Exclusive: It’s fairly easy to spot the “anti-knowledge” spouted by the Tea Party and the Religious Right’s favorite candidates, but a more subtle form of reality-deprived “group think” pervades America’s elites though it is rarely noted in the polite circles of the mainstream media, writes Mike Lofgren.
By Mike Lofgren
In a previous piece, I described how the Republican Party and its ideological allies in the fundamentalist churches have confected a comprehensive media-entertainment complex to attract low-information Americans and turn them into partisans.
The propaganda they are fed has become so disconnected from facts, evidence and logic that it is all too easy to laugh at people operating on demonstrably — and even ridiculously — false premises, such as the notion that Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is not a natural-born American, or that the Sandy Hook school massacre was an elaborate fake designed to take away the firearms of patriotic Americans.
It would be comforting to believe that somewhere in the commanding heights of our permanent government, there are important players who are serious grownups who know what they are doing. That, at least, is the impression they seek to convey with their sober demeanors, credentials from think tanks or prestigious universities, and the measured, almost soporific testimony they deliver to congressional committees.
Think of Robert Gates, Ashton Carter, Timothy Geithner or Eric Holder. On the surface, they seem the very antithesis of the Tea Party fanatic, gibbering about ISIS training camps in America. The preferred pose of these establishment personages is that of the politically neutral technocrat offering well-considered advice based on their profound expertise.
That pose is nonsense. They are deeply dyed in the hue of the official ideology of the governing class, an ideology that is neither specifically Democrat nor Republican. Domestically, whatever they might privately believe about essentially diversionary social issues (“rube bait”) like abortion or gay marriage, they almost invariably believe in the “Washington Consensus”: financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodification of labor.
Internationally, they espouse Twenty-first Century American Exceptionalism: the right and duty of the United States to meddle in every region of the world, coercive diplomacy, boots on the ground, and the right to ignore painfully-won international norms of civilized behavior. To paraphrase what Sir John Harrington said over 400 years ago about treason, now that the ideology of the Deep State has prospered, none dare call it ideology.
Let us consider some of the tenets of their faith:
–Almost a decade and a half later, it is now permissible to suggest that the invasion of Iraq was less than well considered. But to actually hold the authors of the invasion politically accountable is taboo and to suggest criminal culpability is to get oneself ejected from the salons of the Consensus.
–There is ample evidence of conscious criminal malfeasance, including selling investment instruments deliberately designed to fail, in the financial saturnalia leading, in 2008, to the greatest global economic collapse in 80 years. But our highest law enforcement official said maybe we shouldn’t prosecute the high-level instigators. Why? Just because.
–ISIS is seen in Washington as a grave terrorist threat with the potential to knock over the unpopular and unstable regimes of the Middle East (i.e., our client states) like bowling pins. Yet the Washington Consensus sees as the key to defeating ISIS the undermining of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, ISIS’s principal military enemy. If a U.S. general in 1942 declared the only way to defeat the Wehrmacht would be for us to fight Nazi Germany and the USSR simultaneously, he would have been committed to a lunatic asylum.
–Could widening income inequality just possibly have something to do with corporations and the rich inducing their bought-and-paid-for politicians to rewrite the tax code, trade laws, labor protections and pension rules in other words, rigging the system? Oh, no, it was all inevitable, say the “sensible centrists;” that’s just the way the world works. So maybe if the little people just got off their duffs, loaded up on student debt, and got educated, they’d be ready for the brave new world of the Washington Consensus.
–American International Group executives whose malfeasance or incompetence led to the company being bailed out (and nationalized in all but the name) by the American taxpayer are entitled to keep their stratospheric salaries and bonuses because of a holy principle called “sanctity of contract.” Do autoworkers, or pensioners of the City of Detroit, get to keep their previously agreed-to compensation? No, because that’s how a globalized economic system works.
These examples reveal a display of infantile logic or pernicious mendacity every bit as flagrant as Ben Carson’s mumblings or Donald Trump’s berserker rants. Yet, rather than selling snake-oil miracle health cures, as Carson and Mike Huckabee have done, the people who inflict this nonsense on us typically wind up teaching at the Kennedy School of Government, or serving as the president of a university or as a board member of a Fortune 500 company.
The imbecility of Tea Party dervishes is easy enough to detect, so why does the equally twisted reasoning of the bipartisan Wise Men (and women) escape public detection? Perhaps the reason is that democracy, or at least the oligarchically managed democracy that exists, is, in the words of H.L. Mencken, “based upon so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be protected by a rigid system of taboos, else even half-wits would argue it to pieces.”
The principal enforcer of those taboos is the prestige media. Their main method is to define “objectivity” to mean “a refusal to judge.” But when the truth is accessible and corroberable, it would be silly to stage a debate in which proponents of a spherical earth and champions of a flat earth receive equal time, with the debate’s moderator expressing doubt as to the verdict until one side or the other triumphs with clever rhetoric. Yet that is the prestige press’ default position.
It is occasionally refreshing when outlandish characters like Trump refuse to play by the rules. For 14 years, whether and to what extent George W. Bush’s potential nonfeasance (or actual negligence) facilitated the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has generally been an off-limits subject for the mainstream media.
Only when Trump broached the subject was the press free to jump on it. And the interviewer, Bloomberg’s Stephanie Ruhle, immediately interrupted Trump by blurting out, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that!” One wonders whether she was doubtful of the truth of his statement or worried about the potential blowback against her career.
As Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo, pointed out, the American media naively (or timidly) treated House Republicans’ interminable hearings on the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, as if it were a serious and judicious attempt to determine the facts in the case. It was only when Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, the House majority leader, committed a Freudian slip by saying that the hearings were designed to derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, that the press was “allowed” to judge the intent of the House Republicans’ investigation.
And sure enough the media have responded, with even Newsweek, normally a purveyor of conventional wisdom, publishing a sharp critique of the kangaroo-court aspect of the investigation. That said, one tack the media will not take on Benghazi is to look at the bigger picture: that the intervention in Libya was a massive, bipartisan failure of the Washington Consensus, with the Obama administration executing it and the House and Senate Republican leadership egging it on.
Normally free from criticism, much less accountability, the careerists of Washington enjoy a lucrative racket. Take General Keith Alexander, the former director of the National Security Agency. On his watch the most massive leak of government secrets in history occurred, and several members of Congress also claimed he misled them about the scope and legality of his agency’s collection of Americans’ private information.
Yet he managed to parlay those failures into a big payday. In 2014, Alexander set himself up as the head of a consulting boutique called IronNet Cybersecurity. His principal client is one of Wall Street’s largest lobbying groups, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), from which he receives $600,000 per month.
The money is often beyond the dreams of avarice, but that is not the only factor in play. All the big players have been sheep-dipped in a world view that becomes a reflex.
The anthropologist E. T. Hall, in “Beyond Culture,” put it this way: Everything man is and does is modified by learning and is therefore malleable. But once learned, these behavior patterns, these habitual responses, these ways of interacting gradually sink below the surface of the mind and, like the admiral of a submerged submarine fleet, control from the depths. The hidden controls are usually experienced as though they were innate simply because they are not only ubiquitous but habitual as well.”
The twin seductions of money and Washington “group think” have led our Wise Men into one disaster after another in both domestic and foreign policy. In view of their lamentable record over the last decade and a half, their advice and counsel is probably no better than that of a snake-handling shaman in the remotest hollow of West Virginia, and certainly a good deal more expensive.
Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His book about Congress, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, appeared in paperback in August 2013. His new book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, will be published in January 2016.
Lost me on the Sandy Hook assertion. That was a staged event and anyone with the courage to investigate it knows this.
Face it; we are all capitulated drones whose brains hum and respond to the groupthink programmed into us since we were four years old. Believe lies and protect the liars, get a reward, tell an unpleasant truth, do the right thing, and get punished like Manning and Snowden, Peltier and Mumia. Theirs is the true price of their freedom and humanity. And it was this humanity and morality that the anti-christic rightwingers took issue with in their psychotic crusade against “secular humanism”. And how is the groupthinking death cult behaving today? Not very well, huh. Lyle Courtsal http://www.3mpub.com, http://www.orthomed.org
PS think of it, big pharma going around murdering off holistic doctors whose therapies are cheap, safe, and effective; SEE HOW THEY ARE. . . .
As it is in the USA so it is in Russia. Labels and names are irrelevant distractions. As was once said, the price of liberty is vigilance, and it is all too easy to push the cost benefit ratio of that beyond the reach of the ordinary citizens by burdening their time with an assortment of busy work, of being for the most part owned by their possessions and distracted by bread and circuses. The political systems then rapidly become filters whereby only the most vicious, unethical and amoral can rise to the top of the operating structures of society. Is this not what prepares the now dullard classes for the resurgence of the stupidity of communism? Or will the perfection of distractions and loss of time to think and examine what is ever more obfuscated permanently short circuit that cycle? We’ll probably never have a chance to find out since the degradation earth will be such that the question will never come into being.
You lost me when you tried to make Sandy Hoax a real event. Anyone with youtube and a couple hours to spare can clearly see it was staged.
As confirmed by events in Syria the neo-con revolution is more about changing dictionary definiitons than anything else. If you can’t beat ’em on the battlefield, beat them in the bookshelves.
In the neo-con world, excess is the new moderation. Syria is a fine example where moderate rebels blow women children and babies to bits in moderation, as opposed to excessively. I expect the women, children, babies, and their surviving relatives, are extremely grateful for that.
The distinction between the moderates and the extremists is now as plain to see as the difference between the Gestapo and the SS. Well, I think it can safely be said that the U.S. military sees some difference, even if the rest of us may experience some difficulty.
To clarify the position; in the same way, defeat is the new victory, chaos is the new stability, debt is the new asset, war is the new peace and tyrrany is the new democracy. Dismal failure is now defined as spectacular success. Only with this in mind can we truly appreciate the successes of the new democracies now flowering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, not forgetting the one just about to flower in Syria.
But it is Israel where changes to the English language are making most headway. Words are being put through the mincer at an astonishing rate. Humane has become the new diabolical. For example: the IDF has been declared the ‘most humane army in the world’ by, well, by the IDF. You can’t argue with that. Not in Israel, you can’t. With one of the highest collateral damage ratios per kill in modern history, it certainly deserves far more recognition from the Hague and the UN. This honour has chiefly been achieved by re-defining multiple civilian deaths as a result of illegal military actions by the more family-friendly term collateral damage. Collateral damage sounds more like the sort of trivial mishap that might occur in a tenpin bowling alley than the result days of indiscriminate bombardment of civilian targets. It gives a more touchy-feelie sensation to the experience, except to the wounded and bereaved, of course. Employing such linguistic gymnastics you can’t get any more humane than the IDF.
Only the U.S. global drone campaign aimed at weddings gets anywhere near the IDF statistics on humaneness, that’s if we rule out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They do belong to the last century, after all. But don’t pop the corks just yet, there’s still a long way to go before we can define this as the New American Century.
I don’t believe that there is any mystery here.
As J. K. Galbraith said, “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.” Or, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
In other words the elite are the elite because they lie, obfuscate, exploit and kill to have far more than they need.
Libya is a raging success for the Washington Consensus, which is interested in shattering regimes opposed to U.S., Israeli, and Saudi hegemony over that region. Syria – shattered. Iraq – shattered. Yemen – shattered. Iran – pre-shattered (Iran is being conned; just wait; why do you think the pact passed Congress?). And those regimes not shattered are destabilized. Egypt – destabilized. Jordan – destabilized. Lebanon – continuously destabilized. All of these countries are weakened or shattered to prevent the hegemon from being challenged. So, raging success for the Washington Consensus. And Palestine? A captive, brutalized nationality, goaded and beaten into rebellion – set up for a new Nakba.
Absolutely no mention of Israel and Zionism controlling our MSM makes this article bogus,despite many accurate observations.
“A Refusal to Judge” is nowhere more evident than at The News Hour, a show that could do so much better.
Right indeed about PBS news. In a way, it’s the most dangerous because its reputation is other than its reality. Charlie Rose is a destructive Washington Consensus sycophant also, again, because of his reputation to be something other than that. Remembering most specifically about his softballing neocons in continuous interviews prior to the Iraq Atrocity.
If you’re referring to PBS, look at the donors lists…Monsanto, Dow, Exxon, etc. I just watched a program on agri here in Arkansas and they were expounding on how people don’t really understand what GMOs are really all about and how wonderful and safe they are. He then talked about how they raise profits by being pest resistant (fail) and being Roundup ready which has been proven benign to humans (fail)…in the bottom right corner of the picture was a Monsanto watermark.
VilÃ©m Flusser also talks about the self-feeding loop of the elite and how they create the media images that they then feed to their successors, who then believe these images and continue to purvey them. Flusser wrote a wonderful autobiography â€“ Bodenlos â€“ and a number of highly respected books about photography and communication. But it his work on technical pictures that explains how the loop works. His work is now also available in English, so I recommend it as reading which will enlighten: http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/into-the-universe-of-technical-images
Yes, indeed, a marvellous piece. I would add that there is now a “Western media consensus”, for since the end of the Cold War the European Union has expanded dramatically across Central Europe and its media sings in unison with the American media.
This is a marvelous piece by Mr. Lofgren.
WO the mention of Zion and their absolute lock on American MSM discourse,which has enabled all this horsehockey,its an alright article,if one is an Israeli.
This American thinks the omission is purposeful,as in WTF,he can’t see the forest for the trees.
Those who are controlling the levers that operate the planets economies, media and other governing structures have no allegiance to any religion, ideology or party, to anything other than power, wealth and the blood sport that distributes it. Any notion that any group, no matter of what identity, has control, let alone final say over the other elites is absurd on it’s face. Apologies to the others here for feeding the troll.
In a futuristic way, I see a day when Americans will be voting on their cell phones, thanks to acquiring their new DeBolt voting app., and life in America will be reported to be just dandy. At this point in time, I’m surprised they even allow us Americans an opportunity to vote. To a young person old enough to remember the year 2000, it wouldn’t surprise, if these young Americans think it perfectly normal, to have the U.S. Supreme Court decide who’s president. This all brought to you, by a bought and paid for corporate press. It amazes me, to no end, how for all the scandal groping the MSM does for political reasons, they never investigate what really matters. For examples of what matters, read once more what Mr. Lofgren speaks of in his article here.
I suppose my biggest gripe about this piece is that it’s too short. There are SO many more topics which fall under the subject of diverting the peasants by chumming the political arena with “rube bait”. The only thing I ever heard Eric Holder get excited about was prosecuting the whistleblowers. That was absolutely necessary because those fellows were casting doubt on the BS being peddled by the elites. Consider Snowden and the discovery that the Total Information police state in the US is doing a lot more than “keeping us safe”. Holder ignored the security state tortures, the police murders, and of course didn’t prosecute any of the financial looters. He did nothing I know of to slow down the Big Prison Complex.
Earlier today I read another article with likenesses to this one.
That’s another kind of “rube bait” used by the so-called conservatives. Damned welfare mooches used a food stamp to buy something besides a pile of cheese and macaroni boxes. They can imagine somebody ‘stealing’ $10, but the mere concept of the theft of a billion bucks is totally beyond them. The simpletons who are too busy (or too dumb) to think things through believe they’ve got it All Figured Out. That’s because they think in itty bitty ideas. Baby Killing. Welfare Cheats. Black People Criminals. Obama Wants to Take My Gun. Homos Causing Plane Crashes, Terrorist Attacks, hurricanes and tornadoes by generally Pissing Off God. Al Gore is fat and current climate changes are entirely natural.
The link is about peddling the utterly worthless F-35. Air Force Big Brass and Defense Contractors make big bucks. The taxpayers suffers now, and if there is ever a shooting war, we’ll all bleed.
Bought-and-paid-for politicians want to help the banks get a cut of Social Security. Obama is STILL trying, and Hillary is now joining the party.
Public schools are being defined as pest-holes with lazy & overpaid teachers. They’re constantly being cut or abolished so Privatized Schools can give Rich People a cut of the education pie. (more money to the middlemen and less to the schools WILL make things better) And Charter Schools face none of the scrutiny of the public ones.
One of the most successful “rube-bait” schemes is run by the NRA. Anybody reading the comments here will have seen earnest folks telling how their possession of Old Betsy will save them from invading evildoers (Red Dawn), attempted Hitler-style takeovers (Ben Carson et. al.), marauding policemen, and of course the ever-present threat of the People With Dark Skins. Unfortunately, this leads them into such complacent confidence that they dismiss any reality which contradicts the notions. Old Betsy & a dozen modern clip-fed sisters serve as all-purpose Security Blankets. Why worry about the hundreds of billions wasted on the F-35 when they can personally defeat the evildoers who might every threaten our precious nation.
And don’t get me started with the Finest Medical System on the face of the Earth. More expensive than anybody’s and on that account alone – Better! Without the middleman Insurance Company taking its huge cut we’d be in the same awful shape as the Euro-peans. Any true rube can tell you this is the plain truth.
The US government has been converted into an institution to make the Rich People even richer. So don’t tell me “government doesn’t work”. It’s a roaring success.
Yes, as you say, the government DOES work – for those who purchase or otherwise bribe it. The same goes internationally. Libya is a raging success for the Washington Consensus, which is interested in shattering regimes opposed to U.S., Israeli, and Saudi hegemony over that region. Syria – shattered. Iraq – shattered. Yemen – shattered. Iran – pre-shattered (Iran is being conned; just wait; why do you think the pact passed Congress?). And those regimes not shattered are destabilized. Egypt – destabilized. Jordan – destabilized. Lebanon – continuously destabilized. All of these countries are weakened or shattered to prevent the hegemon from being challenged. So, raging success for the Washington Consensus. And Palestine? A captive, brutalized nationality, goaded and beaten into rebellion – set up for a new Nakba.
Unfortunately, we, the led ‘by the nose’ sheep in the US, are either too stupid, afraid or apathetic to confront this. Try to tell people this whole ISIS thing is phony, a proxy attempt to dispose of Assad, open the door to attacking Iran and isolate Russia and see what you get. Sanders has come under attack by (self described) conservatives web-wide because he dared to confront the rise in anti-Islamic sentiment promoted by national ‘media’. I remember the Islamophobia after 9/11 and we all know what it led to. I think Sanders is absolutely correct, but he will now be attacked as being an apologist for Islam. If ‘they’ can get the public behind them with enough faux info, we are in big trouble. As with the events and lies out of Ukraine and now Syria (Russia attacks friendlies and hospitals) Russia is being backed into a corner and we’re poking it with a sharp stick. If we don’t realize where we’re headed, there will be no stopping a disaster. I think you are correct, also, that the Iran deal may be fake and a way to lull Iran into a false sense of security. I hope we’re wrong. There is 1 thing I might argue with the author of this article:Bush…add ‘involvement’ to his 9/11 list.
Homos causing plane crashes?I hadn’t heard that one.
Money is a culprit, but it’s not the only one. There is also the group think, stemming from innate biases. Everybody is susceptible to some kinds of biases, it’s just a matter of identifying which ones play the most significant role.
America supports democracy, because democracy has proven its strength over and over. But that strength often comes wrapped together with the perception that popular support trumps everything else. So the resulting effect is a bias that popular support negates characteristics such as lack of competence or lack of ethics, rather than the other way around. It should be that incompetence and irresponsibility should disqualify a person’s popular support, however impressive it may be. But as we can see from examples like Bush and Clinton, it doesn’t usually turn out that way.
Bush was the one who undermined freedom and threw away immeasurable resources, lives, trust, and goodwill for no gain, during a needless war based on lies. Clinton carried herself in a morally despicable and ultimately consequential manner during a supposedly humanitarian effort. She was clearly only interested in taking the success for her resume, and uninterested in taking responsibility when the country of Libya headed for collapse. She also remains impressively hypocritical when you compare her stance towards the conscientious leaks by Snowden and towards her own email server. The fact that Clinton still has enormous support, and that she’s able to recoup lost support, and the fact that another Bush still has enough support to mount a campaign, should all be immaterial.
It’s clear that neither belongs anywhere near the White House. But with people’s biases lead them to the wrong conclusions – they see the support there, and conclude that it’s the unworthiness which should be ignored, not the support. The support is meaningless in these cases – it’s like deciding someone should lead the country because they’re a pop star. But people can’t see that, at least not the majority which is doing the supporting; the majority which is being goaded by the respective campaigns to do the supporting. This is the essence of the group think which we see, and the backwards value system which permeates government.
Money is not the culprit. Money is the tool. The people are the culprits.
John said: “Bush was the one who undermined freedom and threw away immeasurable resources, lives, trust, and goodwill for no gain,”
There was plenty of gain: Billions of $$ in defense contracts for his “base.”
When I was in college studying Artificial Intelligence, I believed that if I could show that two artificial minds identical in Nature became opposite in character due to their Nurture, I could convince â€œconservativesâ€ that the misfortune of individuals is not due to immutable faults (although of course they could not then be blamed if it were), but due to society and therefore their assistance was the responsibility of society.
But I learned instead that â€œconservativesâ€ were in fact merely selfish and didnâ€™t care in the least for any reasoning on policy conclusions dictated by their self-interest.
In later years I have been enthusiastic about founding a College of Policy Analysis to rigorously investigate every culture and region and explore what policies can really bring public benefit, a large institution with experts circulating with the universities, which protects unpopular and even â€œenemyâ€ ideas, rigorously analyzes viewpoints and ideologies. It should be a branch of the federal government, independent of government and DC and money influences, to which politicians and judges and officials should be accountable in detail for their policy statements and actions. This College of Policy Analysis would have prevented every US misadventure since WWII.
But the more I think of the anti-rational cancer of US oligarchy, the more I wonder whether even such a fine institution could change the propaganda situation in the US.
These are the propaganda beliefs of the oligarchy of economic concentrations that control US elections and mass media, politicians and judiciary, and now the dark state, our parallel â€œpermanent governmentâ€ of traitors wrapped in the flag. Few can see through the propaganda confidently without a strong education and decades of reading and broad experience, and no one can disagree without risk to career and social wellbeing. Selfish opportunism is the ideology of those who would prosper in business or its â€œoligarchically managed democracy,â€ propaganda is the language, scams are the means, and economic coercion is the weapon of their neofascist organization.