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Finding Truth In The Disinformation Age. June 5, 2008

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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These days I rarely blog about “politics and society,” as so many others do it so much better.

But I’m presently engaged in a “bridge building project” which has me digging pretty deeply to find Common Ground on which to build.

Because you know, if you start building a bridge from two shores in different universes, they ain’t gonna meet on this Earth.

If you’re among the handful of folks who regularly read this blog (and you are, aren’tcha?) you know that I’m trying to engage the Anti Anti-War-Protest Protesters who spend a part of their Saturday standing in front of a bank (symbolism, mayhaps?) across the street from the Greenfield Town Common, where an anti-war “peace vigil” has held sway for something like the last six years.

And while I’m ideologically aligned with the Peace People, I’m spending my Saturday mornings in front of the bank, trying to get to know the folks who believe differently than I do, trying to understand their positions, trying to ascertain why they believe what they believe.

And it’s a real trial not getting my skivvies in a bunch, trying to stay calm and open, to fish for Common Waters rather than jumping on everything that’s said which sounds absurd to me.

This, I think, is important: the desire for commonality, the vision of our shared interests in the face of a civilizational structure which treats both Us and Them as grist for the mill of Corporate wealth aggregation, which needs to keep us divided lest we ever vote in our common self-interests.

But I struggle when I’m confronted with Good Americans who consistently vote against their own self-interests, your interests, my interests, my children’s interests because they’re operating in a paradigm informed by the disinformation of the spineless and complicit Main Stream Media and the intentional misinformation of “news outlets” like Fox News Network.

As an example of this, I recently cited an assertion from R, the on-sight organizer of the pro-war protesters (for lack of another simple explanation of their intent) that US Forces had found over fifty of Saddam’s nuclear weapons in Iraq.

This past weekend I sought a clarification, and he did indeed correct me – he had said, or meant to say, “over five hundred…”

Um… OK.

But since nobody in their right mind would make this shit up, I asked him for a source, so, you know, I could learn about it first-hand. Because I’m a Primary-Source kinda guy.

So he suggested that I just Google “Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq,” and the Truth would be right there in black and white.

On the second or third page of Google-search results.

So, you know, I did.

And indeed I found what he had pointed me at, at the bottom of page fifteen, the hundred and fiftieth entry in a list composed of the thoughts and knowledge of many experts on the subjects and some pundits of either ideological persuasion, with the experts UNANIMOUSLY coming to the conclusion that there were no currently usable chemical or biological weapons in Iraq,

And not a HINT that Saddam had or had ever had nuclear weapons, or anything even close.

Yet there was Google Result #150, a YouTubed clip of the illustrious Rick Santorum, R. Pennsylvania, reading cherry-picked excerpts from a 2006 report which described Hussein’s degraded and ineffectual arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, abandoned in the desert and hastily buried in pits as the Iraqi army retreated in the face of Iranian forces in the late 1980s.

Now I know some of you are doubtless laughing hysterically at the mention of Rick Santorum’s name, he being long-since exposed and dismissed as being a Captain of Douche-Baggery, a pariah even to the Republican Party hard-liners because every time he opened his mouth a stream of indefensible intellectual diarrhea poured out. Let’s agree to leave the Poisoning of The Well to those of the Rovian persuasion and cut to the chase of Information v. Disinformation, shall we?

The question in my mind is, why would ANYBODY of reasonable intelligence bypass, overlook, ignore the writings and opinions of government panels, United Nations weapons inspectors, the Pentagon, the Defense Department, the State Department, expert witnesses and on-the-ground investigators, to settle on and cling to a contrary opinion voiced by an ill-informed Politician, for God’s sake, reading snippets of Old News cherry-picked from a voluminous document of public record which flatly contradicted his very public conclusions?

And how could anybody ignore or discount the same-day rebuttals and refutations which were generated by Senator Santorum’s ill-advised grasping at the proverbial straws, the same ones which would shortly break his political back:

I’ll tell you how.

It’s a kind of intellectual “fundamentalism” akin to the type which prompts Radical Islamists to pick through their Koran looking for reasons to kill Americans, or allows “Christian” Fundamentalists to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on a couple of sentences in the Old Testament which were thereafter repudiated by Jesus of Nazareth.

It strikes me as nothing less than sad that, two years after this garbage was debunked and buried by thinking people of all persuasions, there are still a significant number of Americans who anchor their fears and hatred in this cesspool of desperate ignorance.

Stupidity is genetic, and despite its ugliness, ought to be understood as an involuntary condition, the victims of which must be held blameless for their cerebral inabilities.

But ignorance is a state of mind which can be remedied by a liberal application of facts and information, and ought not to be accepted by society as an immutable condition, or held harmless for the suffering it causes both its practitioners and the people whose lives they affect.

And willful ignorance is an insult to any God who claims to be merciful and just, and an affront to a Civil Society which depends on its People to direct its course.

I don’t stand for an imposition of beliefs, but rather for a sharing of knowledge in service of bettering the world in which we live. And I’ll stand for it as long as I breathe.

Teach me, people.

But don’t bullshit me.

“Democracy without information creates the illusion of popular control while actually enhancing the power of the privileged…” – Bill Moyers

Comments»

1. Miz Lu(mena) - June 5, 2008

I so love you! You are willing to set out on a project most would deem impossible, and yet you’ll try it anyway. Like Jesus would do. You show genuine respect for difference of opinion even in the throes of not understanding it. Yes, it’s hard. No, they don’t cooperate, and the constant fight is optimism and hope over resignation. You inspire me, and I thank you.

But I gotta tell you, the Iraq Vets would be really powerful here. Those Saturday guys must–MUST–respect the Vet who put boots on the ground there and comes back to talk about it. They don’t have a choice. And that’s our strength. They don’t want the message, but they have to take it.

The Vets will know how to talk to them. They hear a lot of shit over there about what it means to be a soldier, and they can talk about that.

I imagine the scene you set: a somewhat grimy and rainy and uncomfortable Saturday, and there they are at the corner. The 2 of them with their signs, and the 8 of them on the Commons. The IVAW guys go over, in fatigues, and shake hands and start talking with them. It’s smiles and handshakes for a while, and then they really start talking. The Vets start talking. If these guys interrupt they’re showing dis-respect for the Servicemen and Servicewomen. They MUST listen, or our boys will grow silent and wait for compliance. The IVAW guys have earned that, and they will take it. Nicely and politely, but they will insist on decorum and respect. I love that about this movement and have given time in events that raised over $100K for them because of that.

If the IVAW guys give up on the Counter Protesters, you know they have decided the CP’s are boneheads and not worth more effort. Sad but true, and a deviation from Jesus. It’ll take some for them to come to that conclusion, but if they do, I hope you feel liberated from trying to make a pig into a prom queen.

You can’t do this alone, nor should you feel you have to. It took every tool in the propaganda arsenal of the Bush administration to put us in the position we find ourselves presently. Please don’t feel obligated to refute the most powerful information spin machine by yourself. We have real witnesses who can make a difference with you.

Please let me know how I can help. I’ll be seeing Vets this weekend.

Sending my best thoughts your way. Thank you for the important work you take on.

Big Love! Cause that’s what it takes.

2. littlebangtheory - June 5, 2008

Oh Miz Lu, thanks for offering. If you run into anyone who can put me in touch with IVAW folks who are close enough to this action to become involved, I’d die for a contact.

Because frankly, while I’m not nearly done trying, I’m not feeling fully equipped to make a difference in these guys’ attitudes; I only know I have to try, for my Gurrrls’ sake as much as for my own.

And are you or Frau B out here this weekend? You have asparagus which I’m reluctant to pick if you’re coming, but I’ll do so if you’re not – it’s Ursi’s favorite!

3. Frau Biergut - June 6, 2008

I’ll be there toonight but gone tomorrow afternoon so that I can go and hang with the vets, too.

Tschuss!

4. Randal Graves - June 6, 2008

Understanding them is going to be difficult. For most of us, when presented with irrefutable evidence that disproves something we held to be true, whether difficult or not, we accept it. To me, it would seem to be actual work in propping up such cognitive dissonance, akin to your example about fundies cherry-picking their sacred texts for support of x, y or z, searching for any scrap, no matter how scant, to do so.

It’s so easy to find a new Other, and use that to project whatever fears you have onto that. Breaking that cycle on a national level – which is what is needed – is going to be tough simply because the system of information is designed to mislead, inveigle and obfuscate. Which I guess is a long-winded way of saying that you’re spot-on, TCR. 🙂

5. Utah Savage - June 6, 2008

You have the patience of a saint. And yet, you are a rebel grrrl! Gender aside. How is it you have such patience? My natural inclination is to give the one fingered salute and mouth something any lip reader would know is “fucking moron!” I would like to be more a peace maker and less a rabble rouser, but my fate was sealed by being born to Maggy, my fascinating, fierce, take no prisoners mother. She taught me all the really offensive uses of the word ‘fuck” when I was five. These lessons included smoking cigarettes, and learning to mix a cocktail, All her lessons had the force of spells cast, and could never be unlearned. Now I live like a hermit. It’s safer for me and nicer for the stupid fucking morons out there. But I do wish us all peace. And I know in my overweight gut that you’ve got the right idea.

6. Burning Prairie - June 6, 2008

Ok, I grew up in a fundie church (SBC) and I know many tactics that they used that may be helpful to you. A cornerstone of evangelical churches is the evangelism itself, getting the message across. I always hated witnessing because it struck me as impolite to impose my personal beliefs on others, most times in their own homes. But I still did pick up some turns of phrase.

When witnessing, should you find a person who claims to not believe in God, immediately use the “what if you’re wrong” tactic. It goes: “Well, I don’t really believe in God or the devil or hell” “But what if you’re wrong?” “What do ya mean? What if you’re wrong?” Fundie replies:”Well, if I’m wrong and there is no God, then nothing happens when I die, no harm no foul. But if you’re wrong and God and the devil and hell exist, then what do you think is going to happen when you die?”

I’ve never actually known a convert on whom this tactic worked, so it may be bogus. But if you can just insinuate the question into someone’s mind:”what if you’re wrong and this war was a lie and all our brave men and women died for that lie? Then you bear a part of the responsibility for those deaths. The blood is on your hands, too.” Maybe, just maybe, the neurons will start firing again and these people will start thinking for themselves. But I wouldn’t count on it, most of these people live happily unexamined lives. And get upset when others try to make them think.

Are sure you’re not from La Mancha?

7. sherry - June 6, 2008

i wish you well.

8. Frau Biergut - June 6, 2008

Here’s a link for you:
http://ivaw.org/chapter/amherst

Tschuss!

9. Shawn Annis - June 6, 2008

Why I didn’t become one of the anti-anti war guys ?
As a child every morning before class I placed my hand over my heart as I imagine they did and pledged my allegiance to the flag .
I also remember being ushered into the school assembly hall during memorial observances and being subjected to an hour of listening to patriotic songs like The Battle Hymn of the Republic and My Country Tis of Thee (a song by the way that always made me cry for some reason) .
The celluloid film strip operator would wait patiently for “the sound of the beep” to project the next of many patriotic images up onto the silver screen for our impressionable minds to absorb.
I must admit that I fell for it all and it made me feel all warm and proud at the time to be an AMERICAN !
So What happened ?
Just when did I decide to not be just one of the fold and to fall out of love with the American Dream ?
I recall vividly as a youngster, reading a troubling newspaper article about an incident over in Viet Nam .
A reporter had observed a U.S. soldier fondling the breasts of a young vietnamese girl .
The girls grandmother had run over to protect her and got her brains bashed in by a rifle butt for doing so .
That might have been a turning point I suppose.
That and the pictures of crying naked napalm burned children running down a dirt road for cover.
Sprinkle in Kent State, a little Watergate scandal and my new found interest in books like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and I no longer had any desire to believe anything my government had to say in the name of truth .
So what did these anti-anti’s read and hear about during their lifetimes that made them think and believe the things that they do ?

10. Elder Progeny - June 6, 2008

As I’ve said before, I admire you endlessly for embarking on a journey that even the most radical among us [and especially the most radical, maybe] are not able or willing to do. As a young, educated, and vocal queer woman I find it difficult to build bridges with those who do not see me, as a person, as equal, and I have an embarrassingly low tolerance for ignorance [to be distinguished from stupidity, as you so wisely and accurately noted] of all sorts. I consider this to be a downfall of mine, actually, although not one I am trying too awfully hard to combat; I feel I am personally more suited to activism for causes that I am passionate about than bridge building. Regardless, bridges must be built, and as a white, straight, middle-aged man you are maybe one of the better choices for strategic bridge building. You represent a number of demographics that the “anti-antis” are inclined to take seriously, and as such you have a position of privilege in their eyes that many of us do not enjoy. That you are willing to use your particular privileges in this way is something that never ceases to astound me–you could just as easily bask in your good fortune [where it is present, of course, and you certainly lack privilege in other categories] and leave the relatively less privileged behind. You choose the high road, which is commendable.

As you know, the chances of “success,” regardless of how we choose to define it, which doubtlessly changes depending on our own views of the world, can be considered relatively slim. But as I said earlier today, some battles are meant to be won, and others are meant to be fought. Perhaps this battle falls into the latter category, but I believe that it is important to try, if for no other reason than your own integrity and sense that you did not simply dismiss those who do not agree with your point of view as silly, ridiculous, uneducated, unreachable, or something to be mocked: these people, as scary as they can be, are *among* us. They are our neighbors, and our leaders, and knowing that we have done our best to reach them in the best ways that we know how is important even if we do not see the tangible results of this work. We could all stand to learn a bit from you and your endeavors, your inability to walk away without trying to educate, without considering the possibilities for alliance and cooperation.

I think the war, especially, is a place where common ground can be found. It’s not easy, and maybe these particular individuals that you have access to will not be swayed and bridge building with them is futile, but there are others who have already seen the devastation that our actions in Iraq have caused, and who no longer support the war, even if they once did. Those dissenters will increase in number as time drags on and more people, both soldiers and Iraqi citizens, suffer and die as a result, with no success on the part of the US to do what the administration’s rhetoric has touted for so many years. On the other hand, I think it is far more difficult to reach a moral consensus on issues such as same sex marriage, or a political consensus about social programs that are so often viewed by these individuals as “communist” [HA- please…] and fundamentally “unAmerican.” I know you have conversed with the “anti antis” about these matters, and as much as I hate to say it, it might have undermined your credibility with them. Unfortunately this means that in order to build meaningful bridges about one issue, such as the war, it might be necessary to put on hold other issues that might be less palatable to the more conservative. In my view, and in my life, it is impossible to put those ideas on hold, or to be quiet about those aspects of my own life and the lives of others I care about that bring to light such significant and fundamental differences between myself and others who disagree with them. If I understand what we’ve talked about in the past, you, too, find it difficult to put those things aside: perhaps that is where we will fail when trying to build bridges. Often the “issues” are far more than politics; in all honesty, those political philosophies are rooted in our very philosophies about life in general: our morals, our beliefs, and our compassion for others. That it goes so far beyond politics, and beyond the one issue of the war in Iraq, or even the political aspects of universal healthcare, welfare, or other social programs that are often opposed by individuals on the Other Side, is what makes it so difficult to connect with them meaningfully.

I’ve written you a small novel here, so I will leave it at that. Your actions recently and your thoughtful and dedicated posts on the issues have been not only inspiring to me [although sometimes, admittedly, depressing and discouraging], but also opened up a whole new line of thinking on my part, a line of thinking that has in some ways reinforced my sense of hopelessness in finding Common Ground, and in some ways caused me to wonder if such a thing is, in fact, possible. I think the jury’s still out. Perhaps a new administration will make the feasibility of such a thing more clear. One could hope.

11. TheCunningRunt - June 7, 2008

Folks, Thank-you for your supportive words, and thanks for not being inflammatory – I gave the counter-protesters directions to this blog in hopes of having some real discussions about the State of The Union. So far I haven’t heard from them, but one can never tell.

Frau B, thanks once again; I’ll check that out!

I

12. distributorcap - June 7, 2008

i give you credit for even trying to understand them —- i couldnt – they would make me too angry

many people will just believe what they want to believe despite overwhelming evidence — because to change that belief system means discomfort and a failure to them…..

it is so easy to find anything justification for your beliefs — especially in the internet age,

as for this misinformation — this is a sad product of the information age — the message gets out faster than the facts — and rove, ailes and murdoch know this.

sprinkle in a little Goebbels big lie theory – and voila – george bush!

13. FranIAm - June 7, 2008

All the right things have already been said. I think you must keep on keeping on and know that the fruits of your efforts might not be immediate.

Or even ever seen or experienced by you directly.

That kind of sucks but it is how it goes.

Deep sigh.

Keep at it my man, please do.

14. Gina - June 7, 2008

The Cunning Runt compared to Jesus, huh?

Hey, JC, JC, you’re alright by me
Sanna, Hosanna Superstar!
-from Jesus Christ Superstar

Elder Progeny and I have even found for you a Hosanna ringtone for your cellie, if you should so desire! 😀


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