Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paul Craig Roberts: Belief Retention vs. Truth

Here's a great article from Paul Craig Roberts about people living within their version of the world and the difficulty of getting truth accepted.

Here are some excerpts:
Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little lies fail. Governments can get away with mass deceptions, but politicians cannot get away with sexual affairs.

The researchers explain why so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has become obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with the event. Americans developed elaborate rationalizations based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged Iraqi involvement and became deeply attached to their beliefs. Their emotional involvement became wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality. They looked for information that supported their beliefs and avoided information that challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler explained the believability of the Big Lie as compared to the small lie: “In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”

What the sociologists and Hitler are telling us is that by the time facts become clear, people are emotionally wedded to the beliefs planted by the propaganda and find it a wrenching experience to free themselves. It is more comfortable, instead, to denounce the truth-tellers than the liars whom the truth-tellers expose.

The psychology of belief retention even when those beliefs are wrong is a pillar of social cohesion and stability. It explains why, once change is effected, even revolutionary governments become conservative. The downside of belief retention is its prevention of the recognition of facts. Belief retention in the Soviet Union made the system unable to adjust to economic reality, and the Soviet Union collapsed. Today in the United States millions find it easier to chant “USA, USA, USA” than to accept facts that indicate the need for change.

The staying power of the Big Lie is the barrier through which the 9/11 Truth Movement is finding it difficult to break. The assertion that the 9/11 Truth Movement consists of conspiracy theorists and crackpots is obviously untrue. The leaders of the movement are highly qualified professionals, such as demolition experts, physicists, structural architects, engineers, pilots, and former high officials in the government. Unlike their critics parroting the government’s line, they know what they are talking about.

Those who believe the official 9/11 story and dismiss skeptics as kooks can test the validity of the sociologists’ findings and Hitler’s observation by watching the video and experiencing their reaction to evidence that challenges their beliefs. Are you able to watch the presentation without scoffing at someone who knows far more about it than you do? What is your response when you find that you cannot defend your beliefs against the evidence presented? Scoff some more? Become enraged?

[Article] Paul Craig Roberts writes about the acceptance of truth by the public

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