The ideal stuff for your followers to believe if you are rich and powerful

May 18, 2020

My friend Brian tweeted some stats about layoffs in journalism, and of course conservatives came out of the woodwork to celebrate. Gifs, “learn to code,” you know the drill.

This got me thinking about how wonderful this army of defenders—the president calls them his “great keyboard warriors”—must be if you’re in power. I don’t think they’re Russian bots. I just think they’re true believers. What amazes me is what a dream come true these people are for the people who benefit from their beliefs.

A lot of the stuff they believe has been around since time immemorial—faith in the existing hierarchies; kissing the asses of the powerful; etc.—But let’s say I were a very rich person who wanted to design a belief system that would make all of my wishes about the public come true. If I could bring enough people around to this way of thinking, voters would elect leaders who believed my ideas, and deflecting criticism would be all but unnecessary because a large segment of the population would argue with my critics for me.

If the media published information about rich people like me, believers in my ideas would demand that the media include statements in support of my beliefs alongside facts about me. In fact, if things really went my way, their would be powerful media outlets designed entirely to spread my ideas and smear my critics.

Ideally, people would believe my ideas so fervently that they would center their lives around them, and rush to the defense of my interests whenever they were threatened. This may sound farfetched, but in a fantasy world, members of the public who don’t benefit from my personal prosperity might nonetheless risk death for people like me, because their faith in my ideas is so all-consuming.

In an attempt to distill my ideal belief system down to a manageable list, here are the 10 most important ideas that I would want as many people as possible to believe:

1. Unlimited corporate growth is necessary for everyone’s prosperity. Measurements of corporate profit are the only consequential measurements of prosperity.
2. The rich should never be taxed, nor should corporations.
3. The activities of corporations and rich individuals shouldn’t be regulated or closely monitored.
4. Corporate institutions and rich individuals are benevolent and should be respected. They are to be regarded as “winners,” and the market is a perfect moral framework that rewards “winning.” This kind of winning is possible for everyone, so the system is fair, and my type of winning should be every person’s aspiration.
5. The poor are bad people according to this same market framework for morality, and they should be treated with disrespect. Poverty is a punishment for moral failure.
6. The politicians preferred by corporate institutions are all benevolent as well, and protecting them at all costs is everyone’s patriotic duty—in fact, this is the essence of patriotism.
7. Public institutions are hopelessly corrupt, which is why they can’t be trusted to regulate or monitor corporate institutions. They shouldn’t exist anyway.
8. Journalists—particularly those who gather information about corporate institutions and their preferred leaders—are unpatriotic if they seek to call any of this into question.
9. Unpatriotic people, leaders, and organizations are the organs of an unseen malevolent force, or are hopelessly under its corrupting spell. The unseen malevolent force is so evil that no activities that can be in any way tied to it—however justifiable they may appear—can be beneficial to society.
10. If someone I perceive as unpatriotic appears to have irrefutable evidence for their claims, it’s because it has been falsified. If it can’t easily be proven false, it’s because my perception is faulty due to the actions of the unseen malevolent force.

It’s a pretty comprehensive and flexible system. For instance, it’s not necessary to create new arguments against forms of environmentalism that I find inconvenient. They’re built into #1, 3, and 6. And #8, 9, and 10 will protect me from anyone who says I have to change my ways due to impending emergencies, or because I’ve caused catastrophes, environmental or otherwise.

Racists and ethno-nationalists don’t need their beliefs to be made explicit in my system, and I can even disavow them without losing their support (It’s not necessary for me to say supportive things about my racist followers at all). This belief system is flexible enough to incorporate their beliefs without explicit racism. Since minorities are often poor, #5 and #7 will be appealing concepts, and again, #8, 9, and 10 provide cover for me, as always. In short, even if I harbor racist beliefs, as long as I’m not overtly bigoted I can easily deflect any criticism about my own racism, but I can still benefit from—and have my movement strengthened by—the more explicit racism of my fervent believers.

Another thing that strengthens my beliefs will be the inadequacies and weaknesses of my enemies and critics. When my enemies are corrupt—and they often will be—my believers will use them as examples to claim that all my enemies are corrupt. Same when my enemies are themselves racist, or greedy, or dishonest. Without a fixed set of beliefs, my enemies will only partially agree with one another. Because of their disunity, my enemies will never form a coherent opposition to my cause.

Anyway, it looks like the protesters who wanted their states to open up got their way over the past couple weeks, and the Dow just shot up almost 1,000 points. Would you look at that.