Tag Archives | political science

How the American government is trying to control what you think

John Maxwell Hamilton is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars and on the faculty of the Manship School of Mass Communication, Louisiana State University. Kevin Kosar is a senior fellow at the R Street Institute. Together they make a somewhat unlikely pair to author a Washington Post article entitled “How the American government is trying to control what you think,” but of course it’s really a kind of political science wonk opinion piece:

NASA tweeting that Congress should give it more money so our astronauts won’t have to ride on Russian rockets. Recovery.gov reporting overly optimistic statistics on jobs saved and created by stimulus funds. The Department of Health and Human Service Web site encouraging the public to “state your support for health care reform” during the congressional debate over Obamacare. 


These are just some recent examples of the executive branch using our tax dollars to shape our opinions.

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Sterling Trial Opens in Security-State Matrix

Jeffrey Sterling

Jeffrey Sterling

When the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling got underway Tuesday in Northern Virginia, prospective jurors made routine references to “three-letter agencies” and alphabet-soup categories of security clearances. In an area where vast partnerships between intelligence agencies and private contractors saturate everyday life, the jury pool was bound to please the prosecution.

In a U.S. District Court that boasts a “rocket docket,” the selection of 14 jurors was swift, with the process lasting under three hours. Along the way, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema asked more than a dozen possible jurors whether their personal connections to the CIA or other intel agencies would interfere with her announced quest for an “absolutely open mind.”

From what I could tell, none of those with direct connections to intelligence agencies ended up in the jury box. But affinities with agencies like the CIA seemed implicit in the courtroom. Throughout the jury selection, there was scarcely a hint that activities of those agencies might merit disapproval.… Read the rest

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Thanksgiving for Social Scientists—Wish It Were

A gate at UC Berkely. (Photo:  Wally Gobetz/flickr/cc)

A gate at UC Berkely. (Photo: Wally Gobetz/flickr/cc)

Ralph Nader writes at Common Dreams:

I wish there could be a Thanksgiving for the applied bounty that could come from the hundreds of thousands of political scientists, economists, sociologists, psychologists, and anthropologists.

I am referring especially to those social scientists who are full-time, tenured professors at universities, colleges and community colleges who are not indentured to commercial moonlighting. Those of us who look for ways to get things done for the betterment of society seek such contributions from people who spend their days studying what is happening in our country, and to whom. Other than a few minor exceptions, this union has not occurred.

Nearly fifty years ago, a leading administrative law professor Kenneth Culp Davis–interested in governance–wrote a controversial article bewailing the near total absence of any useful contributions in this field by political scientists.

Here is a brief list of contemporary needs that could benefit from academic specialists who are concerned and knowledgeable about our country’s shortcomings and could know how to get things moving.

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In Defense of Obama

Obama Chesh 2.jpg

Photo: Elizabeth Cromwell (CC)

Paul Krugman has penned a lengthy essay for Rolling Stone on why President Obama is getting a raw deal from virtually everyone, including an opinion that “Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history”:

When it comes to Barack Obama, I’ve always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that, far from being the transformational figure his supporters imagined, he was rather conventional-minded: Even before taking office, he showed signs of paying far too much attention to what some of us would later take to calling Very Serious People, people who regarded cutting budget deficits and a willingness to slash Social Security as the very essence of political virtue.

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The Constant Confrontation

StateOutDate_Disinfo_300x250[disinfo ed.’s note: the following is an excerpt from The State Is Out of Date: We Can Do It Better by Gregory Sams.]

Whoever is in power got there because they fought their way there, whether using ballots or bullets, argu­ments or artillery. Those holding the reins of power at the top of the pyramid may change from time to time, but the power structure embedded in the bureaucracy of the state remains in place. This includes the military, the civil service, and the bankers controlling our money supply. The structure in which they thrive was originally brought into existence by kicking out a previous power structure or sometimes even an entire race. There are very few instances in history where power has been willingly relinquished without a fight—very few instances of these “public servants” saying “Hey, we’re not very good at this and think somebody else ought to have a shot at it.” Paranoid doddering old rulers will grip deter­minedly the reins of power until they are struck down either by disease, coup, or a popular uprising.… Read the rest

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Is the Central State a Necessary Evil, or a Flawed Form of Government?

StateOutDate_Disinfo_300x250[disinfo ed.’s note: the following is an original essay by Gregory Sams relating current events to his new book The State Is Out of Date: We Can Do It Better .]

Does anybody really believe that politics is working, aside from those in power? As the powerful new tools of our information age chip away at the mask of the sovereign state, endemic corruption is revealed across the political spectrum. People are taking to the streets en masse in protest, sometimes bringing down corrupt regimes only to see the same corruption and inefficiency arising in new regimes. The Egyptian people fought hard for freedom and won a choice between authoritarian masters. In the Ukraine, one group of corrupt thugs recently violently replaced another group of corrupt thugs, with their respective backers arguing on the international stage over which corrupt thugs hold the moral high ground. The world’s great democracies denounce an overwhelmingly popular vote by the people of Crimea, and call the gentle Russian intervention a hostile and unacceptable violation of sovereignty. … Read the rest

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Operation Mindcrime: The Selling Of Noam Chomsky

from Stevertigo at Wikimedia Commons

[disinfo ed.’s note: this original essay was first published by disinformation on November 15, 2001. Some links may have expired.]

Author’s note: This interview was originally published in REVelation magazine (#12, Summer, 1995): 30-38. This piece captures a transitional period in world politics that exerts a powerful influence over today’s Culture Jammers and anti-globalization activists. Post-NAFTA Americans have became aware of the maquiladora; the Zapatistas seized cyberspace; Jose Ramos-Horta has since been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize; Australia has stepped back from Paul Keating’s mid-1990s drive into South-east Asia; Noam Chomsky continues to lecture, teach, and write. The article title, of course, refers to Queensryche’s progressive rock album Operation: Mindcrime (1988), one of the finest portrayals of how ‘radical’ drones can unwittingly become an integral part of the Reaganite entertainment-as-oppression system that they are (supposedly) fighting against.

18 January 1995 was an extraordinary day for Sydney.… Read the rest

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How To Be A Dictator

dictatorIn the Economist, political scientist Alastair Smith explains, in a series of simple tips and instructions, how you too could successfully bend an entire nation to your cruel will:

It doesn’t matter whether you are a dictator, a democratic leader, head of a charity or a sports organisation, the same things go on. Firstly, you don’t rule by yourself—you need supporters to keep you there, and what determines how you best survive is how many supporters you have and how big a pool you can draw these supporters from.

You can’t personally go around and terrorise everyone. Our poor old struggling Syrian president is not personally killing people on the streets. He needs the support of his family, senior generals who are willing to go out and kill people on his behalf. The common misconception is that you need support from the vast majority of the population, but that’s typically not true.

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