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[Nov 5, 2011] Differing Attitudes Toward Genuine Hypocrisy

Quote from comments: "If you have the right ideology, none of your transgressions matter to the GOP base. "
Nov 5, 2011 |

Paul Krugman has a question for you:

Genuine Hypocrisy, And Attitudes Thereto, by Paul Krugman: Not sure how much blogging I can do this weekend... But here's an item that caught my eye, given what I wrote about hypocrisy yesterday:

Deadbeat Rep. Joe Walsh, Who Owes $100k In Child Support, Receives 'Pro-Family' Award From Family Research Council.

Now that's real hypocrisy - and if the past is any indication, it won't matter at all for Rep. Walsh's career.

There's a big difference between the left and the right in such matters, one that I don't fully understand, although I'm trying. Here's how it goes: if a liberal politician is caught behaving badly - enriching himself while preaching the need to help the poor, or just in general showing himself less than admirable by having an affair, visiting call girls, whatever - his career is over.

But if a conservative politician who preaches stern traditional morality is caught engaging in actions that are at odds with what he preaches - buying sex, taking wide stances in restrooms, or, in this case, stiffing his family even while preaching family values - he may well ride right through the scandal. Witness what's going on now with Herman Cain.

How can this be? Here's what I understand: on the right, "moral values" are considered to be, literally, God-given principles. And a politician is well-regarded for advocating those values, no matter what he does personally. Instead of his personal behavior devaluing his political position, his political position excuses his personal behavior; a philandering politician who preaches the sacred bond of marriage is considered a good man because of what he says, no matter what he does.

And I sort of understand the logic of that position; if the cause is what matters, the flaws of those who serve that cause can be overlooked.

In a way the liberal attitude is more puzzling. Why don't people like me show an equal willingness to overlook the sins of those who espouse ideas we like? And we don't. I'm willing to cut some slack; it really matters not at all whom FDR may have turned to for solace, but I can't imagine forgiving a liberal politician who behaved like Walsh.

The answer may lie in a greater degree of openness, which makes the principles less absolute and therefore gives greater weight to the personal attributes of the messenger. But I'm not entirely sure. Discuss.

I am not sure about this, but let me give another explanation a try anyway. The right believes that the need for government programs derives from the lack of morals of the lower classes. That is, the reason some people are asked to give up a portion of their income to support others -- a redistribution of income the right abhors -- is because these people make poor choices. If they had the necessary morals, if they behaved better, we wouldn't have to take so many resources from those who are successful and waste them on people who could do better if they only had the right value structure.

A successful politician, businessperson, etc. obviously doesn't have these problems. They are successful and their transgressions won't, in the end, result in someone else having to give up income to bail them or their families out. They are not the problem the right is trying to solve. If a poor person takes drugs, endangers their family, drinks too much, etc. the result is a strain on social services and hence on the successful. But when a successful person doesn't live up to the moral code in every way, there's no danger that it will cost others anything -- there are no social externalities to worry about as there are with the poor.

The moral code for the right is really about finding a way to stop asking the good, hard-working people to support people who could support themselves, but make bad choices the hard-working who care about their families would never make. Everyone makes mistakes and people who are basically moral -- and have proven they must be by their success -- should be forgiven when they step over the line, politicians included, it's the fundamentally immoral people that are the problem.

The left, of course, believes social conditions rather than exogenous personal choices have a lot to do with economic outcomes, and that part of this is due to the moral transgressions of those who are better off exploiting the vulnerable. Thus, moral transgressions by the powerful are harder to forgive -- they are a sign that the powerful have no respect for those who are less powerful (e.g. sexual harassment). A tax cheat probably cheats on wages, safety, etc. too, their morals matter for the economic outcomes of the less fortunate, and transgressions are harder to forgive.

But surely you'll have better explanations in comments...

Posted by Mark Thoma on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 09:27 AM in Economics, Politics, Social Insurance

David RIcardo

"if a liberal politician is caught behaving badly - enriching himself while preaching the need to help the poor, or just in general showing himself less than admirable by having an affair, visiting call girls, whatever - his career is over."

Sure - like tax cheat Tim Geithner, whose career certainly did not end when he was named Treasury Secretary. Or Al Gore, whose environmentalist credentials remain intact despite an extravagant lifestyle of private jet travel, limousines, and enormous energy-wasting homes. Or William Jefferson Clinton, re-elected to the Presidency despite a sordid history of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and abuse of power while Governor of Arkansas.

Krugman's premise is wrong, a normal state of events for him.

David RIcardo...

It's funny to see people use exceptions to try to disprove a general trend. Yes, there are exceptions, but they don't challenge the fundamental narrative. The differences in the attitudes of the two sides is very evident when the totality of th evidence is considered.

It's as though finding one person who truly needs social insurance would convince the right they are wrong about the need to dismantle it. Exceptions don't disprove the rule, and using them to try to disprove an argument simply shows how shallow the counterargument is.

David RIcardo...

And do we need to recall Teddy? Krugman and Thoma: superb economists, mediocre-at-best at poli sci.

David RIcardo...

Geithner is a wall st insider!!

Tax cheat is an accolade for them.

David RIcardo...

And... I am still waiting for the hypocrisy part. Unless you really have no clue what it means. Can understand that if you are a cancervative.

David RIcardo...

Or ------- --------- -------, re-elected to the ---------- despite a sordid history of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and abuse of power while Governor of --------.

[This is simply lying, thoroughly malicious lying.]

Mark A. Sadowski

"This is simply lying, thoroughly malicious lying."

Thanks. It took over four hours but finally someone had the gumption to point that out.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 02:22 PM


David RIcardo...

"Sure - like tax cheat --- --------"

Again, this is simply malicious lying. Slander is after all slander.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 02:18 PM

Binky the cranky bear

David RIcardo...

The utility of Ricardo (ha!) in this case is the observation that for persons self-defining as conservative the manufactured narrative is an article of faith; believing in the narratives presented by their priesthood (Fox, AEI, Heritage, WSJ, Limbaugh, Hannity, ad nauseum) is not simply a chosen lifestyle but a crucial identifier of membership in the tribe.
Conservatism today is not conservative; it is reactionary. It refuses to accept data because often real world data conflict with the narrative of the church. Every pimple on members of the other tribes is a sin worthy of condemnation and death; every failure of doctrine, adherence and character in the conservative tribe is worth parsing and examination. Think about it-John Edwards by all accounts is 1/3 as morally flawed as Newt Gingrich. Bill Clinton, known sinner, is still married to his first wife! By some measures, he never even cheated on his wife at all. Unlike Reagan, Dole, etc. who broke their sacred marriage vows over and over.
American Conservatism could not exist without hypocrisy-it thrives on and encourages hypocrisy. Drugs? Limbaugh, Beck, Dole, McCarthy-junkies hooked on drugs. Homosexuality? Mary Cheney, Ted Haggard, Wide Stance McIdaho. Marriage vows? Sanford, heck, every Republican convicting Clinton was philandering during the show trials and some where homewrecking pervs. The hypocrisy and high moral dudgeon of conservatives is a drug-it makes the sinning more exciting. Liberals rationalize that stuff out and think it to death. Conservatives do things they know are literally, biblically evil simply to enhance the pleasure of the transgression. That's why they hate the poor but claim to be Christian, make elaborate blame the victim fantasies to absolve their poor behavior and policy, and revel in torture and brutality executed on their behalf-it's a turn on for them.

Right now Ricardo is enjoying the warm afterglow and a cigarette for having lashed out at people he doesn't know with facts not established but having shouted the fight song of his tribe.


Difference is between one side putting facts over ideology, while the other side places ideology over facts.

If you have the right ideology, none of your transgressions matter to the GOP base.

Darryl FKA Ron

You did a pretty good job already. The only thing I have to add, but in no way contradict, are the long standing moral judgements of the Right and Left first (to my knowledge within enlightened Western thought at least) epitomized by the writing of Charles Hobbs and John Locke. Hobbs on the Right just accepted that mankind was basically evil and needed to be restrained and to some extent had a proto-Neitzchean materialistic view of the golden rule; i.e., the man with the most gold rules and rightly so.

John Locke actually thought that the natural state of mankind was noble, moral, and even cooperative unless invited to conflict by necessary competition to survive.

Darryl FKA Ron...

Presumably you mean Thomas Hobbes.


"- his career is over."

Charlie Rangel
John Conyers
the late John "show me the money" Murtha

So maybe not.

ken melvin


I'm obliged to respond to your right wing parity crap.

It was righters such as Dan Burton, Henry Hyde, Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, David Vitter, ... paragons all, who tried to impeach Clinton without just cause. It was not Clinton, Kennedy, Rangle or any other dem who did or even proposed doing the same the the most deserving Bush and Cheney. You arses cried parity with Abramoff when it wasn't even close. Issa is one of yours.

Your right never questioningly kowtows to the likes of the Kochs, Limbaugh, and Norquist.

Your right is, in the main, responsible for the mess the country is in; most of all, your Sainted ronnie.

No parity. Not even close.




All the people you listed were in the house. They owned their districts. A national stage is different.



So whatever they do is ok????

Jeff Wood

I agree with David on his examples, but not his implied hypocrisy. Geithner is a perfect example.

I think it has more to do with whom you LIKE and don't like. The left loves Bill Clinton, irregardless of his personal failings, because he's well, a Democrat with the correct Democratic values. And the right loves George Bush, irregardless of his big government, free spending ways, and Joe Walsh, even though he is a deadbeat dad, because they are, well, Republicans with the correct moral compass.

Which hurts Mark's argument a bit. After all, if Walsh isn't supporting his family, who is? The rest of us? The right shouldn't like that very much. But you hear no objections.

The left forgives "it's own" for many failings they condemn in the right. And the right forgives "it's own" for many failings they condemn in the left.

It depends on whom you like.

Darryl FKA Ron

Jeff Wood...

"It depends on whom you like."

That's true for celebrities about which we become convinced that we know well enough to like or dislike. Such personalized commitment bias does override impersonal value judgements.

However, lots of conservatives did think GW Bush was a reckless big spender, but still like him as a personality on some level.

Likewise, many liberals though Bill Clinton was conservative tool, but they still liked his personality on some level. Mark's argument stands up pretty well when it comes to value judgements in context to the run of the mill elite that do not enjoy the prejudice accorded to celebrity icons.

Public misjudgement is not always just a two dimensional pathology.


Homework. Read all of chapter 7 ahead and before Sunday School. /snark


"Anyone know why (Democrat) Jon Corzine has not been perped walked into a federal courthouse yet?"

Anyone know why thousands of Wall Streeters haven't been perp walked yet? Yes I mean _thousands_. As William K. Black points out his work at the OCC in the wake of the S&L crisis led to over one thousand criminal convictions, and the S&L crisis was small potatoes compared to what's happened in recent years.

"Oh wait, he is an Obama campaign funds bundler."

True, but it goes beyond that. Other than a few insider trading cases (which for some reason is the only thing that gets prosecuted) the Wall Street crowd has the sort of immunity from prosecution that helped spark the French Revolution.



While I don't dispute the need for more perp walks, the co-mingled of funds is a really simple case, yes or no.

If yes, perp walk.

Matt Young

The left right and center have the same attitude toward hypocrisy. As long as they are entangled in a restrictive environment, they can have some and blame it on the system. I, myself, am quite the hypocrite.


Matt Young...

Me, too!

But I have standards.


Mark Thoma: "The moral code for the right is really about finding a way to stop asking the good, hard-working people to support people who could support themselves, but make bad choices the hard-working who care about their families would never make. Everyone makes mistakes and people who are basically moral -- and have proven they must be by their success -- should be forgiven when they step over the line, politicians included, it's the fundamentally immoral people that are the problem."

I think that you have hit the nail on the head. :)

To add to that are attribution theory and cognitive dissonance. To what do we attribute bad behavior? It is a mistake, or is it characteristic of the person? To many conservatives, loose sexual behavior is characteristic of liberals. So if a liberal politician preaches or pretends marital fidelity, later infidelity is taken as showing his real colors. By contrast, if a conservative pol strays, that is not taken as characteristic. (BTW, I don't think that Newt is getting much of a pass at this point.)

The attitude towards the poor is partly explained by Weber in "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism". Material reward is seen as proof of worth. (This is in sharp contrast to the medieval view.) It follows that lack of material reward is seen as proof of unworthiness. Cognitive dissonance comes in in regard to our own lack of charity towards the poor and disadvantaged. This dilemma is especially sharp for Christians, who taught to treat the lowliest person as they would treat the Christ. We justify our uncharitable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with the thought that the poor are, with some exceptions, unworthy of our charity. And when we do give charity, we require them to prove their worth.

I had hoped, with the financial panic of '08, that people would act decisively to reduce unemployment. I thought that it would be obvious that the newly unemployed were not responsible for their fate. Instead, the unemployed have been neglected, and it was not long before you heard talk of "structural unemployment", which amounts to blaming the victim.

BTW, despite the excellence of Weber's thinking, ascribing unworthiness to the lower classes is not new with capitalism. Consider the Untouchables of India. The Natchez Indians also had a caste society. The common people were called Stinkers.


@MT: "when a successful person doesn't live up to the moral code in every way, there's no danger that it will cost others anything"

Walsh's failings will cost others.

Jonathan House

Here's how Paul states the issue:
"…if a liberal politician is caught behaving badly his career is over. But if a conservative politician who preaches stern traditional morality is caught engaging in actions that are at odds with what he preaches … he may well ride right through the scandal."

We are looking at the careers of politicians – election results. I think the following adds up to one important causal factor which reinforces and is reinforced by the factor you mention:


Jonathan House...

'"Liberal politicians" are less likely than "conservative politicians" to support the policies which favor the wealthiest 0.1%'

Where does one find these "liberal" politicians? Surely you don't mean Obama or most of the Dems in congress?

Mark A. Sadowski


I was initially inflamed by your remark. But when I read it a second time I knew where you were coming from.

One of my (well meaning) bosses remarked recently that the country was cleaved between far right and far left. I pointed out "what left?". There's no left left unless you mean Bernie Sanders.


I think part of this has to do with the fact that there is a discernible strict ideology on the right, whereas in reality, there really is no liberal consensus. A "liberal" is someone who diverges in any degree from conservative purism (e.g., socialists, neo-liberals, environmentalists, scientists, etc, etc.)

All that matters is that you talk the talk. Someone who has never been in the military but outwardly jingoistic is above reproach, whereas somebody who gets their body blown apart in battle but survives to openly question some of our foreign exploits is a dangerous, namby pamby, unshaven, bohemian liberal who can be viciously maligned and smeared.

Since there is no similar "liberal" ideology (just people who diverge from the Platonic "conservative" ideal), there generally is no similar circling of the wagons.

Chris Price

I think the right tends to view politics as a kind of warfare whereby the end justifies the means. Tactics such as demonization, hypocrisy and lying are merely tools with which to accomplish the greater idealogical good. The left is guilty of the same thing but to a much lesser degree due in large part to the lack of an effective echo chamber.

Chris Price

Tom Cammarata

"If they had the necessary morals, if they behaved better, we wouldn't have to take so many resources from those who are successful and waste them on people who could do better if they only had the right value structure."

Well, the right has certainly shown that to be wrong, considering Ken Lay, Bernie Madoff, John Paulson, plus any insider scheme currently in fashion on Wall Street.

The right believes the ends justify the means. Which usually means anything goes, especially if it's successful.

The left has it harder. We usually expect the means and ends both to be worthy (emphasis on "usually" since we have our share of miscreants).

What bothers me most is the Conservative retreat to 19th-century theories and morals of dod-eat-dog competition and capitalism where, for one to succeed, all others must fail.

Capitalism is more about cooperation than competition. Markets are vastly organized forms of cooperation meant to utilize and control competition and enjoy is rational benefits. Conservatives want no such controls, which ultimately would end in the kind of economic collapse and maldistribution of wealth we are currently enduring.

Liberalism asks for necessary controls to keep markets fair, balanced and less subject to disruption caused by sanctioned greed, much less the unsanctioned criminal kind. The old proverb of Jefferson about the best government being less government is conditioned by the last half of his quotation which is usually left out: "Because its people discipline themselves."

In effect, we get as much - or as little - government as we deserve, morally.


There is more than one way for a politician to be ousted. One way is pressure from the establishment. The other is a popular backlash. And of course there is the combination of the two, which is probably most common.

When the establishment pushes someone out, it is a calculated decision. Both parties frame politics (but played harder by the right) as a zero sum game of us against them (rather than a community trying to figure out how to govern well as I think and hope most citizen's would like). One of the principle factors in making a decision to support someone or not is about the balance of power.

When the ousting mostly comes from a popular backlash, it's usually over moral indignation. But it has to reach a certain critical mass.

Senator Vitter (R) was not kicked out because that would have threatened the majority in the senate. Reps. Lee (R) and Weiner (D) did leave, but their departures in no way affected the balance of power in the House.

Another factor affecting the decision of both the establishment and popular opinion has to do with loyalty. Jonathan Haidt's TED talk ( notes that conservatives place a high emphasis on loyalty than liberals.

I also like the factors Min brings up about attribution theory and cognitive dissonance. Basically if we agree with someone, it is easier for us to forgive them.



Of the answers I've read so far, this comes the closest to what I think is going on. We could as well call it tribalism as loyalty- the old "he may be a b--st-rd, but he's OUR b--st-rd" syndrome. Republican wrong-doers don't get kicked out because the tribal loyalty is based on continuing to support your fellow tribesmen against the perceived outside threat of other tribes- such as poor people of color, liberals and academics. Of course liberals are just as subject to tribal feelings- but the difference is we really DO believe we should be judging people by their behavior and not by their tribal membership. So we try not to give 'our own' a pass when they trangress. Of course the right makes this harder by so obviously being out for their blood. But usually that's not sufficient to allow a politician on 'our side' to survive. Conservatives, on the other hand, celebrate their loyalty to fellow tribesmen and despise people who don't display that kind of loyalty. That's what being hypocritical means to them- not being loyal to those who share your ideology.

Fred C. Dobbs

(At least he's not alone, and it's not like he
was getting an award for 'Excellent Family Research'.)

A press release from Congressman Joe Walsh about his ranking by Dr. James Dobson's public issues arm:

Congressman Joe Walsh Wins FRC Action's 'True Blue' Award for Unwavering Support of the Family

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Joe Walsh has been recognized as a "True Blue" Member of Congress by FRC Action and CitizenLink for unwavering commitment and consistent support in defense of life and the family. Congressman Walsh was one of just 46 Representatives to be honored with the award for the 112th Congress, scoring a perfect 100 percent on this year's scorecard.

The award honors Members of Congress who have exhibited extraordinary leadership and commitment to the defense of family, faith and freedom, according to FRC Action's scorecard covering the votes of the First Session of the 112th Congress. Recipients of the "True Blue" Award voted consistently for pro-life and pro-family issues.

Votes included:
•Repealing the Health Care Law
•Defunding Planned Parenthood
•D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program
•No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
•Protecting the Defense of Marriage Act within the Military
•Presidential Nominations Act

Fred C. Dobbs

Fred C. Dobbs...

Walsh & fellow T-partyers got the award for voting the 'right' way on 10 bills.

Nothing about paying child-support obligations.

Mark A. Sadowski

This is surely beyond my expertise (or level of enthusism), however I can't help but throw in my two cents worth.

I generally agree with Mark Thoma's interpretation and Min's expansion on it with reference to Max Weber. (In fact, offering a personal example, I have a Republican neighbor who looks at me as his absolute moral inferior because I haven't wasted vast sums of money on expensive and grotesque Romanesque additions to my house.)

Morover reading the comments here, and Krugman's blog, brings to fore the observation that most on the right simply have no grasp of what the word hypocrisy means. Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, ideals, or thoughts that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches.

An occasional indiscretion does not mean someone does not truly believe the things one professes. That's why the list of left wing counterexamples in this thread is so feeble. (And it is truly incredulous anyone would think that the Rubinite Geithner is a left wing politician given his career started under the Reagan administration and that he has recieved so much criticism for his views on economic policy from Krugman, Stiglitz and others on the left.)

The example of Al Gore is particularily hilarious. Al Gore had advocated reducing carbon emissions as a matter of policy in order to control global climactic change. Absolutely nothing he has said indicates that he believes that we could realistically achieve this through voluntary means. Were cap and trade or a carbon tax implemented it is precisely he, with his jets, limousines and large houses that would be heavily burdened. Al Gore is the very antithesis of hypocrisy.

And while there may be some debate whether the the specific policies that Joe Walsh is being commended by the Family Research Council (an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a "hate-group") for supporting actually constitute support for family values (the repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act, the de-funding of Planned Parenthood, the end government funding for abortion within the health care law, the upholding of the Defense of Marriage Act, continued support for school choice, etc.) there is little doubt that his professed support of family values is a pure charade. He has systematically done everything in his power to deprive his children of financial support. This is anything but a temporary indiscretion.

Look in the dictionary under hypocrite. More than likely you'll find a picture of Joe Walsh there.

Mike Giberson

Krugman is operating with a pretty selective memory, for example forgetting that Barney Frank survived his prostitution scandal while Sen. Robert Packwood resigned after reports of sexual harassment. The list of hypocritical politicians is long and bipartisan.


Instead of looking at what the Left or the Right does, look at what Americans are becoming: junk eating fools!

If there is a 99% out there, then maybe the 99% should fight back by what they put into their mouths! If you want to cripple Wall Street, then go to a strictly paleolithic diet. In other words, eat only fresh fruits and vegetables, That means no dairy products, meats, processed foods, or eating at restaurants.

Our largest industry in America agriculture, but big agri-business turns nearly all the food it harvests into junk. Most of these food processors are some of the largest companies in the world. If they were to simply forgotten by at 40% of Americans, they would simply become worthless. Wall Street can't make any money with raw unprocessed cucumbers and tomatoes, if you get the drift.

Yeah, a lot of people will become unemployed from restaurants of all kinds closing down, food processors shutting down their plants, heart physicians having to drastically downsize their practice, national carriers having nothing to haul in their vans, and hopefully hundreds of hospitals closing down because no one is getting sick anymore.

You see, heart disease is easily preventable, and it's America's largest killer. I find it funny when I go to the local Safeway store and they hit me up for cancer awareness. Sure I'll give them my $0.11 left over from my twenty dollar bill. But when will we see our supermarkets hit us up with a donation for heart disease prevention? The answer is we won't...There simply isn't any money in America eating a paleolithic diet.

There's an organic food store in the community I live, (Mark might know the store I'm mentioning here), that moves as many as 10 pallets of fresh produce a day! The local mega supermarkets here do not even move 2 pallets of produce a day. The point I'm making here is the community I live in seems to get the point about health, and it shows in the way people live here.

Washington has no interest in fixing the problems of America. Get real! There's no Left and Right. Only Washington and Wall Street, and they prey together. The rich know this when they secretly declared war on the poor and middle class of this country shortly after the Second World War.

If you want to fix America, then start thinking about the food you put in your mouth before you speak. Maybe then will Wall Street will be brought to its knees!



yes, you are correct!


I think it's an evangelical conservative Christian thing: the only thing that matters is what you believe (faith), not what you do (works).

Recently, there was a convicted murderer (self-identified as an evangelical Christian), who was absolutely certain that he would be with Jesus in the hereafter.


I was reminded of this essay by a comment in response to the complaint by Paul Krugman:

1986 - 2005

On [Bull]
By Harry Frankfurt - Princeton University

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much [bull]. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize [bull] and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what [bull] is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, we have no theory. I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of [bull], mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis. I shall not consider the rhetorical uses and misuses of [bull]. My aim is simply to give a rough account of what [bull] is and how it differs from what it is not, or (putting it somewhat differently) to articulate, more or less sketchily, the structure of its concept. Any suggestion about what conditions are logically both necessary and sufficient for the constitution of [bull] is bound to be somewhat arbitrary. For one thing, the expression [bull] is often employed quite loosely -- simply as a generic term of abuse, with no very specific literal meaning. For another, the phenomenon itself is so vast and amorphous that no crisp and perspicuous analysis of its concept can avoid being procrustean. Nonetheless it should be possible to say something helpful, even though it is not likely to be decisive. Even the most basic and preliminary questions about [bull] remain, after all, not only unanswered but unasked. So far as I am aware, very little work has been done on this subject. I have not undertaken a survey of the literature, partly because I do not know how to go about it. To be sure, there is one quite obvious place to look -- the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED has an entry for [bull] in the supplementary volumes, and it also has entries for various pertinent uses of the word bull and for some related terms. I shall consider some of these entries in due course. I have not consulted dictionaries in languages other than English, because I do not know the words for [bull] or bull in any other language....


February 14, 2005

Between Truth and Lies, An Unprintable Ubiquity


Harry G. Frankfurt, 76, is a moral philosopher of international reputation and a professor emeritus at Princeton. He is also the author of a book recently published by the Princeton University Press that is the first in the publishing house's distinguished history to carry a title most newspapers, including this one, would find unfit to print. The work is called "On Bull - - - - ." ...

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 01:58 PM


Honestly, I think a great deal of it is due to Jesus Darwinism.

Every evangelical radio and TV channel blares it out 24/7: if you accept Jesus as your personal savior and live by God's word, He will shower you with wealth (and, by the way, it would be a really good idea to prove your religious zeal by sending some money to the preacher on the channel so call and make a donation now, all major credit cards accepted.) It's not wealth in the hereafter they're promising, it's material wealth here and now. The more Godly and holy you are, the more God will bless you with lucre.

The two obvious but unspoken corollaries to that are:

1. We should feel admiration for the rich because their wealth is a clear indication that they are blessed.

2. We should feel recrimination for the poor because their poverty is a clear indication that they are not in God's favor.

This seems to be a peculiarly Protestant Evangelical belief - Catholics think rewards come in the afterlife and Jews don't seem to equate rewards directly with behavior at all. No idea what Muslims would make of this.

The net is that it makes wealth admirable and a reflection of the essential goodness of the rich man while poverty is seen as deserved punishment for those of lower morals or un-Christian values.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 04:16 PM



I'd say not so much protestant but puritan.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 07:07 PM


EMichael had it quite right, it is Do as I say do not do as I do. It is the typical double standard. It is alright if I do it but not if you do it.
Conservatives can obstruct for the good of their party, but Liberals are hurting the nation if they do it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 05:07 PM


My two cents:

The core of liberalism is egalitarianism. Liberals believe that all people are intrinsically equal but chance places some in positions of weakness and others in positions of power. Power should thus be used to move towards equality of opportunity for all rather than away from that goal.

Liberals are outraged by the abuse of power (for personal gain in particular) because it is a short step from there to a system of patronage and from there to an aristocracy.

Thus there is more outrage about non-payment of child support than there is about payment for sex (in a situation which does not have obvious power inequalities). The _kind_ of moral transgression matters to liberals: was it an abuse of power?

Liberals are especially outraged when the power comes _ex officio_ rather than through private means.

So, there is outrage about abuse of power by politicians, but disappointment and frustration rather than outrage about wealthy private people spreading disinformation.

Liberals do operate from principle. It's a more subtle principle than "might is right" or "everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds", but it is a principle nonetheless.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 06:00 PM

Anthony Gatti

Professor Thoma and all interested parties,

The first chapter from this book, Policy Changes in Modern Health Care, is a great chapter by James Morone that is comes as close as I've ever seen in my political readings to fully explaining the ideological divide in American politics. The chapter is entitled "Morality, Politics, and Health Policy," and I highly encourage even the most educated to read this chapter. It will make clear many things you may have already knew but couldn't quite put into words.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 06:27 PM


Oddly, might be a wee skoshi bit more simple than that.

First, we need, as in c/should distinguish between who is, and who is not, going to go straight and/or to Hell. And, between those of U.S. who CAN, and those of you who cannot, be "forgiven" for (y)our sins, and still get into Heaven.

Bcuz, IF you are gonna go to Hell, disirregardless of what you do, say or ask about "forgiveness"; you are, well, like, gonna go to Hell.

However, IF you are One of the Chosen People, like some of U.S., who CAN obtain forgiveness; then, like, you, well, can obtain "forgiveness".

"Yes we can!" No, you can not.

The problem with you "GD'd Liberals" is that you think that whether or not WE are "forgiven" depends upon what you think of U.S.! How, sadly, mistaken is that?

So, when WE "transgress", or trans-dress, we KNOW, in the Other Biblical Sense, that we can, and WILL, be "forgiven" - by both our God and by ourselves. You do not matter. And, you won't - ever be forgiven or matter.

Our friends forgive U.S., too, bcuz they believe they should do unto others, as they want U.S. to do unto them. We agree, as the Church Lady said: "Among ourselves!".

Our enemies, like you, not only do not understand who is eligible for forgiveness, and who, like you, are not; but what we should be forgiven for, and what you should not.

When Jesus said to those "Mexican Immi-grunts" to "go forth and multiply", he did NOT mean to sneak in here and create any more of "Those American born citizens"!

What he, obviously, meant was to "multiply" my wealth.
Not yours, you don't know how to handle it.

What, really, do you not understand about "Christian Charity" - as we are getting close to Christmas?

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 06:31 PM


I don't but the self-sufficiency based argument. It rather looks like the media that mediate most of the public discourse are either wholly owned or at least significantly dependent on (ad/sponsorship) funding by the business establishment, so in the aggregate they will give "their guys" a pass or even actively hush up or mount distraction campaigns, while missing no opportunity of pursing the "other guys", whether based on fact or fabrication, where the fabrication is generally not so much in inventing factoids (though that happens too) but selective focus and distorting the significance or interpretation of particular facts, as well as shaping suggestive narratives detached from the actual facts and diverting to side shows.

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 07:16 PM


For many social conservatives, a moral failing by a leader is more evidence that we are weak and need stronger forces imposing (their expected) morals from above. So, if a social conservative leader has an affair, that is natural, since we're all sinners, and means banning divorce imposing anti-sodomy laws or other forms of social control are needed. With some effort at repentance, the leader may even become more influential since they have personal experience with the sin.

For most social liberals, we feel differently about bad behavior. Either we go, "there's no problem with that behavior at all", or "eh, it's a shame but not that big a deal" for many things. For those things which ARE a big deal, we're more likely to attribute the weakness to the individual, believe it shows an essential failure of their character, and that the character flaw will reappear in other contexts, instead of attributing it to "we're all sinners".

Saturday, November 05, 2011 at 07:56 PM


Um...They're all hypocrites? And its easy, even psychologically necessary, for them to forgive each other. And the 'Christians' among them would be in denial, as JC had hypocrites pretty near the top of his list of the damned. I think he even went on more about hypocrites than murderers. As for the rich going to heaven, He said something about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven...

And does not the Devil, Lord of Mammon, reward his servants, too?

[Sep 27, 2011] The Michael Wolff Era at Adweek Is Over by Hamilton Nolan

Sep 27, 2011 |
Media bomb-thrower has been editor of Adweek for less than a year. Earlier this month, rumors began circulating that he would soon be replaced. Now, we hear, Wolff's days at Adweek are definitively coming to an end.

[Jul 29, 2011] The Essential Rules Of Tyranny by Brandon Smith

07/29/2011 | guest-post-essential-rules-tyranny
Submitted by Brandon Smith of Alt Market

As we look back on the horrors of the dictatorships and autocracies of the past, one particular question consistently arises; how was it possible for the common men of these eras to NOT notice what was happening around them? How could they have stood as statues unaware or uncaring as their cultures were overrun by fascism, communism, collectivism, and elitism? Of course, we have the advantage of hindsight, and are able to research and examine the misdeeds of the past at our leisure. Unfortunately, such hindsight does not necessarily shield us from the long cast shadow of tyranny in our own day. For that, the increasingly uncommon gift of foresight is required…

At bottom, the success of despotic governments and Big Brother societies hinges upon a certain number of political, financial, and cultural developments. The first of which is an unwillingness in the general populace to secure and defend their own freedoms, making them completely reliant on corrupt establishment leadership. For totalitarianism to take hold, the masses must not only neglect the plight of their country, and the plight of others, but also be completely uninformed of the inherent indirect threats to their personal safety. They must abandon all responsibility for their destinies, and lose all respect for their own humanity. They must, indeed, become domesticated and mindless herd animals without regard for anything except their fleeting momentary desires for entertainment and short term survival. For a lumbering bloodthirsty behemoth to actually sneak up on you, you have to be pretty damnably oblivious.

The prevalence of apathy and ignorance sets the stage for the slow and highly deliberate process of centralization. Once dishonest governments accomplish an atmosphere of inaction and condition a sense of frailty within the citizenry, the sky is truly the limit. However, a murderous power-monger's day is never quite done. In my recent article 'The Essential Rules of Liberty' we explored the fundamentally unassailable actions and mental preparations required to ensure the continuance of a free society. In this article, let's examine the frequently wielded tools of tyrants in their invariably insane quests for total control…

Rule #1: Keep Them Afraid

People who are easily frightened are easily dominated. This is not just a law of political will, but a law of nature. Many wrongly assume that a tyrant's power comes purely from the application of force. In fact, despotic regimes that rely solely on extreme violence are often very unsuccessful, and easily overthrown. Brute strength is calculable. It can be analyzed, and thus, eventually confronted and defeated. Thriving tyrants instead utilize not just harm, but the imminent THREAT of harm. They instill apprehension in the public; a fear of the unknown, or a fear of the possible consequences for standing against the state. They let our imaginations run wild until we see death around every corner, whether it's actually there or not. When the masses are so blinded by the fear of reprisal that they forget their fear of slavery, and take no action whatsoever to undo it, then they have been sufficiently culled.

In other cases, our fear is evoked and directed towards engineered enemies. Another race, another religion, another political ideology, a "hidden" and ominous villain created out of thin air. Autocrats assert that we "need them" in order to remain safe and secure from these illusory monsters bent on our destruction. As always, this development is followed by the claim that all steps taken, even those that dissolve our freedoms, are "for the greater good". Frightened people tend to shirk their sense of independence and run towards the comfort of the collective, even if that collective is built on immoral and unconscionable foundations. Once a society takes on a hive-mind mentality almost any evil can be rationalized, and any injustice against the individual is simply overlooked for the sake of the group.

Rule #2: Keep Them Isolated

In the past, elitist governments would often legislate and enforce severe penalties for public gatherings, because defusing the ability of the citizenry to organize or to communicate was paramount to control. In our technological era, such isolation is still used, but in far more advanced forms. The bread and circus lifestyle of the average westerner alone is enough to distract us from connecting with each other in any meaningful fashion, but people still sometimes find ways to seek out organized forms of activism.

Through co-option, modern day tyrant's can direct and manipulate opposition movements. By creating and administrating groups which oppose each other, elites can then micromanage all aspects of a nation on the verge of revolution. These "false paradigms" give us the illusion of proactive organization, and the false hope of changing the system, while at the same time preventing us from seeking understanding in one another. All our energies are then muted and dispersed into meaningless battles over "left and right", or "Democrat versus Republican", for example. Only movements that cast aside such empty labels and concern themselves with the ultimate truth of their country, regardless of what that truth might reveal, are able to enact real solutions to the disasters wrought by tyranny.

In more advanced forms of despotism, even fake organizations are disbanded. Curfews are enforced. Normal communications are diminished or monitored. Compulsory paperwork is required. Checkpoints are instituted. Free speech is punished. Existing groups are influenced to distrust each other or to disintegrate entirely out of dread of being discovered. All of these measures are taken by tyrants primarily to prevent ANY citizens from gathering and finding mutual support. People who work together and organize of their own volition are unpredictable, and therefore, a potential risk to the state.

Rule #3: Keep Them Desperate

You'll find in nearly every instance of cultural descent into autocracy, the offending government gained favor after the onset of economic collapse. Make the necessities of root survival an uncertainty, and people without knowledge of self sustainability and without solid core principles will gladly hand over their freedom, even for mere scraps from the tables of the same men who unleashed famine upon them. Financial calamities are not dangerous because of the poverty they leave in their wake; they are dangerous because of the doors to malevolence that they leave open.

Destitution leads not just to hunger, but also to crime (private and government). Crime leads to anger, hatred, and fear. Fear leads to desperation. Desperation leads to the acceptance of anything resembling a solution, even despotism.

Autocracies pretend to cut through the dilemmas of economic dysfunction (usually while demanding liberties be relinquished), however, behind the scenes they actually seek to maintain a proscribed level of indigence and deprivation. The constant peril of homelessness and starvation keeps the masses thoroughly distracted from such things as protest or dissent, while simultaneously chaining them to the idea that their only chance is to cling to the very government out to end them.

Rule #4: Send Out The Jackboots

This is the main symptom often associated with totalitarianism. So much so that our preconceived notions of what a fascist government looks like prevent us from seeing other forms of tyranny right under our noses. Some Americans believe that if the jackbooted thugs are not knocking on every door, then we MUST still live in a free country. Obviously, this is a rather naïve position. Admittedly, though, goon squads and secret police do eventually become prominent in every failed nation, usually while the public is mesmerized by visions of war, depression, hyperinflation, terrorism, etc.

When law enforcement officials are no longer servants of the people, but agents of a government concerned only with its own supremacy, serious crises emerge. Checks and balances are removed. The guidelines that once reigned in police disappear, and suddenly, a philosophy of superiority emerges; an arrogant exclusivity that breeds separation between law enforcement and the rest of the public. Finally, police no longer see themselves as protectors of citizens, but prison guards out to keep us subdued and docile.

As tyranny grows, this behavior is encouraged. Good men are filtered out of the system, and small (minded and hearted) men are promoted.

At its pinnacle, a police state will hide the identities of most of its agents and officers, behind masks or behind red tape, because their crimes in the name of the state become so numerous and so sadistic that personal vengeance on the part of their victims will become a daily concern.

Rule #5: Blame Everything On The Truth Seekers

Tyrants are generally men who have squelched their own consciences. They have no reservations in using any means at their disposal to wipe out opposition. But, in the early stages of their ascent to power, they must give the populace a reason for their ruthlessness, or risk being exposed, and instigating even more dissent. The propaganda machine thus goes into overdrive, and any person or group that dares to question the authority or the validity of the state is demonized in the minds of the masses.

All disasters, all violent crimes, all the ills of the world, are hoisted upon the shoulders of activist groups and political rivals. They are falsely associated with fringe elements already disliked by society (racists, terrorists, etc). A bogus consensus is created through puppet media in an attempt to make the public believe that "everyone else" must have the same exact views, and those who express contrary positions must be "crazy", or "extremist". Events are even engineered by the corrupt system and pinned on those demanding transparency and liberty. The goal is to drive anti-totalitarian organizations into self censorship. That is to say, instead of silencing them directly, the state causes activists to silence themselves.

Tyrannical power structures cannot function without scapegoats. There must always be an elusive boogie man under the bed of every citizen, otherwise, those citizens may turn their attention, and their anger, towards the real culprit behind their troubles. By scapegoating stewards of the truth, such governments are able to kill two birds with one stone.

Rule #6: Encourage Citizen Spies

Ultimately, the life of a totalitarian government is not prolonged by the government itself, but by the very people it subjugates. Citizen spies are the glue of any police state, and our propensity for sticking our noses into other peoples business is highly valued by Big Brother bureaucracies around the globe.

There are a number of reasons why people participate in this repulsive activity. Some are addicted to the feeling of being a part of the collective, and "service" to this collective, sadly, is the only way they are able to give their pathetic lives meaning. Some are vindictive, cold, and soulless, and actually get enjoyment from ruining others. And still, like elites, some long for power, even petty power, and are willing to do anything to fulfill their vile need to dictate the destinies of perfect strangers.

Citizen spying is almost always branded as a civic duty; an act of heroism and bravery. Citizen spies are offered accolades and awards, and showered with praise from the upper echelons of their communities. People who lean towards citizen spying are often outwardly and inwardly unimpressive; physically and mentally inept. For the average moral and emotional weakling with persistent feelings of inadequacy, the allure of finally being given fifteen minutes of fame and a hero's status (even if that status is based on a lie) is simply too much to resist. They begin to see "extremists" and "terrorists" everywhere. Soon, people afraid of open ears everywhere start to watch what they say at the supermarket, in their own backyards, or even to family members. Free speech is effectively neutralized.

Rule #7: Make Them Accept The Unacceptable

In the end, it is not enough for a government fueled by the putrid sludge of iniquity to lord over us. At some point, it must also influence us to forsake our most valued principles. Tyrannies are less concerned with dominating how we live, so much as dominating how we think. If they can mold our very morality, they can exist unopposed indefinitely. Of course, the elements of conscience are inborn, and not subject to environmental duress as long as a man is self aware. However, conscience can be manipulated if a person has no sense of identity, and has never put in the effort to explore his own strengths and failings. There are many people like this in America today.

Lies become "necessary" in protecting the safety of the state. War becomes a tool for "peace". Torture becomes an ugly but "useful" method for gleaning important information. Police brutality is sold as a "natural reaction" to increased crime. Rendition becomes normal, but only for those labeled as "terrorists". Assassination is justified as a means for "saving lives". Genocide is done discretely, but most everyone knows it is taking place. They simply don't discuss it.

All tyrannical systems depend on the apathy and moral relativism of the inhabitants within their borders. Without the cooperation of the public, these systems cannot function. The real question is, how many of the above steps will be taken before we finally refuse to conform? At what point will each man and woman decide to break free from the dark path blazed before us and take measures to ensure their independence? Who will have the courage to develop their own communities, their own alternative economies, their own organizations for mutual defense outside of establishment constructs, and who will break under the pressure to bow like cowards? How many will hold the line, and how many will flee?

For every American, for every human being across the planet who chooses to stand immovable in the face of the very worst in mankind, we come that much closer to breathing life once again into the very best in us all.

[Jul 22, 2011] The Big Lie At The Heart Of Rupert Murdoch's Media Empire

July 22, 2011 | AlterNet

News Corp isn't a news corporation at all. It's the lobbying arm of Rupert Murdoch's global conglomerate, in the business of wielding influence

Watching the phone hacking crisis crack wide open over the last few weeks has left me puzzled about its ultimate causes: what is it about News Corp that has produced these events?

I don't think we understand very much about this. We can say things like, "Ultimate responsibility goes to the man at the top," meaning Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO. And that sounds right, but it still doesn't explain how any of it happened. "The key people are criminals, liars, or willfully blind..." We could say that, but then we would have to explain how so many of them ended up at one company.

Puzzles like these have led many people to the conclusion that there's a culture inside News Corp that is in some way responsible, and I basically agree with that. Mark Lewis, lawyer for the family of Milly Dowler, said after Rebekah Brooks resigned: "This is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organization." Carl Bernstein agrees. He wrote this in Newsweek a few days ago:

As anyone in the business will tell you, the standards and culture of a journalistic institution are set from the top down, by its owner, publisher, and top editors. Reporters and editors do not routinely break the law, bribe policemen, wiretap, and generally conduct themselves like thugs unless it is a matter of recognized and understood policy.

[Jul 21, 2011] Fury at Rupert Murdoch reflects pent-up anger of intimidated politicians By Dan Balz

July 21, 2011 | The Washington Post

The phone-hacking scandal that has driven Rupert Murdoch and his empire into retreat and gripped audiences on both sides of the Atlantic is playing out against the backdrop of a combustible political-media culture vastly different from that in the United States.

The fury against Murdoch and the now-defunct News of the World, whose tentacles reached into both politics and law enforcement, reflects more than public outrage about revelations of hacking into the phones of celebrities, politicians and, ultimately, a girl who had been killed.

The reaction also reflects the anger of politicians who long have been intimidated by the tactics of aggressive tabloids and who have felt the need to curry favor with powerful media barons, especially Murdoch, to win the support of those newspapers and to shield themselves from their intrusive reporting.

In Britain, money plays a smaller role in politics than it does in the United States, and politicians have few ways to communicate effectively with the public outside the media filter. Television advertising plays no significant role in campaigns; for the most part, it is not allowed.

An American politician who feels aggrieved by the media can buy television spots to answer them. His British counterparts have no such option. Elected officials must depend on the good graces of newspapers for favorable coverage.

Murdoch is not the only owner of a British newspaper whose employees have used questionable methods in pursuit of sensational stories and political influence, although what the News of the World did has shocked even the cynics.

But as the biggest and most powerful of those media owners, with a reputation built over three decades, he is paying for his and the industry's sins. This scandal has provided the vehicle for potentially broader retribution.

Where the criminal and political inquiries underway in Britain will lead can't be fully known, but they almost certainly will diminish his power, which in turn could result in a change in the posture of politicians toward the media in general.

None of this is to say that what happened in Britain could never happen in the United States, and there are questions as to whether the phone hacking there spilled over here. But there is little equivalent in the United States to the power and influence of the British press, the relationship between the Murdoch corporate leadership and British politicians or the role of money and advertising in politics.

Contributing to the culture is the fact that London is a village, in a way that no U.S. city is. Here, Washington is the nation's political center, New York the financial center, and Los Angeles the media and entertainment center. In Britain, all power is centralized, with Murdoch the biggest media player on the stage by far. Because everyone knows everyone in such a small community, when scandal hits, it doesn't take long to draw the connections from power broker to politician.

To understand the uniquely British nature of this scandal, it is necessary to look at the intersection of media and politics there. Unlike in the United States, newspapers in Britain still wield enormous power. Television networks are constrained by law in what they can do and say. The BBC is required by charter to ensure balance. There is no cable television culture, as there is here, that sorts out viewers by ideology and feeds red meat daily to the participants in the political dialogue.

Instead, that role is left to newspapers. British papers are national in scope and therefore central in setting the political agenda. Papers there, especially tabloids, are, as one British journalist put it gently, less "fastidious" in their ethics and reporting standards than are the best of the U.S. papers.

They are also noisily partisan, and news coverage follows a paper's editorial slant in ways it does not here. The Labor Party has its backers, the tabloid Mirror and broadsheet Guardian among them. But many more British papers lean toward the Conservative Party, with Murdoch's Sun the most powerful of them.

Stan Greenberg, a U.S. pollster who has worked with the Labor Party in British campaigns for many years, said the Sun's readership accounts for more than a fifth of the British electorate. Such reach and potential power is unimaginable in the United States, which is why Murdoch's support has been so coveted by British politicians.

Murdoch long supported the government of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and, with less enthusiasm, backed her successor, John Major. Labor Party politicians still recall the Sun's coverage and editorials attacking Neil Kinnock, the leader of the Labor Party, during the 1992 campaign.

On the day of the election, a front-page headline in the Sun read, "If Kinnock Wins Today, Will the Last Person to Leave Britain Please Turn Out the Lights." When the Conservatives unexpectedly won, the Sun followed with another front-page headline that read, "It's the Sun Wot Won It." Some Labor politicians could never forgive the Sun for what it did.

Tony Blair was not one, however. When he became leader of the Labor Party, he set out to win over Murdoch, thinking that without the backing of Murdoch's Sun, Labor could well lose the subsequent election. In June 1995, Blair flew to Australia to speak at Murdoch's News Corp. conference.

Many of his Labor Party colleagues were appalled. Blair saw it differently. As he wrote in his recent memoirs, "Again, now, it seems obvious: The country's most powerful newspaper proprietor, whose publications have hitherto been rancorous in their opposition to the Labor Party, invites us into the lion's den. You go, don't you?"

U.S. presidents, especially in an earlier era, sought the friendship and patronage of powerful newspaper owners. But that was then. Would presidential candidates today feel the same pull to fly partway around the world to cozy up to a hostile newspaper owner? The answer is obvious.

Fox News Channel, which Murdoch owns, may command the attention of Republican politicians and presidential candidates, but its reach does not rival that of Murdoch's media empire in Britain.

For Blair, the courtship paid huge dividends. Murdoch's Sun switched allegiance, backing Labor in 1997 in an election that the party won in a landslide - although it's possible that Blair could have won without Murdoch, given the British public's weariness with the Conservatives.

The point was that Blair wasn't prepared to take that risk.

Murdoch's reputation as the maker of prime ministers grew, and he was accorded deference and access to No. 10 Downing Street that continued through most of the Labor Party's decade in power.

Former prime minister Gordon Brown, Blair's successor, continued this assiduous courtship while he was in office. When his baby daughter died, he invited editors from the Sun and the Daily Mail to the funeral. Brown said last week that he, too, was a victim of hacking, saying that his medical and financial records were compromised.

An American political consultant who has worked in Britain uses that to draw a distinction between the U.S. and British media. It is inconceivable that the same thing could happen to a U.S. president, he said; in Britain, it is not considered so outlandish.

When David Cameron, the current prime minister, won the fight to take over the Conservative Party in 2005, he set out to win back Murdoch's allegiance. He was social friends with Rebekah Brooks, who was a former editor of the News of the World and later the head of Murdoch's News International. He also brought Andy Coulson onto his campaign team as communications director.

Coulson, too, was a former editor of News of the World - at a time when the phone hacking took place, although he denied any direct knowledge of the acts that landed a reporter and a private investigator in jail. Appearing before Parliament on Wednesday, Cameron said that, "with 20-20 hindsight," he would not have offered Coulson the job.

Brooks and Coulson have been arrested in the wake of the hacking scandal. Cameron flew back from a trip to Africa to appear before Parliament to defend himself amid the uproar over his relationship with the Murdoch empire's leadership, which will no doubt be changing in the months ahead.

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[July 2, 2011] 14 Propaganda Techniques Fox 'News' Uses to Brainwash Americans

Quote: "...Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren't activated, you aren't alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don't think rationally. And when they can't think rationally, they'll believe anything."
July 2, 2011 | Alternet | 306 COMMENTS
The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you.

There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship - the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

It is ironic that in the era of 24-hour cable news networks and "reality" programming, the news-to-fluff ratio and overall veracity of information has declined precipitously. Take the fact Americans now spend on average about 50 hours a week using various forms of media, while at the same time cultural literacy levels hover just above the gutter. Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin's ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere's ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world's largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here? Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences: the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11, the belief that climate change isn't real and/or man-made, the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn't born in the United States, the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists, the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job. All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?

My curiosity about this question compelled me to sit down and document the most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media. The techniques I identify here also help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.

The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren't activated, you aren't alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don't think rationally. And when they can't think rationally, they'll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person's credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. "liberals," "hippies," "progressives" etc. This form of argument - if it can be called that - leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.

3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you're using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It's often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin's mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they'll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It's technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I'd call a "meta-frame" (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. For example, terms like "show of strength" are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force - it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence - whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment - are seen as noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence become synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.

7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this lack of confidence by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, less self-possessed people will feel shame and anxiety when being berated and the quickest way to end the immediate discomfort is to cede authority to the bully. The bully is then able to interpret that as a "win."

8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user's claims veracity in the viewer's mind.

9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of "the people" and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always "elitist" or a "bureaucrat" or a "government insider" or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with. It often goes hand in hand with scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused "elitists" are almost always liberals - a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.

10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and "real Americans" (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn't love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It's a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.

11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. "Saddam has WMD." Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it's true or if it even makes sense, e.g., "Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States." If something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. Another example is Fox's own slogan of "Fair and Balanced."

12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. Having a university credential is perceived by these folks as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. In fact, among some commentators, evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so viscerally demeaned.

13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here's how it works: if your cousin's college roommate's uncle's ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev's niece's ex-boyfriend's sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.

14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they'll talk about wanting to focus on "moving forward," as though by analyzing the current state of things or God forbid, how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.

In debating some of these tactics with colleagues and friends, I have also noticed that the Fox viewership seems to be marked by a sort of collective personality disorder whereby the viewer feels almost as though they've been let into a secret society. Something about their affiliation with the network makes them feel privileged and this affinity is likely what drives the viewers to defend the network so vehemently. They seem to identify with it at a core level, because it tells them they are special and privy to something the rest of us don't have. It's akin to the loyalty one feels by being let into a private club or a gang. That effect is also likely to make the propaganda more powerful, because it goes mostly unquestioned.

In considering these tactics and their possible effects on American public discourse, it is important to note that historically, those who've genuinely accessed truth have never berated those who did not. You don't get honored by history when you beat up your opponent: look at Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln. These men did not find the need to engage in othering, ad homeinum attacks, guilt by association or bullying. This is because when a person has accessed a truth, they are not threatened by the opposing views of others. This reality reveals the righteous indignation of people like Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as a symptom of untruth. These individuals are hostile and angry precisely because they don't feel confident in their own veracity. And in general, the more someone is losing their temper in a debate and the more intolerant they are of listening to others, the more you can be certain they do not know what they're talking about.

One final observation. Fox audiences, birthers and Tea Partiers often defend their arguments by pointing to the fact that a lot of people share the same perceptions. This is a reasonable point to the extent that Murdoch's News Corporation reaches a far larger audience than any other single media outlet. But, the fact that a lot of people believe something is not necessarily a sign that it's true; it's just a sign that it's been effectively marketed.

As honest, fair and truly intellectual debate degrades before the eyes of the global media audience, the quality of American democracy degrades along with it.

Dr. Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University. She is also vice president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and on the board of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation. Dr. Boaz is also a contributing writer and adviser to and associate editor of Peace and Change Journal.

Continued Softpanorama Media Skeptic Bulletin, 2010

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