In his book Political Animals historian Rick Shenkman writes that people are more adapted to living in small groups than to the large societies of the modern world. For millions of years, our ancestors lived in small groups. (Our common ancestor lived 200,000 years ago) One advantage of living in a small group is that you know your leaders personally. Shenkman says that to know someone, you have to spend time with them. Hunter-gatherers communicate with their leaders face-to-face, but in contrast, most of us just watch our politicians on T.V. So we make mistakes in choosing leaders.
President Lyndon Johnson gave this advice to his young staffers. “Read eyes. No matter what a man is saying to you, it’s not as important as what you can read in his eyes.”
But T.V. is not the way to have this type of interaction.
Shenkman gives an example of a mistaken reading of a politician.
If you asked an ordinary American in 1961 what he liked about John and Jacqueline Kennedy he probably would have said, among other things, their marriage. They looked like the perfect couple. After the election millions of Americans were so inspired by the Kennedys that they began to model themselves after them. American men stopped wearing hats because Jack went hatless. American women began donning the pillbox hat because Jackie wore a pillbox hat at the inauguration. Film of the parents playing with their adoring children, John and Caroline, warmed voters’ hearts, reinforcing the impression that the Kennedy family was exceptional.
It was of course, one big lie. Jack was a philandering, insensitive lothario….
For instance, as president, Jack’s aides procured young women for him on a regular basis. So our taxpayer dollars were going to pay staffers to procure women for a man who we thought was a great example of a family man.
It could be argued that this does not matter. If he was a good president, then who cares about his sleazy private life? But there is a puzzle: Americans were sure they knew Kennedy well. And they were shocked years later when the truth started coming out.
Shenkman believes that the images that come to mind when we think of Kennedy shape how we judge him. We see him on his sailboat, hair flying in the wind, or see him playing touch-football on the lawn of the family estate in Hyannis Port, or delivering his inaugural address “Ask not what your country can do for you…”
Shenkman also says basically that we are lazy. We do simple pattern matching much more than we do deep thinking. We have to feel anxiety to make us do rethinking of assumptions. Furthermore much of the time, pattern matching works.
Shenkman gives a list of seven presidents and the ages at which they first made their mark in life. Often they run for election or won elections when they were relatively young. By age twenty five, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe had all won seats in Virginia’s colonial legislature. George Washington tried to become Adjutant General of Virginia even though at the time he had never worn a uniform. Abe Lincoln ran for a seat in the state legislature at age 23, though he had little more than one full year’s schooling. Just months before, he was working on his father’s broken down farm for meager wages. Nobody outdoes Alexander the Great, however. At the age of 18, he led the cavalry that helped defeat the Athenian army. He conquered the Persian Empire at twenty-six.
In general, early ambition marks many future leaders. It may show in their choice in spouses. Ambitious people often make every effort to marry into power and money. Shenkman gives several examples, including the future president Taft, who married the daughter of the richest banker in town, and FDR who married Teddy Roosevelt’s niece while Teddy was in the White House, and George Washington, who married the richest woman in Virginia.
Ambition may require making moral compromises, including telling people what they want to hear. Presidential candidate Al Gore said that is why he supported the corn-to-ethanol program, and John McCain said that is why when asked to comment on the Confederate battle flag displayed at South Carolina’s statehouse he initially said the issue should be left up to the states. Later he apologized for not calling for its removal, saying he had given up on his principles out of “political self-interest.” Likewise, in 1964 George H. W. Bush lost an election for the Senate and then confessed to his minister, “You know, John, I took some of the far right positions to get elected. I hope I never do it again.”
There are two problems here. When you are told by a candidate that he believes in causes that in reality he does not, then not only is he compromising to get elected, but he’s manipulating you. Suppose, for example, that some of those “far right” positions that Bush took actually had validity. In that case, the far-right voter is getting a promise that nobody intends to follow through on. The candidate is being condescending to that voter.
On the left side of the aisle is another egregious example:
Former secretary of defense Robert Gates in his memoir wrote this about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: “they both confessed in private in his presence that they opposed President George W. Bush’s surge of troops into Iraq for political reasons.” This admission is quite serious. Your country is in a war, your president is making hard decisions that involve human lives, and you won’t back him up because you are worried about votes.
To sum up Shenkman’s argument so far, we make bad decisions on our leaders because we don’t know them personally, and are too lazy to find out who they are, and also, because they don’t always tell the truth, even if they are well-intentioned.
Shenkman then talks about “myths”. An example that he gives is the larger than life image of Stalin. Stalin was the Russian leader who, before WW-II, let the Nazis train on Russian territory and build up their Air Force there. “Hundreds of Luftwaffe pilots and technical personnel visited, studied and were trained at Soviet air force schools in several locations in Central Russia”. Stalin also ignored warnings by spies that the German army would invade Russia, and even purged much of his own military leadership before the invasion happened, thus weakening the Red Army at a critical moment. Plus he is responsible for the death of tens of millions of Ukrainians and Russians and others before the invasion. Then of course the Nazis did invade, and many more Russians paid the price for that.
So who do today’s Russians tell pollsters is the greatest Russian leader in history? Joseph Stalin!
I don’t know that I would agree with the idea that this poll result demonstrates our propensity for believing in myths. I think it is partly due to the fact that Russians live in a society where information is controlled. They also are taught to dislike America, though America was the country that equipped their military to fight back at the time The Russians, in a sense, don’t live in the real world.
Shenkman doesn’t think we evolved to know truth – we evolved to survive, and only to the extent that knowing truth helps in that goal, do we evolve to recognize truth. He believes in “evolutionary psychology”, which assumes that our psychology is based on adaptation to the conditions our species lived in during most of our pre-history. There are some problems with that, because its hard to test such assertion. A proponent could say: “we tend to look down at low status people because doing so was adaptive” and then he would have to figure out why that particular trait was adaptive.
It is also hard to believe that we have not evolved to know truth, because misreading people or situations can destroy us before we pass down those misreading genes. There might be an advantage to blindly following the group, and our leaders, but at some point, there would be an advantage in stepping back before the rest of the tribe runs off the cliff.
Anyway, assuming evolutionary psychology is partly correct, his argument continues as follows:
We have biases that help us survive but have nothing to do with privileging the truth. These include the “Availability bias”, the Perseverance Bias”, the “Source Confusion” bias, the “Projection Bias”, and other biases. For instance, ‘Perseverance bias’ is the tendency to stick with an opinion once we have enunciated it, even if contradictory evidence surfaces. Shenkman says that this was advantageous at a time long ago when opinions were formed from hard experience, and there was no advantage in spending time and energy revising them. ‘Projection Bias’ is the idea that other people think just like us. Shenkman says that when the U.S. invaded Iraq, policymakers believed we would be greeted as liberators. “We figured that’s how we’d respond if somebody helped us overthrow a brutal dictator. We’d be grateful. But that is not how most Iraqis responded. They used our intervention to settle scores.”
Shenkman says that in the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, projection often worked. The motivations of people in our tribe wouldn’t be much different than the motivations of the people in the neighboring tribe.
I think that the truth is a bit more complicated. Lets start with “Perseverance Bias” Scientists came up with a sensible model of the atom that fit the existing evidence. In that model negatively charged electrons orbited the nucleus. Eventually scientists realized that this led to a contradiction. Orbiting charged particles radiate energy away, and so the electrons should spiral into the nucleus. So there was a problem, but the model, imperfect as it was, worked in many ways. When quantum theory came along, the problems were resolved. But until then, it made sense to stick with a model that often was right. In life, we are often dealing with incomplete information, and exceptions to rules happen quite often. We have to be somewhat reluctant to overthrow the rules at the drop of a hat. Of course we also get emotionally invested in groups or ideas, and those emotions can interfere with our accepting information that challenges our beliefs.
I also wonder about his example of “Projection Bias” in Iraq, because it seemed for a while that we were greeted as liberators. Remember the high participation of ordinary Iraqis in the initial vote for a new leader?
The problem may have been that there were too many Iraqis who did not think like us, but it is also true that there were some who did.
Perhaps we also projected our idea of what radical Islamists were like, based on our knowledge of Bible-belt religious fundamentalists. The book “The War on Truth” by Nafeez Ahmed shows that we supported bloodthirsty Jihadist groups against the Soviet Union, and the CIA did not understand that you don’t help the wolf obtain its lunch, because after lunch, he decides you are dinner.
Much of the Anglo-world did not understand Hitler and his ambitions and his movement either. Its easy to put yourself in Hitler’s shoes and say that he was trying to restore pride to Germany, after the humiliation of the Versailles treaty, and that his goals were limited.
in the early years after Hitler took the reins of power, an American traveling through Germany wrote this:
‘Fascism? The right thing for Germany.’
And on August 21, 1937 – two years before the war that would claim 50 million lives broke out – he wrote: ‘The Germans really are too good – therefore people have ganged up on them to protect themselves.’
And in a line which seems directly plugged into the racial superiority line plugged by the Third Reich he wrote after travelling through the Rhineland: ‘The Nordic races certainly seem to be superior to the Romans.’
This American was the young JFK.
Americans did not start the war with Hitler. His motives did not make sense to a lot of people back then. He declared war on the U.S.A right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Ironically I think Shenkman makes a similar mistake in misreading motives. He says, for example, that Americans were bewildered to see hundreds of thousands of frenzied people in the Middle East celebrating the 9/11 attacks. “Rather than face that we might be at fault, we decided that those demonstrators did not understand us.” Shenkman feels they had a real motive to dislike us – we are big and powerful and “sometimes careless with the lives of those who live in other countries.”
But I think Shenkman himself is misunderstanding the situation. People can hate you because of real grievances, but they can be taught to hate you because of culture, religion, ideology, racism, paranoia, conspiracy thinking, etc. I think even attitudes that seem to be pure emotion do always have a reason, but not necessarily the reason the demonstrators give when asked. It has been argued that an American ideology of limited government and free speech and free economy can be seen as a subversive threat to ideologues with a strong idea of how their fellows should live. Those ideologues then deceive their fellow citizens.
A very large percent of the world’s population lives in countries that are not free. A substantial number of people, even in the United States, do not believe in minimal interference in other people’s lives.
But as far as the world leaders of the various dictatorships, we might ask whether a hunter-gatherer group of maybe 150 people would let such leaders govern them?
I remember speaking with a white man who had lived with small black tribes in an undeveloped part of Africa, and he said to me that those tribes did not have problems with sex predators and other miscreants. They recognized such people early, and administered justice quickly.
In our complex world, we are more likely to be deceived JFK and Nixon may both have been patriotic, but neither were the people we thought they were. Obama, in my view, is not who his followers thought he was.
Unfortunately, as Canadian poet David Solway writes:
Political naiveté is often maintained to the death, as in the case of the …the Iranian leftists who ardently backed Ayatollah Khomeini’s overthrow of the Pahlavi monarchy, only to find themselves rotting in Evin prison.
On top of this, Shenkman lists appalling stats on ignorance in the U.S. In this age of ubiquitous information, of the internet and of big data, nearly 25 percent of high school students cannot identify Adolf Hitler. Its been said people don’t learn from history, but these people don’t even know history.
My twin flew to Mumbai in 2008, on a quest that the rest of the family was kept in the dark about. As many Jewish visitors to that city do, he dropped in on the Chabad house. This house was about to make the news in a very, very bad way.
The Hasids who run the Chabad houses, some in very exotic locales, provide a welcome service for Jewish tourists. Visitors can socialize or pray, or eat Kosher food together. It was not unusual for the Rabbi who ran the house in Mumbai, Gavriel Holzberg (and his wife Rivka), to host 30 people at a meal.
In conversation, Gavriel Holzberg told my brother he had noticed something odd. He had noticed a visitor who seemed to be canvassing the place. Gavriel got alarmed enough to contact the Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency).
I don’t know what the Mossad’s reaction was, but given what happened later, they missed a chance to stop something big. A small worry, which could be dismissed as subjective experience, was the forewarning of the oncoming tornado.
My twin left India, with a baby girl from a surrogacy clinic, (a surprise that initially shook me up, but the girl, 7 years later, is a fun person to talk to and go on walks with) and then disaster struck:
Ten highly trained terrorists in inflatable speedboats landed on the Indian coast, and headed into Mumbai. Two attackers entered a railway station and killed 58 people. Then they attacked the people staying at the Taj Mahal Hotel and Oberoi Trident hotel.
Two of these Islamic fanatics went after the very few Jews in the very big city of Mumbai. They took over Chabad house and held hostages.
Indian NSG commandos arrived from Delhi, and managed to rescue 9 hostages from the first floor on the first day. The following day the commandos fast-roped from helicopters onto the roof with cover from snipers positioned in nearby buildings. After a long battle, both perpetrators were killed but not before they murdered Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka along with four other hostages inside the house. (There were signs of torture on some of the bodies, and perhaps sexual assault and mutilation – this is all from Wikipedia, and sources are not always given.)
I tell this story because I’m about to criticize some of the Hasidic movements for hiding from the world, and yet here is one sect that does not hide from the world, and they paid an awful price for that.
My father, who is interested in Jewish history, says that Hasidism gained many adherents after the Khmelnytsky Uprising, in which many Jews were killed, and others were left without their families or villages. Hasidism was an optimistic celebratory movement, and they needed a dose of optimism.
Anyway, we have in the U.S. various black hat groups, some who do well enough, and some of them do not get enough of a secular education to have the skills to make a living. As a result, there are a substantial number of Hasidim who rely on government aid for their large families to survive.
The problem is not that they are lazy, on the contrary, one former Hasid said in an interview that they study 16 hours a day. The problem is their attitude to secular education. The problem occurs in Israel too. Ironically, the Hasidic women (in Israel) are not as discouraged from learning skills that can bring in an income. The men though, see the highest calling as studying the word of God.
if I were to argue with them on this point, I would say this. I’d say that the ancient Israelites, like almost everyone else in that period, were an agricultural people. Even King David started out as a shepherd.
The Bible was a mixture of history and commandments, but Jews did not spend their lives in front of a book. To survive, they had to earn their daily bread, and in the process interact with the various peoples in the area.
I’d say that if you go on the journey of life, like any journey, you study the map, but also eventually set off on the road.
I’d also say that poverty caused by a lack of willingness to learn skills does not ennoble people. Poverty forces people to live at the expense of others. I don’t know much of the bible, but I doubt that it encourages dependency.
Finally, I’d say that if you don’t want your children to learn about evolution, if you believe it contradicts the biblical narrative, then you can still teach your children math, or bookkeeping, or architecture, or construction, or computer programming, or some other applied skill.
I do not believe in shutting out the world, but American society has some serious problems that make the approach of the Hasidim and the Amish look somewhat sensible.
For instance, one problem that both communities avoid was described in the Wall Street Journal:
From our respective positions of rabbi-counselor and former Playboy model and actress, we have often warned about pornography’s corrosive effects on a man’s soul and on his ability to function as husband and, by extension, as father. This is a public hazard of unprecedented seriousness given how freely available, anonymously accessible and easily disseminated pornography is nowadays.
Put another way, we are a guinea-pig generation for an experiment in mass debasement that few of us would have ever consented to, and whose full nefarious impact may not be known for years…
The statistics already available are terrifying. According to data provided by the American Psychological Association, porn consumption rates are between 50% and 99% among men and 30% to 86% among women, …
Nine percent of porn users said they had tried unsuccessfully to stop—an indication of addiction that is all the more startling when you consider that the dependency rate among people who try marijuana is the same—9%—and not much higher among those who try cocaine (15%), according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
But it is a fair guess that whereas drug-dependency data are mostly stable, the incidence of porn addiction will only spiral as the children now being raised in an environment of wall-to-wall, digitized sexual images become adults inured to intimacy and in need of even greater graphic stimulation. They are the crack babies of porn.
So there are tradeoffs, and we do have freedom of religion in the U.S., which includes freedom to be a Hasid, but in the pursuit of righteousness, a person can find himself in a financial trap that is not righteous at all.
And then there is the issue of self-defense. Hasidim may eventually be targeted, no matter how much they try to wall off society. As Leon Trotsky once said, “you may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you!”
The same New York State that has various Hasidic communities also has a Muslim encampment where the inhabitants learn to shoot.
Now that I’ve bashed Hasidim in my quest in this blog to antagonize as many groups as possible, I should stress that I don’t know any Hasidim personally, I don’t know the percentage that does make a successful living (not all Hasidim are poor), and there are efforts to address the problem of poverty.
Barbara Olson perished when her plane slammed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Two years before that, she wrote a devastating book on the past of Hillary Clinton. The puzzle of Hillary is that she is an idealist in a sense, but she is also a person who doesn’t let ethical considerations stand in the way of goals – such as getting rich, or achieving the restructuring of society that she believes is necessary.
In Olson’s biography of Hillary: “Hell to Pay” she tells the story of a 14 year old girl named Hillary, a Methodist who knelt by her bed to pray every night, and what’s more ironic, a conservative Republican. Hillary grew up to become a passionate advocate of social transformation. Perhaps her character was also transformed in the process.
Lets look at the political transformation:
The transformation started when the Reverend Donald G. Jones arrived in Hillary’s town of Park Ridge as the new youth minister.
Jones drew explicit parallels between the utopia of Karl Marx and the heavenly kingdom. He took the group into inner-city Chicago, where Hillary for the first time came to know poor people, “trailer people,” black people, Hispanic people—families who, he taught, would not have been welcome in Park Ridge, even if they could have afforded it. The University of Life took Hillary and her friends to nearby farms, where the students set up a program to babysit migrant children while the parents toiled. For the first time, Hillary performed social work for the poor, this time for Hispanic migrant laborers and their families.
So far, there would seem to be no problem. On the contrary, taking time to help migrants and poor people is praiseworthy.
At Wellesley college, Hillary took time from her studies to work trying to teach poor black children in Roxbury to read.
She was active in student war protests and increasingly vocal in private over her opposition to the [Vietnam] war…Hillary knew that she was sheltered. And the feeling that evil ran amok outside was at times overwhelming. On the day that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered, Hillary burst into her suite, startling her roommate, threw her book bag across the room, and yelled, “I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t take it.” She soon broke into sobs.
That doesn’t sound so bad either. She had principles, even if cautious types might not agree with all of them.
Then the path leads to the dark side. We see how Christian and Marxist ideas can produce a synthesis that excuses murderers.
For Hillary, the convergence of power and Christian ends had come together in Motive, a magazine for college-age Methodists…She told a writer for Newsweek that she still treasured a 1966 Motive article by theologian and SDS leader Carl Oglesby called “Change or Containment.” Oglesby is variously described as a Marxist or Maoist theoretician, in the piece so admired by Hillary, Oglesby defended Ho Chi Minh and Castro, and Maoist tactics of violence. “I do not find it hard to understand that certain cultural settings create violence as surely as the master’s whip creates outcries of pain and rage. I can no more condemn the Andean tribesmen who assassinate tax collectors than I can condemn the rioters in Watts or Harlem or the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Their violence is reactive and provoked…
Hillary spoke at her graduation to her fellow students, saying:
“We are, all of us, exploring a world that none of us understands and attempting to create within that uncertainty, “But there are some things we feel, feelings that our prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us.” After this impenetrable declaration, she went even further into the depths of murky sixties thinking: “We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic and penetrating modes of living.”
There is Hillary the non-materialist.
For Hillary’s thesis at Wellesley, Olson writes:
She interviewed [left wing organizer Saul] Alinsky, and concluded that Johnson-era programs [such as the Great Society, which was meant to solve poverty] did not go far enough. The problems of poverty made it necessary for a fundamental shift in the structure of power.
Remember when Obama promised to “transform America”? Hillary also thought it needed transforming.
All this happened by the end of her college years. Then Hillary went to Yale Law School.
In the town of New Haven, where Yale is located, members of the Black Panther Party, including the infamous Bobby Seale were being tried for murdering one of their own.
The victim, Alex Rackley, had been suspected by the Panthers as a police informant. What was certain was that he had been brutally tortured, beaten, scalded, mutilated, and killed. The evidence against the Black Panthers was overwhelming—including an audio tape of part of the “trial” to which Rackley was subjected. Two Panthers confessed to shooting Rackley as part of a plea bargain. But Bobby Seale fought extradition from California and became …a rallying point for student radicals who idolized the Panthers as the leaders of a necessary black insurrection against the repressive white establishment. That the Black Panthers could actually be guilty was an idea that had never occurred, or mattered, to their defenders, who were not at all fazed by a political act of protest against white oppression, or that glorified the killing of police officers—or, in their words, “pigs.” Yale was a natural forum, perhaps battleground, for the privileged white students who wanted to show their solidarity with the Black Panthers and the forces of revolution against the presumed racism of American law.
This sounds familiar. Just recently, Hillary Clinton told the 335,000-member National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that she won’t even bother applying for their endorsement for the 2016 election. This is at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement claims that police are killing blacks due to racism. It is also a time when police have been assassinated – in New York, in Dallas, in Mississippi and elsewhere.
At Yale, Hillary chose to serve as one of the editors of the Yale Review of Law and Social Action, where she worked side-by-side with future Clinton insiders Mickey Kantor and Robert Reich….It included many cartoons depicting the police as hominid pigs, their snouts wet while they mutter, “niggers, niggers, niggers, niggers.”
Now we could stop here, and say – wait a minute – the sixties caught up a lot of people who are somewhat sorry for their excesses, and their heart was initially in the right place. Or we could get alarmed at the above. I happen to be alarmed.
I mentioned Marxism. What about Stalinism? Hillary’s friends included Robert Treuhaft and Jessica Mitford. Treuhaft was a former lawyer for the Communist Party. He and his wife Jessica Mitford were both committed Communists. Stalinists, in fact. But heck, who doesn’t have radical friends.
At Yale she met Bill Clinton. Clinton campaign coordinator Neal McDonald remembered that Bill “had a girlfriend in every county (of Arkansas].” So why did Bill choose Hillary?
According to Dick Morris, another Yale student, also a former follower of Alinsky, but one who reformed, “Sunday-morning [Bill] Clinton felt no hypocrisy in marrying Hillary Rodham,” Indeed, he probably saw marrying for brains as a notch above marrying for glamour as Kennedy had done. It mimicked more closely the behavior of his other role model, FDR, who betrothed to Eleanor but tarried with Lucy Mercer.”
As we know, just like Bill’s role model JFK, Bill’s pursuit of women continued after his marriage.
Hillary once prevented a corrupt deal:
“Walking around” money was a southern tradition. It was taken for granted that the Democratic party had the right to work with labor unions and church groups to disburse large sums of cash to bribe people to vote. Bill [Clinton] himself had handled piles of such money for the McGovern campaign in Texas. Now it was his turn. Paul Fray matter-of-factly explained to the candidate that dairy interests in the state were willing to put up the cash to buy absentee ballots. All Bill had to do was say “yes.” Left to himself, there is little doubt what he would have done. But Hillary had not yet become the operator she was later to become. From an adjoining room, she found out about it and allegedly killed the deal.
Maybe the lesson Hillary learned from the narrow election defeat than followed was that she had to develop the stomach for breaking laws.
Hillary started showing truly unethical behavior when Jimmy Carter became president Under his administration, Hillary was appointed to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a federally funded nonprofit organization established by Congress. LSC was a leftist organization already, but she carried it to new heights:
[She] put together a cadre of committed activist lawyers who…could use individual cases as levers with which to broaden mandates for social welfare spending, to create new rights needing new programs… Under her leadership, the LSC budget grew from $90 million to more than $321 million. What she did with the money was a serious scandal, but one which she managed to brazen her way through—like scandals to come. The LSC used public funds to print political training manuals to show “how community organizations and public interest groups can win political power and resources.” The LSC contributed taxpayer dollars to a mayor’s campaign in Georgia, as “a project to educate clients about their rights in the legislative process.” It held training programs that taught political activists how to harass the opposition, from nailing dead rats to an opponent’s front door, to the black arts of private investigations and dirt digging.
in the 1980 election, the LSC diverted funds from cases and threw its resources into a frantic effort to use indigent clients in a letter-writing campaign against Reagan. In a later investigation, Republican Senate aides were astonished to see videotaped training sessions in which staffers spoke openly about how they were organizing the LSC’s national network to defeat Reagan.
Says Olson: “she had spearheaded a deliberate, national plot to undermine the political process with millions of dollars’ worth of staff work and the diversion of taxpayer money into political campaigns.”
By this point, we have to ask, what is going on? It seems that Hillary had the idea that the end justifies the means, even if the means are illegal. Perhaps she also thought that this was the way the game is played, or that if the power structure is really irredeemable, then she might as well exploit it. Who knows?
Hillary chaired the New World Foundation from 1982 to 1988, where she disbursed funds to some other militant organizations:
…left-wing recipients of Hillary’s largesse included the Committees in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, or CISPES. CISPES unabashedly sought to bring a Communist revolution to Central America.
There were plenty of other nasty groups that got the funds.
Olson sums up:
Hillary rolled up her sleeves and made sure that American taxpayer dollars were disbursed to people dedicated to terror, disinformation, and violent revolution. She has never expressed a single word of regret for her support for these organizations and causes.
The U.S. constitution is to some extent a system of restraints on power. Whether it is ideal can be debated, but consider this:
William Dixon was a member of the committee that investigated the impeachment of Richard Nixon. After seeing Hillary, who was also on the committee, in action, he said that Hillary “paid no attention to the way the Constitution works in this country, the way politics works, the way Congress works, the way legal safeguards are set up.”
Hillary’s “idealistic” statements when she graduated from Wellesley against our “acquisitive, and competitive corporate life” seem like a bad joke. As far as “acquisitiveness”, she has, with Bill, amassed over a hundred million dollars, in a way that would make anyone cynical about the way our government works.
So what is the “devil’s bargain” of Hillary Rodham Clinton? The bargain is that for the sake of power to carry out her ideals, and for the sake of money to live a good lifestyle, she has transgressed all sorts of moral boundaries. And the devil’s bargain exists for American voters in a different form. They are all too willing to overlook character flaws, and there will be hell to pay.
Olson, Barbara. Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Kindle Locations 2107-2108). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.
There are various traits of some mental illnesses that we can see in normal people to varying degrees. Trying to relate the normal to the abnormal for this post (even though I am not suggesting that normal people are just mild versions of abnormal people) gives a different angle on certain flaws of thinking. The following are just seven examples, I’m sure there are many more flaws that could be categorized.
1) Jumping to conclusions:
Several groups found that …
a deluded person needs less information to arrive at a definite decision than persons without a delusion or people with a depressive disorder. The latter needed significantly more information. With regard to delusions, this phenomenon was called “jumping to conclusions”
2) The pattern recognition tradeoff:
I can’t find the source, but I have read that deluded people often see patterns where normal people do not, The interesting angle is that sometimes the patterns are real and they see things that others miss. Perhaps there is a tradeoff involved. There certainly is a “signal to noise” tradeoff in medical imaging – are you seeing an artifact – or are you seeing the beginning of a tumor? Or in crime-detection – a Muslim man begins flight training on a flight simulator .and tells instructors that while he wants to learn how to fly a 747 jet, he does not intend to earn a pilot’s license. Is that a mild oddity that means nothing, or a clue to an impending crime that will change history?
3) The theory of mind deficit
“Autistic patients also have a “theory of mind deficit”. This makes them behave inappropriately, because they do not understand other people.
A large number of experiments using fMRI, electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) have shown that certain brain regions (in particular the anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex, and inferior frontal cortex) are active when people experience an emotion (disgust, happiness, pain, etc.) and — this is the interesting part — when they see another person experiencing the same emotion.
So I would speculate that a deficit in theory of mind might affect your understanding of facial expressions, and therefore your understanding of other people’s thoughts about you.
Conversely, if you don’t have the deficit, and if you can read an expression, that means you can feel the emotion behind it. So for instance, if you go to the movies and watch the villain’s facial expressions, perhaps you have a little bit of potential villain in you. Perhaps you have to be able to feel cruelty to recognize it.
3b) Misreading social cues:
Because they cannot read social cues, including facial expressions, body language, or tone of voice,…[autistic people] are at a disadvantage. Another person may look at his watch (“You’re boring me” or “I’ve gotta go, I’m late!”), use a sarcastic tone, grimace to show increasing annoyance, quirk their eyebrows in disbelief – all of it lost on the person with an ASD. They cannot “see” the social signals that bombard us every day. Neither can they respond appropriately. How could they? They never received the message that was sent: I’m bored. I’m late. You’re making me mad.
Theory of mind simply refers to the understanding that other people have their own thoughts, perceptions, and intentions separate from one’s own. It is part of seeing others as separate beings with their own agendas. To accommodate others, to predict their future behavior, to manipulate or please them, you must have this inbuilt capacity to guess something about who they are and what they might do or desire. Individuals with autism lack this ability to a staggering degree.
In my experience, there is a laziness some normal people have – they don’t take the time to think of how their actions or speech look to others. Its not that they can’t understand, its that they don’t try to understand, until truly disastrous results ensue.
Even when we desperately want to understand, we may fail. Pundits and Intel officials can try to understand the motives of world leaders they have never met personally. We really want to know how to interpret the intentions of Vladimir Putin, for example. There is a huge spectrum of different interpretations of his motives, even among people who agree on many other issues.
4) Delusions of Reference:
Persons with ideas of reference may experience:
a) Believing that ‘somehow everyone on a passing city bus is talking about them, yet they may be able to acknowledge this is unlikely’.
b) Believing that the lyrics of a song are specifically about them
c) Seeing objects or events as being set up deliberately to convey a special or particular meaning to themselves
d) Believing that the behavior of others is in reference to an abnormal, offensive body odor, which in reality is non-existent and cannot be detected by others (see: olfactory reference syndrome).
Does this apply to normal people? I suppose a normal person could pass a group of colleagues, hear one make a sarcastic comment, and worry, until he is reassured that the comment was not about him.
(In regards to (c), it is actually true that in certain real situations objects CAN be used for communication. For example Mafiosi will sometimes dump a dead animal on someone’s porch. Its a non-verbal communication, and presumably when the home-owner emerges in the morning, he gets the point.)
5) Seeing what isn’t there – Missing what is.
Crazy people can see things that aren’t there. Normal people can have the opposite problem – they may not see what is in front of their noses. The following story comes from a book by Amy Herman called Visual Intelligence. She teaches people how to notice things that others miss. Among her clients are the FBI. The interesting thing is that she started out as an art historian – and that is what gave her the perceptual practice. But anyway, here is the story. It is a very sad and disturbing one, but instructive.
“this [not seeing things] proved to be true for four-year-old Daniel Pelka…the little blond boy was starved and beaten to death by his parents–despite authorities having been called to his home twenty-six times.
School officials had noticed when Daniel showed up with a broken arm, two black eyes, and bruises around his neck.
And teachers noticed he was wasting away.
They documented that he was stealing food from other children’s lunch boxes and eating scraps.. from garbage cans…
His stepfather claimed that the boy had broken his arm when he jumped off a couch. It was even determined that Daniel had an “obsession with food.” His mother claimed that Daniel had a medical condition that made him underweight and small. His pediatrician agreed!
The police would often visit the house because of violent domestic disputes.
Strangely, the police never thought of asking Daniel himself what was going on.
So here, we have professionals – a pediatrician, teachers, policemen, none of whom saw what was going on or did the most basic sensible and obvious thing they could do – talk to the kid!
And they were all sane.
Makes you think.
6) Hemi spatial inattention
Hemi spatial inattention is an attention disorder that prevents the patient from attending to stimuli on one side. Patients with hemi spatial inattention may draw items they see like this:
Patients frequently deny that they have a problem. Its not just that they don’t perceive something, its that they don’t know they don’t perceive something.
This reminds me of Donald Rumsfeld’s remark (he was secretary of defense during the war that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq):
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.
Interestingly, the Iraq Intelligence Commission reported that
Perhaps most troubling, we found an intelligence Community in which analysts had a difficult time…identifying…what they do not know.
7) A social convention disorder:
About a third of its Tourette’s syndrome sufferers yield to outbursts of obscene language. “The symptoms have the quality of a mad desire to violate social conventions.” Think of this the next time you feel like driving your car through a bourgeois neighborhood, with your stereo on full blast. Social conventions may be worth heeding
So can we draw any useful ideas from all this? It would be productive to teach normal people how to overcome flaws in thinking. For instance it might be possible to teach rules such as “think of what can go wrong with your actions” or “think how you would feel if someone else acted this way toward you.” It might be possible to teach people when they are jumping to conclusions, and making assumptions. In fact, Amy Herman does talk about showing people how to identify their assumptions, even when they are told to make a simple description of a artist’s painting that is presented to them. Teaching people to be able to recognize and admit what they don’t know would also be helpful.
As a child, both my brother and I could not make friends. And when the kids around us reached the bullying age, some saw us as prime targets to bully. It started early, I remember a little Jewish girl with some companions on the school bus charge me with an umbrella, and cut me under the eye. This was my first bad experience with women, and it certainly was not the last!
Both of us had problems understanding and communicating with others. Perhaps children with these problems can be taught some skills in perceiving and interacting. If not, I would suggest they be home-schooled until old enough so that their reasoning abilities can compensate for their blind spots.
I know someone who makes social misjudgments often because of some thought flaw that I see, but I can’t quite define. It expresses itself in all sorts of situations. And yet I myself have caused a bigger and more embarrassing disaster than he ever has, partly because of thinking errors that most people would not make. When people have certain flaws in thinking, their life becomes equivalent to running a gauntlet where they keep getting hit.
An interesting question is – is our theory of mind complete? Could we lack certain emotions or feelings that someone else, perhaps someone abnormal has, and therefore not understand him?
I was not autistic, but I would look down instead of at people in tense situations. I thought I had gotten over this by college, but a job interviewer explained to me one time I failed an interview – “they said you always looked down!” There was a feeling, that if I stared at people I would look abnormal. I just didn’t know what to do with my eyes, and in some cases there was a feeling similar to shyness, but more extreme that led me to act in this odd manner. The interviewers did not know what caused the behavior, but they decided that it was a danger sign.
In another situation, I had feelings, slightly similar to that Tourette’s in that they involved a desire to act weirdly. While it seemed to me that my behavior was silly but harmless, others saw it as something more sinister. I haven’t had that feeling since, but the events it led to put my life on a different track.
Our “theory of mind” might not deal compassionately with abnormal people if we don’t understand that they can have abnormal feelings. Conversely, in history victims of attacks often do not understand what normal people feel and believe, even in cases when their continued existence depends on it.
This blog is not supposed to be all that political, however, …
I know people who see the leftist movement in the U.S as the force of progress and good. Leftists are against racism. Leftists care about the poor. They care about women. They care about the environment. Two of these people that I know are Jewish women. So the following (which they would never read), would surprise them, assuming they believed it:
Mike Konrad writes the following in a recent article Latin America: Becoming Anti-Israel Right under Our Noses:
What is clear is that the left congenitally hates Israel. This is hidden in America, where many of the left are “progressive” Jews, but step outside the USA, and it becomes obvious – especially if one speaks another language – that the left is radically anti-Zionist.
People hasten at this point to say you can be anti-Zionist without being anti-Jewish, but I would point out given that Israel is the only country with a majority that is Jewish, and sees itself as a haven for Jews, and wants to maintain that Jewish majority, it isn’t surprising that the two go together. One clue: the people who say that the “Zionists” control the press, Hollywood, the government, and push us into wars in the Middle East, are transparently just substituting the word “Zionists” for “Jews” and feeling clever about it.
From Britain, Stephen Pollard reports:
For most of my 51 years, anti-Semitism was something I encountered only fitfully…but the past few years have been different. I have not gone a day without encountering it. As a journalist, I have reported the spate of such comments from Labour members with astonishment…
An American Jewish conservative sent this bitter message out to his mailing list, (it was his forward to an article on a black Muslim anti-Semite embraced by some in the Democratic party:)
[There] is going to be an increasingly virulent strain of racism running through the increasingly far left Democrat Party. This is there. That is a simple fact. But empowering it is the fault of the Republican Party, which had numerous candidates for their Presidential nomination who would have handily beaten Hillary Clinton and left the haters part of her party looking more like what they are – haters. Instead, they are going to be woven into the fabric of Clinton’s party – whether she wants it or not – and our country is going to continue its slide into a divided society, filled with hatred across every fault line among our people. No more e pluribus Unum. There will most likely always be a country called the United States of America. But it will be neither united nor the American constitutional republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers. I profoundly believe with all my heart that we have been “exceptional” in the best possible way in which that word can be used. But Barack Hussein Obama detested that idea and has spent eight years undermining and vilifying the very notion of American exceptionalism. The result will now be an increasing cascade of American self loathing as the coming generations are taught what Obama’s party believes. The academy has long believed it. Its disciples captured academia after the Vietnam War and have spent the last 40+ years infecting students with their poison. We are now seeing one aspect of that poison going mainstream – Jew hatred – overlooked and tolerated by the political party most likely to control our country very shortly.”
My guess is that a Jewish liberal reading this would think that quote is raving mad. They would remember their progressive friends, of all colors, who don’t hate Jews, and plus, the Democrats are about inclusion and anti-racism. Aren’t they?
Ian Buruma, in a recent article titled Where anti-Capitalism and anti-Semitism Intersect explains one reason that the many Muslim immigrants to the West are good candidates to ally with the left, writing:
Israel is now inextricably linked to New York and Washington (not to mention Hollywood), where the Jewish diaspora is supposed to be pulling the strings. Many Arabs and European Muslims see Israel as an illegitimate colonial outpost of American capitalism in the Middle East. Another word for the domination of American capital is globalization. In the words of Michelle Battini [an Italian historian who wrote a new book on anti-capitalist anti-Semitism]: “In the ‘antiglobal’ attitude, which has taken the place of the old anti-capitalism, there are often ideological residues of European anti-Jewish anti-capitalism, unearthed above all in Central and Eastern Europe or reemerging in the language of Islamist extremist groups
In the historical pattern before Marxism, anti-Semitism usually came from the right. But we see now a convergence of anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist ideas on the left. Since the left in America tends to play identity politics, leftist politicians and activists associate with Muslim radicals.
Now you might, like I myself originally did, dismiss much of this. You might say, of course Muslims are going to be anti-Israeli at various campuses, but they are a small minority, and the leftists that associate with them are a minority too, and I’m bored.
But lets look at California. Dr. Richard Cravatts writes:
The situation on California campuses with regard to anti-Israelism, and even raw anti-Semitism, continues to grow in intensity and frequency… the state has a long tradition of radicalism by Leftist professors and students…. The student radicals of the 1960s have now become tenured professors…Many in California’s liberal professoriate …also embrace an essential cynicism about the West, a suspicion of capitalism, a condemnation of the military, and a general attitude that the imperialism of America and Israel continues a trend of hegemonic powers wronging Third-world victims. Since much of the on-campus agitation against Israel is spearheaded by pro-Palestinian Muslim student groups, the fact that 20 percent of America’s Muslims live in California (representing over 1,000,000 people and 3.4 percent of the State’s population) is likely also a contributing factor. Relevant, too, is the fact that while the age group of individuals between 18 and 29 represents only 14.1 percent of the overall U.S. population, in that same age group—a sizable chunk of whom are college students—Muslims represent 26.1 percent of that total.
So Muslims are not such a “small minority”. But surely you would say, there is nothing leftist about Islam. Islam is about social conservatism, isn’t it? It does not say much about economics or class warfare.
the university’s war against Israel has been pervasive and intensifying, promulgated by the active participation both of Leftist faculty and radical Muslim student groups on campuses where the long-suffering Palestinians have replaced South African blacks as the Left’s favorite victim group—whose behavior, however violent and politically irrational, is excused as justifiable in a 63 year-old campaign to demand that Israel grant the Arabs self-determination and social justice..
What is the immediate effect of this radicalism? Cravatts gives the example of San Francisco State University where:
… the pro-Palestinian student groups took it upon themselves the following month to disrupt a vigil for Holocaust Remembrance Day where some 30 Jewish students who were reciting the Mourners’ Kaddish—the Jewish prayer for the dead—were shouted down by protesters who countered with grisly prayers in memory of Palestinian suicide bombers. The pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators, armed with whistles and bull horns, physically assaulted the Jewish students, spat on them, and screamed such charming epithets as “Too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job,” “Get out or we will kill you,” “Fuck the Jews,” “Die racist pigs,” and “Go back to Russia, Jews.” The violence escalated to the extent that San Francisco police officers finally had to usher the Jewish students to safety off campus.
Digression: Telling the Jews to go back to Russia is Chutzpah. Of the protestors who are Muslim, they are usually much more recent arrivals than the Jews were.
Black Muslims and leftists get into the act too: For instance writes Cravatt,
a “Politics of Genocide” event included the speaking talents of such luminaries as the vitriolic Amir-Abdel Malik-Ali, a black Imam associated with the Masjid Al Islam mosque in Oakland and frequent guest of the Irvine MSU; former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a member of the Free Gaza Movement and Green Party presidential candidate, who, while in Congress, when she was not frantically suggesting that the CIA and George Bush were behind 9/11, had pointed to a sinister “pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others;”
these events inevitably devolve solely into hate-fests against Israel, with condemnations, blood libels, conspiracy theories, Nazi imagery, anti-Semitic ravings, physical attacks on Jewish students, and a visceral loathing of Zionism, Judaism, and the Jewish state.
On seeing this material, certain things start making sense to me. For instance, the Palestinian flags waving in the audience at the Democratic coronation of Hillary Clinton. The fact that Cornell and Columbia are among the top universities for anti-Israel phenomena (one out of ten schoolchildren in New York city are Muslim). And the fact that as far as religious hate crimes go Jews are more targeted than any other group. Obama lied to Israel about what he would do vs the Iran nuclear program – and that makes sense now too.
Many Jews are clueless as to what all this portends.
At the moment, the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, seems to be in self-destruct mode, and that could well mean that the Democrats finish the job of “transforming America” that Obama started. Hillary Clinton also wants to bring in many more Muslims, which will change the demographics.
Finally if our economy continues the way it has been going under Obama, then we will have a permanent group of people without upward mobility who are very angry. And I would not blame them. None of this is “good for the Jews.” Or for everyone else.
Here is a link. to a YouTube interview of Jewish (and pro-Jewish) students across the country. Its worth watching.
Suppose you are an English teacher and you assigned your students a writing assignment where you gave them an odd situation, and had them write a background story for it so that it became plausible. A possible situation you come up with might be this one: “a young man gets a job in a new city, and for a while is treated like everyone else, but suddenly he meets random strangers who treat him with disgust and contempt.” Another possible situation might be “a scrawny balding middle-aged man with glasses who is anything but handsome gets a reputation of being a handsome type who impresses the fair sex, and he is pointed out to an incredulous out-of-towner, who asks “that is him?” and is told “I swear to God!”
And the third situation is the men in both stories are the same person.
(These scenarios did happen, or at least I claim they did.)
Your students would have a problem coming up with a plausible scenario for any of these, but assuming it could be done, then an important conclusion follows. The conclusion is that these scenarios are possible. That doesn’t mean true, it just means that given what we know, we can’t rule them out.
The reason this is important is because we often reject stories in which too many pieces are missing. I think this is why, for example, an entire Jewish village (Sighet) in the path of the Nazis rejected a warning by an eye-witness of the awful fate that was in store for them. I suppose wishful thinking might have played a part, but my guess is that they simply couldn’t come up with a scenario in which people from an advanced country such as Germany would want to kill harmless villagers who mind their own business. And rationally, they should have been correct, but there many missing pieces to the puzzle which they knew nothing about.
Admittedly, there are real scenarios where no student of yours could up with a plausible scenario. For instance, if you told your students in the first days of the internet that there would be a social site called Facebook, they could accept that. If you said that people would reveal details about themselves, such as birthday, gender, family photos, etc, your students would yawn. But then you say that you wanted your students to explain that Facebook would have the following choices for gender:
Try as they might, even with the help of a few beers, your students might not be able to write a plausible scenario of how this could happen.
I think the reason is that people simply don’t understand other people all that well. That’s one reason why “the novel test” doesn’t cover the stranger possibilities. To give another example of strangeness, Leon Trotsky, who was himself a Bolshevik (early Communist), made a good point when he said that Stalinism was “the perfect theory for gluing up the brain.” He said this because social justice advocates all over the world defended the Russian dictator’s actions (Stalin murdered 40 million people). David Horowitz, whose parents were communists and who himself was a leading leftist as a young man, explains: “What glued up their brains was the belief that a brave new world of social justice..existed in embryo in Soviet Russia.”
The point here is not to argue politics, but that its truly hard for anyone, including English students, to come up with a plausible scenario where many good-intentioned people could somehow miss the murder of tens of millions, and defend the person responsible.
To take another example, you could assign students who were in college in the 1950’s an essay on what could go wrong with government charity. They would probably list the loss of initiative, or dignity, in recipients but its unlikely they would foresee this:
The reason that the children have no fathers is that government pushed them out. I saw it with friends in the sixties. All they talked about was getting pregnant so they could get on welfare and get their own apartment away from their parents. Many never finished school. If they [the government?] found the men living with them they cut off the money. The men could live on very little so they had no reason to advance or become successful. They lived in what we called flophouses and could sit and get high and have a good time. Soon that good time took its toll on the body and that part time job wouldn’t buy the drugs they needed to get high. so they stole and sold it to the dealers who sold it to the black market shops. I had so many friends who went this route.
While we can’t predict the future, the “novel test” does have a useful function. If you reject someone’s experience or beliefs simply because you would have to make many assumptions for it to be true, you could be wrong. Sit back, and ask yourself – what would have to be true for these experiences to correspond to reality? If you could come up with a chain of events, then the “probability” of the experiences (or worldview) might be low, but it would not be zero.
So the next time a wild eyed disheveled man speaking in tongues says that he is Napoleon — well OK, that one isn’t plausible.
Ronald Reagan once said “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one!”
This applies in international affairs as well.
Perhaps authoritarian personalities believe the zero-sum view of life.
The extreme left, at least in its Marxist incarnation, believes that the factory owners exploit the workers. So in their view, there are two social classes, and one rises by pushing down the other. Its a zero-sum game.
The extreme right, in its Nazi incarnation, had a philosophy of “lebensraum” or living space. Herpen writes that German theorist Friedrich Ratzel developed an organic state theory. States were, according to him, living creatures that could not be restricted by frontiers: they expanded or contracted according to their organic structure. They needed Lebensraum, “living space.” The Nazi ideologue Carl Schmitt adapted Ratzel’s theory to the needs of Hitler’s Germany. Of course to get that Lebensraum, the Nazis decided Slavic peoples had to be conquered, and often killed.
Free-market theorist Friedrich Hayek wrote that what in the United States we call the free-market conservative, or libertarian, is not on the left-right spectrum at all. Rather than a line with the extreme left on one side, and the extreme right on the other, and the rest of us in the middle, he sees a triangle, and the third vertex is the believers in free markets and human rights.
Lets take a look at Russia. That country is spying on Western countries just as much as it did in the bad old days when it was the Soviet Union. Also, Russian and Chinese (and other) hackers steal U.S. trade and technology secrets. This type of espionage was described by NSA expert Keith Alexander as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” They win, we lose.
Russia does not want its people to admire the United States, and its internal propaganda makes us look decadent, and not only decadent, but responsible for starting an anti-Russian campaign in the Ukraine.
In March 2014 a group of Ukrainian journalists started a website, http://www.stopfake.org, run by the London-based Ukrainian Institute, with the aim of checking the facts and verifying the information disseminated by Russian news channels.
One of the examples of misinformation they found was a video on YouTube of Russian soldiers throwing into a heap bodies of Dagestanis they had killed. This video was “recycled” and spread on YouTube with the (false) text “Punitive Ukrainian National Guard Mission throwing dead bodies near Kramatorsk” (Donetsk region)
In July 12, 2014, the Russian Pervyy Kanal (First TV Channel) interviewed a woman named Galina, who claimed to be a refugee and who told how Ukrainian soldiers had taken a three-year-old boy and crucified him “like Jesus.” This story caused great outrage in Russia, which was unfortunate, because it was invented.
In another post of mine I had this quote from the WSJ:
They [the Russians] are writing things about us and our defense forces that are not from this world,” says the senior [Finland] official, such as the yarn that the Finnish government removes children from ethnic-Russian Finnish families for adoption by gay couples in the U.S.
The above shows a contempt by the Russian leadership for their own people, who they feel must be deceived. They might be deceiving you too, for instance, if you see a set of comments on your favorite news or opinion site, those comments may come from a surprising source. There are internet warriors, working for the Kremlin as paid online mercenaries: “Each troll is expected to post 50 news articles daily and maintain six Facebook and ten Twitter accounts, with 50 tweets per day.”
Van Herpen adds:
Hackers from Anonymous, a vigilante activist network, hacked the e-mail account of one “trolling” group that is charged with running the campaign in the U.S. and gave me some of the information they discovered. . . . Russia’s “Internet trolling squad” made detailed studies of such sites as The Blaze, The Huffington Post and Fox News, including their audiences, owners, official and actual editorial policies, as well as their attitudes toward Russia and Obama. Screenshots show comments posted in English with serious grammatical errors. According to the Ukrainskaya Pravda, the Kremlin bloggers were also active in Ukraine. They were said to be paid twenty-four euros per day for their activities.
So if you read those comments by those trolls, you are being manipulated. You may be led to believe that there is a large number of your fellow citizens who feel a certain way, for example.
The cable channel Russia Today, (which is larger than Fox News) has direct access to the homes of tens of millions of Europeans and Americans.
RT’s staff includes an office with about one hundred personnel in Washington. In 2009 Nielsen Media Research found that viewers in the Washington, D.C., area preferred to watch prime-time news on Russia Today rather than on other foreign English-language networks, including Al Jazeera, France 24, and Deutsche Welle. In 2013 two million Britons watched RT regularly, and its online presence was “more successful than those of all its competitors. What’s more, in June , Russia Today broke a YouTube record by being the first TV station to get a billion views of its videos.
Now such success in itself is OK, even admirable, except that they manipulate their audience. Consider:
RT started inviting representatives of marginal, often extreme right antigovernment groups, who were presented as “experts.” One of these groups was the so-called 9/ 11 truthers, people who believe that the 9/ 11 attacks were not the work of al-Qaeda terrorists but a US government conspiracy… RT’s “experts” also included Malik Zulu Shabazz, the leader of the New Black Panther Party, a hate group. Another invited pundit was Daniel Estulin, who considered the European Union to be the realization of a secret plan invented by the Bilderberg Group …Manuel Ochsenreiter, a guest speaker about German affairs on RT’s English-language channel, is actually the editor of the neo-Nazi magazine Zuerst!, a monthly radical-right magazine that pledges “to serve German— not foreign— interests” and speaks out against “de-nazification.” For James Miller this is problematic, “as RT used Ochsenreiter to defend Russia’s invasion of Crimea, an invasion which the Kremlin said was done to defend the peninsula against neo-Nazis.” Another RT guest, Ryan Dawson, who was presented as a “human rights activist,” was in reality a Holocaust denier who wrote blogs about anti-Semitic ideas.
Russian military preparations are worrisome. Their bombers fly along the coasts of Alaska and California. They are largely responsible for the Iranian nuclear program’s technical progress. And remember, Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called us “The Great Satan”.
Putin has noted that Russia is the only country that could “destroy America in half an hour or less.”
We really have to hope that Putin does not see his competition with us as a zero-sum game.
Russian government ideology differs from ours. Russia glorifies a strong state. And from Herpen’s book, the Russian Orthodox Church preaches that human rights must be superseded by traditional values, because otherwise we lose morality and civilization. There seems to be an idea that human-rights have to give for morality to prevail. You can’t have both unlimited rights and morality.
In this country, there is another debate where zero-sum thinking comes into play. That is the debate on whether we should put tariffs on foreign imports, and whether we should punish companies that move factories abroad. Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, feels we were taken advantage of in our free-trade deal with Mexico and wants to renegotiate it. In other words, he does not see mutual benefits, rather he sees Mexico profiting at our expense. On the left, Socialist candidate Bernie Sanders also believes this.
Free trade advocates argue that the problem is not Mexican greed, or naïve American negotiators. They argue that the United States has gotten so dominated by “progressives” that it has created a difficult environment for businesses to thrive, and so they eventually move to other locales. Moreover, a free trade advocate such as trade-attorney Scott Lincicome stresses that when businesses do fail, there is a lack of “labor dynamism” in the U.S. so people do not find new jobs to move to, and he says free trade reveals the problems with the economy, rather than causing those problems.
Its interesting that several anti-immigrant movements in Europe are also protectionist. One example is the French National Front. In this country, Pat Buchanan is an example of a conservative protectionist who has long called for restricting immigration. My own view is that restricting immigration is reasonable, and restricting economic transactions that interfere with national security is reasonable, but otherwise, we are better off trading with the world rather than having each nation embrace so-called economic-patriotism. We are better off with strong, prosperous neighbors than with weak unstable ones.
Though some situations in life really are a zero-sum game, we should at least try to avoid that philosophy whenever possible.