On Accusations of Bullshit

Thinking about bullshit, I was reminded of the standard interpretation of the Greek sophists. The sophists tend to be seen through the eyes of Socrates which is to say through the words of Plato. But we are using a lens of understanding that is covered in more than two millennia of dust and grime.

I’ve long known that trying to grasp anything in the ancient world can feel like a near impossible task, even if too alluring to refuse the attempt. Understandably, we feel compelled to pull back the curtains of the past, hoping to get a glimpse. It isn’t entirely fruitless endeavor, as we have accumulated much evidence, although more scanty than is preferable.

The problem is less the evidence itself and more about how to make sense of it. After millennia of accrued interpretive traditions, it is hard to see the past with clear eyes and new insight. We inherit biases about texts and history, it being hard to separate the one from the other.

David Corey has a book on the topic, The Sophist’s in Plato’s Dialogues (see Lee Trepanier review). If he is correct, that upends the standard view. It would mean Plato’s motives in writing were more complicated, but it more importantly would mean what he wrote about was more complicated.

He points out that Plato references multiple times that Prodicus, a sophist, was Socrates teacher. His argument is that the sophists are often portrayed in positive light and that a close reading shows that there are many commonalities between Socrates and the sophists. They share methods and purpose in philosophical debate. They share a view of a manifest world that is relative and uncertain. And they share a commitment to human virtue that challenges tradition.

In one dialogue, Socrates makes a fairly direct defense of the sophists, in arguing against an unfair and unfounded criticism of them. What is interesting about the criticism, corrupting society, was later used against Socrates. And this is when it is good to remember that Socrates was also sometimes referred to as a sophist.

If sophists were bullshitters and their bullshit was a threat to Athenian democracy, then what does that say about Socrates? He too was judged as a threat and it is a fact that he did associate with some people who actually did threaten the society by enforcing authoritarian rule. It was a time of instability and so it’s clear why so many Athenian citizens feared anything that further destabilized the vulnerable democracy. But when is guilt by association a justified judgment?

The punishment for Socrates was only banishment and yet he chose death, which basically made it an act of suicide. He willingly drank the poison, instead of simply leaving. I don’t know that there is any evidence that his accusers wanted him dead. Socrates remained a well respected philosopher and public figure, even after his death. Banishment wasn’t even always permanent. So, why did he choose suicide which is permanent?

The main perspective we get on all of this, of course, is from Plato. In the Republic, Plato presents a utopian vision that is non-democratic in nature. That is the earliest inspiration for republican thought, at least in the American tradition of political philosophy. What occurred to me is that this republican ideology was articulated by someone living in a democracy and so, if implemented, this republican society would have followed after a democratic society.

Maybe such republicanism could only ever have been imagined in a democratic society. Because of modern revolutions, we define republicanism in opposition to the monarchy that it replaced. But that isn’t the context of that earliest republican thought. Instead of republicanism primarily being a revolution against monarchy, maybe it first and foremost is a reaction against democracy.

That could be seen in the American colonies where democratic self-governance had been developing for decades prior to the American Revolution and later the co-opting of power by the (pseudo-)Federalists who believed republicanism was opposed to democracy. So, the fight for democracy preceded the enforcement of republicanism. And, yes, it was an enforcement… ask those involved in Shay’s Rebellion who were violently put down.

So, what is Socratic dialogue and sophistry? And what are their relationship to rhetoric and bullshit? If Socrates or Plato had been alive in the revolutionary era of the American colonies, what would they have given voice to and whose side would they have taken? Or if they were here in America today, what role would they play? Do philosophers have much role to play at all in our society? When was the last time a member of the philosophical elite was perceived as enough threat to be deemed treasonous?

One last thought. Harry Frankfurt, in “On Bullshit,” argues that bullshit is more copious in a democracy. Is that really the case. I’ve argued against this. Whether or not there is more bullshit in a democracy, there is no doubt plenty of it. And bullshit ends up undermining democracy. Similar to an eye for an eye, bullshit for bullshit leads to us all being covered in it. There is no moral high ground on top of a pile of crap.

But how do we know what is bullshit? According to Frankfurt, that is to ask about intentions, in terms of sincerity and insincerity. Some of the critics of Socrates and the sophists claimed to know their intentions and that their intentions were not good. That apparently was a serious charge to make against someone back then. As for charges of treason these days, the issue of bullshit is irrelevant. What our society idealizes is the truth and hence what the powers that be fear is those who tell the truth. The most treasonous are the whistleblowers who leak government documents showing inconvenient truths, even if they had the best of intentions such as revealing illegal acts and moral wrongdoing.

For Socrates and the sophists, along with other Greeks, sincerity was of penultimate importance. Bullshit was seen as a threat because it was insincere, a value considered central to their small intimate democracy. We now take insincerity as the norm. Sincerity is too personal of a concern for such an impersonal society as ours. It’s harder to have personal concern for hundreds of millions in a large modern nation-state than to have personal concern for a few thousand in an ancient city-state. We are more tolerant of bullshit maybe for the sake of simplicity, as we can’t go around worrying about the moral intentions of so many strangers who we will never meet.


Bullshit Leads to More Bullshit

In “On Bullshit”, Harry Frankfurt differentiates a bullshitter from a liar. The two aren’t the same. I’ll keep it simple for this post.

A bullshitter can speak the truth just fine, but he just as easily could tell a lie. That is because a bullshitter is indifferent, in being insincere. It goes the other way as well. A liar is indifferent about the issue of sincerity vs insincerity, as someone can be perfectly sincere in their motivations for lying such as seen with authoritarians in their relating to those not part of their in-group.

Here is something about the bullshitter. He can be a perfectly nice and harmless person, such as a friendly grandfather who makes up stories. A master bullshitter could be charming as easily as he could be sociopathic, or he could be both simultaneously. It’s a talent that some people have, whatever purpose they might use it toward.

Applied to politics, I suspect that bullshitters are more common than liars. To get to the top of the political hierarchy requires an indifference to truth. Most presidents and presidential aspirants are bullshitters. Trump is clearly a bullshitter, but so is Clinton (and, no, I’m not arguing that they are equal).

A sincere liar is much more rare. Such a person is likely to be an ideologue and true believer. Cruz seems like a sincere liar, in that being perceived as a ‘good’ Christian seems important to him. He is a man of principle, albeit quite odious principles. The liar has a relationship to the truth, however dysfunctional, whereas the bullshitter can lose all sense of truth and end up believing his own bullshit. The best con man cons himself first. But the sincere liar can be more dangerous still, for he doesn’t need to con himself at all and so can act with clear intention.

Sanders is also a man of principle, but principles I prefer. He is a straight-shooter and even many of his fellow politicians acknowledge this about him, as this direct honesty makes it easy for him to work with individuals in both parties. It’s his concern for truth that can make him seem so quaint, in this age of ruthless corruption and cynical realpolitik. Sanders is truthfully what Trump and Clinton can only insincerely pretend to be.

I don’t think bullshit in general is more common in a democracy, as Frankfurt argues. The world has been ruled by bullshitters since time immemorial. But there is a particular kind of bullshit that is prevalent in a society like ours. It is maybe more dangerous in that the bullshitter impersonates a truth-teller. An example of this is how most of the racially prejudiced in modern America have learned to hide their bigotry behind the language of political correctness. To be fair, some of the most insidious bullshit of the bigoted variety was the dog whistle politics used so effectively by the Clinton New Democrats in their taking over the party and pushing it toward the political right.

American politics makes much more sense once you understand the distinction between a bullshitter and a liar. And if we ever want a functioning democracy, we better become better at maintaining this distinction in all aspects of our society, in particular within government. It is our civic duty as democratic citizens, not to mention our moral responsibility as individuals, to call out bullshit everywhere we see it. This is even more important when bullshit is falsely portrayed as the truth.

Never forget. It was the bullshit pushed by the political establishment, such as the Clintons, that made possible the bullshit of Trump. Bullshit can never be used toward the public good because it will always lead to more bullshit. And once we come to accept bullshit as normal and justified, we lose the capacity to discern what is true. From bullshit, inevitably cynicism and apathy follows. Then all moral high ground is lost.

FOX ‘News’ Viewers Again Found Significantly more Disinformed and Misinformed

I posted this for two reasons.

First, it’s further evidence that Fox News is not a reliable source of information… or else that Fox News attracts a very low quality viewer (and doesn’t manage to increase their quality)… not that this should surprise anyone who has been paying attention.

Second, it’s further evidence that Fox News is not “Fair and Balanced” for how could a truly fair and balanced news organization do such a miserable job of informing their viewers (or correcting the misinformation their viewers already have from other sources)… not that this should surprise anyone either.

Fox News not a reliable source of news? Fox News not fair and balanced? Oh my! LOL

December 2010 Survey:


Wall Street Journal Poll found FOX viewers the the most disinformed and misinformed:


The Pew Research Center found FOX viewers are the most disinformed and misinformed:


October 2003 Survey:


The Three Questions:

Evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda have been found. (A: No)

Weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. (A: No)

World public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq. (A: No)

Take the quiz and find out: http://bit.ly/glhzkb


Cantor Lying with a Straight Face

Here is a boring and stupid video. There isn’t much point in watching except it’s a representative example of Republican behavior (see commentary below).

Cantor, with a straight face, does nothing but lie and mislead. This is common behavior for Republicans because they know the facts don’t support their ideology and their own self-interest.

There are two other things about this video.

First, it sounds like he is talking down to a child. I’ve noticed that some Republicans talk this way when they’re trying to get a message to the voters. It sounds mean, but it seems like Republicans such as Cantor think their constituents are lacking in intelligence and have a child-like mentality.

Second, this video sounds like a campaign ad. I’m wondering why the mainstream media airs campaign ads for free. Why is it rare for the media to confront politicians about their lies and misinformation?

Basically, no useful facts are being shared in this video, no rational argument is being made, no insightful criticism is being offereed. It’s just typical GOP talking points.

Rightwing Politicians: do they believe what they say?

This, of course, can be generalized about all politicians. But lately it has been conservatives who have been making the most extreme statements. There is nothing worse than blatant lies and rhetoric. It irritates me because it insults my intelligence, but sadly it doesn’t seem to insult the intelligence of many people.

My question isn’t rhetorical. I genuinely wonder what politicians believe. Sometimes I feel all politics is a staged show and that we never see the reality that is going on behind the scenes.

Maverick? No attacks under Bush? Secession? Do politicians just say what makes for good melodrama in the moment?

Victims & Silence

“If the first rule of a dysfunctional system is ‘Don’t talk about it,’ then our primary goal should be to tell the truth, to be as honest as we can manage to be.  When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, ‘Fantastic — I wasn’t mad or alone in thinking that, after all!’  So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this eternal and internal propaganda system.  At that point, for someone to tell us the truth is a gift.  In a world where people all around us are lying and confusing us, to be honest is a great kindness.”

Derrick Jensen quoting David Edwards, The Culture of Make Believe, pp 141-142

Derrick Jensen is one of my favorite authors.  Even though he is quoting someone else here, this basic message runs through all of his writing.  There are few occupations more worthy than simply telling the truth, giving voice to the silence.  Jensen explains this brilliantly in his earlier book, A Language Older Than Words.  It was that book, more than any other, that helped me understand our culture. 

It’s depressing to consider how few people speak up about the atrocities of our society, but it’s understandable.  It’s easy to feel like a powerless victim when faced with such overwhelming suffering and destruction.  Even most victimizers were once victims and still see themselves that way.  We are a culture of victims.  But to refuse the collective agreement to be silenced, even if only for a moment, is to step outside of the role of victim.

Lies and Truth: why care?

I’m often conflicted when it comes to conspiracy theories (or whatever you may prefer to call them).  I have strong curiosity which causes me to always look at alternative views and there are many important issues that should be researched seriously, but I have limited time and energy.  Depending on the subject, I might research more or less.  I usually research any important issue at least enough to understand the relevant questions even if I don’t know the answers.   

Let me provide examples.  Two movements have formed around political issues.  Even though they’ve gained mainstream support and interest, many in positions of authority dismiss them as conspiracy theorists.   

The first example is the 2000 Florida recount.  I’ve looked into this in fair detail in the past.  I’ve thought of writing a detailed post about it, but there doesn’t seem to be much point.  The information is out there for anyone who wants to think for themselves.  The basic facts are:   

(1) Bush didn’t win the popular vote.   

(2) There were many suspicious activities going on in Florida which have been described in great detail in various articles and documentaries.   

(3) A full recount was never done.  Some claim that going by the data Bush wouldn’t have won if a full recount had been done.   

(4) Bush was made president by a court decision and not by election.   

(5) The mainstream news media in the US never did a thorough investigation of this incident, and politicians of both parties refused to state any major criticisms or strongly demand a full recount.

The only fact that some argue about is the issue of the recount itself.  Depending on how you define a full recount, it may or may not have been done.  If you define a full recount as being the act of counting all votes, then no full recount happened.  If you define a full recount more narrowly which means dismissing certain votes either because they appear “suspicious” or otherwise are deemed officially unacceptable, then a full recount did happen.   However, looking at the votes dismissed, it’s the fact that they’re dismissed that looks suspicious.  The voters who had their votes dismissed were of a demographic that mostly voted for the Democratic party.

The second example is 9/11, but I want to point out one aspect.  The WTC 7 building’s collapse is what caught my attention.  The following excerpt is representative of the type of info I’ve come across in my research.  


Chapter 5 of the FEMA report goes as follows:

The official explanations of WTC 7’s collapse are problematic for several reasons:  

  • Fire has never caused any steel-framed high-rise building to collapse in any manner, let alone with the vertical precision of Building 7’s destruction. 1   Other steel-framed skyscrapers have experienced far more serious fires than Building 7.
  • WTC 7 fell straight down, which necessitated that all of the load-bearing columns be broken at the same moment. Inflicting such damage with the precision required to prevent a building from toppling and damaging adjacent buildings is what the science of controlled demolition is all about. No random events, such as the debris damage and fires envisioned by the official reports, or explosions from fuel tanks proposed by some, could be expected to result in such a tidy and complete collapse.
  • WTC 7 fell precipitously, at a rate closely approaching the speed of gravitational free-fall. That necessitated the sudden removal of structure near ground level that would have impeded its descent.
  • The collapse of WTC 7 exhibited all of the features of a standard controlled demolition. To suppose that a cause other than controlled demolition could produce an event with all of the features uniquely characteristic of controlled demolition defies logic.

Chapter 5 of the FEMA report goes as follows:  

FEMA on Building 7

Despite the inescapable logic of the above, the official theory for the collapse, as published in  

  • At 9:59 AM (after the South Tower collapse), electrical power to the substations in WTC 7 was shut off.
  • Due to a design flaw, generators in WTC 7 started up by themselves.
  • Debris from the collapsing North Tower breached a fuel oil pipe in a room in the north side of the building. (This means the debris had to travel across WTC 6 and Vesey Street — a distance of at least 355 feet — penetrate the outer wall of WTC 6, and smash through about 50 feet of the building, including a concrete masonry wall.)
  • This, and other debris (that also made the journey across Building 6 and Vesey Street), managed to start numerous fires in the building. (Unfortunately, this event did not prompt anyone to turn off the generators.)
  • The backup mechanism (that should have shut off the fuel oil pumps when a breach occurred) failed to work, and the fuel oil (diesel) was pumped from the tanks on the ground floor to the fifth floor where it ignited. The pumps emptied the tanks of all 12,000 gallons of fuel.
  • The extant fires raised the temperature of the spilled fuel oil to the 140 degrees F required for it to ignite.
  • The sprinkler system malfunctioned and failed to extinguish the fire.
  • The burning diesel fuel heated trusses to the point where they lost most of their strength, precipitating a total collapse of Building 7.

The last point is the greatest stretch, since it asks us to believe that an event that would be expected only to cause the sagging of a floor instead led not only to total collapse, but to such a tidy collapse that directly adjacent buildings were scarcely even damaged. This is surprising behavior for a steel-framed skyscraper designed to survive fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

After laying out this highly improbable scenario, the FEMA report authors conclude:  

“The specifics of the fires in WTC 7 and how they caused the building to collapse remain unknown at this time. Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence. Further research, investigation, and analyses are needed to resolve this issue.”

Unfortunately for investigators hoping to resolve this issue, nearly all of the evidence had already been destroyed by the time the FEMA report was published. 

If you want to see an overview, check out the Wikipedia article on demolition theories.  Steven E. Jones is a physicist who had a laboratory analyze material from the WTC site.  He points out that there are chemicals detected which are what one would expect with thermite or superthermite.  He also points out that video footage show that there was extreme heat which wouldn’t be found in a normal fire.  The further argument is that the way the building collapsed is only ever seen in controlled demolitions. 

I don’t know if this is true or not.  That is the problem.  For the most part, the media has ignored these theories (with CNN being a bit of an exception).  A few people have claimed to debunk these theories, and others have claimed to debunk the debunkers.  What the 9/11 truth movement wants is simply to have an investigation that actually looks at the all of the evidence.  Is that too much to expect from one’s government and from the mainstream media? 

This all brings a few questions to my mind.  Why do people believe what they do?  And why are certain topics acceptable and others not? 

For example, Bush jr constantly claimed and hinted at Saddam Hussein being responsible for 9/11.  Along with his claims about WMDs, this was blatantly false.  Essentially, our president believed in an unfounded conspiracy theory.  For the most part, the media didn’t initially challenge this false belief and so many Americans believed it to be true (and many still do).  There was an interesting research paper on why people believe false information.  The interesting part was the ability people have when it comes to doublethink. 

“There Must Be a Reason”: Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification     

The first surprise in our findings is that several interview respondents denied believing Saddam Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda, even though they had indicated such a belief on the survey. In the following example, a respondent denies thinking that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, despite answering that this was the case on his survey. In the interview, he first states that he did think Iraq was involved, but then corrects himself and says he had thought it was Afghanistan all along. When the interviewer shows him his survey response, he indicates that it was a mistake and he had never actually believed Iraq was involved with 9/11:RESPONDENT: So I went to watch it [coverage of 9/11 in immediate aftermath] and a little bit more on the news, watching ’em burn and all that. But I thought maybe we was gonna go to war over that.
INTERVIEWER: Who’d you think we’d go to war with?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. You thought it was Iraq that was behind it?
INTERVIEWER: What made you . . .
RESPONDENT: Well, they’ve, they’ve kind of been hintin’ about that on the news and stuff
before that, so I just, right away I just kind of presumed it was Iraq and, or, not Iraq, Afghanistan.
INTERVIEWER: Oh right, right. Yeah.
RESPONDENT: Get things straightened up here then. But I, they’d been having a lot of trouble
over there and everything, especially the way they was treatin’ people and everything, so I
just, kind of thought we’d go to war with them right away. Well, we ended up sending off a
lot of troops over there right away. But that, for the next 2 or 3 days, that was about all that
was on the news.
INTERVIEWER: You said on your survey, if I can find it . . . You said on your survey that you
thought that Saddam Hussein had helped the terrorists.
RESPONDENT: Have what?
INTERVIEWER: You said on your survey that you thought Saddam Hussein, Saddam Hussein
of uh Iraq had helped . . .
RESPONDENT: No, what on that 9/11?
RESPONDENT: No, no. If I said that, I probably did. Just like I did right there, I meant
INTERVIEWER: Oh oh oh, ok, ok.
RESPONDENT: No, I meant Afghanistan, not Iraq. I probably, I probably did say Iraq.
INTERVIEWER: Mmhmm. It says Saddam Hussein.
RESPONDENT: Yeah, well . . .
INTERVIEWER: Well, some people say . . .
RESPONDENT: You can change that or something if you want to . . .
RESPONDENT: . . . but, yeah, no I meant Afghanistan, not Iraq.
INTERVIEWER: Mmhmm. Well, some people think he was behind it, Saddam Hussein, in
RESPONDENT: Well, I know they keep saying that and everything but they’ve never come
up with any kind of proof or something, so ’til they get some kind of proof or anything, I’m
not gonna say one way or the other. . . . But right now, the way things are right now, I think
Afghanistan was in on it all and just, just them.
This “denial” category provides one clue to the survey findings of high rates of belief in a link between Iraq and 9/11: some respondents may make a mistake on the survey because of a general unfamiliarity with the region, even if they do know the current state of the evidence. By engaging in a dialogue with the respondent, we were able to show that he had a clear sense of the state of evidence, but slipped in his more general knowledge and mental classification of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a finding that is not possible using simple survey methods. Seven interview participants out of 49 (14.3 percent) fell into this “denial” category. This suggests that polls asking about a link between Iraq and 9/11 may overstate the true level of belief in the link.            

It’s hard to determine what people actually think and believe.  There are so many reasons polls can be biased.  Most people give contradictory responses because human nature isn’t essentially rational.  For example, did Bush jr actually believe his own lies?  I suspect he did to a degree.  He seemed to have convinced himself.  Sometimes a particular belief is just convenient.

Also, big lies can be more successful as propaganda than small lies.  If a politician takes a bribe or has an affair, people are less likely to have their emotions strongly polarized.  However, if one’s worldview becomes entangled with a large lie, people will go to great lengths to rationalize it.  There is also a cognitive bias I forget the name of which causes people to believe something is a majority opinion simply because they see it repeated such as by the media and the government.  But polls sometimes show extreme difference between public perception of majority opinion and actual majority opinion.  Those in power don’t need to control the majority opinion if they control the majority preception.  Basically, people want to believe those in positions of authority.

As Hitler said in the Mein Kampf:

“In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”

This may be why incorrect information (whether an intentional lie or not) can persist even when later it is disproved.  Here is from the conclusion of “There Must Be a Reason”:

Our study was conducted in October 2004, after almost 2 years of debate and discussion on Iraq in the public sphere. Therefore, it is possible that we are only showing that interviewees wanted to believe in this link at this late date; their original reason for believing in the link may have been misinformation. If this is the case, then our study shows not theoriginsof the belief in the link, but the reasons for its resiliencethrough the 2004 presidential election, after the administration had admitted that there was no such link.

People just need a reason and often it may not even matter what particular reason gets accepted.

In this case, when presented with the fact of a president going to war, respondents do not begin from an open-ended position, determining their own belief from first principles and available data and then comparing it with the decision to go to war. Rather, some respondents simply assumed that there was a reason why the president wanted to conduct this war; and because many respondents were either not fully informed of or confused by the actual reasons the administration gave for waging war in Iraq, 9/11 seemed to them to be the most obvious justification. In essence, by invading Iraq the administration presented the public with the equivalent of a forced-choice survey question of whether or not Saddam was responsible for 9/11; in answering this “question,”
some respondents concluded that as we had invaded Iraq, it must mean that those in a position to know had concluded that Iraq was behind 9/11. The main theoretical implication of our research is that “knowledge” as measured on surveys is partly a by-product of the attempt to resolve the social psychological problem of cognitive dissonance. The practical implication of this is that, although scholars have shown a correlation between the perception of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda and support for the war in Iraq, we cannot conclude from this correlation that misinformation led to support for the war. Rather, for at least some respondents, the sequence was the other way around: support for the war led to a search for a justification for it, which led to the misperception of ties between Iraq and 9/11. This suggests a mechanism through which motivated reasoning may bestrongestwhen the stakes arehighest. It is precisely because the stakes of going to war are so high that some of our respondents were willing to believe that “there must be a reason.”

These biases in thinking apply to everyone.  They apply just as much to politicians and news reporters.  People become polarized and personally identified with specific beliefs and views.  This can happen to whole sectors of society.  Just look at the news.  Most reporting isn’t original investigative journalism.  Reporters tend to simply repeat what others have said which often means reporters talking reporters.  Following the line of references back to a source can be difficult and so few reporters even go to the effort.  Besides this, there are a million other ways a person becomes biased and filters out what they don’t want to see.

Self-deception and biased thinking is easy to do even when one is well informed and not emotionally polarized.  Unfortunately, that is rarely the situation when it comes to important issues about morality and politics.

Worse still, various people in power are constantly trying to manipulate the public’s opinions and choices.  Advertising, of course, is highly successful.  It’s quite amazing how much research has gone into manipulating people simply for the sake of making a profit.  Then there is the manipulation done by corporations for other purposes.  Corporations create astro-turf front groups that appear to be grassroots organizations and this is an effective way of influencing public opinion.  Also, media corporations have their agendas which leads them to bias their reporting and put messages into their entertainment.  One example is that of Fox news where memos were given out everyday telling reporters what to report and how to report about it.  Roger Ailes who is the president of Fox used to work for past Republican administrations.  One propaganda technique he used was creating fake townhall meetings where the entire crowd and all of the questions were staged.

I suppose that is the type of thing we expect in our society.  We assume that businesses will do anything make a profit and outmaneuver competition.  Actually, we not only assume but we cynically expect that companies should be devious and amoral in their dealings.  We see it as the role of the news media and the government to keep companies in check.  However, news media is owned by megacorporations that have numerous interests and so we no longer can trust reporters.  But can we still trust our government?  Besides the example of Bush jr and his evil cronies, is the government overall capable of acting as a disinterested party to ensure the public good?

There is the obvious problem of the revolving door policy between big business and big government with Roger Ailes being a very clear example.  But, ignoring that, is the government able to keep itself in check which is the purpose of having separation of powers.  For example, are psychological operations truly for the good of the public or are they for the good of those in power?

The CNN and NPR Interns Incident

In the 1990s it came to light that soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group had been interning at the American news networks Cable News Network (CNN) and National Public Radio (NPR). The program was claimed by the Army to be an attempt to provide its PSYOP personnel with the expertise developed by the private sector under its “Training with Industry” program. The program caused concern about the influence these soldiers might have on American news and the programs were terminated.

National Public Radio reported on April 10, 2000:

The U.S. Army’s Psychological Operations unit placed interns at CNN and NPR in 1998 and 1999. The placements at CNN were reported in the European press in February of this year and the program was terminated. The NPR placements will be reported this week in TV Guide. [23]

Toppling of Saddam Hussein Statue

Arguably the most visible image of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square in central Baghdad. While the event, at first glance, gave the impression that the act was a spontaneous action of the citizens of the city, it was actually an idea hatched by an Army psychological operations team.[27] Allegations surfaced that the group of people surrounding the statue and cheering was in fact smaller than it was made out to be in the official story, and that the group were by some accounts not local to the area but were instead brought in by the military for the specific purpose of watching and lending credence to the planned toppling.[28][29][30]

And these psychological operations dovetail with false flag operations with the most famous example in US history being the Gulf of Tonkin Incident.

As for doublethink, I found a nice blog post that references George Orwell and uses an example from Alex Jones’ documentary Terrorstorm.

The term ‘doublethink’ originates in George Orwell’s 1984 and along with ‘newspeak’ (a constant process of slimming down language in order to limit peoples ability to communicate and ultimately think) is an essential part of the ‘Big Brother’ society. In the novel, doublethink is defined as “The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

One of the main reasons doublethink is so necessary is that it allows the masses to accept being slaves to the system and under total surveillance, while considering themselves free and independent. Party slogans from the book such as “Freedom is Slavery, War is Peace” are typical examples of this, convincing the characters that in order to have the freedom of a civilized society they are required to be slaves to their dictatorial regime. It enables Winston (the protagonist of the book) to work at the ‘Ministry of Truth’, the governments propaganda machine, doctoring old newspaper stories to support whatever the government is claiming while still believing the claims to be true.

In Alex Jones’ documentary ‘Terrorstorm: A History of Government Sponsored Terrorism’ the film-makers interview random people on the streets of London about their views on recent terror attacks and the war on terror in general. The amount of people that respond instinctively with classic doublethink-style logic is positively alarming. The most extreme example was a woman who believed “we should give up our liberty for freedom”, seemingly unaware that they are both the same thing!

In conclusion, any given incident or theory isn’t in and of itself important.  What is important is what all of this says about our society.  I want to believe that truth matters, but few people seem to care about truth.  Truth just becomes a euphemism for whatever is convenient to someone’s beliefs, someone’s particular agenda.

I often do immense research about certain issues, but what is the point?  A few people will happen upon this blog post, and what then?  If one of the few people who already values truth reads this blog post, then it will be just preaching to the choir.  And if one of the majority of people who couldn’t care less about the truth reads this blog post, then my arguments will fall on deaf ears.  Am I likely to actually inspire someone to do serious research for themselves and make up their own mind?  Why should anyone care?  Why should anyone waste their time?  The government is going to cotinue to lie and obfuscate, and the media will continue to focus on meaningless stories and do superficial investigations.