We Are Weak Because We Enjoy Being Lied to (We Prefer Pleasant Fiction to Harsh Facts)

Summary:  America has become weak not because Ignorance is Strength (if so we be better than Rome), but because we prefer fiction over fact.  Here we look at some propaganda about the government debt, almost totally false, tweaked and circulated by fans of Ron Paul.  This is another in a series about what might be our most serious problem, America’s broken OODA loop (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action loop).

(1)  An example of propaganda designed by experts who understand us

Let’s rewind back to 2010 (using YouTube) to watch this must-discussed commercial:


Beijing, China – 2030 AD.  A professor addressing an auditorium of students.

Why do great nations fail? The Ancient Greeks. The Roman Empire. The British Empire. And the United States of America. They all make the same mistakes, turning their back on the principles that made them great. America tried to spend and tax itself out of a great recession. Enormous so-called “stimulus” spending, massive changes to health care, government takeovers of private industries {Wall Street appears on the screen} and crushing debt. Of course, we owned most of their debt so now they work for us. [Students laugh]

You can change the future. You have to. Join Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) to stop the spending that’s bankrupting America.

This is a riff on the 1986 advert The Deficit Trials” (banned by the major networks, broadcast on several hundred independent stations).  It is a trifecta of propaganda.  A hat trick of fear-mongering: the yellow peril, mountains of debt, and big government.  And almost every line is wrong.

  1. It was not banned.  CAGW, a well-funded conservative shop, did a major buy of airtime for this ad.
  2. In what sense did the “ancient Greeks” or British Empire fail by not following the principles that made them great?
  3. The US did not try to “tax itself out of recession.”  Taxes were cut, not raised.
  4. The government did not take over private industries, certainly not the banks.  It bailed them out, taking neither control nor ownership.
  5. The stimulus worked, as many studies have shown (as it did in the 1930s).  It was oversold (pols always oversell), but it was effective first aid (emergency treatment, not a cure).  The crash was roughly the same size as that of 1929, but we avoided a depression.
  6. China does not “own most” of the US government debt.  As of June 2011, China holds $1.2 trillion of the $14.3 T treasury debt (see this New York Times article).
  7. Nor can China leverage our debt to “make us work for them”.  There is no collateral for treasuries.  Cashing them in would send the RMB skyrocketing and crash their exports).  And we have postive net investment income (we earn more on our foreign investments than they earn here; see details here).

James Fallows explains a few more errors in  “The Phenomenal Chinese Professor Ad“, The Atlantic, 21 October 2010:

CAGW, a descendant of J. Peter Grace’s 1980s-era anti-wasteful spending commission, is in principle bipartisan, though in this election its campaign about the menace of “stimulus spending” has an obvious partisan tilt. And if you know anything about the Chinese economy, the actual analytical content here is hilariously wrong. The ad has the Chinese official saying that America collapsed because, in the midst of a recession, it relied on

  • government stimulus spending,
  • big changes in its health care systems, and
  • public intervention in major industries

– all of which of course, have been crucial parts of China’s (successful) anti-recession policy.

Campus Progress made a parody of CAGW’s propaganda video.

(2)  Successful propaganda need not be used only once

A good con can fool the same marks a second time.  Here we see the same ad, with a few tweaks (plus a jab at Rick Perry), which has gone viral on the Internet – 122 thousand hits so far on Google (a crude but useful metric).


For more information about Ron Paul see section 2 of Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us.

For more information

For a list of all posts about these things see the FM Reference Page Information & disinformation, the new media & the old.

Other propaganda and information operations run against us (other than those by DoD and intel agencies:

  1. Successful propaganda as a characteristic of 21st century America, 1 February 2010
  2. More propaganda: the eco-fable of Easter Island, 4 February 2010
  3. Can Obama turn America into something like Zimbabwe?, 22 February 2010
  4. Dumbest headline of the week, 1 March 2010 — Where are the good political smear artists?
  5. About the political significance of the conservatives’ health care propaganda, 23 March 2010
  6. The similar delusions of America’s Left and Right show our common culture – and weakness, 26 March 2010
  7. Programs to reshape the American mind, run by the left and right, 2 August 2010
  8. Our leaders have made a discovery of the sort that changes the destiny of nations, 15 September 2010
  9. The easy way to rule: leading a weak people by feeding them disinformation, 13 April 2011
  10. Why Conservatives are winning: they use the WMD of political debate, 28 April 2011
  11. Facts are an obstacle to the reform of America, 20 October 2011
  12. Our minds are addled, the result of skillful and expensive propaganda, 28 December 2011
  13. More use of the big lie: shifting the blame for the housing crisis, 29 December 2011

This post originally appeared at Fabius Maximus and is posted with permission.

One Response to "We Are Weak Because We Enjoy Being Lied to (We Prefer Pleasant Fiction to Harsh Facts)"

  1. Sierra7   January 10, 2012 at 11:49 am

    What is this "stimulus" thing?
    14 trillion for the financial (and counting) and a mere less than a trillion for the ordinary folk.
    Get real!