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Mind Control, Mythic Thinking, Union Busting & Trade Imbalances… Plus My First Linkback!

June 8, 2012

Usually, when I sit down to read some news (thereby fueling my insanity), I pop open my handy-dandy RSS feeder and sift through the usual suspects for anything that catches my eye. Oftentimes I really don’t get very far. I can’t do this all day, and many of the articles I find are detailed enough that 6 or 7 of them really chew up my allotted news time. I say this neither as complaint nor as apology; it just struck me as profoundly sad that I actually make a consistent effort and have a system (such as it is) for deciphering the daily news, and still I am so very limited in my ability to process much… How much worse for untold millions must it be trying to gain a foothold on reality-as-presented-by-news?

OK, On with it.

Manufacturing Public Opinion.

“So in the first place people “want” to be brainwashed with comforting fairy tales. And in the second place it is in the interest of those who want to control the population to feed them those fairy tales.”

Voluntary, Self-Sustaining, Mass Hypnosis?

“Ideas are like notes and minds are like tuning forks. A dominant idea or mind resonates all the minds to the same note or a harmonic thereof, producing a harmonious group vibe that most people find pleasing and desirable; though individualists find the group vibe stiflingly cloying and even claustrophobic so they refuse to conform and resonate with the herd.”

I think you see where this is going. There are a whole bunch of depressing implications in these ideas. Ultimately, there is a touch of the pluralistic, postmodernist – “how can we say the sheeple are ‘wrong?'” – fused with the martyred, isolated rationalist – “I’m alone because I think for myself, boo hoo” – but beyond all that, there is a persistent truth to what is being said.

Let me restate it in my own words: Real Rationality is an accomplishment, not a given – even in a society that somewhat supports its development. Even if rationality is achieved at a high level, it is not always in operation. We contend with two disturbing poles within our worldviews: on the one hand, we have mythic thinkers, not fully rational in their approaches to core issues in life. On the other hand we have people so fully “Mediated” that it is a constant barrage of surfaces with little depth. Both of these fairly widespread and average levels of human development and mental focus or “carrying capacity” are highly susceptible to repetitive, pre-packaged, slick advertising of every kind – from Madison Avenue to K Street, though the two are increasingly difficult to differentiate. {{Shrug}}

Ultimately Whose Propaganda Will Succeed?

That’s a bottom line observation. The only live question is “whose” propaganda the public will be brainwashed with, and toward what ends. Plutocratic corporatists currently own and operate all of the media of mass communication, all of the propaganda amplifiers (except the internet), so the public is being subliminally and not so subliminally indoctrinated with the corporatist worldview that serves the plutocratic agenda.

Lippman is inescapable. Mass society requires mass mind. And Bernays is not being merely cynical in offering to mold the mass mind on contract to the highest bidder. “Somebody” is going to do it. The only question is, “Who?””

My First Linkback! By re-linking back and then discussing, I am feeling very “Meta.” To maintain continuity with the previous article, I would say that the orthodox, neo-classical view of economics is a form of “conceptual realism” where the ideas (and models) come first and the reality is forced to fit. Actual science proceeds from “perceptual realism” and ideas are sacrificed to the observed reality. Economics often tries to carve out a space for itself in a very paradoxical way: first it is the most “rigorous” of the social sciences, by which they mean mathematical. But then they do not have to conform to rigorous scientific (empirical) validation because they are a “social science.” This is absurd. Social science is indeed scientifically valid, or can be when practiced correctly. Even the idea that economics is primarily a “social science” is a little bizarre.

As noted in the above blog-post, economics tried to gain some credibility by modeling itself on “Newtonian Physics.” This is a slightly deeper topic than I have time for today, but I will return to it in a near-future post. There are issues with the “Ergodic Principle” and the idea of “Equilibrium,” and the fact that economists seemed to adopt the first law of thermodynamics in a weird closed system loop between producers and consumers without accounting for (knowing about at the time?) the second law and working that into some bio-physical feedback loops? In other words, how do we not seem to account for the usage and the dissipation of energy within our neo-classical thinking? There are some highly questionable, insular and unscientifc foundations hidden beneath the neo-classical enterprise, that much is certain.

Top notch smackdown of the unions in Wisconsin. How to defuse and lose a movement. Well played, folks… Well played.

Fox News and right wing pundits spread panicky lies. Republicans denounced Democrats and defamed protesters. Some Democrats hesitated before tepidly endorsing the protests. Some smarter Democrats tried to pretend they were among its leaders. But these were bit players, working from the outside. It fell to labor union leaders, whose political strategy for more than a generation has been to uncritically funnel their members volunteer energies and union dues into uncritical support for Democratic politicians whether they come through or not, to bring those hundreds of thousands in uncontrolled, unpredictable political motion back inside the law, back within the two-party elite consensus, back into the well-worn dance steps of the election cycle.

Thus it was union leaders who damped down the calls for, and explicitly repudiated talk of a general strike. To be fair, under present federal and state laws, a union official who even calls for, let alone is part of pulling off a general strike is probably guilty of multiple felonies and conspiracies to commit, perhaps even RICO and terrorist prosecutions if judges and district attorneys are feeling ambitious. Such an official also risks confiscation of union funds and assets, either outright in a hurry or after prolonged expensive litigation. But that’s what people involved in movements do — they take individual and collective risks and they violate laws for the cause, whatever that happens to be.

So there was no general strike. Union leaders ran as fast as they could in the other direction. They summoned their institutional resources, their organizers and media spokespeople, and their funding. They turned a nascent movement into a series of electoral campaigns, first against a handful of state senators in 2011 and then the statewide recall campaign that ended in defeat this week. They turned the movement into a campaign, and then managed to lose the campaign.”

Goodbye Blue Skies, It’s Over… Walk On By. Matt Stoller documents the increasing divide between government employees with their “decadent” pensions and the rest of society voting against honoring those contracts… I have a nagging question, though – In what way are these things causally linked:

  • Pensions not meeting their growth targets?
  • Financial recession and Exploding MBS type instruments?
  • Super low interest rates (inability to meet reasonable (?) targets with AAA securities?
  • A reliance on a 3% or better growth model to maintain solvency? (Let it not be so meshed together, please god???)

In other words, and I do hope I am wrong here, is there any way to honor our pension fund contracts and insurance related products and services without a reasonable growth rate? And is there any way to maintain a reasonable growth rate without chewing up more natural resources on an unsustainable path or accumulating massive debt on an unsustainable path? I suspect the next 20 years are not going to be anything like the last 20 years. Ho hum. *Grits Teeth & Stockpiles Food*

Yves on more nonsense ratings agency downgrade threats. This is interesting enough for its perspective on the nonsense debate about to commence again – debts are crazy out of control, waaah, waah. In the middle of the worst economic disaster in modern memory, how can we cut spending?? But I really included the link just because I found this next paper in the comments section and thought the full story told the tale better…

I read it for the comments. This is an excellent little paper on the fallacy of worrying about deficits right now. This always breaks down into left right predetermined camps… I don’t quite understand that, except to refer to the whole “conceptual realism,” I only see what I believe, and rarely believe what I see approach to non-scientific economics, but whatever… Let me explain it in the very simple way that I tend to analyze these things, by breaking it down into the simplest flows that seem to capture enough reality to be useful.

In the simplest of concrete explanations, I always like to come back to trade balances. To finish this off, here is a paper proposing that trade imbalances are caused by the way we pursued globalization (neo-liberalism). OK, sure. And a good read. But to tie together my thoughts from the above description of flows in society: If we buy more from the rest of the world than we sell, then we must run up debt. By definition. Either a public or a private sector deficit or both. Since the single greatest factor in this balance sheet recession is that ordinary citizens have hit a debt wall and are deleveraging (paying down debt), we can’t simultaneously cut government spending unless we were to be running a global trade surplus, and that is a sadly comical idea nowadays. I don’t know how to adjust those flows in the austerian ways being suggested without leading to deflationary pressures where we are all servicing yesterdays debt with tomorrows lowered earnings, thereby contributing more of our time and effort to the same debt-service while also having less to spend on other things (less demand still, in a vicious spiral). Ho hum. Freedom fries.

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