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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.

I’m reprinting here an article on this question that I wrote in late 2012:

Is Rush Limbaugh Losing It? Is Socialism Becoming More Popular Than Capitalism?

By Dennis Loo (11/21/12)

Thomas Edsall, writing on November 18, 2012 in The New York Times’ series about the 2012 Election, “Campaign Stops,” in the series’ final installment entitled: “Is Rush Limbaugh’s Country Gone?”, ends with this:

William Bennett, conservative stalwart, television commentator and secretary of education under President Reagan, complained on the CNN Web site that Democrats have been successful in setting

the parameters and focus of the national and political dialogue as predominantly about gender, race, ethnicity and class. This is the paradigm, the template through which many Americans, probably a majority, more or less view the world, our country, and the election. It is a divisive strategy and Democrats have targeted and exploited those divides. How else can we explain that more young people now favor socialism to capitalism?

In fact, the 2011 Pew Research Center poll Bennett[i] cites demonstrates that in many respects conservatives are right to be worried:

The PRC poll is reproduced below and of particular note are the percentages among blacks, Hispanics, those making less than $30k/year, and young people (18-29 y.o.), where more of them in each group have negative attitudes towards capitalism and some of them - blacks and people under 30 - also showing a majority with a positve attitude towards socialism.

Among blacks the percent saying they’re positive towards capitalism is 41% and negative towards capitalism 51%, and when asked about socialism, black respondents are 55% positive and 36% negative. Among 18 to 29 year olds of all races/ethnicities, 46% are positive towards capitalism, 47% negative, and 49% positive towards socialism and 43% negative towards socialism.

Among Hispanics, 32% are positive towards capitalism and 55% negative towards it, and 44% positive towards socialism and 49% negative. Among those making less than $30,000 per year, 39% are positive towards capitalism and 47% negative.

In sum, among blacks, Hispanics, those making less than $30k, and people of any color 18 to 29 years old, a majority of them are negative towards capitalism.

The total for all races, incomes, ages, party and ideology is 50% positive towards capitalism and 40% negative, with 31% positive towards socialism and 60% negative.

Notably, because of the overwhelmingly negative treatment that socialism gets in the U.S., there are not surprisingly many more – 20 points more - who express negative sentiments about socialism than those who are negative towards capitalism, even though a full 40% have negative sentiments towards capitalism.

For a country more hostile to socialism and more positive towards and more a bastion of capitalism than any other in human history, the 50% positive and 40% negative towards capitalism of the aggregate is not very robust. Given the near total absence of positive media and education towards socialism (especially in K-12) and the minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, year-by-year celebration of capitalism, these numbers should concern Mr. Bennett. Imagine what the numbers and cleavages would look like if socialism were to actually emerge in a significant way through a visible movement for revolution in this country and/or elsewhere in the world, instead of being constantly censored and condemned as unthinkably bad?

As Bennett decries, the majority of those among 18 to 29 year olds’ stated preference for some unnamed socialist society than the existing capitalist one is especially troublesome for capitalism’s cheerleaders and apologists. If this is "the best of all possible worlds," then how come only 50% think so and 40% of the entire population beg to differ? If this is the new generation, then does this bode well for this system's continued existence?

Bennett doesn’t note this, but what should also be alarming to him is the much higher negative attitudes towards capitalism and “its virtues” among blacks and Hispanics, and those who make less than $30,000/year, even if Hispanics and those making under $30k are not more positive towards socialism than negative at this time.

It should be added here that what exactly people mean by "capitalism" and especially "socialism" in this poll are undefined. One should not interpret someone saying that they're positive towards socialism as meaning that they are also ready to fight for capitalism's overthrow and the establishment of socialism. But the results are nonetheless extremely intriguing and at the very least show that the conventional wisdom that everyone is a huge fan of capitalism and will fight for it to the death is untrue.

Bennett says “the parameters and focus of the national and political dialogue [are] predominantly about gender, race, ethnicity and class” and he attributes this to the Democratic Party.

But what he fails to note, either from deliberate oversight or because he doesn’t see this, the salience of gender, race, ethnicity and class is something that the right-wing has been chiefly responsible for making central to people’s political awareness and done so for the express purpose of being divisive. Without divisiveness and hate speech, people like Rush and Bill O'Reilly would be mute because they would not know what to say.

Class, of course, is not something that the Republican Party has raised directly and explicitly except to deride anyone challenging the distribution of wealth and the vast and growing inequalities as engaging in that unspeakably awful “class warfare.” But the celebration of the spoils for those who are rich that the Republicans are front and center about, that is obviously about class. The “Real Housewives of ________,” the Kardashians, the endless and nauseating repetition of how big and fancy so and so’s mansions are, as if the whole society had become like a high school and everyone was utterly infatuated with money and status, are all testimony to the rising salience of class.

As for gender, race and ethnicity, it’s been called the Culture Wars for a reason, with the right-wing specifically since the 1960s trying to use culture, color, gender and sexual orientation as wedge issues to break apart the New Deal coalition and the insurgent alliance dating from the 1960s’ upsurge between intellectuals/academia/literati and the middle and upper-middle classes and minorities, immigrants, women, young people, and LGBT folks.

What has happened is that these issues, which gave the right-wing such currency and impetus for so many years, has finally started to turn against them, most dramatically from their perspective, in what they evidently did not expect at all, the drubbing of Romney [in the 2012 election] and other reactionary candidates of theirs by the groups that they had made their gains attacking for so long. This was a shock to their systems and akin to the reaction that people have who have been isolated in an echo chamber of their own fabricated facts and truths too long, upon stepping outside of that box into the open air.

[i] I can’t help but note for those who aren’t that familiar with William “Mr. Virtue” Bennett that he made his name and fortune touting conservative virtues and deriding liberals as inherently less moral than conservatives, while secretly gambling on the slots and losing more than $8 million. My main point here is not the rank hypocrisy of people like Bennett, even though their hypocrisy is actually one of their more striking features: those who cry the loudest about sin are invariably committing acts in private that they fervently conceal.


0 # Sarah Heitz 2014-04-20 18:16
Why is it that Obama,a Democrat, is being more right winged in his decisions? Dr. Loo is correct, if this were any other Republican president there would be riots and uprisings about all of the things that Obama has done. The public is being passive to all the goings on that has happened while he has been president. I am trying to pull from Durkheim's functionalist view and relate it to their belief that inequality itself is not bad, but fair. Is it fair that the people who do not agree with him have no say? What can the opposition do to have a voice and stand out?
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-04-21 02:33
Yes, I too agree with you and Dr. Loo. It truly does seem that Obama is being right wing in his decisions. For instance, more people have been deported during Obama's administration than any other past administrations ! I just don't understand how someone can get away with breaking their word or promise, and endure no consequence for their lack of actions. If civilians break a law we go to jail, if we do not pay a bill we are sent to collections. What gives?
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0 # AJ 2014-04-21 06:11
Quoting Natalie Rivera:
I just don't understand how someone can get away with breaking their word or promise, and endure no consequence for their lack of actions. If civilians break a law we go to jail, if we do not pay a bill we are sent to collections. What gives?

It seems to me that their is an unspoken law that allows politicians and big corporations to break their word or promise. If a president is caught in his lie, he would twist it around to justified why he did not keep his word or promise. And our government will forgive big corporation, especially those privately contracted, to provide services to the military to break their word and still let them renew contracts.
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0 # CamouflagedWife 2014-04-27 15:48
Quoting AJ:
[quote name="Natalie Rivera"] I just don't understand how someone can get away with breaking their word or promise, and endure no consequence for their lack of actions. If civilians break a law we go to jail, if we do not pay a bill we are sent to collections. What gives?

Government has a way of hiding the truth. They say that their "promise" is going to be fulfilled later or they justify why they broke it for reasons like "it was for the greater good," "for the people," or other lying junk. It's disappointing that the government is held at a different level than the people, because one would hope that equality was in full force in terms of justice, but obviously not. In regard to Obama, our lectures (498 & 302) have looked at the actions during his presidency. Most of the actions have been more right wing, which is why this isn't a political party issue, but more a corruption issue. Something needs to be done, but with no power, what can we do?
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-04-27 19:21
Quoting CamouflagedWife:
this isn't a political party issue, but more a corruption issue. Something needs to be done, but with no power, what can we do?

If it were corruption then that would indicate that the system itself is sound and it's just those who are corrupting its true purpose that are ruining things. I would argue that while there is lots of corruption, it's not some bad apples ruining a good thing. Instead, we have a system, capitalism-impe rialism, that is operating the way we should expect it to operate: to maximize profits and to expand or die. The deception of "transparency," and "consent of the governed" is a necessary cover for doing things that if most peo really knew what was being done, would lead them to revolt.

You say we have no power. Recommend you read "The US Government is a Paper Tiger" on this website:
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0 # Daniel Gomezzz 2014-04-20 19:29
Obama definitely does have a silver tongue when masking his even more rightwing policies. Though this is true, the contrary emerges due to heroes like snowden. One of political powers aspects (persuasion) existence in itself expresses the fact the U.S empire is powerful, but not all powerful. The same is currently unfolding in Russia with Snowden questioning the Russian gov't about their spying program. I never thought of observing what people think other people think. A seemingly abstract aspect to public opinion, but definitely an important one as you have shown in this case with attitudes toward socialism and capitalism.
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0 # LA305302 2014-04-20 22:58
Whether it be the democratic, republican, or anything under that rainbow, politicians and presidents are infamously known to promise one thing, but do another. Like in my past comments, policies need to be changed about how much money and by who can go to the people who are running for president when campaigning. If that can be controlled, then people with a particular interest at hand would not be able to control what policies get taken into place because they have the means to fund a presidential candidate. Because policies are not up to control this, it is no surprise why people want to redirect towards socialism. We are fooled into thinking that capitalism is key for our middle class. Yet so many of our jobs have gone over seas, deteriorating jobs that should be here.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-04-21 02:23
Quoting LA305302:
policies need to be changed about how much money and by who can go to the people who are running for president when campaigning.
As you may know, the Supreme Court has been going in exactly the opposite direction from what you recommend, with the Citizens United and the McCutcheon decisions. Campaign finance reform, if that's what you're advocating, would not do it, even if we could get it at this point, because the problem is bigger than that of just financing. It's the whole system that is designed to serve the ruling class under the cover of serving the public. Democracies are operating as one could expect them to operate in times such as these where capitalism reigns supreme over the entire world and therefore the capitalist class sees no reason to make any concessions whatsoever to alternative needs and perspectives.
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0 # Jane Doe 2014-04-21 02:06
There are many people who identify with the democratic party and find it hard to believe that it is similar to the Republican party. This article is an eye opener. Although it is no secret that the political system is corrupt many people tend to forget what is really going on in the world. I include myself in that category. I as well believed that the democratic party was the lesser evil, but Obama is demonstrating that it is all the same. Then again it all is about perspective. Obama is the president of the U.S. meaning he is doing what he believes is the best thing for the U.S. Although not a lot of people are happy with his decisions such as, not closing down Guantanamo Bay or deporting immigrants, but it is made okay because Obama "talks about it" which makes it seem as he is trying.
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0 # cglov3r 2014-04-28 02:19
Agreed. This article is definitely an eye opener. I too believed that the democratic party was a lesser evil and it was quite interesting to find that that both the republican and democratic parties are similar in nature. Let's hope that what he is really doing is really because he believes it is the best thing for the people.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-04-28 04:02
Quoting cglov3r:
Let's hope that what he is really doing is really because he believes it is the best thing for the people.
Does it matter what his conscious intentions are? If someone is murdering people but they think that they are doing so in order to help people, does that make it alright?
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0 # Natalie Rivera 2014-04-21 02:26
I really do feel that our society has constantly been manipulated into believing the lies that that our politicians/gov ernment tell us. However, we are not always aware that they are lies until after promises have been broken. Obama for example desired the Latino vote, and thus promised undocumented individuals legalization. We all know the aftermath of this broken promise, no legalization. However, Obama has the ability to speak swiftly, and in a manner that is convincing and compelling. Many times a convincing and compelling argument will unfortunately supersede FACTS!
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0 # Guy 2014-04-21 02:32
It seems like the government has this agenda and a formula that will guide this agenda in a timely manner. I would be greatly afraid if the day comes when the formula is 100% correct as is 1 + 1 = 2. They brainwash the public with garbage media in hopes to have us focus on the less important things in life while they secretly do their dirty deeds. It seems like they constantly test the waters with the public before any action is taken and then execute the action to what suits best which in this case would be having a black democratic president doing the opposite of what he supposedly represents. Before we know it the damage has been done and they trick the public yet again in thinking they will repair it.
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0 # MayDay 2014-04-21 05:03
I agree with you (Guy), I believe that the government has already implemented their agenda to the point where the public is unaware that they are being manipulated. I know that some of us as individuals are disturbed by the government and want to do something to change it. We need to educate others to care about the welfare of future generations but the actions we need to take seem limited by who we associate with. For example: If we congregate with activists, we are more likely to become activists, and vice-versa. Our capitalist society is so focused on monetary investment that it polarizes the opinions of the public and I believe that the two ruling elite parties need to be re-evaluated and held responsible for their words.
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0 # Monique V. 2014-04-21 06:32
That seems to be what has been happening for a very long time now. "Brainwash" the public and draw attention away from what's really going on and the public will be clueless. I never realized what was truly being done and how the gov. is manipulating us into thinking things are "getting better." They've sure got that done pretty well.
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0 # Viceless 2014-04-21 03:53
The poll that Dr. Loo brings up in this article has information that I had never seen before. He is correct in stating that politicians should be concerned with the growing acceptance of socialism in a society that portrays socialism as an apparent evil, a threat to capitalism, and in essence a threat to the american way!!! The next ten years or so should be an extremely time in American politics with the changing sentiment in the public.
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0 # marcam 2014-05-02 22:12
The anti-capitalism should worry those in the capital because capitalism is the American way since the Cold War and if a sufficient amount of Americans unit that they don’t want to live in those circumstances anymore large riots would break out. I didn’t know that there were so many people that preferred a socialist economy rather than a capitalist one. Socialism is no longer being seen as an evil thing but as an equality thing because it won’t have the large gap in difference between the 1% and the rest of the people, like capitalism has it.
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0 # zzchi 2014-04-21 05:29
Most politics beneath the surface have other intentions in mind. What most of the public fails to realize in politics is they never work for the people like they say they do. I have no faith in our government, because they do not have the peoples best interest at heart. The leaders of this country are simply puppeteers on a stage. Who can they lie to, how can they cheat, and how can they silence their people without them knowing it? They are no different than a drug addict in search of their next high. Look at what Obama has done so far. During the election of 2012, he told people he was there to give them an opportunity to stay in this country to have a better life. Yet he turned around and deported more immigrants than Bush did. It is a shame what Obama has done, yet he wakes up every morning not understanding what is like to be an immigrant trying to make a better life for their family.
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+1 # Sherlock 2014-04-21 06:19
The biggest note that I take from this article is that people are not well educated on socialism. I think that if more people understood what capitalism and socialism actually were, things would be very different from how they are now. I think we should take steps on educating the community.
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0 # mdAngel 2014-04-21 06:41
The government manipulates society in to thinking what they are doing is correct. What choose to show us on the media tends to be what they want us to think is right. it is our duty to see the threat of capitalism and rise up to it rather than letting the government have their way.
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0 # giovanna sesrrano 2014-04-21 18:10
the truth is that not only is deciption and manipulation crucial for rule but also crucial to politics. Great point as to why it is harder for people to riot or boycott all the deportqations Obama has undertaken under is presidency? Because of his Democratic involvement it is harder for people to view this as something that Obama would do. I can also agree as to why this happens is in great deal because what matters is what is presented to society as the dominant public opinion. Therefore, everyone tends to think the notions of the democratic party will be for the people. But as we see in this article that is not always the case or ever the case for that matter.
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0 # minnie 2014-04-22 18:12
I remember back in March watching a Caesar Chavez march in Ventura that a man was handing out flyers that told about the horrors of Obama’s policies towards immigrants. When I read that Obama was deporting more immigrants than George W. Bush had, I was shocked and dismayed. I asked my father if it was true and he confirmed that it was. Listening to Dr. Loo tell us this fact in lecture and reading it on this article just reinforces the hypocrisy of Presidential campaigns, making promises that they cannot keep.
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+1 # minnie 2014-04-22 18:13
This article reminds me of what I learned about crime in the United States. The poll data that claims that the U.S. public was concerned about more concerned about crime than social problems was tampered with and does not represent the population's true concern. The elites got away with lumping together data in order to fit their own interests. It is the same here with elections. The politicians have use sly language and deception in order to get the public to support their supposed "policies" in order impose their own will behind the scenes.
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0 # Karen Cornejo 2014-04-23 21:32
I think the presidency is always a lie. While they are being elected they smile and wave and give speeches that make people happy and they promise a million things but when it comes down to keeping those promises they can never deliver. They will always end up doing something different and then on the down low do other things. I did not know that Obama had deported more people than George W. Bush and that is also the problem. People don't take the time to read articles and to stay in touch with politics they simply vote for whoever promises more lies or simply do nothing at all.
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0 # Sadiez Moreno 2014-04-25 19:46
This really all comes down to the fact that the nation as a whole is being disillusioned and misled. This society doesn't even know that it is being fed notions and concepts that aren't even the opinion of the general public, but yet we tend to think that they are. We can see this through the percentages in the poll, along with Obama's presidency. In class this week we learned how Obama maintains a kill list and how nobody knows who is on it; no one knows who is next. He has got into the heads of the individuals of this country in order to disguise his actions that would otherwise cause a tremendous amount of outrage and disapproval. Had Mitt Romney become President and he implemented the operations that Obama does today, people all over the country would oppose with fury in their eyes, yelling of injustice in the United States.
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0 # mitchell denerson 2014-04-26 04:00
Politicians are the worst kind of people. They abuse their power, and are masters of manipulation. Maybe not all do it, but most do and the people are aware of that. Yet we always find presidents promising one thing, and end up doing another, but maintaing that what they are doing is justifiable, or what they had meant all along, i feel like we don't call them out on it. I do agree that Obama seems to be more right wing in his decisions. i would have never guessed that he has deported more people than Bush did.
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0 # MarieB 2014-04-28 06:21
I think they can get away with it because although the general public may complain about the government and be very opinionated about it, the average person is not an expert, knows there isn't any easy way to solve it, and forget about the issue when it's not in the news anymore. The power abusing politicians know this and use the media and their titles to their advantage, knowing that there won't be many real repercussions, simply because there's know way we can know, remember, or do anything about all the things they have done wrong.
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0 # karla garcia 2014-04-26 20:25
this is true that if it was a republican who was making these decisions and making kill list the people would be protesting and would want the president to step down and answer for everything that is being done. also the politicians say the people have the power if that were true things would be so much different.
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+1 # Sarah Heitz 2014-04-27 22:13
Reading this article again sparked something in me about power. Why do we believe people with power? If we believe so much that our government is doing good things for us then why are there unhappy people? This article states that "deception and manipulation are crucial ingredients in their recipes for rule," which made what Dr. Loo said in class come together and make sense. Power, according to Look, is the ability to get your way, even against resistance. There are two elements to achieving this, persuasion and coercion. Many people cannot see these things happening which is why we need to make it visible to them, but how?
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0 # flr9d 2014-04-28 03:14
From reading this article,I can conclude that people with such great power, miss use it to gain popularity.The image they portray is not telling the truth to the rest of the public but that have their own agenda.I agree that being republican or democratic doesn't matter the policies are very alike just different wording.By many actions the public has seen it looks like we have little to no power to actually an impact on the countries policie with our vote.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-04-28 03:54
Quoting flr9d:
From reading this article,I can conclude that people with such great power, misuse it to gain popularity.

Yes, they misuse power to injure the people and the environment, but why do you say that they do it to be popular? Isn't that contradictory, that they do things that harm people in order to be popular?
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0 # Luvlife1 2014-04-29 03:14
I agree, we have little to no power because even if we attempted to make a political party come to justice they would find a way to "justify" their actions.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-04-29 03:51
We actually have a lot of power, but most of it is potential power as it's not allowed to be fully expressed under the existing system. You're right that another political party that tried to operate within the existing system would not be any different. The answer is to replace the existing system and we can only do that through revolution. Anything else is futile.
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0 # Luvlife1 2014-04-29 03:11
I agree with Dr. Loo, the system is so corrupted that people don't realize or want to realize. I think we are so used to capitalism and either being for Democrats or Republicans that we just assume that what ever decisions they are making are for our best interest that we don't questions much. We don't realize those that are democrats that what Obama has done is just as bad as the Republican party would have or worst because we are so used to thinking that "their" decisions are decisions that are best for us. :sad: The "lesser evil" is not as less, it never was.
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0 # Dennis Loo 2014-04-29 03:48
Quoting Luvlife1:
I agree with Dr. Loo, the system is so corrupted that people don't realize or want to realize.

I don't believe the system is corrupted. Corruption indicates that the system is sound but there are individuals or groups who are distorting the existing system for their own personal ends. That is not what we have here. We have a system, capitalism-impe rialism, that is functioning as we should expect it to. It's an exploitative system that is designed to be exploitative. While those in power are certainly enjoying their wealth and power, the problem isn't principally that they are using the system for their own personal ends. The problem is the system.
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0 # marcam 2014-05-02 22:05
It’s true what Dr. Loo is saying that President Obama is sliding through doing things that Republicans would not be allowed to do. At first I thought President Obama was actually doing more for immigrants but no; in the contrary he has stopped more people. I had also thought that he would close Guantanamo indefinitely from the speeches he made before becoming president but he hasn’t done anything in terms of closing it. At the end it doesn’t really matter who is in office. They all only worry about themselves and if they and their friends, other elites, are comfortable.
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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