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Why People Believe Fear and Hate Mongers

Why People Believe Fear and Hate Mongers

Sarah Palin

sex, guns, & the flag

The January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona that targeted Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and resulted in the death of six people and the wounding of 13 others caused me to write to Professor Noam Chomsky. I had read that Chomsky doesn’t bother with refuting the fear & hate mongers such as Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Coulter, etc. because he feels it’s just too simple. So, I wrote to Chomsky and argued that shootings like the one in Tucson reveal that it is important for us to refute these dangerous individuals. Chomsky replied that he believes it’s more important for us to try to understand why people believe the fear and hate mongers. I reflected on Chomsky’s response for several days and eventually saw the wisdom of his challenge. This essay is my feeble attempt to answer that question of why people believe fear and hate mongers. And I in no way claim the reasons I offer to be the complete answer but perhaps they are some significant factors that may help to shed some light on the subject of people’s susceptibility to the vitriol of these nationally syndicated preachers of intolerance?

Of course, the pundits for the plutocracy aren’t responsible in a strictly legal sense for the violent actions of those mentally unstable but I argue that they are ethically responsible. Sarah Palin had a website with rifle crosshairs on political districts across the country targeting various representatives she would like to see defeated. And Representative Giffords was one in the crosshairs. And speaking of being ethically responsible, I heard that immediately after the fatal shootings in Tucson, Palin’s crosshairs targets on her political enemies was removed from her political website but to this day, it is still on her Facebook page. This brings us to a critical point which is that the primary danger of malicious morons like Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, etc. is that because they have a national platform on radio, television, etc. and because they are skilled at delivering simplistic, jingoistic sound-bites, they can & have spread a lot of ignorance across America. Add to this their messages of hate and fear and you have the results of violent speech such as the shootings in Tucson, the beatings of innocent Muslims, the defacing of synagogues, etc.

Before I get to the main body of my argument as to why these ministers of mayhem and murder are able to infect so many people’s minds, I want to give a little background as to how I came to my hypothesis regarding this subject. Back around the summer of 1987, I started making up note-cards on the subject of the Christian fundamentalists hated of secular humanists. By the end of that summer, I had a stack of notes about four or five inches thick but when it came time to start organizing them into something I could use to write a book on the subject, my inner critic got the better of me and those notes sat on my bookshelf for approximately 17 years. Finally one day I said to myself, “You’re not getting any younger Rob, the hell with my inner critic,” and I spread the notes across the living room floor and spent several hours loosely categorizing them under various headings which I wrote in red ink. I then sat down at my computer and just started writing using my notes as a sort of skeleton or outline which I could follow. I expounded on my notes to fill-in or connect the dots so-to-speak and the writing just flowed. It was such a liberating and gratifying experience that I often wrote for six or seven hours a day and somewhere along the way, I began to see connections in my mind to a bigger picture. And that larger vision was the inspiration that drove me to write over two thousands pages at this point. Now, this could just be a monumental testament to one person’s ego, who knows, but it feels right and on the pragmatic side, I see it as serving a sort of apprenticeship.

Consequently, I borrowed the title of my project from a documentary I watched on the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Wright family’s motto was “Truth Against the World,” and this sounded right to me given the scope of what I was attempting to say. After I finished the first part on the war waged by Christian fundamentalists against Humanism, I went on to the subject of anti-intellectualism. I had read and made copious notes in a book titled Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter which I feel is absolutely brilliant in its insights and observations. Next I tackled our public education system using the notes I made in The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. I am currently working on the fourth part of my perhaps magnum opus, the corporate media. And the final section of this massive undertaking will be on what I consider the greatest evil facing humanity and behind the overwhelming majority of obstacles and crises threatening human survival and the very existence of our precious Mother Earth, transnational or global corporations that are contemptuous of national and international laws, as well as all norms of ethical or moral behavior. In brief, I believe that the behemoth corporate conglomerates are intricately linked to most of what is wrong with modern life and that if we were able to somehow strip their power down to what it was at the founding of America, we’d be a long way towards realizing a much more just and equitable society. Naturally, we’d have to reign-in these corporate Frankensteins not just here in America but across the globe as well. Summing up, after reflecting on Chomsky’s challenging counter question to my original argument to him regarding the shootings in Tucson, it dawned on me that perhaps these five areas of the book I’m writing might be the answer to why people fall for the fascist reasoning put forth by the mental midgets from their bully pulpits?

Therefore, while I believe these are the key reasons or factors behind much of humanity’s suffering, they may also be significant factors in why so many Americans are so full of hatred, bigotry, & intolerance? Let’s take a look at each factor in a little more depth and detail.

The subject of Christian fundamentalist’s almost palpable hatred for secular humanists and

Glenn Beck, the class clown

If it's written on a chalkboard, it must be true.

humanism in general, gradually drew me in because I have been searching for truth all my life. We moved around a lot as I grew up, sometimes twice a year and everywhere we went, I’d attend the local church. I went alone or with my sister, Darcy, not because I was told to but out of a personal curiosity. Perhaps it had to do with my love of learning? I didn’t even know about the differences in the various denominations of the churches I attended, I simply enjoyed the experience and would attend Sunday school and read the passages in the Bible we were told to read. When I was around 15 or 16 years old, I had been attending a holy-roller church for several months which a neighbor friend of mine belonged to. I began to see the hypocrisy of the members of this church because they preached love and goodness but if you came to church wearing jeans that were torn, etc., you were looked-down upon. I also remembered when I was perhaps around seven or eight years old and sitting in church one Sunday, the thought flashed through my mind of whether God actually existed or not and in an instant, a feeling of terror overwhelmed me and I believed I was going to be struck dead for having such a blasphemous thought. Perhaps it was the combination of my intellectual awakening along with the general climate of the 1960s and the freedom, beauty, love, & trustfulness of the hippies & etc. that caused me to stop attending church around this stage of my life?

Nevertheless, I continued to search for answers and I still do to this day. And the more I searched for “truth,” the more I saw shallow answers proclaimed by ministers, priests, and others. I also witnessed the vicious verbal attacks by those who claimed to be good Christians on anybody who dared to disagree with them. I had always been an avid reader and as I entered my twenties, I began to travel mostly hitch-hiking and I first went to Europe where my intellectual world was rocked to its core. I learned of the crusades against the Muslims, the history of Christian missionaries and the death & disease they brought with them, and I saw that many a “good Christian,” were racists and saw no contradiction between their reading of scriptures and their vicious words and deeds committed against Blacks, homosexuals, immigrants, etc. I began to almost get physically ill or nauseous when I came into contact with these venomous vermin posing as the meek and loyal lambs of God. Even the Klu Klux Klan to my astonishment claimed to be Christians and this is why I believe that many Christian fundamentalists are harmful and dangerous. None are more vicious and violent than those who believe to the marrow of their bones that their interpretation of the holy truth whether it be Christian, Muslim, Jewish or whatever, is correct. This is the mindset that enables someone to murder a doctor who performs abortions and at the same time, claim they believe in the sanctity of human life. Therefore, when simple and dangerous minds such as these are told daily via television, radio, or from church pulpit that political figures who are tolerant and respectful of gays, immigrants, etc. are Satan’s disciples and should be exterminated, some of these feeble-minded people take it upon themselves to do their holy duty. Moreover, for these kinds of acts to occur, generally speaking, the type of person capable of committing such acts often is intellectually susceptible to the sway of sinister but clever minds.

This brings me to the second factor in my argument as to why so many individuals fall for the racist rhetoric of scum like Limbaugh, Beck, et al. I had never even heard of the term “anti-intellectualism,” until I stumbled across the book by Richard Hofstadter that I mentioned earlier in this essay. And one of the first things that blew my mind as I started reading this book was the distinction that Professor Hoftstadter made between intelligence and intellect. Up to this point in my life, I had considered intellect and intelligence as synonymous. I am going to include here a review of Hofstadter’s book because I feel it succinctly sums up this brilliant man’s insights on the subject, and I believe anti-intellectualism in relation to the topic we’re discussing is a key ingredient necessary to help us understand this phenomenon of human gullibility.

“The age of philosophy has passed…that of utility has commenced…” said an orator at Yale in 1844. Richard Hofstadter uses this telling quote and well as a wealth of other information to show how a thread of anti-intellectualism runs through the history and culture of “practical” America. He dissects anti-intellectualism, goes into its history and origins in the US, and shows its impact in education, politics, and business. This thorough analysis won him the 1964 Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction.

Hofstadter is careful to define what he means by the intellect and intellectuals. The intellect is the critical, creative, contemplative side of mind that examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, questions, imagines. It is the province of writers, critics, skeptics, professors, scientists, editors, journalists, lawyers and clergymen. Just being a “mental technician” in these fields is not enough; one also acts as an active custodian of values like reason and justice and truth.

Unfortunately, America’s practical culture has never embraced intellectuals. The intellectuals’ education and expertise are viewed as a form of power or privilege. Intellectuals are seen as a small arrogant elite who are pretentious, conceited, and snobbish. Geniuses’ are described as eccentric, and their talents dismissed as mere cleverness. Their cultured view is seen as impractical, and their sophistication as ineffectual. Their emphasis on knowledge and education is viewed as subversive, and it threatens to produce social decadence.

Instead, the anti-intellectuals believe that the plain sense of the common man is altogether adequate and superior to formal knowledge and expertise from schools. The truths of the heart, experience, and old-fashioned principles of religion, character, instinct, and morality are more reliable guides to life than education. After all, we idolize the self-made man in America.

Hofstadter goes on to cite examples of anti-intellectualism from the nation’s founding to

Ann Coulter, the Harpie from Hell

The Harpie from Hell!

today. For example, the founding fathers were sages, scientists, and men of cultivation, yet the Federalists attacked the brilliant Thomas Jefferson by portraying the curiosity of his active mind as too trivial and ridiculous for important affairs. Today, military ability is the kind of test of character which is viewed as good for political leadership, and voters view a show of intellect with suspicion.

In business, commercial culture tends to breed acquisitiveness rather than inquisitiveness. Business often demands group cohesion instead of independent thought. Hofstadter points this out using a number of examples. A Harvard Business School Dean said, “We don’t want our students to pay any attention to anything that might raise questions about management or business policy in their minds.” A famous chemical company’s training film spouts, “no geniuses here; just a bunch of average Americans working together.” The general point is that business is indifferent to knowledge on a broad scale; only the money-making faculty needs to be cultivated to succeed.

Turning to education, Hofstadter points out that broad public education in the US was started not for developing the mind or the pride of learning for its own sake, but for its supposed political and economic benefits. Children were viewed not minds to be developed, but as citizens to be trained for a stable democracy. He goes on to outlines the debates within the community of educators about what should be taught, especially in previous eras when most people did not go to college. Hofstader also cites studies that show that even if students study “superfluous” intellectual subjects with no practical application, there ARE practical benefits; namely, learning any subject in depth teaches one how to learn something new. (A review of the book at Amazon.com)

I believe this lengthy passage sheds a tremendous amount of light on the question as to why people in general are vulnerable mentally to charismatic figures that are adept at using propaganda techniques or dogma to manipulate their audiences. I can’t tell you how many times or adequately convey to you the sadness, the ugliness, or the fear I have felt when I’ve been in arguments/discussions with people on the subject of Americans’ general level of ignorance on so many important issues facing all of us. It has been especially painful when people whom I thought were friends, became truly ugly in their attacks on me because they felt I thought I was so much superior to them. And I must admit that at times I was guilty of extreme arrogance but in my defense, it was usually in response to a particularly insulting or disrespectful accusation against me. I try to explain to people that we all have different skills, talents, abilities, etc. and because I have spent my life in serious academic pursuits, I may come across like I think I’m superior intellectually but just as I wouldn’t question their talents as mechanics or their superior knowledge about computers or whatever their expertise was, I feel I deserve respect for the work I’ve done for over 30 years at least. This isn’t offered in the hope of gaining your sympathy but simply to underscore what the reviewer of Hofstadter’s book said. In America, what is valued above all else is the intelligence to succeed in a practical sense i.e. material wealth and people like myself who value above all else, the intellectual wealth that comes from a lifelong dedication to the pursuit of learning, knowledge, or wisdom, is usually mocked and dismissed as an excuse for a lack of ambition. I have had women whom I loved; end our relationships because they thought I wasn’t ambitious.

Above all, I believe the most important aspect of anti-intellectualism in America in regards to the subject of why so many fall for the dogmatists’ lies is as I have argued for years i.e. the two most vital intellectual skills we should try to teach everyone are the critical and analytical thinking skills necessary to empower us against all who would manipulate us. I believe our public education system basically is a conveyer belt that simply runs our children through the factory system of indoctrination and therefore teaches students the rudiments of a basic education. And because of this rote method of teaching, students’ natural curiosity is turned-off and most students acquire a bad taste in their mouth for anything academic. As a result, we have very few citizens who are true intellectuals who enjoy looking beneath the surface and are interested in questioning and following ideas across disciplines and to their source. So, as the reviewer said, intellectuals are looked upon with suspicion and are not valued by the general public. All that matters or is considered worthwhile are the trappings of success e.g. sports cars, mansions, yachts, etc. I try to explain to any who will listen by pointing out that once a person has acquired all the outward signs of wealth, what do they do? The answer is they then try to acquire “culture” by buying rare books, paintings, etc. and they attempt to educate themselves about the “higher things” by studying literature, philosophy, art, etc. Anyway, I have diverged from the topic somewhat. The point is that because of our pathetic educational system and the extreme poverty of teachers who truly inspire students, people grow up basically intellectually unarmed and vulnerable to sinister minds like Limbaugh who are paid millions of dollars to keep the rabble focused on hating & fearing each other rather than pay attention to what the corporate feudal lords are doing.

To continue, Professor Chomsky has also pointed out that the only way people can better defend themselves is by developing their critical and analytical thinking skills and this can only be done by practice. I would add that another good exercise is to write down the basic informal fallacies of logic and to refer to them every time you read something of importance e.g. a politician’s speech, a newspaper article, etc. and develop the habit of spotting the logical fallacies. This will empower you and you will be amazed at how often we are lied to in an attempt to manipulate our minds and by extension, our buying habits and our voting habits. The book The Underground History of American Education is a fascinating look at our public education system. Upon my second reading of it as I was working on my book and using the notes I’d made in the blank pages of it, I began to suspect that Gatto may be a closet, Christian fundamentalist, so-to-speak? I’m still not sure and his attacks on figures like John Dewey, Bertrand Russell, etc. also made me a bit wary but overall, he provides a lot of useful knowledge and insights into our system of educating our young. He is very careful not to come right out and call it a conspiracy and I can understand this because all Left-wing critics who make the charge of conspiracy are instantly marginalized and dismissed while the Right-wing nuts like Limbaugh, Beck, etc. who accuse Leftists of conspiracy on an almost daily basis are rarely ever challenged on it.

But here are a few interesting things I picked up from Gatto’s book, Carnegie, Ford, Rockefeller, & J.P. Morgan had a very big influence on our public education system and I couldn’t help but wonder at why four of the most powerful men in America should take such an interest in our public education system. On top of that, President Woodrow Wilson put it very bluntly and I think revealed the reason that the rich and powerful wanted a hand in shaping our public education system. Woodrow Wilson who by the way, is a left-wing conspirator according to that mental midget, Glenn Beck, with his elaborate chalkboard diagrams connecting the conspirators, claims, said this in a public speech: There are two types of education, one for a small elite who are to be the managers of our factories, etc. and the other, a simple, basic education sufficient for the workers in the factories. This is a crude paraphrase of Wilson’ speech because I don’t have the book handy right now. For the sake of brevity because I tend to get way too long-winded, I’ll sum Gatto’s book up thus, our public education system was copied from the Prussian school system. Education should ideally be a liberating and empowering experience but the powers that be, and they are a myriad of competing interests, have designed a system of educating or indoctrinating our young that trains them in conformity and obedience to authority. I strongly recommend you look up Doris Lessing on the true aims of our education system. It’s a short paragraph but it is the most succinct and honest appraisal of public education that I’ve come across. In summary, because our educational system limits or restricts students’ intellectual abilities, we are much more susceptible to charlatans’ misinformation and disinformation. If people don’t have the intellectual tools with which to defend themselves, they can be duped into supporting wars of imperial expansion which enrich the wealthy and impoverish the majority of us. And we can be fooled into voting for policies and laws which hurt us e.g. see Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? In Frank’s excellent book he shows how the powers that be dupe so many into voting for politicians and laws that hurt them financially because the politicians stir up people’s emotions with the tried and true, emotional hot-button issues of gays and abortion, which will never be settled and don’t hurt the politicians politically speaking.

In a nutshell, once again via the public education system, the status quo remains in control of us and gets ever richer and more powerful and keeps us divided and fighting and blaming one another when we should be uniting against them, our common enemy, and the true enemies of all mankind. Next in the arsenal of the corrupt and cowardly elite is the corporate media. And before I get into it, I want to point out the ludicrous, prevailing myth that there is a “liberal bias,” in the mainstream media. The New York Times is heralded as the bastion of liberal thought in America and I too, used to fall for this B.S. But if you recall, the Times beat the war drums for our invasion of Iraq louder than any other media source except Fox News, so how does that square with them be such liberals? I now simply point out the fact that the “mainstream media,” has now been reduced to six corporate conglomerates which control perhaps 98% of all the media in the U.S. i.e. television, movies, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, etc. Do you seriously believe they would allow true liberals, Leftists, progressives, anarchists who would pose a major threat to their power structure, to pontificate via their media? Hell no! That would be political as well as economic suicide and they aren’t in business to lose money or power but quite the opposite. No, this is quite simply another ploy or tactic designed to keep the ignorant public distracted and blaming the wrong ones as usual. My intellectual hero, Noam Chomsky, along with a friend of his, Edward Hermann have written the definitive book explaining the corporate control of what used to be our, or the public’s media and airwaves, it’s titled The Manufacture of Consent. I am going to include a brief paragraph here from this book because it sums the situation up very nicely and far better than I could.

The Propaganda Model (PM) was developed by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their classic book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Parthenon, 1988). They note that:
“The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news “filters,” fall under the following headings: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) “flak” as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) “anticommunism” as a national religion and control mechanism. These elements interact with and reinforce one another. The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns.” [1]

As a result of these “filters” on the overwhelming majority of the news and information we are exposed to, we are left in the darkness of our ignorance and easily manipulated into whatever agendas the masters have in mind. Chomsky and Hermann are not saying it’s a conspiracy but rather, because of these filters, journalists and etc. simply internalize these filters and subconsciously don’t even realize they have stopped thinking critically or objectively and go along with the system because that’s simply the way it is. Are you beginning to see the enormity of the forces arrayed against us and our possible liberation? This is why very few have the personal integrity or ability to speak truth to power. I’m not trying to romanticize the battle for truth and justice but simply to be as succinct as possible in showing you what a herculean task it is to struggle against these forces of corruption and destruction. Personally speaking, I don’t know why I continue to speak out? Maybe I’m just too stupid to know when it’s best to throw in the towel? I’ve never had anything to speak of e.g. a “good job,” wealth, status, etc. Maybe it’s just the stubborn Irish man in me? All I know is that I’ve come too far to give up now. I’ve been fighting all my life against unfairness, bullies, the condescension of the privileged towards the rest of us, etc. and I feel in my bones that this is the good fight and a fight worthy of having devoted m y life towards winning not just for me but for all of the oppressed.
Finally, I don’t believe it’s necessary to point out why the corporate crocodiles do what they do or how they contribute to the creation of people capable of mass killing like that which occurred in Tucson, Arizona . I just hope and pray that somehow and someday, enough of us will be awakened and unite to take back our natural birthright as human beings to an equitable and just life where there aren’t such outrageous and obscene disparities between a tiny fraction dominating the billions of the rest of us?

—Rob DeLoss, August 22, 2011

P.S.  And what the fear & hate mongers love is when we keep silent. They echo one another daily and 24/7 especially via FOX News. Let’s speak our minds and reassure one another that we’re not nut cases. Let me know what you think whether you agree or not with every point I made. Let’s carry on our own conversation and build up our voices against that 1% who are oppressing us all.

12 replies
  1. macht
    macht says:

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    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      not sure how to do this but I’m open to discussing it in more detail. Let me know and thanks for your interest. I enjoy feedback and see this as an on-going conversation i.e. blogging

      Reply
  2. iliasm
    iliasm says:

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    Reply
    • admin
      admin says:

      Thanks for responding and I hope that you will continue to visit and let me know what you think. I don’t have the corner on truth but am simply fumbling in the darkness.

      Reply

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