Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rhetoric and Reality

Bush has been getting away with running the White House like his own personal oil company for years. He has gotten away with it because he has managed to convince 50.1% of the U.S. population to listen to his words and ignore his actions. The PR machine, largely run by Karl Rove, has masterfully used rhetoric to convince average Americans that policies that are harmful don't matter if you say they are great. Whether its tax cuts for the rich, illegal wiretapping, torture, enormous deficits, attacking Iraq, staying in Iraq, it has worked amazingly well. But wait, what about the rest of the world?

Fred Kaplan wrote today on slate.com about how the Bush foreign policy has consisted of nothing more than an attempt to use PR and spin to convince other countries that the U.S. is great. Incidentally, Sidney Blumenthal also wrote on Salon.com that in order for the U.S. to restore its standing in the world their will need to be self-examination. In other words, a restoration of the ideals on which the country was founded.

Looking at the U.S. approval ratings around the world, we see that the PR effort has been a miserable failure. Approval of the U.S. has never been lower. It seems that foreigners do not buy the same separation of rhetoric from reality that half of the U.S. domestic population consumes with religious fervor. Kaplan argues, with the help of an ex-diplomat from the State Department in charge of PR, that foreigners actually judge the U.S. by its actions rather than its rhetoric. What an interesting concept!

My own theory, to which Kaplan also alludes, is that the religious zeal in the U.S. allows large portions of the population to separate actions from rhetoric. They drink the koolaid on faith, and faith alone. I believe that largely secular countries, such as France and Germany, actually make decisions based on facts, rather than rhetoric. This is a concept I will be reading more about in the "Assault on Reason" and "God is not Great: How religion poisons everything".

In the words of Noam Chomsky, "Three quarters of the American population literally believe in religious miracles. The numbers who believe in the devil, in resurrection, in God doing this and that -- it's astonishing. These numbers aren't duplicated anywhere else in the industrial world. You'd have to maybe go to mosques in Iran or do a poll among old ladies in Sicily to get numbers like this. Yet this is the American population."

Irrational thinking has had the upper hand for six years, its time for reason to guide our decisions.

1 comment:

Daddydan said...

It is a lot easier to let someone else do the thinking, or just put the blame elsewhere, or not care, than actually think critically. If you use reason, and really demand answers, it can be exhausting. And I really don't think that for the recent past, Americans as a whole have wanted to do the work that reason demands. It is much easier to rely on a religious tenet or leader to do your thinking.