Uncritical Mass

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In this view of propaganda as a one-way relationship -- where the men in charge infect the nation's collective mind with lies, damned lies, and yet more lies -- something important is overlooked: Our ability to judge the evidence for ourselves, to weigh politicians' claims, and to make a reasoned assessment as to whether we should support a course of action.

With their references to "loud noises" and "bright colors," Rampton and Stauber reduce the proverbial thinking man to the level of a toddler watching Teletubbies , getting excited by repetition, flashing lights, and simple messages. This doubt about our ability to engage ideas and to reject the ridiculous ran through many debates within the anti-war lobby. In response to a June poll that found that British people appear to be more critical of Blair than Americans are of Bush, the left-leaning media watchdog Web site Media Whores Online argued: The brains of a majority of the American people have been addled What they think is controlled by the media who are lap dogs of the government.

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Here in Britain, Blair's former secretary of state for international development, Clare Short, claimed she and the British public had been "duped all along" by Blair's famously dodgy dossiers -- a dupe being a "person who functions as the tool of another person or power. Brian Eno argues that American P. These postwar arguments not only suggest a disregard for the public.

They also give the pro-war lobby more credit than it deserves. Bush, Rumsfeld, and the rest did not put forward a case so convincing that people were cheering for war; rather, they cut-and-pasted anecdotal evidence with rhetorical bluster in an attempt to win our backing. The public often met their claims with a heavy dose of skepticism.

Yet the left's arguments about America's all-powerful propaganda portray Bush and Rummy as mind-controlling supermen.


The left's focus on the power of propaganda also represents the worst of the "Not in My Name" approach to opposing war, in which critics throw their hands in the air at what is happening around them rather than trying to challenge the drift of events and make an impact for the better. Instead of putting forth convincing, popular arguments against American and British intervention abroad, too many opponents of the war, especially on the left, despaired over the apparently insurmountable combination of propaganda and the gullibility of the masses. If they really want to know why Bush and Blair got away with their lame war stories, maybe they should look a little closer to home.

Of course propaganda can be persuasive, sometimes even decisive, for individuals making up their minds over whether to support a war, a political party, or whatever. But the influence of propaganda is determined by the broader political climate and by the general level of public debate. In a healthy, critical climate, it is likely that Bush and Blair would have received even more ridicule for their Iraqi propaganda. But at a time when serious political debate is hard to find, our leaders can offer dodgy dossiers and half-cocked claims as if they were good coin.

In short, it is often the weakness of the opposition that allows leaders to take their chances with paltry propaganda. Liberals and the left must shoulder their fair share of the responsibility for the degraded discussion over Iraq and for the opinion polls that suggest a majority of Americans and Britons supported the war. If those who are anti-war spent less time wringing their hands over Big Bad Bush and the fickle people, and more time developing a coherent case against war, then maybe we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now.

Uncritical mass

Surely the pro-war lobby is best challenged by being shouted at, rather than shouted about. We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them.

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Comments do not represent the views of Reason. A leading young male actor, Prithviraj Sukumaran, publicly apologised for glorifying male chauvinist violence and declared that he would eschew such lionisation. This has been widely welcomed — yet it is hard not to feel uncomfortable with the deeply familiar language in which he couches his support.

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While acknowledgement of such courage is indeed long overdue, justice and freedom from patriarchal stereotyping is a right of all women, courageous or not and indeed, enduring labour pain is nothing to celebrate — given that physical pain associated with reproduction that women endure are trivialised by the medical establishment at all levels. If Sukumaran is serious, he will soon discover that he cannot make a difference by simply transferring the respect he has for family women who stick bravely to grim patriarchal standards of courage to his female colleague.

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But I do think there is a lesson about feminism that those interested in a more gender-equal society should learn from this incident. There can be little doubt that gender relations in Malayalam cinema have been under transition in recent decades. We see an ever-more number of young women shed the protection of family members, assert their right to manage their incomes independently, experiment with various single- and couple-lifestyles beyond the familiar strictures on women. I have watched these developments with much approbation; even as it struck me that many of them with a few honourable exceptions were reluctant to be identified as feminist.

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  5. This was particularly apparent during the anti-Hindutva Kiss of Love struggles in Kerala in Indeed, this sort of feminism is widely desired by young women in Kerala whose education empowers them to make choices. Yet, as this incident clearly shows, it is no protection at all neither from patriarchal violence nor the sensationalising by the media that follows it. The problem is that lifestyle feminists often disarm feminism, individualise it, and make it appear harmless to patriarchy. This, and their individualised resistance to inconvenient parts of patriarchy, endears them to those who want women to be smart but uncritical.

    Yet, as is clear in this incident, individualised lifestyle feminism is toothless in the face of patriarchal violence — and while the support of other lifestyle feminist colleagues to the victim is surely laudable, it was a purely voluntary reaction, certainly not based on an ethical commitment. In sum, the lesson is that we need to resuscitate feminism as a public politics — and actively root lifestyle feminism in it.

    If not, the oppositional charge of feminism in public life is too easily depleted, and we are left with the paradox of powerless empowered women. The arrest of popular Malayalam star Dileep may have just trained lights on How the open jail system in Himachal Pradesh punishes — and empowers those serving terms.

    A rural initiative to create net savvy young women entrepreneurs has taken root. Here is a sanitation technology that needs to be looked at closely and, if possible, replicated in the rural The fund has delivered about Higher limit can be of help, provided you are disciplined about spending. The fund has beaten its benchmark over three- and five-year periods.

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