Talking about Propaganda

A great piece on how New Yorker publishes completely ridiculous, false claims and the public eats them up without any questioning.

What’s funny about this kind of thing is that people believe their own lies to the point where they spout clearly ridiculous things without even pausing to think. It’s clearly impossible that “two-thirds of Americans between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four who were treated in emergency rooms suffered from injuries inflicted by police and security guards” (the real number is about 0,2%). No rational person can believe this statement. Yet it gets proudly repeated even by esteemed scholars because it confirms the propaganda they themselves created and then learned to believe.

16 thoughts on “Talking about Propaganda”

  1. Skimmed through this painful article full of tendentious nonsense. Any essay that is subtitled “Why did American policing get so big, so fast? The answer, mainly, is slavery.” is inevitably going to be a crock of s… from its very first sentence.

    Perhaps a drug-fueled, Hunter S. Thompson-like. drug fugue could have produced the two-thirds statistical knee-slapper that you reference. But what can explain the fact that this blooper stands uncorrected after a full week of being posted – if not depraved malice?

    It’s a silly cartoon history festival with slavery and colonialism given staring roles. It begins with a faulty premise “The American Revolution toppled the power of the king over his people” (fact check, the Glorious Revolution of 1689 had already stripped British monarchs of any absolutist pretensions) and ends by preposterously comparing Trump to the supposedly absolute monarch who caused the American Revolution. “Trump is not the king; the law is king,” it solemnly pronounces. How very, very precious.


    1. This person is very educated. I’m thinking, it’s really impossible to get all this education and honestly never to have heard of the history of policing, of how it’s linked to the birth of the nation-state, that it’s really not uniquely American in any way. So it must be a conscious lie. Just like the numbers are patently insane. You simply can’t avoid thinking, wait, what? The author is either intellectually deficient or a liar. So yes, it’s got to be conscious malice.


      1. “I’m thinking, it’s really impossible to get all this education and honestly never to have heard of the history of policing, of how it’s linked to the birth of the nation-state”

        At one seminar, I studied the issue of mass incarceration of African Americans, read parts of a book written by an African American whose brother was imprisoned after participating in a robbery which ended in a murder, watched a movie about a policeman murdering an innocent African American … without hearing the word “nation-state” even once in this context as far as I can remember.

        I definitely haven’t heard how policing is linked to the nation-state.

        Only you talk about the nation-state in this fashion. You and Bobbitt’s great epos of a book.


        1. I learned it as part of my undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree. The professors were very lefty, obviously, but intelligent and well-read. This is the basics. Foucault, Anderson Anthony Smith. I can even imagine the face of my professor who first introduced me to this if I announced that policing is a uniquely US phenomenon. He’d have eviscerated me in class and rightfully so.

          When strong nation-states started to form, they brought with them the annihilation of slavery because in this form of governance, the state has an absolute monopoly on violence.


          1. // Foucault, Anderson Anthony Smith.

            Did you mean Benedict Anderson of “Imagined Communities”? Because Anthony Smith is some kind of a fighter in Google.


          2. “[sovereign states] brought with them the annihilation of slavery because in this form of governance, the state has an absolute monopoly on violence.”

            What an interesting suggestion – hadn’t heard that one before. I’m pretty sure I don’t buy it as the whole point of the development of post-Enlightenment liberalism is to limit the power of the sovereign. America is from its creation a very liberal project and yet slaves were legally held up to its Civil War.

            Marx’s view is that slavery is a form of primitive accumulation and was therefore incompatible with the developing capitalist mode of production. It was one of those “fetters” that he loved to talk about.

            I would follow along the lines of Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual where he argues that Christian views on the oneness of humankind were largely incompatible with the slavery commonly experienced in Rome, and everywhere throughout the world, and these views gradually led to its moderation and eventual abolition over many centuries. Certainly, in the case of Great Britain, protestant anti-slavery Dissenters were able to leverage their hold on the balance of power in the Commons to force a staggeringly expensive international abolition campaign, based on naval power, from 1808 to 1867.


            1. The nation-state developed to accommodate capitalism in its industrial stage. And is weakened by the end of that stage. So there’s no contradiction.

              Comprehensive free secondary schooling is also part of the nation-state project and it’s dying, as well.

              All of these attempts we are seeing to destroy the foundational myths of the nation-state – the toppling of statues, the rubbishing of the Founding Fathers – it’s all part of the weakening of the nation-state. The really funny part is that the idiot Marxist antifas are doing the work of the neoliberal global capitalism thinking they are being somehow anti-capitalist. Stupid, useless ignoramuses that they are.


              1. “The nation-state developed to accommodate capitalism in its industrial stage. And is weakened by the end of that stage. ”

                You do realize that this seems to be a very economic determinist position? It’s base determining superstructure.

                “At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production… From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.”

                Don’t get me wrong – Marx had a lot of useful insights but he’s not the only show in town.


              2. The rise and fall of the nation-state has also been interpreted as stemming from the changing nature of warfare. Philip Bobbitt wrote a great book on that.

                I’m not very interested in warfare but his analysis is brilliant.


              3. “stemming from the changing nature of warfare…”

                This is conventional wisdom within the academic study of international relations. Both its major schools, realism and constructivism, bathe deeply in these waters. Personally, I think there’s a lot to be learned about the present era by studying the history of international conflict (and a lot to be gained by avoiding it wherever possible.)


              4. Absolutely. It’s not my field. I’m definitely a neo-Marxist, as I’m sure you noticed, but I’m not fanatical and don’t exclude other directions of analysis.


              5. “I’m definitely a neo-Marxist, as I’m sure you noticed…”

                No, I did not. Interesting, given your family background.

                I’m more of a Groucho Marxist, as in “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

                I have studied and respect Marx as an intellectual. His approach is often brilliant in its simplicity. But big ideas (like Christianity or liberalism) can also play a determining role in human history while, at best, Marxists treat big ideas and ideologies as a dependent variable because they hold that the relationship between society’s base and superstructure is structured by the relations of production.


              6. Oh, I think Marx himself is a total idiot. But there are some really cool people who reworked whatever little he said of any use and created some great stuff based on it. Zygmunt Bauman is my favorite example.


              7. “Oh, I think Marx himself is a total idiot.”

                How interesting! I think that Marx was a true genius and everyone who followed him from Lenin/Trotsky to the social democrats to the New Left neo-Marxists were proven to be pretty much dangerous power-addicted junkies who delighted in beating each other over the head with ever expanding in-crowd vocabulary. On the other hand, I took a half year course analyzing Das Kapital in grad school and really learned a lot!


      2. “The author is either intellectually deficient or a liar.”

        Both are of these are excellent qualifications for a career writing Big Character Posters in the fashion of the Cultural Revolution.

        “Bombard the Headquarters” “Destroy the Four Olds and Cultivate the Four News”

        (If that doesn’t work out, there’s always her gig at The New Yorker to fall back on.)


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