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How Can I Figure Out What’s True?

How Can I Figure Out What’s True?

By Dennis Loo (4/17/14)

[T]he battle over truth and over perception—what is true and what needs to be taken into account given its objective reality—are central to any attempts at social change. – Globalization and the Demolition of Society, p. 354

I get a lot of insight into what kind of questions are on people’s minds through my teaching. My students’ questions, especially when they are encouraged to express them, are an excellent guide to what is useful for me to write and speak about. This week a major question that we discussed was how someone can figure out what's true, given all of the competing claims in media and on the web. Not only is this important for individuals but it is even more important for the society since the vast majority of people would not know how to begin to determine the truth. Most people don't even currently know that they are being constantly lied to by their government and that the mass media are concealing and distorting the truth so they don't know that they need to dig deeper. To a) even know that you need to be skeptical and then b) to know how to weigh competing claims requires rigorous training. Many of those who graduate from college and even post-graduate education know A) but how many of them can handle B)?

In my senior seminar, students are learning about how distorted the news media’s coverage is. Only six major corporations now control 90% of what we see, read, and hear. Go back a couple of decades and the number of major media owners was in the scores. Many did not know before learning about this just how concentrated the ownership pattern is and how the profit motive impacts what we are told, how these issues are framed, and what we are not told.

They are also going to be learning much more about how ideological and political matters intersect with the profit motive: how it is not simply the pursuit of more revenue that is in play here but also the preservation of and justification for the capitalist-imperialist system. Making money, in other words, is not the sole goal because if it were, many TV shows and personalities such as Phil Donahue and Keith Olbermann would still be on the air since they drew huge audiences when their shows were cancelled.

Read more: How Can I Figure Out What’s True?

Ex-Marine: I Want to be Proud But I Also Feel Like a Whore

Ex-Marine: I Want to be Proud But I Also Feel Like a Whore

By Anonymous (4/16/14)

Editor's note: This is a paper by an ex-Marine who attended a guest class that I did.

I’d like to begin with some more information about the military. For starters, the differing figures we had about civilian deaths inspired me to research the difference between military reported casualties and government reported casualties. Similar to my revealing the fake helicopter crash incidents, reported to the US public as accidents, but actually shot down by enemy fire, it seems as though the military will also vastly underestimate the number of civilian deaths. My initial figure of 150,000 to 300,000 of Iraqi casualties is still maintained by our military/government as far as violent civilian deaths go. Foreign governments/organizations take into consideration other aspects of war that can cause death, besides direct violent action, and thus their figures are much higher. On average, I found that 500,000 was the widely agreed upon number. However, I did come across the million figure that you cited as well, but I think that number includes all deaths linked to the Iraq War. Exact death tolls are always going to be an issue because of the mayhem of war. Look at WWII, for example, the overall death toll ranges from 60 to 85 million. Military deaths are also much better maintained than civilian deaths, which always far outnumber military deaths (one of the most horrific aspects of war). As horrible as 1 million Iraqi civilian deaths is, 1,000 or even 100 dead would still be too much. I cannot even begin to fathom the idea of 40 to 50 million civilians being killed in WWII. As you said, this is one of the main reasons our veteran suicide rate is so high.

In that regard, I admit that Marines, especially, are known to say things such as “kill bodies” and even “kill babies” more often than we should in order to subconsciously mentally prepare ourselves for that scenario if it ever arises. Some guys do indeed enlist because they have a sick and twisted mindset of wanting to kill people. However, that desire quickly disappears once the opportunity becomes a reality. Most of our troops are smart enough to realize that we aren’t fighting soldiers, we are fighting poor people; poor people who are most likely avenging a family member’s unjust death.

Read more: Ex-Marine: I Want to be Proud But I Also Feel Like a Whore

Princeton and Northwestern Study: The US is An Oligarchy

Princeton and Northwestern Study: The US is An Oligarchy

By Dennis Loo (4/16/14)

As reported today by the UK's Telegraph, a newly released study by Princeton and Nortwestern Universities, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, concludes:

After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period [1981-2002] and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: "The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying oragnisations: "When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organised interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it."

Read more: Princeton and Northwestern Study: The US is An Oligarchy

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12