Friday, November 25, 2011

American Gothic (Horror)

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt who had claimed they themselves were gods to the self-regarding inbred thugs of ancient Rome. From the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe to the robber barons of America.  In nearly every urbanized society throughout the entirety of human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy.  They claim for themselves a "god given" right to dominate society. They have used various tactics to do this over the millenia, force being a perennial favorite. But force has been less effective against peaceful resistance in modern times. The self regarding would be aristocrats know that when people are pushed far enough, are robbed enough, stripped of their dignity, and deprived of enough they will eventually fight back. History demonstrates that heads are often lost when this push comes to shove. So newer tactics are employed along with the old violent standbys.
 These tactics vary widely by place and time. But there is a central feature. Deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are "better" than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is/was/always will be to establish an aristocracy of some type, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. This notion sounds bizarre to the modern ear, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Edmund Burke. For the would-be aristocrat democracy represents a dangerous psychological condition. One in which the carefully crafted masquerade of this manufactured superiority is questioned. One in which the possibility of social equality is raised. History is largely the tale of the struggle between those who claim aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority against those who believe that human beings are of equal social value.
Conservatism, which is in truth the construction of arguments for establishing or strengthening an aristocracy, in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today has become sufficiently democratic enough that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice in manipulating the,, general public.

The aristocracy have used a wide variety of methods to destroy reason throughout history. Fortunately, many of these methods, such as the suppression of popular literacy, are incompatible with a modern economy. Once the common people started becoming educated, more sophisticated methods of domination were required. What was required was a kind of "rationalized" irrationality.
The great innovation in recent decades has been the systematic reinvention of politics using the techniques developed by the advertising and public relations industry which are exactly the "rationalized" irrationality the aristocracy required. These would-be aristocrats and their sycophantic minions are using these techniques to persuade people to lay down their capacity for rational thought. Why? Because rational thought is the natural predator of aristocracy and conservatism. Hence, attempts are made to destroy rational thought, for example by destroying language, which is the medium of communicating rational thought.

The main idea is the distinction between "messages" and "facts". Messages are the things you want people to believe. A message should be vague enough that it is difficult to refute by rational means. (People in politics refer to messages as "strategies" and people who devise strategies as "strategists". It is useful to think of each message as a kind of pipeline: a steady stream of facts is selected , twisted, or fabricated to fit the message. Contrary facts are of course ignored. The goal is what the professionals call "message repetition". This provides activists with something to do: come up with new facts to fit the conservative authorities' chosen messages. Having become established in this way, messages must also be continually intertwined with one another. This is one job of pundits. To the public relations mind, the public sphere is a game in which the opposition tries to knock you off your message. Many of these "messages" have become institutions. Whole organizations exist to provide a pipeline of "facts" that underwrite the message of "liberal media bias". These "facts" fall into numerous categories and exemplify a wide range of fallacies. Some are simply factually untrue, e.g., claims that the New York Times has failed to cover an event that it actually covered in detail. Other claimed examples of bias are non sequiturs, e.g., quotations from columns that appear on the opinion pages, or quotations from liberals in news articles that also provided balancing quotes from conservatives. Others are illogical, e.g., media that report news events that represent bad news or good news for the sitting leader. The methods of identifying "bias" are thus highly elastic. In practice, everything in the media on political topics that diverges from conservative public relations messages is contended to be an example of "liberal bias". The goal, clearly, is to purge the media of everything except conservatism and aristocracy approved messages. The word "inaccurate" has become a technical term in the political use of public relations. It means "differs from our message".

The aristocracy aims to break down reason and replace it with mental associations. One tries to associate "us" with good things and "them" with bad things. For example, the memo from Newt Gingrich's former organization GOPAC entitled "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control". It advised candidates promoting aristocracy to associate themselves with words like "building", "dream", "freedom", "learn", "light", "preserve", "success", and "truth" while associating their opponents with words like "bizarre", "decay", "ideological", "lie", "machine", "pathetic", and "traitors". The issue here is not whether these words are used at all; of course there do exist individuals that could be described using any of these words. The issue, rather, is a kind of cognitive surgery: systematically creating and destroying mental associations with little regard for truth. Note, in fact, that "truth" is one of the words that Mr.Gingrich advised appropriating in this fashion. Someone who thinks in this manner cannot even conceptualize truth.This is an example of the destruction of language and the reasoning that it might convey. The strategists construct their messages in stereotyped ways. One of the most important patterns of conservative message-making is projection. Projection is a psychological notion; it roughly means attacking someone by falsely claiming that they are attacking you. Conservative strategists engage in projection constantly. A commonplace example would be taking something from someone by claiming that they are in fact taking it from you. Or, having heard a careful and detailed refutation of something he has said, the projector might snap, "you should not dismiss what I have said so quickly!". It is a false claim -- what he said was not dismissed -- that is an example of itself -- he is dismissing what his opponent has said.

Projection was an important part of the Florida election controversy in the United States, for example when Republicans tried to get illegal ballots counted and prevent legal ballots from being counted, while claiming that Democrats were trying to steal the election. Since around 1990, conservative rhetors have been systematically turning language into a weapon against those who would question aristocracy. Words are used in twisted and exaggerated ways, or with the opposite of their customary meanings. This affects the whole of  language. The goal of this distorted language is not simply to defeat an enemy but also to destroy the minds of the people who believe themselves to be conservatives constantly challenging themselves to ever greater extremity in using it.
More importantly, conservative rhetors have been systematically mapping the language that has historically been used to describe the aristocracy and the traditional authorities that serve it, and have twisted those words into terms for liberals. This tactic has the dual advantage of both attacking the aristocracies' opponents and depriving them of the words that they have used to attack aristocracy.

A simple example is the term "race-baiting". In the Nexis database, uses of "race-baiting" undergo a sudden switch in the early 1990's. Before then, "race-baiting" referred to racists. Afterward, it referred in twisted way to people who oppose racism. What happened is simple: the aristocracy and their conservative rhetors, tired of the political advantage that their opposition had been getting from their use of that word, so they took it away from them. A more complicated case is the word "racist". The rhetors in this case have tried to take this word away as well by constantly coming up with new ways to stick the word onto their opposition and their policies. For example they have referred to affirmative action as "racist". This is false; it is an attempt to destroy language. Racism is the notion that one race is intrinsically better than another. Affirmative action, one could argue may be discriminatory, as a means of partially offsetting discrimination in other places and times, but it is not racist. The aristocrats and their rhetors have even stuck the word "racist" on people because they oppose racism. The notion seems to be that these people addressed themselves to the topic and the word "racist" is sort of an adjective relating somehow to race. In any event this is an attack on language. Another example is the destruction of the word "government". The agents of aristocracy have been using the word "government" in a way that makes no distinction between legitimate democracy and totalitarianism. This was largely how the Koch brothers, aristocrats; were able to snooker common people to take up their causes in the tea party. They simply bombarded the public with messages that destroy language, reason & logic. By repetition, susceptible people lose the ability to discern between legitimate government that functions by and for the public interest and totalitarianism. We are barraged with these attacks today. When language is assaulted, so to is the information it carries. Reason itself. The aristocrats are winning most of the battles folks. And of course when these techniques are not providing the proper effect the older techniques they employed...force and violence are employed. Yes mace is a vegetable, just like pizza. See what I mean?


d said...

This is a map to help us identify what we are reading or hearing. If you don't follow the map you fall into traps carefully laid to catch the unwary. This brief outline provides guidelines to the vast amount of trickery used by the Far Right to dupe those of us who don't recognise weasel words that steal our attention and pose as the truth.

d said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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