Be Courageous: You Know More Than You Think

Recently, a friend sent a response to my last posting on the Kyle Rittenhouse affair. My article had argued that the mainstream media (MSM) revealed its laziness, bias, and mendacity by misrepresenting the facts of Rittenhouse’s actions as well as of his trial.

In doing so, it led the public to believe that Rittenhouse lived in an Illinois location far distant from Kenosha Wisconsin, that he had “crossed state lines” with an illegal weapon, that the two persons he killed and the one he wounded were black, and that the decision of his nearly all-white jury was problematic in its blatant racism. None of those implications turned out to be true. My piece ended by urging caution in taking the MSM at its word.

Liberal Caution

My friend’s sympathetic response to all of that was to share a March 9th article from NEUROPSYCH. It was based on a book written by philosophy professor, Michael Patrick Lynch. The article was called “Is Social Media Killing Intellectual Humility?” It specifically cautioned liberals against “overestimating our knowledge of how the world works” based on what our favorite internet sources tell us.

The article’s bullet-pointed “takeaways” noted that:

  • Social media echo chambers have made us overconfident in our knowledge and abilities.
  • Social psychologists have shown that publicly committing to an opinion makes one less willing to change that position. So, readers should be careful about commitment before knowing all the facts.
  • To avoid a descent into epistemic arrogance and tribalism, we need to use social media with deep humility.

But We Know More than We Think

While I can agree with the direction of Dr. Lynch’s recommendations, the caution it urges can be counterproductive and silence protest. In fact, all of us know a lot more than we’re willing to admit. Moreover, Lynch’s observations do not really apply to his big question of “how the world works.” They apply instead to details of particular stories such as the Rittenhouse saga. That distinction is important.

Yes, it’s true that none of us (including our politicians and the MSM) can understand every detail  of every story. However, that fact should not prevent us from adopting a position of skepticism, not about our own abilities to know the truth, but about the MSM and other establishment “thought leaders.”

That skepticism would have us recognize the simple fact that the MSM and our politicians are inveterate liars. After all, they are the keepers of an inherently unjust status quo. They arrogantly want to keep us “humble,” and distrustful of ourselves. They want to keep us from understanding and voicing our conclusions about “how the world works.”

How the World Works

In the spirit of Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” that the world is arranged:

  • To overwhelmingly benefit the rich and powerful
  • Who run a system of white supremacy, imperialism, and war
  • And make the laws to keep that system in place
  • While applying them mercilessly to the poor and powerless
  • Aided by militarized law enforcement agencies that routinely lie, plant evidence, cover up malfeasance, commit perjury, and misinform juries.
  • Meanwhile those in charge avoid applying such laws to themselves and their friends
  • All the while pitting members of the working classes against one another as right-wing vs. left-wing, white against black, former immigrants vs. current ones, and straights against gays
  • But never, rich vs. poor, or employer vs. employees.
  • Increasingly, those in charge criminalize protest and often act as agents provocateurs to discredit those who exercise their First Amendment rights by rebelling against this intolerable situation.

Under such a system, the details of particular “stories” matter less than grasping the big picture that Dr. Lynch claimed to address.

This is particularly true of foreign affairs where defenders of imperialism, regime change, and neocolonial control are ALWAYS WRONG. Yes ALWAYS. That stark conclusion will be inevitably drawn not by the cautious one who needs to grasp every detail of particular imperial interventions. No. It will be understood best by those who grasp the background pattern behind virtually EVERY U.S. foreign intervention since the Second Inter-Capitalist War (1939-’45).

The invariable pattern is this:

  • Whenever any government of a former European or American colony tries to improve the lives of its poor majority
  • The U.S. will accuse it of being socialist, communist, or terrorist.
  • It will support local elite forces defending their own riches and privilege
  • While intervening on behalf of those local rich to fix elections, fund death squads, assassins, and paramilitaries
  • To thwart the programs in question and remove their proponents from positions of influence.

That is what the U.S. does in the world. It’s the pattern behind practically all its wars. The details are unvarying and nearly irrelevant. The pattern leads those concerned with social justice to a simple preliminary conclusion, “If the US. Is against them (e.g., Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, China, Yemen, . . ..) they must be doing something right.

Conclusion

My own bottom line here is that adopting a position of what Dr. Lynch calls “humility” and self-doubt plays directly into the hands of the powers that be. It leads to adopting a typical “liberal” position of supposed neutrality that holds, for instance, that the government, the CIA, the FBI, the Supreme Court can (at least sometimes) be trusted to be similarly neutral. Such trust always ends up siding with the status quo.  

In reality, none of the institutions just mentioned can be trusted. Their minions are not on our side. They are not our friends. It’s their job to lie to us and to misrepresent their real agenda in the world. And, very simply, that agenda is to keep the money and the power where it is.

Instead of humility, the liberals addressed by Dr. Lynch and the NEUROPSYCH article need boldness. That includes COMPLETE SKEPTICISM about anything the Powers that Be tell us – including, of course, the MSM.

Moreover, liberals-turned-radicals need our echo chambers. They encourage us, i.e., they give us courage to take a stand against the patterns endemic to the imperialism, racism, and white supremacy that govern our world. Though everybody knows those patterns subconsciously, they need to be identified and denounced out loud and without ceasing.

Yes, you and I know more than they want us to think.  We already know how the world works.   

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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