From the Information Age to the Manipulation Age in Three Easy Steps

The information age was supposed to be the great liberator, making the concept of workplace and even nationality moot. Of course it didn’t turn out that way.

The main proponents of this ideology seem to have been Americans, a people who are ironically also very national in nature. People such as Richard Florida have made a living out of looking at the trends that grew out of the information age, notably the mobility of a certain kind of person.

Image from Pixabay.

Florida, in particular had ideas. Known as the creative class, Florida saw a generation raised on freedom of information, thought and creativity. This non-homogenous group crosses political spectrums, although tolerance for differences is a key element of the class definition. They should be guided by a “higher” calling, a belief that transcends the body politic, a sense of empowerment and guardianship of truth, equality and creativity. He saw people congregating where these ideals were best preserved. He didn’t foresee Karl Rove.

The naiveté of the creative class, or at least those epitomized by Florida, is encapsulated by the belief that information is without bias. Rove (and I am using him here to represent his whole clan: Wolfowitz, Frum, Cheney, Feith, Perle, Clarke in his heyday and others, many of whom I wouldn’t recognize the name of I’m sure) had what amounted to a brilliant insight. Control the flow of information and you control the perception of reality.

The Rove Agenda seems to have a three-part strategy, although the final goal is either still obscure (some kind of political hegemony) or blatantly obvious (lots of money from oil).

Hand pick and promote your own “facts.” This is where Stephen Colbert gets to the idea of “truthiness.” If it sounds like a fact, it must be a fact, therefore it is a fact. More than any other time, what is fact and what is common knowledge are at odds with each other, especially inside America. That’s what the firing of district attorneys has been about, that’s what the
To read an interesting deconstruction of this methodology, read Freakonomics, a book that is not in any way about politics. It is about the hidden connections between apparently unrelated elements, and works well as a guiding methodology for looking at any activity.

Deny awkward facts. Iraq has never successfully produced weapons of mass destruction. Yes, they had them in 1989 – they bought them from the U.S. (Donald Rumsfeld led the negotiations, and there is an embarrassing picture of him shaking Saddam’s hand.). Iraq has never successfully produced weapons of mass destruction. Yet a majority of Republicans in America think that they have. Facts have been denied and replaced with a comfortable truthiness. The average temperature of the oceans is going up. This might be because of human causes or it might be a cyclical planetary thing, but the facts are there. The ice caps are shrinking. Yet the U.S. government not only denies this, they try to suppress evidence. Which leads us to the third part …

Discredit the factfinders. Many of the people who hold key positions in the Bush administration are very young and inexperienced. But that’s OK, because they all graduated from Pat Robertson’s Christian university and law school. I’m not saying that people of faith automatically fear facts or science, but Robertson’s brand of faith is based on apocalyptical visions of a world that has to go to hell so that his kind can go to Heaven. The sooner the better. Top NASA and NOAA scientists are having their research edited by evangelicals to make it conform with religious teachings instead of the facts.

Further Reading

Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class is on my list of want-to-reads. He also has a website about exploring this group’s impact here.

Hand pick and promote your own “facts.”
Four years after admitting there was no Al Qaeda-Iraq link, Bush now says there was, but with no new evidence. Condi Rice claims that UN inspectors agreed with US intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, even though they clearly didn’t. According to Bush’s stats, “Violence” is down in Iraq, but only if you don’t count car bombs. Bush: Army commanders came up with “surge” idea. Army commanders: No we didn’t. We don’t like it. White House uses former Exxon employee to edit global warming research, downplays links between oil and global warming. Let’s not forget the “Downing Street Memo” “ Top down pressure” on climate scientists to change their findings about global warming.

Deny awkward facts.
Rumsfeld shaking Saddam’s hand on the trip where the US sold WMDs to Iraq. Bush interprets public opinion differently – don’t like the war? Me too! Let’s stay and fight it! Gonzales denies (too much of everything really) having Republican-friendly lawyers appointed, documents show otherwise. Bush admin reduces the number of satellites used for monitoring global warming.

Discredit (or kill) the factfinders.
White House attacks Democrats for talking to Syrians (thus supporting terrorism) at the same time that Republicans were talking to Syrians. NASA’s politically appointed leader doesn’t think we should worry about global warming, even if his scientists do Journalist killed for reporting anti-American facts in Iraq. British journalist killed by US troops. American sniper kills Reuters reporter. US intentionally bombed Al Jazeera (Arabic CNN-equivlanet) TV station.