July 6th, 2009

Context is King


photo credit: miss_blackbutterfly

The advancement of the "progressive" political agenda relies strongly upon disassociation through distraction to achieve its goals. Half-truths, sound bytes, and hollow rhetoric are tools of the trade, wielded with precise, calculated moves to infuse ignorance into an already-uninformed citizenry.

Our modern society has become so distracted by an infinite number of things vying for our attention that those not proactively exerting themselves to dig deep and understand the real issues will find themselves swept away in the duplicitous tide of context-less news stories and government statements. Without an investment of time and energy to understand the fundamental arguments, principles, and historical factors behind any given action, individuals are fed information that lacks any connection to other important data that would clarify and give greater understanding to that action’s legitimacy.

A simple example is the frequency with which armed individuals resisting American occupation in the Middle East are referred to by our government and media as “insurgents”. At face value, this word communicates to the reader the immorality and illegality of the individual’s action for resisting what the American military engine is doing. Failing to provide context to the story not only leads people to misunderstand the influencing factors behind the individual’s resistance, but enshrines into moral sanctity anything that our government and military is doing. The lack of context leads the reader (or TV viewer, more likely) to dehumanize this so-called "insurgent" and oppose his/her actions without question.

Taken in another light or facing a different enemy, America glorifies this person’s actions as "fighting for freedom", "defending democracy", and "resisting tyranny". But this context remains absent, and so the myopic focus of the average American (along with his technologically-induced short attention span) sees nothing other than the current attacks on our countrymen. Context would, of course, cause people to think about the underlying issues of the war, and the justness of each side’s cause. The polarizing label of "insurgent" would then be seen as an empty propaganda term, for even our founding generation of patriots would have been labeled accordingly by the then-greatest military empire in the world.

This conscious concealment of context is not only a tool of war; it is used by the government and press in just about any other interaction with the masses. It happens frequently in the government’s intervention into economic affairs, most recently with Mr. Obama claiming to both save and create jobs. Analyzing this sentence alone demonstrates a horrible lack of context—Bastiat’s "broken window theory" once again being altogether ignored.

It happens in foreign affairs, with nearly the entire world labeling a Constitutional transition of government a "military coup". It happens in pop culture with the fawning media glorifying Michael Jackson, completely leaving out of the equation his sick and twisted, self-admitted perversions. It likewise happens in just about any news story or government statement, where those providing the information find it necessary to shape public opinion in a specific way so as to attempt to alter the reaction in a more favorable light than would otherwise result. Edward Bernays‘ book Propaganda—the handbook on how to shape the news and mold public opinion—articulates the purpose of this effort:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of the country….It remains a fact that 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….It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world. (Edward Bernays, via Quoty)

Context is King; those who dedicate themselves to studying and comprehending how world events tie together find themselves understanding what few seem to know (or at least admit). While it then becomes quite frustrating to see how so many are so blind, theirs is the responsibility of informing and educating those around them on what they will not hear from their favorite news reporters and political commentators. For the insidious campaign of communism would never be accepted in America openly—but change the word (call it "an opportunity to serve"), change the main actors for professed Christians or suave speech-readers, change the circumstances, and all of a sudden people are sympathetic to and clamoring for the very thing they otherwise (if fully informed and comprehending the context) would reject.

The majority of people on the street would, for example, have no clue what cap and trade refers to. Of those that do know, the majority likely only know what talking points they’ve heard—that it’s going to help fix global warming, create "green" jobs, and make greedy corporations responsible. But rare would be the person who understands the context of the issues, knows the political arguments on both sides of the debate, realizes the historical precedent for the question, and can effectively demonstrate with logic and data why it should or should not be implemented.

Our political discourse suffers from this lack of historical association; our occupations and occupied lifestyles make it difficult to dedicate the necessary time, and even more difficult to care at all. And so we entertain statements and arguments on all sides that lobby for their position, while whether through omission or commission the authors refuse to shed a little light on what it really means. The absence of context in the debate over our contemporary societal issues will necessarily increase ignorance and cause us to make the same mistakes of the past—for, as we all know, those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

11 Responses to “Context is King”

  1. Kelly W.
    July 6, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    We are literally living Orwell’s 1984.

  2. Thomas Dyches
    July 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm #

    “…the insidious campaign of communism would never be accepted in America openly—but change the word (call it “an opportunity to serve”), change the main actors for professed Christians…”

    Well said, Mr. Connor, this is a perfect example. For instance, Communism is a counterfeit of Christianity. Materialists often co-opt the language of brotherly love to implement force (via the government or some other means). Clearly, these tactics are in opposition to the agency-based philanthropy promoted by Jesus Christ. But to the untrained ear–lacking an educated historical, moral & political context–the rhetoric sounds the same as that found in scripture. Hence the citizens are complicit in their own slavery simply from a lack of context accompanied by principle.

  3. Carborendum
    July 7, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    By now I’m sure you’ve seen that video about how much inforamation there is in the world today. We simply have too much knowledge available for our puny mortal minds to really understand it all.

    For this reason, I really don’t blame a lot of people for not understanding what is going on. I DO blame those who don’t even try.

    The sum of human wisdom is this: We have learned through experience that mankind never learns from experience.

  4. Brennan
    July 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    “The sum of human wisdom is this: We have learned through experience that mankind never learns from experience.”

    I touched a hot burner once as a kid, never purposefully did it again….

    From the majority of people I associate with, it’s choice. They choose ignorance, they know they don’t know what is going on, and ACTIVELY chose not to try and find out.

  5. rachel
    July 7, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    “…the insidious campaign of communism would never be accepted in America openly—but change the word (call it “an opportunity to serve”)…

    I’d like to add to what Thomas Dyches said about this phrase.

    The whole notion of one-world government and peace amongst the people of the earth through the United Nations is also a counterfeit version of Christ’s reign and a Zion people. Looks similar, sounds similar…why wouldn’t we support it? Mandatory volunteerism….we believe in service, right? Income redistribution….isn’t that the law of consecration? Spreading democracy and freedom through warfare….isn’t that what Captain Moroni was doing in the Book of Mormon? If you look for them, you will find many out of context counterfeits.

    I am one of the frustrated people Connor mentioned above. I have my small group of friends and acquaintances who see, as I do, what is happening. But most people I know are oblivious and don’t take kindly to discussions on this subject. Within my circle, I have one person who says, “As long as I am living the gospel, that’s all that matters.” Another says he has too much to think about to wrap his brain around it. Yet another thinks he is enlightened in his “moderate conservative” status and is too wrapped up in the two-party competition to see the real issues. (The title “moderate” always makes me think of the scripture in Revelation 3:16–“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”) And others just say, “I’m not really into politics,” and refer to me as someone who is politically active, like it is a hobby. I have found it an exercise in futility to try to educate anyone to the dire situation we are in if that person has not been directly and negatively affected by it.

    “our occupations and occupied lifestyles make it difficult to dedicate the necessary time, and even more difficult to care at all.”

    Yes, and when there are 1.200-page bills going through Congress every other day, it would take a lot of time to keep up with it all. I have tried, and it is next to impossible. The train is travelling at high speed now.

    I have come to think of the entertainment industry as the enemy because it serves to distract us, to indoctrinate us, to numb us, and to contextually manipulate the values and institutions of our times. And as far as I am concerned, the mainstream media is an extension of Hollywood.

    Ultimately, and sadly, the dumbing down of America has been quite successful.

  6. Carborendum
    July 7, 2009 at 5:43 pm #

    Brennan,

    If you took my statement literally, I’m afraid you’ve proven my point.

  7. Kelly W.
    July 7, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

    Well said, Rachel.

  8. Clumpy
    July 13, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    So our current political discourse stand between uncontextualized progressivism and conservatives who lie about returning to a “purer time” (hint: all of their beliefs) or idealistic period that never existed? I hate it. It’s either supporting economic policies you can’t hope to understand or mumbling vaguely about revolution like Glenn Beck.

    The more self-righteous each party gets the more justified the other side gets in their demagoguery. In this post-everything age believing that some grand solution exists to fix everything seems remarkably naive, on either side.

    Interestingly, I’ve never heard Mormons argue that law is the devil’s substitue for moral behavior, or that insurance is the devil’s substitute for faith. Seems like we turn things into religious issues to avoid thinking about them in any concrete terms (and, for the record, I’m no Marxist).

  9. Carborendum
    July 13, 2009 at 9:10 am #

    Clumpy,

    Are you living in the same universe as the rest of us?

    Who said anything about the law/morality or insurance/faith comparison in this article?

  10. loquaciousmomma
    July 13, 2009 at 9:19 am #

    Clumpy: You make some valid points. Especially the LDS references. I used to read the LewRockwell site regularly. Some of the writers painted an appealing picture of a utopia without government. Then I read in the D&C 134. Clearly the Lord intends man to be governed by laws. He does make an interesting distinction, however. In verse 8 the phrase “good laws” is used.
    So there are bad laws in the eyes of God.

    In any event, we believe in the rule of law, so far as it does not become oppressive and take away the freedom of man to direct his own life and live by his own conscience.

    I do think there is a “grand solution to fix everything”, but it will not be found in a political party. It is in the righteousness of individuals.

    Of course, that will not happen until after the Savior returns…

  11. Clumpy
    July 13, 2009 at 8:17 pm #

    That’s something I can get behind. Basic human respect and love carries the day more often than not.

    Note that I was having a pretty bad night when I posted that. :)

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