What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
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.