During the Cold War ideologues were seen as always the same socialists who had read something in a tiny red booklet or in Karl Marx' The Capital. They reinforce their believes in isolated social groups which we would now call echo chambers. You shook your head wondering how these otherwise smart people couldn't know that their "ideas" are not new. In fact they were tried and tested, and despite the new label, they failed not only in recent times, but throughout centuries.
If you told them that, they would attribute the failure to circumstances. Now, you could sit down with them and explain that the same circumstances don't cause the disaster without the policy or that the idea leads to the outcome for purely logical reasons. You won't.
You may sit down with your loved ones and talk things through, but eventually you will let it go. The reason why religions have so much irrational baggage is that we don't talk things through. We have jobs, a family, friends. Public affairs pass the smartest of us unnoticed. That flying donkey Buraq who talked to Prophet Mohammet...never mind!
Another hurdle is that people can be made to believe that a school of thought always comes as a package, delivered with a book or through the words of a leader. It is easy to debunk an ideology for some disagreement. Many atheists claim that they have found the well of rationality. But do you really scrutinize and sort out all of your believes?
This looks all funny as long as one ideology is not domineering your corner of the world. There is a set of rules which ensure that opposing ideas can co-exist. Make the market of ideas thrive and let it do its magic! Let bad ideas be exposed to criticism! It's a really nice framework, only that, well, we don't "do" it. We let the donkey talk and stifle the voices which we dislike. Only few of us even acknowledge the possibility of being wrong.
But, hey, you make the difference! Yes, you! You still can make voices heard that are oppressed and dispel stupid nonsense. You know that it is long-standing ACLU policy and you sure do it, too. Let's just pretend you do!
How do you get the word out? You notice that something is wrong or at least you notice that people try to get their voices heard and are stifled. You can organize a protest and mobilize all your hundred friends to march through the streets. Your friends have ACLU morals. They may not even agree that something is wrong, but they notice how people who try to say something are harassed, so they all turn up. How many people were necessary to make George W. Bush pull out of Iraq? Maybe you ask your Mom to join in.
You realize that you have to reach more people. You rent some billboards. After you got broke, you notice that your opponents reach so many more people than you. How are they doing it?
They sing! No, really! Kim Jong Un has a state-owned organization that produces nice movies and tunes. ISIS and their mirrors are a bit handicapped because Islam forbids music, but don't worry, they just call them war songs and in love and war Allah allows everything! Sometimes a western entertainment company is just infiltrated a bit. The homogeneous political views among the creative have nothing to do with bullying or have they? It is just that one political view makes people funny, sexy, convincing actors, and, oh, they can sing!
So maybe you decide to do some singing. But where? All the stages are owned by people who just forego your pretty voice and go for Kesha. She has personality in her voice.
Don't we have a free market? If people really like what you have to say and your stella voice, Britney Spears is done, isnt' she? You go to the market place and some cents fall into your hat. Some producer will recognize you, soon, you think. Hm, maybe you put on a pussy hat and a sickle and hammer shirt.
There is another place where your opponent is successful: The internet. Now, that looks good because people who get blocked and whose websites are buried by Google are surely evil people. You heard from them and aren't there points of disagreements? Even if you agree with them in many ways, they use words that are appalling. You will do it differently.
The newspeak dictionary keeps evolving and your brain is not progressive enough to keep track of all the right gender pronouns. If you happen to talk German, all words and phrases could potentially have been used by Nazis. You will learn about that when it is too late. You dog whistle without a whistle and the wrong dogs will find you.
You decide to show solidarity with people who you disagree with. After all you have ACLU morals. Maybe the "enemies" that you are constantly told to hate by people who sing are not that evil.
But you have heard really dreadful things about these people. They are a threat and try to kill somebody. You may have sworn never to believe prejudices after Hitler was defeated. People check accusations against Jews, the socialists, the right, whoever the current enemy in your corner of the world is, also against individuals. That is what we have learnt, haven't we? I mean, that was really the lesson, wasn't it? The opposite is true. For all your life you have been conditioned to believe all accusations against other people and never to question them.
If you do research the actual people who are maligned, you end up with the following results:
- the accusation is false
- the situation/words can also be interpreted in a different light
- powerful people get a pass for the same "transgression"
- somebody is a gruesome murderer and you remain appalled
- you question if you share the applied moral (you may approve of what the person did)
How do we decide what is moral? Do we glean it from the bible or do we watch public people being punished for something? Is there even a difference?
You are in really hot water now because of guilt by association. Some in the English-speaking world have noticed that it is morally despicable to smear somebody for other people's actions. However, the German language, for instance, would not even have a phrase for 'guilt by association'. The concept that something is wrong with it is hardly understood, and in many cultures where English is not spoken there is almost no awareness of the problem at all.
Here you are, not yet blocked, Google does index you but demotes the content by small bloggers in there search results. You shout into the wilderness. None of what you say goes viral. That's no surprise. You don't try to find people who already think like you, you are here to convince people. Next issue: Platon's cave problem.
Information digest works like music appreciation. Your ear is trained to accept some chords, they may vary only a bit and as much artists think of themselves they basically invent the same sounds again and again. Everything that digresses too much is considered noise by the listeners. If you are not a narcissist and you want to promote an idea and not your person, you produce noise.
You can promote your person by repeating what all the right thinking people say, but this is not what you went broke for with your billboard investments. Because people are only ready to learn incrementally, you find yourself in the position that you have to explain too much at once.
Another psychological barrier is that many people just ignore negative information when it hits them fast and hard. Some people can't accept the death of their loved once. Some people can't accept that other people's freedom is at risk. No changes of the law, disclosure of government surveillance programs, treatment of political opponents, or show of political violence can convince them.
In many places around the world the political climate becomes toxic so fast that you wouldn't even want to put out your name and your face. People lose their jobs, their financial standing, their families and friends because they disagree with the powerful. They are accused of the most horrible things. People believe these things because they are repeated long enough and the donkey still talks.
But why does the market of ideas not work? We are made to believe that it is immoral to use all available sources of information. You avoid FOX News because you were told for years that it makes you dumb and crazy. At the moment we see CNN at the receiving end of the same strategy. What idiot does still watch CNN? What we would actually need is that people have a cursory look at diverse media sources and not be ashamed of quoting them.
Some conservatives say, nah, just found your own newspaper. It is the same road to your pop singer stardom. Here is the thing they don't know: Neither the arts nor the papers are still carried by the market. The number of consumers are dwindling. If they are not bought by the likes of Carlos Slim or George Soros, they are living off their savings. Indeed, to be the mouthpiece of one or more billionaires is their only chance to survive while ad revenues dry up. They don't even try to reach a large audience anymore. They just make sure to be loud enough to drown independent voices.
When Leah Remini was asked why she had believed in Scientology she said something along the lines that Scientology's critics were so uninformed about her former religion. Ideologies shield themselves with arrogance against new ideas. The outsider can't know the vast library of your scriptures in detail be it the hadiths of Mohammet, the writings by Ron Hubbard, or the Marxist drivel. Critics always get something wrong and we are trained to ignore what they get right. We react with arrogance to the most immaterial errors while the donkey's still talking.
A big misunderstanding about ideologies is that they promise a utopia. We need that claim to justify how something so obviously stupid is believed. How was it ever convincing? We need to save our face. If you look into the utopia claim, it does not hold much water. The two schools of thought which most people would see as ideologies are Islamism and socialism. They both don't promise much. Islamists dream up a caliphate on earth. They also say that it was already once established. There is nothing ecstatic to expect. The afterlife is usually described in pornographic imagery. Even sex that lasts forever does not fill the dream of heavens with much color or life. Karl Marx did not give much detail about his goals, either. His presumed utopia is that everybody is brainwashed into being really, really nice, just like the Stepford Wives. In communism we can use that shared public toilet because the dictatorship of the proletariat has tought men to sit.
There is more to say about group think and pressure, but who am I to speak. The donkey's talking.