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Friday, August 28, 2015

Sorting Through The Bullshit In America

Sorting Through The Bullshit In America

By John Grant
Opednews.com
August 28, 2015

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so
much bullshit. ... The realms of advertising and of public relations,
and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with
instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they serve among the most
indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.

- Harry Frankfurt, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy,
Princeton University, Author of, "On Bullshit"

In a recent news story a New York Times reporter referred to,
"The Siren Call" of ISIS propaganda that motivated three teenage
Muslim girls to fly from Britain to ISIS-controlled Syria.

The girls were clearly frustrated, facing anti-Muslim prejudice
and cultural pressures unique to Muslim girls.

They clearly found no solace in, "The Siren Call" of western,
market-worshipping consumer society.

The New York Times reporter did not characterize western
culture this way, but it might be so characterized.

The so-called Free Market is becoming a sort of religion.

The girls seemed caught in a delusional double bind,
driven by hope for more satisfying lives.

"[T]he girls spoke of leaving behind an immoral society to search
for religious virtue and meaning," the Times story reports.

At least one of the girls is now married to an ISIS member.

The question that interests me is how much of the competing
pressures working on such vulnerable girls amounts to what
Professor Frankfurt calls, "Bullshit."

Bullshit is taking over the world.

It's certainly become a staple of our culture.

ISIS and other religious entities employ it masterfully,
via social media.

When the Times reporter uses the phrase, "Siren Call" she's
using an antiquated, poetic term that carries some judgmental
or patronizing spin.

Reduced to its essence, the ISIS siren call would seem to be a form
of what Professor Frankfurt calls bullshit, calculating statements
and claims that exhibit no concern for the truth; influence and
power is the goal.

And as Frankfurt told Jon Stewart, the stuff is piling up
higher every day.

Marketing, advertising and public relations reeks of it.

Religion makes it sound holy.

In the struggle for the bottom line, bullshit consumes
more and more of the informational oxygen in the room.

Polarization is the rule everywhere, leading to factional struggles
that assure bullshit an honored space, as a devotion to the serious
search for truth becomes more a quaint and naïve posture.

Well, that is, unless the intellectual search is in the service
of business efficiency, technological advancement or profit.

The fact is, bullshit rules.

In a recent essay in Harper's called "How College Sold Its Soul ...
and Surrendered to the Market," William Deresiewicz writes that
what we used to call a "liberal education" -- a curriculum that
emphasized accumulating a breadth of knowledge and the capacity
for critical thinking in order to produce a responsible citizen -- is
being winnowed out of existence and replaced by institutions that
emphasize training to be a winner in what is called "neo-liberalism"
-- that is, market-oriented capitalism.

"It is not the humanities per se that are under attack," he writes.
"It is learning: learning for its own sake, curiosity for its own sake,
ideas for their own sake."

As an example, he cites how Florida Governor Rick Scott,
"has singled out anthropology majors as something that his
state does not need more of."

Scott has proposed raising tuition costs at Florida State Universities
for liberal arts majors.

This hits close to home, since I graduated in 1973 from Florida State
University with a major in English and Creative Writing, and a minor
in Philosophy.

I can appreciate where Governor Scott is coming from.

As a Vietnam veteran on the limited GI Bill, if I'd had to
pay more tuition for an English degree than for a degree
in Engineering at Florida State back in 1971, maybe I
wouldn't now be writing critical essays like this one about
America's need for serious change.

Maybe I'd be designing robotic assembly lines to produce
more useless consumer items with reduced labor costs.

Maybe I'd be rich like Governor Scott, who founded a
very successful private, for-profit health-care company.

He resigned as CEO just before it was hit with 14 felony
fraud charges and had to pay a record $600 million in
fines.

Scott came out smelling like a rose and went on to be
a venture capitalist and governor of Florida.

Now he wants to squash liberal studies.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker, a presidential candidate,
wants to rewrite the mission statement of the University of
Wisconsin by eliminating references to, "Public Service and
Improving The Human Condition" and the phrase, "Basic To
Every Purpose of The System Is The Search For Truth."

According to Deresiewicz, "The university's mission would
henceforth be to, 'meet the state's workforce needs.'

It's noteworthy that Walker is the rare politician without a college
degree; he completed 94 of the required 128 credit hours toward
a bachelor's degree.

Son of a preacher, he credits an American Legion sponsored youth
leadership program called Badger Boys State with inspiring him to
pursue political office.

An aside is in order, here.

The use of the term liberal can get a bit confusing.

Liberal as in Bernie Sanders and liberal as in neo-liberal are,
of course, contradictory.

It reminds me of when I was traveling in Sandinista Nicaragua
in the eighties how confused I was when I learned the bloody
tyrant Anastasio Somoza had been with the Liberal Party, which
was opposed to the Conservative Party.

As one who "loves ideas for their own sake," I soon realized it
was good to be confused: It helped get beyond unquestioned
assumptions and allowed one to analyze things on their own
terms.

Concerning Somoza's father, also a Liberal tyrant, Franklin
Roosevelt famously said: "He's a bastard, but he's our bastard."

This is a key distinction to understanding American foreign policy.

The elder Somoza's career ended when he was shot in the head by
a patriotic restaurant busboy who agreed with FDR 100 percent.

It's common knowledge now that politicians love to worship at the
trough of the free market, since they must feed on its nutrients to
run their ever-longer and ever-more-expensive campaigns.

They live a paradox.

As they pander to free-market, "Winners" their real talents come to
the fore when they're forced to spread layers and layers of bullshit
to appease the growing community of working class, "Losers" in our
ruthless, neo-liberal free market.

This pressure will only increase, as it has been suggested the
rocket-like rise of technological advancement in the corporate
workplace may make up to 40% of the current workforce
superfluous in coming decades.

Some of these neo-liberal-market losers will become immune
to the bullshit.

Some will turn to people like Bernie Sanders.

Some will run amok with guns in huge macho trucks.

No one is better at bullshitting the TV-addled working man
and woman than Donald Trump.

Thanks to his personal billions, he's not beholden to the
usual fat cats, and his Reality-TV instincts are impeccable.

We know it's all bullshit, but he's so incredibly good
and entertaining at it it's impossible to turn away.

Better than anyone, he knows that presidential election campaigns
have become major American entertainment cycles.

Celebrities gouging and biting to obtain power.

What better Reality TV could anyone come up with?

Instead of a new car or a million bucks, the ultimate
winner gets to be President of the United States.

Benito Mussolini coined the term fascism from the ancient Roman
magistrates' symbol of power, the fasces, a battle axe surrounded
by sticks that represented the people huddling up to his power.

One man recently said of Trump, "He's my microphone."

Accordingly, the Trump symbol might be a silver microphone
surrounded by plastic cocktail stir sticks.

Deresiewicz again: "Neo-liberalism believes that we have reached
the end of history, a steady-state condition of free-market
capitalism that will go on replicating itself forever. The world
is not going to change, so we won't need young people to imagine
how it might. ...All we need to do is ... run faster and faster."

He tells how educating youth in ideas and thinking used to be
considered a critical function of an evolving society.

Then he concludes, "If there was ever a time that we needed
young people to imagine a different world, that time is now."

Deresiewicz cuts to the chase: "Instead of treating higher education
as a commodity, we need to treat it as a right. ...That means
resurrecting one of the great achievements of postwar American
society: high quality, low- or no-cost mass public higher education."

It's called leveling the playing field.

Then there's race.

Many thought the election of Barack Obama meant the end of
racial conflict in America.

Not so.

As someone recently pointed out, the Obama presidency was
actually an important milestone that kicked off a new period
of examination of race in America.

Donald Trump and his pallid-by-comparison Republican colleagues,
would all make, "America Great Again" by pumping up the military
even more and further empowering the neo-liberal financial,
"Killers" at the top -- to borrow Trump's favored characterization
for, "Dealmakers" like himself.

The choice is becoming stark:

More of the same neo-liberal, free-market empowerment of the
rich at the very top -- or thoughtful, serious social reform for the
betterment of all Americans.

For me, it's a no-brainer:

It's about more of the same bullshit ... or beginning to talk real sh*t
for a change.



John Grant is a 65-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a
naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, He's been studying
and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. He has
lived outside of Philadelphia, where he is a writer, photographer
and a video filmmaker and he has been a member of Veterans For
Peace for 27 years.

http://www.opednews.com/articles/Sorting-Through-the-Bullsh-
by-John-Grant-Advertising_America_American-Capitalism_Bullshit-
150827-302.html

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