It’s easy to find discussion on Facebook among people who believe that while Fox News makes up fake stories, that the New York Times, CNN and MSNBC don’t. “They report and analyze facts. They’re real journalism“, people say.
Times have changed though. There was some reason for belief in American journalism up until about 10 years ago (sort of), but today things are so far off the rails that it takes your breath away seeing anyone believing that MSNBC is normal, reasonable, truthful. Things are far from normal now, and there’s some strange voodoo being done, if people still trust these outlets. Things are so far from truthful now that anyone actually interested in truth can assume that everything written in the NYT and WaPo and spoken on MSNBC and CNN is a lie, is false, or omits what matters. If you begin with that assumption, then you’ll be much much closer to truth than if you begin with the assumption that these outlets print and speak truth.
I wrote that on Facebook, so discussion followed. Some questioned the “up until 10 years ago” part:
More than 10 years ago WaPo and NYT sold weapons of mass destruction to the people. They played a huge part in making the Iraq war palatable to the public.
True. I’m just thinking that opposition to these wars was still at least taken seriously in US print, through 2008, but has been completely chucked in 2011 (with the start of our wars against Libya and Syria) and since. Obama campaigned in 2008 largely based on opposition to the Iraq war. He spoke clearly about that, and the anti-war view that Obama championed was taken seriously, given space in print and on TV news. Since then, American wars, both direct wars and wars by proxy, have only expanded, and the space in media formerly given to to anti-war reasonable thinking is now filled up exclusively with hysterical pro-war cheerleading.
Some more conversation followed:
PR: I found out how much the NYT lied (as compared to just slanting the truth) when I came. back from Nicaragua in the early 80s. However, to this day I think painting everything with a broad brush instead of trying to pick out kernels of truth & checking them – where ever you find them – is falling into the mindless American Puritan dichotomy of either/or (or what we really mean – good/evil) which is somewhat emotionally satisfying but highly dangerous, replacing any attempt at seeing reality with a mindless unthinking essentialism – whether on the left or right.
JK: It is not a matter of the size of the brush. It is doing one’s elementary duty of evaluating whose interests mainstream media serve. And it is quite clear and consistent. One does not have to fact-check every single article to be able to come to the conclusion that the mainstream media serve the dominant economic interests — the major banks and giant corporations. And if one has come to the very sober conclusion that the interests of the major banks and giant corporations are in opposition to those of the great majority of the people, then one is now armed with an unerring tool of analysis.
PR: Analysis in the Marxist sense requires ongoing dialectical evaluation between the subjective and objective in constant stream of lived reality. Dynamic Praxis. Someone on this thread suggested we can always assume one side is always wrong – i.e. A static cookie cutter essentialist view of reality from the top down. If you are serious, you should consider if the luxury of this kind of thinking -even if you are pretty sure you are 99% right 99% of the time- can make you miss a critical (and revolutionary) moment. I.e., we successfully followed Newton for hundreds of years, then Einstein. We have frequently held out the class struggle as only occurring from the wage workers in the Industrial Period in advanced countries. Look at history. And now we are a global digital world.
JK: Confirmation of my warning that history may one day reflect that the progressive movement was undone not by the FBI or the CIA, but by the PH.D.
I’ve seen this idea before (PR’s idea), and I don’t like it. This idea — that no matter the weight of fact or evidence (and no matter the strength of logic), nothing can be concluded — annihilates the possibility of meaning.
Rational people begin with doubt, then evaluate, synthesize, and make conclusions where useful. Other people, evidently by something in academic training, are made unable to get off their seat on the fence ever again about anything, no matter the weight of evidence. And — in a world in which a dominant power is serially aggressive, waging one crime against humanity war of aggression after another, in a pattern easy to detect, and using rhetorical cover from a playbook with only one play in the book (attribute your own crimes to your target) — this is a really neat trick. This single play suffices to keep certain minds satisfied playing with themselves in a circle forever.
American puritanism is at the core of a set of beliefs that continue to damage the world. That’s certain. A puritan, racist, self-proclaimed indispensable nation dominates all others and claims the right to do so. But that’s the extent of my agreement with “PR“.
PR annihilates any kind of thinking that results in conclusion. According to PR, any thinking that results in taking a side, against, American imperial war — war which is clearly motivated by puritanical (racist) exceptionalism — is thought that itself is puritanical. It’s “puritanical (either/or) (good/evil) thinking“, PR says.
Wow, first of all; I’m in awe of the contortion:
It’s puritanical to oppose being puritanical. (because that would require taking a side, and that’s puritanical)
This weak argument collapses on itself automatically. It defaces legitimate thinking and opposition to puritanical war. And that’s pretty twisted. But let’s not dwell further in that particular thought hole. Instead let’s shine some light from another angle.
At the core of American puritanism is white versus red and white versus black. White is pure and is to remain pure. This is American puritanism as it is conceptualized, and as it has been lived throughout US history. This contrasts with, for example, the Spanish conquest of the Americas. I blogged about this before, here: Happy Thanksgiving:
It is interesting that the view of Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) in Mexico is different than our view in the US. Of course Colon (Columbus) never made it further west beyond what is now the Dominican Republic, and it was Cortez, instead, who landed in Mexico. The landing of Cortez, at what Cortez himself named Vera Cruz (True Cross) in 1519, began 500 years of race-mixing in Mexico. If it’s not obvious to you that systematic race mixing is the opposite of puritanism, well, it should be obvious. It’s about blending, instead of “purity”, instead of American Puritanism.
60% of Mexico’s population today are “mixed race”, a mix of Native American and European ancestry. This “mixed” is otherwise known as “mestizo”. 30% of Mexicans are unmixed Native American (Aztec, Mayan, Tarascan, and so on). 9% are unmixed European ancestry. Add these up and 90% of Mexicans are either mixed race (mestizo) or fully (unmixed) native american. There are 6 million living Maya today No; they did not mysteriously drop off the face of the earth. And 500 years after the conquest, there are still populations of people in Mexico who don’t speak Spanish.
This contrasts starkly with Native American experience in the United States, where there was very little mixing, and very little surviving, and mostly dying, in Puritan America.
Generally speaking, attitudes in Mexico about Colon (Columbus) and Cortez are complex, very complex, as would be the case in any Mestizo culture, and this complexity of view perhaps can be best, though partially, understood (by Puritans) through an image:
This is Mexican. This is anti-puritanism in flesh. History. See the dual death, dual-impale-death-dance on the back of the 50,000 peso note. This paper bill was in use when I first started frequent visits to Mexico City in 1991 (a few years before the 0.001 peso reset).
I think you’d be right to detect sexual overtones in that image. So it’s not only a death dance. In any case, all of this may be too much for the puritanical mind, for the less mestizo-oriented, too much for those from up north with a radically different view, a puritan and racist view, not a sexual world-view but instead a genocidal view, a puritan and racist and mass murdering view, a kill-em-all view, with those surviving left in concentration (reservation) camps.
AS FOR ME, if it’s between a puritan sectarianism and a sexual view, I’ll take the sexual view, every time.
The impaling is at the same time the end of both and the birth of something new. Two ends and one beginning.
The Mexican mind knows this. And this is the Catholic view. Contrast it with the Puritan view (one end, and one, pure, continuation).
To argue, as “PR” does indeed argue, and “PR” is apt (Public Relations / Propaganda), that those who come down in opposition to America’s imperial wars of oppression and aggression against Nicaragua and against so many others (against Syria today for example), — that those who oppose this, on moral grounds — to argue that those people are exhibiting “a puritanical broad brush puritanism of thought, an either/or (good/evil) dichotomy” – well this is clear service then to (puritanical) imperial war. PR services Puritanism in the guise of a not-very-convincing-mask of anti-puritanism. Which is strange indeed, and grotesque, and the most vile kind of distortion I can think of.
And it’s highly effective, for many as we’ve often seen. It removes, in many minds, even the possibility of meaning, rending thought impotent.
To argue that making conclusions, that to take a side, is to engage in puritanism, (“either/or” thinking), and to argue this even when the subject of thought is yet another imperial war of puritan (racist) aggression against Native American people, – well, that’s rending thought impotent.
To rend; to tear, rip, split, sever.
Thought can no longer stand, it stands for no one, leads nowhere and to nothing. That’s really castrating thought, and the ability to think.
That’s evidently the point of American academia, one could well argue, the rending castration of thought. And here’s an absolute certainty: that’s puritanical for sure. There won’t be any sex with those pseudo-“thoughts”. Thought that goes nowhere, produces nothing. In fact dies. The end of thought.
But I’ve overanalyzed it
Let me be simple. If you respond – to people who oppose imperial wars of aggression – by characterizing their opposition as: marred by “[either/or, good/evil] puritanical thinking”, then, you’ve been drawn into a pit of mind rot that you really should pull yourself out from, if you have a mind left, if it’s not too late.