Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Propaganda of Enlightenment

Last time, we took up the issue very much in the news, of "majority rule"... and got sidetracked into the following question.

Are "modernists" immune to propaganda? No! We are human and thus can be swayed. Indeed, for most of our lives we have been subjected to pro enlightenment propaganda in the greatest indoctrination campaign of all time!

Some of you have heard me point this out before. But please bear with me. At many of my public talks, I ask audience members if they think their neighbors are subjected to propaganda and nearly everybody raises a hand. Yet, when asked to name the message that has warped their neighbors' perceptions, people offer a strange variety of suggestions, never making a coherent pattern.

QuestionnaireNCommercial advertising? Most Americans have grown pretty thick skins toward ads. Propaganda favoring religion? Or homosexual rights? These tend only to be mentioned if you angrily hold the opposite view. Interestingly, nobody names as "propaganda" a belief system that THEY hold dear. (See how this works out by taking the "questionaire on ideology" at: http://www.davidbrin.com/questionnaire.html)

In all the years I have asked this question, very seldom has anyone mentioned any of the truly pervasive messages.

Which is what you would expect! The most effective "propaganda" should be messages that you tend not to notice, because you agree with it. Because it has already been effective. And effective on you. (Think. We all like to point away from us at the "masses." But isn't it at least somewhat probable that we are part of the masses, at least in some ways.)

Go through all the movies you've enjoyed - and stirring novels - during the last few decades. Find one in which the hero doesn't bond with the audience in the first ten minutes by confronting some kind of authority figure. Suspicion of authority (SOA) is such a potent, dramatic message, that even anti-modernist rants like the Star Wars series play lip service to it.

(The superficial plot always features underdogs prevailing against garish baddies... even if the underlying story arc pushes the long term failure of democracy and citizenship, extolling the traditional alternative of rule-by-demigods. If you think about it, these two messages are not incompatible! In The Matrix, the "chosen one faces dire peril against tiitanic entities... while the rest of us are clueless, hapless, bleating sheep.)

Look carefully. Are there other messages pervading our media? Most of our modern myths supplement Suspicion of Authority (SOA) with two other lessons: tolerance of diversity and appreciation of individual eccentricity.

Think about it. If the director wants you to hate a villain, he will have the bad guy perform some intolerant act early in the film. If it is VERBAL intolerance, he/she might get away with an act of contrition after the climax. But if he kick a dog, he gonna die. Likewise, you will bond with the protagonist in direct proportion to the degree that she or he displays some quirky-but-harmless personal eccentricity.

Is it weird that I point out the existence of Enlightenment Propaganda, when my loyalty to the Enlightenment is supposedly based upon its promotion of individual responsibility, accountability, openness and pragmatism? Aren't those much more mature and sensible reasons to support the modernist agenda?

Well, please recall that we are talking about HUMAN BEINGS, here. Weirdness-& Inconsistency-R-Us. Our complexity is our wealth, even if it combines many aspects of Cave, Castle and Civilization.

Anyway, consider this. Most propaganda is diminished in its effectiveness when you see it AS propaganda. But did that happen to you, just now? Did you become less devoted to tolerance, eccentricity and suspicion of authority, when you saw how relentlessly you have been taught those values in popular media? I doubt it.

Enlightenment propaganda doesn't mind being looked-at. In fact, when you realize that you suckled these messages all your life, from a civilization that at some level WANTS you to be different (an individualist), and tolerant and suspicious of authority, doesn't it make you kind of smile at the irony? Maybe even become a bit more confident in the process, in its prospects for success. And in your neighbors, for sharing the key values?

Well, it oughta.

Moreover, the need for this kind of propaganda must be obvious. We are inherently romantics, as shown by 4,000 years of kings, priests, wizards and demigods. Reason alone won't propel us the other way. There must be other forces, plucking at our deeper feelings. No, I will not reject these messages, simply because I have noticed the campaign.

(A side puzzlement: who ordered this indoctrination campaign into being? Our typical notion of propaganda is to picture it done at the behest of some narrow clique of Illuminati-type conspirators, in some richly-paneled room. But can you actually parse out that scenario, this time? Some plutocrat-gnome telling his pals: "Hey guys. Let's pump up the suspicion of authority messages, this year." ?? It is just too weird.)

No, we have to recognize what forces are operating on our side, before we can properly analyze the weapons being used against us. Both sides of the Culture War engage in propaganda. Only understanding will help us to prevent the re imposition of ancient systems of oppression in our lifetimes.

Next time: back to a discussion of Majority Rule...

45 comments:

Brother Doug said...

In regards to your side note, Here is my stab in the dark about why we have enlightenment propaganda. Not that I have any special insight, and am looking forward to your take. Say you are of Irish or Italian or Jewish heritage etc. Or maybe you are a nerd you were no good a sports and all the jocks in your class laughed at you all your life. The year is 1945 your buddies have just finished winning WWII. You go to your rotary club/country club/or local politician or industry leadership group and ask can I join up and become one of the team. They laugh in your face. Then in the 1950's Television becomes affordable to the masses and you grab onto as the way to a better life. The romantics see it as just a passing fad and they become CEO's of the dieing industrial age economy. So at PBS you have modernist liberals like Mr. Rodgers and his fellow travelers who become the innovators.

You have Joseph Kennedy get into the movie distribution bisness [Sorry cant find the right spelling] in the 30's because no one would let them into the inner sanctum of the bisness world despite him having loads of cash from the stock market. They would not even let him join the country club he lived next door to. And you have strong minority representation in the movie production bisness. Sounds like he had a motive to expand modernist ideology.

See a pattern it’s the excluded others who go into the media at the early stages. Plus they have a genuinely more interesting art than the mainstream. It was excluded Blacks that created Jazz and rock and roll. (Thank you Ike Turner!, not Elvis who popularized it). Compare the movie Easy rider with The green Barays [Sorry cant find the right spelling] by John Wayne. Easy rider=dirt cheap and made a ton of money once it got into the box office, and The green Barays film that bombed at the box office despite the celebrity of john Wayne and the support of the us army. Vietnam was the final nail in the coffin when the lies came to light, and then the whole world was convinced not to trust authority. In the 80s the regressive romantics realize their mistake and try to get in but it's too late for anything but talk radio and cable news [Hello Fox news, notice it was started by Rupert Murdoc from down under, where the Meme had not penetrated as far]. So the regressive Romanics only have themselves to blame. They missed out on a golden opportunity to spread their message because they believed the only news outlet worth looking at was the Wall Street Journal.

Anonymous said...

If you want a really bang-up examination of "suspicion of authority", immediately find yourself a copy of Nation of Rebels by Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter (a pair of Canadian philosophy professors).

Suspicion of authority propaganda emanates from the marketing departments of companies in industries that thrive on creativity, industries that got most of their impetus from people in the '60s who loved the critique of "mass society" that arose in the '50s (The Organization Man, etc.) and its calls for a "counterculture". It turns out that "you're different, you're an outsider, you're a rebel" is a great way to sell people stuff - once everyone else has something, it no longer makes you different from everyone else, so there's always more stuff to buy! (Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that - it's what keeps our economy going these days.)

Unfortunately various strands of leftism advocate a "counterculture" as a counter to consumer society, which is futile - it either feeds into the "rebel" strand of marketing, or it hits its logical endpoint with folks like the Unabomber, who advocate the destruction of our entire social system as the only way to get rid of "the rot at the heart of things".

An interesting tangent: most of the really dynamic industries in America today thrive on creativity and doing something different - stereotypical coastal "blue state" values. Amy Chua, in World on Fire, puts forth the thesis that introducing democratic government to developing countries can be extremely dangerous and destabilizing due to the presence of "market dominant minorities" - minorities that for whatever reason dominate commerce in a nation (e.g. Chinese in Southeast Asia or whites in Zimbabwe). Majorities suddenly given political power by democracy use it to turn on the minority with economic power, sometimes with bloody results. You can make a pretty good argument that blue-staters are a market-dominant minority in the United States, and that the Bush II era is an example of the red-state majority expressing its displeasure with this state of affairs. (As John Stewart said about the recent election, "I guess they really don't like the fact that we control the TV.")

Frank said...

Even in real life the authority figures are hard to ignore, there are so many of them. Parents, teachers, priests, police officers, doctors (of all sorts), soldiers, polticians. Any specialist or expert really. The baddies in a movie are usually people who abuse their expert-status to support some position of luxury.

It´s never easy to put your life in the hands of another person. Most people find it quite frightening.

This explains the success of SOA movies. They are basically horror flics where the expert monster eventually gets thoroughly
destroyed for it's immoral behavior. The only purpose is to give the audience a feeling of regained safety and order.

The question remains whether these movies actually stimulate peoples devotion to tolerance, eccentricity and suspicion of
authority or just lull them in to a false sense of security. How effective is this propaganda ? How would you measure it's effectiveness ?

Frank said...

An insight into what George Lucas finds interesting about history here

kevusacasd said...

In the last article, I like how you recognized that the public is inundated by propaganda in most political issues from many different groups that have many different political affiliations. I think it is wise how you recognize each individual’s susceptibility to it, and I think that it is important to retain some skepticism about even issues which one feels strongly about. One particular issue that I am concerned with is global warming. Most scientists of repute agree and I think that most evidence suggests that there is a current rapid trend towards global warming in the average temperatures and consequently there is a rapid decreasing in the size of the glaciers and a rise in the water levels. There are many different possible causes thought to be the chief cause of this temperature increase such as sunspots, slight variations in parts of the earth’s core temperature and the earth’s orbit, ,and human activities such as the burning of green house gases that can cause the earth’s temperature to rise. Although there are many possible causes the issue that is usually debated is whether human activity primarily C02 emissions is the chief cause of global warming. I find that most people that I encounter automatically rule out or blindly accept human causes as the cause on this subject depending on their level of susceptibility to the environmentalists’ overall agenda. I do not want to do either. Do you know of any good sources that provide evidence for either argument? I think it would be terrible if the earth was warming due to human pollution and we did not do anything about it and it could be equally as bad for government’s to impose severe restrictions on many different industries for something that was not happening because of the pollution that they were producing.

Lucian of Samasota said...

Of course, the "I'm different" concept is also a powerful depoliticizing force. See, most people take the easiest route to such a goal, by dyeing their hair or wearing leather in bed.

It's also probably at least in part linked older Christian/pre-Christian mythic structures; Joseph Campbell pointed out that often the hero needs to go off into the wilderness, on his own, to get things done. Since most "heroes" in modern stories start out as part of some big organization that gives them power and special skills, their "going out into the wilderness" is usually rebelling against, or violating, the rules of their organization.

The only thing that's modernist about our form of this is that it's less class-ist. It used usually to be just high-strata people, while now any person might achieve that "enlightenment". (Yeah, right.) That might be uniquely modern, though I think there's more class bias than some admit. But going it alone, and rebelling against authority, that's hardly modernist in itself.

Jesus is at least as anti-authoritarian figure as any other protagonist in any contemporary narrative, come to think of it... though most Christians don't understand that.

As for wondering what the truly pervasive messages in American media are, you'd do best to ask a foreigner. The smarter people outside America tend to be able to list a few really common points which are clear as day beyond your borders, but which even the best of you seem unable to see through.

NoOne said...

Dr. Brin said "We are inherently romantics, as shown by 4,000 years of kings, priests, wizards and demigods."

We are not inherently anything. Without asking y'all to explicitly endorse a de Chardin/Aurobindo view of evolution toward spirit (which I believe in), I think everyone here will agree that there has been a cognitive structure evoution from magic to myth to rationality in recent human history.

When the transition from magic to myth occurred, magic ended up in service of myth. So, instead of a shaman performing a human sacrifice, a priest gave you some wafers and some wine.

When the transition from myth to rationality occurred, myth ended up in service of rationality. So, instead of religion being the source of morality, mythology was used by secular society to help kids internalize values, morals, and purposes.

When the transition from rationality to creativity is cemented, rationality will end up in service of creativity. So, instead of mathematicians proving theorems, we'll have automated rationality via compilers, scripting languages, media devices etc. in service of our dreams, movie scripts, characters, plots and musical compositions.

Just because romanticism overstayed its welcome does not mean that it is normative for human nature.

Anonymous said...

How old is the Suspicion of Authority propaganda?
I just finished reading a blatant rip off of the Robin Hood story... And Robin Hood (in it's original form) pre-dates the Norman conquest in 1066. While the current form of Robin the minor Saxon nobleman, good Norman King Richard away, evil Norman Prince John as his regent, evil Sherrif of Nottingham, evil (or questionable) bishops contrasting with good Friar Tuck (I could go on) is post-conquest, it definetly predates the enlightenment. And it's not the only story which questions authority that does.
As I said in private emails to Mr. Brin, drama is about conflict... and the measure of the Hero is the opponent he faces. Authority figures make great opponents... because they are powerful, have access to minions and wealth to beat on the Hero with... and who doesn't like the idea of bringing down a corrupt authority figure? Robin targets corrupt tax collectors... a target guarenteed to get the applause of anyone who pays taxes.
The motive of such a story? How about bards trying to get a meal out of Saxon peasants who really don't want to hear the authorities (mostly Norman) get the best of it? Know your audiance! I'm quite sure that the same bards telling peasants of good Robin of Loxley(sp) was singing a different tune when trying to convince the local baron to give him a meal and a few silver... perhaps one of cheating peasants getting thier come uppance. So why did Robin's story survive? There are a LOT more peasants than nobles... and the Robin Hood story also makes some noblemen into good guys...

(rather than risk repeating myself, I'm going to end this here.)

HawkerHurricane

David Brin said...

1. Brother Doug said "See a pattern it’s the excluded others who go into the media at the early stages. Plus they have a genuinely more interesting art than the mainstream."

Right. I saw a documentary entitled Hidden Hollywood, with a secondary title 'Jews, Movies and the American Dream'. Based on Neil Gabler's book How the Jews invented Hollywood (published in 1989), this two-part programme took the viewer on a fascinating and incredibly candid trawl through early American cinema. Using old film footage and interviews with authors and academics, it told the story of the first studio bosses and movie moguls - formerly Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The documentary showed how tolerance became a central theme in movie mythology.

Still, it would never have continued so intensely if it did not reap financial success. And that success came because people LIKED this image of America, as a shining light of decency. They voted for more with their ticket purchases. That is the simple explanation. The one that is probably true... and yet... how could it have happened that way?

2. Re global warming climate change, the most powerful argument is not the rows and rows of eminent scientists who sign petitions supporting the consensus of worry about effects of CO2 etc. (Michael Crichton's campaign against "consensus science" is an ill masked attempt to badger these "boffins" back into the lab where they belong, leaving policy to its rightful owners.)

No, the biggest argument is simply "better safe than sorry". Developing technologies and good habits that are less wasteful will benefit us and the world even if there turns out to be no global warming at all. The hypcrisy of the ##$@#$! fellows is that they say "more research is needed"... and they underminde research.

3. Lucian pointed out the high status of demigod heroes in past (Campbellian) mythologies. Exactly. Campbell never pointed out the dark side of his mythos... that the bards were sucking up to the chieftains who had all the beer.

4. NoOne said: "When the transition from rationality to creativity is cemented, rationality will end up in service of creativity. So, instead of mathematicians proving theorems, we'll have automated rationality via compilers, scripting languages, media devices etc. in service of our dreams, movie scripts, characters, plots and musical compositions."

Cute!

See my short story "Temptation" available online at http://www.davidbrin.com/ ALso "Stones of Significance". In any event, I consider romanticism to be "natural" because it ruled all other cultures and tugs at us profoundly, even today. And I do not mind romance in the arts. I are one, right?

What we must do is prevent it ever again from controlling public policy. And there is no one more romantic today than a neocon.

Mabus said...

When did the pro-enlightenment propaganda start? Perhaps very early--in one form or another it probably appeared in every conquered culture in history, talking about the day when they would overthrow their conquerors.

But in Western culture, I suspect that its immediate origin lies in the Protestant Reformation (but go back to the Hussites and Lollards, not just Martin Luther). These movements had to fight an overwhelming religious authority just to survive. Equally importantly, they won, allowing the meme to survive in other than an underground form. And it's worth noting that the Renaissance, then the Enlightenment that grew from it, follow hard on the Reformation's heels.

Something of a shame that so many of them betrayed their promise almost immediately--but then, that's human too.

Anonymous said...

If you don't mind romanticism in the arts, then why the many rants about Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings? Unless you seriously think people are trying to implement the political systems depicted in those stories, or that it unduly influences their voting behavior?

NoOne said...

On Dr. Brin's recommendation to read Temptation.

Temptation was excellent, thanks. I'm a sucker for any Uplift story and this one with a "rationality in service of solipsistic creativity" theme was a fun read.

And now for something completely different. Dr. Brin has a twin soul in Anthony Lane of the New Yorker. Run, don't walk to read his review of Revenge of the Sith.

Anders Brink said...

Anonymous,

Dr Brin's rants against Star Wars gets us to think about the propaganda messages in those movies. I actually think he's more right about Star Wars than Lord of the Rings.

Nate said...

Ouch. He really didn't think much of the movie, did he? Though everything with the new Star Wars films represents Lucas forgetting what was great from the first three. The first three were dirty and cluttered and everybody wasn't nice and happy.

And really, the prequels were structured badly. Episode 1 was mostly pointless, it coulda been the first half hour or so of Episode 2. And Episode 2 could have been shorter and better. Forget droid fights and the army of clones and whatnot, concentrate on showing the Republic's fall, and Anakin's mirroring that, when he was supposed to be the hope of the Jedi renewal, but brought them down. Show how out of touch the Jedi are, not just make them incompetent. (What, walk into an arena with no cover when we had the bad guys surrounded?) Hell, the whole thing could be an example of the perils of secretive elites and unquestioned authority. But that's not what we got.

Which I suppose would have made it Enlightenment Propaganda too. And much more interesting.

Though it'd still have needed someone else to do a rewrite, especially on the dialogue.

Brother Doug said...

David Brin said:
“And that success came because people LIKED this image of America, as a shining light of decency. They voted for more with their ticket purchases. That is the simple explanation. The one that is probably true... and yet... how could it have happened that way?”

Wow, that’s a good qestion. I think the forces of propaganda are best used by minortys. We always think of Hitler or Stalin as propaganists with the power of the state making propagana posable. But if we look back we see, Tom Paine, Ben Franclin and ilck waging a far more effective propaganda campain than england did, with far fewer resourses.
The qestion is was that campain ordered by the sons of liberty and the Masonic lodge or was it a natural byprodict of a repressed minorty? I tend to favor the second explanation. Or as someone aluded to Moses seting up a massively successful propaganda campain in the middle of Egipt.

So in the 1930 the american romatics were caught in there own ideology and political heritage. They had no explanation for the failure of the euorpian eleites to stop Comunisum and Facisum. If they cracked down on the Meme of “Otherness” they risked not only their economy but the only viable alteritve to Hitler and Stalin. So they did vituraly nothing to stop the propaganda. So you have some half harted attmpts like “Reifer Madness” that even the school kids did not take seriously. And since as you point out Hollywood was founded by mostly Jews it would have been a political nightmare to supress them after the tragady of the holocost.

So the real qestion is why is the enlightenment propaganda campain failing now? Perhaps minoritys no longer feel as disinfrnancised as before? Mabye the 1% that owns 33% of the wealth in america no longer feels threatened by rebelion with the soviet union gone? The news and media has definatley become more pro Romatic. Lots of people voted economicaly for Mike Moore's most recent movie but that did not stop Bush from using the tools of state power to get what he wanted. I wish I had a better answer.

Brother Doug

Frank said...

Why does this guy dislike Yoda so much ? So he has a speech impediment, nobody's perfect. And it's not easy being green.

Besides, he did spot the evil in young Anakin, the kid that grew up on Hegelworld and probably internalised its Master/Slave
ideology. If only Qui-Gon Jinn had followed Yodas wise orders.

And he brought the cavalry to those tactically moronic jedi in the arena. Later he saved Anakins and Obi-Wans hides from Dooku. And much later helped Luke get his act together.

Okay, he didn´t see all the misery coming but I don´t recall *anybody* saying that he was omniscient. He's a vulnerable guy, he makes mistakes like a regular human being.

And as for him being a little crabby now and again, remember he is really old. He probably has lots of painful ailments like
arthtritis or hemorrhoids. Why do you think he walks so funny and with a stick, hm?

Steve B said...

brother doug said:
"So the real qestion is why is the enlightenment propaganda campain failing now?"

Are you sure that it is? Or is it simply being temporarily drowned out in the noise from a huge amount of negative propaganda? Negative propaganda acts quickly but needs to be constantly reinforced lest it die out. Enlightenment Propaganda is slow and steady, and tends to be self reinforcing in the long run.

What I see happening today is that certain socially conservative movements have discovered the slow shift in perceptions of the public due to that enlightenment propaganda. So they're flooding us with contrary propaganda in a short term attempt to shift opinion just long enough for them to enshrine their values system in stone and law (and constitutional changes if possible), before it's too late.

BTW, a side note to Dr. Brin (Is that how you prefer to be called here, BTW?) - I tried filling out your questionairre and submitting it, but the email generated only included the first three or four answers before chopping off in the middle of one, so I didn't send it. Not sure if that's a browser problem (Safari on Mac OS X) or not.

Nick said...

D. Brin said:
'The most effective "propaganda" should be messages that you tend not to notice, because you agree with it. Because it has already been effective. And effective on you.'
N. King says:
Absolutely. Too often in this day & age I read bloggers & journalists (particularly American unfortunately, i'm from downunder) who understandably deride/critique the Bush admin. & its policies, taking a solid anti-authority view, yet seem to be unaware of their own compulsion to refer to their Christian background & allegiance to their nation, wearing such comments as tho they're a badge of honor & integrity, or provide more credence to their arguments...the 'take me seriously, i'm exercising my right to opinionate & debate & don't mistake me for some loopy, Godless Bolshi' phenomena...sigh. Furthermore, they can identify with environmental causes but feel compelled to mention their luv of chompin' on a burger now & then. To promote/mention a vegan lifestyle apparently puts you in the too 'politically correct', 'loony fringe' or 'fairy at the bottom of the garden' category. The pervasive attitude I witness too often in Western society is 'feel free to dissent & utilise freedom of speech we hold so dear, provided you acknowledge we are all good meat eating, nation loving Christians. Geez I wonder where people got the idea that this lifestyle is the norm for Westerners? Could it possibly be that such propaganda promoted insidiously & recurrently over the centuries by the powerful to ensure moral control & profiteering has actually penetrated the mass mind & ensures a reaction of fear or hostility if one deigns to move beyond the homogeneity of it all. You're correct David, too often the properganderised are unaware of the way they've been manipulated, 'tend not to notice' the belief systems they espouse.
The country I live in has spawned a Goebbel's-like character in Rupert Murdoch, without his machinations & media strategies & support I doubt the Neo-Cons would ever have gained the obscene power hold they presently have. He is a master at tapping into the fears, compulsions & sense of obligation that goes with many of the ideologies i mentioned previously. His media empire never takes for granted that the general Western condition is 'eyes wide shut'.
As for the Aussie 'preferential balloting' system you mentioned in an earlier post, I'm always amazed that Americans aren't provided with such a choice on election day. Surely millions of Green, Naderite & Libertarian voters deserve some form of representation in their Gov't.
The critique I have of our system tho lies in the conformity of the 2-party system. Certainly the senate, often made up of a number of main & minor parties (ending unfortunately at the end of June as the conservative Libs will then have the majority) has led to decent compromises & alterations of bills, but unfortunately in the House of Reps the major party ministers tend to fall into line with the Party leader's view & vote in a block accordingly. In this instance, I tend to appreciate more the maverick & independent characters I see in US politics - tho i see they seem to be a diminishing breed as well with all this partisan politics of late. If only our political systems could learn from each other eh? You add the Preferential Ballot system, we get more mavericks...:)...& as for your Electoral College system, talk about a worthy plan by the founding fathers that just doesn't work in the contemporary era. Dump it if ya can. The general perception on our side of the pond is that it's undemocratic.
The status quo just ain't working imho.
By the way, I'm thoroughly enjoying this stimulating discussion, seems you’re all mavericks on here. Luv the Uplift Series too David.

Lucian of Samasota said...

David Brin wrote:

3. Lucian pointed out the high status of demigod heroes in past (Campbellian) mythologies. Exactly. Campbell never pointed out the dark side of his mythos... that the bards were sucking up to the chieftains who had all the beer.

First off, the myths weren't Campbellian. Campbell wrote about myths, but there was such a variety he wrote about that it's not even funny. (Unless you only read one book of them, like Lucas did.)

Secondly, you can't classify all pre-enlightenment narratives so simply. We see some elements of criticism of, or de-mystification of, royal or religious authorities in all kinds of texts through out history: Gilgamesh might have been king but what good did it do him in the end? Jesus criticized his local religious authorities loudly. Myths about Buddha sometimes vituperate kings and glorify small animals or even patches of grass. In the Mahabharata, one band of demigods battles another (don't forget!), and several lowborn people rise up when they show skill or prowess, or even just a strong-enough will for revenge. What kind of sucking-up do Oedipus Rex and other Greek (or Shakespearean) tragedies represent? Medieval European texts are chock full of barely-veiled criticisms of kings and religious patriarchs...

I think you're inaccurately imagining that modernist/Enlightenment period artists invented resistance to authority or individualism and the heroism as possible for people other than royals and demigods, when what in fact happened was that this potential was accentuated and brought out of the underground.

But of course, you're going to overlook those stories if you're hoping to paint a picture where the Enlightenment brought us out of the perpetual dark ages that imprisoned us all throughout all human history until the Enlightenment arrived to break our chains.

The irony is that this itself is a really romanticist conception of the Enlightenment.

Brian said...

Hey all. In light of Brin's main argument point - the belief in improvement of humans overtime through the application of reason and science, please contrast this with the speech given by one of the very judges the republicans are looking to destroy the tradition of filibuster to install:

http://www.constitution.org/col/jrb/00420_jrb_fedsoc.htm

She states at one point "I want to suggest that the belief in and the impulse toward human perfection, at least in the political life of a nation, is an idea whose arc can be traced from the Enlightenment, through the Terror, to Marx and Engels, to the Revolutions of 1917 and 1937. The latter date marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution. All of these events were manifestations of a particularly skewed view of human nature and the nature of human reason. To the extent the Enlightenment sought to substitute the paradigm of reason for faith, custom or tradition, it failed to provide rational explanation of the significance of human life....Politically, the belief in human perfectibility is another way of asserting that differences between the few and the many can, over time, be erased."

Then she goes on to prove the inability of human beings to do just that. Scary that she is what the republicans want.

David Brin said...

Fantastic quotation from the judicial nominee. The other side has genuine minds, among the idiots. The neocons include some smart fellows who can very well see where civilization is (was?) heading. They want the Old Ways back.

More comments on comments....

1. Go read Bill Moyer's recent speech at
http://www.freepress.net/news/8120. Personally, I have never cared for Moyers, whose liberalism is of the somewhat smarmy variety. I also hated the way he sucked up to Joseph Campbell, pitching that old fart nothing but softballs, instead of really grilling the underlying nastiness of "The Heroe's Journey." Still, Moyers is often right. And in this case, the Great Big War Against PBS is very real. The Confederacy doesn't want the Union to have any media it does not control.

2. Anonymous said: "Suspicion of authority propaganda emanates from the marketing departments of companies in industries that thrive on creativity,..."

Well, this is pretty cynical. I'm not saying this is not an element. But there is a simpler explanation. Movies that are versy successful get imitated. Duh. If lots of people buy repeat tickets to see films that feature underdogs vs authority figures, isn't that voting with their wallets, or with their feet?

3. I like the notion that SOA is also a reaction to what I've called the "professionalization of everything." The 20th Century was one long rise in this curve... a curve that simply cannot continue in the 21st. Demographics. There simply arent' enough PEOPLE for it to continue at 20th century rates! One possible solution is what I have called "The Age of Amateurs" (see EARTH and The Transparent Society .) Of course one might also see the Gray State revolt as carrying out this rebellion in a much less constructive way.

4. Frank asks: " How effective is this propaganda ? How would you measure it's effectiveness ?" I used to answer Look at yourself! YOIU are an example of a tolerant eccentric who worries about excess authority. And people like you number in the millions.

Now I wonder if that was very Blue-State of me. Or simply expressing enlightenment triumphalism. WHen the enlightenment is anything but safe.

5. I stand by my remark: "We are inherently romantics, as shown by 4,000 years of kings, priests, wizards and demigods." Because (a) a pattern that spans all cultures and all continents simply has to have some genetic basis. Because we are wildly creative and diverse when proclivities are absent. And (b) we are all descended from the chiefs and kings who got more than one wife and lots of food, at the expense of nearby peasants.

That is not to say that we can't outgrow feudalism & mysticism! I am betting we can. We are far more self-reprogrammable than pre programmed. But just look at the power of feudal-magic imagery. Dang. The enlightenment still is the rebel. It still has its work cut out.

6. Nice point that Robin Hood's story would have been sung different in the king's hall than in the peasan'ts pub. In Robin Hood, the peasant version survives. In King Arthur, the lordly version did.

7. Let me remind anonymous that I spoke RESPECTFULLY of Lord of the Rings. I see great subtlety and moral thought within Tolkien's world building. The man had heart and mind and soul. And it is not for me to tell a man who had been at the Battle of the Somme that he REALLY ought to love technology and modernity.

My essay respects JRRT... but reminds us that his world view cannot be allowed to win. He just does not believe in hope on a macroscopic scale.

8. The point that no one seems to raise re Star Wars is that only two out of six have happy endings. SUre, that CAN be okay. Everyone agrees that the one Lucas did NOT write - The Empire Strikes Back - was by far the best. Its downer ending was magnificent, brave, hopeful elegiacal. But episdones I,II, and III? You know in advance that every decent and brave and heroic act will be futile, futile futile futile futile futile futile futile futile!

gah! It's like he wants us to not only worship a nazi mass murderer, but also eveil green oven mitts... all the while losing all hope. feh.

9. Lucian is perfectly right that I over generalize and romanticize the enlightenment rebellion against romanticism. So? I am, by personality and talent, a romantic storyteller.

What I do believe is that THIS time of ours is one of crisis for a very important revolution. The reactionary forces of repression that squelched hope for most of our ancestors are on the move and they want us to subjugate ourselves to incantations and lords again. Incantations of the left, right, weird... it doesn't matter.

There have always been enlightenment TYPES in most cultures. Spinoza, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Roger Bacon, Maimonedes, and Great Pericles. I do not say that "our" enlightenment invented this kind of thinking. But ours is the time when it has made its move, taken its bold step toward the light. And if it fails, the lords and incantators will never let it be tried again.

NoOne said...

Dr. Brin said " I stand by my remark: "We are inherently romantics, as shown by 4,000 years of kings, priests, wizards and demigods." "

We have a fundamental disagreement about that, but that's OK since it is not very important.

Also you are missing a lot when you say "That is not to say that we can't outgrow feudalism & mysticism!" There's a lot of good stuff in the Eastern "Enlightenment" which you are completely missing. Genuine mystics such as Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Sri Aurobindo and Nagarjuna were never allied with retro-romantic forces.

Especially Nagarjuna. There's no way that you can associate Nagarjuna with any kind of romanticism. And yet, he is not a scientist and he's non-Western. Basically, by focusing on the Western Enlightenment, you're missing out on the Eastern Enlightenment and the "sciences of the interior." Luckily, we all have access now to the Eastern sources and we'll eventually realize that there's only one Enlightenment which is not exclusively focused on the sciences of the exterior (Western) or that of the interior (Eastern).

Anders Brink said...

NoOne,

Oh come on! Nagajuna? What's the big deal about these Eastern "science of the interior"? Do you really think Dr Brin is "blindsided" or "biased" if he doesn't know Nagarjuna? Let me challenge you then: Give us one concept that his guy gave the world that you think we don't know.

Eastern Mysticism as a force of enlightenment? Please. Can I have have my Green Oven Mitt back please?

NoOne said...

Anders Brink said

"Give us one concept that his guy gave the world that you think we don't know."

One of Nagarjuna's central claims is that our awareness is empty of any inherent nature. The reason (according to Nagarjuna) why we can keep developing and improving is that our awareness by being empty of content can always stay a step ahead of our thoughts, feelings, imagination, sensations etc. and not be bound by them.

Nagarjuna is to the East what Socrates is to the West, so I'd approach this with some humility if I were you.

jomama said...

Lottsa fine, intelligent comment here.

How rare.

David Brin said:

"What we must do is prevent it ever
again from controlling public policy.
And there is no one more romantic today
than a neocon."

First, what's romantic about whacking
people in far off lands for no good
reason in an attempt to make the world
in the neocon image...or any image?

I don't see it.

Moving on, how does one keep art from
seeping into the ALL of the culture?

Not possible.

The ultimate romantic view, IMO, then
can be found in Eric Frank Russell's,
And Then There Were None at
http://www.abelard.org/e-f-russell.htm
where 'public policy' is made extinct,
and romanticism and common sense
thrives in all its glory. If I had the
ambition and some cash I didn't know
what to do with, I'd do something like
sell shares on the film rendition.
(Would someone please run with this.)

"What I do believe is that THIS time
of ours is one of crisis for a very
important revolution. The reactionary
forces of repression that squelched
hope for most of our ancestors are on
the move and they want us to subjugate
ourselves to incantations and lords
again. Incantations of the left, right,
weird... it doesn't matter."

Well said and I too believe we're on
the tight rope.

We could easily fall into some kind
hell or heaven before we reach its end
but even that is too simplistic on my
part.

Frank said...

@NoOne:
"There's no way that you can associate Nagarjuna with any kind of romanticism"

I'm curious, what would you say were his ideas concerning politics or leadership in general?

Mabus said...

Mr. Brin, what exactly do you mean by "we"? America is certainly in some danger, but it's also expending a great deal of its energy on things like this war, and the rest of western civilization seems to be very much against what's happening here. Or do you know something I haven't heard about?

David Brin said...

A stupid America is bad news for the whole world, even as a smart America has been (at least in part) its salvation.

Two billion people are entering middle class, right now, all over the world, through the simple and effective process (instituted by George Marshall's anti-mercantalist trade policies) of selling trillions of dollars worth of goods and services Americans never needed.

Ah, but that is a weird effect that arose from a combination of one excellent policy plus 60 years of happy, thoughtless, adolescent spending. That is not ongoing leadership.

It is vital that America be more than that. More than it is right now. Those who think we can shape the world to come by thumping around with big boots (while dismantling our ACTUAL military readiness) are big schoolyard babies.

I do NOT object to military force. The Afghanistan plan formulated by Clinton and Clarke, and executed with a "go!" by Bush, showed how it can be done with mature professionalism, as in the Balkans.

Anders Brink said...

To NoOne,

I apologise if I sound arrogant. It would indeed be spectacular to see David Brin take on another such as Socrates.

Rik said...

I know of a little book by Lin Carter about making worlds. Carter points out that every world ever dreamed up, has some religion in it. And JRRT's does not!
Could this be why it's so popular? (ps. i'm well aware of Gandalf's statement on the bridge of Moria...)
The point is that reality is what works and some things do not work anymore. You can perfectly impose another heteronomous control system, but it's not gonna work... Autonomy = integretity and in the present world where values aren't handed over from up high, but literally have to be created from below, it is a sin to surrender that autonomy.
This is where religion / spiritual consciousness can be usefull. It is of course an enormous step for most people. That is what neo-romantics count on.

I don't believe in paradigms in science, but you can use them in history. This would get you a classic paradigm (500 bc - 500 ad), the medieval paradigm (500 ad - 1500 ad) and the modern one. It's not a neat division; in some places the medieval view still reigns. It's not to say that there's nothing of the classical and medieval views in modernity, the latter contains a lot of the former. Movements go up and down, and are often followed by anti-movements.
You could well argue that the 20th century did not exist and that the 19th century runs from 1789 (the failure of the Enlightenment) to 1945 (the end of history).
If your judicial nominee wishes to trace a line from there to now, she has a point, but she fails to mention the high periode before, of which the Dutch Golden Age and the American Revolution were the peak.

Frank said...

@Rik:
"This is where religion / spiritual consciousness can be usefull."

How ?

"I don't believe in paradigms in science, but you can use them in history."

You don't think of the study of history as a science ?

"1789 (the failure of the Enlightenment)"

What do you mean 'the failure of the enlightenment' ? Going by the mentioned year I can only assume that your referring to the French Revolution which has always seemed to me as a part of the victory of the Enlightenment. (not that I like bloody uprisings but 'Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité' have always appealed to me)

"1945 (the end of history)."

Wasn't 1989 the so-called 'End Of History' ? Well, according to Fukuyama anyway.

"of which the Dutch Golden Age and the American Revolution were the peak."

The Dutch Golden Age was a period during which the Dutch got rich over the backs of the East-indies population. I wouldn't compare it to the American revolution, not in any way.

CJ-in-Weld said...

"Rik said...
I know of a little book by Lin Carter about making worlds. Carter points out that every world ever dreamed up, has some religion in it. And JRRT's does not!"

Someone (I think DeCamp) suggested that Tolkien was sufficiently Christian to be uncomfortable positing an alternative religion that would necessarily be true in the context of the story itself. Rather, Christian symbolism underlies the story, though never in as heavy-handed a way as in Lewis' Narnia books. Thus, Gandalf and his cohort are actually angels, not hopped-up humans with magic powers.

I'm not enough of a scholar to have a strong opinion on this myself. It seems to me that a lot of so-called Christian imagery hearkens to older forms of worship, anyway. But I think Dr. Brin is correct that Tolkien's work reflects a very old-fashioned view of the world and the way it ought to be, whether the symbolism he used is Christian, pre-Christian, or whether there's any real difference. And that old-fashioned view of things is part of the explanation for the popularity - it resonates with romantic cultural assumptions that down deep ring true. Unfortunately.

Brother Doug said...

Earlier Steve B challenged me if the enlightenment propaganda was not effective, and I have to agree that it still is somewhat effective. Today I saw Star Wars episode III and I was surprised even it has bits of modernist propaganda.

Yesterday I was reading that the Dutch are threatening not to ratify the new EU constitution because “Islam never went through the enlightenment” and Turks joining the EU would lead to the decline of European enlightenment civilization by Islam. I wonder if the cause is that the enlightenment is stuck in a rut of militarism.

David Brin said

“The Afghanistan plan formulated by Clinton and Clarke, and executed with a "go!" by Bush, showed how it can be done with mature professionalism, as in the Balkans.”

This comment got me thinking that in both cases hospitals were accidentally bombed and the people in both countries are still resentful. That does not sound like a plan we want to emulate 100%. But where we supported local forces we were wildly successful with lower low civilian casualties. My solution is an army that goes out and prevents wars nonviolently before they start, kind of like the Esheep.com comic based on Mr.Brins book Earth. If that fails we use the support of progressive local forces backed by our airpower and limited numbers of Special Forces. I see the failure of the enlightenment to defeat Bush as a sign that it has become too militaristic to attract genuine idealists and the support of progressive religion. Dr. King had a dream that both Democrats and Republicans have seemingly forgotten. A lesson that many countries such as Ukraine, most recently, seemed to have learned better than the united states has.

Frank said...

@Brother Doug:
"Yesterday I was reading that the Dutch are threatening not to ratify the new EU constitution because “Islam never went through the enlightenment” "

There are other reasons to vote against the EU constitution. Many people feel the integration process is going too fast and
fear losing sovereignty. Personally I prefer a decentralised approach to European cooparation. A constitution is just going to give politicians an excuse not to have to have a dialog on issues.

"accidentally bombed"

Mistakes are made in any armed conflict. It's unavoidable.

"My solution is an army that goes out and prevents wars nonviolently before they start"

You want to invade countries because they might possibly start a war against each other ? That's not going to go down well. And a non-violent stance will make such an initiative extremely vulnerable.

"it has become too militaristic to attract genuine idealists and the support of progressive religion."

So where are they, those idealists ? Are they just sitting on their asses watching it all happen, complacently ? I think it's only a few people who have genuine militaristic attitudes and I doubt that those guys are very pro-Enlightenment.

Gaelic said...

All this seems moot. The future is not with Western civilization. The future belongs to the fecund. Demography is destiny. A society that does not value children enough to have them is not "fit" from a Darwinian standpoint.

All of the UN projections 'til now have been wildly wrong on the high side. Their latest low-variant is probably still too high, and it shows world population cresting then falling within 50 years. But the birthrate in westernized countries has been plummeting for some time.

The EU will become EUrabia. Russia will also become Islamic. Japan may become Indonesian. Mexico's birthrate is below replacement, so the US will only get immigration from there for another generation.

The Spartans wrestled with low birthrates, as did the Greeks and Romans. It cripples empires. It will be interesting to see how some desperate countries deal with this. A cash bonus for having a child isn't working.

But if they don't deal with it, then the Enlightenment, Modernism and Post-modernism will be forgotten. We will be replaced by cultures more rooted in traditional, pre-modernist ideals. They will be more fit.

Brother Doug said...

[Frank said]
"So where are they, those idealists? Are they just sitting on their asses watching it all happen, complacently?"

Take a look at an organization called the Fellowship for Reconciliation. They have been around since 1914, and included Dr.King as a member. They sponsor nonviolent training around the world, and actively protest injustice at home. http://www.ifor.org They are just one of many such organizations involved in actively providing alteratives to militarism. As we speak there are in Rwanda idealists teaching alterative to violence classes. That’s just one example but there are many more. Gandhi formed his nonviolent army and put his and others lives in jeopardy and was successful to a greater extent than most violent revolutions.

Also the comment by Gaelic about Spartans and Romans having low birthrates is misleading because it was the aristocratic families which had low birth rates. Everyone else was having lots of children and in Rome the population was increasing or at least holding steady as shown by the book the corruption and decline of Rome. The real problem was their elitist cultures and corruption which slowly made their army ineffective with divided loyalties and unwilling to fight. If the Spartans actually trained all the bastard and ostracized children they had their army would have been probably twice as large. But it still would not have mattered if people did not believe in the cause they were fighting for.

Rik said...

Gaelic said:
"The future is not with Western civilization. The future belongs to the fecund. Demography is destiny."

and

"The EU will become EUrabia. Russia will also become Islamic. Japan may become Indonesian. Mexico's birthrate is below replacement, so the US will only get immigration from there for another generation."

My good man, I am European, and the birthrate of most immigrants is already going down as well. Russia islamic? Haha! I think it's more likely that Russia will adopt cloning to replace people... Besides, Europe survived the end of the Roman Empire (very low birthrate) and the Black Death... What's so different now?

Ok, and now for the Enlightenment vs. the End of History. Fukuyama meant the end of ideological development, but I think he forgot that liberalism, national-socialism & communism all stem from the same 'milieu'. Remove that mileu and not only nazism goes down, but liberalism as well. Communism merely survived itself for another forty years, thanks to the Cold War. So it seems to me not unlogical to put the end of history in 1945 as well... You can certainly draw a line from 1789 to 1848 and from there to 1914-1948 and 1939-1945.
Why did the French Revolution fail? The American predecessor was able to put liberty in a stable political entity, the French one ended in the Terror and Napoleon, replacing one militaristic regime with another. I call that a failure.
Where can religion become useful? Well, answer why some many people were religious during the history of humanity? In philosophy there's an argument about morality and freedom. If I am to be a moral being, I must exercise radical freedom. That means that I must make an autonomous morality my own. To accept the teaching of someone else is very pious, no doubt - but not moral.

Ah yes, last but not least... The Dutch Golden Age... The peak of the Enlightenment: Decartes, Spinoza, Bayle, Grotius, Leibniz and many others; the (obligatory) declaration of independence, Tom Paine, Thomas Jefferson (and again, a great many others). I'd say all these ideas and gentlemen (and a few women, such as Olympe de Gouge) belong to a common period (roughly: 1600-1766). [and Paine spent some time in a French prison... ;) ]

Is history a science? No. What exactly is explained? Are there laws? Can you use laws - if any - to predict?

CJ-in-Weld said...

brother doug said...

"Take a look at an organization called the Fellowship for Reconciliation. They have been around since 1914, and included Dr.King as a member. They sponsor nonviolent training around the world, and actively protest injustice at home. http://www.ifor.org They are just one of many such organizations involved in actively providing alteratives to militarism. As we speak there are in Rwanda idealists teaching alterative to violence classes. That’s just one example but there are many more. Gandhi formed his nonviolent army and put his and others lives in jeopardy and was successful to a greater extent than most violent revolutions."

Nonviolent change works when one's opponent shares one's basic ideals, even if they have strayed from practicing them. Thus, Ghandi's revolt against the British was successful because the British, no matter how locally repressive, had a core of decency that in the end prevented them from engaging in wholesale slaughter - and because the alternative to Ghandi was a violent revolt under someone else's leadership. Similarly, MLK appealed to basic American ideals of fair play, and white folk would rather deal with him than the more radical revolutionary types.

I agree they were great men. However, both would have failed if they had come up against more repressive societies, and if they hadn't presented a facesaving alternative to violent elements in their own movements.

Nonviolence works only against a backdrop of potential violence, against societies that have some internal constraints against employing violent means.

Frank said...

@Rik:

The French Revolution did away with the feudal system and, yes, it was replaced by Napoleons nationalistic absolutism. But
the reign of Napoleon was much less stable then that of the monarchy, partly because of the memory of the Revolution. The
people had learned of their power. I would call that a victory.

Why were so many people religious during the history of human kind ? How about because of ignorance and fear of suffering and death ? There has always been a part of the human psyche that finds it hard to deal with powerlessness. So shaman and priests offered people a way out by telling them fantastic tales of spirits and gods and afterlife worlds. And then they told people of ways to control those entities by sacrifice and prayer and penitence. Of course they made sure that all those activities also benefitted the clergy. The (unnecessary) blending of morality and religion into one big powertool was the next step and ironically this meant more powerlessness for the common folk, because the holy things had apparently chosen the side of the preachers, or so it was claimed. This situation lasted roughly until the beginning of the Enlightenment when people started
asking some serious questions. I don't much care for religion (as you may have gathered), I'll just have to live with not being omnipotent.

The Period you speak of was of course very important to western civilisation. But how much of all that greatness depended upon the exploitation (in very unenlightened ways) of other civilisations like the East-Indies, Africa, South-America (and later the Middle-East, India, China, Australia) ?

History. I would say that laws do not make a science. History has its theories and its evidence and its critical thinking. Historians may never come up with a formula to predict the future and they don't have to. Describing (or explaining) events as they happen or may have happened is quite enough. All evidence lies in the past, you need an historian to dig it up.

Brother Doug said...

Frank said:-
“Nonviolence works only against a backdrop of potential violence, against societies that have some internal constraints against employing violent means.”

Not so. In the Rosenplats incedent in Nazi Germany non violence was sucessfuly used to secure the relese and freedom of hundreds of Jews married to German spouses. Vertualy all of them escaped and survied the war. Also Hitler had to give up his plan for killing all of the mentaly ill and disabled when the people began to protest nonviolently. All of that was done with no training and no suport from the west. What allowed him to commit mass murder was the secrecy provided my the start of WWII. With cheap modern digital cameras virtualy all societies even those without freedom of the press have internal constraints.

Brother Doug said...

Sorry about that Frank. I ment to say CJ-in-Weld said in the last quote.

Frank said...

@Brother Doug:

That's okay, I agree with CJ-in-Weld that a backdrop of potential violence and internal constraints are necessary for a non-violence approach to be successful. You refer to the Rosenstrasse incident in Berlin ? That was a case of Germans versus Germans was it not ? To Hitler it constituted a potential source of (potentially violent) uprisings against nazism in cosmopolitan Berlin.

"With cheap modern digital cameras virtualy all societies even those without freedom of the press have internal constraints"

Theoretically yes. But I can't help wondering how many people in Iran or North-Korea have digital cameras and why they aren't
sending their tapes of recorded injustice around the world.

gaelic said...

Rik said...

'Besides, Europe survived the end of the Roman Empire (very low birthrate) and the Black Death... What's so different now?'

Yes, but Europe was no longer Roman. When Europeans must choose between Dhimmitude and Islam, it will cease to be "Europe" and instead become "Eurabia".

and Brother Doug said:

'Also the comment by Gaelic about Spartans and Romans having low birthrates is misleading because it was the aristocratic families which had low birth rates.'

But once the aristocratic, learned families were gone, those left did not transmit the Spartan or Roman culture.

Sorry for the off-topic post.

In regards to Dr. Brin's article...

Fiction has its roots in morality plays and myths. A non-religious writer must still convey *some* values in order to have heroes and villains. SOA, individualism and environmentalism are an innocuous substitute for stronger, sterner stuff.

This propaganda, otherwise known as political correctness, merely reflects the dominant secular culture. It isn't a deliberate attempt to propagandize.

Political corrrectness has so few values that it yields bland, repetitive fiction. This is why good pre-modern fiction resonates so strongly with audiences.

Brian said...

A brief comment (I'm at work) about this topic of "Suspicion of Authority" as propaganda. I used to think this was always A Good Thing, but the upsurge in followers of fundamentalist religions taking pot shots at scientists has me re-thinking my position.

They seem to have taken it to heart that anyone can attack anyone else based solely on belief. "I believe I'm right and that trumps your So Called Facts." They've watched so many movies where the authorities are wrong JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE AUTHORITIES. Think about it - when a story wants to show a boss as wrong/foolish, the boss simply states I'm Right 'Cause I'm The Boss. They see scientists and draw the wrong conclusion - they miss the fact that scientists are right (or at CAN be right) because there's a substantial body of evidence to support their position.

But the sheeple just see an authority figure telling them that they're wrong, and assume he or she must be wrong...they're an authority, so I can attack them.

We need new propaganda. We need TV shows where well-meaning people attack authority, only to learn that they are actually wrong. It'd make a nice change once in a while.

Frank said...

Brian said:
"they're an authority, so I can attack them."

Doesn't that make you wonder if cultures (or entire countries) can perhaps go through something like an adolescence (on their way to maturity)? ;)