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Think Tanks and the Brainwashing of America
by Harold Williamson
June 17, 2004

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More than 60 American scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, signed a statement that accused the Bush administration of suppressing or manipulating scientific evidence in order to promote their right-wing political agenda. The statement was issued in February along with a full report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), and it can be viewed at their web site.

The UCS substantiated their claims with internal government documents and interviews with current and former government officials. They found a "well established pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees across numerous federal agencies."

According to the UCS, "There is evidence that the administration often imposes restrictions on what government scientists can say or write about 'sensitive' topics." They went on to say that, "In this context, 'sensitive' applies to issues that might provoke opposition from the administration's political and ideological supporters."

The UCS concluded: "There is significant evidence that the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression, and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented."

All this may be unprecedented in American history, but it is not without precedent in world history.

The true believers within the the Bush administration and its supporters have revived the medieval mindset of the Dark Ages -- a time when scientific findings were suppressed, manipulated, and distorted to fit the insular precepts of revealed truth by scholastic thinkers who thrived on public ignorance and ruled by intimidation.

Modern-day scholastic thinkers include the influential members of the various right-wing institutes, widely known as "think tanks," that date back to the early '70s as part of a dedicated effort by the more extreme elements of the corporate sector to crush the democratizing movements of the '60s.

When former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta was interviewed by Charlie Rose on Feb. 21, he said that over one billion dollars has been invested over the past decade in Washington "think tanks" such as the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute.

But the problem with "think tanks" is that they promote an ideology that is based on a "brains-in-vats" worldview.

"Brains in vats" is a theory of epistemology, a branch of philosophy that studies the extent and validity of knowledge and its presuppositions. This theory states that it cannot be proven that one is not a disembodied brain being kept alive in a vat while being wired to a machine and programmed to perceive reality as something different from what actually exists. The worldview that emerges amounts to nothing more than a virtual fantasy that has no basis in fact.

The blueprint for the Bush doctrine of preemptive war and the dream of a new global Pax Americana is the product of just such a think tank -- the Project for the New American Century. By promoting this virtual brains-in-vats worldview using a complicit corporate media, the Bush administration effectively brainwashed US public opinion completely off the international spectrum in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

Since average US citizens were not privy to the classified pre-war intelligence, the validity of which is now under investigation, it was necessary to have faith in the judgment of the Bush administration as to whether or not Iraq was an imminent threat.

But it is now clear that regarding the alleged stockpiles of WMD, Iraq was in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1441, and UN inspections had effectively curtailed Saddam Hussein's WMD programs. The threat that was perceived by the Bush administration did not exist in fact. It was merely a schoolboy's bad dream, and the subsequent invasion of Iraq has turned into a real nightmare for both the Iraqi and American people.

However, it is flirting with ecological disaster to ignore or manipulate scientific facts in order to make them conform to a political ideology. Ever since the dawn of the Age of Reason, scientists have known that the discovery of one ugly fact is all that is needed to scrap a beautiful theory. Scientists follow their reason as far as it will allow while not pretending certainty in matters that cannot be demonstrated.

But apparently the Bush administration believes that rigorous science has no place in their faith-based political agenda where there is no room for doubt. Besides, the invasion of Iraq was successfully sold to a credulous American public based solely on groundless allegations. So, if Americans can be brainwashed to put their lives and money on the line without any proof of evidence, who needs science?

Harold Williamson is a Chicago-based independent scholar. He can be reached at:  Copyright (C) 2004, Harold Williamson. All rights reserved.

Other Articles by Harold Williamson

* Bully for the Bush Doctrine: A Natural History Perspective