Tuesday, August 26, 2014

America: Home of the Brazen Propagandists (Category: Social Issues)

When reading, listening to, or viewing history or news in America, it is often difficult, and sometimes impossible, to determine what actually occurred.  The view of the vast majority of Americans is that all or many other countries have propaganda, but America does not or has very little.  The reality is very different than this.  The reality is that all countries (and many other entities) significantly engage in propaganda and that, on the whole, America appears to be more abusive than other well-developed nations.
There are multiple reasons why the vast majority of Americans are blind to the high level of propaganda in America.  For one, the misbelief that America has no or very little propaganda is a key tenet of American propaganda.  Since we are immersed in a society that repeatedly states it is above this sort of behavior, we strongly tend to believe it is.  For another, we believe it because it makes us feel good to believe it.  Believing it makes us feel like we are better than others.  For yet another, we believe it because we are under pressure to believe it.  If we believe it, and act like we believe it, employment, friends, customers, advertisers, investors, etc. (i.e., a good life) are much easier to obtain and maintain.  Also, we believe it because our ethics are not as nearly strong as they should be.  We are not as concerned about the large amount of death, destruction, etc. it causes as we should be.  In fact, we almost always delude ourselves into believing that the related death, destruction, etc. are not related.  Also, we believe it because we misunderstand how propaganda works.
Almost all Americans think that propaganda cannot exist on a large scale less things like a Ministry of Propaganda, formal censorship, and/or formal conspiracies to revise or omit facts.  Propaganda exists on a large scale in America and some other places less any of these things.  How this occurs is extremely complex, and it is a phenomenon that evolves over time; but a relatively easy way to partially explain it is by focusing on the adverse influence of money and the pressure to conform to the desired message.
Almost all American politicians are bought and paid for via campaign contributions, the promise of a cushy job if they are not reelected, etc.  They do not represent the people.  They represent the money.  Largely, big contributors and perk providers matter, small contributors do not.  Almost all politicians lie, both with and without nuance, on a consistent basis.  The truth is something they tell if it happens to be more effective than a lie at the moment.  Largely, politicians say what the big money wants them to say.  Very largely, ethics is something they only pretend to have.  (For this reason, and since the public is grossly misinformed, we do not live in a democracy.  We live in a pretend democracy.  There may be no actual democracies in the world, just like there may be no actual communist countries in the world.)
Political candidates are chosen and financially supported due to their willingness to present the messages that their wealthier backers want them to present.  Whether these messages are true or false is, largely, irrelevant.
Usually, business people are not much better.  Despite what they may say, money is very often the driving force behind their actions and statements; and many of the wealthier ones successfully purchase the American political process.  Media outlets are almost always businesses with owners.  The owners are not only trying to make more money, they are, generally, wealthy people with a wealthy person’s perspective; and they often impose this perspective, in part or in whole, so as to influence the content of their media outlet(s).  Non-profit organizations can be similarly flawed in that they very often depend upon big contributors.
Once enough major politicians and media outlets, driven by the influence of money, begin pushing a certain message―and the message often begins with a purchased politician, such as the President, it is often difficult for other people or entities to present a contradictory message.  Presenting a contradictory message strongly tends to come with a significant potential or actual price tag.
For example, and this just one of many, many examples, Western political leaders cast the protests in the Maidan (central square) in Kiev, Ukraine as a democratic movement.  They did this despite the fact that a lot of the protesters were well armed (i.e., they had things like clubs, air rifles, hunting rifles, and Molotov cocktails) and well armored (i.e., they had things like helmets and bulletproof vests), and despite the fact that the protestors were holding a public square for an indefinite period via force.  They also did this despite the fact that (1) the most recent elections in the Ukraine appeared to be fair, and another presidential election was going to occur in 2015, (2) the Russian package that the more-pro-Russian-versus-pro-Western Ukrainian president was going to accept appeared to be far more generous than the competing European Union package, (3) the Russians had been carrying the Ukraine, somewhat, economically, for years, and (4), although the Ukrainian president was corrupt, the opposition was also corrupt.  Given all of these things, truly democratic protestors would have been unarmed, been unarmored, left and returned to the Maidan and other sites, and been drumming up support for an opposition election win in 2015 and/or the elimination of corruption in the Ukrainian government regardless of who is in power.
Western political leaders also cast the incident near the Maiden where many protestors died as a massacre (i.e., “a specific incident which involves the violent killing of many people, and the perpetrating party is perceived as in total control of force while the victimized party is perceived as helpless or innocent” [Wikipedia]).  They did this despite the fact that (1) the protestors decided to break a truce that was supposed to lead to an agreement re early elections, (2) the protestors opened the barrier surrounding them, passed through it, and advanced toward a police line, (3) ground-based gunshots ensued, and (4), very soon thereafter, bullets started raining down from above, almost entirely striking protestors, which is what you would expect to happen in protection of the police on the police line.
I know it happened this way with a fairly high degree of certainty because, buried within multiple stories I read about the supposed massacre, there were some actual, seemingly dependable facts.  Sometimes, there are not enough dependable facts to piece the true story together; but, in this case, there were.  A media outlet’s description of what happened is not necessarily factual, nor is, for certain, a quote from a politician or other biased source―unless the source is saying something that is not in the source’s own best interest, in which case what they are saying has a much better chance of being true.  It also helps if the source has not had time to contrive a more flattering story.  Another thing to look for is whether the seeming facts match or tie together well and tell a story that makes sense.
Basically, I figured out what actually happened in the supposed Maiden massacre incident via quotes or information from (1) a protestor that was in on the decision to break the truce, (2) a protestor that was involved in the advance on the police line, (3) a CNN cameraman that was overlooking the street on which the advance occurred who simply described what he saw, and (4) the doctor who treated many of those wounded or killed in the incident.  Their stories matched or tied together without a flaw.
Once the Western political leaders, including President Obama, cast the protests as democratic and the Maidan incident as a massacre and American major media outlets largely followed suit, it was difficult to disagree much.  It was time consuming to find and digest the information that potentially taught you that you should disagree; you needed to be smart enough to separate the important facts from the abundance of other often-misleading information; and, then, you needed to properly interpret the facts.  If you were not following the news closely at the time the incidents occurred or your sources were not relatively good, you may never have had access to the necessary facts.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I looked in Wikipedia; and you cannot tell what actually happened in the supposed Maidan massacre incident from what is in Wikipedia.
If and when you came to understand that what you were told was propaganda, you were faced with an additional set of problems.  In speaking or writing the truth, would you lose potential employment, employment, the chance for a promotion or raise, friends, customers, advertisers, investors, etc.?  Very largely, people want to be told that what they already believe is true, and what they want to believe is true, is true.  Also, it is, essentially, a case of our big money players versus the other side’s big money players; and you will be siding, on these particular incidents, with the other side’s big money players.  None of those people is your boss or potential boss (either directly or indirectly), a customer or potential customer, an advertiser or potential advertiser, or an investor or potential investor.  Also, you may end up on some U.S. (government or non-government) group’s watch and/or harass list, which is a distinction you do not want.  (Yes, this kind of thing happens in America too.)  You risk being labeled as, potentially at least, anti-American, Communist, etc.―not just by a U.S. group, but also by those around you.  This is despite the fact that the most American thing you can do is to learn and speak the truth, thereby better enabling you and other Americans to determine the best response to the situation.
Basically, it comes down to this.  You were told what to think.  Think it, or at least do not contradict it; and you will be fine.  In fact, you may be rewarded.  Contradict it, and you are rolling the dice; and, if anything significant occurs due to your contradicting it, it is very probably not going to be good.  This same dilemma exists whether you are an individual, a business, including media outlets, or another type of organization.
A lot of history and news in America is grossly misrepresented.  The list of grossly misrepresented items is massively long; and it includes items such as events leading up to and within the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War and the recent conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine.  Sometimes, people that have read, listened to, and/or watched a lot of history or news in America are simply more thoroughly misinformed.  They know more; but, also, they know more false information.
There are two major problems associated with the abundance of propaganda in America.  The first is that almost no one in our society is properly qualified to vote or make other decisions important to our society.  You cannot have a true democracy without reasonably well-informed voters.  (Of course, those truly in power in America do not really want democracy.)  Misinformed voters make misinformed choices, and government officials misinformed about history and current affairs make misinformed choices too.  The second is that the propaganda tends to lead to a lot of unwarranted death, dismemberment, starvation, homelessness, property destruction, etc.  Sometimes, only or almost only foreigners suffer (e.g., as in the recent conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Ukraine).  Other times, Americans suffer or suffer as well (e.g., as in the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War).  Regardless of who suffers, it is horribly wrong.
One of the goals of every American should be to not contribute to what is, essentially, murder, etc. by not accepting or perpetuating dangerous falsehoods.  There are, sometimes, warranted wars.  There is, sometimes, accurate information about the world and our society within our society; but a great amount of caution is warranted in consuming and passing on information in America.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

X Great Reasons It’s a Great Time to Be Alive (Category: Humor)

Often, inspirational articles aren’t very useful; so let’s take a much lighter approach.  None of the below is meant to be taken very seriously.  It’s meant to be funny, although there is, sometimes, a serious aspect.  Feel free to add your own great reason(s).  Just don’t be too serious in doing so.

1.       If you’re alive, you know you’re alive.  If you’re dead, you’re probably unaware of your status.  It’s better to know where you stand.

2.       Global warming.  There are more warm days, and even warmer days to come.

3.       The platypus.  Still around after all these years, and we get to look at pictures of the goofy thing.

4.       Paris Hilton.  I’ve been to Paris, and the Hilton there is very nice.

5.       Hitler is dead.  It’s hard for us to all agree on anything, but almost all of us agree this is good.  Also dead:  Vlad the Impaler and Perry Como.

6.       Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Upon seeing the title of this film, you felt more intelligent because, hey, at least you’re not the idiot who came up with this concept.

7.       A lot of things taste like chicken.  This is good because it’s a pain in the ass describing how things taste.

8.       Mimes are no longer popular.  Why is the mime always trapped inside the box?  Why not outside?  Why isn’t it a cylinder instead?  Mimes, some creativity, please.

9.       There are clocks everywhere.  You may be confused by many things, but you do know what time it is.

10.   There are numerous reality shows, in case, somehow, you don’t understand what reality is like.

11.   You are confident that, if you call up a company and ask a question, you will get a wrong answer.  Previously you were uncertain.

12.   You know that, with help from a weight-loss expert, you can, in time, gain five pounds.

13.   You know that this is O.K. because Oprah will gain more.

14.   We went to the moon and, then, lost our ability to solve any social issues.  You want to learn if there is some kind of a relationship between the two.

15.   Thanks to sci-fi, we are now clearer about what the future won’t be like.

16.   Passive investing.  Buy one low expense ratio stock index fund, buy one low expense ratio bond index fund; and focus on partying.  You’ll probably end up with more money, and you will have partied much more.

Build It, and Squirrel Will Come (Category: Humor)

I was working on a landscaping project in the backyard, when I heard a voice whisper:  “Build it, and squirrel will come.”  I said:  “What?”  The voice whispered again:  “Build it, and squirrel will come.”  I said:  “Am I imaging things?”  The voice whispered again:  “Build it, and squirrel will come.”

Well, now, I was particularly inspired to finish the project.  Weeks later, as I was finishing the project; I saw squirrel.  He was in one of the mulch portions of the project.  He looked for some nuts.  Afterward, he just stood there, enjoying things as they were.  Then, he departed.  Then, I heard the voice whisper:  “I said he would come.  I didn’t say he would do anything special.”