Our tolerance for fashionable deception

Nothing appears as ugly as unmasked raw propaganda, or seems as fashionable as well-crafted deception. Yet, the catwalk for both forms of propaganda is one and the same, deception wearing the most titillating togs provided by the top fashion house, the House of Public Relations. And the deceptive PR isn’t limited to multinational firms or businesses in general; it is part and parcel of our daily existence, having infiltrated most if not all institutions, totally poisoning politics, and eroding away whatever little honesty might still be left in our elected officials.

During the past century, we have seen the transformation of the raw epithet known as propaganda, and all its implied vilification, to that of an accepted social science with full academic accreditation, unashamedly sitting at the same table with all reputable and time-honored professions. We, members of society, have swallowed lock, stock and barrel the presumed need by notable individuals and institutions to receive help from specialized professionals to show us all the good things about them, their positive contribution to society. But much of what we get is tainted with deceit.

From press releases to the practice of damage control, public relations, the pseudo-science, is there more often than not ready to deceive us all. The alchemy of spinning factoids into facts, the use of euphemisms and constant truth cherry-picking, has reached such degree of sophistication that we are, as individuals, no longer able to discern fact from fiction. Yet, the one place we should be looking for help to unravel deception from truth, the government, is often complicit with those engaged in the deception . . . that is, when not being the source of the deception itself. Now, to further complicate matters, we have entered the age of Internet-mediated PR!

Americans have been victims—some might argue, beneficiaries—of three grand deceptions during the past three generations, in all cases having the government as either the deceiver or co-deceiver; the very instrument for the capitalist entrenched power. One of the three grand deceptions has to do with the very defense of predatory capitalism, a system we are told to equate with democracy and our very constitutional freedoms. That supreme deception has allowed the build-up of an imperial military, and permitted America’s unchallenged interference in the affairs of other sovereign nations. But the deception involved in the creation of this imperial might is something that for now we might as well set aside and concentrate on the other two, housing and jobs, where maybe we still have a chance to confront deceit head-on, debunking old myths; one which will force the long term planning of education and employment without punishing and impoverishing three-quarters of the nation’s population.

Of the two, the most visual, one playing a key role in the economic predicament in which we find ourselves today is real estate, and the much touted “American Dream” . . . an invention of those holding the money and power to convince the working men and women in America of both capitalism’s virtues and the sanctity of private property over anything the commons—we as a people—might demand in an equitable society. What has been viewed as shelter traditionally, a roof over our heads for the most part, has changed via deceit to the need for a sacrosanct mortgaged-ownership, which became not just symbolically but de facto a magical investment instrument, a source of non-existent wealth. Bricks and mortar placed over a few feet of land made us all smart and enterprising capitalists. Renting was relegated to the very poor, those who would yet have to earn their diplomas to enter the “house-owning” capitalist class. All of this was done through deceit and the creation of inane tax subsidies which only went to help an inefficient and blotted industry,

Any comprehensive analysis to determine what makes sense for an individual, whether to rent or to own the shelter they occupy, should yield a clear result if for no other reason than the fixed nature of the asset. Renting is, has always been, and is likely to be, the most logical decision when properly assigning a value, a negative value, to its “immobility.”

What many of us have been saying for decades, definitely not a mainstream chant, is now gaining converts to reason, and that is . . . for other than psychic reasons—affordable if you have the income or wealth to waste—it does make financial sense to rent instead of own the house where you live.

I was just reading about a Johnny-come-lately convert to this point of view, an adjunct professor in personal finance at Berkeley, Rich Arzaga, founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management, who appears not to feel professional embarrassment when admitting he lost 35 percent in the value of his home he bought 7 years ago. Nice to have a convert, but one would think that most people would think twice before taking a class from him, or have him manage their money!

As for the other grand deception, the impoverishment of most Americans as a consequence of globalization, it is a subject that neither the government nor the capitalist curia running the United States is willing to tackle, keeping their dirty secrets behind chambers.

Three big deceptions or lies have been perpetrated on the American citizenry: the need for an imperial military; the fantasy of the “American Dream”; and the need to immerse the country in overnight globalization without acknowledging or planning for possible consequences.

Did Hitler have it right when he said that “the great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one”? Apparently, we in America have

© 2012 Ben Tanosborn

Ben Tanosborn, columnist, poet and writer, resides in Vancouver, Washington (USA), where he is principal of a business consulting firm. Contact him at ben@tanosborn.com.

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