HomeArticleThe Illusory Truth Effect: How Millions Were Duped By Russiagate

The Illusory Truth Effect: How Millions Were Duped By Russiagate

“Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy”, read the front page headline of Sunday’s New York Times. Bit by bit, mainstream American consciousness is slowly coming to terms with the death of the thrilling conspiracy theory that the highest levels of the US government had been infiltrated by the Kremlin, and with the stark reality that the mass media and the Democratic Party spent the last two and-a-half years monopolizing public attention with a narrative which never had any underlying truth to it.

There are still holdouts, of course. Many people invested a tremendous amount of hope, credibility, and egoic currency in the belief that Robert Mueller was going to arrest high-ranking Trump administration officials and members of Trump’s own family, leading seedy characters to “flip” on the president in their own self-interest and thereby providing evidence that will lead to impeachment. Some insist that Attorney General William Barr is holding back key elements of the Mueller report, a claim which is premised on the absurd belief that Mueller would allow Barr to lie about the results of the investigation without speaking up publicly. Others are still holding out hope that other investigations by other legal authorities will turn up some Russian shenanigans that Mueller could not, ignoring Mueller’s sweeping subpoena powers and unrivaled investigative authority. But they’re coming around.

The question still remains, though: what the hell happened? How did a fact-free conspiracy theory come to gain so much traction among mainstream Americans? How were millions of people persuaded to invest hope in a narrative that anyone objectively analyzing the facts knew to be completely false?

The answer is that they were told that the Russiagate narrative was legitimate over and over again by politicians and mass media pundits, and, because of a peculiar phenomenon in the nature of human cognition, this repetition made it seem true.

The rather uncreatively-named illusory truth effect describes the way people are more likely to believe something is true after hearing it said many times. This is due to the fact that the familiar feeling we experience when hearing something we’ve heard before feels very similar to our experience of knowing that something is true. When we hear a familiar idea, its familiarity provides us with something called cognitive ease, which is the relaxed, unlabored state we experience when our minds aren’t working hard at something. We also experience cognitive ease when we are presented with a statement that we know to be true.

We have a tendency to select for cognitive ease, which is why confirmation bias is a thing; believing ideas which don’t cause cognitive strain or dissonance gives us more cognitive ease than doing otherwise. Our evolutionary ancestors adapted to seek out cognitive ease so that they could put their attention into making quick decisions essential for survival, rather than painstakingly mulling over whether everything we believe is as true as we think it is. This was great for not getting eaten by saber-toothed tigers in prehistoric times, but it’s not very helpful when navigating the twists and turns of a cognitively complex modern world. It’s also not helpful when you’re trying to cultivate truthful beliefs while surrounded by screens that are repeating the same bogus talking points over and over again.

I’m dealing with a perfect example of the perils of cognitive ease right now. Writing this essay has required me to move outside my familiar comfort zone of political commentary and read a bunch of studies and essays, think hard about new ideas, and then figure out how to convey them as clearly and concisely as possible without boring my audience. This movement away from cognitive ease has resulted in my checking Twitter a lot more often than I usually do, and seeking so much distraction that this essay will probably end up getting published about twelve hours later than I had intended. Having to read a bunch of scholars explaining the precise reasons why I’m acting like such an airhead hasn’t exactly helped my sense of cognitive ease any, either.

Science has been aware of the illusory truth effect since 1977, when a study found that subjects were more likely to evaluate a statement as true when it’s been repeatedly presented to them over the course of a couple of weeks, even if they didn’t consciously remember having encountered that statement before. These findings have been replicated in numerous studies since, and new research in recent years has shown that the phenomenon is even more drastic than initially believed. A 2015 paper titled “Knowledge Does Not Protect Against Illusory Truth” found that the illusory truth effect is so strong that sheer repetition can change the answers that test subjects give, even when they had been in possession of knowledge contradicting that answer beforehand. This study was done to test the assumption which had gone unchallenged up until then that the illusory truth effect only comes into play when there is no stored knowledge of the subject at hand.

“Surprisingly, repetition increased statements’ perceived truth, regardless of whether stored knowledge could have been used to detect a contradiction,” the paper reads. “Reading a statement like ‘A sari is the name of the short pleated skirt worn by Scots’ increased participants’ later belief that it was true, even if they could correctly answer the question ‘What is the name of the short pleated skirt worn by Scots?'”

Stored knowledge tells pretty much everybody that the “short, pleated skirt worn by Scots” is a kilt, not a sari, but simply repeating the contrary statement can convince them otherwise.

This explains why we all know people who are extraordinarily intelligent, but still bought into the Russiagate narrative just as much as our less mentally apt friends and acquaintances. Their intelligence didn’t save them from this debunked conspiracy theory, it just made them more clever in finding ways of defending it. This is because the illusory truth effect largely bypasses the intellect, and even one’s own stored knowledge, because of the way we all reflexively select for cognitive ease.

Another study titled “Incrimination through innuendo: Can media questions become public answers?” found that subjects can be manipulated into believing an allegation simply by exposure to innuendo or incriminating questions in news media headlines. Questions like, for example, “What If Trump Has Been a Russian Asset Since 1987?”, printed by New York Magazine in July of last year.

You can understand, then, how a populace who is consuming repetitive assertions, innuendo, and incriminating questions on a daily basis through the screens that they look at many times a day could be manipulated into believing that Robert Mueller would one day reveal evidence which will lead to the destruction of the Trump administration. The repetition leads to belief, the belief leads to trust, and before you know it people who are scared of the president are reading the Palmer Report every day and parking themselves in front of Rachel Maddow every night and letting everything they say slide right past their skepticism filters, marinating comfortably in a sedative of cognitive ease.

And that repetition has been no accident. CNN producer John Bonifield was caught on video nearly two years ago admitting that CNN’s CEO Jeff Zucker was personally instructing his staff to stay focused on Russia even in the midst of far more important breaking news stories.

“My boss, I shouldn’t say this, my boss yesterday we were having a discussion about this dental shoot and he goes and he was just like I want you to know what we are up against here,” Bonifield told an undercover associate of James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. “And he goes, just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords and for a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN said in our internal meeting, he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we’re done with it, let’s get back to Russia.”

(And before you get on me about O’Keefe’s shady record, CNN said in a statement that the video was legitimate and disputed none of its content, saying only that it stands by Bonifield and that “Diversity of personal opinion is what makes CNN strong, we welcome it and embrace it.”)

Zucker, for his part, told the New York Times in an article published yesterday that he was “entirely comfortable” with CNN’s role in promoting the Russiagate conspiracy theory the way that it did.

“We are not investigators. We are journalists, and our role is to report the facts as we know them, which is exactly what we did,” Zucker said. “A sitting president’s own Justice Department investigated his campaign for collusion with a hostile nation. That’s not enormous because the media says so. That’s enormous because it’s unprecedented.”

“We are not investigators”? What the fuck kind of dumbass shit is that? So it’s not your job to investigate whether what you’re reporting is true or false? It’s not your job to investigate whether the anonymous sources you’re basing your reports on might be lying or not? It’s not your job to investigate whether or not you’d be committing journalistic malpractice with the multiple completely bullshit stories your outlet has been humiliated by in the last two years? It’s not your job to weigh the consequences of deliberately monopolizing public attention on a narrative which consists of nothing but confident-sounding assertions and innuendo?

“We are not investigators.” So? You’re not dentists or firefighters either, what’s your point? That has nothing to do with the mountains of journalistic malpractice you’ve been perpetrating by advancing this conspiracy theory, nor with the inexcusable brutalization you’ve been inflicting upon the American psyche with your deliberate nonstop repetition of bogus assertions, innuendo, and incriminating questions.

The science of modern propaganda has been in research and development for over a century. If you think about how many advances have been made in other military fields over the last hundred years, that gives you a clear example of how sophisticated an understanding the social engineers must now have of the methods of mass manipulation of human psychology. We may be absolutely certain that there are people who’ve been working to drive the public narratives about western rivals like Russia, and that they are doing so with a far greater understanding of the concepts we’ve touched on in this essay than we have at our disposal.

The manipulators understand our psyches better than we understand them ourselves, and they’re getting more clever, not less. The only thing we can do to keep our heads while immersed in a society that is saturated with propaganda is be as relentlessly honest as possible, with ourselves and with the world. We’ll never be able to out-manipulate the master manipulators, but we can be real with ourselves about whether or not we’re selecting for cognitive ease rather than thinking rigorously and clearly. We can be truthful with our friends, family, coworkers and social media followers wherever untruth seems to be taking hold. We can do our very best to shine the light of truth on the puppeteers wherever we spot them and ruin the whole goddamn show for everyone.

It may not seem like a lot, but truth is the one thing they can’t manipulate, whether it’s truth about them, truth about the world, or truthfulness with yourself. The lying manipulators got us into this mess, so only truth can get us out.

________________________

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Latest comments

  • I guess the “esteemed” Jeffrey Zucker is going to claim that their organization is not a gang of propagandists, either.

    No; they’re just a bunch of cretinous morons.

  • So, if I am reading this correctly it is OK, indeed necessary in order to resist the dangerous allure of the “illusory truth effect” to accept this official narrative courtesy of Attorney-General Barr, as to the innocence of Donald Trump on the matter of “Russiagate”?

    Where, though, does that leave us in regard to other matters such as the Russian hacking of the DNC and John Podesta’s email, Seth Rich’s murder and Comet Ping-Pong? Do we accept or reject the official narratives on these as well, or follow your lead?

    • The point of the piece is that you should think with your own brain. And you should take whatever the large media outlets owned by billionaires say with a large grain of salt. You should verify the references, you should look at the reports from both sides in a conflict/debate. Also, there is no such thing as “the narrative of the innocence”. Everybody is innocent by default. You have to PROVE, beyond a reasonable doubt, that someone is guilty for them to be considered guilty. Hope this helps.

      • Thinking with your own brain is important. Thus I note now that a certain statement within Caitlin’s curious exercise where she sought to warn us about the “illusory truth effect” has been refuted, at least in part:

        “Some insist that Attorney General William Barr is holding back key elements of the Mueller report, a claim which is premised on the absurd belief that Mueller would allow Barr to lie about the results of the investigation without speaking up publicly.”

        Well, we now know that there were (a) significant discrepancies between the actual findings of Mueller’s report and how Barr presented them in his letter; (b) some of Mueller’s staff publicised their misgivings about the accuracy of Barr’s letter through the media and (c) Mueller wrote directly to Barr to express his views that Barr’s letter did not accurately convey the findings of his report and that the summaries should have been released.

        Perhaps Caitlin opted for “cognitive ease” rather than asking the hard questions about whether or not Barr, with his record dating back to Iran-Contra, and working for this administration in particular, would be willing to engage in a propaganda exercise, by carefully misrepresenting Mueller’s findings in such a way as to protect the powerful.

  • More than exonerating Trump, it exonerates Russia.

  • CJ fan here, but this (largely) recapitulation of CJ’s many Russia-gate points is too long. Not to mention, when you get philosophical and start incorporating psycho-cultural analysis, you come off rather light. Parenti’s Inventing Reality and C/H’s Manufacturing Consent and many, many others have discussed these kinds of topics at length…These issues aren’t unknown, and your explications are so simplistic it indicates your audience might not be that well-read. The fact is, everything in human life is largely motivated by illusions and mere belief, not just buying into media reportage/narratives…and there’s a whole host of literature discussing that.

    Your poetry is great, but stay away from pushing psychological theories, Keep those to the wine dinners.

    • Zan–it I may be somewhat presumptuous–but let me thank you–on behalf of all [or, at least most] of Caitlin’s readers for your erudite comments. You’re obviously a very intellectual person–and we want to thank you for your personal insights.

      Now, I didn’t quite understand what you were trying to say [perhaps, “we are all one”?]–but that’s because I’m not an intellectual. From my non-intellectual post–I think Caitlin Johnson does one-hell of-an-analysis on current events–on all levels–and is unusually prolific. If only there were more women out there who had the understanding, the stamina, and the tenacity to put it out there–as she does: Iif only there were more men.

      I do agree you on the poetry. The woman can write.

    • Re: ZAN
      Regarding your closing instruction “Keep those to the wine dinners.”, are you referring to the diners or the dinners they are dining upon?
      And, not to aggravate what is possibly your evolving malignant narcissism, might you suffer my commending the recent work of Matt Taibbi, who also trades in similar “simplistic explications”, to my peers in this audience “that might not be that well-read.”

      https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million
      As Usual,
      EA

  • As people continue to focus on “Russiagate”and its fallout, the Anglo-Zionist empire rolls along.

    Israel Threatens Massive Military Offensive On Gaza
    https://imemc.org/article/israel-threatens-massive-military-offensive-on-gaza/

  • Free Gaza, Assange , Manning etc. Speak The TRUTH, or shut the fuck up. Have a nice day if you wage Peace… NATO wages War. Are Israeli Tanks going into Gaza for Freedom? Demockracy? Power to the People. Get out of our way. Have a nice day. This just in…Peace

    • I did not approve of this message Ft. Meade. We are #1. Repeat. Wave multiple flags. Vote D or R. Help your children or others?

    • Right-on Chuck N.–I believe we’re in the beginning stages of a nascent civilian awakening [necessity the mother of…]–fuck these asshole politicians who are only concerned about their immediate personal issues–time for the mob to appear over the rise of the hill and take hold of the situation–all those who have been traitors to the cause of humanity–can expect some very unpleasant reward repercussions..

  • Great article. Just watching the cognitive ease video, some parts of the propaganda wars make sense. It makes sense that alternative pundits, websites, books, etc be censored. I can see where if those alternative voices grow, they will interfere with the process of creating cognitive ease pushing various narratives.

    In reading Garth Porter’s take down on Consortium about claims about twitter, etc, some NYTimes reporters claimed that those pesky mind altering Russia ads reached abut a whopping 125,000,000 people. Of course this was just a speculative number even admitted by FaceBook. But I sorta thought so what, how many times were those ads repeated. It seemed like once maybe. How is one juvenile ad going to instantly convert people into voting for Trump. Well, looks like results of the research on cognitive ease would imply those ads, if not repeated, don’t mean jack. Even the beer makers know you have to repeat their ads over and over.

    You know what was one of the greatest disasters in education? When Rhetoric was no longer taught. One the books I most regret losing was a compendium of rhetorical devices. The devices were listed by both Latin and Greek names by monks over the centuries. What else monks going to do in the dead of a Western European winter other than drink or do each other. The book was great but evil at the same time as it listed what Satan would surely use in an argument. Image putting together illegitimate methods of persuasion with cognitive ease.

  • I hope the Russiagate episode serves to awaken some of the sleeping masses. If so , it could be a very good thing. If people would just ask themselves : ” OK , now I know who has misinformed me over the past 2+ years – WaPo , the NYT , MSNBC , CNN , etc. – but who were the people who got it right , and especially , who got it right while possibly wishing that it could all be true ? ”
    .
    Such an inquiry would lead you to people like Caitlin, Greenwald, Aaron Maté, Max Blumenthal, and some others who you might then decide to place more trust in on other issues , like Venezuela , the war in Syria and the White Helmets / gas attacks, the US relationship with Israel , etc. Boy , how the world could change for the better if enough people came to this simple realization of their own accord.

  • Great piece Caitlin. Worth the sweat !
    And now… what’s needed is ruthless investigation of the Christchurch shooting ‘event’.
    Where are the real reporters? The official narrative lacks credibility.

    • The official narrative was so weak, the Anglo-Zionist had to pull it out of the mainstream consciousness quickly. As in 9/11, the media stopped talking about it.

  • Is it not obvious the timing of the release of the Russigate Mueller Report to coincide with Trump’s announcement about the Golan Heights? It was meant to suck up all the attention away from the Anglo-Zionist agenda.

    • As always–regardless of what party–the zionist is in the drivers seat–the rest just a distraction–as America is liquidated.

  • The symbols & clues in history leading to the destruction of nations, genocide and total war are everywhere but apparently people are again too busy to be bothered with learning the truth but want to reserve the right to an personal opinion no matter how misinformed they are. Truth will always be secondary until it will hit every individual and it wont matter how much some love being slapped and fall prey to BS constantly. “Russia-gate” is the least of USA’s problem. It is the hungry cancer within that destroys and no one seems to care.

    • WW1—>Balfour Declaration.
      WW–> Creation of the nation state Israel.
      WW3–> Rebuilt 3rd Temple, full takeover of Jerusalem?

  • I really don’t know where to begin–this absurdity of Russian influence while everyone is ignoring the fetid gorilla taking up the precious space n our minds–goggling up everything once held sacred–running the dog with increasingly risky and impossible performance tricks.
    The descendants of Genghis Khan [the greatest mass murderer the world has ever known]– the Ashkenazi zionists completely run the US–while it is verboten to speak of this–better to demonize the Russians–apparently a much easier target.
    The big AIPAC fashion show is ready to open–and all of our seasoned leaders are all fitting themselves with the appropriate knee pads and suitable body lotions in anticipation of the inevitable love-fest: https://www.rt.com/op-ed/454455-democrats-israel-boycott-law-aipac/
    But you know– it’s time to stop blaming the Narcissists that we– the world citizen– allow to steer the ship. These creatures are incapable of change–and will eventually run the ship aground— because that’s what they do. So for Mr. and Mrs. Gentile–along with the non-zionist jew–we had better step-up and stop the madness: If you can’t do it for yourselves–do it for your children.
    Otherwise–you will have to die knowing that you let them down–as you see the look of horror and sadness in their eyes as their world continues to crumble along with the opportunities that might have been. What, you say I’m overstating the threat, well tell that to the 65 million who died in engineered wa–r known as WWII.
    Okay, enough of that–now back to the fantasy world of the TV, social media and the new line of sex robots: Who would have thought?

    • It’s nice of you to mention the existence of the ‘non-zionist jew’, but since you consider him, too, to be an ‘Ashkenazi descendant of Genghis Khan’, I suppose that the evil is in his blood as well, so he had better be sent to the gas chambers along with the others, just in case. Seriously, you Nazis should all just go and jump off a cliff.

      • Well just want it to be known that I–along with Arthur Koestler, 13th Tribe–am of the opinion that the majority of today’s jews are not of semitic origin. The Jews of the Holy Land are G-d’s people–if they still survive–and would not allow the cheering of snipers as they gunned down innocent and unarmed prisoners of a perpetual war: Israel’s raison d’ etre!

        So not ever member of any tribe is bad–generally the large majority are good–until the puppet masters start wielding their mystery school spells–and we are all captives. But the zionist ashkenazis [and I neglected to include the zionist gentiles] have a plan–it’s good [in that it’s effective]–it’s bad [in that they are not fit to lead].

        So FF you pulled the Nazi thing [instead of the anti-semitism conundrum] but let me tell you something–I have come upon a new supposition. My recently deceased veteran-buddy– of 3 wars–insisted– until the day he died that it was and is the Nazis: Von Braun [personally guarded], Paper Clip, Antarctica, flying saucers and the Nazi Bell.

        I have always thought that the nazi/zionism ideologies were the two sides of the same coin. And the more research I do, the more that I am inclined to agree with Orwell’s 1984: In regards to Big Brother and Goldstein–they are one and the same. But FF, the battle is not really about jews and gentiles–it’s about the world citizen against Satan’s minions–the 1%.

        May we omnivores–unite as one and drive out the insatiable predators–they cannot stop–and they wouldn’t stand a chance !

  • “Mr Pompeo is not the first Trump official to suggest a divine will behind Mr Trump’s actions: In January, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told a religious television network that God “wanted Donald Trump to become president.””
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47670717
    So know one sees a problem with apocalyptic christian zionists running the biggest military on the planet.

  • In case you are not aware of it, legislation was passed a few years ago that allowed the US government to propagandize (lie to) American citizens within the US.

    https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BILLS-112hr5736ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr5736ih.pdf
    ..
    “112TH CONGRESS 2D SESSION
    ..
    H. R. 5736
    ..
    To amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.
    ..
    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
    ..
    MAY 10, 2012
    ..
    Mr. THORNBERRY (for himself and Mr. SMITH of Washington) introduced the
    following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
    ..
    ……………………………………………A BILL
    ..
    To amend the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 to authorize the domestic dissemination of information and material about the United States intended primarily for foreign audiences, and for other purposes.”

    ..
    Etc.

  • Caitlin, to all your excellent research links for understanding our human vulnerability to propaganda, I would also add the 4-part documentary, ‘ ‘The Century of the Self’ ‘ by Adam Curtis:
    http://thoughtmaybe.com/the-century-of-the-self/

  • The elite are taking advantage of a fundamental weakness in our character, which is our inclination to always be busy, occupied, and outward looking, to shirk being quiet, thoughtful and contemplative. We always want something going on and we dread silence.

  • Jeff Zucker called russians “hostile nation”? WTF. They are really crazy. He said it about whole nation, not about some people like Putin or another ‘bad’ guys, but about all of us. Sick…

  • And yet the majority of the media and alternative media has nothing to say of the obvious collusion of Trump and Israel. Kushner, Adelson, Saban, Netanyahu are laughing at the fools and how their puppet is able to distract the morons from their agenda. The whole “Russian collusion” nonsense was and is a giant smokescreen for the dimwitted masses.

    “Trump’s Golan gift to Israel condemned by UN, Gulf & European allies”

    “The US president signed a declaration on Monday recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was present at the signing ceremony, praised Trump’s unilateral move, comparing the president to biblical and Zionist heroes. But reactions among the international community – including Washington’s closest Gulf and European allies – were considerably less enthusiastic.”
    https://www.rt.com/news/454790-world-reacts-trump-golan-israel/

  • The biggest whopper of the century is still that oft-repeated lie that OBL and al Qaeda did 9/11.

  • 97% of climate scientists would disagree with you, Ms. Jay.

    • Research the history and continual use of weather modification and geoengineering. Research weather warfare.

      • The US patent office would be a good start for that more then half a century ago

  • The real issue at hand, is seldom even addressed because of the implications of “foreign power at play”, but look at the election line-up, before Mr. Trump tossed in his hat.
    We could vote for Hillary!, who has been exposed as a serial criminal since her days in college, or any of the three failed “republican candidates”, literally with no real connection to “the republic”, and we were supposed to be served that, and only that.
    Trump was a wild card, the “dealer” never even considered, and his entry caused people unaccustomed to “jumping through their hats” to have to move like they seldom ever thought of, much less did, and there were no shortage of errors, gross negligence, and plain out stupid moves, no consequences considered.
    We, “the American People” were considered “foolish enough” to buy any tale, and they could have done more work, better work, and been successful, but it would’ve taken longer, more people involved, more chance of leaking.
    There was never supposed to be any chance of seeing the truth about HRC, but that was the most ridiculous assumption they ever made, and perhaps among the most foolish in modern times. The world watched her “manage” Benghazi, in turn exposing her actions as SOS, the lies put forth by State, regarding cause, was shown lies, from the actions of four brave men, whose death was long enough to expose the charade.
    Millions of Americans who would have just taken in the lie, were forced to see the facts, and the on air hypocrisy, live, impossible to spin, for those with a memory. Too many lives were connected to families who wouldn’t shut up, and we had a couple of non-profits which took great chances, eagerly exposing the completely concocted story, even as it played out.
    I well remember President Kennedy, and while much has been made of his own foibles, he was pulling us out of Vietnam, and was killed, to put Johnson in the oval office. His brother, Attorney General, was going to find the truth, and was man enough to go after the throat, find all the players, so he had to go too.
    I grew up listening to the drivel explaining the war, and why we had to fight it, while reading the words, well considered, historically connected with fact, showing we were entirely foolish to have ever begun that, yet believing my turn was coming. I turned 18 in 75, and had watched enough “almost pull-outs” to believe we would return, and thankfully, for myself, and for Vietnam, we didn’t.
    I knew McCarthy was right, he simply put the wrong name to who he was fighting, and they, the Bolsheviks, controlled the public narrative. I have spent almost fifty years getting to the bottom, and realizing it began about 1812-15, as we fought the Brits, from taking our “sailors, to replace their losses, while dealing diplomatically, knowing we would ally with “our cousins”, as their sun went down, and ours rose.
    The “Monroe Doctrine” established, on paper, the antithesis of our Constitutional Republic, the U.S. empire, the war of northern aggression, was over the south refusing to commit its trade to “Wall Street”, preferring their own, direct contacts, and taking home all their profit, not sharing it with brokers, future’s traders, and all the games of the “market” as ruled by Corporate power.
    Once one discards one’s principles, one can “sidle up close, use bits and pieces, as they can fit, even claim to remain”, but except one acknowledges the turning away, the fact it was wrong, evil, and repents, one can’t go back to first principles.
    We have lost our Nation, for lack of this, we are a country, multi-cultured, with as many gods, as cultures, and by this, with no consanguinity, we can’t be considered a “nation”. We could pull it back together, but we’d have to want to, from all the different viewpoints, agreeing, “rule of law over government” is the sole defense, any single citizen can truly have. We are far too immersed, each in our own belief system, to pull together, to fight the true enemy. That was the plan, and it has been successfully implemented. Note, every mainstream politico, denounced, derided, and laughed at Mr. Trump, even suggesting revolt, should he win. We can only save our Nation, if we choose to look for truth, and not hold convictions regarding any single “politician”, except those who act openly, and stand four-square behind their efforts, and attentions. Ron Paul was “trustworthy” for forty years, in congress. I hope his son, Rand, can rack up an equal standing. We, “America” have to break partisanship, and look to the interests of “the American People”, and refuse to accept the notion we can exist, as a Nation, without borders. The two ideas are antithetical to each other, we can become a dumping ground, as we have been, or we can become a Nation, again, by choosing to be one. We can’t possibly do both.
    Semper Fidelis,
    John McClain
    GySgt, USMC, ret.
    Vanceboro, NC.

    • “… the war of northern aggression, was over the south refusing to commit its trade to “Wall Street”, preferring their own, direct contacts, and taking home all their profit, not sharing it with brokers, future’s traders, and all the games of the “market” as ruled by Corporate power.”

      Wrong, it was about slavery. Go read the Articles of Secession of each state. Why deny the truth? They were pretty clear why they decided to leave the Union.
      https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states

      Georgia:For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.

      Mississippi:In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

      Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world.

      South Carolina:The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.

      Texas: Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery– the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?

      Virginia: The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in Convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of the United States, and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression; and the Federal Government, having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.

  • Surrounded by complex issues and unreliable sources it’s frequently impossible to know the truth, but recognizing the flaws in official stories and partisan narratives can tell us what is most likely false. “Conspiracy theorists” often fail by trying to fill in the blanks rather than being satisfied with making the case for what CAN’T be true.

  • There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening
    that is translated through you into action,
    and because there is only one of you in all time,
    this expression is unique.
    If you block it,
    it will never exist through any other medium
    and be lost.
    The world will not have it.
    It is not yours to determine how good it is;
    nor how it compares with other expressions.
    It is your business to keep the channel open.
    You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
    You have to keep open and aware directly
    to the urges that motivate you.
    Keep the channel open.
    No artist is ever pleased.
    There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.
    There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction;
    a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
    and makes us more alive than the others.

    –Martha Graham to Agnes De Mille

    • “I examined the poets, and I look on them as people whose talent overawes both themselves and others, people who present themselves as wise men and are taken as such, when they are nothing of the sort.” — Socrates

      • The source of the talent of gifted people is identical. Only identities of the human condition differ in projected greatness.

  • some of your best work. thanks

  • Thank you for doing what it takes to get this published. Very helpful commentary!

  • I think that what made this initially believable were Trump’s own comments on the campaign trail in 2016. “If only Russia could find Hillery’s missing E-mails, the press would largely reward them.” It certainly sounds like he was asking for Russia’s help in the election, and it did not help any with his buddy boy affection for Mr. Putin, and their unrecorded meetings. So he brought a lot of this on himself, and now like the tyrant he is, he is threatening vengeance on all the so called lying traitors. Now I am asking myself if his purpose in building that great wall is more to keep us in rather than Mexicans out, It could just as well be the Berlin Wall, or the Israel wall, which keeps Palestinian people in their place, but also keeps the Jewish people from mingling with those nasty Arabs…Now, of course, we will have to resupply the bombs being used up on Gaza, good neighbors that we are…..

    • Actually, those were precisely the things that made the whole story especially unbelievable. If he were really a Russian agent or co-conspirator, do you imagine that he would convey his requests to Russia publicly at rallies? Would he demonstrate his ‘affection’ for Putin in the showy way he did it if he had some kind of special and secret contact with him? Come on, this is just ridiculous. He ‘brought this on himself’ by not being as rabidly Russophobic as the US imperial establishment wants all American politicians to be at the moment. This was one of the very few things that weren’t horrible about him, and the bulk of the alleged ‘left wing’ of American politics attacked him for that, of all things. Apart from that, he is a charlatan, a clown, a crook, a plutocratic cannibal (like most US politicians), an exploiter of xenophobia and an enabler of fascists, but he cannot be a ‘tyrant’ – there are just too many influential opposing interests and institutions that limit his power.

  • And in no time at all you’re buying your own load of bull…

    • how true

  • Ditto for the man-made global warming issue constantly being shoved down our throats when there’s plenty of evidence suggesting it’s just not true.

    • Ms./Mr Jay, where I live climate change has been affecting us for years now, no Ice in the Bering Sea, melting permafrost, birds dying by the millions of starvation, we in Alaska are now the climate of Western Washington, our forests are also dying off. What we humans have created is a huge Heat Machine that runs 24/7. It is our greed for always more, more, more, from a planet that has less and less to give….Maybe you could stop watching the Fox propaganda machine and take a trip around the world with open eyes….

      • Research the history and continual use of weather modification and geoengineering. Research weather warfare.

      • Thanks, George, for letting someone who lives in Maine know what is going on in Alaska. It was not unusual in Maine to have -40 degree temperatures in the winter as recently as the early 1990s, but no longer. We are inundated with ticks (the highest Lyme disease rate in the nation), Japanese beetles, and other bugs I never saw before. This winter every storm seemed to finish up with rain or sleet; the surface of the snowpack froze and owls are starving to death because they cannot catch mice through the crusted snow. I personally want to drop climate change deniers in the Maine woods with no bug repellent and let them lecture the ticks on their theories.

        • Ms. Siens, thank you for the thoughtful reply! I have an older sister (76 yrs.) Who lives in Mapleton, Me. She has been unable to go out all winter due to the icy paths and roads. Your climate is much like ours, maybe a month shorter winter. The saddest part of this man made mess is sitting here watching our beautiful Oceans being destroyed by our greed and waste. I worked on a tug boat during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, that was the beginning of the end for us. Now the greed of the fisher people are taking the last fish remaining, soon the seafood menu will read: Jellyfish…….The trawlers and the long-liners are the worst offenders, with their by-catch millions of dead fish tossed back dead, because they are not the target species. Rapists, ALL….The only hope we have is in ourselves. “Those least responsible for climate change are those most affected by it.”Vandana Shiva 2003

    • Plenty. Plenty… And you’re going to point us to some, right? By the way, Caitlin, the CAPTCHA system this site uses is impossible, and probably has the opposite of its intended effect, since only hyper-motivated lunatics are likely to use it. No sane person is likely to sit here and try to figure out whether a square that has one thirty-second of a traffic light or bus in it actually has one in it or not. You’re chasing valuable commentators away. Just sayin’…

      • Agree about the CAPTCHA. I don’t mind having to prove I’m not a robot, but some of the pics are not clear, and on a small device it’s close to impossible.

        • Re: Caitlin Johnstone
          This excellent missive regarding “illusory-truth-effect” is not only a well crafted and timely effort, like many of your works it should be referenced in your readerships comments to other sites that they frequent.
          On the subject of ‘comments’ I agree with the above observations regarding the CAPTCHA site security system your site deploys. There are viable alternatives to such primitive systems discoverable by even a cursory search; some that even facilitate a wider distribution of site content and provide users with the means to edit trolls and other unwanted distractions.
          As Usual,
          EA

      • “….You’re chasing valuable commentators away. ”
        .

        Yes , a better name would be “CHASEYA”.

    • Trillions of tons of greenhouse gasses can’t possibly affect Global temperatures, Who would argue otherwise?

  • Goebellian lies.

  • TRUTH…Free Assange and Manning.

  • “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying and they will eventually believe it.”

    I think it was Josep Goebbels (in any case it was one of those Nazis)

    • The critical correlary is to pretend in every way as if you totally believe the lie yourself.

      • Or even better, in both con games and conspiracy theories, _do_ believe it yourself. Years ago I was able to observe a couple who were successful con artists and while they were playing on a con, they sort of did believe in it. Of course, they always knew when to bail.

      • No doubt repetition, among other things, encourages belief. However, there is a prior question, which is why people continue to take in the repetition instead of walking away and paying attention to something else. Almost everyone says the MSM publish propaganda, lies, serious errors, fantasies, and so on, but then they not only take them in but cite them to others. Even after the Iraq fiasco, people continued to quote the _New York Times_ to me! I think there is an aesthetic side to the performance of our leading con gamers that needs to be looked into.

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