Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Culture of Self-Censorship

The writer Simon Louvish once told the story of a group of Soviets touring the United States before the age of glasnost. After reading the newspapers and watching TV, they were amazed to find that, on the big issues, all the opinions were the same. "In our country," they said, "to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what's your secret? How do you do it?" (Quoted, John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies, Random House, 2004, p.9)
I have an ongoing suspicion that America is not really a free society anymore, but that our rulers find it useful for us to believe that it is. We work harder, and fight harder, for the system if we believe it is giving us "freedom". If we tried to actually do anything which would seriously challenge the system, we learn that the "rights" we thought we had were only there until we tried to use them.

In my home state of Arkansas for example, we have the right to run for public office as independents. It is still on the books that we can and for minor offices we do. But one year eleven of us filed for seats in the state legislature as independents. The result was a flurry of legislation which moved the goal-posts and made it harder to qualify for the ballot that way. The system likes people to access the ballot for offices that matter via large centrally directed organizations- that they can watch/bribe/capture/threaten.

We are still in court over one law they made in 2013 that had already been ruled unconstitutional four times previously. If we "win" the lawsuit it is very likely that all they will have to do is change the law back until the next time federal judges are not looking. In the meantime, they have taken other measures to tamp down unauthorized liberty. You have certain rights under the law- unless you have the effrontery to try and actually exercise them. They are there to make you think you are free, not so you can actually exercise that freedom.

I guess I am not too far on this one from songwriter Frank Zappa who once said...

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
It is an uncomfortable thought that we are not really free. That is one reason why most of us avoid trying to test those limits, even if we are unhappy with the system as it is. But I am not just talking about civil politics.  For example, I was in an amenable discussion with a young lady who works in immunology. She thinks that it has been proven that vaccines (during pregnancy or in the first 26 months) do not contribute to autism. I am convinced that for people with a certain genetic predisposition, it can. During the discussion I mentioned the story of a CDC whistle blower- a Dr. Thompson.

Thompson said when their data showed a link between vaccines and autism for certain groups they brought a trash can to the meeting room and put it in the middle of the room. Then they threw away all their papers with the inconvenient data on it. He kept some on the sly. You can read Thompson's quote in a Forbes article here, though the rest of the article is on spin over-drive trying to explain it away.

When I quoted that event she strongly denied that there was any pressure on them to alter their findings and that they had the freedom to study any question that they could show had merit. I could tell the insinuation made her indignant so I changed tack. But notice that Dr. Thompson did not say that they were pressured from above either. They did not have to be. They self-censored. They knew what acceptable results were supposed to look like, they knew what the "respectable" position in their sub-culture was on the vaccine-autism link. When the data put them in the position of discovering something on the wrong side of that line they felt the pressure to destroy the evidence- at least what they could- and become "respectable" again.

The people running this theater do not have to pull anyone's fingernails out anymore. I think they will if it comes to that, after all our government has shed a lot of blood lately, but they don't have to. All they have to do is encourage group identity rather than individual confidence and integrity. Then they use various means including the media to let members of the sub-culture know what the "correct" opinions are for their groups. Insecure people want to fit into their chosen group, so they jump over each other to confirm what are supposed to be the group biases. Their sense of self-worth is (improperly) tied into membership in these groups.

So for example, people at CNN did not have to be threatened in order to talk up Obama and Clinton and bad-mouth Donald Trump. The folks at FOX did not have to be threatened to say bad things about Hillary Clinton. Members of those sub-cultures can indignantly protest that no one is censoring their "news" coverage. But that is part of the illusion, No one has to censor them to do those things because the cultural expectations have been set and they will censor themselves to ingratiate themselves to that culture.

To start back on the road to real freedom we need to begin within ourselves. We need to have self-worth and integrity derived from our love of the truth rather than our membership in some group. We need confidence and integrity in the face of a society full of manipulated sub-cultures. We need to have a love of real freedom over slavery which is disguised as freedom to keep the slaves invested in the very system which controls them. Not by pulling their fingernails out, but by methods which are less direct and thus more effective.

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