Friday, March 13, 2009

Keeping 'em home.

Dear George,

Now I know how they do it!

For years I’ve wondered why Americans are such a docile lot. As the world economy collapses, there is marching in Europe, bonfires burning in front of Iceland’s parliament building and rioting in China. Yet, even as General Motors plans to dump 47,000 workers, as people lose their homes and as the middle class head for the nearest soup kitchen, there’s been nary a peep.

You see, George, in order to have a proper riot, people have to leave their houses. However, if they are too frightened to leave them, then no mob can form and, ergo! no riot or unseemly demonstration.

Then I stumbled across an article that mentioned a term used in psychology—availability heuristic. On the surface, the term seems to be another example of professional gobbledygook.

Believe me, it speaks volumes.

The article quoted an expert who explained, “Because we are constantly reminded, in the press, of threats from other people, we overestimate the chances of these events happening to us.”

Let me give you an example. Some years ago, there was a spate of stories about car jackings, and for a time, carjacking was the media’s “Threat of the Month”. The incidents of carjacking had remained about the same, but the simple fact that the media had shined a spotlight on them created the impression in the public’s mind that the threat was more eminent than it ever had been.

This is why the 24/7 cable news cycle is such an important instrument of social control. Nothing gives a threat gusto like a breathless anchor. And the threats are endless: terrorists, sexual predators stalking the internet for vulnerable children, illegal aliens stealing our jobs, drug dealers, youth gangs, assaults, rapes, robberies, homicides, defective products, tainted food, body odor and yellow teeth.

The beautiful thing is that this doesn’t even have to be a conspiracy! A news channel runs a story about the latest non-threatening threat and notices an uptick in its rating. So, it continues to go with it and the practice spreads. The state is happy because a frightened public is a docile public that will stay home, glued to the television, so they can stay apprised of the latest threat to their wellbeing.

So, instead of a grand conspiracy to render our democratic polity impotent, we have another example of blind momentum that just happened to work out.

The goal is to keep the proles isolated and afraid so they don’t coalesce into groups. Groups have a habit of engaging in debate and discussion that can lead for demands for democratic action. Democracy cannot provide the strong, leadership a world-class power needs. It is little more than mob rule. Granted, mobs can be brutal, but they are not capable of the systemic brutality essential for efficient leadership. No mob can call in an airstrike.

You can tell your cronies all is well on Main Street. The drones are all home watching television.

Your admirer,
Belacqua Jones

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