Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hopelessness And The Rise Of Fascism

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All that money sloshing around the political system is so important because it is primarily used to brainwash low-info voters. If you have a brother-in-law you've probably experienced it first hand. Propaganda trumps reason and self-interest, especially for the half the population with double-digit IQs. "When people are [already] misinformed," wrote Professor Marty Kaplan, founding director of the USC's Norman Lear Center, "giving them facts to correct those errors only makes them cling to their beliefs more tenaciously. More and better facts don’t turn low-information voters into well-equipped citizens. It just makes them more committed to their misperceptions... When there’s a conflict between partisan beliefs and plain evidence, it’s the beliefs that win."

  Writing this week for Alternet, his post, The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever, asserts we can "say goodnight to the dream that education, journalism, scientific evidence, or reason can provide the tools that people need in order to make good decisions." (Which is kind of like preparing to say hello to authoritarianism. C.J. Werleman compares the U.S. today to Weimar Germany of the 1920s and explains that "the kindling for the fire of fascism has already been lit. While the Republican Party holds at least one branch of the federal government, America will never be able to deal intelligently and earnestly with the economic policies that have destroyed the working class and all but decimated the middle class. A GOP congress guarantees that Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage, reform the tax code and repair our crumbling infrastructure will be thwarted, all in the name of protecting the rich from paying their fair share."
Long-term unemployment promises to be the norm, as well stagnant and poverty-level wages, foreclosures, crippling personal debt and bankruptcies, the evaporation of savings and retirement funds, the outsourcing of jobs, the continued dilapidation of our schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and airports, and the regulations that safeguard our food, water, and clean air. All this comes courtesy of obscene profits, bonuses, taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and compensation being doled out to our corporate overlords.

...With such profound structural economic malaise, and a reluctance of the Democratic Party to protect New Deal ideals, Chomsky warns, “If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest, this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger, and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says, 'I have got just the answer, we have an enemy'? There [Germany] it was the Jews. Here it will be illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is a world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful protagonists. I don’t think this is all far away. If the polls are accurate, it is not the Republicans but the right-wing crazed Republicans who will sweep the November election."
Now back to Kaplan's explanation of how this could possibly happen here. He bases his premises on the work of Dartmouth Professor of government Brendan Nyhan, a new research paper by Yale law school professor Dan Kahan, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government, and Chris Mooney's Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do Math. Examples:
People who thought WMDs were found in Iraq believed that misinformation even more strongly when they were shown a news story correcting it.

People who thought George W. Bush banned all stem cell research kept thinking he did that even after they were shown an article saying that only some federally funded stem cell work was stopped.

People who said the economy was the most important issue to them, and who disapproved of Obama’s economic record, were shown a graph of nonfarm employment over the prior year-- a rising line, adding about a million jobs. They were asked whether the number of people with jobs had gone up, down or stayed about the same. Many, looking straight at the graph, said down.

But if, before they were shown the graph, they were asked to write a few sentences about an experience that made them feel good about themselves, a significant number of them changed their minds about the economy. If you spend a few minutes affirming your self-worth, you’re more likely to say that the number of jobs increased.

...Maybe climate change denial isn’t the right term; it implies a psychological disorder. Denial is business-as-usual for our brains. More and better facts don’t turn low-information voters into well-equipped citizens. It just makes them more committed to their misperceptions. In the entire history of the universe, no Fox News viewers ever changed their minds because some new data upended their thinking. When there’s a conflict between partisan beliefs and plain evidence, it’s the beliefs that win. The power of emotion over reason isn’t a bug in our human operating systems, it’s a feature.


  

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