There have been many factors contributing to this era of mass delusion, but one of the most important factors has been the rise of the DISINFORMATION AGE. Disinformation is the opposite of information, it does not inform and enlighten, it confuses and retards. Disinformation is based on false pretense and specious reasoning, as opposed to facts and critical thinking. It was the mass commercialization of the internet during the 90s that empowered the Disinformation age and allowed it to reach its full destructive potential. Ironically, instead of improving the dissemination of quality information, the internet has become a veritable sewer of junk information. For every legitimate .org and/or legitimate (non-biased) web site there are at least 100 .com/.net affiliated web sites with some underlying vested interest.
There are many other key factors feeding the relentless tide of disinformation and the corresponding culture of obfuscation and deception:
1) Denialism as an industry. There is now an entire movement underway to undermine legitimate public issues to ensure favorable commercial outcomes. The 'Denialism' tactics used by these commercial interests are both insidious and pervasive:
- Obfuscation/Indirection: No data needed, just confuse the issue, muddy the waters or change the subject
- Specious Reasoning: Simple minds want simple answers, so give the people what they want. Hitler above all proved that the masses prefer a straightforward construct that reinforces their preconceived biases and prejudices, over facts and reality.
- Ad hominem attacks: Again, no data needed. Simply impugn the integrity of the messenger. There can be no slimier example of this than the anti-John Kerry "Gun Boat Veterans Against John Kerry" campaign. I think this will stand the test of time as the sickest political slime campaign in U.S. history - at least we should hope so...
Denialism is a force to be reckoned with across myriad issues, including Climate Change, Peak Oil "Theory" (Reality), and my personal favorite Fiscal responsibility (lack thereof).
2) Marketing based economy. Over the past few decades the United States has transitioned from a manufacturing based economy to a marketing based economy. Essentially the country is a front sales office for goods made in China. With this transition has come the accompanying rise of marketing culture, language, and spin. In this new culture, straight talk is abhorred and highly "discouraged". In Corporate America today, nothing will derail your career faster than telling it like it is. The current lingua franca is strictly spin talk, sugar talk, indirect talk, pseudo talk, code language, bullshit whatever you want to call it, but regardless of what you call it, be sure to keep the facts, commonsense and reality to the minimum.
3) Spectacle vs. Reality: We are at that stage in the grand cycle of power when the people need something to take their minds off of the reality unfolding before their very eyes. Just as the Romans had the spectacle of the Coliseum, so too do Americans have Hollywood, ESPN, Disneyland and FOX News. And well beyond these well known purveyors of hollow content, basically every mainstream media source has turned full time to the "Infotainment" pseudo-informational format. PBS News may be one of the only reliable sources left, but only about .01% of Americans have even heard of Jim Lehrer.
4) Underneath it all, it boils down to human nature and the ebb and flow of the grand vices: greed, arrogance, laziness, instant gratification. As these vices are now at the high point of the pendulum, then so too do they contribute to the fevered manufacture of self-rationalizing disinformation. This is an age of moral relativity i.e. if everyone else is doing it, and I can get away with it, then it must be Ok. History has seen many such eras come and go, but the scale of this one is beyond anything ever seen before.
5) Poets, priests and politicians. Disinformation has found its way into every corner of our society. There are no more definitive sources for anything, as mass commercialization has ensured everyone now has a vested financial motivation. It's socially acceptable to be openly cynical about everything, and yet in being so, we tacitly accept the corruption and malfeasance occurring around us daily. No one blinks an eye that the U.S. is in Iraq to secure its massive reserves of oil. That fact is accepted and hence not even being debated! We have reached a full capitulation of morality.