The science of control

This week’s cover story,Blinded by Science,” is a whole new thing for the Reno News & Review. While we’ve had issues that appear annually, like the Weekly World News & Review or the Best of Northern Nevada, we’ve never had a series of related stories appear on the cover. But this topic is so broad, so pervasive in our society, we didn’t think it could be covered adequately in one 3,000-word story.

So, what’s the idea here? Well, the idea is that there’s something fundamentally wrong with our society. It seems our leadership—politicians, media, cultural icons—have become so sophisticated in controlling the citizenry, we don’t even notice when we’re being controlled.

As we saw before the beginning of the War on Iraq, politicians will cynically manipulate or misrepresent information to achieve ends that don’t necessarily relate to the desires of Americans. Our leaders will tell us the Big Lie to get the majority of us to act in ways contrary to our own best interests.

In this installment of the Managed Minds series, our news editor Dennis Myers takes a look at how fake “science” is callously used to undermine real, honest, objective science to further business and government goals. To use an example from the story, two scientists who pointed out the deadly effects of airborne radiation caused by the above-ground nuclear testing on the Nevada Test Site were shouted down and had their patriotism questioned, simply for reporting their research.

Do you ever see that in your own life? One acronym comes to mind: WMD.

Think about it. Does it seem peculiar that things you learned in school are suddenly being revised by people we are supposed to respect? For example, the fact that our government was specifically set up as secular because the Founding Fathers feared the influence of religion on freedom is being morphed into “Our Founding Fathers intended us to be a Christian nation.” How about this concept of “activist judges,” which is being used to undermine the last defenses of democracy? Or what about the administration paying off some journalists in order to hurt the credibility of all journalists?

Listen to the words you hear, and you’ll hear signs of verbal manipulation. For example, can anyone say exactly why mainstream media hereabouts calls gambling by the more promotional and less morally loaded term, “gaming"? You don’t suppose the casinos might have had something to do with it? Why are those people in Iraq called “insurgents"? And why shouldn’t what’s going on in Iraq be called a civil war?

It’s because truth can be buried in hazy language. If you don’t understand what your leaders are saying to you, it’s hard to make rational decisions about how to vote, how to dissent, how to live your life. It’s easier just to watch American Idol and let the machinery of political expediency work its own agenda.

At any rate, these are heady concepts. Hopefully, this series will help raise awareness of how democracy is being undermined by the institutions we expect to bolster it. Or maybe it’ll just make for some good conversations around the water cooler.

Be afraid—your fear is good for the economy.