Saturday, October 15, 2011

Occupy the Polls

CBS reports that 54 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the Occupiers of Wall Street. But if they really represents "the 99 percent," shouldn't 99 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of it?

Just askin'.


TC said...

Do most people have a favorable impression of policies that represent their interests? Probably not. I would bet most Americans couldn't explain the concept of externalities, for example, so it's quite likely many people don't know enough to know what's good for them.

Martin Cothran said...

You mean the people who cannot give us a coherent account of why they are protesting know more about what's good for the rest of America that the rest of America does?

Thomas M. Cothran said...

There is a coherent account of why they are protesting: that policy favors the interests of the 1% over the 99%--that much is clear as day. What is less clear are the precise ways in which this works out (debt, bailouts, college tuition, etc.), and the way it should be fixed.

But this is quite common for popular movements: people agree generally that there is a large problem, but there is less consensus on the precise contours of the problem and the solutions. The Tea Party, for example, began with an objection to bailing out the banks and morphed into a protest against "big government" (as long as their unemployment benefits and Medicare aren't touched). Especially in the protest phase there was a wide range of opinions represented (including some unsavory, racist ones), but the movement was successful in eventually adopting a more monolithic agenda. OWS is actually moving to draft much more specific solutions than the Tea Party did, and they are doing so at a much faster rate. Really, most all the criticisms that have been made so far of OWS go double for the Tea Party.

Singring said...

Back when the Tea Party was all the rage, they did a poll of self-described members. 70 % of them opposed cuts to Medicaid or Medicare. In words, that's *seventy* percent.

74 % were opposed to cuts to social security.

In other words: someone had managed to make people who actually don't want cuts to government programs to support a political movement that wants to abolish those propgrams altogether.

How can we explain this kind of cognitive dissonance? Well, it appears that people don't even realize they are getting government benefits:

Up to 44 % of people who have received social security benefits responded with 'NO' to the question of whether they have ever used a government program.

40 % of people who had used Medicare answered 'NO'.

The lesson is this:

If you have a corporate media machine at your service and a poor educational system as your ally, you can make people believe in anything you want them to. If you are the ruling class, all you need to do - like the Koch brothers and others are demonstrating excellently - is pump enough money into disinforming the public, splintering it by making use of their prejudices and fears and silencing it by assaulting core democratic principles.

At some stage, however, when the people have finally been kicked around enough that they wake up from their stupor, all of those things ease to work.

Try as you might, it is only so long you can sell people dung and make them believe its gold.

And I find it very disappointing that the best you seem to be able to do in this time of societal upheaval is ridicule those who are asking for their fair shot at a decent life.