Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Powers-That-Be Are Secretly Terrified of the People’s Power

"And a recent study shows that when only 10% of a population have strongly-held beliefs, their belief will often be adopted by the majority of the society.

True, governments worldwide are cracking down on liberty with the iron fist of repression.

But some argue that this is actually a sign that we are winning."

The Powers-That-Be Are Secretly Terrified of the People’s Power … And Only PRETEND They’re Firmly In Control

George Washington's picture

Our Actions Are More Powerful Than We Realize

David Swanson writes:
Almost every [history of past activism] includes belated discoveries of the extent to which government officials were influenced by activist groups even while pretending to ignore popular pressure.

These revelations can be found in the memoirs of the government officials as well, such as in George W. Bush's recollection of how seriously the Republican Senate Majority Leader was taking public pressure against the war on Iraq in 2006.

Of course, activism that appears ineffectual at the time can succeed in a great many ways, including by influencing others, even young children, who go on to become effective activists -- or by influencing firm opponents who begin to change their minds and eventually switch sides.

The beautiful thing about nonviolent activism is that, while risking no harm, it has the potential to do good in ways small and large that ripple out from it in directions we cannot track or measure.

Wittner participated in his first political demonstration in 1961. The USSR was withdrawing from a moratorium on nuclear testing. A protest at the White House urged President Kennedy not to follow suit:
"Picking up what I considered a very clever sign ('Kennedy, Don't Mimic the Russians!'), I joined the others (supplemented by a second busload of students from a Quaker college in the Midwest) circling around a couple of trees outside the White House. Mike and I -- as new and zealous recruits -- circled all day without taking a lunch or a dinner break.

"For decades I looked back on this venture as a trifle ridiculous. After all, we and other small bands of protesters couldn't have had any impact on U.S. policy, could we? Then in the mid-1990s, while doing research at the Kennedy Library on the history of the world nuclear disarmament movement, I stumbled onto an oral history interview with Adrian Fisher, deputy director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He was explaining why Kennedy delayed resuming atmospheric nuclear tests until April 1962. Kennedy personally wanted to resume such tests, Fisher recalled, 'but he also recognized that there were a lot of people that were going to be deeply offended by the United States resuming atmospheric testing. We had people picketing the White House, and there was a lot of excitement about it -- just because the Russians do it, why do we have to do it?'"
Yes, Kennedy delayed a horrible action. He didn't, at that time, block it permanently. But if the picketers in 1961 had had the slightest notion that Kennedy was being influenced by them, their numbers would have multiplied 10-fold, as would the delay have correspondingly lengthened.

Yes, our government was more responsive to public opinion in the 1960s than now, but part of the reason is that more people were active then. And another reason is that government officials are doing a better job now of hiding any responsiveness to public sentiment, which helps convince the public it has no impact, which reduces activism further. We also focus far too much on the most difficult individuals to move, such as presidents.

In 1973-1974, Wittner visited GI coffee houses in Japan including in Yokusaka, where the Midway aircraft carrier was in port. The Japanese were protesting the ship's carrying of nuclear weapons, which was illegal in Japan, and which the U.S. military, of course, lied about. But U.S. soldiers with whom Wittner and other activists had talked, brought them onto the ship and showed them the nukes. The following summer, when Wittner read in a newspaper that,
"a substantial number of American GIs had refused to board the Midway for a mission to South Korea, then swept by popular protest against the U.S.-backed dictatorship, it occurred to me that I might have played some small role in inspiring their mutiny."
Soldiers can still be reached much more easily than presidents, more easily in many cases in fact than the average citizen. War lies are harder to sell to the people who have been fighting the wars.

In the late 1990s, Wittner was researching the anti-nuclear movement of decades past. He interviewed Robert "Bud" McFarlane, President Ronald Reagan's former national security advisor:
"Other administration officials had claimed that they had barely noticed the nuclear freeze movement. But when I asked McFarlane about it, he lit up and began outlining a massive administration campaign to counter and discredit the freeze -- one that he had directed. . . . A month later, I interviewed Edwin Meese, a top White House staffer and U.S. attorney general during the Reagan administration. When I asked him about the administration's response to the freeze campaign, he followed the usual line by saying that there was little official notice taken of it. In response, I recounted what McFarlane had revealed. A sheepish grin now spread across this former government official's face, and I knew that I had caught him. 'If Bud says that,' he remarked tactfully, 'it must be true.'"
When someone tells you to stop imagining that you're having an impact, ask them to please redirect their energy into getting 10 friends to join you in doing what needs to be done. If it has no impact, you'll have gone down trying. If it has an impact, nobody will tell you for many years.
Mr. Swanson is right. I noted in 2009:
As MSNBC news correspondent Jonathan Capehart tells Dylan Ratigan, the main problem is that people aren’t making enough noise. Capehart says that the people not only have to “burn up the phone lines to Congress”, but also to hit the streets and protest in D.C.

Even though most politicians are totally corrupt, if many millions of Americans poured into the streets of D.C., a critical mass would be reached, and the politicians would start changing things in a hurry.

As [liberal] PhD economist Dean Baker points out:
The elites hate to acknowledge it, but when large numbers of ordinary people are moved to action, it changes the narrow political world where the elites call the shots. Inside accounts reveal the extent to which Johnson and Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War was constrained by the huge anti-war movement. It was the civil rights movement, not compelling arguments, that convinced members of Congress to end legal racial discrimination. More recently, the townhall meetings, dominated by people opposed to health care reform, have been a serious roadblock for those pushing reform….

A big turnout … can make a real difference.
Baker is right about Vietnam.

Specifically – according to Daniel Ellsberg and many others – Richard Nixon actually planned on dropping a nuclear bomb on Vietnam. Nixon also said he didn’t care what the American people thought. He said that — no matter what the public did or said — he was going to escalate the war in Vietnam.

However, a well-known biographer says that Nixon backed off when hundreds of thousands of people turned out in Washington, D.C. to protest an escalation of the war.
And Pulitzer prize winning reporter Chris Hedges pointed out recently:
I was in Leipzig on November 9, 1989 with leaders of East German opposition and they told me that - perhaps within a year – there would be free passes back and forth across the Berlin wall.

Within a few hours, the Berlin Wall, at least as far as an impediment to human traffic, did not exist.

Week after week, month after month, these clergy in Leipzig held these candlelit vigils. And it was slow at first … people forget. Just like the Egyptian revolution has been percolating for many many months, and even years.

And suddenly, it began to grow.

And Honecker – who had been in ruling East Germany since the time of the dinosaurs – sent down a paratroop division to Leipzig .. . and they won’t attack the demonstrators.
Part of the reason that our actions are more powerful than we think is that courage is contagious. So is the ability to think.
As we've previously noted:
[Studies show ] that even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves. Specifically:
Solomon Asch, with experiments originally carried out in the 1950s and well-replicated since, highlighted a phenomenon now known as “conformity”. In the classic experiment, a subject sees a puzzle like the one in the nearby diagram: Which of the lines A, B, and C is the same size as the line X? Take a moment to determine your own answer…The gotcha is that the subject is seated alongside a number of other people looking at the diagram – seemingly other subjects, actually confederates of the experimenter. The other “subjects” in the experiment, one after the other, say that line C seems to be the same size as X. The real subject is seated next-to-last. How many people, placed in this situation, would say “C” – giving an obviously incorrect answer that agrees with the unanimous answer of the other subjects? What do you think the percentage would be?

Three-quarters of the subjects in Asch’s experiment gave a “conforming” answer at least once. A third of the subjects conformed more than half the time.
Get it so far? People tend to defer to what the herd thinks.

But here’s the good news:
Adding a single dissenter – just one other person who gives the correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that’s different from the group’s incorrect answer – reduces conformity very sharply, down to 5-10%.
Why is this important? Well, it means that one person who publicly speaks the truth can sway a group of people away from group-think.

If a group of people is leaning towards believing the government’s version of events, a single person who speaks the truth can help snap the group out of its trance.

There is an important point here regarding the web, as well. The above-cited article states that:
When subjects can respond in a way that will not be seen by the group, conformity also drops.What does that mean? Well, on the web, many people post anonymously. The anonymity gives people permission to “respond in a way that will not be seen by the group”. But most Americans still don’t get their news from the web, or only go to mainstream corporate news sites.

Away from the keyboard, we are not very anonymous. So that is where the conformity dynamic — and the need for courageous dissent — is vital. It is doubly important that we apply the same hard-hitting truthtelling we do on the Internet in our face-to-face interactions; because it is there that dissent is urgently needed.

Bottom line: Each person‘s voice has the power to snap entire groups out of their coma of irrational group-think. So go forth and be a light of rationality and truth among the sleeping masses.
And a recent study shows that when only 10% of a population have strongly-held beliefs, their belief will often be adopted by the majority of the society.
True, governments worldwide are cracking down on liberty with the iron fist of repression.
But some argue that this is actually a sign that we are winning.

Continue Reading HERE

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