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April 12, 2006

Comments

Won Joon Choe

Where is this passage from? It captures the essence of the greatest modern propagandist of them all, Niccolo Machiavelli. Or as Jacob Burckhardt once wrote, the future belongs to those who can explain things to the masses in the easiest manner.

Won Joon Choe

I meant to say "in the simplest manner," not "in the easiest manner."

I must've been reminiscing about Korean "room salon" girls in Hong Kong, duh!

Chuckles

The passage sounds like something from Nazi Germany. Hitler or Goebbels. Though I am sure I saw sentiment like this echoed in Mein Kampf.

Ross

It is by Hitler. There is an interesting reflection of the methods and effectiveness of propaganda in Eric Hoffer's 'The True Believer'. A lot of what he says had already been identified by Adolf Hitler, but one point is worth noting, that without some form of coercion propaganda is of very limited effectiveness-

"Were propaganda by itself one tenth as potent as it is made out to be, the totalitarian regimes of Russia, Germany, Italy, and Spain would have been mild affairs. They would have been blatant and brazen but without the ghastly brutality of secret police, concentration camps, and masss extermination."

This is why it seems to me to make more sense ensuring that people are free from forms of intimidation rather than trying desperately to combat the dissemination of propaganda.

Chuckles

Quick google reveals that it is indeed from Mein Kampf.

To lend a hand here, I will add the following lines from the same treatise:

[...The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly...]

Now, has anyone seen this in a popular book recently? This is something like it? Think hard...Bingo! David Horowitz: The Art of Political War; his insights are far reaching and I quote:

[...When you do get to speak, don’t forget that a sound bite is all you have. Whatever you have to say, make sure to say it loud and clear. Keep it simple and keep it short. (A slogan is always better.) Repeat it often. Put it on television. Radio is good, but with a few exceptions, only television reaches a public that is electorally significant. In politics, television is reality...]

[...For starters, you have only 30 seconds to make your point. Even if you had time to develop an argument, the audience you need to reach (the undecided and not-paying-much-attention-middle) wouldn’t get it. Your words would go over some of their heads and be quickly forgotten by the rest amidst the bustle and pressure of daily life. Worse, while you’ve been making your argument the other side has already painted you as a mean-spirited, border-line racist controlled by religious zealots, securely in the pockets of the rich. Nobody who sees you this way is going to listen to you anyway. You’re politically dead...]

Now, the interesting thing is that Horowitz cited Lenin approvingly in his treatise (and Karl Rove ended up citing TAoPW approvingly also) - Does this say anything about the ideological and doctrinal connections between Nazis, Socialists and Ex-Leftists turned Conservatives, the neoCons and other assorted sorts? Yup! Theres an S for Statism and a T for Totalitarianism. Come to think of it, Coulter once bleated that her "libertarian" friends didnt understand the benefits of local fascism.

Won Joon Choe

Ross says:

"This is why it seems to me to make more sense ensuring that people are free from forms of intimidation rather than trying desperately to combat the dissemination of propaganda."

You seem to forget that many heinous regimes came to power less by means of coercion than through legal or electoral means.

Hence, I am afraid that I do not buy the naive John Stuart Mill-esque theory that the masses will automatically or reflexively choose the right option--or at least forbear from choosing the most evil option--if the "marketplace of ideas" were only left undisturbed.

The masses in some countries are, wallowing in superstition and prejudices, are beyond rational thought, In those cases, counter-propaganda and even suppression of certain revolting ideas are sometimes necessary.

Nor does education or even civilization inoculates a people completely. See the example of the Weimar Republic. Hitler came to power largely through electoral means.

Won Joon Choe

I am not even going to try to clarify my last post. God, sometimes I hate being a FoB :(

Chuckles

[...You seem to forget that many heinous regimes came to power less by means of coercion than through legal or electoral means...]

How true is this? Nazi Germany, yes. Maoist China, No. Revolutionary Russia, No. All across Africa, Mostly No. European Empires, No. Imperial Japan (debatable - how exactly do we categorize the Restoration and the actions of the Ishin ShiShi?). Historical evidence supports Ross here: It is infinitely more beneficial that people be free from physical aggression and intimidation; short of the actual existence of Manchuria Candidate like technologies.

[...Hence, I am afraid that I do not buy the naive John Stuart Mill-esque theory that the masses will automatically or reflexively choose the right option--or at least forbear from choosing the most evil option--if the "marketplace of ideas" were only left undisturbed...]

This is a gross misreading of Mill. It is not about choosing the right option in an abstract or universal sense: It is about Individual veto on matters touching the individual alone. The alternative to this is State Paternalism; which, Soft or Hard, carries with it an infinitely greater risk of abuse - and has been shown to fail in scenarios like Prohibition and the Drug wars, where we might agree that choices of abstinence are Universally the right options.

[...The masses in some countries are, wallowing in superstition and prejudices, are beyond rational thought, In those cases, counter-propaganda and even suppression of certain revolting ideas are sometimes necessary...]

This is a craven cop-out to dictatorship and statist social engineering. What people are wallowing in is none of the State's business, in so far as they arent spewing their mud on others through the State: Precisely because the State is a locus of power in what is essentially an assymetrical distribition of force. Counter propaganda is *never* an option and speaking of suppressing ideas is what is revolting. What happened to objective realities?

[...Nor does education or even civilization inoculates a people completely. See the example of the Weimar Republic. Hitler came to power largely through electoral means...]

This is what happens when people build social theories on the Nazis alone: Argumentum ad Hitlerum ad nauseum ad infinitum as social policy. It really is a very narrow view. Hitler succeeded, not because Nazi ideas werent suppressed or punished - but because craven moral cowards failed in their duty to punish the Nazis when they had the chance: And because of the continent wide complicity with Hitler; and the far reaching embrace of his basic ideas. Quite frankly, very few cared for suppressing Nazi ideas. They were quite popular for their time.


Chuckles

[...I am not even going to try to clarify my last post. God, sometimes I hate being a FoB...]

In which case I should probably retract my last post.

Ross

"You seem to forget that many heinous regimes came to power less by means of coercion than through legal or electoral means."

Yes but before the nazi's even came to power they already had the Brownshirts for the purposes of coercion, so I don't believe it contradicts the idea that propaganda does not work without coercion. Had the Weimar republic been willing and able to suppress the use of thugs attached to the Nazi (and communist) parties would their appeal have been nearly as strong?

Won Joon Choe

Ross, two points.

First, if the Nazis did not gain power in Weimar Germany, the communists would like have. In other words, postwar Germany was ripe for the ascension of an illiberal ideology, regardless of whether it used violent methods or not.

Second, your example of Nazi violence prior to coming to power to a certain extent proves my point, as well as yours. The Weimar fell precisely because it refused to use violence against an illiberal ideology. In Leo Strauss' words, the Weimar was a regime unable or or willing to use the sword. Doesn't that point to the need to forcefully suppress certain ideologies as well, rather than letting every ideology bloom?

Chuckles

[...The Weimar fell precisely because it refused to use violence against an illiberal ideology...]

Doesnt this elide the difference between ideas and their practitioners? It is one thing to try and suppress ideas - another entirely to punish, and quite rightly too - aggression and intimidation such as that of the National Socialists. The point is that aggression or pending aggression is always recognizeable and one doesnt have to have the explicit aim of suppressing a particular idea. Punishing aggression and intent to aggression is quite enough.

Ross

{ Doesn't that point to the need to forcefully suppress certain ideologies as well, rather than letting every ideology bloom?}

If the practices of the Nazis, particularly the use of a private army for political intimidation, had been suppressed forcefully wouldn't that have worked just as well? Even if the party had won an election after that it would be a considerably different force to the party that actually existed, as it would have had to rely on persuasion without intimidation and without the unifying effect of mass violence the members of the party would be less prone to being blindly led by their fuhrer.

Ross

I hadn't seen Chuckles's post before I submitted mine, which duplicates his point to some extent.

Won Joon Choe

Dear Chuckles,

["In which case I should probably retract my last post."]

No, you need not be so kind, given that I have been rather caustic in my criticism of some of the things you've posted in the past. Fairness requires that I be subject to the same merciless treatment if I slip up. Besides, while I am not a native English speaker, I can write well enough to be published in major English publications (albeit after much editing). My self-deprecating comments about my English is meant for my poor grammar, which is exacerbated by a mild case of dyslexia, rather than an utter incapacity to express my thought. Finally, if I do find common ground with Mill, it is in his belief that one sharpens one's argument through a dialogue or confrontation with the opposite perspective. Of course, I say this with a proviso that I also agree with what one well-known political theorist told me regarding why he doesn't like to argue on the Internet: I do not know the "quality" of the intellect I am dealing with on the other side, and hence I do not know if I am wasting time or not.

Be that as it may, I do concede that I was indeed at least guilty of rhetorical imprecision and even rhetorical excess here. So let me address some of your points and in so doing clarify myself:

1. ["How true is this? Nazi Germany, yes. Maoist China, No. Revolutionary Russia, No. All across Africa, Mostly No. European Empires, No."]

I do indeed plead guilty of rhetorical sloppiness when I said "many heinous regimes came to power... through legal or electoral means." You are correct that perhaps only Nazi Germany belongs in the extremely narrow category I had constructed to my detriment. I was careless, as people are wont to do in online debates.

Still, you protest overzealously. Read in the context of this debate, and in particular in the context of my argument, the nerve of my point was simply that the electoral public or the voting masses does not always make the right choice or even avoid the most evil or repressive choice. (There are many reasons for this. To cite some: In some societies, the majority of the voters are illiterate and bluntly do not have the capacity to make rational decisions. In some societies, it may lack the necessary channels of information to make an informed decision.) Bluntly put, not every electorate is as "enlightened" as the American or West European electorate.

Now, given these constraints posed by reality, it is sometimes too sanguine, and even utopian, to believe that ensuring an atmosphere of free inquiry and debate alone will avoid atrocities, though this may be an unfair characterization of Ross' position. Would you disagree with this reformulated position?

Now, I have admitted that I was sloppy when I used the phrase "through legal or electoral means." What I should've said was something in the order of "through the support of the people or the majority."

Again, given this reformulated position, would you still protest so vigorously? For instance, I think I can pull Maoist China toward my orbit. Yes, the Maoists won power through a revolution, but they had the greater support of the masses than the Nationalists. And you conveniently ignore the Islamic Jihadist regimes like Ayatollah's Iran. In fact, the phenomenon of "democratic" or "popular" (in the Latin root sense) regimes that are nonetheless oppressive is so pervasive that Fareed Zakaria has coined a term for it: Illiberal democracy.

2. ["This is a gross misreading of Mill."]

Being a trained political theorist with two substantial scholarly articles forthcoming in academic journals, and who has a tendency to ridicule public intellectuals who "grossly misread" political philosophers (the latest example is David Brooks's infamous misreading of Plato's Politeia, regarding which I sent a letter to the Times, and which may have contributed to Brooks offering a retraction], I find it an irony of the highest order that I am accused of also "gross[ly]" misreading Mill.

Could you kindly be more specific? Yes, Mill was indeed concerned primarily with state restraints on self-regarding behavior in On Liberty, but do you deny that he is properly the originator of the "marketplace of ideas" argument (though it is indeed not his phrase) dominant in the discourse regarding free speech?

3. ["Counter propaganda is *never* an option and speaking of suppressing ideas is what is revolting."]

Now this is a broad and seemingly immoderate claim. I instinctively reach for my revolver when people speak in the language of absolutes regarding politics, esp. by evoking the language reminiscent of the Kantian categorial imperative.

I won't ask for a further elaboration here, however, because your next paragraph also touches it, and we can more comprehensively deal with it there.

4. "Hitler succeeded, not because Nazi ideas werent suppressed or punished - but because craven moral cowards failed in their duty to punish the Nazis when they had the chance."

I take it that your position is that bad actions, not bad ideas, should be punished. It sounds something out of that detestable and yet outsized figure that bestride American law: Oliver Wendell Holmes.

But let me push you a bit, because I think we are now at the crux of our debate. Please answer the following two questions honestly.

First, do you deny, as I adumbrated in an earlier response to Ross, that either the communists or the Nazis in Weimar Germany would've won electoral power even if they had not resorted to street violence? Or relatedly, do you "never" foresee a circumstance where violent ideologues can come power through a purely electoral means without violence?

Second, if you concede that it is possible, what justification do you have for claiming that the government should never employ counter-propaganda or suppress violent ideologies other than a feel-good moralism? I think what I posted on Marmot's Blog yesterday in a similar debate is also quite relevant here. To quote Mencius: “He who opens his mouth lightly [and moralize] does so simply because he has no responsibilities of office.” Or to correct Mencius in this context: He who He who opens his mouth lightly [and moralize] does so simply because he is unfamiliar with other horizons beyond his own.

Won Joon Choe

Chuckles,

I address the distinction between evil ideas and evil actions in my lengthy response to you.

Ross,

I guess we will have agree to disagree regarding the situation in Weimar Germany, because counterfactuals cannot be proven with sufficient certainty for the contending parties.

I believe the Nazis or the communists would've come to power without using street violence because of the Zeitgest of the times; you obviously do not and Chuckles may not as well.

Abiola

I'll have to weigh in on Won Joon's side of the aisle on this one - I simply don't buy into the idea that "the masses" will necessarily always opt for the right or moral policy choice. Let us not forget that Ahmadinejad was democratically elected (and he is genuinely popular with ordinary Iranians), as were the likes of Juan Peron, Hugo Chavez, Kwame Nkrumah, Robert Mugabe, etc., and most recently *Hamas*. Even the notion that Hitler only won through violence strikes me as false, although it's a convenient claim to make. Everything I've read on the period leads me to the conclusion that Hitler's popularity stemmed from the genuine affection and admiration he stirred in the hearts of a plurality (and later on, a firm majority) of Germans rather than by intimidation. Indeed, the point of the SA in the years before 1933 was to show non-leftist Germans that there was at least one "patriotic" force willing to stand up to Communist thuggery.

Electorates everywhere are given to all sorts of foolishness, which is precisely why their whims are so carefully hemmed in through elected representatives, separation of powers and constitutions which require supermajorities to amend. There can be no arguing that some electorates are clearly more wayward and ill-informed than others - ergo Chavez, Ahmadinejad, Hamas and co. - and even with supposedly more mature voters like the citizens of America and the UK, it's more an accident of the First-Past-the-Post electoral system than due to the superior virtue and reason of the voters that extremist lunatics find it so hard to get their own people onto the front stage. It isn't that democracy is a brilliant way to choose leaders, but rather that no one knows a better way to do so in a peaceful and regular manner.

None of the above is to say that I am for the suppression of ideas, however. I'm just not ready to buy into the comforting but false belief that we live in the best of all possible worlds, politically speaking. Demagoguery and propaganda work, and sometimes I think it *does* take counter-propaganda to cancel their effect. Joe Average isn't interested in lengthy and subtle treatises packed with statistics, footnotes and recondite references to philosophers: s/he wants a leader who "looks" like a a leader and who is willing to promise that something can be had for nothing and 2 and 2 can indeed make 5. Academic-style waffling with hedges, subclauses, maybes and on-the-other-hands is certain political death in the age of 3 minute Presidential debates.

Chuckles

Won Joon:

[...given that I have been rather caustic in my criticism of some of the things you've posted in the past...]

Memory eludes me here: I cant recollect any such caustic affronts. To be precise; your attempted invention of a self proclamation for me wasnt caustic, and to some extent you were right about the HWS affair, though not entirely (he still has some support, and the affair is still playing out); again, I see nothing caustic in all this. I can only interpret this to mean that you *intended* to be caustic - to which I would say, you need more practice.

[...Fairness requires that I be subject to the same merciless treatment if I slip up...]

I dont see this. Debate is debate, discourse is discourse. I have absolutely no problem with classifying the views of an angel as stupid and sipping a pint with him afterwards. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

[...My self-deprecating comments about my English is meant for my poor grammar, which is exacerbated by a mild case of dyslexia, rather than an utter incapacity to express my thought...]

Correct me if I am wrong here; you seem to think I latched on to your supposedly self deprecating comments about your English? Well I didnt. My retraction was made in light of the fact that you perhaps proceeded hastily - i.e. that your views needed to be properly clarified.

[...I do not know the "quality" of the intellect I am dealing with on the other side, and hence I do not know if I am wasting time or not...]

A common problem to be sure. But I dont worry about it myself. Even in flesh and blood debates; "quality of intellect" is a notoriously ephemeral concept; and one could, say, ascribe Chomsky with a high quality of Intellect in a physical forum, and yet refrain from debate on some issues because it would in fact be a waste of time. I tend to prefer dealing with words myself, not brains per se. It kinda makes me nitpicky.

[...Now, given these constraints posed by reality, it is sometimes too sanguine, and even utopian, to believe that ensuring an atmosphere of free inquiry and debate alone will avoid atrocities, though this may be an unfair characterization of Ross' position. Would you disagree with this reformulated position?...]

I agree with the proviso regarding avoidance: i.e. the hoi polloi do not always make universally right choices. But I think this unfairly characterizes Ross' position (and Ross can correct me here if I am wrong). As I read Ross, his (hopefully, Ross is a he), position is that while certain ideas do lead to atrocities, and while a marketplace of ideas might produce vile results; a policy which permits the suppression of *any* ideas is equally dangerous - because of the likelihood to abuse; and since the vile products of vile ideas can be contained with action-evaluative policies, why take the risk of instituting a thought police and expanding State power into very private realms?

[...For instance, I think I can pull Maoist China toward my orbit...Illiberal democracy...]

Fine. So you are referring to sheer populism and not narrowly defined "legal and electoral means" - On that we can agree.

[...Being a trained political theorist..Could you kindly be more specific? Yes, Mill was indeed concerned primarily with state restraints on self-regarding behavior in On Liberty, but do you deny that he is properly the originator of the "marketplace of ideas" argument (though it is indeed not his phrase) dominant in the discourse regarding free speech?...]

Okay - Let me nitpick here. I will not concede that Mill originated our popular notions regarding a "marketplace of ideas" (and not just the phrase, which you have acknowledged) - which more or less has come to mean that the mere exchange of ideas is a good, an institution in itself. Hence, all the calls for "diversity in Academia" a la Horowitz and the "Teach the Controversy" tactic of the Intelligent Designers. I will not concede this. I choose to argue instead, that Mill advanced a doctrine of liberal speech at the service of defined inquiries / investigations. Mill certainly did not advocate that the mere exchange of opinions was a good in itself, as in a marketplace. Furthermore, contrary to the marketplace theory of Free speech, Mill certainly did not believe that the value of opinions or truth being expressed or under investigation is determined by the subjective value ascribed by consumers. Mill's position was Liberal Speech serves Liberal Pursuits, and we all want Liberal Pursuits, right? So let us allow liberal speech even though it can be dangerous. To nitpick further - this notion did not originate with Mill either, not even in the West and certainly not in various other traditions. But more to the point, you asserted the following:

[...the naive John Stuart Mill-esque theory that the masses will automatically or reflexively choose the right option--or at least forbear from choosing the most evil option--if the "marketplace of ideas" were only left undisturbed...]

Now, the -esque stem might mean that you are referring to a neoMillian position. If this is the case, I retract some of the criticism. But if in fact you are referring to Mill here, you are simply wrong. Mill did not believe that the public would reflexively choose right, or forbear evil.
Here for instance, is Mill, on the role of Public Morality upon Freedom of Expression and Opinion:

[...[Mill]...It is, however, obvious that law and authority have no business with restraining either, while opinion ought, in every instance, to determine its verdict by the circumstances of the individual case; condemning every one, on whichever side of the argument he places himself, in whose mode of advocacy either want of candor, or malignity, bigotry or intolerance of feeling manifest themselves, but not inferring these vices from the side which a person takes, though it be the contrary side of the question to our own; and giving merited honor to every one, whatever opinion he may hold, who has calmness to see and honesty to state what his opponents and their opinions really are, exaggerating nothing to their discredit, keeping nothing back which tells, or can be supposed to tell, in their favor. This is the real morality of public discussion; and if often violated, I am happy to think that there are many controversialists who to a great extent observe it, and a still greater number who conscientiously strive towards it...[Mill]...]

In other words, the public moderates the manner of discussion, restricting temperaments and invective that might cloud debate, but doesnt itself decide on truth or objectivity. The marketplace so often ascribed to Mill (falsely), even if we conceded it, is a *moderator* of manners.

Furthemore, Mill espoused a doctrine of elimination:

[...[Mill]...As mankind improve, the number of doctrines which are no longer disputed or doubted will be constantly on the increase: and the well-being of mankind may almost be measured by the number and gravity of the truths which have reached the point of being uncontested. The cessation, on one question after another, of serious controversy, is one of the necessary incidents of the consolidation of opinion; a consolidation as salutary in the case of true opinions, as it is dangerous and noxious when the opinions are erroneous. But though this gradual narrowing of the bounds of diversity of opinion is necessary in both senses of the term, being at once inevitable and indispensable, we are not therefore obliged to conclude that all its consequences must be beneficial...[Mill]...]

This has nothing to do with a marketplace determining right from wrong and everything do with human experience - an empirical aspect of his thought - falsifying certain propositions in an incremental manner through time.

Long story short: I still think you are misreading Mill. The notion of a marketplace of ideas; much less its economically analogous production of truth as a good via a process of opinionative supply/demand/price equilibrum does not originate with Mill.

[...Now this is a broad and seemingly immoderate claim...]

I dont see why; certainly not "propaganda" in the modern, post WW2 sense. In its original sense, i.e. propaganda as dissemination and advertisement, sure. But propaganda in our modern sense, is subversive of human liberty. This is why even State backed counter-propaganda should be disallowed. This is a moral position. I am not a "realist" and I dont think ends justify means.

[...do you deny, as I adumbrated in an earlier response to Ross, that either the communists or the Nazis in Weimar Germany would've won electoral power even if they had not resorted to street violence? Or relatedly, do you "never" foresee a circumstance where violent ideologues can come power through a purely electoral means without violence...]

Err - this is ahistorical. If they could have won, why the resort to violence? Just for the fun of it? And saying "violent ideologues" coming to power "without violence" is contradictory. If they show no violence; how then do you know that they are "violent ideologues"? To answer your question though, I doubt it, for simple reasons. 1.) You are overlooking the SPD which was positioned against the Communists and the Nazis 2.) Hitler didnt get the Chancellorship in 1932 even with the largest party; he was not appointed by Hindenburg 3.) Further elections revealed a *loss* in the Nazi voter base 4.) The Nazis were actually *losing* popular support as Hitler headed into his Chancellorship.
Relatedly, Of course I can foresee this; meaning, I can foresee a situation where creeps like Ahmadinejad who isnt genocidal yet ascend to power via electoral means. Hell, I can post-see such events. But this has little to do with the suppression of ideas and ideologies.

[...what justification do you have for claiming that the government should never employ counter-propaganda or suppress violent ideologies other than a feel-good moralism...]

On counter-propaganda: Because this leads to an active suppression of objective information provided by non State sources which might alter the course of potentially disastrous State actions? My position is an empirical one: What "counter propaganda" effort have we witnessed in recent times that has not embraced this, even in the West? Is it the racist depicition of the Japanese, lies about Vietnam and the suppression of academics and artists and McCarthyism? Is it the false information provided about Iraq? Look - An objective presentation of information beats propaganda any day, any time. Why are States exempt from standards of objectivity? There is nothing feel good about it. Stating simply and clearly that Imperial Japan was a threat that needed to be dealt with could have been undertaken without the propaganda effort which involved manipulating public emotions via Racism. That Japan was a threat is empirical. That the Japanese were monkeys is not. That commies were in Vietnam is empirical. That they attacked a certain ship is not. States should not be exempt from these standards.
Furthemore, the suppression of violent ideologies makes no sense, outside a context of actual physical aggression or intent thereof. The State has no justification for persecuting people simply because they *believe* something - outside a context of aggression and intent. This is not feel good moralism. It is simply a denial of special status to States to act and do as they will. Just as such status was denied the Church, it should now be denied the State.
Again, you fail to see, that when counter propaganda backfires, it corrupts public discourse, sows seeds of Government illegitimacy, alienates society from State and begins a countdown towards State failure, unless correctives are issued. There is also a Chicken Little scenario here: Saddam Hussein could not have caused a mushroom cloud in the USA - yet, Condi Rice and others played this up in their famous "smoking gun" rebuttal. This is clearly unacceptable. Stating that Saddam was threat that needed to be removed, based on empirics of the matter, *is* enough. The question I have for you is: Name one counter propaganda effort that was a decisive factor in influencing punitive actions against aggressive and malevolent regimes.

[...He who He who opens his mouth lightly [and moralize] does so simply because he is unfamiliar with other horizons beyond his own...]

Aww, piffle. A paternalist from the Confucianist school summarizes your thought? Besides, you paraphrase Mencius wrongly: Since he made that statement in order to emphasize a restriction of agency, all in conformity with Confucianist teachings of propiety. You on the other hand, read it to mean a positive statement in favor of boundless over-reaching to "horizons" beyond "ones own". This is patently ludicrous.
So not only are you misreading Mill, you are also misreading Mencius!

I see nothing in your response that really makes a case for State sponsored counter propaganda or ideological suppression. That said, perhaps you might want to clarify what you mean by those terms by referring to concrete scenarios.

Chuckles

Abiola:

I certainly dont deny that propaganda and counter propaganda work. Stating the facts of the case seemed to work well in Gulf War 1 without resorting to blatantly misleading information from State agencies. And the War effort in Iraq is now *hampered* by counter propaganda. Where are the WMDs they ask! Where is the connection between Saddam and 9/11 they ask! We were going to be greeted as liberators they say! Iraqi Oil was supposed to be up and running by now they moan! All these things are working against the Iraqi effort - and we would not have had this problem is Condi, Bush, Powell, Rummy and Cheney hadnt been shooting their mouths off and if the Evangelicals hadnt lied about Saddam being a new Nebuchadnezzar intent on rebuilding Babylon in preparation for the last days etc etc etc. Lies lead to more lies. Misleading information yields more of the same. Really, I see no evidence from history to convince me of the worth of counter-prop. Much like torture, it should be dumped in the ash heap of State tactics.

Ross

"Let us not forget that Ahmadinejad was democratically elected (and he is genuinely popular with ordinary Iranians), as were the likes of Juan Peron, Hugo Chavez, Kwame Nkrumah, Robert Mugabe, etc., and most recently *Hamas*."

That the support for populist demagogues is genuine and heartfelt does not negate the idea that coercion is still critical to maintaining that support. If it were unnecessary why would all of the regimes mentioned above be so fastidious in suppressing things like a free press, why do most of them have some form of internal espionage network, why not simply pump out more propaganda and save themselves the hassle of all that? I quoted Eric Hoffer earlier in the thread and I shall do so again as it is a point he addresses-

{Both they who convert and they who are converted by coercion need the fervent conviction that the faith they impose or are forced to adopt is the only true one. Without this conviction, the proselytizing terrorist, if he is not vicious to begin with, is likely to feel a criminal, and the coerced convert to see himself as a coward who prostituted his soul to live.)

The explanation is speculative but what isn't speculative is that all of them have thrived in situations where they were able to demonstrate a willingness to obtain what they wish through force and a contempt for any sort of opposition, before they became popular.

Abiola

"Stating the facts of the case seemed to work well in Gulf War 1 without resorting to blatantly misleading information from State agencies"

Nowhere have I said anything about getting the state to engage in such efforts. I am talking about political parties jostling for votes, and what they have to do to get them. What I am saying is that being the "Party of Sweet Reason and Calm Reflection" when the rabble rousers are busy promising the masses eternal bread and circuses just as soon as the capitalist bloodsuckers and race enemies have been slaughtered is a sure route to electoral oblivion, and that sometimes it better serves the purpose of liberty to get down in the muck with everyone else and do one's own bit of simplifying rather than preserve one's oh-so-sophisticated message while languishing in electoral obscurity.

"That the support for populist demagogues is genuine and heartfelt does not negate the idea that coercion is still critical to maintaining that support."

But I'm not talking about what happens *after* the masses get leaders no better than they asked for, I'm talking about what happens *before* that. There just is no disputing that many, many peoples are so lacking in any great devotion to liberty that they would happily vote for their own enslavement if promised "bread" or "law and order" - just look at today's Russia, for example, or any number of Middle Eastern countries in which the voters would happily elect "One man, One vote, One time" Islamists if ever given the choice. Even looking at less extreme situations, consider France, which despite its economic stagnation has now catapulted Socialist ostrich Segolene Royale into the leading position in the polls for the next President of the Republic: does it suggest the ineluctable Wisdom of the Masses to you for French voters to prefer a promoter of the very same failed policies which have landed France in trouble in the first place?

"hat isn't speculative is that all of them have thrived in situations where they were able to demonstrate a willingness to obtain what they wish through force and a contempt for any sort of opposition, before they became popular"

In your very own words here lies the evidence for what I've been arguing: a wise electorate does not vote for a party with a proven record of thuggery and intimidation, but that is just what many electorates have done and will keep on doing as long as elections are held.

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Notes for Readers