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Tue Jan 24, 2023, 09:22 AM

The power of a conspiracy theory -- and a 3-step plan to deprogram American idiocracy


The power of a conspiracy theory — and a 3-step plan to deprogram American idiocracy
What can be done to lessen the power and appeal of conspiracy theories in American politics and society?

By CHAUNCEY DEVEGA
Senior Writer
PUBLISHED JANUARY 23, 2023 5:50AM (EST)


(Salon) America is becoming an idiocracy — assuming it isn't fully one already.

On a widely viewed cable TV network there is a new show called "Power Slap: Road to the Title," and the title is a perfect description of the show. In this "sport" two adults slap one another as hard as they can until one of them is knocked out, cannot continue, or the "judges" stop the "competition." The "slap-fighters" are not allowed to put up their hands to defend themselves or flinch. The participants in this human zoo have been knocked head over heels (literally) and appear to have suffered severe concussions as well as bloody and swollen faces that could result in permanent disfigurement. The crowd in the studio cheers as the competitors slap each other into oblivion.

It is all one more example of how American society is "amusing itself to death" as a culture that is infantile and broken — both socially and politically. Today's America is extremely anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-rational, unreflective, impulsive, narcissistic and juvenile. Such a dynamic breeds fascism, authoritarianism, fake populism, white supremacy, misogyny, violence, and a larger culture of cruelty and debasement that does not value or elevate human dignity and human respect.

The Age of Trump and American neofascism are an extension of these cultural pathologies and failings. In a previous essay here at Salon I summarized this rot:

More than half of all Americans cannot read at a sixth-grade level. High quality primary and secondary public education, as well as the college and university system — which should create citizens who are capable of critical thinking and acting as responsible members of a democratic community — have been systematically targeted for destruction by the Republican Party and "conservative" movement….

To some significant degree, the internet, social media and its algorithms, our ubiquitous smart phones and digital technology, and a larger media culture designed to drive what is euphemistically described as "engagement," damages people's ability to think deeply and critically about complex matters.

While overuse of social media and digital technology can be harmful across all demographic cohorts, research suggests it has a particularly negative impact on the brain and emotional development of younger people. Psychologists and other researchers have demonstrated that many Americans are increasingly unable to concentrate or engage in deep focused thinking for more than a few minutes.


....(snip)....

What can be done to lessen the power and appeal of conspiracy theories in American politics and society? Here is a short list to start:

01 Deplatform hate

Malign actors such as Donald Trump, the Republican fascists, and the propagandists across the right-wing media hate echo chamber who circulate conspiracy theories and disinformation need to be publicly confronted and denied a platform by the mainstream news media.

02 Build community

America's epidemic of loneliness, social alienation, and broken community ties and bonds needs to be addressed as a type of public health crisis. America also needs to expand low cost and free access to mental health care services.

America's extreme levels of social inequality and a growing rift where the country's elites feel little connection to or responsibility to the public and the commons needs to be remedied. .................(more)

https://www.salon.com/2023/01/23/the-power-of-a-conspiracy-theory--and-a-3-step-plan-to-deprogram-american-idiocracy/




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Response to marmar (Original post)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 10:07 AM

1. From the article: More than half of all Americans cannot read at a sixth-grade level.



I knew this, but it slays me every time I read it. Trying to remember what I was reading in sixth grade & what my text books were like.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 10:37 AM

3. I was reading at a 9th grade level in 3rd grade...

But that was then, back in the 50's.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #1)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 10:46 AM

4. Me too.

How? Why? What did I miss? It was so easy, there’s only 26 letters.

When I went to school (76-81) English was a required course all 6 years from jr. high through high school. I figured out in jr high, English was just a repetition of everything that had come before, and would be through high school as well.

It was the same damned class, over and over in basic English.

I matriculated into the AP and foreign language classes as soon as they were available to substitute for not taking that stupid class again.

How do you even get through high school with a 6th grade reading ability?

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Response to Arthur_Frain (Reply #4)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 10:58 AM

5. I was lucky, my school offered some really decent high school writing classes after basic grammar.

I had phonics in first grade. I moved to a different school district the summer after, that district didn't teach phonics & I was hands down, the best speller in class. The kids who read a lot were better spellers than the ones who didn't. Same with grammar. Proper grammar just comes more naturally when you read a lot.

IDK how you get through high school with a sixth grade reading level.

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Response to CrispyQ (Reply #5)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 11:25 AM

7. I figured much of the differences would be rgional/state wide maybe.

Thank god for French! Gave me an alternative to the tedium.

It’s all reading. Grammar, vocabulary, context, comprehension. I could never figure out (once I real some college level literature) why Dickens was the one they always pushed on us at first. There were much better choices.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 10:33 AM

2. In this age of toxic populism those who fuel anger, rage, and division

and those who circulate conspiracy theories and spread disinformation, who attack every civic institution that's necessary to maintain a liberal society (including a free press) do need to be publicly confronted.

Including here on DU.

Take the message to heart.



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Response to marmar (Original post)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 11:15 AM

6. When people cannot define a pronoun.

But has been using pronoun as a means to own the liberals, it becomes evident about the education or lack thereof.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 12:08 PM

8. How would any of these steps stop people here...

…from claiming that Alvin Bragg is being blackmailed or bribed; or the Secret service planted documents in Biden’s house, or voting machines were rigged to flip votes from Kerry to Bush?

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #8)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 01:43 PM

9. A very good question.

Despite the propensity of Salon to engage in precisely the sort of disinformation spreading that they (rightly) criticize, the article is correct with one suggestion:

[Those] who circulate conspiracy theories and disinformation need to be publicly confronted.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #8)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 01:51 PM

10. Liberals aren't immune to conspiratorial thinking but

it’s much more common and dangerous on the right.

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Response to Elessar Zappa (Reply #10)

Tue Jan 24, 2023, 02:02 PM

11. Liberals are fairly immune to conspiracy thinking as liberalism depends on an embrace of rationality

One of those things that seperates liberals from those on the anti-Democratic/anti-democratic populists on both the right and far-left.

Horseshoe politics.

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