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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Consequences of Fear-Mongering: Bombs Sent To Dems

The Daily Escape:

Autumn in Maine -October 2018 photo by toph4er

The short version of Trump’s mid-term message is: “Be afraid”. Think about their messages: The Caravan. Terrorists crossing the southern border. Socialism. Democrat mobs. Soros.

The Daily Beast says why Republicans think the migrant caravan is a winner:

For Republicans, the sharp turn toward immigration fears, and those related to the caravan in particular, has been viewed a clear political winner, even as some acknowledge that the rhetoric from the president and others – including [that]….George Soros was funding the caravan – has been overblown.

The caravan is politically useful because it resonates with precisely the voters that the GOP needed to turnout in the next two weeks. The Republican worry has been turnout, and illegal immigrants motivate Trump’s base.

Trump supporters have seized on an image of Hondurans burning an American flag with a swastika drawn on it, calling them the “caravan protesters”, and implying that they were members of the caravan. In reality, those Hondurans were protesting in front of the US Embassy in Honduras.

For Democrats, the past few days have to be reminiscent of 2014. James Poniewozik in the NYT reviewed GOP scare tactics in the 2014 midterms:

In the fall of 2014, with the midterms approaching, Fox and other conservative media went in overdrive on the “border crisis” and ISIS — two issues that Republicans were using to suggest that the Obama administration was failing to protect America from teeming hordes.

According to the GOP, terrorist organizations were poised on the Mexican border to sneak into the US. Representative Duncan Hunter, (R-CA), claimed on Fox that 10 ISIS operatives had been apprehended crossing the border. On Oct. 8th 2014, Donald Trump amplified Hunter’s bogus claim, tweeting:

‘At least’ 10 ISIS have been caught crossing the Mexico border…

So, back to the future. We are weeks away from another midterm election, and immigration and terror are back in heavy rotation by the GOP. On Monday’s “Fox & Friends”, co-host Pete Hegseth said:

They caught over 100 ISIS fighters in Guatemala trying to use this caravan.

Hegseth was wrong. He mischaracterized a comment by president Morales of Guatemala about past terrorist apprehensions: (emphasis by Wrongo)

Morales told Guatemala’s Prensa Libre that his country had cooperated with the security forces of neighboring countries to halt the movement of terrorists. The individuals had been “intercepted, detained, processed and returned to their country of origin,” according to Guatemalan security officials. Some of these arrests, including the arrests of several Syrians, occurred in 2016.

Facts don’t support GOP fear-mongering on the border. From the NYT:

Of the more than 300,000 people apprehended at the southern border in the last fiscal year, 61, or 0.02 percent, were from countries the State Department deems the Middle East or Near East. Of those, 14 were citizens of the four Middle Eastern countries — Libya, Iran, Syria and Yemen — included in Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

What’s a political animal to do when you want to win, but you have very few ideas to sell? If you’re Trump, you sell what put you in the White House in 2016: Fear, lies, and apocalyptic visions of what America will become if Democrats win.

Selling fear is pathetic and morally vacant, but it works with casual news consumers. They simply hear “caravan” and “border” and “terrorism” and that creates a sense of looming danger.

Today, another fear-mongering Fox News segment about ‘left-wing mobs’ and ‘incivility’ toward Mitch McConnell was interrupted by breaking news coverage of a string of bombs sent to Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. A bomb treat was issued for the Time Warner building in NYC. An improvised explosive device was found at George Soros’s Westchester, NY home.

Other suspicious packages were sent to Sen. Kamala Harris’s state office, to Eric Holder, and to Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

There are consequences when the president and his party tout lies, embrace conspiracy theories, demonize political opponents, and applaud violence against reporters. They have been doing this since at least 2014.

We don’t know what impact these bomb threats will have on the mid-term election, who will be angered, and therefore more energized to turn out and vote.

We have no idea who is responsible for sending the bombs. Republicans will say it’s an attempt to make them look bad. But, it’s more likely that they were sent by someone who was radicalized by overheated right-wing rhetoric.

Rhetoric that has been pounded home by Trump.

Finally, we have no idea if there are any more bombs are out there. We can only hope that all will be intercepted.

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 11, 2017

The Daily Escape:

On September 8th 2017, a full moon passed through a test of the Tribute in Light at the National 911 Museum. By Gary Hershorn

Sixteen years post-9/11, we are mostly healed, but it was difficult to get here. Before 9/11, we had the luxury of dealing with one domestic disaster at a time: The San Francisco earthquake, the Chicago fire, the Galveston hurricane, Mt. St. Helens, and hurricanes Andrew and Sandy.

With the collapse of the twin towers, the Shanksville PA crash and the Pentagon attack, we had to find the ability to process the enormous shock and grief of three simultaneous events. That wasn’t easy, particularly since the media constantly reinforced the scale of the disaster, and how things would never be the same.

But most people grieved, and some helped those who were more afflicted. The government helped by shifting our focus to the foreign enemy who had committed these terrible acts.

Now on 9/11/2017, we have had two hurricanes back-to-back in the east, and have more than 100 wildfires are burning in the west. How do we process all of the shock and grief? Now our sole focus is on how to dig out, resume our lives, and rebuild. Where will the resilience come from?

And where will we find the money?

In retrospect, 9/11 helped to show us the way to heal when these unspeakable disasters happen. That’s a pretty thin smiley face on an awfully grim day in our history, but it’s true. Some healing began that very day, and time and distance from it is still (slowly) bringing people to a better place.

Some healing has yet to occur. Many still mourn family and friends who died on that day 16 years ago. Wrongo has adult children who worked in Manhattan at the time, who still will not ride the NYC subways.

The NPR show “Here and Now” had a brief segment with Rita Houston, the program director and an on-air personality for WFUV, Fordham University radio. They discussed the station’s most-requested songs on 9/11, and in the days and months afterward.

Surprisingly, the top tunes requested were those that referenced New York in a sentimental way. Mostly, they were songs that took listeners back to an earlier, more innocent time. Not many requests were for patriotic songs, or “pick us up by the bootstraps” messages. Rather, people wanted to hear songs of sweetness and emotion. Amazingly to Wrongo, the most requested song was Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” from his album “Honky Château”, written in 1980.

But for music as a healer, the October 20, 2001 “Concert for New York” can’t be beat. It was a highly visible and early part of NYC’s healing process. It has been described as one part fundraiser, one part rock-n-roll festival, and one part Irish wake.

One of the many highlights of that 4+hour show was Billy Joel’s medley of “Miami 2017 (seen the lights go out on Broadway)” and his “New York State of Mind”. Joel wrote “Miami 2017 in 1975, at the height of the NYC fiscal crisis. It describes an apocalyptic fantasy of a ruined NY that got a new, emotional second life after he performed it during the Concert for New York. 

The concert brought a sense of human bonding in a time of duress. It isn’t hyperbole to say that the city began its psychological recovery that night in Madison Square Garden.

Joel now plays it frequently. Here he is with “Miami 2017” and “New York State of Mind” from the October, 2001 Concert for New York:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Most of the visible scars of 9/11 are gone, but America still lives in persistent fear. We fear Kim Jong-un and his missiles. We distrust Russia. We are afraid that ISIS will attack us on our streets.

We worry that our budget deficit will bankrupt us. We fear for our kids’ safety if they walk to school alone. We fear the mob outside our gates. We fear the immigrants already inside the gates.

So today’s wake up call is for America. We can never forget the heroes and the victims of 9/11, but we have to stop letting fear drive our actions.

Check out the audience reaction to Joel’s songs. That doesn’t look like fear, and that’s where we all need to be emotionally in 2017.

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Why Are Today’s Parents so Fearful?

The Daily Escape:

Matterhorn – 2008 photo by Wrongo

Overnight guests at the Mansion of Wrong started a discussion about how parenting styles have changed since the 1950’s. The primary focus of our near-geriatric group was on how our children parent their kids, as differentiated from the way our parents parented us. We talked about the difference between yesterday’s “free-range” parenting, where the kids were (relatively) unscheduled, and free to play outside until dark, and today’s helicopter parenting, where the kids are highly scheduled and the parents monitor their every move.

Today, Wrongo read an article by Pratik Chougule in the American Conservative entitled, “Is American Childhood Creating an Authoritarian Society?” Its sub-title, “Overprotective parenting is a threat to democracy” gives the article’s viewpoint:

American childhood has taken an authoritarian turn. An array of trends in American society are conspiring to produce unprecedented levels of supervision and control over children’s lives. Tracing the effects of childrearing on broad social outcomes is an exercise in speculation. But if social scientists are correct to posit a connection between childrearing and long-term political outcomes, today’s restrictive childhood norms may portend a broader regression in our country’s democratic consensus. 

That is way much too much speculation for Wrongo, but Chougule offers some interesting facts:

  • The amount of free time school-aged children enjoyed plummeted from 40% in the early 1980s to 25% by the mid-1990s.
  • The time young children spend in school jumped from 5-6 hours in the early 1980s to almost 7 hours beginning in the early 2000s.
  • By 2006, some 40% of schools had either eliminated recess or were considering doing so.

Chougule also offers the following:

More so than any other factor—identity, religiosity, income etc.—it was voters’ attitudes on childrearing that predicted their support for Trump. Those who believe that is more important for children to be respectful rather than independent; obedient over self-reliant; well-behaved more than considerate; and well-mannered versus curious, were more than two and a half times as likely to support Trump than those with the opposite preferences.

This leads to the conclusion that voting for Trump = Authoritarian tendencies in the family. Wrongo disagrees. He fails to see the link between helicopter parenting and authoritarianism in today’s kids. He isn’t even sure that today’s kids are little authoritarians.

Overprotective parenting has more to do with parental anxiety that started in the 1970’s when our kids were growing up, seeing high-profile incidents of abducted children. Then there were (and still are) the hyperventilating pundits warning about freak accidents affecting kids.

Most of all, it is driven by two trends: First, the two-career family has created guilt and fear that at least one parent won’t be around if something terrible happens. Second, the increasingly prevalent one-child family means that the psychic investment in the precious single offspring is huge, and by definition, fragile. If all your eggs are in the basket of one kid, it makes sense for him/her to wear a helmet at all times, and never speak to strangers.

When Wrongo’s kids were growing up, it was safe to send kids out to play in the neighborhood, because you knew there were going to be a dozens of adult eyes watching whatever was going on, as opposed to today’s  neighborhoods, which are vacant from 8am – 6pm.

Today, overprotecting is achieved largely in the form of monitoring where the kids are via cell phones. Parents do this in the name of protecting their kids. This is a major difference, as these devices didn’t even exist until the 1990s.

An unfortunate reality is that many kids today get too little direct supervision from their parents. The slack is being taken up by day-care centers and schools, neither of which should be the primary source of guidance for today’s kids.

An argument can be made that today’s parents have become more authoritarian and conformist because they are fearful in a world that seems to be getting more dangerous. It may be a fear of physical danger, like terrorism, but it can also be fear of downward mobility. The perception is that good jobs and other economic opportunities are getting fewer, so that only the highest-performing young people will have a shot at getting them.

We know that in times of peace and prosperity, society loosens up. People become more tolerant and trusting. When opportunities are limited or when external enemies threaten, tolerance erodes. People want their neighbors, their kids and their kids’ teachers to hew to their world view.

The politics of fear breeds ever more fear. We need to break the cycle.

Here is a tune. It is London Grammar doing a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, recorded on June 9, 2017:

Takeaway Lyric:

Now here you go again, you say
You want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down?

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Worry About Hunger and Homelessness Higher Than Ever

The Daily Escape:

White-Faced (Capuchin) Monkey, Costa Rica, 2015 – photo by Wrongo

The American economy has never been very kind to people at the lower income levels. In most ways, since 2008’s Great Recession, the economy has become riskier, and more tension-filled for lower income Americans, those making $30,000 or less per year. Nothing makes this clearer than this Gallup poll conducted March 1-5, 2017. Gallup surveyed 1,018 adults in all 50 US states. From Gallup:

Over the past two years, an average of 67% of lower-income US adults, up from 51% from 2010-2011, have worried “a great deal” about the problem of hunger and homelessness in the country.

More from Gallup:

Concern about hunger and homelessness now ranks as high as, or higher than, concern about most other issues tested in Gallup’s annual Environment survey. The only issue with a significantly higher “worried a great deal” percentage in this year’s poll is the availability and affordability of healthcare, at 57%.

People’s perspectives are based on their experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Gallup found that people making more than $75k/year had other concerns, and ranked hunger and homelessness much lower, at 37%. Still, even that number is up substantially from 23% in 2001.

The survey asks participants to rank their concern about 13 elements, and the differences between the concerns of the $30k or less cohort and the $75k or more cohort are stark.

  1. Americans making $30k and less rank their top seven worries in this order:
  • Hunger/homelessness
  • Crime/violence
  • Healthcare
  • Drug use
  • Terrorism
  • Social Security
  • Economy
  1. Americans making $75k or more ranked their top seven in this order:
  • Healthcare
  • Budget deficit
  • Economy
  • Social Security
  • Environment
  • Race relations
  • Hunger/homelessness

One reality is that the lower income Americans list “terrorism” in their top five, while it does not appear at all as a top worry of higher income Americans. Lower-income Americans worry more in general than those with higher incomes; everything is riskier and tougher for them. But nothing compares to the worries about hunger and homelessness. Gallup:

On average, across the 13 issues, the percentage of lower-income adults who worry a great deal is seven percentage points higher than among middle-income Americans, and 17 points higher than among upper-income Americans.

Here is Gallup’s chart showing the relative degree of “worry” by economic group:

No surprise that more money brings one fewer big worries. No individual worry of the $75k+ cohort was felt by as many people as the seventh-ranking worry by the $30k or less cohort.

In fact, the greater than $75k cohort sees the “budget deficit” as its second-most worried about item. Of course, this dooms any chance for the people making less than $30k to have greater security in life. Congratulations to Pete Peterson and the GOP deficit hawks on a job well done! Their decades of propaganda have made austerity a political obsession for the well-off, because government must tighten its belt, and cut its way to greatness.

Paging Dr. Maslow! Your theory of the hierarchy of needs is again demonstrated in the real world by Gallup. Here it is 2017, near the twilight of the empire. Physiological and safety needs are in the top five of the major worries of a population that is hanging on to our society by their fingernails.

Tighten your belts. Lower your dreams. Ignore the fact WE live in 10,000 sq. ft. mansions. We deserve it, and you don’t.

The American dream is a fallacy. Free markets are a fallacy. They are propaganda used to fool those poor Americans who live every day in all-too visible peonage.

Here is a 2005 tune by Coldplay, “Fix You” from their album “X&Y”. It gives a few words of empathy:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

Takeaway Lyric:

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

 

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Ever Hear of Al-Gebra?

Apparently, for some Americans, it’s the language used by the latest terror group. On Saturday, American Airlines was notified by a passenger of the suspicious behavior of her seat mate. He was writing in some mysterious language and that, plus his swarthy complexion caused her concern. She passed a note to the flight crew, and the plane didn’t take off. Eventually, the crew asked the 40-year-old man with dark, curly hair, olive skin and an exotic foreign accent to explain himself, since he was now suspected of possible terrorism.

As it turns out, that man was a well-known economist Guido Menzio, who was working on a differential equation while on his way to give a lecture. From WaPo:

Those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or another foreign language, or even some special secret terrorist code. They were math.

Apparently, swarthy types who write on planes are suspicious in post-Trump America. The complaining woman thought Mr. Menzio was an Arab, but he is Italian. How difficult would it have been to say: “I can’t place your accent, where are you from originally?”

But no, she moved directly to terror. It is true that Mr. Menzio is a high ranking member of the Ma’ath party, although his seat mate would NEVER have understood the joke.

She saw a guy writing math notes. People should be able to scribble in notebooks in any language without their flights being delayed, let alone having to be taken off the plane and questioned.

It is easy to make fun of the woman who reported Mr. Menzio. She clearly doesn’t know algebra, and can’t tell an Italian from an Arab, so she may not be the brightest bulb, but she was listened to, and the airline acted on her fear.

Yes, we say “if you see something, say something”, but reacting as she did did not enhance anyone’s safety and didn’t foil any plots.

And really, is it so difficult to know its algebra when you see it?

No wonder the Chinese are eating us alive in math and engineering. When did seeing an equation get to be so rare that your seat mate on a flight to Syracuse believes it to be a form of “strange script” and conclude that the person who wrote it was a terrorist?

The enemy isn’t a possible terrorist on a flight to Syracuse, it is our fear of foreigners.

The enemy is our inability to know math when we see it.

Sadly, every day we continue to prove Pogo’s adage: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.

 

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Why So Fearful?

The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil menPlato

Following on yesterday’s thoughts about how our presidential candidates are busy soiling their underpants over the possible threat of “Radical Islamic Terrorism” (say it Obama! What are you afraid of??), we heard Trump call for banning Muslims from visiting the US. Cruz and Rubio are merely for registering all of them.

This is a good time to take a look at the rates of homicide in America and our perception of the rates of homicide. Here is a chart from Gallup that shows the actual rate has fallen steadily and dramatically since 1992. The graph demonstrates that starting in 2001, we saw an increase in the number of Americans who thought violent crime was rising (the dark green line), even though the actual violent crime rate (the light green line) continued to fall, and remains roughly 75 points lower than it had been at its early 1990s peak. It’s clear that the perception of that crime rate tracked closely with the actual rate until 2001, when they began to diverge:

Galllup Violent Crime rate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, Pew asked Americans in 2013 if the number of gun crimes had: gone down, gone up, or stayed the same over the past 20 years. Bear in mind that the gun murder rate is half what it was, and the rate of non-fatal gun crimes is about a quarter of what it was 20 years ago, but only 12% said gun crimes were down, 26% said they were the same, and 56% said they’ve gone up.

This, despite the fact that the homicide rate/100,000 people in this country is lower than it’s been in 50 years, falling from 6.6 in 1981 to 3.6 in 2010. That’s not all. Ian Reifowitz at the Daily Kos offers more data:

Violence in schools has dropped dramatically in the past two decades
• The overall rates of physical and sexual abuse of children is down
• The rates of rape/sexual assault and violence against intimate partners in the US is 25% of what it was a couple of decades ago.

We live in an environment where all politics is designed to ramp up fear and outrage. Where our media, both mainstream and Internet, awefulize about nearly everything, where people have short attention spans, and fail to understand nuanced problems.

The current “be afraid” broadcast coverage of San Bernardino is another opportunity to instill fear in the public about mass shootings. It sells commercials, but misinforms the public. The press and most politicians characterize these mass shootings as either the work of misguided crazies if they are Americans, or terrorists if they are not.

And then the media complains about the public’s ignorance, and basks in the fact of peoples’ acceptance of extreme political views, followed by hand-wringing about why people are so angry, frightened and cynical.

Polls show that Americans are afraid of Muslims. A 2014 Pew survey asked Americans to rate various religious groups on a 0 to 100 scale, with a higher score indicating more positive feelings.

• Republicans (including people who lean Republican) gave Muslims a rating of 33, on average — one point lower than atheists and far lower than any other religious group.
• Democrats had more positive feelings toward Muslims, but were still chilly; they gave Muslims an average rating of 47, slightly above atheists and Mormons and below other religious groups.

According to a Public Religion Research Institute poll conducted earlier this year, 77% of Trump supporters believe “the values of Islam are at odds with American values and way of life,” versus 72% percent of other Republicans, while 43% of Democrats said the same.

After fifteen years of non-stop war against the Muslim world, it may make sense that Americans are insecure about Muslims. But, it is the media, and the 2016 Republican candidates who have ginned up this fear, against the reality of our actual experience.

It shouldn’t be difficult for either the candidates, or the media, to put public safety in a context of the past 20 years.

The facts above show that we are safer than at any time in the last 50 years, but that doesn’t mean we are safe, or that we do not have a problem with potential terrorist acts at home. We do, and we need to be vigilant. We also need to develop better techniques to identify potential domestic terrorists, and to teach citizens how to react in a potentially threatening situation.

Restrictive gun control wouldn’t hurt either.

The quantifiable improvement in crime and homicide rates in particular, should give us some hope that we can do better. But none of that happens unless we chose facts over fear.

Or, if we let fear drive us from our long-held values as a people.

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Hello Texas: Jade Helm Ended, but Your Paranoia Continues

From Vox:

On Monday, teachers at the Irving Independent School District in Irving, Texas, had police arrest a 14-year-old student named Ahmed Mohamed for bringing to school a simple electronic clock he had built as an engineering project. Police escorted Mohamed out of school in handcuffs — photos of the arrest show him wearing a NASA T-shirt — and accused him of trying to build a bomb.

It wasn’t a bomb, it was a clock. Fourteen-year-old Ahmed Mohamed wanted to get noticed by his teachers. He loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school. So, he built a digital clock, and brought it to school. It was a circuit board and power supply connected to a digital display. He showed it to his engineering teacher on Monday. The student picks up the story:

He was like, ‘that’s really nice’…I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’

Then during English class, the clock beeped. The English teacher kept the clock, and during sixth period, Mohamed was pulled out of class by the principal. Here is Mohamed’s story:

They took me to a room…with five officers in which they interrogated me and searched through my stuff and took my tablet and my invention…They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’ I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. But one cop responded, ‘it looks like a movie bomb to me.’

Mohamed told NBC-Dallas Fort Worth that he was taken to police headquarters, handcuffed and fingerprinted. Then on Wednesday, Irving Police Chief Larry Body said that Mohamed would not be charged with any wrongdoing:

We have no evidence to support that there was an intention to create alarm or cause people to be concerned…

So what have we learned?

• The engineering teacher gave Ahmed good advice: The teacher intuited that the training we now give to school teachers would kick in when a non-engineering teacher saw the clock.
• The English teacher confiscated the clock by picking it up and carrying it to her desk, but the school then waited until the 6th period to interrogate the student.
• Why the delay if they truly thought it was a bomb? Protocol probably prevents you from even touching it, and probably requires immediately calling 911.
• Five cops show up. Sounds like a lot, but they probably have to do that. It’s standard practice in most jurisdictions these days for school incidents because they don’t know the scope of the problem until they investigate.
• They bring the kid in. They know it’s not a bomb, even saying it looked like a movie prop. And unless there are facts not presented in this story, they had no evidence that it was intended to be a “hoax”.

The school principal’s response should be:

Look, I know you meant well, but here’s why you caused alarm. Please learn from it and don’t do it again.

Instead he’s marched off in handcuffs. And later, Ahmed Mohamed was suspended by the school for 3 days for a violation of the school’s conduct policy.

Once you realize that the school personnel didn’t act like people who thought they were in the presence of a bomb, then what was going on? It was something beyond profiling, which would be bad enough. They did this knowing he was innocent. Maybe they feared the reaction of parents when the story got out.

Here’s what parents should tell the school principal:

So a young, smart boy builds a thing most of us wouldn’t even attempt, and shows it off, and you say he should have known better?

Maybe Texans think that such power is not for children, it must be restricted to the great corporations. Lock up the boy wizard before he destroys us all with his magic time telling device!

The saddest part of Ahmed’s story was this line, from Ahmed’s father:

He’s vowed never to take an invention to school again.

We have a massive propaganda effort telling us that many Muslims are trying to do violence in America. It’s not surprising that some of their audience – including principals and police officers – believe this crap and let it affect their judgement.

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The Big Picture – An Editorial

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom”Bertrand Russell

Today, we are going to take a short course in The Big Picture. For starters, here is a quote from Digby:

…we are a primitive country. We’ve got idiots on TV screaming about a religion of 1.6 billion people being the toxic cause of violence even as our All American, non-religious school-kids are taking the deadly weapons their parents give them as presents to shoot their schoolmates and themselves. And we have the most sophisticated city on earth acting like a bunch of authoritarian creeps toward people who are doing serious work to stop the spread of an outbreak of a deadly disease — for PR purposes.

Since the Great Recession in 2008-9, we have seen the Federal Reserve move the economy slowly forward while leaving most people behind. Yet, few complain about growing income inequality. People know it and feel it, but don’t vote, or try to do anything else to change things.

• Why doesn’t income inequality upset the average American?
• Why are we more aware of how plastic surgery has changed the looks of an actress than we are about Gen. John Allen’s crazy ideas about winning the war against ISIS?
• How can more Americans be afraid of contracting Ebola than being killed in a car wreck?

What are we afraid will happen if we really dig deeply into an idea or a strategy that is proposed as a “solution” for some problem or other? Why can’t we resist re-tweeting some piece of snark that is the short version of something we believe, or thought we believed?

One visible trend is our increasing distrust of public institutions. We have seen how government, corporations, “charitable” organizations, media, and law-enforcement and the Justice system, all seem to exist for the benefit of those who manage them and not for the public.

This capturing of our institutions is a scary thing, but it is true everywhere in America. You might think that realizing this would spur interest in reform, but in fact, it has just increased our denial. People say in spite of it all, we’ll just soldier on as best as we can, making sure that we and our kids learn to navigate this rigged system.

This is why there is very little interest in politics by young voters.

Another trend is that America’s young know there is no possibility for real growth in personal income. They know that there are policies to promote and stimulate the economy, policies that might work. But, they have no faith in the ability of public officials to implement such policies, so they hang back, hoping somebody comes forward with a better answer. This, from the most connected, most media-savvy, most sophisticated generation in our history.

Voters show no interest in the 2014 mid-term elections. The media asks the same questions of the same Sabbath pundits each week: “Who will win the Senate?” But people don’t care. They watch the media whip up class warfare, cultural warfare and real warfare together into a big stew of propaganda that becomes mind-numbing. So they Facebook, and Tweet.

Most people are both stuck and scared–wanting things to change, but not knowing how. People might get upset, but big change requires commitment and action, and it is hard to get Millennials to change their minds, or to do much.

Political activism succeeds with a clear vision and a solid game plan. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have a list of good ideas about what will work to move us forward. It is possible to attribute political apathy to this lack of ideas, but the destruction of public trust in government is also a big problem.

Changing the future requires getting hold of the levers of government and then using them to do good. That is much more difficult when people don’t vote, and have no faith in their government. Trust in an institution takes a long time to build, but not to destroy. The first step is to take back our captured government.

A basic principle of martial arts is that you use your opponent’s strengths against them. In typical political contests, both sides work to out-raise and out-spend the other. And third parties try to get in the game using the same strategies as the legacy parties.

Today, each candidate is challenging the other’s strength using their own similar strength: It becomes a Sumo-style shoving match.

Conventional wisdom says that it’s expensive to run a campaign (even for local elections, much less national) and so everyone starts their campaign with a fundraising strategy and continues it incessantly even after Election Day. Conventional wisdom says you win with a charismatic candidate, so each party tries to find the best actor they can come up with. Conventional wisdom says candidates should “triangulate” their political views so that they are neither left nor right, just as Democrats are trying to do without success, in Red States this fall.

Instead, insurgent campaigns could be run on social media and the Internet, on as little money as possible—crowdsourcing both dollars and ideas from supporters. They should build constituencies for ideas and for a common future. They should select candidates who can tell the story of a united, desirable future, not some Ken or Barbie cypher for the moneyed interests who run our politics today.

The Big Picture is that we react more strongly to fear than to rationality. We used to fear Hitler. We feared the Communists. We feared al-Qaeda. We fear ISIS. We fear Ebola. We fear for our kids walking to school. We fear that America will let too many brown people across our borders. But we don’t fear climate change, or obesity, or a Congress that can’t enact an agenda to move the country forward.

There should be no mystery about how much corporate power and money drives the culture of fear. Think of it as a 4-step program:

1. Mass media hammers on events that builds general concern and possibly, panic from a few isolated incidents
2. Anecdotal evidence takes the place of hard scientific proof
3. Experts that the media trots out to make comments really don’t have the credentials to be considered experts
4. Entire categories of people (Muslims, West Africans) are labeled as “innately dangerous”

Can a cohesive group with a better way of dealing with the rest of us, gain traction in today’s connected world? Can they help America conquer the long laundry list of fears that constrict and in some cases, stop us from acting on much of anything?

It would take brains, ideas, commitment and energy.

Where are the leaders who have those qualities? How can we support them?

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