An even bigger war: The one against expanding government

By Lowell Ponte

Our expanding battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus conceals a bigger war: the imperial assault by politicians to wrest power from the people and permanently expand the government.

A major weapon used against us in this war, as syndicated radio talk-show hosts Armstrong and Getty mentioned days ago, is what psychologists and brainwashers call an “availability cascade,” a self-reinforcing cycle of repeated claims designed to alter society’s collective beliefs by replacing skepticism with irrational certitude and emotional acquiescence.

This technique to control us by stampeding the “herd” mentality in our heads with endless repetition (i.e., “availability”) has been used by ideologues to create conformity of thought on such issues as global warming and gun control.

One sign that propagandists are attacking your brain with an “availability cascade” is the pretense that their position is supported by “the experts” and/or by the overwhelming majority of your fellow citizens. Their position is also depicted as a dire emergency – something that you should react to with fear, even panic.

An “availability cascade” aims to reshape your response to an issue not by rational thought, understanding and debate, but by appealing to authority – those superior-to-you “experts” who know what you are too stupid to comprehend – which is how issues were decided in the Dark Ages, or to urgent emotions such as fear that become contagious in our species.

The cascade of their partisan meme is usually intended to produce a follow-the-leader blind fear and submission similar to what Native Americans exploited to stampede entire herds of bison off cliffs.

Politicians have long invoked or created emergencies to increase their power.

The early 20th century political philosopher Randolph Bourne said that “war is the health of the state,” meaning that government is never more powerful than when war allows it to rule by decree and martial law, silence its critics, and demand national unity and support.

“The people never give up their liberties, but under some delusion,” said British statesman Edmund Burke.

“The whole aim of practical politics,” wrote journalist H.L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety … by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins. …”

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” said Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff for President Barack Obama, in 2008. “Crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”

Emanuel’s manipulative cynicism was inspired by the co-creator of “availability cascade” theory, Cass R. Sunstein, of the Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. Sunstein is also co-author of the book “Nudge,” which explains the latest methods of subtly manipulating others.

In 2008, Sunstein assembled a team of behavioral scientists and neuro-economists to help elect Barack Obama by using such manipulation, as Craig R. Smith and I detailed in our 2013 book “The Great Withdrawal.” Many who voted for Obama never knew that they were being brainwashed by scientific techniques that limited their choices to herd them, coerced them with what appeared to be peer pressure, and primed Obama’s language and advertising to alter a voter’s sense of truth and reality.

Such “nudges,” we wrote, could be used openly to “help” people make up their mind. But they “could also be used for what MIT radical intellectual Noam Chomsky calls ‘the manufacture of consent,’ to manipulate people into assenting to whatever the State or ruling political party wishes. A nudge is a kind of push, and this push could come to shove.”

Sunstein later headed Obama’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and advocated infiltrating anti-Big Government groups with secret agents “to persuade, debias, or silence” them. Yes, he said “silence.”

Sunstein is married to Irish-born radical activist Samantha Power, Obama’s United Nations ambassador. In the election year 2016, she filed more than 200 “unmasking” requests for Republicans whose telephone conversations were secretly recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies. Power claimed not to have done this, but she showed little interest in identifying Obama comrades who she said misused her name to spy on political opponents.

Government may have valid reasons for martial law powers to fight the coronavirus, or to free jailed violent criminals, or to close gun stores and churches while keeping liquor and marijuana stores open as “essential” services, or for tripling government spending. But power-grabbing government policies that could become permanent are not being rationally debated; they are simply imposed by authority and justified by fear of a killer disease. Will freedom and limited government ever return after this plague?

Lowell Ponte is a former Reader’s Digest Roving Editor. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other major publications. His latest paper co-authored with Craig R. Smith, “The Secret War,” shows how to rethink several areas of investment to protect and grow your savings against little-known economic threats. For a free, postpaid copy, call toll-free 800-630-1492.

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