In my last years as an academic a good deal was being written about, and careers founded on, an alleged need to ‘teach critical thinking skills’ to undergraduates. Me, I was coming to a view of critical thinking as not so much a set of skills, or even a cultivated cognitive outlook, as one of a vast range of tools at the service of egoic investment. Over and over I’d watch colleagues make obeisance to the God of Critical Thinking, only to toss teddies from prams the moment their own ambitions were frustrated, their own fears of loss – here material, there of face and standing – aroused.
And I saw the same movement in myself. As I noted in my May reads post:
A tragi-comedy of the human condition is our pairing of marvellously sophisticated reasoning power with the emotional maturity of an adolescent chimpanzee …
(No slight intended on our closest rels.)
So I’m not altogether surprised at the vehemence with which a liberal intelligentsia now rejects – out of hand and a-priori – any suggestion that Team Trump just might have a point about the election being stolen. I’m less surprised still when neoliberal media – joined by neocon outlets now dumping the Donald – declare such charges baseless.
(Easily done, given the man’s singular gracelessness, and that other human trait: a tendency, its rough and ready economism no doubt evolutionarily useful, towards confirmation bias. Give a dog a bad name and all that. If I’ve learned little else from 68.1 spins round the sun, I’ve learned how easily we are played by those who come at us with (a) an agenda, (b) access to the means of mass opinion formation – or in the interpersonal realm a few tips and tools for mind-fuckery – and (c) a working grasp of what makes folk tick.)
Some media reject Trump’s claims by simple fiat, their proof the rejection itself; some by citing this judge or that. Will they do the same, I wonder, when ‘this judge or that’ happens to be Amy Barrett, swinging the Supreme Court vote on a Roe v Wade rematch?
I’m sorry your election results are being disputed as fraudulent, America. Have you tried not having the single worst electoral system in the western world?
If you read my recent posts – The king is dead: long live the king! … Forgive my not dancing in the streets … and (more obscure, I grant you) US Election: poison or bullet? – you’ll know I view America’s democracy as an even greater chimera than Britain’s. My grounds for saying so are given in the second of those cited posts:
Never mind voter fraud issues raised by Team Trump – baseless, we’re assured, by media I can barely trust with the football scores.1 Never mind the manufacture of opinion, vital to squaring class rule with the trappings of democracy, by media whose business model puts them in thrall to market forces.2 To these aspects of the circus now winding down we can add that the cost of running for the top job currently stands – How Much Does it Cost to Become US President? – at $2-3 billion. Meditate on that fact. It says all we need to know about ‘bipartisan’ commitment to the end, though there be growing division over means, of preserving Wall Street dominance of the planet and all its resources.
So has the US presidential election been stolen, to rob Donald Trump of his second term? Pass. But for the reasons sketched out above, I don’t see how any serious person, striving to cultivate an open mind – a tougher challenge than is commonly supposed when the subject is one that we care about – can rule this out.
Here’s an exchange on this site yesterday. Below the line of Forgive my not dancing … George quotes me on the sentence which also opens the extract given above:
“Never mind voter fraud issues raised by Team Trump – baseless, we’re assured, by media I can barely trust with the football scores.”
It’s funny to think we are assured that this election is free of fraud by the same media which, with equal vehemence, assured us that the election which gave us Trump was fixed by the Russians.
Ain’t it just! Me, I’ve no idea whether there’s any merit to Team Trump’s claims. I’m more interested in the unquestioning assumption that there can’t possibly be …
That was last night, and there I’d thought to leave it. But the first thing I read this morning was a piece by Pepe Escobar, the Brazilian journalist often cited on this site. Like Michael Hudson, he’s one of my go-to sources on Sino-US relations, which I now regard – along with capitalism’s war on nature – as the most pressing issue of our time. My second read, discovered while checking out Escobar’s claims, is a Guardian piece from April 2019. Both prompted me to add this:
I’ve just read this from the Guardian last year. Though very much informed by Guardian Russophobia it unwittingly shows how maybe – just maybe – Team Trump have a point.
Pepe Escobar wrote yesterday on election interference systems – Hammer and Scorecard – devised for pursuit of empire agendas overseas but usable in the US. Pepe is always worth a read, if excitable of tone. Referring to Murdoch’s switch of allegiances – akin to that from Major to Blair in the UK – he notes:
The Fox News/ New York Post angle is enticing. Why are they suddenly supporting Biden? … Murdoch made it very clear, via the laptop from hell caper, that he has all sorts of kompromat on the Bidens. So they will do whatever he wants. Murdoch does not need Trump anymore.
Nor, in theory, does the GOP. Former CIA insiders assure of serious backroom shenanigans going on between GOP honchos and the Biden-Harris gang. Trade-offs bypassing Trump – which [whom?] most of the GOP hates with a vengeance. The most important man in Washington will be GOP Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.
To which a BTL comment adds: “no one gets to be presidential possible elect unless there’s plenty of dirt against him /her should they get out of line”.
Sorry, my liberal friends, but I can’t promise I won’t be writing more on this. I’ve long been suspicious of the way “conspiracy theorist” is used by folk I consider not, shall we say, fully awake as a means of dismissing – without the inconvenience of addressing their specifics – arguments they don’t like.
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- “Media I can barely trust”? I do not say individual journalists are conscious liars. A few are. Most, I suspect, aren’t. But journalists, fewer and fewer of whom actually get out and investigate, are no less credulous than the next guy. Worse, journos who know what’s good for them please editors. Editors who know what’s good for them please proprietors. And proprietors? Be they Citizen Kane style kingmakers like Murdoch and Rothermere, or Trusts like Guardian Media Group, footnote 2 applies.
- Noam Chomsky: “media are big businesses selling privileged audiences to other big businesses. Now the question is, what pictures of the world would a rational person expect from this arrangement?”