Tag Archives: progressive

Well Scripted

laurielipton_brave_new_world“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World[i]

Back in the mists of the early seventies for about a year I was a correspondent for a regional daily paper in Boston. I remember well the cigarettes smoldering in our ashtrays and cold coffee and typewriters at eleven at night trying to beat a deadline with coverage of a local town’s selectmen or planning committee meeting or a story about a local politician’s failings. Two fingered typing rapidly to fit in with the newsroom – men typed two fingered staccato; women reporters used all ten. They were faster.

The editor was young, male, and long haired, as was I. He wielded a good red pencil and sharpened our writing skills. He was also an ideologue who made it clear that stories favoring progressive issues would be given a pulpit; those that did not would suffer a brutal red pencil until we left out anything favoring opposing opinions. We took the message quickly to heart without it ever being clearly stated. It was not that we fabricated facts, but that we selected those facts that helped the cause and neglected those that didn’t. Since at that time I was sympathetic with the editor, I found no fault with the editing.

One of my most vivid memories of the job is a phone call I received from the wife of a planning committee member and local prominent conservative with whom I had had some run ins. Her husband was a condescending patrician with his reading glasses normally perched on top of his fashionably cut blond head and possessed of an expensive private school whiny drawl. I’d long harbored an aversion to the type. As he was a local developer, I found a conflict of interest in his decisions and comments during meetings when they jumped another builder through many hoops. The applicant was a rival of my planning board guy and was trying to get a subdivision approved that would compete with one in which the committee member was selling lots. Predictably, in my judgmental crusader persona, I savaged him in a couple of articles while my editor cheered me on.

His wife called my home, not screaming, but hurt, outraged, and in tears about the generous unpaid long hours and expertise that her husband graciously donated for the well-being of the town. And how could I do that to him and tell those lies so publicly? I didn’t understand his refined nature or his decency and goodness. Now, I didn’t share her view of him, but she did whole heartedly believe it.

I learned viscerally that while I was feeling self-righteous and clever, real people were affected and embarrassed. She was a good-natured, unpretentious woman with whom I had shared pleasantries before at an event; she thought we got along well. My ideological convictions conflicted with my feelings. But I soldiered on, nonetheless. My facts were right. The goals of my ideology overtrumped my emotions. The ends justified any necessary means. If I could short circuit the nascent political career of this man, well, all’s fair. Objective journalism was not my intent, nor my ideal. I may have been able to string together cogent sentences, but I was a bad reporter.[ii]

“It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison and yet not free –to be under no physical constraint and yet to be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national State, or of some private interest within the nation, want him to think, feel and act.” Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

A Gallup poll[iii] this week chronicled the level of public trust in the media (or rather the lack thereof). It was the second lowest such poll ranking for this metric on record. Journalists compete for truth telling trustworthiness with back of the truck health supplement hawkers. Thirty six percent of the public retains a “great deal of” (a meager7%) or a “fair level of” (29%) trust that what they read in the newspapers or see in their evening news is reliable and accurate. Which, of course, means that sixty four percent do not trust what they read or see to be truthful, unbiased, and free from ideological distortion. The breakdown is more revealing: thirty one percent of independents, eleven percent of Republicans, and sixty eight percent of Democrats have confidence that what they see and hear in the mainstream media (MSM) is honest and factual. That seems to show that Democrats are dimwitted, incredibly credulous, or that their confirmation bias is operating on full wattage. I believe the last explanation to be most likely among them.

Other data show that over ninety percent of MSM reporters and editors that contribute to political campaigns contribute to Democrats and progressive causes. The seemingly obvious conclusion is that what we read and hear and see that passes for news is progressive indoctrination – we are regularly and consistently submitting to what Huxley called a “conditioned” state. No doubt this suits sixty eight percent of Democrats just fine. And sixty nine percent of independents and eighty nine percent of Republicans are not happy about it.

But the indoctrination gets worse, much worse. More to follow in the next post.

“The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass-communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely, to impose necessary illusions, manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena” Noam Chomsky

[i] [Image credit: (“DELUSION DWELLERS”, charcoal & pencil on paper, ©Laurie Lipton)]

[ii] I was not a bad reporter because I was telling lies – I was not. I was not a bad reporter because I was deterred by the hurt feelings of a subject – I was not. I was a bad reporter because I allowed my ideology to determine my subjects and the facts that I chose to include and not to include. There were plenty of other target subjects available and plenty of other facts. As the cliché goes, watching local politics is a target rich environment. But I focused that week on this planning committee member because I didn’t like his politics.

[iii] October 7 Gallup poll on the public’s trust of the media.

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A Wilderness of Error

Jonathan Gruber explains what's best for us

“The right thing can seem so wrong and the wrong thing seem so right that we easily become lost, to use Poe’s exquisite phrase, in a wilderness of error.” A Dancer in the Dust, Thomas H. Cook

Unless you have been visiting abroad, say in the Galapagos, you read about or watched Jonathan Gruber, an author of Obamacare. If you have been in the Galapagos, here is a two minute synopsis: Grubergate in Two Minutes from “American Commitment.” Former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, crowed once that the bill would have to be passed before we knew what was in it. This was not due solely to the closed door machinations and deals, cobbling together a bill meant to be ironed out in joint committee, but frozen, partially done, by the election of Scott Brown. Nor was it due entirely to being over 2,500 pages long and spawning tens of thousands of pages of regulations. The great majority of Americans and American legislators didn’t know what was in it because a.) Obamacare ACA was calculated to obfuscate, and b.) We were “too stupid” to understand it anyway, which was, after all, just as well. As Dr. Gruber clarified to his elite colleagues in academia, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”

“Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths.” 1 Samuel 2:3

Obamacare with all its errors in design, the subterfuge in its passage into law and its flawed implementation is a model of progressive mischief, but the ACA is also a metaphor for far more dangerous myopia. Lest we be mistaken, the hubris of the progressive “expert” knows few boundaries. The progressive is willing and able to take us where we ought to go, whether, or perhaps especially, when we do not know enough to want to go there. From their perspective, a stupid and ignorant electorate is best able to be led by those fully prepared to lead them. “Progressive” has become a self-contained oxymoron.

“The trouble is that we always define ‘forward’ as moving in our direction…but not everyone can, and not everyone should.” A Dancer in the Dust, Thomas H. Cook

Norman Angell wrote “The Great Illusion” in 1909 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in 1933. His premise was that large scale war in modern times was futile because of the complex economic interdependence of all the major nations; the cost even for the winners would be too great. His work particularly influenced English leadership, convincing them that even the “Hun” would not be so foolish. They remained in hope almost to the day German troops invaded Belgium and headed towards Paris. Treaty bound to Belgium, the United Kingdom watched as they were inexorably drawn into the beginning of World War I, the bloodiest war in human history until that time. The infirmity of purpose that encouraged the Kaiser was repeated with Neville Chamberlain’s vacillations twenty five years later prior to World War II. Adolph Hitler read the signs of his enemy’s hopeful delusion and warmed up with Austria and Poland before striding down the ChampsÉlysées. The butchery exceeded its predecessor. And so it goes.

For leaders to misunderstand their enemies by trusting optimistic and irresolute illusion kills faith in that leadership as well as the best of the youth under its stewardship.

“In the month of August 1914, there was something looming, inescapable, universal that involved us all. Something in that awful gulf between perfect plans and fallible men that makes one tremble.” Barbara Tuchman, “The Guns of August”

This week we were entertained with the administration’s attempt to placate the offended leaders of almost all major nations. The president once again led from behind by failing to send an appropriate level of representation to the solidarity march of those leaders in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo radical Jihadist attack. To make up for the gaffe, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a stiff hug to Francoise Hollande, the French Premier, and Kerry doubled down by bringing along a grinning James Taylor to sing his sappy “You’ve Got a Friend”. Bad sixties coffee shop folk singing to sooth all insults. If we hadn’t been inured to such awkwardness with six years of this tomfoolery, it would be embarrassing. Now it seems like just another day at the White House. One wag suggested in lieu of Taylor, it should have been Judy Collins with “Send in The Clowns.”

The relevance is not only the tone deafness, but the worldview, the progressive desire to see things as they would hope them to be, irrespective of how they are. Whether Hillary is entreating us to empathize with the Jihadists, Howard Dean denying that the Paris murders were carried out by Muslims or Barack Obama persisting in calling the Fort Hood killings “workplace violence” and Jihadist butchery as “radical extremism” not necessarily unlike  Timothy McVeigh or the demented Jim Jones.

Jihadist violence is inherent, and if we refuse to acknowledge that there is a war, we are probably losing. Releasing Gitmo Islamists who immediately resume killing us or negotiating with Iran over their nuclear ambitions are all of a piece. To the committed Jihadist, there is one dichotomy: dar al-Islam (The House of Islam) and dar al-harb (The House of War), the realm of peace and Islam, and the realm of war: that is everybody else. Leaving the rest of us alone, peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance is as impossible and foreign to them as government by, of and for the people, as constitutional law is to sharia, as democracy is to the Caliphate. Conversion or the sword are the options.

 “And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion should be only for Allah!”  Quran (8:39)

“And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief] is worse than killing…  Quran (2:191-193)

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