Home_____Susan Sontag & H.L. Mencken, & David Hume on Control of The Public

I have lived long enough to see in humankind a great capacity for folly. A recent example occured with Iraq. I watched with amazement as the drum beats began to roll. I heard all the usual platitudes, and listened to Bush's statement that Europeans could not fence-sit, threatening that they must either be for the invasion or against it. I waited for proof of Weapons of Mass Destruction and never got it. I noticed that the public did not question that the terrorists were mostly from Saudi Arabia, not Iraq, and I asked, So why go to Baghdad? Today, the average citizen when asked why American troops are there, will reply, To protect our democracy and freedom. Now, that is a stretch.

That is why I provide these three statements, one by a public pundit of the jazz age, the other by a woman recently deceased, and the last by an Eighteenth Century Scotsman.

That great curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken, noted for his caustic wit, once said, "No one in this world, so far as I know . . . has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people."

Susan Sontag's "gifts to our civilization were . . . a brilliant, non-stop commentary on contemporary art practices and their effects on our emotions." Once in a television interview, "she did get off one sound bite in an interview on television, which was to me a stunning sermon in and of itself. She was asked what she had learned from the Holocaust, and she said that 10 percent of any population is cruel, no matter what, and that 10 percent is merciful, no matter what, and that the remaining 80 percent could be moved in either direction. " Found here.

Finally, this. Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume found "nothing more surprising" than

" to see the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and to observe the implicit submission with which men resign their sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. When we enquire by what means this wonder is brought about, we shall find, that as Force is always on the side of the governed, the governers have nothing to support them but opinion. 'Tis therefore, on opinion only that government is founded; and this maxim extends to the most despotic and most military governments, as well as to the most free and most popular." (Essays Moral, Political, and Literary) (For full article, see Inveterate Bystander, Manufacturing Consent, IV: The Bewildered Herd, 14 March 2004.)


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