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You Cannot Change the System By Using the System’s Own Logic

You Cannot Change the System By Using the System’s Own Logic

By Dennis Loo (4/22/14)

While there is no shortage worldwide of those who dearly want to see a different system in power, there is an acute shortage of those who understand how to do that.

There are answers but most people are looking in the wrong places.

If you want to change what is, you first have to understand why what is is.

It isn’t enough to see the need for change. It’s definitely not enough to have good intentions. You have to deeply understand why the status quo continues to be the status quo. You have to be, in a word, scientific.

The first thing you need to do in order to be scientific is to understand that it’s a system that we’re dealing with and that systems are not principally a product of the individuals within them.

Most people who recognize that the current system has to go don’t yet realize that this is a system and many of them are still using the same analytical tools and the worldview of those in authority.

This is specifically apparent when they cite that the problem is other people.

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"Lesser Evils" and Other Ways of Deceiving the People

"Lesser Evils" and Other Ways of Deceiving the People

By Dennis Loo (4/20/14)

The Republicans have a fascist core in their party but that does not make the Democrats the “lesser evil.” The view that public policies’ nature is determined by the president’s party affiliation does not reflect political reality. Elites do not decide what they will do based on what the public wants them to do. The notion that elites do what the people want is what we’re constantly told and what democratic theory claims, but it is not how elites actually operate. Instead, public policies are a product of authorities’ efforts to implement their agenda without incurring too much public resistance to their moves. Thus, deception and manipulation are crucial ingredients in their recipes for rule.

If you compare Obama’s presidency to that of a hypothetical John McCain presidency or Mitt Romney presidency, it is actually likely that Obama’s policies have been more rightwing than a Republican White House would have been. It is likely that a Republican would not have been as successful as Obama in deporting more immigrants than did George W. Bush, would not have been able to keep Guantanamo open this long without massive protests, would not have been as free to openly keep and add to a “kill list” as has Obama, would not have been able to defend and disarm as many people about the NSA’s universal spying, would have met far more resistance to policies designed to further limit women’s rights to abortion, his bailouts of big banks, his energy and drilling policies, climate change inaction, and so on. Had a Republican tried to emulate what Obama has done, the protests against these measures would have been much more massive and intense in the streets because more people would have been clearer that these policies when carried out by a Republican are not in the public interest than they have been when it’s being done by a black Democrat with a silver tongue.

What matters is not, in other words, what public opinion actually is. What matters is what is presented as the dominant public opinion to the public. What people think others think matters a great deal.

Even within the US, capitalism’s heartland, the degree to which people are pro-capitalist is highly exaggerated. You would think judging from mainstream media and the comments of politicians and pundits that everyone is in love with shopping and capitalism. Given that the capitalist class is in charge, this is not surprising: if people knew how unpopular capitalism was in the US, such sentiments would spread and be more openly and boldly expressed, further contributing to those sentiments’ popularity and influence.

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How Can I Figure Out What’s True?

How Can I Figure Out What’s True?

By Dennis Loo (4/17/14)

[T]he battle over truth and over perception—what is true and what needs to be taken into account given its objective reality—are central to any attempts at social change. – Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 354

I get a lot of insight into what kind of questions are on people’s minds through my teaching. My students’ questions, especially when they are encouraged to express them, are an excellent guide to what is useful for me to write and speak about. This week a major question that we discussed was how someone can figure out what's true, given all of the competing claims in media and on the web. Not only is this important for individuals but it is even more important for the society since the vast majority of people would not know how to begin to determine the truth. Most people don't even currently know that they are being constantly lied to by their government and that the mass media are concealing and distorting the truth so they don't know that they need to dig deeper. To a) even know that you need to be skeptical and then b) to know how to weigh competing claims requires rigorous training. Many of those who graduate from college and even post-graduate education know 'a' but how many of them can handle 'b'?

In my senior seminar, students are learning about how distorted the news media’s coverage is. Only six major corporations now control 90% of what we see, read, and hear. Go back a couple of decades and the number of major media owners was in the scores. Many did not know before learning about this just how concentrated the ownership pattern is and how the profit motive impacts what we are told, how these issues are framed, and what we are not told.

They are also going to be learning much more about how ideological and political matters intersect with the profit motive: how it is not simply the pursuit of more revenue that is in play here but also the preservation of and justification for the capitalist-imperialist system. Making money, in other words, is not the sole goal because if it were, many TV shows and personalities such as Phil Donahue and Keith Olbermann would still be on the air since they drew huge audiences when their shows were cancelled.

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12