South Dakota Top Blogs

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The brainwashing of America

Brainwashing is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques. Brainwashing is said to reduce its subject’s ability to think critically or independently, to allow the introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas into the subject’s mind, as well as to change his or her attitudes, values, and beliefs. 
When Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election, agreed to testify to Congress, he was very emphatic and explicit in stating that he would let his written report to speak for itself and would not expand or comment beyond what it reported.  As members of Congress cited information from the report, he repeatedly asked them to cite the page numbers they referred to and kept checking to see if their reading was an accurate representation of the written word.  This was all recorded on television, and reports of his appearance characterized it as being stumbling and halting and disappointing to the Democrats because it contained no explosive, dramatic revelations.  

The Columbia Journalism Review took issue with such assessments.  It contended that journalists who reviewed Mueller's appearance as entertainment rather than for the substance he offered weren't doing their jobs, which is to focus on the facts.  Those who did watch Mueller's testimony for its factual content noted that he answered questions by underscoring what the report stated, asking for the specific citations being referred to, and by attesting to the accuracy of the report.  He clarified that while the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russians directly, it welcomed Russian intervention and made use of the disinformation in the campaign.  He also clarified how Trump's efforts at obstructing the investigation precisely met the defining conditions of what obstruction of justice is.  

The Department of Justice has a rule that forbids the indictment of a sitting president, but the factual record of Trump's violations is as strong as the charges through which Mueller has indicted 34 of Trump's associates, obtaining seven guilty pleas and one conviction so far.  For those who looked for the factual aspects of the report and did not find Mueller's verbal footnoting a distraction, his testimony affirmed a very strong case against Trump.  But those who have been mentally conditioned by what is considered "good television" will interpret Mueller's plodding and cautious responses as reason to doubt his acuity.  But they will carefully report Trump's incoherent, unpredicated sentences as having made some kind of determination.

It is no accident that Trump's favorite medium of expression is Twitter.  By its very nature Twitter is incoherent.  It is the medium of primal screams.  Sometimes people will use tweets in a conversational context, but most tweets are unintelligible shouts, like infant cries, that leave others to wonder what they are all about.  To get any notion of what most tweets are about, the reader has to try to establish some context, determine if there  are any factual references, and then check to see if the facts are true.  An example of a Trump tweet is this one about Rep. Elijah Cummings:

Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA......
The questions raised by this tweet are numerous:

  1. What has Rep. Cummings said or done that could be described as bullying?
  2. What has he done that is "brutal"?
  3. When and where did he shout and scream?
  4. What members of the Border Patrol did he address?
  5. If he addressed them, when and how?
  6. What conditions at the border did he address?
  7. What conditions in Baltimore are worse and in what way?
  8. What is more dangerous?
  9. Who considers his district the worst in the U.S.?
  10.  How is Rep. Cummings responsible for those conditions?
  11. Is there any truth and factual support for the allegations against Rep. Cummings?
  12. What is the factual, comparative truth about Baltimore?
The problem is that a large portion of the American public will accept Trump's pronouncement without asking any of the questions about its veracity or what it is referring to.  That leads to an unpleasant fact about the state of American politics. Trump lies constantly.  He makes statements as fact that are provably untrue.  Fact-checkers at such sites as the Washington Post and Politifact struggle to keep up with him, as he has made over 10,000 false or misleading statements to the public since he took office.  Trump is a pernicious liar, and has proven every day of his life that his word cannot be believed or trusted.  Still, almost half of America hangs on his every word.  And the other half questions why.  The reason why is the reason behind the severe political divide in America.

The fact that a man of Trump's disreputable character could gain such a hold over the country is a symptom of a malignancy in the culture.  The Dunning-Kruger Effecis pandemic in the United States.  In simple terms, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is when stupid people think they are smart.  To see symptoms of that Effect, all one needs to do is read the comments following news or blog articles.  Many, many people who record their illiteracy and ignorance in print think, like Trump does, that they are smarter than almost everybody else.  And like Trump's tweets, many reveal their inabilities of thought and expression through mangled sentences filled with errors of diction.  The way people use language is an indicator of intelligence and character.  

Trump's incompetent and incoherent used of language is taken by  his supporters as a confirmation of their own stupidity.  Having a president who is an illiterate liar signals to them that it is okay to be stupid, greedy, and malicious.  He is supremely successful at those traits and his followers can share in that kind of success.  Being stupid is the smart thing to do.

It is an attitude that descends to us from feudalism, from that portion of serfs who saw the way to worthiness was to suck up to and emulate the old master of the estate.  It is part of our history that to indoctrinate workers, whether employees, field hands, or slaves, in beliefs that support class system in which people are led to believe that they can "become somebody" by servicing the ruling class.  The goal is to keep the underclass docile and dependent on the good will of their masters.  Workers with their own agendas are a danger to the feudal estate.  And the most prominent example of such a corporate feudal estate at this time is the Trump Organization.  Whatever is proclaimed by the master, no matter how incoherent and without substance, is regarded by his loyal underlings as gospel.

The reason for such a large portion of the population's submission to Trump's deranged whims is that these are the people most susceptible to the brainwashing at work within our culture.  The media offers entertainment which excites the desire in some to be like their masters.  Their workplaces promise them promotion if they extol the doctrines preached and practiced by those they have chosen as their masters.  And our schools, which are to provide experience in acquiring knowledge and critical thinking skills are being subverted to become propaganda sites for the suppression and control of the masses.  Just as communist China during Mao's cultural revolution used schools and other public buildings to besiege the people with propaganda in support of the revolution, American states are passing laws to require schools to post slogans in support of evangelical fundamentalism.  This year all South Dakota schools are required to post the motto "In God we trust" prominently on every school building.  This has the same effect as Orwell's "Big Brother is watching you."  The message is that if you do not accept the thinking that the masters choose for you, you do not belong here.  A good portion of the students out of  fear of exclusion will submit.  Another portion will leave the place that dictates such thinking as soon as they find a way.  

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution of Mao, all public buildings were required to post slogans support the Revolution.
South Dakota passed a law requiring every school building to post the motto "In God we trust," as shown in this elementary school in Rapid City.

This tactic of telling people that they will be excluded if they do not conform is the principle behind much consumer advertising, and it does sell products.  When it becomes part of education, it creates a constituency that will think and do what the masters tell them.  And that constituency will also hate and oppress those who do not conform.  

As the 2020 election nears, Trump rallies will give us vivid demonstrations by the constituency which regards Trump as master and savior and behaves as he does.  They are the products of years of brainwashing, which is revealed by their slavish repetition of what they hear from Trump and Fox News.  They may have heard of Trump's serial business failures, his fraudulent enterprises such as Trump University, his habitual adultery, and they witness his constant state of malice, but their brains cannot register them.  They have been flushed of the ability to register and retain facts.  An so, they ignore and deny the climate change that is transforming the environment that sustains human life or the forces that are evident in undermining our democracies.  They can only focus on what the masters permit them to.

Brainwashing is popularly regarded as something that totalitarian communists practice, but it is in fact a technique of control and oppression that has a long history of practice in America.  It can be part of any political agenda, and it can be the operating principle of a culture, as it is in South Dakota, where if you prefer ignorance and stupidity, you are in the elite.  The state has one of the lowest wage averages in the nation, the most people working multiple jobs to survive, and ranks as one of the most corrupt states.  But over the recent years South Dakotans have voted to intensify the feudal rule that keeps so many struggling to avoid poverty and its brightest moving away.  The majority of residents vote strongly for Trump and those like him in the full belief that lying and cheating is the basis for the good life.  Their brains have been purged of the cells that understand honesty and decency.  

The hard fact is that those concepts are being washed out of the American mentality.   And the possession or the absence of basic decency is what divides America.


Roger Cornelius said...

Charles Manson wasn't a mass killer or even a serial killer, but he incited his followers to kill for him.
Donald Trump and Charles Manson are interchangeable, they both want a race war, Manson died before it was realized and Trump is stoking the fires.
Both of these cowards appeal to the weaker among us, those that lack the ability to process information and whose communication skills are as limited as Trump's.

Porter Lansing said...

A professional, Presidential debate coach gave this advice to whomever Dems nominate.
"During the very first exchange or even in opening remarks (should the Dem speak last) the first thing would be to call Trump a pathological liar. Tell the audience that you intend to point out every lie he tells and keep an accurate count. The Dem could easily get well over fifty lies told in an hour's debate. Even if the Dem has to interrupt Trump and get castigated by the moderator she/he must point out Trump's lies, immediately."

Debbo said...

This is very good. Thanks for helping illuminate an extremely frustrating problem.

Most of my five siblings voted for the current president and they're not stupid people, but they lack a degree of intellectual curiosity that I believe plays an important role. In addition, they maintain a culturally isolated life. By that I mean they associate with white, middle class people like themselves.

I have some disagreement with this statement: "The way people use language is an indicator of intelligence and character."

I am aware of intelligent people of good character who lacked an opportunity to be exposed to or learn proper English language. There are exceptions to your statement.

David Newquist said...


When I say "the way people use language," I am not limiting it to whether they conform to what we call "proper grammar" and the like. I refer more to what purposes are evident in the way they use language. And in particular if what they assert has any correspondence with actual facts. For example, Trump uses language for malicious purposes. He maligns people with accusations that have no basis in fact. His purpose is to promote himself and his notions by denigrating others. Even when he compliments someone, as when he claimed that his DNI nominee was highly respected when even the man's Senate colleagues knew nothing about him, he is employing language in a false way to advance his schemes and his ego. His use of language in such ways tells us much about his intelligence and his character.

David Newquist said...

larry kurtz said...

In South Dakota local control means Republican control.

South Dakota is struggling to keep white workers, infrastructure is crumbing, industrial agriculture is failing, South Dakota churches are girding for gun violence, meth is replacing alcohol as the state's drug of choice, Pierre's culture of corruption and rape violence threaten open government, socialism is quietly replacing free enterprise, pheasant numbers are dwindling, environmental degradation is increasing, wildlife are being exterminated to make way for disease-ridden domestic livestock and exotic fowl, jails far outnumber colleges, ag bankers continue to enslave landowners and the state's medical industry monopoly operates without scrutiny.

Little wonder young people are fleeing South Dakota in droves. Unless your Social Security pays your property taxes you’re just another poor grudznick eking out a living and bleeding out every penny you can scrabble.

But, applaud the nutball Republican efforts diverting attention from the party’s culture of corruption where murders and their covers up are commonplace by clogging the legislative session with christianic religionist argle-bargle.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States