The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Astro Turf Wars

It's great having Greenfyre around again. Perhaps he should call his blog Feetfyre instead. He certainly puts matters back into the right ethical perspective. It's easy, in the ivory tower, to lose sight of the urgency of the emergency. Greenfyre doesn't let us forget.

I'd like to especially thank him for this little video clip, apparently from a documentary I haven't seen called (Astro) Turf Wars.

It has been obvious for years that this is going on. For every person who votes corporate-libertarian out of conviction there are twenty who do so out of a perverse sense of identification. (Perverse, because in the end they are identifying with and voting with the people most actively damaging their conservative, rural communities.) A crucial part of this is voting in solidarity with one's peers and neighbors. So an illusion that one's peers and neighbors holds a certain opinion is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

We've all seen how discussions of climate on newspapers or special interest websites are immediately swamped by denialist nonsense. This reinforces the bullshit about an "elite" trying to manipulate the masses. The lie goes round the world before the truth puts its boots on, and that is because people are encouraged to lie. And how it works at the grass roots has to be something like this:




What else could it possibly have been?

It is nice to finally see some evidence emerging, though. Add the evidence of this video to sockpuppetgate and diggpot dome.

The question that remains is how to fight back against this lie. The population is genuinely angry, but their anger is being stirred against the wrong people.

11 comments:

David B. Benson said...

The system filters out the thoughtful and replaces them with the faithful.
---- Anonymous financial analyst writing in The Economist.

Marion Delgado said...

I don't want to be a pessimist, but I have noted often that the zealots seemingly have no lives. The ability to moderate EVERY forum is indispensable - I guess that's one thing people should do reflexively.

When people press me for why I am so committed to the "Science Side" one thing I always point out is that thinking scientifically should make you substantially less paranoid, pretty much the point of Sagan's title "Demon-Haunted World."

manuel "moe" g said...

MT: "The population is genuinely angry, but their anger is being stirred against the wrong people."

Actually, since the whole thing is an exercise in ego preservation, their anger is correctly pointed at those who think they are misguided and willing to say it to their face.

Those who think they are stupid, but who are very careful never to say it to their face - I am speaking of their corporate masters - never enter into it.

Reminding the Glibertarians and other half-wits that they are dancing monkeys, without even the benefit of having peanuts hurled at them by the organ grinder, seems to fumigate them from a forum (a lot of noisy dark blather from them first, but then they finally hurl themselves out the exit.)

When every tool of reason fails, use mockery.

Neven said...

That was a pretty good documentary. Made my wife sick to the stomach, the poor thing.

Steve Bloom said...

Nicely put, Moe. Just like Greenfyre, it seems you're willing to carry grudges.

Michael, this campaign started ~50 years ago and was in its current form as of ~15 years ago, although of course the specifics of the propaganda part have changed along with the communications technology. The crux of it was the church-based organizing using abortion as a wedge. Once the step of getting people to vote agasinst their own interests based on a single issue had been taken, broadening it to include other issues was easy. The anti-unionism, e.g., has to be seen as of a piece with the climate change denial. You let yourself get distracted by the Pielkes and Kloors of the world, who while not part of that sub-culture have signed on to aiding and abetting climate denialists for career purposes (plus in Kloor's case an understandable unwillingness to face the implications of the facts for his young children).

On the plus side, the portion of the population to whom all of this appeals is probably only ~30%. Even so, and as we have seen, if they stay tightly focused and others do not, they can hold political sway. But history tells us that it's difficult to hold such a movement together for very long in a pluralistic socity (which is why things like the Citizens United ruling [and, going way back, the elimination of the FCC fairness doctrine] should be seen as part of an effort to make society less pluralistic in favor of the oligarchs).

The strategists for the oligarchs understand this latter point quite well, which is why they have settled on a strategy of doing as much damage as possible whenever they can. Absent an effective counter-movement that shows some sign of an awareness of what's going on, it's an effective approach since it allows for what I suppose we might call backfires. The oligarchs will lather, rinse, repeat for as long as they're allowed to by the majority. Reagrding the Democratic Party in particular, they'll remain part of the problem so long as they continue to see the oligarchs as part of who they represent; Obama crystallizes this nicely.

His analysis isn't perfect, but as I've said I think David Brin nails all of this pretty well.

Steve Bloom said...

See here, Michael. The behavior is quite distinguishable from the current set of issues being debated.

Dan Olner said...

Steve, that's such a good link I'm just going to have dump Hazlitt's quote here:

They do not celebrate the triumphs of their enemies as their own: it is with them a more feeling disputation. They never give an inch of ground that they can keep; they keep all that they can get; they make no concessions that can redound to their own discredit; they assume all that makes for them; if they pause it is to gain time; if they offer terms it is to break them: they keep no faith with enemies: if you relax in your exertions, they persevere the more: if you make new efforts, they redouble theirs. While they give no quarter, you stand upon mere ceremony. While they are cutting your throat, or putting the gag in your mouth, you talk of nothing but liberality, freedom of inquiry, and douce humanité. Their object is to destroy you, your object is to spare them---to treat them according to your own fancied dignity. They have sense and spirit enough to take all advantages that will further their cause: you have pedantry and pusillanimity enough to undertake the defence of yours, in order to defeat it. It is the difference between the efficient and the inefficient; and this again resolves itself into the difference between a speculative proposition and a practical interest.

ijish said...

What Moe, Bloom, and Olner said.

To which I'll add: MT, if you're actually considering questions like 'Should I pledge my firstborn daughter to Anthony Watts in the hope that he'll take a strong stand against using automated sockpuppets?' then you need to stop eating those magic corporate pizzas or cookies. Because, well, you never know what's inside them.

-- frank

Lazar said...

"The question that remains is how to fight back against this lie."

... by doing what you are doing
... transparency

1:18... "80% of the books I put a star on I don't read"

amazing, but... fighting truth is a losing bet long-run... as the Church of Rome found out ~ 800 years before the internets...
overcome tribalism... prove that a non-partisan source can be trusted
... *not* by aligning conservatives' 'real' interests with every liberal cause on the planet
... not by marking climate change as one with a liberal agenda
... you ain't gonna get my support for the union mafias
... nor obamacare
... nor high public spending
... and you don't need to

Lazar said...

... nor will conservative trust be gained by the conceited tripe of digby;

"Liberals are motivated by principles and tend to believe that personal honor can be spared in political combat [...] the relentlessness of the Republican machine and its propensity for playing hardball, it pays sometimes to remember that their ruthless tactics are actually a matter of temperament rather than ideology. Conservatives have always been this way."

ijish said...

Lazar, are you seriously suggesting that opposition to sockpuppetry is merely a "liberal cause"?

*facepalm*

-- frank