Sunday, June 26, 2011

It’s the Oligarchy, stupid

Like many in the freethinking community, I have been amazed at the changes in intellectualism in America over the last four decades.  We have gone from a culture that loved science and deep intellectual thought to one focused on fantasy and superficial musings.  Science has become the great scapegoat for many of our ills, as the conservative right encourages.

Is this really true? I don’t think so.

The oligarchic class has been the main driver of the dumbing down of America.  In their assault on progressive individualism, they have created the illusion that most scientists and academics are “lefties”  and used anti-intellectualism as the Red Badge of Courage of conservatism.  There is much support for this view, such as Ferris’ book (The Science of Liberty).  But, I think the issues have been muddled very well.

The real polarization in America is the wealthy versus everyone else.  This class warfare has been hidden for many years by the other big polarization, left vs right or democrats vs republicans.  The oligarchs don’t care about left/right; they use these moral issues as a means to concentrate more power within themselves; they don’t care which political party they have to buy off to get their way.  They encourage the public to be distracted by moral warfare while they steal all the assets and power they can.

There is plenty of evidence that both political parties desire to restrict personal freedoms in the service of oligarchy.  In Wisconsin, the republicans are taking away the right of collective bargaining.  Under Obama, the TSA is patting down children because we are all supposed to be afraid of terrorists.  Taking away collective bargaining allows the oligarchs to divide and conquer, and minimize challenges to their power.  Basically, they want many small oppositions instead of a big one.  Allowing TSA to grope our children continues the military-industrial-surveillance complex’s invasion of our privacy.  The goal of oligarchy is to restrict the number of successful people in the world.  They do that by controlling the small people.

So, I remain frustrated with the scientific community because they continue to argue from the wrong stance.  They are always trying to tell us what the Truth is instead of offering useful, doable solutions in offsetting the gains of the oligarchs.  Moreover, they are rarely willing to fight fire with fire.

An example of this is the book Merchants of Doubt that describes how much of the world of science has been undermined by big business interests and a few scientists willing to corrupt the facts.  The book “exposes how radical think tanks have created a cadre of scientists - motivated by money and ideology - to debunk established scientific facts on threats such as DDT, tobacco, nuclear weapons and global warming” (here, and see here).  Basically, oligarchs use intellectuals to promote anti intellectualism. 

Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific knowledge over four decades.  Remarkably, the same individuals surface repeatedly-some of the same figures who have claimed that the science of global warming is "not settled" denied the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole.  "Doubt is our product," wrote one tobacco executive.  These "experts" supplied it” (here).

Yes, it is a history book, a history of science.  But couldn’t they offer ideas on how to combat the problem of oligarchy?  Can’t scientists run an effective anti misinformation campaign?  Or, is it too late in the cultural cycle and anti intellectualism must prevail for more years?

Scientists continue to be dumbfounded by the oligarchy's anti intellectual campaign and they try to counter it with intellectual arguments about Truth.  Scientists are fighting a war about truth and ideas when they should be fighting about money and power.  Can they offer ways to campaign against the oligarchs? 

1 comment:

  1. I don't see science as being a potent force against oligarchy. Nor is philosophy. Both have provided very elaborate and persuasive critiques, and both have been completely ignored.

    The reason for this, I would argue is that data and argumentation have almost no role to play in this fight. The issue is one of power. I saw Pasolini's Salo just recently and it got me thinking further about this. What if the core of power (in its Western conception) is sadism, shown by Pasolini in this extreme setting in a didactic way.

    One cannot reason with a sadist, nor provide data to show he is hurting himself. That has no impact at all. I think just two strategies are possible, the obvious one being violence. The other one can be found, I would argue, in the power of art to ridicule and satirize the sadist. This hurts him enormously, effectively disarms him. Wittgenstein writes about the fate of humour in Nazi Germany, how it had vanished as if the thugs had pocketed a ball in mid-game. There is a great significance in that.