the Informed

Social Dysfunction, Part II: Willful Ignorance and The Death of Truth in Post 9/11 America

With the overwhelming evidence that the 9/11 Commission Report is riddled with inaccuracies, half-truths and flat-out lies, it is clear that the American people have been duped for years now. So why do they continue put any faith in the system at all? In the second part of this series on apathy, ignorance and greed, we take a look at lies, hidden agendas and the human psychology of ignorance.

I can't help but come back time and again to the concept that far too many people have opinions that, unfortunately, are not based in fact or science. Opinion surrounding the events of 9/11 is no exception to this, and in fact is possibly the most striking example of emotion and fear obfuscating the truth and leading to widespread ignorance and avoidance. In this, the second article of the series, I want to take a look at 9/11 and its repercussions as a case study for why so many people willingly wish to remain ignorant, at a time when radical change is so badly needed, where uncovering the truth is our only salvation. We need to ask the question, why do we live in a cultural climate where even discussing issues such as 9/11, climate change or NSA surveillance are met with such hostility and emotion when facts and the truth simply do not lie?

People are entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. - Edward Snowden

On September 11th, 2001, we all watched in horror as we witnessed our world change forever. As to exactly what extent and how, we were still blissfully ignorant, We were still blissfully ignorant, but for many of us, that would changebut for many of us, that would change over the coming years as question after question arose about the validity of the official story about the events of that day and the events leading to that horrific tragedy. But for millions of others, these newly disseminated facts were of no relevance.

The plain, sad reality — I report this following four full days studying the work — is that The 9/11 Commission Report, despite the vast quantity of labor behind it, is a cheat and a fraud. It stands as a series of evasive maneuvers that infantilize the audience, transform candor into iniquity, and conceal realities that demand immediate inspection and confrontation. - Benajmin Demott, Harper's Magazine

So why, fourteen years after the fact, are we still unable to conduct a proper investigation, and why are so many people still unaware of the evidence? While the conspiracy theorists have made many conjectures based on the evidence, and to some this has discredited these truths, the facts are still the facts, however you decide to process them. Why are so many Americans not even aware of the issue of the collapse of building 7 on the afternoon of 9/11? Is it possible that they just don't want to know, or did Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, have it right?

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. - Joseph Goebbels

A culture of willful ignorance, or as they refer to it, motivated avoidance of sociopolitical informationIn a 2012 paper from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the authors took a look at exactly how people function within a society when they look to the government not just for taking care of basic needs (utilities, infrastructure, security, etc) but also for emotional needs, relieving the individual from having to be concerned or worried about social issues, leading to a culture of willful ignorance, or as they refer to it, motivated avoidance of sociopolitical information. The authors, in their study, concluded:

[We] leveraged this past research to develop a novel explanation for how people’s tendency to trust in their social systems, and outsource their worries and fears to these systems, can lead to the propagation of ignorance in the context of important social issues. - Steven Shepherd and Aaron C Kay, 2012

They found that people most affected by the economic recession, for example, were least likely to read information challenging the government's ability to deal with the situation. This same group was, interestingly, more inclined to only read positive stories about the economy. Similarly, is it possible that the heartache of knowing that the American government is lying to its people about the events of 9/11 so unbearable, that most people simply don't want to know? Or that knowing the science behind climate change is too frightening? If you want a few hundred examples of commonly held beliefs that are just plain wrong, this Wikipedia article is very eye-opening. I challenge you to see how many of these things you may have been wrong about. It's truly scary, just how many misconceptions we carry around as a society, particularly in the realm of science.

The problem becomes then that these thousands of wrong ideas we have accumulated in the cultural dialogue are severely limiting to finding solutions and we areIs it possible that the heartache of knowing that the American government is lying to its people so unbearable, that most people simply don't want to know? trying to move forward without really knowing what is going on. Why, then, do we have experts if we are not willing to listen to them? Why do people, for example, want to formulate their own opinions about what happened on 9/11 when the architects and engineers, the people who build this stuff, are banding together to help educate people of the facts? Why is their message so difficult to get out to the public? Why do we continually choose fear instead of love? Why have we allowed 9/11 to be used to move forward a heinous and evil agenda?

There are so many questions related to the problem of ignorance, and it can become daunting - another reason to ignore. The media, of course, as a propaganda machine for capitalism, is very much responsible for this lack of truth. Media coverage in the mainstream is in no way representative of the reality of our world. In fact, consumers of the most popular mainstream media outlets are less informed about facts than any other group. These corporations are guilty of keeping millions in the dark, while they talk of fair and balanced reporting. It's shameful and immoral.

Ignorance is a luxury we can no longer afford in this era. We are obligated to one another to learn the truth about issues before we form opinions, and especially before we form policies. We can no longer leave it up to the government to deal with these issues in a responsible manner - their trust has been all but completely washed away. And trust has declined, particularly since 9/11, and particularly during the presidencies of Nixon and two Bushs. But even knowing this, we still, some would say blindly, follow our governments when it is clear from the evidence that they are failing the people. They certainly aren't failing corporate interest, as is evidenced by their profits. Is it the death of truth in our culture? Avoiding issues or being willfully ignorant will not make them go away. It is time everyone did their part to be informed, avoid emotional bias, and most importantly, to uncover the truth . If you turn off your TV for a while, you might just start to find it.
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