Although some conspiracy theories are true, not all are. Two of the most egregious, anti-establishment conspiracists out there, the NYT and a living U.S. President, have propounded some real whoppers, such as that the U.S. government does not represent the American people, and that a nationwide network of idiots with M.D.s has been drugging way too many people, even according to standards provided by the drug industry itself.
Stilling the sarcasm, 2013 finds America long beyond the ruse that things are somehow good or fair, or even that they're heading there. When a white, male, rich, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, long-working powerful politician, who has been privy to all of the inside, super-important top-guy knowledge, provided with lifetime income, healthcare, and bodyguards, can disavow the existence of the representative republic, it's in no conceivable way a fringe source (who knows--will 2045 see Barack's similar confession?).
The first bit of information, from the American journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (via the NYT), is more striking, in its own internal way, than Carter's statement, because the drug industry's controlled substances work has, perhaps, an even more profound, integral, worldwide effect on governments than the figureheads who actually run said governments.
(If you're inclined to foreshadowing, part of the journal's work in grudgingly discrediting fluoxetine and its brothers is in promoting later neurocidal magnetic treatments for depression that will more permanently reduce critical reason capability without need for continuous dosage.)
There's certainly a class distinction in the psychiatrists' criticisms. It requires very little--perhaps very low--critical thinking ability for a person to devote a decade to memorizing Latinate trivia, pass a battery of tests, miss a lot of sleep, and become a licensed physician. Physician specialties weed out the more competent people, leaving the rest to practice "generally" or run DMV-style emergency rooms. The whole reason the hapless general practitioners overprescribed antidepressants is because the specialists' articles told them to decades ago; now, the specialists in control of grant funds and journal consensuses are switching "the science" and blaming the GPs for doing exactly what they were not
None of these things is a revelation, however much it's being treated as so by those few who pay attention, because this has all happened before. It's happened many, many times, but even within the American memory, it has happened. Much closer to his presidency than Carter--in his farewell address, rather than decades later--Dwight Eisenhower, who has even more claim to establishment-ness and manliness by virtue of having been a generalissimo, gave his famous "military industrial complex" speech, right? And in the general temporal vicinity of Eisenhower's warning, the American medical industry was revealed as a heartless, murderous tool of earlier pharmaceutical companies.
So, we know all this. We have no excuse for not knowing it. The veneer of modernity was enough to lull fools then into thinking it couldn't happen, just as it is always enough to lull fools into thinking that various powerful bastions are somehow good. A very few people in each cycle learn to recognize some of the patterns, and identify--at least for "this time"--some of the wrongness. The masses, as it were, don't.
The easy conclusion is that the masses are dumb. There's a lot of factual evidence to support that conclusion, and moreover, it's a satisfying one to make, particular if you've had to deal with one/all of the masses in a direct way, lately.
And yet, they're not dumb in a lot of senses. They can memorize and repeat information when they believe it comes from an important source. E.g., the clerk who can rattle off pretty detailed arguments against Stalinism, or who can recite the crimes of Saddam Hussein. Or, yes, the housewife discussing the plot nuances of some television show--it's a form of intelligence. They can become emotional, and passionately involved, in causes when they believe they are important. E.g., the day laborer who can demonstrate a deep empathy for the firemen who died in the WTC.
All of the above is not viewed in context, though, which is what makes it easy to criticize as wholly dumb. The clerk is utterly ignorant of Russian history, the 1917 American invasion that fostered the rise of the Bolsheviks, or the merely tenuous, at best, connection between Stalin's kleptocracy and anything to do with Karl Marx's writings. The housewife is unaware that her favorite show is copied from a 1970s Dutch program, and that the character nuances she so enjoys were inserted into the script by a committee of assistant producers who wanted to play off her demographic's dissatisfaction with their husbands' affection for the NFL, playing her like a violin into demonstrating independence via a new kind of phone. The day laborer is furiously, defensively ignorant of the blinders upon his emotions.
Those of us who know more of the story get justifiably mad at this, and call the clerk, housewife, and laborer idiots for their ignorance, and their willing blindness to improving themselves. The confessions of Carter, the AMA, or even Eisenhower mean nothing to them in any practical way; they continue doing what they're told. Even insiders telling them, "The entire system is a rotten fake that is ruining your family" does not make them blink. How can that be possible? If it's not just radical, "loser" extremists challenging their psychological foundations, but aspects of the system itself, how can they not "get it"? Everything is all out there, and has been out there for (-ever, but let's just say) decades, but the show keeps going on.
What we're lacking here is a form of critical thinking we might liken to the deep reading of a text. The dummies are presented with information--say, an election pamphlet--and when they analyze it, they conclude, "It's about voting for President." Being thoroughly unpracticed in using their more critical faculties, they are generally unable to discern that they're looking at a trinket that is part of a ruse that is part of a ruse that is part of yet another, grander, illusion. Their spirits ("consciences" or "instincts") may whisper to them that something is wrong, leading them to conclude, "This is bullshit." That's essentially accurate, but they're unable to fully reason out why, they are unable to trust themselves, and remain easy pickings for the rhetoricians and storytellers who have created the illusion.
Militaries, academia, police forces, nations, politics, judicia, and all the other character-organizations within the illusion play powerful roles. They directly act out aspects of the story: reciting lines, holding celebrations, and hitting people. They are all, of course, so thoroughly connected that they aren't even really distinguishable except by allowing them the politically-correct courtesy of self-identifying themselves as representing this or that branch of power. For all that power, though, they are mere actors, playing their roles in conformity with the ongoing tale. The narrative in which we participate defines what even the most powerful among them are able and willing to do. Since most of the powerful are as stupid as most of the non-powerful, this leaves them equally trapped by the illusion, if more enjoyably so.
"The entertainment industry," and to a lesser extent "the marketing industry," provide more direct windows into the structure of things, because they are the facets of the illusion modeled more closely after its authors. More clearly, when we consider the openly-acknowledged stories the powerful tell, we can see them following the same patterns they use in larger-scale storytelling. Nations, and history, are shaped much like bad screenwriting, and the inability of most people to understand narrative manipulation--to read and understand complex stories--is the same handicap that prevents them from figuring out what's really going on around Earth. Understanding how stories are discovered, transmitted, and experienced ("written/created, read, and analyzed") helps us figure out what most people are missing, and why they're so easily manipulated--and gives us insight into how they might learn to demand better stories, both in their personal entertainment and in their outer world.
The connection between "bad entertainment" and "bad society" should be obvious. Rome, right? Empire, torture, slaves; centralized finance, government, and religion; abject drunken delight in watching old-tyme WWF. America, right? Empire, torture, slaves; centralized finance, government, and religion; Breaking Fifty Shades of Intergalactic Robot War. Our banal, uninspired entertainment teaches us how to hope for not-so-much, and how to frame our plans and expectations for ourselves and our world. Its lack of depth encourages in us the inability to perceive depth elsewhere, leaving most of us easy prey for those who tell slightly-more-nuanced stories. Ergo, when Carter admits the U.S. has no democracy, or the AMA admits it's been profitably dulling generations of people with unnecessary designer drugs, no one blinks. Facts being "out there" are irrelevant, because the storyteller has deemed them so. Our narrative structure, not our rational interpretation of different sets of facts, governs what we believe and how we rebel.
Continued in Part 2.