the survey was biased, but also that "the Torah-observant population is greatly underrepresented in the realms of societal ills like rape, AIDS, prostitution and marital infidelity that affect their less repressed neighbors," while simultaneously admitting that he has no statistics to back up his claim. He just knows.

    Other leaders within the Orthodox community dismissed the results of the survey by saying that "approximately 40 percent of the respondents were ba'alei teshuva, and therefore, their experiences are irrelevant to those raised in Orthodox homes."

  2. The group rationalizes warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions.

    Example:
    Consider the following explanation of the outrage over Rav Eliezer Melamed's endorsement of soldiers' refusal to obey orders to attack Jews: "Secular zionists, who by and large built Israel are accused of trying to dismantle Israel, because their motives for creating the State was not based in Torah. Only Torah Jews imbued with a nationalist impulse stand in their way. Those who built it-right and left-have been trying to dismantle it for well over a decade and a half-and only Torah Jews imbued with a nationalist impulse stand in their way."

    Another example: Yitzhak Kakun, editor-in-chief of the Shas weekly Yom Le'Yom claimed that the arrests of members of the Syrian Jewish community of New Jersey and Brooklyn, on suspicion of money laundering was an anti-Semitic plot cooked up by the FBI.

  3. There is unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.

    Example:
    In offering an explanation of why leading Hareidi religious figures (and others) allowed Leib Tropper and EJF to control conversions, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky wrote that "Gedolei Torah-and most rabbis-are incapable of recognizing true evil and hypocrisy. Call it the 'Yitzchak Avinu and Esav Syndrome.' I have been in the presence of Gedolim, and they live on a plane of purity and saintliness where such incidents-while theoretically possible; after all, the Tanakh is filled with stories of the foibles of great people-are not considered practical possibilities. Most never encounter salaciousness, degradation, and the dark side of man." (Pruzansky blog, Dec 23, 2009)

    Another example of this willfully amoral mindlessness is the increasingly frequent reference to "Daas Torah is hefekh daas Baalei Batim," (Lay understanding is the opposite of Torah wisdom), a phrase that insulates rabbis ("Gedolim") from criticism and replaces serious, respectful dialogue with contempt for anyone else's perspective. (For a sensitive treatment of this issue, see Rabbi Yossi Ginzberg's December 29, 2009 post on the blog, "Emes Ve-Emunah.")

  4. The group promotes stereotyping of those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, disfigured, impotent, or stupid.

    Examples:
    Consider the following quotations:
    "The Conservatives begin the process with a desired result in mind (abolishing the mehitza, permitting cohanim to marry divorcees, counting women in the minyan, etc.) They are quite adept at manipulating the halakha to achieve that result, twisting and turning the words of our sages until they are "saying" what the Conservatives want them to say." (Pruzansky blog, Dec 4, 2009)

    "The feminist movement ravaged the American family." (Pruzansky blog, Nov 29, 2009)

    As another example, When Nofrat Frankel and the "women of the wall" attempted to read from a Sefer Torah in the women's section at the Western Wall, they were accused of doing it solely for political purposes, and of "inverting every relevant fact in order to make [their] argument" (Yaakov Menken, "The right to disrupt your prayers" Cross currents, November 30, 2009). Commented one of the readers of this column: "Getting arrested for wearing a tallit makes this woman a martyr for egalitarian rights and for civil rights. This gives the small group of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel a way to be noticed. Otherwise, they are totally ignored."

    A common theme is to accuse others of nefarious motives, even when they have stated benign or benevolent ones. How exactly is it that the in-group members know the motives of others so much better than the others know their own motives? Or are they accusing them of deception and trickery?

  5. Direct pressure (aka peer pressure) is used to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty."

    Example:
    Rabbi Norman Eisenstein announced that no judge on a conversion court would be accepted if he believed the universe was more than 5,770 years old.

  6. The group self-censors ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.

    Example:
    For a clear and compelling example of this, think of the number of people who you know who have altered their publicly expressed opinions or behavior (or asked family members to change theirs) in order to not threaten the matchmaking options of their children. In cases we know personally, a young man was denied permission to go to college because of the danger it posed to his sisters' marriage opportunities, while middle-aged couples have stopped going to the movies (although they will watch the same films at home, in private) for the sake of their children's potential "shiddukhim."

  7. Illusions of unanimity among group members is promoted; silence is viewed as agreement.

    Example:
    Everyone might disagree, but everyone thinks that everyone else agrees:
    You conform to a certain dress code in order to fit into the group-"I don't think there is anything wrong with wearing pants...but..."

    8. The group has self-appointed mind guards, who shield the group from dissenting information. These can be group leaders who guide the flock and weed out dissenters, and who cultivate a negative attitude about talking to outsiders. These are often Hareidi journalists and columnists.

    Example:

    Forbidding Hareidim to use the internet, Rav Yisrael Hager, the son of the Vishnitzer Rebbe, called on the community to refrain from buying tefilin and mezuzoth from anyone connected to Hareidi websites. The Rav's comments came at the start of the Shovavim period (the period that begins with the reading of Parashat Shemot and ends with Parashat Mishpatim), a time that the Kabbalists teach is auspicious for repentance. The Rav added that children from families with internet connections should not be accepted to schools, and that rabbis and teachers who do not conform to this policy should not be employed as teachers.

    Overall, groupthink encourages overestimation of the group's power and morality, closed-mindedness, and pressures toward uniformity, and leads to defective decision-making. Although some of these examples are from the Hareidi rather than the Centrist/Modern Orthodox community, not all are. The symptoms of groupthink are increasingly observable in C/MO groups as well. If we don't want critical decisions facing the Jewish community to be defective, we need to be more vigilant about preventing, or disrupting groupthink.

Preventing Groupthink

The best way to prevent or disrupt groupthink is to eliminate or avoid the conditions under which it occurs. Although it is not likely that we can remove the external threats to the continued existence of the Jewish people, we can address the three others:

  1. Directive leadership
  2. Isolation of the group from outside sources of information and analysis
  3. Homogeneity of members ideology and social background
1. Directive leadership is a "command-and-tell," military-style leadership, which is helpful in critical situations of imminent threat, but has been identified as a chief cause of defective group process and poor outcome for decision-making in groups. A good leader is capable of a variety of leadership styles, adjusting the style to suit the situation.

2. & 3. That openness to outside sources of information and analysis helps counteract the groupthink tendency is self-evident, but the advantages of diverse groups may need some explanation. The advantages of diversity are not just our ideological bent-there is a good deal of research on the advantages (and disadvantages, to be honest) of diverse groups in terms of organizational functioning:

Diverse groups tend to be more creative and are better at problem-solving than are homogenous groups. When groups include people with different types of education and experience, they have a richer deliberation about the best course of action. Diversity helps an organization become more adaptable and flexible in responding to a rapidly changing world, while attracting and retaining its best members. Diversity, though, does increase turnover within the group, making it less socially integrated than groups of people who are all alike. Nevertheless, suspicion and hostility toward diverse opinion and demographics cause long-term harm to the group.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Recently, a number of young, educated, sincerely religious Israeli couples decided to reject the Rabbanut system entirely and make independent wedding plans. They arranged their own halakhically correct marriages and were willing to be officially considered common-law husband and wife rather than participate with that disreputable institution. Will this become a trend? Let us hope there is still time for it to serve as an illustrative warning. This is what happens when leadership fails: the best and most capable will not stand for it.

Religious authority in Judaism is meant to be a force for affirmative growth, to help us on our way toward becoming a "nation of priests" and a "light unto the nations." Authoritarianism won't get us there.
Just as we accept that we are subject to invisible physical influences, such as gravity or bacteria, we need to understand at a deep level-both individual and communal, lay and clergy-the workings of psychological forces on our reasoning and judgment, opinions and behavior. We need to foster the humility to recognize our vulnerability to the easy temptations of authoritarianism and the pitfalls of groupthink. Since these forces operate outside our awareness, we recommend the following changes in organizational structure and process to help keep them at bay:

  1. Intentional organizational self-reflection. Self-reflection, or heshbon hanefesh, is a religious obligation for individuals and is a recommendation whenever national calamity strikes. The Orthodox, religious Zionist community undertook such self-reflection following the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin and, at least for a while, the community made changes. Today, the parade of scandals in the religious community is a calamity that calls for self-reflection, particularly for religious and lay leadership. As a first step, independent professional consultation should be engaged on a regular basis to meet with leadership for the express purpose of examining their thinking process and power relationships.
  2. Transparency and lay oversight. Since any individual or group with power, left unchecked, will tend to tip, however unintentionally, toward policies of self-interest, it is essential to be able to examine rabbinical decisions against standards of logic, fairness, and consequences for community concerns. This in no way threatens their halakhic expertise and authority. Rather, it refines and extends it.
  3. Make a conscious, declared decision to incorporate diversity as a hedge against the inroads of fundamentalism. For too long now, the Modern Orthodox/Centrist rabbinical leadership has been busy looking over its right shoulder, defensive about its authenticity in the face of attacks from the religious right. Nevertheless, we continue to affirm the value of secular study, while acknowledging that at times it may present a religious challenge; we accept the risk, based on our beliefs. Similarly, while it is true that diversity in organizations entails some risk, it is a better choice than paranoia, black-and-white thinking, and hypocrisy, which are characteristic of authoritarian organizations.
For Further Reading:

Altemeyer, Bob. The Authoritarian Specter. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996.
Holzer, Rabbi David. The Rav: Thinking Aloud. New York: Holzer Publishing, 2009.
Janis, Irving Lester. Groupthink. Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1982.
Lammers, Joris, Stapel, Diederik A. and Galinsky, Adam. "Power Increases Hypocrisy: Moralizing in Reasoning, Immunity and Behavior." Psychological Science (in press).

[Jun 25, 2011] Brainwashing the Corporate Way by John Pilge

June 24, 2011 | truthout.com

One of the most original and provocative books of the past decade is "Disciplined Minds" by Jeff Schmidt (Rowman & Littlefield). "A critical look at salaried professionals," says the cover, "and the soul-battering system that shapes their lives." Its theme is postmodern America, but also applies to Britain, where the corporate state has bred a new class of Americanized manager to run the private and public sectors: the banks, the main parties, corporations, important committees, the BBC.

Professionals are said to be meritorious and non-ideological. Yet, in spite of their education, writes Schmidt, they think less independently than non-professionals. They use corporate jargon - "model," "performance," "targets," "strategic oversight." In "Disciplined Minds," Schmidt argues that what makes the modern professional is not technical knowledge, but "ideological discipline." Those in higher education and the media do "political work," but in a way, that is not seen as political. Listen to a senior BBC person sincerely describe the nirvana of neutrality to which he or she has risen. "Taking sides" is anathema; and yet the modern professional knows never to challenge the "built-in ideology of the status quo." What matters is the "right attitude."

A key to training professionals is what Schmidt calls "assignable curiosity." Children are naturally curious, but along the way to becoming a professional they learn that curiosity is a series of tasks assigned by others. On entering training, students are optimistic and idealistic. On leaving, they are "pressured and troubled" because they realize that "the primary goal for many is getting compensated sufficiently for sidelining their original goals." I have met many young people, especially budding journalists, who would recognize themselves in this description. For no matter how indirect its effect, the primary influence of professional managers is the extreme political cult of money worship and inequality known as neoliberalism.

... ... ...

This was the final act of corporate coup d'état, now disguised by a specious debate about "cuts" and a "national deficit." The most humane premises of British life are to be eliminated. The "value" of the cuts is said to be £83 billion, almost exactly the amount of tax legally avoided by the banks and corporations. That the British public continues to give the banks an additional annual subsidy of £100 billion in free insurance and guarantees - a figure that would fund the entire National Health Service - is suppressed.

So, too, is the absurdity of the very notion of "cuts." When Britain was officially bankrupt following the Second World War, there was full employment and some of its greatest public institutions, such as the Health Service, were built. Yet, "cuts" are managed by those who say they oppose them and manufacture consent for their wider acceptance. This is the role of the Labour Party's professional managers.

[Feb 13, 2011] The First Step to Solving A Problem Is Stating It Correctly

Feb 12, 2011 | Of Two Minds

In "1984," George Orwell describes a totalitarian state that employs "newspeak" to enforce its aims. Rather than merely suppressing statements that endanger the ruling party, newspeak constricts the language itself, making dangerous ideas impossible to formulate. This proves to work far better than post-hoc crackdowns on radical speech, inspiring one state functionary, Syme, to exude, "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."

With that in mind, I'd like to explore a problem I see in the current economic debate. The path before the nation in general, and the federal government in particular, is usually framed as a choice between "quantitative easing" and "austerity," and even those who oppose the action represented by the former phrase, and support the course represented by the latter, tend to use these terms as if they truly described the two paths that might be taken.

But of course they don't.

"Quantitative easing" is, linguistically speaking, quite new. The original Japanese expression for "quantitative easing" ryoteki kinyu kanwa was minted in the mid-1990s, and became official Japanese monetary policy after Toshihiko Fukui was appointed governor in February 2003. It did not pass into American parlance until roughly 2005, but in a mere six years, it's a linguistic bestseller - a Google search for "quantitative easing" garners over a million hits.

It's easy to see why the term was pushed vigorously by the forces that support the action it represents. Evolutionary psychology asserts that humans have two basic drives - accumulating resources and minimizing effort. Throughout human history, anyone who could gather real resources without expending much time or energy had a huge survival advantage. "Quantitative easing," has, then, a hugely positive emotional valence, as it embraces the two things humans prize most - quantity and ease.

Of course, in reality, "quantitative easing" offers no such thing. It creates no real resources whatsoever, and whatever "ease" it might provide will be more than counterbalanced by painful side- and aftereffects.

An alternative phrase that policy critics sometimes advance - "money printing" - is, ironically, almost as attractive. The reason is that "money" has multiple meanings, and in the popular mind is conflated with possessions that can be purchased with currency. In other words, at a fundamental level, "money printing" sounds like a pretty good idea - the creation of a real resource with little effort. Sign me up!

So let's be clear. The most accurate description for the action described by "quantitative easing" is actually "fiat creation." Here, the type of money being created is specified - a fiat currency, untethered to any real resource, with no more intrinsic worth than the paper (or electrons) that constitute it. And "creation" reveals the voluntary bringing-into-being of this intrinsically valueless commodity. Using these words makes it clear that there is no imaginary constraint at which the fiat strains in search of "easing," instead, human beings make choices and perform actions to create it.

The fact that the average American has no idea what fiat is, is no excuse for those who do understand it failing to employ the phrase often in writing and speaking. If it is used enough, even Americans can learn a new word.

So use it, please.

Next is the term, "austerity," which is used, in government-budget discussions, to describe spending cutbacks necessary to balance tax inflows to spending outflows. The first-listed synonyms for this term are "harshness," "strictness" and "ascetisim," all of which have a strong negative emotional valence. Absent from these synonyms are any positive results that might come from actions described as austere; the entirety of the word's meaning is unrelieved by any awareness that austerity might have a benefit.

So again, let's be clear. The most accurate description for the set of measures described as "austerity" is expressed by the phrase "living within our means." This expression aligns with the average person's understanding that he or she must personally balance revenue inflows and outflows - even people who don't do this are usually painfully aware that they should. "Living within our means" then, has a positive valence that is hard to over-state - immediately, intuitively, it just makes sense.

Reframing the choices before us from a battle between "quantitative easing" and "austerity" to one between "fiat creation" and "living within our means" is a necessary first step to making the right choices as a culture. If we can't even properly state the problem, we'll never arrive at a solution.

WestVillageIdiot:

Our attempts to limit language can be summed up as "political correctness". There is nothng more advantageous to the beasts in power than political correctness. The words most used to enforce political correctness are "racist", "bigot", "chauvinist", "discrimination", etc. These titles are often hoisted on people that are bringing up very sound and rational criticisms of the behavior of TPTB. Criticize Mr. Obama and watch how long it takes somebody to call you a racist. Criticize Frau Clinton and watch how long it takes somebody to call you a chauvinist. Criticize illegal immigration and watch how long it takes somebody to call you a bigot or a racist.

PC is definitely one of the favorite, and most powerful, tools of the Thought Police in America. Once they have deemed something "offensive" you can guarantee that something is being said that contains common sense and challenges their stupidity and destruction.

Fighting anybody that attempts to enforce Political Correctness is a blow for freedom and a blow being struck against the Thought Police. Call a spade a spade and I will call it Doubleplusgood.

Paul Bogdanich:

The basic problem is the use or abuse of language to hide the true nature of the stimulus and easing and the appalling ignorance of the electorate which makes it all possible. As the later will never change as I see it the problem is with the current policies specifically that they are designed to operate from the top down. Big mistake. No recognition whatsoever that the elites have had a failure. So in the current form all current policies are is a gift from the government elites to the failed private elites. The results can be clearly seen seen in the eite economy while everyone anywhere else is left to twist.

The problem is, as it has always been, the mumbers. 10 million elties and dedicated minions and 300 million elses. Sooner or later though it won't matter what you call it or how you define or redefine the words, the stark realities will be too strong to be ingnored and some hyperbolic politician will create new language to frame the problem his way. We've got Hoover now so the only remaining question is do we get Hoover again, Hitler, Hanity (but I repeat myself), Roosevelt or Robespierre.

Could be any one with another Hoover the odds on favorite. Dozens of committed elitists to choose from in both parties. Obama is but one. However, sooner or later as the elites keep failing and the bills keep mounting things will have to change. Maybe for the better, maybe not.

[Feb 11, 2011] Conformism and Public News By Barry Ritholtz

ritholtz.com
February 11, 2011

We study a model where investment decisions are based on investors' information about the unknown and endogenous return of the investment. The information of investors consists of endogenously determined messages sold by financial analysts who have access to both public and private information on the return of the investment. We assume that the return of the investment is correlated with the aggregate investment. This results into a beauty contest among analysts (or a "conformism" effect). In equilibrium, analysts sell all the information they have to all the investors. A striking result is that there are sometimes multiple equilibria. There are equilibria where the beauty contest is exacerbated. Because of the correlation across analysts' information sources, not all the information available in the economy is transmitted to investors.

And the authors of the paper further conclude: "Analysts exert "collective manipulation."

You got that? Good. Now please explain it to me.

Source:
Conformism and Public News
Gabriel Desgranges and Céline Rochon
IMF Working Paper, February 2011
http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/cat/longres.aspx?sk=24635

Barry Ritholtz:

If you want more details:

We develop a model where investors make investment decisions based on information bought from financial analysts about the return of the investment. The model consists of two building blocks: (i) Analysts determining messages (to be sold to investors) based on their public and private information; (ii) a game between informed investors making investment decisions. An investor's information consists of the messages bought from analysts.

A crucial assumption in this model is that the unknown and endogenous return of the investment is correlated with the aggregate investment. This assumption drives the key mechanism at work in our model: this correlation generates a beauty contest among analysts. Indeed, analysts sell to investors information on the return of the investment. The aggregate investment, which is endogenous, depends on investors' information, namely the messages sent by analysts. Consequently, to predict the return on the investment, an analyst needs to guess current investors' information that correspond to the messages of the other analysts.

Financial analysts hold information in the form of two signals, one privately observed, and one commonly observed by all the analysts. These signals are unknown to the investors, to illustrate the fact that information takes time to be processed and only the analysts possess the expertise to process it. The private signal of an analyst corresponds to its privileged information and his estimation of the impact, on the return, of the information that are commonly observed but whose interpretations differ across analysts. The public signal represents the information that is commonly observed by all analysts and identically interpreted by all analysts."

You may now return to your previously scheduled Friday . .

DeDude:

I got it. They are full of sh!t but they are covering it up in nice sounding words. They hope that you are so insecure that you think the reason you don't understand it is that you are not as smart as they are. Now they want you to hand over your money since they are obviously smarter than you and better able to handle investments. Those sons of Madoff.

Niskyboy:

Academics with inferior minds cloak their ignorance with mutli-syllabic words so that 1) others will think them highly intelligent; and 2) so that they can never be proven wrong, because the words have imprecise meanings and you can't definitively pin down what they're saying.

This is how professors in economics departments win tenure and get to keep their jobs for life, no? My best guess is that what they're saying here is that the analyst consensus fed to the public is a load of crap, yet the investing public continues to eat it up. Now why didn't I think of such an original thought! If I did, I might label it, let's see, oh yeah - the sell side.

[Nov 06, 2010] Politics and Selective Perception

The Big Picture

Source: Red State

>

A friend writes: "What do you do when presented with a chart such as the one above?"

My answer was simply that it depended upon who is showing you the chart:

• If it comes from a hard core partisan, you laugh at the flaws in their wetware and say nothing. Recognize they are not capable of comprehending logic or objective reality, and can only respond to emotional narratives.

• If they are a student, or anyone genuinely interested in markets, economics, or probabilistic analysis, you ask, in your best Socratic method, the questions below.

• If they are an investor, you simply take their money.

Sports fans, Partisans - anyone emotionally invested in any specific outcome - lose the ability to objectively judge reality. Studies have shown that their brains appear to have a form of damage similar to aphasiacs. But there is no physical damage, it is merely inherent flaws built into the wetware.

To investors, this is a devastating problem, one that eventually will become terribly expensive if they do not learn how to compensate for it. The psychological term for this is selective perception. I love tracking down examples of this at work, as it reminds me how we are all wired in a way that is filled with cognitive flaws. Investing enlightenment only is possible once you objectively recognize and learn to work around the inherent flaws in your wetware.

This chart - which is hysterically funny to anyone who can objectively review economic data - reveals pretty much nothing about either politics or unemployment. But it reveals everything about the cognitive errors of the person who drafted it.

Let's return to our student, or anyone genuinely interested in this data: See if your wetware can answer these questions. Once you have done that, go back and review the chart again:

1) Is this time period unique or typical? Do other eras share a similar relationship between the two variables?

2) Is there a causal relationship between the two variables? Asked another way, does the House Majority significantly impact employment, or is this merely a classic example of correlation without causation?

3) What other factors might impact employment more significantly than House Majority?

4) Is there a similar relationship between White House and Unemployment? How about the Senate and Unemployment?What do these relationships reveal about the original two variables?

5) Why such a small sample? We have been tracking unemployment for many decades, along with House majorities - What does using the complete data set reveal?

6) What about other employment related data? How do wages, long term unemployment, job mobility, and labor force participation rate compare to House Majority? What about GDP, balance of trade, inflation, deficits, etc?

7) What other ways are there to consider the data? Does a peak-to-peak or a trough-to-trough measure of unemployment change the outcome of the relationship between variables?

8) What about other time periods? Does the relationship in the chart hold true for periods of 5, 10, 20, 25 or 30 year periods?

In my business, I cannot allow my personal political preferences to interfere with my ability to form a coherent and objective view of reality. Whatever the business of the person who createdthis chart is, objectively reality does not matter much.

I only hope they are active participants in the stock market . . .

Expat :

If you are interested in selective perception and the way the brain gets rewired by beliefs (upbringing, indoctrination, brainwashing, etc.), you should read Evil Genes by Barbara Oakley. She presents some interesting insights into cognitive bias, effectively explaining in greater depth what you refer to when talking about arguing with sports fans and partisans.

Since I stopped trading (where I was dreadful at avoiding getting married to positions and generally sat on them far too long), I have become much more objective. Now that I teach this crap to biz school students, I find myself telling them every day "question everything, especially yourself, and when you think you are no longer objective, get out…you can then be objective and get back in if you want."

I think the most interesting graph is one showing how unemployment, deficits, illegal foreign wars, and general skulduggerey have faired under either party. I think we'll find that both parties are equally corrupt, evil, greedy, and incompetent.

Mark E Hoffer:

November 6th, 2010 at 5:45 pm http://search.yippy.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&v%3Aproject=clusty&query=Evil+Genes+by+Barbara+Oakley+

Barbara Oakley, PhD, a 'female Indiana Jones,' is one of the few women to hold a doctorate in systems engineering. She chronicled her adventures on Soviet fishing boats in the Bering Sea in Hair of the Dog: Tales from Aboard a Russian Trawler. She also served as a radio operator in Antarctica and rose from private to captain in the U.S. Army. Now an associate professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, Oakley is a recent vice president of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society.

Her work has appeared in publications ranging from The New York Times to the IEEE Transactions on Nanobioscience.

" http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/669905.Barbara_Oakley

QOTD: "Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made." -Oscar Wilde

[Aug 22, 2010] Super-Myths