April 21, 2008

Goodbye to Common Sense

Once upon a time-- before TV talking heads, and the commercialization of thinking-- people had what was commonly called common sense. You younger readers have probably never heard of it, so pay special attention. By common sense, everyone understood that we were referring to things that were self-evident, patently true from our shared, everyday experiences in life. For example, you don't let your kids stick fingers in the electrical outlets; that kind of thing. But there was much more to it than those kinds of avoidance of negative physical consequences. If someone was in a bad relationship, they could go to a close family member and get reasonable advice based on common sense. We didn't need a guy with a Ph.D. to tell us it would be wise for an abused wife to leave the abusing husband. Or, if we saw an event with our own eyes, we could draw conclusions without the input of a multidisciplinary team of experts to 'interpret' the details for us. In fact, most people felt fairly confident that they could make reasonable judgements about life on their own.

That was the old days, before the demise of common sense. Today, things are different. We don't 'need' common sense any more... or so it seems. Instead, we have 'specialists' who appear on TV and spare us the agony of exercising our mental muscle tissue. It can be for the most personal of problems-- witness the popularity of (for ex.) 'Dr. Phil,' who drags people's dirty laundry before a rapt audience in the studio and in broadcast-land, and tells them what they need to do with their sorry lives. The 'Ann Landers' newspaper advice column has mutated into the television arena in a big way, and the copyrights are now worth multi-millions.

In the sphere of news and current events, we can similarly rely on the eager TV mega-casters to relieve us of any need for our own thinking abilities. The daily news comes packaged with video imagery, computer graphics and maps, and the essential, color commentary. Make no mistake; every story that makes it on the national news is edited and prepped in some ways to achieve a desired end. Wherever live video is not available, 'canned footage' is inserted to provide some kind of visual association with the reporter's voice-over commentary. Sometimes it's almost humorous to see the obvious, often stretched use of whatever old, stock images could be discovered on short notice to supply a measure of imagery to go with a story. It's decidedly less humorous, tho, when the media moguls manipulate the elements that constitute a news event with the clear intention of manufacturing opinion. As the telemedia industry has matured, and its fantastic potential recognized, this molding of public perception has become the entrenched norm. As ownership of media outlets has become concentrated, both across media types, and within one medium, it has become easier for the abuse connoted by the practice of manufacturing consent.

Of course, news stories have always had to be edited to meet the requirements of space or time available, local priorities, public sensibilities, and so on. What some viewers don't fully understand is the degree to which the stories they are fed have been constructed, fabricated, to create a desired impression in the minds of the audience. Reporters themselves will admit that there is no such thing as 'objective reporting;' every person brings a unique angle to the event under scrutiny. True. Yet most reporters have an innate sense that they should provide two sides (at least) to any interpretive story, and should interview several people with differing perspectives, and should provide the background details and data related to the story in an unbiased manner. And probably that's what they do, at least for their editors. After that, their job is done, and now it's in the hands of the real news-makers, those who package the news for us.

It's in what used to be the 'cutting room' (in the days of film), now the computer screen, that stories are made and news-casts assembled for broadcast. It is here that the crafters of public perception do their work, tuning and assembling the components of the stories in a way that creates the desired feelings in the emotional centers of the viewing audience. You have to put aside pathetic belief in 'the integrity of our media,' and wrap your mind around the reality that the media are businesses-- big business. It's all about money, in the end, and the handmaiden of money, power. (I could say a lot more on this subject, but will leave it for another time.)

The obvious question is 'What has this to do with common sense?' Alright; I'm glad you asked. Over the years, since the dawn of TV, there has grown increasing awareness of the power of television to make people see the world ('reality') in a particular way. That power could have been used to raise the consciousness of the masses (yeah, sure)... but instead, has been used to pander to the lowest drives of human nature, in the interests of immediate commercial gains. Television has the ability to bring events from a far-off part of the world almost instantly to our awareness, and keep us informed, even educated on what is going on elsewhere. Instead, it is used to make us believe certain things about the world that may be quite distorted or false. Some readers may find it too hard to believe that this manipulation is conscious, deliberate, and orchestrated. That's understandable; it's a natural outcome of your full conditioning by society thru the education system (of which mass media are an integral part, in the minds of those who pull the levers of power). If any innocent soul needs a textbook illustration of exactly the kind of manufactured consent I'm talking about, they need only cast their memory back a few years ago, to 2002. That's when the American media machine revved up the war-drums and prepared a broad path for GWB and his hawks to send the US military might into Iraq (without even declaring war, which would have required House approval). Anything was possible in those fear-charged days; some editorials even condoned the use of torture. As the old adage goes, in war anything is permissible.

Again; what's my point, one may ask. The pivotal point in that sorry episode is that there was virtually no sign of common sense anywhere to be found. There surely were some voices of sanity, even in the Exited States; but their cautious counsel was almost totally ignored by the mainstream media, and where given slight shrift, was roundly denounced as unpatriotic, or some such nonsense. The news machine relentlessly trumpeted the now-discredited 'evidence' of WMDs; demonized Saddam, the former US ally; vigorously waved the Stars and Stripes at every occasion; and of course, produced unending interviews with the famous talking heads who supplied all the necessary reasons why the invasion was necessary and justified. It was a classic snow job of monstrous proportions; it was the updated and upgraded, modernized version of Nazi propaganda. And it worked. Well, it worked for a while; long enough for tragic damage to be unleashed on a country that had nothing to do with '9-11,' and no connection with Al Queda. Common sense was ignored, belittled, and condemned as un-American. And yet, amazingly, a great many people, even in that barrage of powerful, chauvinistic propaganda, managed to retain their skepticism of the so-called evidence, and to oppose the mad dash to the invasion front. Common sense does not disappear that easily; it is a God-given faculty, like conscience, that is hard-wired in our brains... until enough re-programming is exerted to subvert it.

Another premier example exists in the events of 9-11-- the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in NYC, and the attack on the Pentagon in DC. Whereas the war on Iraq required weeks of prior media conditioning, the pivotal events of 9-11 were arranged weeks in advance and then executed in one, paramilitary, psy-operation. This will one day be recognized as the grandest instance of mass hypnotism or illusion ever performed. Using the same techniques as the famous illusionists (like David Copperfield, etc.) combined with the classic, cynical methods of psychological warfare and disinformation, the masterminds of Sept-11-01 pulled off the greatest 'false-flag' hoax attack in history. Why do I state this with such definitive authority? Because the whole sequence of events absolutely defy common sense... and yet the official 'explanation' has been accepted and promoted by the mainstream media, and their dogged endorsement has, in turn, led many ingenuous viewers into similar acceptance. In this acquiescence to duplicity, the media are clearly complicit; their believing viewers merely gullible.

The facts of 9-11that fly in the face of common sense are too legion to enumerate here; yet to illustrate what I mean, I will cite just a few of the most egregious examples; (and think about them). To accept the 'official explanation' for the events of that date, the onlooker is expected to believe that: - in the busiest, most populous corridor in America, not one, not two, not three, but four commercial aircraft, could be hijacked and fly freely in airspace over some 22 military airbases... and be unopposed over the space of 1.5 hours, even after all non-military flights had been grounded by civil aviation authorities; - after the first two towers were hit, not one military interceptor could find its way to either of two more known hijacked airliners, in the almost one hour they were airborne; - altho steel and concrete skyscrapers have been built since the beginning of the 20th century, and altho not one has ever collapsed due to fire, on 9-11 three massive skyscapers (WTC 1, 2, and 7) were reduced to piles of rubble... by fires; - as the tallest towers in the world at their construction, the WTC towers were designed and built to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707 (closely equivalent to a B-757), yet on 9-11 both towers were destroyed by collisions with aircraft; - altho it wasn't hit by anything more than 'debris' from the two towers, WTC building 7 mysteriously collapsed into its own footprint in what looks exactly like a controlled demoltion... but was explained as collateral damage; - while containing 110 floors of office equipment in a massive cage of steel-reinforced concrete, the two buildings were reduced to piles of dust powder and a few big fragments... by nothing more than 'fire that caused metal failure;' - altho the scene of the crime of the century, all the physical evidence was cordoned off, cut up, sold, and transported away... before any impartial investigators ever got to examine the rubble; - the appointed investigation committee knowingly overlooked key evidence, important testimony, and independent research (all of which they admitted later) in order to arrive at a pre-ordained conclusion.

That's what I mean by common sense and the utter disregard for it in the government-media phantasmagorical explanations for 9-11. Virtually no part of the story makes any sense when held to the dimmest light of examination by unbiased examiners. But that's the rub-- the media are not unbiased. Not only do they cling doggedly to the fairy tales fed by the Bush government, but they heap scorn and ridicule on critics-- no matter how qualified-- who question the official lies. This wall of denial is no accident of media inertia; it is a concerted strategy, developed at the highest and invisible levels of media ownership and influence, and permeates down thru the ranks of the 'mainstream media' outlets, both in print and electronic. Citizen reader, welcome to Orwell's future.

The denial of common sense has now carried over into many other areas of life. One of the basic areas where corporate propaganda trumps common sense in a deadly way is in health and nutrition. In the days of common sense, people would know that if you take out the fibre and nutrients from food and then add preservatives, colors and other chemicals, that the end-product may be edible, but not necessarily food. They would know that breathing the smoke of a burning, stinking weed must be bad for the lungs, if nothing else. They would be suspicious of a system that jocularly prescribes pills as the quick cure for whatever ails you, and radical amputations for diseased body parts. But, we've had three or more generations raised on the confident assurances of specialists that all of these things are perfectly safe and there's nothing to worry about. All of this despite the plain fact that medical treatment itself has become a major cause of death.

Western nutritionists have publicly fretted for years that vegetarians aren't getting enough of those vital proteins to be healthyÉ oblivious of the evidence that whole societies in other parts of the world manage to be strong and healthy with little or no meat in their diet.

After a generation of television viewers, and increasingly violent program content, a few observers began to posit a connection between societal violence and TV programming. How about that? It is well known that people-- especially young people-- in developed countries spend huge blocks of time per week in front of the glow-screen. McLuhan told us decades ago how TV was a passive ('cool') medium that bypassed our critical faculties to deposit impressions directly in our minds. It should've been a 'slam-dunk' connection, right? Well, no way, when the media giants debunk any attempt to implicate their industry in affecting viewer behavior, deliberately or not. And all that denial while they rake in billions of dollars from advertisers who, apparently, believe they are, indeed, affecting the behavior of viewers towards buying their products. Once again, common sense is eclipsed by expert testimony from co-opted investigators ready to sell their souls for research funds.

When the US is running a massive trade deficit and the war in Iraq is costing billions of dollars annually (and we're into year 6) yet the president drops federal income taxesÉ where is the money coming from? Common sense would tell us that it must be borrowed, and one day 'someone' (and not the politicians) will have to start paying it back. Yet the Bushites and corporatists assure the public that there's nothing to fret about, this is all new economic magic.

I could go on; but by now, I think the reader gets the point. More than get it, tho, I hope every reader will start to question the blandly confident pronouncements from the experts who are paid apologists for the industries that so generously fund favorable research. Question all those news stories that innocuously steer your thinking towards support for government policies, especially those that promote 'peace and security' by imposing ever-greater controls on our lives. And for Americans, especially those media stories that promote war on this or that present danger as the only solution possible. Common sense as a common human trait may be struggling for survival in an age of corporate expert spin, but every individual has the capacity to revive and nurture their God-given faculty of natural judgement and discernment. As they say: use it or lose it!

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