Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dumb Down the People to Rip them Off

Information = Power, control and wealth — that's why the very wealthy clamor to monopolize it.

Since the days of the Pony Express, the telegraph and old fashion newspapers, it took ordinary people a long time to discover the shenanigans that were being perpetuated upon them. Until the U.S. government's invention of the internet, which gave us the world wide web and social media, we were pretty much at the mercy of the Mushroom Syndrome: kept in the dark like mushrooms and fed bullshit. The information boom, the prevalence of computers and a hunger for instant and reliable information, was a transformation and opportunity for common folks to see what was happening in the world around them, without having to rely on slow and/or restricted sources of information. But many of the same corporations who enabled us with this informational freedom (and profited immensely while dodging taxes) are now also trying to limit it to us with "net neutrality".

And these same corporations use their corporate profits to buy media outlets, lobby our politicians (whose lobbyists write many of our laws), and finance political campaigns — and they also fund think tanks and pay economists to feed us all sorts of BS to influence our opinions and keep us "dumbed down" for their own economic gains by getting us to vote against our own best interests (like more trade agreements that only benefit the large multinational corporations.)

Here are three inter-related posts that I think you should read (Excerpts below, but I would suggest you read the entire posts if you have the time.)

First, from Salon: The Big “Middle Class” Rip-Off - "So many of us are clueless about business and finance. Here's why that's just the way the investment class likes it." (I liked this post so much that I shared it on Facebook, Twitter and Google-Plus)

Living a middle-class life is an impediment to meaningful change. We are taught that we have everything we should dare to expect and capitalism has “worked” for us. Middle-class people are also urged to hate poor people, and those who cannot or will not work. They are the “other,” the moocher class. Poor people are the reason you haven’t gotten a raise in five years or that your house is worthless or that your company only gives you one week off a year. Those who have something detest those with nothing. We’re letting rich people get away with fleecing America, while turning our rage on poor people.

When you examine it, you cannot blame the rich for the oligarchy we’ve become — or for what looks more and more like the return of Dark Age feudalism. Rather, the blame lies with my fellow work-a-day slobs who vote for politicians and policies that favor investment and wealth over the work of regular people. Middle-class Americans are self-flagellating and dispirited over their own lack of wealth, as if it were a character flaw. At the same time, they fall for the deception that everyone can be rich when, when of course, most people lack the connections, education and plain old luck to even get close.

For my entire life (and I don’t think this will ever change) I’ve watched friends and family engage in one Fred Flintstone-esque, get-rich-quick scheme after another. I’ve also been caught up in more of these than I’m comfortable admitting, and they always fail, without exception. At the same time (at least in my own circles) this starry-eyed group of middle- and lower-class strivers vote overwhelming for the Republican Party. I find a direct correlation with an unlikelihood to ever become wealthy corresponding with a stronger commitment to vote Republican. They further solidify institutional advantages of the business elite to which they will never, ever belong.

As a public service to every member of the get-rich-quick community I offer this: You will never (ever) become millionaires. Not with a “paying gold claim” or a giant Amway distributorship. Not with a system for winning at blackjack or a rich uncle about to croak. I beg you, for your own sanity and well-being, stop voting for more benefits for the monocle-wearing, martini-sipping, trust fund class. They care nothing about you, your feelings, your family, or life or death. They already have plenty, so stop enriching them at your own expense.

As a species, the American-brand human is reluctant to talk about fiscal failure and our own constant victimization at the hands of faceless corporations. Furthermore, our misplaced “ethics” in dealing with big business, a group devoid of anything resembling morality, hurts regular people and society as a whole. If I could legally find a way to screw over a bank, I’d do it without hesitation. The financial industry would screw me six ways from Sunday to save a nickel. The least I can do is return the favor.

That story fits very nicely with this recent post at the New York Review of Books: "Age of Ignorance"

"It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught ... Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I'm concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant."

My comment to that post:

Many people believe religions were created by "the powers that be" to keep the masses "dumbed down" for political and economic gain — until there was The Age of Enlightenment. Then there were the Southern plantation owners who didn't want their slaves to read. If not for the proliferation of the internet, can you imagine what the media (90% of which is owned by 6 corporations) would be spoon-feeding us today? (Now they have to put more effort into spinning the facts to remain even remotely credible). It's frightening that a major political party in the US has people who believe the Earth is only 8,000-10,000 years old, but yet sits on a congressional subcommittee for science and “intelligence”. That's why net neutrality is so important (and why Fox News is so bad), because the corporations are trying to "dumb us down" again — because now, slowly but surely, many of us have seen the light in The New Age of Enlightenment (thanks to the internet). It’s a shame that too many people don’t have the time to better inform themselves (because they’re too busy just trying to survive), and they have to rely on ideological sound bites from the TV or radio.

My word for the day is "mediamacro" – a form of economics that the media uses to report things that benefits mostly them and their most favored political party regarding the economy. Below is from another article I just read:

The Conservatives have kept to the line that spending had to be reduced because the debt and the deficit were too high. Their argument has always been, "We have a need for austerity because you have borrowed too much" was a simple message that everyone understood, even if it didn’t make much sense when applied to a government during a recession. There would be the appropriate nudges and winks by the politicians that, once elected, this tough fiscal line might be privately modified to make room for tax cuts, but the official public line would be "debt implies austerity".

Those who are better informed about the macroeconomics, whether on the right or left, have always understood that this was cover for a desire to shrink the size of government. However this perspective hardly ever saw the light of day in the media. It is tempting to lapse into conspiracy mode at this point — to believe that the rules of "mediamacro" are whatever suits a particular set of interests. But for myths to work well, they have to be based on half-truths.

People understand that when they borrow too much, hard times have to follow. That cornerstone can support many other beliefs. The bank manager who says you must reduce your spending is not popular, but you know he is being responsible. A great deal of the advantage that the Conservatives enjoy in terms of economic competence in the polls comes from this idea (and also by associating Labor with creating the debt problem).

It should be very difficult for the conservatives to argue that future austerity is a painful necessity, while also making plans for large tax cuts — mostly for the rich (and these tax cuts will always be paid for with unspecified spending cuts). Furthermore, those in the media with any self respect, should press the Conservatives to outline exactly where the money will come from to pay for the tax cuts. Then the choice becomes, should we spend the money on things like infrastructure and healthcare, or on tax cuts for those who don't even need them?

* Full Disclosure: The last segment was slightly edited from this recent article about the problems they're having in the UK (not the US), but it sounds exactly like what we're experiencing here. So all the riots, uprisings and protests — all around the world — have many common denominators - - - - - - The rich keep the working-class stupid and powerless to make it easier for them to steal from us (an age old strategy that has always worked since the dawn of mankind.)

1 comment:

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