According to Plato and Aristotle, a “sophist” is a greedy person who uses rhetoric and ambiguous language to either deceive or to support false reasoning. The sophist is not concerned with truth and justice but instead makes a living by manipulating people for the benefit of the rich and powerful.
The Oxford dictionary defines “stupidity”: “behavior that shows a lack of good sense or judgment.” synonyms: lack of intelligence, foolishness, denseness, brainlessness, ignorance, dull-wittedness, slow-wittedness, doltishness, slowness, thickness, dimness, dopiness, foolishness, folly, silliness, idiocy, brainlessness, senselessness.
Mark Twain said, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
I’m with Twain. Those who are “putting us on” are the sophists, making a living by “spinning,” by putting happy, wholesome slipcovers over sad and negative realities. Think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer (if you need an explanation, see Saturday Night Live). Other examples are Grover Norquist (who wants to drown the government in a bathtub and eliminate taxation) and Frank Luntz (who invented “Death Tax” to replace “inheritance tax”). These folks know they are lying and/or misleading their audiences.
On the other hand, there are those who might not be putting us on: Louie Gohmert, Sarah Palin, Jim Inhofe, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, Betsy DeVos, Franklin Graham, Michelle Rhee, Pat Robertson, Marsha Blackburn, and many more. These folks may actually believe what they say.
George Orwell said, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” And so, the richest and most powerful buy politicians and employ innumerable sophists to control the mythology of the present, so as to invent a past that preserves and advances their favored status in the future.
Sadly, it seems to work. The top one percent gets richer and richer and adequately rewards the next 19 percent to keep them accepting of and loyal to the projected “reality.” Most of the remaining 80 percent are kept in line through culturally engineered ignorance, through the virtual reality imposed by those who control the present. Some, I’m sorry to say, are just stupid, led around by their fears and prejudices.
For example, a syndicated columnist in my local newspaper recently made this statement: “Democrats are out of touch to believe that their globalist, gun-grabbing, anti-Christian, anti-free speech, anti-capitalism, Russian-boogiemen-around-every-corner, race-baiting platform of victimhood would win the hearts and minds of regular people [emphasis added].”
Were any emotion-laden, hyperbolic, hot-button sound-bites left out? Anyone who believes such nonsense is sure to be angry and sold on the idea that The Donald is the one who, at last, will “Make America Great Again.” These are the poor souls who constitute Trump’s hard core base, those who will support him no matter what he does because they think he hates the same people they hate. They are the ones so deluded that they may never come to know or admit that Trump doesn’t really give a damn about them and their real needs.
So, with all the sophistry, spin, lies, manipulation, and propaganda; with political money directing politicians and with corporate money and profits keeping the media within safe parameters; with the basic ignorance and the lack of involvement by a large percentage of Americans; and with millions who can be led around by their noses, it’s hard not to be pessimistic about our relatively young experiment in Democracy.
I hope we can keep America great a little longer.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal