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Cognitive Dissonance on the March

As noted on the previous page, an equally shocking instance of cognitive blindness involves the current incarnation of Philip II, namely, Barack Hussein Obama, who is demonstrably enacting policies that have brought his country to the verge of economic collapse. His effort to impose a European-style dirigiste model of governance along with a state-dominated economic apparatus upon a historically free-market republican nation is predicated on both willful ignorance and the conviction of personal infallibility. Europe is gradually unravelling, the eurozone is coming apart, cradle-to-grave entitlements are bankrupting one country after another, renewable energy projects are fiscally unsustainable and largely unworkable, and the corporatist paradigm of administrative control is proving inimical to entrepreneurial initiative and individual freedom. The European model of welfare state dependency is an undoubted catastrophe.

No matter. Convinced of his superior insight into domestic and international affairs, Obama will persist in his folly and will not rest satisfied until he has brought America unexceptionally to the sinking condition of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and France. And, mirabile dictu, he has perhaps half the American electorate with him. As former New York Post op-ed columnist Arnold Ahlert fears, there may soon be more people “riding the wagon” than pulling the wagon. “Europe’s ‘wagon’ has already stopped moving. We can learn from their experience–or be part of it.” Given the prevalence of and temptation to epistemic dissociation, the latter option is a distinct possibility.

Cognitive dissonance was defined by Leon Festinger, the coiner of the phrase, as the discomfort caused by holding irreconcilable beliefs, although the term has been popularly extended to signify as well the discontinuity between fact and opinion in which people wilfully invest. In When Prophecy Fails, Festinger pointed out that one of the ways to diminish the sense of cognitive dissonance is to obfuscate or “reduce the importance of those cognitions that are in a dissonant relationship.” This is plainly what is now happening. Moreover, the harbingers of confusion and mystification enjoy wide public support. Festinger noted that if the attempt to disregard the obvious is to be successful, it must “meet with support from either the physical or the social environment.” In the various cases under consideration, since the physical environment actually disconfirms habitual assumptions, it is the social milieu that reinforces the deception and the self-deception. “If more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must, after all, be correct.” In effect, it becomes “less painful to tolerate the dissonance than to discard the belief.”

This is why public support is a primary factor in the maintenance of harmful delusions, that is, why the public must be bribed or systematically misinformed—and, almost as if by intention, poorly educated. It must be admitted, too, that the material purveyors of social and political nonsense are often in the same state of derpy-eyed disorientation. They do not see reality but its refractive distortion. Cognitive dissonance, understood as the rift between a mental construct and an actual state of affairs, is a fact of human nature and has always had its part to play in social, political, military, and economic ruination. But in the contemporary world of instant communication, enhanced media dissemination, and pervasive credulity, it has assumed planetary proportions. The capacity for disinformation and misreading is now global. It is as if the mind has been critically uncoupled from the way things really are.

Forget about having a second cup. Cognitive dissonance will see to it that the first cup is served empty.