Thursday, September 12, 2013

Truth, Lies, and "Experts" Spinning Us to Death in Syria

One of the qualifiers for being a professional commentator and "expert" on television is the capacity and willingness to talk about subjects on which you may actually have little expertise.

While watching the 24/7 news cycle panelists discussing Obama's speech on Syria, I offered a simple question on Twitter: What if every panelist or commentator had a list of qualifications, a vitae, resume, list of books, articles, or specialized training on a given subject displayed under their names?

Moreover, what if a given "expert's" affiliation with corporations or think tanks was also listed on screen? Both of the latter are directly and materially invested in policy outcomes--not for the Common Good and public interest--but rather to fatten wallets and advance private interests.

And for all of their supposed expertise, few of the approved voices in the corporate media have suggested that the powers involved in Syria (or on any other matter for the most part) may be lying to further their own strategic aims. This is a huge and critical oversight.

Once more, politics is professional wrestling. The performance and opinion leaders' ability to "sell" a narrative is more important than the substantive outcome, and a meaningful discussion of policy which will help fully educate the public.

A fully educated and engaged public is dangerous for a democracy's ruling class. However, the appearance of legitimacy can help to create stability. If the People can be engaged and motivated to support policy matters that are actually antithetical to their interests then Power's grasp and illusion of invisibility is further reinforced.

The Syria controversy is, like many other public policy matters, a story with three elements. In no particular order of importance, and certainly this list is not exhaustive, they are as follows.

One, this is a dance of experts who compete with one another to "win" over the public, their own community, and other elites, with their predictions.

Two, leaders lie. There are different types of lies. Obama, Putin, and the other leaders and decision-makers involved in the Syria controversy are lying to the global (and their own) Public in various ways, for their own purposes, and in the service of goals that may not be readily apparent to the general public at present.

Finally, war is a product that is sold to the American people.

There are tropes and scripts which have historically been used to that end with great effect.

While the "crimes against humanity" and "American leadership" script may not work for Obama to gin up public support for an intervention in Syria, there are several other ready-made narratives that he and others can use for the same end.

Do make note of the quote from the above documentary: America makes bombing other people seem like an act of kindness and altruism.

Sound familiar? And where does such twisted logic lead the American people and the world?


Vic78 said...

Those pundits are a little special. How do they call the same experts on any given issue? You know how difficult public policy is. Pro wrestling is the word for them. That makes pro football more serious than politics in this country.

Black Sci Fi said...

Thus, the value of a good liberal arts education on top of a specific major. As our kids go out into this world to earn a living, after becoming an expert at something, it's important that they were taught how to think and reason.
My daughter, asked me the other day to "catch her up on Syria. I pointed her to several articles on The Peoples for a well researched article on the subject. My 5 and 6 year old grandaughters were playing at our feet and stopped to listen closely to our political conversation.
And so it goes. Parents and grandparents deeply engrossed in a political conversation while our future is listening in and gaining perspective. My hope is that they learned that asking the right question is sometimes more important than having the right answer.
Thanks for the books and a grand response. I'll pass them along.....after I've read them.

chauncey devega said...

You become an expert by claiming to be an expert. Great cycle, no? Tetlock's book goes into the game, the different styles of prediction, and how experts can help and hurt democracy via public opinion and sending cues.

chauncey devega said...

Parents and others can do harm too. If they are ignorant and pass along a love of ignorance damage is done. If they are just recycling talking points and Fox News-like propaganda under a pretense of "knowing about the issues" even more damage is done. I have encountered brainwashed students before who quite literally can do nothing but recite talking points and slogans. If you ask for specifics and evidence smoke comes out of their ears.

DanF said...

I'm not a big consumer of TV punditry as it has a very poor signal-to-noise ratio, but during the recent gutting of the school unions by various Midwest governors I made it a point to look at the scheduled guests on the network talking head shows. Scarcely a union leader to be found, and I don't think I saw a single academic who specializes in labor relations booked for any of the Sunday shows. Consequently I knew every argument that was going to be presented from the MSM version of the "left" and the right before anyone opened their damned mouths. Everyone watching had to already know what was going to be said. It's all about style, not substance.

chauncey devega said...

Of course not. Thus the myth of the liberal media. There has been some pretty solid and consistent research demonstrating how conservatives are over-represented among guests on the Sunday morning shows, there is a narrow terrain of approved opinion, and the con game is one of creating false equivalency in the interest of "fairness". Thus, we can have folks who believe that global warming is a fiction given equal time with serious scientists.

Who loses? The public.

Gable1111 said...

The problem is simple: you not only learn more through independent reading and study, but the process forces you to think more about what you're taking in, and promotes critical thinking. Which allows the formation of original thought and opinion.

Instead, what we have today is fewer people actually reading anything of substance, and instead turning to so-called opinion makers to tell them what to think, and they confuse that spin for fact or "news."

The media industrial-entertainment complex ensures that people are fed a steady, unrelenting stream of bullcrap. The status of the latest idiocy on "big Brother" or some such reality show is more readily attainable from the average person, than what their state capital is or the names of the senators that represent their state.

This is by design, BTW; a nation of dumb-asses are easier to control, because its easier to tell them what to think and do.

chauncey devega said...

The entertainment news complex is part of Hollywood and run by the same corporations. They have for the most part totally betrayed their watchdog function. As you say, keep em dumb and entertained and medicated.

Learning is Eternal said...

Just like we know the WWF is fake, don't invest in these characters or their storylines emotionally & scream disappointment when things don't play out to your expectation.

Same w/po-LIE-ticians, they never meet expectation & are a constant disappointment. W/the public knowing this why invest in election/political/TV pundit cycles? I thought gov't was "supposed" to be an expression of the people?

Lemme guess CDV, these students you spake of are white? If they are those generationally inherited talking points/slogans won't change sans threatening white supremacy. That is not to say those of various backgrounds don't hand down bad advice that perpetuates the constant BS, not just politically, in the world.

Seek the truth, challenge everything. You do not have to be the smartest guy in the room to think critically.

Twisted logic like this leads us & the world closer to imminent danger/destruction but I wouldn't expect anything less from the united snakes of...

chauncey devega said...

This happens across the colorline. They are just situated differently--and increasingly the same--in relationship to an abandonment of democracy, surrender to advertising and marketing, and belief in fictions such as white supremacy and white racism are things from the "olden times". Sad actually.