The Logic Lifeline

A logical approach to sorting out world events. Where logic, opinion and speculation are combined to produce a reasoned, but entertaining reading experience. The unofficial hometown conservative blog of Woodridge, Il

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Danger of Populism: Jona Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg has written an interesting piece on the dangers of populism: a good article with a less than appealing name. Something that has struck me lately is the pointing to opinion polls and to world opinion as support for the rightness or wrongness of a political point. While polls may be used to predict the outcome of elections or to apply pressure on politicians, to point to a populist view to support a political view is ludicrous. We have seen many times through history where the populace is completely wrong. If taking a poll the participants were asked to defend their responses using facts and reason, my guess is that 85% would not know where to begin. At best they would spew slogan quips like "Bush lied, people died."

The opening paragraph of Goldberg's piece is a work of art:
Politics has a math of its own. Whereas a scientifically minded person might see things this way: One person who says 2+2=5 is an idiot; two people who think 2+2=5 are two idiots; and a million people who think 2+2=5 are a whole lot of idiots—political math works differently. Let’s work backwards: if a million people think 2+2=5, then they are not a million idiots, but a “constituency.” If they are growing in number, they are also a “movement.” And, if you were not only the first person to proclaim 2+2=5, but you were the first to persuade others, then you, my friend, are not an idiot, but a visionary.
What must be understood is that it is critical to convince the masses, but it is equally important to understand that just because the masses are convinced of something does not mean they are correct. It could simply mean that a propoganda initiative was successful. Adolf Hitler was an evil and disgusting human being, but he knew something about propoganda. Here are some quotes from Mein Kampf compiled by the website Adolf Hitler: Perverse Political Genius:
"The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of the nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies but would be ashamed to tell a big one."

"All propaganda must be so popular and on such an intellectual level, that even the most stupid of those towards whom it is directed will understand it. Therefore, the intellectual level of the propaganda must be lower the larger the number of people who are to be influenced by it."

"Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise."
Those three selections should be read and re-read a few times to let them sink in. Then think of today's political climate and read it once again. You have two very polarizing political views in the US and the world. They are so very different that one or both views are wrong, yet that one view has a very large following. One or more sides have successfully pulled off some major propoganda. The bottom line, though, is that the successful creation of a populist view does not mean that view is correct. The danger is that it gives the strong appearance of being correct that is difficult to disprove.


  • At 3:08 PM, Anonymous paw said…


    Part of your post reminds me of this -

    "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
    JFK, Commencement address, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (11 June 1962)

    - which is one way I've been thinking about the current state of affairs. Cable TV aside, it's hard to bust myths, isn't it.

  • At 9:33 PM, Blogger All_I_Can_Stands said…

    paw, I purposefully wrote the post so that no matter which side you were on you would understand. The sides are so divided and opposite that they can't both be right. Of course, like I pointed out they can both be wrong.

    Great quote by JFK.

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