"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How we think we think

I swore to Irene that I'd stay out of politics, at least until summer. And I know many, maybe most, of my friends are Bernie folk so this may irritate some of you.

But this article is IMPORTANT.


Anyway, it's not really a violation. Please read carefully.

The article TAKES NO POSITION ON HILLARY VS BERNIE. If you read this article as taking sides in Hillary vs Bernie you are missing the point.

This article is about how we think, how we think we think, and how we are manipulated.

At the risk of violating my "parole", let me be explicit about something this article assumes you understand but does not actually say.

Sanders has excellent points, and it's a good thing that he has put these issues on the table in a way that Mrs Clinton, who actually needs to win a national election in the conventional way, can't. But his success in doing so is in part because the Karl Roves and Frank Luntzes of the world have been planting BS in people's minds for decades about prominent Democrats, and especially the Clintons and Obamas. Are Rove,  Luntz and company actually quietly supporting Sanders? I wouldn't put it past them.


tonylearns said...

They totally could be supportig Sanders. In have seen more than a few Bernei supporters parroting bullshit right wing talkig points agaisnt Hillary. While I mostlynoost strong suport for Bernie, at least 1/4
Of what I am doing is swatting irrational Hilary attacks

Tom said...

There's a climate lesson to be learned from this. Much as Hillary is unfairly tarred by the brush of unwelcome associations, so too have been people such as Bjorn Lomborg, for example, being excoriated for having the nerve to speak at a George Marshall sponsored symposium. Examples abound.

Some people are forever branded because they wrote a book that was unwelcome in certain quarters.

Kevin O'Neill said...

As a recovering political addict, I'm trying to keep my distance. Clinton or Sanders? My preference is Sanders, but Clinton versus the eventual candidate emerging from the GOP clown car? Do we really need to ask?

That said, Hillary is not Bill, but I'm not sure there's a lot of policy difference. The biggest difference is in campaigning; Bill was the consummate politician, Hillary often seems a bit uneasy.

I guess many people are swayed by the mass media, businesses and campaigns wouldn't spend billions on advertising if they didn't think it worked. Of course I was once characterized as an ideal candidate for an "anti-focus group," so my value as a media consumer is inversely related :)

But in politics it's almost never about persuading people to vote for you. It's about identifying your supporters and making sure they show up at the polls. To this end, enthusiasm really helps. Hillary appears to have benefited from Bill's reputation as the 'first black President' -- and in Democratic politics that's a demographic that you cannot win without. Sanders inability to make inroads into the African-American vote probably sank his chances. Unfortunately, though she's dominating that demographic, overall Democratic turnout has been rather weak throughout the primary season.

I believe Sanders or Clinton will win the general election, but I was also forced to read H.L. Mencken:

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Gingerbaker said...

Bernie polls better then Hillary against Republican candidates in a general election. In lots of polls. With way less negatives, and more positives among unaligned voters. The man has a history of winning elections, and is setting new milestones for campaign contributions.

So.... from whence is your insinuation that he is backed by Rove? Are you implying that Rove would back Sanders because Rove believes he is the strongest candidate to defeat Trump, who, presumably, Rove detests? Or are you just leaking anti-Sanders innuendo?

Michael Tobis said...

I'm pretty sure they would, because they don't expect Sanders to be the nominee. In a scenario where Clinton is nominated, the more animosity is raised toward her among Sanders supporters, the weaker the chances of dislodging the Republican chokehold on government.

Regarding the Democratoc nomination, my preference is uncertain. I will say only that I'd greatly prefer Elizabeth Warren to either of the Democrats running.

Gingerbaker said...

"I will say only that I'd greatly prefer Elizabeth Warren to either of the Democrats running.

Now, that's interesting! I'd love to hear more about that. :)

Michael Tobis said...

Nope. I'm trying not to think about the election. Writing about it would be self-defeating.

I just think it's important to understand that our opinions are not entirely of our own making, nor of the making of people we respect.

Susan Anderson said...

Thanks for the article. I too don't want to wade into the morass, and have noted the simplistic, propaganda-driven arguments. It's interesting that Frank Luntz now understands that climate change is real and happening.

It is particularly helpful to note that someone in a position of power has been got at by the Dark Money (do get and read the book, or at least all the Jane Mayer New Yorker articles, though if you've been following along with DeSmog and

As I get older, I am distressed at the magic thinking and hero seeking that paints things in black and white. So many Bernie voters have a take my toys and go home attitude about the dirty business of politics. While in my darker moments I face the impossibility of the civilization-wide effort required to avoid the worst, I certainly don't want to hasten the worst by refusing to compromise along the way. In my 60s, I still expect a couple of useful decades, and a Republican will bring things down a lot faster, in my lifetime. If you're younger or have kids, it is even more unconscionable to accept the horrible if you can't have the "pure" in leadership.

We wouldn't be in this hole in the first place if those who follow reality had bothered to vote in 2014. They shouldn't be waiting for a hero, but digging in.

The point about propaganda and manipulation being so universally prevalent that it affects people who are otherwise caring and sensible is a good one. And the point that the exaggerated hatred is being stoked is important as well.

As for Lomborg, along with others even more "reasonable" like Andy Revkin, they too have a lot to answer for. It is not OK to avoid responsibility under the excuse of "maybe it's not so bad." This is exactly the way to make things worse, and big fossil is all for it.

Susan Anderson said...

hmmm ... left that hanging at DeSmog - meant to reference John Mashey who has done the same digging as Jane Mayer of Dark Money. It's a cesspit and hard for reasonable people to believe profiteers would undermine the truth for profit, but they do.

That said, there is a part of the population that regards any mention of serious research on what is going on as biased and dishonest. Evidence isn't evidence, and reality isn't reality; only belief counts, which is why real science and actual climate change is treated as political. It seems accumulated evidence doesn't matter either.

While I have spent a lot of time as a "seeker" in religious communities, this reminds me that in general most people are brought up to believe in things that cannot be proven, and they constitute a significant majority. I don't like religion bashing, but it is true that if one believes the basic history in any religious text, one might not find it difficult to think faith is more important than evidence.