Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind'
Posted on Tuesday, April 27 @ 09:41:06 EDT
Their Brains Hurt

By Punditman

When it comes to George W. Bush, America is currently divided straight down the middle along partisan party lines. And so, among the numerous casualties of his administration, add the swing vote. At this juncture, the Presidential race is too close to call and barring some momentous event, this trend will probably continue right up until Election Day.

Bush's unwavering support among at least half of the electorate is a remarkable phenomenon, considering the emergence of a virtual cottage industry of books by former administration officials and investigative journalists outlining Bush's fixations and misrepresentations concerning the Iraqi "threat." From former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil to former terrorism czar Richard Clarke, to Washington's consummate insider, Bob Woodward, Bush's naysayers have been on a roll lately.

But you wouldn't know it if you look at the polls. A new Harris Interactive Poll conducted April 8-15 shows that by 51% to 38% a majority continues to believe that "Iraq actually had weapons of mass destruction," virtually unchanged since February. 49% continue to believe that "clear evidence that Iraq was supporting Al Qaeda has been found." These numbers have scarcely changed since June 2003.



Moreover, in a USA TODAY/CNN poll conducted between April 16-18, by a ratio of 2 to 1, those Americans surveyed say only Bush (not Kerry), can do a good job on handling terrorism, and by nearly as much, 40% to 26%, Americans say only Bush would do a good job on handling Iraq.

This befuddles many a Canadian, including this one. In a Globe and Mail poll conducted in March, 67% of Canadians believe that Bush lied to the world about Iraq. Suffice it to say, that Bush is very unpopular here precisley because of what he has and hasn't done when it comes to handling both terrorism and Iraq. This is not to say that Canadians believe John Kerry is some kind of saviour, but when it comes to the Bush record, many are shaking their heads and wondering: how many whistle-blowers coming forward do Americans need, before they turn this guy in? By logical extrapolation, undoubtedly many Canadians have trouble understanding why so many Americans are unable (or refuse to see), through a growing myriad of Bush smokescreens.

One explanation I often hear is that the US media controls the American psyche, that psyche is being manipulated by fear, and as Michael Moore says in Bowling for Columbine, there's a synergy between the two. Readers of Noam Chomsky, or visitors to Fair.org can attest to the inherent biases in the major media that service corporate and state power. Yet such factors do not fully account for Bush's continued support, particularly as things unravel in Iraq and as more revelations of offical deceit seep into public consciousness.

There is something deeper going on. Many analysts consider these survey results to be a classic case of cognitve dissonance, a psychological condition first proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957. Here I defer to the clever blogger over at Whisky Bar, who has applied the following definition:

Cognitive dissonance: noun. 1. an inconsistency among related beliefs, producing a motivation to do whatever is easiest to regain congnitive consistency or consonance among beliefs. 2. The psychological basis for most authoritarian political systems. 3. The egghead name for folly.

In other words, Americans have made up their minds when it comes to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, links to Al Qaeda, and indeed Mr. Bush himself, and it would take something very big to change them. They therefore believe those media reports which fit with their pre-conceived opinions and reject those that don't.

Now consider this: many Americans are working more than one job, they have very little time on their hands and most get their news from television. But ditto for Canadians. Now fill in the blanks.

Reprinted from Punditman:
http://www.punditman.com/

 

The Smirking Chimp

 Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by gohomeDubya on Tuesday, April 27 @ 19:16:10 EDT
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I've been thinking about this cognitive dissonance thing as it applies to Clinton. I really like Clinton the man as well as the politician. Yeah, he was too corporate, and there are so many progressive things I wish he would have done that he didn't, but I believe that his survival skills were far too strong, and his natural ability to read the politicial landscape was his genius. It's amazing what a status quo guy he really was. He was actually a throwback Republican. Fiscally conservative, socially very mainstream - he was effective without really changing the power structure at all. In fact, he recognized he couldn't change it, and so he deviated only ever so slightly from the straight and narrow. Yet the Repugs saw him as some sort of radical. I still find that amazing.

Anyhow - back to the cognitive dissonance thing. When Clinton was being trashed over this sex scandal and that imbroglio, I just completely ignored that type of news. I liked the man at some gut level, and so I ignored it totally. Now, the difference is, that they were telling total lies up until Monica showed up, so there was good reason not to listen. But, I think that Repugs think we are making all this shit up, just like they made all that shit up, and so they aren't listening. And they won't, no matter how bad it gets. In fact, the more outrageous the things that Chimp does, the less they will believe it. Kind of like the story that Clinton was incestuously abusing Chelsea. Did we believe that crap? Say what you will about Repugs; the only character trait I admire about them is their loyalty. They are just completely blind to chimp's gross incompetence and they fail to see it.

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* Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind'
by Awesome on Tuesday, April 27 @ 23:08:35 EDT

Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by motoboy on Tuesday, April 27 @ 19:00:48 EDT
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MAJOR respect to BajanMan and Black Knight for some excellent thoughts, as painful as they may be to some ears. I'm saving your posts for future reference and ammunition against the few wingnuts with whom I remain on speaking terms....

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by arvosmom on Tuesday, April 27 @ 18:42:01 EDT
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In repeated polls dating from last year in a U.S. News article, more than 4 in 5 pick Bush as the one president in recent memory they'd love to "go out and have a beer with".


The fact that a poll like this even EXISTED is evidence of the real problem. The whole world is viewed as a reality TV show.

I feel less and less proud to be an American every day. I'm so sorry to have to say that. But geez... how much longer can we get "stupider" before we just implode under our own ignorance?

Not much longer, I'm guessing.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by sabakimeister on Tuesday, April 27 @ 17:54:38 EDT
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Let me add my two cents to this wonderful series of thoughful posts. I’m writing a book about the influence of the “corporatocracy” on public education. Ever since the turn of the twentieth century, schools have been organized to serve big business in a number of ways—deliver curriculum in disconnected chunks, teach kids obedience and compliance with authority, make them anxious, let them compete for small prizes, and keep everything so fragmented that most kids never see the big picture about the dominance of the ruling elite. It’s as if the schools are analogous to a naval bombardment before the forces of the media land and establish beachheads in our softened-up minds. A few get through the ghastly experience of school with their critical thinking intact, but a larger number either drop out and become part of the unemployed labor pool/criminal element, or become gullible zombies doing what they’re told. Other forces such as the media and religion are marshalled to keep enough people hypnotized and narcotized as they go through life, but schools have already subliminally shaped children’s minds to accept without question whatever lies the corporatocracy feeds them. The rich might be evil, but they’re not stupid.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by timbermonkey on Tuesday, April 27 @ 17:13:37 EDT
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I think it's worth noting that the only agencies of the government that get consistent public support--even from many self-described libertarians--are the ones who carry guns and/or can put people in jail.

People now believe that a government that uses tax money to serve the public good is tyrannical, but the government that uses tax money to maintain a police state is A-OK. 'Nuff said.


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* Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind'
by sauron on Tuesday, April 27 @ 21:43:44 EDT

Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by Chronic on Tuesday, April 27 @ 15:44:22 EDT
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Imagine a majority muslim nation with muslim soldiers surround Vatican City threatening to get the Pope dead or alive and killing christian resistance fighters/women and children.

Folks we are doomed and its jr's fault so pay up your tax dollars, your family members and the respect we Americans once had across the globe.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by moominpapa on Tuesday, April 27 @ 15:22:00 EDT
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BajanMan and black_knight - great posts, thanks.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by black_knight on Tuesday, April 27 @ 14:55:16 EDT
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"There is something deeper going on. Many analysts consider these survey results to be a classic case of cognitve dissonance, a psychological condition first proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957."

Truer words were never spoken. America is in a self-imposed bubble of blissful ignorance about its true place in the world. In all of the available media outlets, from television to newspapers to the Internet, the perncious notion is reinforced that America is the only place of any worth in the world and that every other country just plain sucks. From the very earliest grades in school, children learn about American history and that's pretty much it. It is not a high priority to teach about positive developments in history which have occurred in other places. It's always just about America. The only time the media reports on things happening in other lands is if there's some kind of disaster (earthquake, landslide, flood -- take your pick) in which many people lost their lives. This causes the average American to breath an involuntary sigh of relief that he or she doesn't live in a f*cked up place like the ones reported on.

When I made my first trip as an adult out of America I was shocked at the amount of global information available on such jingoistic domestic media outlets like CNN. On CNN International you can find out what's going on in Sri Lanka, in Uganda, in Wales, in Poland, in India, in Australia, etc. You come to realize that there are important developments occurring all over the world -- a major revelation for anyone who's never left America to travel abroad. CNN state-side, of course, shows nothing but American news, except to report the aforementioned disasters in other countries.

For these reasons (and many more), Americans are the most ignorant people on the Earth. Not in terms of intelligence but in knowledge and empathy about the rest of the world. That's what causes them to believe that foreign countries really don't matter and events that don't have a direct tie to America don't matter either. This explains why Bush has such a devoted following. It is simply incomprehensible for most Americans to understand the evil that their government is doing overseas when all they've been told is that this is the best place in the world; we're the best country in the world; every country wants to be like us, etc. Despite all of the volumes of evidence to the contrary, you will never get a majority of Americans to see their government as anything but a force for good. That's the main reason why Bush still enjoys such support. People simply can't believe he and his administration are as evil as virtually everyone else on the globe knows they are.

Again, this phenomenon has nothing to do with ignorance or even a lack of education. In fact, the more successful a person is, the more he or she will tend to defend the system which allowed them to become successful. Studies have shown that the 'lower' American classes have a much more realistic view of their government. Witness the fact that roughy 90% of African-Americans did not vote for Bush. If that percentage were even mildly approximated by the majority, none of the current madness would be happening.

America is a spoiled child of privilege that has no intention of growing up and taking a responsible place in the world community. A Marie Antoinette, if you will, that unfortunately possesses the deadliest military and weaponry in human history. And that weaponry is growing more deadly by the day.

To the rest of the world -- don't expect that one day Americans will wake up and smell the coffee; suddenly rise from their apparent stupor and throw out this criminal administration. All that's desired is the right to remain blissfully ignorant -- down to the very day when they're looking down the barrel of the same guns that have been pointed at the rest of the world. By then, of course, it will be too late.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by 111aaaaardvark on Tuesday, April 27 @ 13:13:15 EDT
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I've said several times on this site that the average murrikan (read "mediocre murrikan") is just plain stupid. I don't think there's any other word for it. I don't know why murrikans are3 so consistently and thoroughly stupid, but they are, and have been for generations - many generations. Things are going to get worse, not better. All of the various polls mentioned in the article support that argument. I frequently wish I were CXanadian. I do go to www.globeandmail.com and read, among other things, the various polls. The contrast is downright amazing.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by homo_ksa on Tuesday, April 27 @ 13:12:16 EDT
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Now you can understand how the Germans backed Hitler

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* Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind'
by ThatGuy420 on Tuesday, April 27 @ 20:47:49 EDT

Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by rugbyman on Tuesday, April 27 @ 13:05:25 EDT
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I'm an American who loathes Bush and his braying, infernal cabal with every fiber of my being, but I do, to my eternal shame, know some Republicans. And here's what's happening. They simply don't listen to any negative information about Bush. When Dan Rather or Peter Jennings detail the troubling disclosures in Clarke's book or Woodward's book, or about the complete lack of evidence that Iraq had WMDs or anything to do with 9/11, they stick their fingers in their ears and sing "La la la la la..." They don't want to know, because then they might have to face the fact that they've been wrong all along -- that Bush is in fact destroying, not saving, this once-great country, that he is by far and away, and without a shadow of a doubt, the worst president America has ever known, and that far from being a wise and courageous leader, he is a vacuous coward, who fled from personal danger on the only two occasions he might have faced it -- in Vietnam and on 9/11. Oh, and the fact that he is going to lose on Nov. 4 -- they don't want to face that, either. That said, a number of the more thoughtful Republicans I know do not intend to vote for Bush this time around, so there's hope for the world yet.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by BajanMan on Tuesday, April 27 @ 12:36:42 EDT
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Yet such factors do not fully account for Bush's continued support, particularly as things unravel in Iraq and as more revelations of offical deceit seep into public consciousness.

There is something deeper going on. Many analysts consider these survey results to be a classic case of cognitve dissonance, a psychological condition first proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957 



I used to buy this, but now I'm not sure I do. I think that on a personal, visceral level - as difficult as this is to grok for many of us - millions of people like Bush the man! They see in him qualities that we can't, including: a humble, down home folksiness that doesn't "put on airs" (especially powerful in a culture noted for its anti-intellectual bent; his "straight talking", macho demeanor ('Y'er with us, or agin' us'; 'Bring 'em on!' etc.)

In repeated polls dating from last year in a U.S. News article, more than 4 in 5 pick Bush as the one president in recent memory they'd love to "go out and have a beer with".

In a Denver Post article from way back in November, Doubts Not Dissuading Bush Voters, author, Stephanie Simon gave all kinds of reason for Bush's popular support which remains "teflon" like in regard to attacks:

1- With a year to go before the election, a solid core of Americans backs George W. Bush- no matter who else is on the ballot! They "approve of his conservative values but mostly, they like his character- they trust him".

2- A resilient, barely varying core of 40% still think that Bush understands the problems they face in everyday life. (This despite raising concern over the economy and the Iraqi war deaths)

3- 62% consistently rated Bush as one of the strongest leaders, and equal proportions of similar polls said he was "trustworthy".

The bottom line is people perceive Bush as an appealing character, though in many of the polls cited, they objected to his policies. However, they refused to believe that the nature of the policies (tax cuts, continuing expansion of Iraq war and war on terror, environmental degradation, privatizing Social Security, Medicare, budget busting deficits etc) were sufficiently aberrant to warrant disliking the man- or voting against him.

Thus, the real cognitive dissonance seems to reside in this segment rejecting the negative claims of the effects of Bush's policies, in order to preserve intact their conviction that he's a "decent fella" and "looking out for them".

This is truly an incredible phenomenon, and seems to stamp Bush II as the true Teflon President, taking over from Ronnie and maybe going him one better. As one W. Post writer - I believe Richard Cohen - noted in an article Sunday, if Bush gets one more month like the last, expect not merely a win in November - but a veritable blowout over Kerry.

Of course, as I also pointed out before - the "decent guy" phenomenon may factor into and reinforce the "national daddy" syndrome. I.e. Bush became the de facto national "daddy' after 9-11, projecting the image of a strong papa determined to teach those bad neighbors (read: 'terr'ists') a lesson.

In this volatile and critical time, the Bushies played the fear card like Mozart playing a violin.
Assorted timely "orange alerts", ambiguous warning at Xmas and other major travel times, etc.

Mindless herds - whether human or animal- are easily overcome by fear, and respond in kind. For a good segment of 'terrified of their own shadow' Americans, that meant keeping a low profile, refusing to speak out against obvious injustices and obscenities, and doing the 'ostrich act' in regard to the evisceration of the Bill of Rights while also subjecting fellows who dissent to criticism.

The ostrich act included dismissing unpalatable news,facts, explosive book accounts, etc. if accepting any of them means turning on the national daddy - or rejecting that "nice, decent, god-fearing feller" in the WH.

Unfortunately, the above dynamic implies the rest of us - whose brains and minds remain intact and who are impervious to either of these syndromes- must carry on the burden and responsibility of citizenry for everyone else in this state of Bush-worship, herd-Zombiehood.


Lastly, I ought to remind our Canadian friends that easily half the populace continues to believe that moral values - actually moral posturing- trumps all other issues, policies, or news. I counted 27 letters in the last month in our Colo. papers, all eagerly endorsing a "moral" president over one who tries to deliver assistance to the poor, drugs to the elderly, or decent nutrition to starving kids.

The Lewinsky caper probably spawned this moral reaction beast. Sowed the seeds throughout the 'heartland' where rank fundy-ism, bible pounding, and simple minded black-white (good -evil) moralism predominates. Sunday schools from Podunk to Pahokee to Paducah beat it into legions of kids' brains. Preachers reinforce it on their little Sunday pulpits, and oh....by the way....they also give their flocks the Voters' choice cards - compliments of the Christian Coalition, or 'Focus on the Family'.

In some churches, like here in the Springs, the morality 'card' is played every single Sunday - and each and every congregant reminded of where his god-appointed duty resides in this election.

The result? You had (in 2000) tens of millions of working and lower class ordinary red state folk who had foregone their own economic self-interest, to elevate public display of morality to an absolute. This public display vested in the empty sock puppet - smiling (Smirking?)sanctimonious, 'saved' persona of Dubya.

Lord bless Dubya, and we who - like Dubya- demand decency in our presidents! Never mind we're gonna get pissed on and have all our social safety nets ripped away!

WE WANT MORALITY!

True, upstanding, noble, white-Christian morality from our beloved and personally SAVED (by his 'personal' Savior), Dubya!

In Barbados, by contrast, even the poorest pig farmer or sugar cane cutter is politically literate enough to not vote against his own economic interests. Even if the opposition brings up gays, abortion or some set of atheist-porno-homo boogeymen, they're smart enough not to bite. For them, it's more important the corporations' taxes go up, the government spending on health care and education increase, and beach fronts remain open and not subject to corporate purchase.

What we have to admit, I think, is that even as the months pass we're going to have trouble getting these pro-Bush numbers down. It might be easier if we had an electrifying candidate like Dean, but we don't. We just have to hope that "ABB" has the power that many believe to get Bush out.

Personally, I don't think it's enough.

But then, I've been known to be wrong before.


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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by chemkat on Tuesday, April 27 @ 12:13:17 EDT
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The biggest problem is that most people can't tell the difference between fact and opinion. They don't read with a critical mind. While some may have learned how to think critically (those who did learn decided it was just to hard), many more never learned. I don't think the schools are teaching this skill from what I saw of students entering college. Even once at college only specific courses teach critical thinking and many students never take those classes.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by RoseQuartz on Tuesday, April 27 @ 12:08:26 EDT
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Many Americans are in denial. The don't want to believe that Iraq is a losing proposition. Having suffered with the Vietnam syndrome for so long, their only course is victory in Iraq. So they will support the war and their president. The media indoctrinates this thinking at a mass level.

Americans do not want to believe that their way of life is slowing eroding on many fronts. Our nation is headed into a crisis on various levels and we will not have the monetary or mental stamina to correct our course in history. Iraq is just expediting the slow death of another WWII empire.

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Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by upu8 on Tuesday, April 27 @ 10:19:43 EDT
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"In other words, Americans have made up their minds when it comes to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, links to Al Qaeda, and indeed Mr. Bush himself, and it would take something very big to change them. They therefore believe those media reports which fit with their pre-conceived opinions and reject those that don't."

Most Americans have indeed made their minds up, but their 'minds' had little to do with it. At least the rational centers of the mind had little to do with this hardening of opnion. The majority of Americans now consider "opinion" more important than facts, which are mere convenient props for opnion and its cousin "belief". Facts which don't fit the preconceptions are considered lies no matter what the source of the facts.

Considering that a large percentage of Americans now get just the facts they want from sources all too willing to provide that information tailor-made to fit them, it is no surprise that we are so badly informed. About half the public get the info they want from Fox, right wing radio and the CorpoRight megamedia, with almost no disturbing "noise" from dissenting views. Thus "We are free, and we are right and Bush is a good Christian man who is doing God's work" becomes cast in concrete. Anything which contradicts that is partisan,liberal or Satanic lies which are disregarded.

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* Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind'
by JackBurton on Tuesday, April 27 @ 18:29:44 EDT

Re: Punditman: 'Missing in action: Half the American mind' (Score: 1)
by Awesome on Tuesday, April 27 @ 09:51:38 EDT
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There is only one thing worse than being wrong, being told one is wrong.