"Big Lie" theory -- i.e., that a big lie is easier to sell than a small one -- has been attributed to Josef Goebbels, among others. We owe whoever made that particular observation a debt of gratitude; it's among the most important of all the truisms of political combat -- if supplemented with this one:
In witness whereof, consider the poll results reported in this story:
Most Americans like to think of themselves as patriots, advocates for American values. But according to a new study, the very definition of “American values” has changed dramatically thanks to President Obama’s leftist administration. According to the Pew Research Center, just 49% of Americans say “our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior.” That number was 60% in 2002. That’s supremely problematic considering that our culture is superior to other cultures – just ask the millions trying to get here and out of hellholes like Mexico and Afghanistan.
Of course, in assessing the true meaning of such a poll, one must have all the information:
- Where was it taken?
- How was the sample population selected?
- What specific questions were asked and were the answers constrained in any way?
- Were controls in place to prevent pollster bias and observer effects from polluting the results?
Those are obviously important to anyone who understands public-opinion polling to the slightest degree. But for my part, I ask one more, because I'm interested above all else in how this apparent shift in Americans' attitudes toward their own country came about:
- What was the distribution of ages in the sample population?
Any poll respondent under the age of 40 is 90% likely to have been inundated with "America bad" notions during his grammar and secondary school years. More, the percent of persons who hold "America bad" views varies directly with population density and inversely with distance from the ocean.
We're in the middle of a giant sorting process: one protracted over time and determined by moral and political values. Polls such as the one referenced above reflect that. More to the point, they reflect the terrible power the Left's control over formal education has bequeathed them in the political sphere.
Great population density tends to collectivize the persons involved. When we're packed closely together, we have fewer options about matters that have any sort of externalities associated with them. Also, the opinions of those around us have greater force than they would in a sparser population. The Communists have known that for a century and more; for an excellent example, study the tactics used by Tanzania's Communists, under Julius Nyerere, to enforce orthodoxy and smoke out dissent.
The regions of greatest population density are along our ocean coasts, where we find the cities that formed in response to seaborne trade. Notably, those cities are almost exclusively Leftist bastions: governed generation after generation by left-liberals; lorded over by swarms of officials and bureaucrats; possessed of luxuriant welfare systems; and with the greatest gaps in income between the well-to-do, the "working class," and the "poor." The collectivist mentality predominates in those places, which makes a Big Lie easier to sell.
I don't have figures to hand about the distribution of residents' ages in coastal cities. I find myself wondering whether it would show valleys that correlate with the gaps in income. As most of us become better paid and generally more prosperous as we age, it would be consistent in that regard, among others.
The "Lost Generation" of which Hemingway and others wrote was a consequence of World War I and its effect on the nations involved. That war, which was insane from start to finish and merely set the stage for an even more terrible conflagration, changed not only bodies and borders but minds and allegiances as well. Persons who were staunch patriots before the war -- sincere believers in the values of their peoples and the essential justice of their societies -- came out of it unwilling to swear to anything. It wasn't so much a fin de siecle as a fin de convictions. Life went on, but the promulgating classes -- the writers, dramatists, and other formers of public consciousness -- had torn out their own hearts, to replace them with...nothing.
America has undergone a similar cardiectomy, though we haven't a calamity of the scale of the Great War to blame it on.
The Gramscian "long march through the institutions" has been a subject for discussion among conservatives for some time. Whether it can be countervailed without a full-scale counterattack on the educational system and the news-and-entertainment media is unclear. (I favor bypassing those institutions and setting up honest alternatives, but that's a subject for another screed.) What's no longer disputable is the effect of that triumphant march. The poll cited above illustrates it incontrovertibly.
Persons who've absorbed the "America bad" mindset are also more inclined toward both urban residence and government employment. Their attitudes are reinforced by several sorts of collectivism: that of great density; that of employment among the similarly minded, and that of the prevailing media, whose voices are unbelievably powerful in urban districts. How likely are they to respond to any sort of deprogramming? Is it possible that America must endure two, three, or more "lost generations" before she has even a chance to regain her just pride and belief in her founding principles?
Food for thought.