Friday, June 12, 2015

Planned Ignorance

There is a well-funded effort in this country to hide, suppress, distort and outright kill the truth––to kill the truth about a lot of things––about climate science, about the economy, about the ways concentrated wealth distorts our democracy and our justice system. Mostly they are determined to suppress the truth about their dangerous power. They have the power to hide the truth, to distort the public conversation, to suppress the public’s right to know things. They benefit from our ignorance and confusion.

Truth and honesty and understanding are inconvenient for certain powerful people and groups. The Founders of this country believed and never hesitated to say that the full and honest truth is a public good. It’s a conversation, a process, not a fixed truth but something we are constantly working out. This is why the public conversation cannot be a private one carried on in board rooms. But some very superior people hate the notion that the public has a right to anything. They believe nothing is deserved, that no one is entitled to anything unless they have the money to buy it. They believe this knowing that they have a growing monopoly on wealth.

Of course those with infinite wealth think it's appropriate (and safest for them) to keep information from the public: nobody is entitled to the truth. They own it and can dole it out as they like. They think nothing is deserved–––except the wealth they inherited, their dividend checks, their annual bonus. Owning for a living entitles a person to everything; working for a living entitles you to nothing. The democrats who founded this country invented our system of government to guard against this idea of narrow privilege. But that history is also being suppressed and distorted.

(The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an essay about this suppression and withholding of information from the public.)

Realizing that knowledge is dangerous to them, the fossil fuel billionaires have leveraged their influence to blackmail universities and professors and scientists. “If you publish your findings you will lose your professorship. You will lose the funding for your research. Your university won’t get the grants it needs in other areas. You will be targeted by our news organizations. We will question your integrity. We will investigate your private life. We will target your family.” Al Gore gave his film a perfect title: the overwhelming science on climate change was an Inconvenient Truth. He became inconvenient. They succeeded in making him disappear.

(From the Guardian: 125 million dollars have been spent hiding, disputing and distorting key climate science the public is entitled to know.)

Luckily there is some pushback… But what this does is promote the idea that climate scientists aren’t sure about what is happening. And the media owned by the fossil fuel billionaires will broadcast “the controversy” which doesn’t really exist.

(From VOX: luckily there is money being spent to get the climate science out there.)

I mentioned that concentrated wealth has also distorted the measuring and regulation of our economy. It’s a fundamental conundrum: is cash value the only measure of validity? Actually, the answer is Yes and No. Those with the most money can, in the words of Karl Rove, “create their own reality.”

(An excellent article from Bloomberg about the illogic and biased nature of modern economics and finance.)

But bad math and bad economics will have consequences somewhere. Great wealth insulates the wealthy from consequences. Great wealth has even been able to persuade the millions who suffer from the the wrongdoing of the billionaire class that these consequences were properly paid out and to applaud the vulgar excess of the billionaire class the way the poor used to applaud kings and queens. It’s all very different from what Franklin and Jefferson and Paine and Washington planned. Of course Franklin warned about this very thing.

Here's some further reading:

A new book about the problem of Willful Blindness.

What is the Dunning Kruger Effect?

What is Illusory Superiority?

What is Hanlon's Razor?

Why do some people believe knowledge is a curse?

(Now that we have a full Republican Clown Car) what is the Imposter Syndrome?

What is the ultimate insult you can throw at a foolish pundit?

Meanwhile, Red States across America are rewarding their citizens by dismantling their education systems.

(The Nation reporting on the dismantling of higher ed in North Carolina)

(Salon reports on college dropout Scott Walker's defunding of the university system in Wisconsin.)

Adam Smith was the father of capitalism. Today's capitalists worship him. But (as reported in MinnPost) even Adam Smith knew the immense value of a liberal education.

(Rolling Stone looks at the dystopia that will remain after the oligarchs are done with our public education system.)

And even if the public is able to think clearly, Congress doesn’t care. Why? Money. Concentrated wealth and power has completely corrupted our democratic system.

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