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Ian Danskin @InnuendoStudios
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Having finished The Authoritarians, it's time to start a new thread of #IanLivetweetsHisResearch. Today I am finally getting past the introduction of How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley.
Having slogged through some proper academic writing in my day, Stanley's writing is blessedly accessible. But after Altemeyer's light tone and constant dad jokes, Stanley's reads as pretty dry.
So far the introduction is full of a lot of quotations about the nature of democracy, from Victor Klemperer to Elizabeth Anderson to Plato. OF COURSE Plato.
It makes Stanley a bit harder to livetweet because it sometimes takes many paragraphs to understand where his argument is going.
However, the point he is building is that, by his working definition, propaganda is the language by which a society cloaks anti-democratic ideas in democratic terms.
He calls this an existential threat to democracy in a way that doesn't exist for authoritarianism.

Authoritarian regimes don't have to worry about anti-authoritarianism being framed in authoritarian language.
(The idea of "authoritarian language" is, itself, kind of nonsense, since authoritarian language IS propaganda; authoritarianism is always appropriated from non-authoritarian societies, be it perverted anarchism, perverted socialism, or perverted democracy.)
The passage quoted from Klemperer - a Jewish German man who made it through World War 2 without being arrested or deported - talks about how the Nazis propagandized the notion of "heroism."
Klemperer said that the German notion of heroism evoked images of soldiers, tank drivers, and racecar drivers - all things that were simultaneously emblematic of Germanness and antithetical to popular Jewish stereotypes.
He found that this idea of German heroism was so ingrained that, even years after the war, any rational discussion of freedom and equality would get derailed as soon as German heroism was invoked.

He said the mind became blurred by the emotional power of this concept.
Stanley says that this is the essence of propaganda, the language that makes true understanding of political realities impossible.
He says, if democracy is meant to be collections of rational actors working in their own self-interest, propaganda is the rhetoric that makes it harder for one to understand what their own interests are.
(I think a corollary to German "heroism" for terms that are so emotionally sticky that it's hard to have a rational discussion once they are invoked would be the Southern notion of "heritage.")
("Heritage" isn't inherently racist anymore than "heroism" is inherently anti-Semitic, but the meaning of those terms in their cultural contexts is positing racism/anti-Semitism in democratic language.)
Hrm, Stanley is listing difference conceptions of democracy (deliberative, epistemic, economic) and arguing that, no matter how you define democracy, propaganda is always anti-democratic.

That is not a point I think anyone reading this book needs to be convinced of.
This is a kind of academic due diligence that I find tedious. "Before I make my argument, let be enumerate the definitions of every noun in my previous sentence."
He is, however, following this section by dropping the gauntlet and asking that we consider whether the US is, by any definition, actually a democracy.
(Whomever checked this book out of the library before me has scribbled a number of exclamation points in the margins next to this section.)
Stanley gets right to the point by saying any society that sings the praises of equality but where Black Americans fare worse in almost every sphere compared with whites is arguably a democracy in name only.
He points out that, before the Civil War, Black Americans who lived in free states, even Black Americans who worked alongside white abolitionists, still lived second-class lives. People who professed liberal beliefs enforced illiberal practices.
Stanley posits that a true democracy should have a democratic culture, i.e. one where "everyone has a say in the policies and laws that apply to them."

The US seems to embrace what he calls managerial culture, where how much say you have has to do with how much you "earn" it.
Argues the managerial idea of democracy has been the unconscious default since the industrial revolution. Quotes writers talking about it as far back as 1900.
But this managerial ethos doesn't mean we have a problem with propaganda, right?
Polling says that, even though the government fails to address climate change or reform campaign finance, 80% of Americans believe in the former and 90% believe in the latter.

So clearly we aren't being effectively propagandized, right?
But the way propaganda works is that you don't argue against the problems of campaign finance reform, you argue that each individual reform bill will actually make the problem worse.

You sew distrust in the reformers, not the idea of reform.
The people opposed to campaign finance reform always speak the language of supporting it.

THAT'S propaganda.
"In the case of climate change, the function of corporate propaganda has been to push the idea that climate change legislation is not in the service of doing anything about the climate, but rather in the service of changing lifestyles to accommodate a socially progressive agenda:
climate change policy as gay marriage."
Heck, this is the same rhetoric angry bros use to convince themselves they're not sexist.

They aren't against female protagonists, so long as it's organic; just don't cast women for POLITICAL reasons!

But then they assume every woman is cast for political reasons.
Next Stanley argues that certain deeply-felt group identities make us especially susceptible to propaganda. We will often accept irrational arguments if they keep us in unity with a group we are loyal to.
(I don't want to draw false equivalencies here, because some folks LOOOOOOOVE to say that this is the core of identity politics. This does not go for EVERY group.)
Stanley says the desire to see your political party "win" often overrides your dissatisfaction with the policy similarities between the two parties. Most significant party differences come down to a few emotionally-charged hot-button issues.
(More false equivalencies I don't want to draw: many of those hot-button differences are KIND OF IMPORTANT, like abortion rights and, like, NOT rounding up and deporting brown people.)
Still, people will often sublimate their self-interest to group loyalty, and groups will give them propaganda that distances them from those interests.
Plato argued that each model of government had a different ideal.

The greatest good in a oligarchy is wealth; the greatest good in a democracy is freedom.

Stanley argues the greatest good in a managerial society is efficiency.
It was efficiency that made Plato reject democracy in favor of aristocracy; people being free to choose their profession meant they might choose lives that were not optimally useful to society. People should be assigned roles by the aristocracy.
(Also Plato hated democracy because he didn't think slaves and women should have equal rights to free men.)
Stanley mentions this to point out that, as far back as Ancient Greece, efficiency has been considered an opposite of freedom.

A managerial society cannot be a democratic society.
(Pssssst... the primary goal of capitalism is also efficiency, as long as we're talking about things that are anti-democratic.)
To tie this in to other points of my research:
Lakoff would argue that the managerial culture and the democratic culture are two different frames - essentially metaphors for interpreting the world - and everyone is familiar with both.
Different frames get invoked by different arguments, and, when one is activated, arguments that make sense in the other framing cease to work.

This is the value of controlling the conversation.
So where Stanley argues that we are a managerial culture that wraps its efficiency-above-all ethos in the language of a democratic one, Lakoff would argue that we live in both cultures at different times, but one is winning out over the other.
The group identity comments tie in with Altmeyer's notions of tribalism being heavily tied to authoritarianism.
And with that, we are done with the intro. That was rather a lot of time to get through 26 pages; these notes helped when the writing was extra dry.

Thanks, folks. We'll be back for more chapters in future.
Here we resume #IanLivetweetsHisResearch. We are reading the first proper chapter of How Propaganda Works, which is, curiously, shorter than the introduction.
Stanley is talking about one of the ostensible flaws inherent to democracy:
If a demagogue is someone who a) is good at persuading people, and b) seeks to amass power through persuasion, they will flourish in a democracy.
In a democracy, speech is free, which means a demagogue has as many opportunities to persuade as anyone.

In a democracy, any legal citizen can gain political power, which a demagogue will and will likely be good at.
So, the argument goes, any liberal democracy will, on a long enough timeline, trend towards demagoguery.
This argument is pretty old, going back at least as far as Aristotle. (Jeez, Plato in the last chapter, now Aristotle.)
As an aside, I always appreciated how, as opposed to Plato talking shit about democracy, Aristotle argued it was the best form of government because it was the least bad.
If I'm remembering correctly, Aristotle said the best form of government was a benevolent monarchy, but a failed monarchy is a tyranny, which is the worst form of government.

Ditto that a failed aristocracy was an oligarchy.
He said democracy was the best form of government because a functioning democracy and a failed democracy weren't that different from one another.
(Someone correct me if I'm remembering this wrong, it's info from a looooong time ago.)
The heady idea that Stanley is grappling with here is that failure of political theory (in recent years, anyway) to discuss the problems of democracy as it is experienced.
Most political theory discusses how democracy works on paper, an idealized notion of democracy, and how a society moves from an imperfect democracy to the ideal is treated as an afterthought, something we'll deal with later.
Many of history's most famous political thinkers did not write this way. From Plato to Marx, foundational writers addressed how their systems played out in practice, not just in theory.
But, Stanley argues, today political theory discusses ideals and considers any talk of how people actually interact with existing social structures to be social theory.
So he brings up a number of REALLY DISCOMFITING notions, e.g. that all political structures are, ultimately, only means of consolidating power.
That, no matter the society, no matter the system, power consolidates into fewer and fewer hands and always disabuses the poor. He quotes Vilfredo Pareto arguing that every society, no matter the philosophy behind it, has gone this way.
Pareto mentions Buddhist egalitarianism leading to Tibetan theocracy, Christian exaltation of the poor leading to Roman theocracy, the French Revolution leading to despotism. Why should any other society be different?
Rousseau's argument was the social contract: that if everyone agrees to be governed by the same laws, and everyone benefits from living in a democracy, then the democracy will self-protect against its own destruction.
People will either not allow democracy to be corrupted, because they all have a stake in it, or they will not desire to corrupt it, for the same reason.

This... places a lot of faith in people.
It also sounds like exactly the kind of idealized thinking Stanley is arguing against.
OK, so Stanley quotes Stephen Darwall's ideas of their being two kinds of respect: recognition respect and honor respect.
Recognition respect is acknowledging a person's right to equal treatment.

Honor respect is acknowledging a person holding a position that, by definition, only a few people can have; this person receives deferential respect that not everyone can be given.
In other words, this Tumblr gem:
Rousseau's fear for democracy is when people who cast votes begin to show too much honor respect when they should only ever show recognition respect.

Honor respect is inherently undemocratic.
Rousseau says that a vote cast out of this kind of deference to another is a form of coercion that looks, from the outside, like a freely-given vote.

This, he says, is how democracy dies.
Stanley says that a conception of free speech that would fit within Rousseau's notions of democracy is that the only speech that should be regulated is speech that silences the speech of others.
If the aim of freedom of speech is to be free expression, than what he calls silencing speech would, necessarily, need to be curtailed.

He compares the hatespeech laws of the US and Canada to the relative lack thereof in Hungary.
And, he says, if silencing speech were effectively curtailed, we would largely curtail propaganda as well.
Annnnnnd that's the end of the chapter.

That's a lot to dump in my lap without much resolution!

See you next time, folks.
And we return to #IanLivetweetsHisResearch with another chapter of How Propaganda Works.
In this chapter, Stanley aims to provide what his working definition of propaganda is. (Seems pretty deep in the book to finally be getting to that, Jason.)
He begins by discussing a report from 1975 which claimed the social upheaval of the last decade may be cause by an "excess of democracy," and claimed young people needed to defer more to "experts."
Stanley calls this a conflation of two types of authority:

Epistemic authority is expertise, where your opinion in a certain field is deemed more valuable than a layperson's.

Practical authority is being able to tell others what they can and can't do.
The claim is that epistemic authority should lead to practical authority.

The writers of this report were sociology and government professors.

Stanley claims this conflation undermines the epistemic ideals of both sociology and government.
Using the language of one belief system in a way that goes against that very system in a bid for more practical authority?

That's (part of) Stanley's definition of propaganda.
Two commonly-held assumptions about the definition of propaganda:

1. A claim must be false to be propaganda.

2. A claim must be made insincerely to be propaganda.

Stanley rejects both.
As mentioned upthread, propaganda is often built around a flawed ideology. It wouldn't be convincing if people couldn't sincerely believe it.
Propaganda is meant to convince, and to be repeated. When a statement is repeated by a person who has been convinced, it doesn't cease to be propaganda.
(Gripe: there are paragraphs in this book that seem like revised versions of previous paragraphs that were accidently left in. Book needs a copy editor.)
Regarding the first point, what Stanley calls the "falsity condition," he points out that a statement may be literally true while implying something false, may be literally true but play on the listener's beliefs in something false...
...or may be true but elicit fear or anger, emotions that are hard to label as "true" or "false."
And, once you get that granular, we have to admit that so many non-propagandistic statements do these things that "falsity" ceases to be useful as a condition for propaganda.
Shiiiiit, a quote from Klemperer on how Germans considered certain types of propaganda harmless as Hitler was rising to power is chilling.

Klemperer asked his friend how he could support a party which considered Klemperer not a real German:
"You're taking it all much to seriously, Babba... The fuss and bother about the Jews is only there for propaganda purposes. You wait, when Hitler is at the helm he'll be far too busy to insult the Jews."

Sound familiar?
Stanley's point is that Hitler using anti-Semitism strategically didn't mean he wasn't also an anti-Semite. Honesty and blunt manipulation are not mutually exclusive.
Stanley: "Many... demagogic claims are statements sincerely asserted by someone in the grip of a false belief."
THIS is what I mean when I say that the rhetoric of the Right is inherently dishonest, even though most people on the Right speak what they sincerely believe.
To say propaganda is definitionally insincere is to misunderstand the relationship between propaganda and ideology.
The danger in a totalitarian society is that propaganda will not be taken seriously.

The danger in a liberal democracy is that propaganda will no be recognized as propaganda.
So: how does propaganda work?
Stanley argues that propaganda is not merely an argument that appeals to emotion, but an argument that closes off rational debate by appealing to emotions detached from ideas.
He cites Klemperer's analysis of the Third Reich's language, how all their metaphors, regardless of context, were about MOVEMENT. This was to encourage people to move speedily through deliberation into direct action.
This leads to a generalized feeling, in many spheres of society, of "needing to move quickly," a feeling that becomes divorced from any specific cause.
It's hard to get a democracy to do, well, anything. A population of millions means millions of unique desires. One goal of propaganda is to decrease debate, and thereby decrease disagreement, and thereby manufacture unity.
A lie at least tries to convince you that a thing is rational. Propaganda tries bypass rational will entirely.

This is what Stanley calls the classical sense of propaganda.
There is also Chomsky's notion of propaganda as biased speech: "speech that irrationally closes off options that should be considered."

This differs from the classical sense because it is not always in service of an actionable goal.
(Have to head out for an appointment, may pick this back up later today.)
Returning to this.

Stanley feels both the classical definition of propaganda and the "biased speech" definition are too rough to describe the kind he's interested in, though both will be, at times, relevant.
Neither of them are as helpful as he wants to characterize the way the language of equality is used to justify inequality.

The kind of propaganda that interests him is the kind that exploits an ideal.
So here we go! It's page 52 and he's finally telling us his definition of propaganda!

Political propaganda is "a kind of speech that fundamentally involves political, economic, aesthetic, or rational ideals, mobilized for a political purpose."
He outlines two structurally distinct kinds of propaganda: SUPPORTING propaganda and UNDERMINING propaganda.
Supporting propaganda accurately promotes its own ideals but via emotional or other nonrational means.

Authoritarian propaganda that glorifies the state is propaganda in keeping with the ideals of that state.
Undermining propaganda uses the language of certain ideals in emotional/nonrational ways that actively work against those ideals.

Calling the war in Iraq "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is an example.
(Can't help but notice that the distinction of "in service of an ideal vs. undermining an ideal" is similar to Altemeyer's division of authoritarianism into "in service of the state vs. opposed to the state.")
Supporting propaganda may be used in service of a moral ideal, but it specifically does not make a rational argument for it. Instead it aims to "overload various affective capacities, such as nostalgia, sentiment, or fear."
Even when used for moral purposes, propaganda seeks to override rational thought.
He appends the definition of undermining propaganda to include propaganda that uses one ideal to undermine a related ideal, e.g. using the American ideal of liberty to undermine the American ideal of opportunity with tax breaks in the name of "freedom" that screw the poor.
This doesn't work for just any old time an ideal is used to combat another; in the example, the propaganda is appealing to "American pride" but using one aspect of American idealism to erode another.
Have to be careful not to confuse this kind of propaganda with genuine political disagreement; Stanley says it may not be a useful addition to the definition.
Newspapers or schools can be vehicles for propaganda even if they never produce propaganda; if a school omits crucial information about US history but leads students to believe they are fully informed, they have undermined the scholastic ideal.
OK, I'll finish this chapter soon, but I gotta go again. Cheers folks.
Picking back up, some examples of different types of propaganda:
Supporting propaganda can be romanticized tellings of your country's history to promote patriotism, scaremongering anti-smoking ads to promote public health, or appealing to past wrongs to promote ethnic pride. (Stanley cites Serbians invoking the Battle of Kosovo for that one.)
These are all examples where the propaganda is in keeping with the ideals it claims to believe in - patriotism, health, ethnic pride.
As an example of undermining propaganda, Stanley discusses the drug war's assault on crack cocaine.
The argument behind the emphasis on crack is that crack is dangerous, debilitating, a ruiner of communities, and use of it must be punished severely. The ideal it invokes is law and order.
But there is a 100:1 disparity in sentencing between drug crimes involving crack - cheap cocaine affordable to poor, Black communities - and regular cocaine - popular among wealthier whites.
There is no framing of law and order where cocaine is only 1% as destructive as crack, making the emotions-driven condemnation of crack undermining propaganda. It denigrates the ideal it claims to support.
So the question arises: can propaganda be used morally? There are cases for both kinds of propaganda.
Supporting propaganda is easier to defend. There's an argument to be made that the scaremongering warnings on your cigarette pack are justified, because people have placed their trust in the Department of Health to have done the research.
It's OK that the labels don't appeal to our rational minds because we have essentially outsourced the rational thinking to the DOH, and settle for an emotional appeal to approximate the impact.
An argument for when undermining propaganda is justified comes from W. E. B. Du Bois, who argued for a kind of Black Propaganda.
Living in a society that favors whiteness, Black artists cannot get art that promotes Black ideals published. So he suggests making art that presents a white ideal but then rhetorically undermines it.
He mentions John Coltrane's (and, later, Lauryn Hill's) subversive renditions one of the whitest of white songs, "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.
You don't have to agree with either of these arguments, these are just the kinds of arguments that can be made.
(Also, yes, I agree that discussion of these phenomena are enlightening, but seem to stretch the definition of "propaganda.")
A kind of propaganda that is never justified, Stanley argues, is demagoguery, a subset of undermining propaganda he defines as "propaganda in service of unworthy political ideals."
Stanley dodges the question of "which ideals are worthy?" by stating, for the purposes of this book, we're going to assume liberal democracy is good and fascism is bad. Heh.
An example of demagoguery: More restrictive voter ID laws are predicated on the idea that, without IDs, you run the risk of voter impersonation. The ideal invoked by these arguments is "one citizen, one vote."
After an exhaustive study of all forms of voter fraud from 2000-2012, researchers found 10 instances of voter impersonation among 146 million voters.
Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania alone, 758,000 voters did not have adequate identification to vote with the stricter laws.

People who could not vote were overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic.
There is no rational invocation of "one citizen, one vote" that turns 758,000 Pennsylvanians away from the polls.

This is not only undermining propaganda. This is in service of an unworthy ideal.
People with what Stanley calls a flawed ideology will often not see the contradiction between the "once citizen, one vote" argument and the disenfrachisement that results.
I recall Altemeyer pointing out that authoritarian followers will accept basically any argument that has a conclusion they agree with, even a contradictory or nonsensical one.

They traffic in conclusions, not arguments.
One thing demagoguery tends to do is not only UNDERMINE the political ideal it claims to uphold, but to slowly REDEFINE that ideal to become more consistent with the actual intent of the propaganda.
We can talk about how the unspoken Islamaphobia of the War on Terror has become less and less unspoken in recent years for an example of that one.
The rest of the chapter is, if I'm being honest, a lot of waffling about the nature of subjectivity and metaphysics. More academic due diligence from a philosophy professor.
That is, finally, the end of the chapter. Cheers. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
With the new video finally done, I'm returning to How Propaganda Works by Jason Stanley. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
To reiterate: Stanley argues that, in a democracy, anti-democratic propaganda must present itself as upholding democratic ideals. He begins this chapter saying you can learn a lot about what a culture values by what language its propaganda cloaks itself in.
Stanley points to the language politicians and government officials use around the federal budget. Typically, the language used is meant to put government spending into a framework the layperson will understand, but that give the wrong impressions.
"Borrowing" doesn't mean the same thing is government that it does in private life, because the government prints its own money. (Yes, this is oversimplifying, let's not get into the gordian knot that is the Federal Reserve.)
"Deficits" don't mean quite the same thing, either, when most of the money the government owes is to itself.
Much of the confusion in these terms is intentional. Politicians make a show of caring about deficits, but neither are invested in reducing the actual deficit.
Republicans care about deficits when they want to slash Democrat social programs. Democrats care about deficits when they Republicans to raise taxes on the wealthy.
Neither party is interested in the public actually understanding how deficits work, because their arguments about deficits wouldn't work anymore.
Ben Bernanke coining the phrase "fiscal cliff" is Stanley's example of propaganda in this situation: it was a term that was meant to communicate that the economy was in danger, but one that relied on public misperception of how deficits work.
Polls show that only 17% of Americans understood that going over the fiscal cliff would REDUCE the deficit.

Even if Bernanke's hope was to communicate the urgency of the situation, his word choice left people even more mislead about how the economy operates.
Stanley uses this as an example of propaganda with (possibly) good intentions. Relying on poor understanding in the hopes of getting a positive outcome.

Because it cloaks an erosion of public understanding in the guise of educating the public, it is antidemocratic propaganda.
I suppose this illustrates that the US upholds an idea of not running a deficit or going into debt. Few politicians seem to believe that deficits matter or that the debt is a problem, but they have to *present* in accordance to this ideal.
(If, when, and how deficits matter is a complex subject for another time.)
Next, Stanley lists a number of democratic ideals so we know what propaganda will come disguised as:
"Regular assembly," in the form of political debate, courts, formal and informal political gatherings of citizens, and some form of news media.*
*the relationship of politicians to the news media is pretty adversarial, even though politicians have to praise the democratic ideal of a free press; the Trump administration clearly HATE transparency, but can't decry news as a concept, hence "fake news"
(Per Stanley's definition of propaganda, you don't condemn the news, you condemn "fake" news. You imply that you are SPREADING transparency by EXPOSING which news media are corrupt.)
"Public reason," essentially the idea that the will of a properly-informed public is right. This is foundational to democracy; if you believe that the public, properly-informed, will act wrongly, why would you want a democracy in the first place?
"Fair joint deliberation," or the various procedures we have for turning public reason into policy. Voting, legislating, enforcing laws, etc. The ideal dictates that this procedure should be fair: if a law is passed through lies or coercion, it should be considered illegitimate.
OK, taking a break because I'm going to a movie in a bit, will maybe pick this back up tomorrow!
Amtrak is delayed, so let's pick this back up.

Stanley argued that pretty much any conception of democracy idealizes public reason.

Therefore, propaganda can be expected to frame itself as an embodiment of public reason.
Good gravy, Stanley is now, essentially, describing from first principles how democracy works in theory. I can't tell if this is just EXCESSIVE academic due diligence or if he's going somewhere useful with this.
I will say, as far as distilling literal centuries of political theory into an accessible chunk of pages... he's not very good at it.

"Practical rationality impartialism" is not a phrase that rolls off the tongue.
I can't blame him, I'm working on a script now where a major concern is how to talk about fetishistic scopophilia without saying "fetishistic scopophilia."

But good god, you gotta try.
Christ, Jason, just write a book about democracy, don't stealth one into your book on propaganda.
Okay, I *think* the point of all this digression was to set up a concept of "reasonableness."

A democracy is "reasonable" inasmuch as it can account for the needs of all the people its policies will affect.
Stanley cites an example of a landowner offering to pay penniless neighbors $1 a day to raise his crops which he will then sell for $50k.

This is *rational* from the position of self-interest, but it is not *reasonable* because it doesn't respect the needs of the neighbors.
This framing allows Stanley to argue that Du Bois' notion of Black propaganda is defensible, even if it's against the self-interest of white people, because it increases reasonableness.
Forcing white people to consider the Black perspective increases reasonableness while forcing Black people to bend to the perspectives of whites does not.
So, Stanley argues, reasonableness is one of the ideals of democratic societies.
That was a LONG ROAD to make that point, Jason!!!
The tools of civic debate are designed for free members of society to determine how that society should function.

There's no real mechanism for people who are disallowed from being part of the debate to get their needs met.
This situation requires voiceless people to go outside the rules of civic debate to be heard. Propaganda is one method.
So when and where propaganda is defensible depends on the reasonableness of the person trying to be heard, and whether their methods make civic debate more or less effective.
Something I saw a lot during Occupy was people chiding the protesters by saying they should run for office, petition their congresspersons, canvass.

"You should be using the system as it already exists."
So a big question here is, when the system as it exists cannot meet your needs, which extra-system tools are justified, and which ones are effective?
An interesting wrinkle: democracies never have ministries of propaganda. The state can't condone or acknowledge state-produced propaganda, even of the defensible kind described by Du Bois.
Defensible propaganda is propaganda that pushes a state to be more democratic.

A democracy can't admit that it's not fully democratic already.
Reasonableness of the kind Stanley describes relies on some degree of empathy, and he makes an interesting point about the difficulty of empathizing with experiences you've never had.
There's a case to be made that the reason Americans were so willing to invade Iraq without convincing evidence that they were involved in 9/11 was that they couldn't empathize with the idea of having your country invaded.
9/11 is literally the closest Americans have come to being bombed since Pearl Harbor. We are not a country that suffers airstrikes.
Arguably we couldn't consider the perspectives of Iraqi citizens because we had never lived through what we inflicted on them.
And, finally, the end of the chapter.

Stanley's final paragraph legit begins "In this chapter, I have explained..." and then summarizes his main points. He also writes thesis sentences at the beginnings.

These are 40-page hamburger essays.
This is not a book for readers. This is a book for an MFA review board.

My copy of How Propaganda Works is due back at the library in two days. It's a slow read and I'm not even halfway through, but let's see if I can at least bang out another chapter by then.
If we accept the premise that a societal norm of a proper democracy is "reasonableness," as Stanley has defined it, and accept that reasonableness demands a certain degree of empathy, then we can argue that demagoguery will argue against empathy.
That is, it is anti-democratic to claim that any group in society is unworthy of empathy.
This argument is thorny for me. Is it unjust to refuse empathy to the Klan when our problem with them is they refuse empathy to Black people?
Granted, we tend to conflate "extending empathy" with "letting people do whatever they want."

Most arguments against the Klan aren't that we should deny them their rights, but that we should deny them the power to deny others their rights.
That gets framed by Klansmen as a lack of empathy. And, of course, losing empathy for them is kind of unavoidable. But it's not the aim of agitating against them.
Um. Stanley cites Rae Langton's writing on porn as a major resource for this chapter. I'm not familiar with her writing but she seems to believe porn is sexist.
The semantics of porn are really thorny, and I get wary around anyone who argues that most porn isn't misogynist.

But I also get wary of anyone who attributes that misogyny to porn at large and not the mainstream porn industry in specific.
A lot of anti-porn rhetoric is really SWERFy, and fuck that.

I'm down for any dissection of the semantics of porn that acknowledges most of the problems with porn are problems with capitalism.
We'll see where Stanley is going with this, but I'm warming up my bullshit detector.
So let's hypothesize that there could be a type of language that presents itself as reasonable and democratic but seeks to exclude certain members of society from participation in the debate.
Stanley argues that such speech would have three characteristics:

1. the speech codifies a group as unworthy
2. separate from that codification, the speech aims to legitimately resolve another debate
3. mere use of this speech, in any context, undermines reasonableness
The result here is that the undermining of a given group is not the subject of debate, but is an incidental effect of many other debates.

This manner of speech could be used by people on any side of any debate; even by all sides.
Stanley has not yet made his argument that such speech exists, but he's told us at least three times that his argument will be based in semantics and pragmatics.

This book would be half as long if he didn't repeat himself.
OK, so we are getting to the semantics of language, and as an amateur linguistics wonk THIS SHIT IS MY BAG.
So here are some facets of language that Stanley will base his argument on:
Context: statements are only true or false depending on context.

"I am the President of the United States" is a true statement if Obama says it in 2014.

It's untrue if Obama says it in 2005, or if someone else says it in 2014.
Common ground: we must agree on the context of our statements in order to communicate. We have to both know (or, at least, agree) who is President to evaluate whether the above statement is true.
Set of possible situations: given our common ground, a certain number of things *may* be true.

The person you're talking to may like you romantically, platonically, or be feigning interest.

These can't all be true, but any could be true.
Ruling out situations: when someone says "the gas station is to the right," they are ruling out of your shared contexts all possible situations in which the gas station is to the left, the front, or behind.

This new info enters the common ground for evaluating future assertions.
Questions under discussion: things that have entered the common ground not as facts, but agreed-upon possibilities.

"Which way is the gas station?" is in the common ground as a question that needs answering.
Rankings: when there are many possible answers to a question, people will reflexively rank them in order of likelihood.

If you didn't see the gas station yet, then it's possible you missed it, but it's more likely to be ahead than behind.
Generic statements: accepted facts that we use to determine rankings.

"Birds fly" is a generic statement that makes us more inclined to rank "this specific bird can fly" higher than "this specific bird is flightless" until new information comes in.
At-issue and not-at-issue content: "Growing up, I spent my summers with my grandma, who lived in Boston."

The subject - what is at-issue - is that you stayed with your grandma. Further discussion will be about that. Where she lived is not-at-issue. It's supplemental information.
(Stanley points out that at-issue content goes through the usual procedure of debate; it is being *offered* to the common ground. Not-at-issue content tends to go directly into the common ground without discussion.)
To tie this to an example from The Alt-Right Playbook, when conservatives reframe a discussion of Trump's sexual assault into a conversation about course language, they are redefining what is at-issue.
The former subject - Trump groping women without their consent - has been switched to Trump merely CLAIMING to grope women, and that has become a not-at-issue sub-clause in a conversation about whether course language is a problem.
It's not just a change of subject, it's a way of bypassing debate. By making it a rider on a different argument, it enters the common ground without discussion.
Not-at-issue content tends to enter the common ground even if the at-issue content is rejected.
Challenging not-at-issue content is very difficult. Stanley uses the example:

"It must be raining outside."

The "must" adds the not-at-issue content that the rain has not been observed, only inferred. This is VERY hard to argue with.
It's simple enough to disagree that it is raining, but very hard to challenge whether or not the person actually inferred that it's raining.

If someone's just babbling to fill the silence and hasn't actually inferred anything, language doesn't have a smooth mechanism for that.
What propaganda often does is use this as a means of smuggling arguments into the common ground as not-at-issue content.
Repeated associations between the concept of welfare and images of Black families smuggles the argument that Black people are lazy into the conversation of "welfare," even into the word itself.
After enough usage, this means that any conversation about welfare is unavoidably a conversation about Black people.

This, again, is very hard to debate. Stanley likens it to the "must" in "in must be raining."
There is no smooth mechanism for pointing out that a conversation about welfare is racist because Black people are not-at-issue in the conversation.

This is the demagogic speech Stanley hypothesized earlier.
I'll note that white Americans are generally unwilling to acknowledge any kind of racism that is not at-issue racism.

They refuse to recognize racism that is in any way smuggled into another conversation, even when it's not particularly well-hidden.
Like, this smuggling isn't particularly intelligent. It's not hard to see through conservatives claiming that immigration laws are about "jobs."

But the only image of racism they conceive of is of racists who talk about race. If it's not overt, how could it be racism?
Stanley next proposes a couple models of propaganda:
The content model: statements like "there are Jews among us."

There is an at-issue fact that is, in theory, factual and morally neutral (there are Jewish Americans), but there is a not-at-issue argument that this is in some way wrong.
The expressive model: something like the association between Black people and welfare above.

The not-at-issue content is less an argument than a set of emotional responses and associations.
I'd say the content model tacitly argues we deny a group empathy, while the expressive model simply makes empathy with that group harder.
So there's some stuff here about the differences and similarities between imperatives - commands like a parent telling their child "eat your beets" - and subordinating speech.
Subordinating speech - I THINK - is Langton's term for language that places the other below the speaker, similarly to how a command places you in a position of authority over another person, at least for the moment.
Drawing on the concept of ranking possibilities mentioned upthread, a command essentially says "the scenario in which you eat your beets is preferred over all scenarios in which you don't."
Subordinating speech does similar: "the scenario in which Black people are on welfare because they're lazy is preferred over scenarios where there's a different explanation."
The difference is a command seeks to change the world - it asks the listener to adjust their behavior to fit the scenario described - while subordinating speech asks the listener to accept that the scenario described is the one that exists.
Subordinating speech asks you to update your common ground for making future evaluations.
Alright, gotta take a break for some kinda lunch. Talk again soon, lovelies.
Alrighty, this book is due back today, but the library almost certainly closed along with most of Boston due to the storm, so I think I can get away with returning it tomorrow.

Let's see if we can finish this chapter. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
Subordinating speech is a kind of statement, where an imperative is a command. But, often, a bit of communication functions as both.
If the government says "austerity is needed to deal with debt," this *appears* to be a statement, but is functionally a command.

Often statements delivered by people with power over you are commands disguised as conversation.
What all this is building towards is that these mental rankings of potential scenarios are influenced by our language.

And people don't only rank scenarios by likelihood, but also by preference.
In the same way scenarios in which a given bird flies are ranked as more likely than ones where it doesn't, many (white) people rank scenarios where they are in community with other white people as more preferable to ones where they are in mixed-race company.
This contextual shifting and re-ranking is extremely linguistic, and is affected by what we accept in conversation after conversation.

The imperative cloaked as a statement and the not-at-issue content that sneaks into the common ground without debate.
Repeated images in media of Black people on welfare makes scenarios in which Black people are lazy seem more plausible than other scenarios.
There's some stuff here on the semantic function of slurs that is pretty interesting.

We think of slurs as being about either insulting the group the slur refers to or expressing contempt for that group to others of your own group.
But a compelling argument is that calling Jewish people k*kes is communicating a) "I am not Jewish," b) "I aligned myself with the ones who derogate Jewish people."
I think this goes for a lot of the chan-infused language of the Far Right as well. Calling people "cucks" is less about hurting their feelings than about broadcasting your allegiance to a particular ideological group and how much you are not a cuck.
(And also smuggling some not-at-issue racism into the conversation, the omnipresent connotation of any usage of "cuck.")
The function of this kind of language is to decrease empathy with the group being derogated.

This can span the whole gamut from ignoring their perspective in democratic deliberation, or being more comfortable committing genocide against them.
Stanley cites multiple genocides in which slurs became extremely common, from Nanking to Rwanda.

A rite of passage for Hutu boys was decapitating snakes, so "snake" became a slur for Tutsis when Hutus began murdering them.
In general, genocide is usually preceded by widespread use of dehumanizing language of the minority group.
However, outright slurs are usually not acceptable in political speech. (And when they become acceptable it's usually a sign that something BAD is about to happen to the group in question.)

But political speech often uses words that have the same PROPERTIES as slurs.
Sociologists point out that explicit racism was a social norm until the 60's, at which point white folks, though arguably no less racist than before, became uncomfortable with *overt* racism.
We now live in a world where, if you want slander Black people, coded racism is *more effective* than overt racism.

One facet of coded language is that people often have to use the very language that denigrates them in order to participate in deliberation.
When "welfare" carries the connotation of lazy Black people, it becomes necessary for Black people to participate in the conversation around welfare.

But using the terms of that debate, they euphemistically denigrate themselves.
And one purpose of coded language is to keep the racism from being explicit, because people find explicit racism distasteful.

Which means if you point out that the language is racist, people will often turn on YOU because YOU'RE the one who made racism explicit.
It's a clever kind of propaganda: spread an ideology, compel the people you denigrate to spread it as well, and yell "oversensitive" at anyone who calls bullshit.
There is also a conversational pressure, when talking about, for instance, racially-coded like "welfare" or "inner-city violence," to simply keep using these codes for ease of conversation.
Like, "Do I want to have the conversation I was already having, or do I want to have a meta-conversation?"

People are pressured to simply accept the stereotyped language, or even make efforts to personally distance themselves from the stereotype.
Once the stereotype has been euphemistically introduced, the conversation can be easy if you assure the person that you're different from those *other* people.
OK, there's a lot here about the ways in which words that appear purely descriptive carry "social meanings," but, honestly, Jason Stanley writes as though he's just discovered the difference between denotation and connotation and he's gonna BLOW. YOUR. MIND.
This does lead to the extreme difficulty of regulating propaganda.

It is easy to ban slurs. It is very hard to ban language that has the same connotative effect as slurs.
How do you legally prove a word has a given connotation?

How do you ban a word that has many connotations and is only propaganda in certain contexts?

How do you prevent propagandists from simply picking another word?

How would such a law NOT get abused?
That last one is a big sticking point for me.

It's an issue I've seen on a lot of forums. If a moderator details a code of behavior, you inevitably get trolls using the code to "prove" that good-faith actors are bad-faith actors.
They argue false equivalences, they insist that a joke is "pure troll," they debate for PAGES and PAGES of lawyerly hairsplitting.

It's all very obviously bullshit, but it's nigh-impossible to write a framework that *proves* it's bullshit.
The only solution I've seen is to have a moderator who doesn't mind calling bullshit bullshit, and doesn't mind being the villain when they use the banhammer.
Creating a code of conduct and relying solely on it instead of the judgment of someone in charge is essentially saying that systems will save us, not humans.
But, of course, our distrust of humans is warranted! What happens when you get a moderator who CAN'T smell bullshit? One who has unconscious biases? Hell, what about the ones with CONSCIOUS biases?
I don't know that good leadership can ever be systematized. But I don't like the solution being "put your faith in good leaders," either.
Alright, the rest of the chapter is a lot of musing about the nature of democracy, and whether it is even possible for a society to be truly democratic, and honestly my eyes glazed over for a lot of it.
It's not bad writing, exactly, it's just... look, if your writing is going to get very abstract, your prose has to be at least INTERESTING.

I don't think Stanley has even once used a metaphor in the entire 177 pages I've read.
It's mostly stringing together ideas and quotes from other writers and occasionally commenting on how they relate to one another.

Like I said, it reads like a dissertation.
Anyway, that's the end of the chapter. I'll return the book to the Boston Public Library tomorrow and immediately thereafter look fro a copy at the Cambridge Public Library. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
Once again, we return to #IanLivetweetsHisResearch. We are on the antepenultimate chapter of How Propaganda Works, discussing ideology.
Stanley discusses his notion of "flawed ideologies" and comments on how resistant they are to contrary evidence, and poses the question of how we come to have such beliefs.

His answer: flawed ideologies are the result of flawed social structures.
(This comes with a lot of references to "Of Skepticism with Regard to the Senses" by David Hume, an essay he does not summarize and simply assumes we have read. This fucking guy.)
One facet with flawed ideologies is that they are so intrinsic to day-to-day life. When one is raised as a topic of discussion - as in conversations about sexism - we are often against them. But once we're not actively thinking about them we slip back into these belief systems.
The common reason why someone will believe a thing that is not, strictly speaking, rational is because it's connected to their identity; most often, because it legitimizes their identity.
The belief that racism was largely solved in the 60's, or that so few women are in the fighting game community because they must not like the games, legitimize the average white male as having earned his successes and having no responsibility for the hardships of minorities.
Stanley points out that not all irrational beliefs are problems, nor are all beliefs tied to our identities. An irrational devotion to the Red Sox is not a threat to democracy.
A Marxist framing of this issue argues that a culture's dominant ideology will, by necessity, be the ideology of the ruling class. The beliefs most broadly-accepted are what the ruling class use to justify itself.
This frames ideology as largely about justifying a positive self-image.

We interpret the world in such a way that we are already moral in it, and what we were going to do already is in the best interest of everyone.
Another facet is that an ideological belief is one that allows us to continue with our social practices.
We think of beliefs as the things that determine our behavior. But it's arguable that, the more ideological a belief is, the more likely the behavior determines the belief: we believe whatever justifies the things we're already doing.
This is not to say that giving up social practices is easy! Social practice is core to having community.
Our beliefs are heavily influence by our community, not just from being exposed to the beliefs of our community, but because we tend to rationalize whatever keeps us around the people who matter to us.
e.g. me rationalizing my attendance at PAX despite my objections to Gabe and Tycho as community leaders. There is communal value to PAX that I have to weigh against its moral failings.
There is, of course, also a social pressure to conform to a community. Rationalizing is not always enjoying the community; sometimes it's about avoiding its ire.
Because of this, Stanley doesn't believe in individual curatives to this problem. Leaving your community over ideological disagreements doesn't solve a systemic problem.
What is necessary is to change the social structures that lead to the ideology. As long as the community has broken structures, people will keep falling into flawed ideologies.
A defining feature of ideological belief is a "resistance to rational revision." (Nice alliteration, Jason.)
Stanley quotes a good metaphor from Tamar Gendler. (Because Stanley is incapable of coming up with a metaphor on his own.)
Imagine a walkway over the Grand Canyon made of glass. The glass is very, very thick, maybe even reinforced by steel at the joints. Thousands of people have crossed over it. You know it is safe.
However, in crossing over it yourself, looking down at the enormous fall below you, you will likely hold the irrational fear that you are in mortal peril.
No amount of rational self-talk can make this feeling go away. It's impervious to logic. You are, functionally, holding both the belief that you are safe and the belief that you are in danger at the same time.
Ideology is like that fear of falling. Able to coexist with rational thought without being revised by it.
[many paragraphs of nitpicking over different philosophical definitions of "belief"]
We're back on Aristotle, it seems.

Aristotle pointed out that there are two causes of revolution: People believe themselves to be equal but are treated as lesser, or people believe themselves to be superior but are treated as equal (or lesser).
Aristotle says a revolt is unjust when it attempts to make equals superior or inferiors equal.
Enh, this bit about Aristotle is leading into an example of which ideologies are flawed depending on what assumptions we make, and I don't think it says anything Stanley hasn't already said, so I'm not gonna go into it.
Similarly, there's an extended example of how white slavers might justify the institution of slavery that similarly restates what's already been said, but I will go into it because it's a good, concrete example:
If a white, Southern, plantation-owning family has slaves, they also have a psychological need to justify slavery. They have generational wealth accrued off of slave labor.
Beyond that, they have daily comforts, from the raising of children to the cooking of meals. An amazing amount of labor is done for them at no cost but minimal food and shelter.
It's not enough to tell themselves "we do this because it benefits us." They will be inclined to accept myths that make slavery morally right.
They will believe slaves are lazy, and will not work unless forced.

They will believe slaves are violent, and will be a threat to society if not controlled.

They will believe slaves are primitive, and unable to govern themselves.
Thus, the institution of slavery is not just good for the slave-owner, it's good for society and good for the slave.
Note how "lazy," "unsuitable for authority," and "violent" are STILL stereotypes about Black people and think about where they come from and what they exist to justify.
Slavery, redlining, and police violence do not arise FROM these beliefs, these beliefs are adopted to JUSTIFY slavery, redlining, and police violence.

And once they are believed, they will encourage further violence.
"Without legitimizing myths, hierarchy is merely stratification. With legitimizing myths, hierarchy becomes grounded in superiority and inferiority and formal distinctions become laden with norms."
(You see what I mean about dry writing?)
A good quote from Walter Lippmann.
If Stanley could write that well, I'd have finished this book two months ago.
Alright, here's where I take a break and come back to this chapter at a later date. Gotta get on with my day!

Thanks for joining me, my lovelies.
Crikey, it's been almost two weeks since I put this book down. Let's pick it back up and maybe finish this chapter.
So a lot of this chapter is about the idea of a cherished belief, the kind of belief that is very hard to reconsider because it is in some way core to your identity.

This was central to my Why Are You So Angry videos: people get very emotionally invested in certain worldviews.
Stanley is actually pushing back against this idea.

He says what makes a belief cherished is less that you're *emotionally* invested and more that you're *sociologically* invested.

These belief is foundational to your day to day life and to your community.
See the discussion of white slave-owners upthread: dissenting with the beliefs that Black people are lazy, primitive, and violent would make it impossible to live the lives they were raised in or exist in their communities.
It's not simply a threat to the ego; to change these beliefs is to completely alter one's place in the world.
I don't think this contradicts the emotional investment, merely points out that it's more complicated and that the same phenomenon will exist even when one's investment *isn't* emotional.
Stanley makes a point that, while having *any* belief that you are resistant to questioning is, arguably, problematic, not all cherished beliefs need to be questioned.
If you believe that social tolerance is a good thing, and you are loathe to consider otherwise, well, if that pushes you to believe more true things and fewer untrue things, Stanley's not going to complain.
He's really only interested in the beliefs people latch onto that cause harm, not the latching on itself.
One feature of a flawed ideology is that it divorces you from evidence to the contrary.

A person who believes stereotypes about Black people is unlikely to have much contact with Black people, and therefore won't have those stereotypes challenged by lived experience.
Also, a racist society will make it structurally difficult for a white person to have their beliefs about Black people challenged. Segregation, redlining, etc.
The last smattering of pages have been a lot of babbling about the distinctions between flawed IDEOLOGIES, flawed CONCEPTS, and flawed TERMS, which I don't think add a ton to the conversation.
But now Stanley is talking about how even our PERCEPTIONS - like, raw information brought in through our eyes and ears - can be flawed, colored by unconscious prejudices.
Like, did you know that research shows people will recognize guns faster on Black people than on white people?

Did you know people will more often MISrecognize hand tools as guns on Black people than on white people?
What we expect to see colors what we *do* see.
Stereotypes are unavoidable. The world is too complex to be constantly evaluated in its complexity, so people need shorthands. We need to glean relevant information quickly, which means having a system for determining what is and isn't relevant.
Shorthands and stereotypes are always flawed, to some degree or another. That's unavoidable.

But the purpose is to help you determine the truth of the world efficiently.
What's necessary is being able to reevaluate a shorthand/stereotype/belief system when it is NOT helping you determine the truth.
And ideology is flawed when it A) distances you from the truth, and B) resists reevaluation. It's a problem when it does both.
The rest of the chapter is not terribly useful, I'm afraid.
I finally understand why Stanley is doing so much academic due diligence: he's not simply trying to make a good argument, he is trying to fit his argument into nonpartisan philosophies.
He is specifically trying to make his argument using semantics, pragmatics, analytical epistemology, etc., to argue "equality is good" in purely moral, apolitical terms.
This PARTIALLY explains why he spends so much time laboriously teasing out every single facet of his argument, because he can't let any part of it appear to be the rhetoric of a specific political party.
I'm not letting him off the hook for being tedious, repetitive, and reading like a grad student. But I can forgive a little of it.
That said, I'm not sure any effort to frame his argument - which is, in the end, quite progressive and more than a little Marxist - in apolitical terms is going to make anti-progressives sympathetic to him.
Like, bro, if it makes you feel better, frame your argument in whatever terms you want. Reactionaries are still going to scream "YOU'RE SO BIAS" at you.
With that, the chapter is FINALLY concluded.

There are only two chapters left. Christ, I hope I get through them quickly.

Since I don't wanna wait another two weeks to get back to this book, let us move from the antepenultimate to the penultimate chapter of How Propaganda Works. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
This chapter is about political ideology, and Stanley lays out his method from the get-go:

He is going to argue that inequality is fundamentally antidemocratic.
While he generally dismisses the idea of merit when it comes to wealth and social inequality, he argues that, even if you believe that inequality can be justifiable based on merit, it is still antidemocratic.
There are two types of flawed ideologies he aims to discuss: those held by the people whom inequality BENEFITS, and those whom inequality DISENFRANCHISES.

Social structures will lead both into flawed ideologies.
A basic truism about inequality is that the people who have more will believe they deserve more, and believe the people who have less deserve less.

This is true even when they have more by inheritance or pure chance.
There is apparently a body of research that empirically supports this called self-affirmation theory.

I can't tell if Stanley is mentioning it or if he's going to actually share the data at some point, so I'm logging it here for future reference just in case.
Only got a few pages into this last time because I'd slept badly the night before and was having trouble focusing. Let's try it again!
Equality is a democratic ideal, but it's POLITICAL equality, not MATERIAL equality. It doesn't promise an equal distribution of goods.

Stanley argues, however, that stark material inequality will inevitably lead to political inequality.
That's not just because wealth = political influence in our country, but because the reflex to justify oneself as DESERVING of one's wealth leads people to adopt an antidemocratic ideal, and embrace arguments that justify their superior standing.
If your loyalty to a specific group - be it a sports team or an ethnicity - biases your moral judgment, psychologists call that "motivated reasoning."

That's not a revelatory concept, I'm just noting the term for posterity.
Or, hmm, I think motivated reasoning is just reasoning with a bias.

Reasoning that specifically aims to keep you aligned with a group is "identity protective cognition."
In order for democracy to BE democracy, it requires pluralism.

This kind of groupthink pushes us away from that, and will make us far more susceptible to demagoguery.
OK, so, material inequality and ideological uniformity are both things that lead people with power to embrace antidemocratic ideals.

What leads OPPRESSED people to embraced antidemocratic ideals?
The most antidemocratic ideal oppressed people can adopt is the one that makes them blind to their own oppression, or, at least, makes them unwilling to alleviate their oppression.
One thing that will encourage oppressed people to accept their oppression is relative privilege: if you are, in absolute terms, under-privileged, but you are privileged compared with your immediate surroundings, you may not want things to change.
e.g. f you are poor and live in a poor neighborhood, but you're one of the few white people.

Or you just have more money than your neighbors, even if that's very little money in the grand scheme.
That vast majority of people are privileged on at least ONE axis: you're Black, but you're male; you're gay, but you're cis; you're trans, but you're white.

This means almost everyone has SOME investment in the status quo.
We can ask, "Why would any oppressed person buy into the narrative that their oppression is due to their own inferiority, especially when there's so much evidence that it's not?"

Stanley rejects the idea that we get to decide what we believe.
He refers back to his earlier comments on how schools are often an apparatus of the status quo.

People generally believe what they are raised to believe.
Changing your mind is often a long process, especially about core beliefs. You have some control over it, but the control is indirect.

You don't just snap your fingers and believe something different.
Hoo boy, Stanley is going on and on about stereotype threat and the ways the media becomes an agent of propaganda even when it's not directly controlled by the government and...


...this is not new information.
I don't need you to quote the studies on stereotype threat, Jason, that's Progressivism 101.

I know far too many people haven't taken Progressivism 101 but I have!!!
oh my god he is literally describing the Milgram Experiments now

I can't

I fucking can't
Alright, pausing for the night. Hopefully will finish this chapter in the morning.
Jargon introduced in this chapter:

hermeneutical injustice
interest-relativity of knowledge
epistemic confidence condition
I'm thinking about the ways anti-social justice types insist you provide evidence for literally every claim you make, even blatantly obvious ones. Absolutely every statement MUST be proven from first principles.

How Propaganda Works is the book the Far Right wants us to write.
Anyway, through the haze of jargon, near as I can tell Stanley has been making this argument for 15ish pages:

Oppressed people often have their oppression systematically obscured from them.
The most commonly-held belief will be the one people most readily agree with and the one that is easiest to find evidence for.

For you to change that belief, you will need greater-than-average evidence to convince people, but will have lesser-than-average access to evidence.
So oppressed people will have self-doubt from lack of information AND doubt from others who demand an abundance of information.
Hmm, Stanley is trying to argue that flawed ideology hinders the freedom of both the oppressed and the oppressors.

Basically, if you believe things about the world that are untrue, you don't have full autonomy over your life.
If you believe you have your power because you earned it, and not just because you're a white man, you can't rationally evaluate the world and make properly-informed decisions.
The idea that the privileged are negatively-affected by privilege in some philosophical way that has ill-defined material effects is... not very useful, in my humble opinion.
OK, I have finished that chapter. The hardest slog yet.

There is one chapter and a short conclusion left. Combined they are about half the length of the chapter I just finished.

We're almost done. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
Let's finish this. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
So: in any society with an unjust distribution of goods, the powerful will embrace an ideology that rationalizes their power.

They will believe they have power because of merit.
Because they will have disproportionate control of media and politics, this will become the dominant narrative of the culture, and people with less power will have difficulty challenging this view.
Most people with power cannot allow themselves to believe their power is derived from luck or injustice. If they have more than others, it must be because they deserve it and others don't.
If we look at society as it is, where a tiny percentage of the country has an ENORMOUS percentage of the wealth and power, we have a dilemma: if this is a meritocracy, how can so few people have so much merit?
If the VAST majority of people have so much less merit than a small fraction, why even have a democracy?

If we believe merit is so unequally distributed between humans, who embrace a system that claims everyone's voice should be represented?
Now, this is me extrapolating my own thoughts, but:

This comes down to how an individual person answers this question: Why don't I have more?
Odds are any randomly-selected American is not an Elite.

If they believe America is a meritocracy, the obvious answer would be, "I don't have more because I don't deserve more."
Most people won't believe that. At least as common as believing you earned all you have is believing you deserve more.
The progressive explanation would be, "I don't have more because the Elites took more than they deserve."

The injustice lies with the ones in power.
But the other explanation is, "The Elites don't have too much, the problem is that I'm not an Elite."

The system is fine. The problem is where you've been placed in the system. That's the injustice.
This embraces the antidemocratic idea that, yes, most people are without merit. Huge swaths of society have very little because they deserve very little.

Just not you.
So, then, if you're so great, why aren't you an Elite?

It's not because the Elites have too much, it's because the UNWORTHY have too much.
I think this ties in with the pure hatred a lot of people have for so-called Social Justice Warriors.

The idea that feminism is about giving power to women who don't deserve it, that equal opportunity is about giving jobs to Black people who haven't earned them.
In essence, "I would be an Elite if these Unworthy people didn't take what was mine."
It can't be that you don't deserve more than you have. And it can't be that the Elites took far more than any human could possible earn.

It must be that the SJWs put their hands on the scales.
Stands to reason that this mindset would FUCKING HATE socialism.
Anyway, Stanley hasn't made this argument, I'm just putting two and two together. Maybe he'll say as much in a bit.
There's an age-old idea - which undergirds the practice of slavery going back to Ancient Greece - that all humans possess skill, but many are only suited for practical skills, not theoretical skills.
That some classes are only good for menial labor, and are not intellectuals.
Now, of course, once people from the supposed "menial" class demonstrate the same intellectual capabilities as the intelligentsia, they can No True Scotsman it:

Their art is degenerate, their writing is improper, their argumentation is weak, etc.
Antonio Gramsci argues that no manual labor is truly free of intellectual creativity.

"All men (sic) are intellectuals, one could therefore say, but not all men (sic) have the function of intellectuals."
And Stanley is now providing a bunch of scientific evidence that manual labor requires intellectual thought, something that should be a footnote but is apparently a big chunk of the actual chapter. *sigh*
Anyway, Stanley cites the division between liberal education and practical education - especially the education reforms of the early 20th century - as an example of this ideology.
As mentioned waaaaaaaaay upthread, this follows the managerial ideal of society, where the goal of democracy isn't freedom but efficiency.

The workers should train in practical skills, and intellectual class should be trained for "knowledge work."
And, as argued previously, managerial thinking is not democratic.
The arguments at the time that led to these education reforms, however, praised democracy while subtly implying that the goal of democracy was to guide people into the fields of work where they were most useful to the common good.
By Stanley's definition, that is propaganda at its essence. Putting an antidemocratic ideal into democratic language.
And, because it was instituted as a model for education, it becomes DEEPLY embedded into our society.

This redefinition of efficiency as a democratic ideal is the underlying thesis of our education system.
Obviously education has changed a lot since the 1920's, as there isn't so stark a delineation between universities and trade schools, but the way majors are set up still silos people into different specialties.
People tend not to study language, rhetoric, or political science unless that is their concentration. We divide The Intelligentsia into their own departments.
Core to all of this is the notion that a proper democracy must have one, unified belief system, and that too many perspectives weakens our society.

Lynne Cheney argued as much when she was head of the NEH.
This draws a pretty direct parallel to Stanley's earlier observations about how Nazi Germany's media emphasized cultural unity and rapid action.

That's... alarming.
We are now on to the 3-page conclusion and then this book is FINISHED.
Well, that conclusion added little of substance, so THIS DANG BOOK IS DONE!

I will grab a new book from the library today or tomorrow and hope to high heaven is is better written.
I'm going to have to go back through this MONSTER thread, but I do feel like a lot of useful information was gleaned here. However frustrating a read this was, I don't think it was a waste of time. Stanley's a weak writer, but not a weak thinker.
Anyway, finally closing this thread. #IanLivetweetsHisResearch
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