Why propaganda trumps truth

Linked with Paul Craig Roberts – USA.

Published on Online Journal, by Paul Craig Roberts, Sept. 21, 2009.

An article in the journal, Sociological Inquiry, [“There Must Be a Reason”: Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification, Vol. 79, No. 2. (2009), pp. 142-162. [PDF] casts light on the effectiveness of propaganda. Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little lies fail. Governments can get away with mass deceptions, but politicians cannot get away with sexual affairs.

The researchers explain why so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has become obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with the event. Americans developed elaborate rationalizations based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged Iraqi involvement and became deeply attached to their beliefs. Their emotional involvement became wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality. They looked for information that supported their beliefs and avoided information that challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter …  

… Why are the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are demanding a real investigation dismissed as conspiracy theorists? The 9/11 skeptics know far more about the events of that day than do the uninformed people who call them names. Most of the people I know who are content with the government’s official explanation have never examined the evidence. Yet, these no-nothings shout down those who have studied the matter closely.

There are, of course, some kooks. I have often wondered if these kooks are intentionally ridiculous in order to discredit knowledgeable skeptics.

Another problem that the 9/11 Truth Movement faces is that their natural allies, those who oppose the Bush/Obama wars and the Internet sites that the antiwar movement maintains, are fearful of being branded traitorous and anti-American. It is hard enough to oppose a war against those the US government has successfully demonized. Antiwar sites believe that if they permit 9/11 to be questioned, it would brand them as “terrorist sympathizers” and discredit their opposition to the war. An exception is Information Clearing House.

Antiwar sites do not realize that, by accepting the 9/11 explanation, they have undermined their own opposition to the war. Once you accept that Muslim terrorists did it, it is difficult to oppose punishing them for the event. In recent months, important antiwar sites, such as antiwar.com, have had difficulty with their fundraising, with their fundraising campaigns going on far longer than previously. They do not understand that if you grant the government its premise for war, it is impossible to oppose the war.

As far as I can tell, most Americans have far greater confidence in the government than they do in the truth. During the Great Depression, the liberals with their New Deal succeeded in teaching Americans to trust the government as their protector. This took with the left and the right. Neither end of the political spectrum is capable of fundamental questioning of the government. This explains the ease with which our government routinely deceives the people.

Democracy is based on the assumption that people are rational beings who factually examine arguments and are not easily manipulated. Studies are not finding this to be the case. In my own experience in scholarship, public policy, and journalism, I have learned that everyone from professors to high school dropouts has difficulty with facts and analyses that do not fit with what they already believe. The notion that “we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead” is an extremely romantic and idealistic notion. I have seldom experienced open minds even in academic discourse or in the highest levels of government. Among the public at large, the ability to follow the truth wherever it may lead is almost non-existent.

The US government’s response to 9/11, regardless of who is responsible, has altered our country forever. Our civil liberties will never again be as safe as they were. America’s financial capability and living standards are forever lower. Our country’s prestige and world leadership are forever damaged. The first decade of the 21st century has been squandered in pointless wars, and it appears the second decade will also be squandered in the same pointless and bankrupting pursuit.

The most disturbing fact of all remains: The 9/11 event responsible for these adverse happenings has not been investigated. (full text).

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