- What explains the gullibility of Americans,
a gullibility that has mired the U.S. in disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and that promises war with Iran, North Korea, and a variety of other targets
if neoconservatives continue to have their way?
- Part of the explanation is that millions
of conservatives are thrilled at the opportunity to display their patriotism
and to show their support for their country. Bush's rhetoric is perfectly
designed to appeal to this desire. "You are with us or against us"
elicits a blind and unquestioning response from people determined to wear
their patriotism on their sleeves. "You are with us or against us"
vaccinates Americans against factual reality and guarantees public acceptance
of administration propaganda.
- Another part of the explanation is that
emotional appeals have grown the stronger as the ability of educated people
to differentiate fact from rhetoric declines. The Bush administration blamed
9/11 on foreign intelligence failures; yet, the administration has convinced
about half of the public that mass surveillance of American citizens is
- Many Americans have turned a blind eye
to the administration's illegal and unconstitutional spying on the grounds
that, as they themselves are doing nothing wrong, they have nothing to
fear. If this is the case, why did our Founding Fathers bother to write
the Constitution? If the executive branch can be trusted not to abuse power,
why did Congress pass legislation establishing a panel of federal judges
(ignored by the Bush administration) to oversee surveillance? If President
Bush can decide that he can ignore statutory law, how does he differ from
a dictator? If Bush can determine law, what is the role of Congress and
the courts? If "national security" is a justification for elevating
the power of the executive, where is his incentive to find peaceful solutions?
- Emotional appeals to fear and to patriotism
have led close to half of the population to accept unaccountable government
in the name of "the war on terrorism." What a contradiction it
is that so many Americans have been convinced that safety lies in the sacrifice
of their civil liberties and accountable government.
- If so many Americans cannot discern that
they have acquiesced to conditions from which tyranny can arise, how can
they understand that it is statistically impossible for the NSA's mass
surveillance of Americans to detect terrorists?
- Floyd Rudmin, a professor at a Norwegian
university, writing at CounterPunch.org applies the mathematics of conditional
probability, known as Bayes' Theorem, to demonstrate that the NSA's surveillance
cannot successfully detect terrorists unless both the percentage of terrorists
in the population and the accuracy rate of their identification are far
higher than they are. He correctly concludes that "NSA's surveillance
system is useless for finding terrorists."
- The surveillance is, however, useful
for monitoring political opposition and stymieing the activities of those
who do not believe the government's propaganda.
- Another reason for the gullibility of
Americans is their lack of alternative information to government propaganda.
The independence of print and TV media disappeared in the media consolidations
of the 1990s. Today a handful of large corporations own the traditional
media. The wealth of these corporations consists of broadcast licenses,
which the companies hold at the government's discretion. Newspapers are
run by corporate executives, whose eyes are on advertising revenue and
who shun contentious reporting. The result is that the traditional media
are essentially echo chambers for government propaganda.
- The Internet and the foreign news media
accessible through the Internet are the sources of alternative information.
Many Americans have not learned to use and to rely on the Internet for
- Many Americans find the government's
message much more reassuring than the actual facts. The government's message
is: "America is virtuous. Virtuous America was attacked by evil terrorists.
America is protecting itself by going to war and overthrowing regimes that
sponsor or give shelter to terrorists, erecting in their place democracies
loyal to America."
- Sugarcoated propaganda doesn't present
Americans with the emotional and mental stress associated with the hard
- In National Socialist Germany, by the
time propaganda lost its grip, Germans were in the hands of a police state.
It was too late to take corrective measures. Not even the military could
correct the disastrous policies of the executive. In the end, Germany was
destroyed. Does a similar fate await Americans?