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America’s cognitive dissonance

Jerry Mazza | March 24 2006

Cognitive dissonance: writer James Atherton calls it “a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas, and it may be necessary for it develop so that we become ‘open’ to them.” It’s that queasy feeling that rises often in your gut online and screams, “I DON’T BELIEVE THAT!”

It’s what happens “if someone is called upon to learn something that contradicts what they already think and know -- particularly if they are committed to that prior knowledge -- they are likely to resist the new learning. Even Carl Rogers recognized this. Accommodation is more difficult than Assimilation, in Piaget’s terms,” writes Atherton.

“And -- counter-intuitively, perhaps -- if learning something has been difficult, uncomfortable, or even humiliating enough, people are less likely to concede that the content of what has been learned is useless, pointless or valueless. To do so would be to admit that one has been ‘had,’ or ‘conned.’” Folks, could that be anyone you know? Well, give them some understanding.

It’s what one brilliant reader wrote to me after reading my Lobotomizing America article. “The true lobotomizing took place in the populace in their K-12 schooling. Now, excruciating cognitive dissonance effectively protects all but the most hardened skeptics from seeing and critically interpreting what our dear leaders have done and are continuing to do.

”People do not want to believe the truth. Unfortunately, I believe those of us who want to expose the truth must have something viable, palpable, and feel-good enough to substitute for what we try to take away from people: Their false notions of or preferred ignorance of what is really happening.

”I read all the alternative news and forums and blogs of those who are digging into the truth and presenting evidence for the trail of horrendous acts. But it wears me down, and I've turned negative, reclusive and hopeless. Luckily, I'm really old so it doesn't matter much . . ."

This woman’s observations pierced me, so much so that I wrote back to her, “As to you're being old, it doesn't much matter. That sounds like your own cog dis. As far as I can see, your mind works beautifully. So use it. As the expression goes, what you don't use you loose. We wouldn't want that to happen. America needs every awakened mind it has, young, middle-aged, old, or positively ancient.

“FL Wright did the Guggenheim at 80, lived to 90 to see it almost completed. Paul Newman at 80 plus is not only a top actor, but runs a huge food enterprise, which yields the money for summer camps around the world for kids with fatal diseases. Onwards, my dear, and Further, as Ken Kesey would say. We need all the cage-shakers we can get. One must fight back or suffer the depression of the defeated.”

Meeting a Cognitive Dissonant Disaster

Do I love the people that write in or do I love them? Even this Cognitive Dissonant dude, the one who wrote in as soon as Online Journal ran my article, “Why Larry Silverstein can’t get it up.” He said, “Jerry, I just read your editorial/report on the current and history of the WTC, mostly with mouth open in disgust.” There’s an image for you.

”First off, let's just get this out of the way because you are a little vague: do you think 7WTC was taken down (by US interests) on purpose?” Duh, I didn’t think I was vague. That’s what I was saying, yeah, yes. Well, “If your answer to that is ‘yes or ‘maybe’ please just stop reading and don't bother responding. I have no intention of starting a discussion with an insane person. Ok, so you are presumably sane since you are still reading.” How does he know I’m sane if I’m still reading? Is he playing with a full deck?

He then says, “Your next claim that is absolutely crazy is that the PA wanted to tear down the twin towers! Please provide some proof of this besides vague claims.” Gee, I thought I said they couldn’t demolish it because that was against the law. That’s not vague. They could only dismantle it girder by girder and the cost of that was prohibitive. To quote me, “Demolishing prohibited by law but doable by an act of god or godlessness.”

I guessed he missed it, because he asks: “Do you actually think the PA would want to tear down the (cash-cow, once they were fully leased) twin towers? Do you actually think a private developer (Silverstein) would lease them for 99 years if they were such a burden financially?” Err, duh, he thought it was a great deal at first. He probably still does. He made $500 million on it. He just can’t get the loot together to do what he has to do to get it up, the Liberty Tower. Originally, the PA was just happy to unload WTC on Silverstein. Get it. They gave him a sweetheart deal: $120 million a month for 99 years. A more apt figure would have been a billion a month. But then, my write-in, Mr. C D ended with some poetry meant to be the ultimate diss . . .

”What Color Is the Sky in Your World?”

Oh wow, gee, well, the color of the sky in my world is a vibrant blue, totally cloudless, like that morning on 9/11 when the airliners hit the Twin Trade Towers and there weren’t enough planes to respond because they were tied up in a half dozen drills and the air traffic controllers didn’t know what was a drill and what had gone real. In fact, FEMA had conveniently come to town the night before to play in the “terror hijacking drills.” Mayor Rudy Guiliani stuck his foot in his mouth and told us.

See, in this vibrantly blue sky you can clearly see a homegrown apocalypse occurring, even from the Upper West Side. Actually as my older son, from his rooftop in the East Village, saw the South Tower go down in seconds, free-falling, exploding top and bottom. The white smoke caused by explosives looked like a huge Rasta hair-do. It wasn’t the black jet fuel smoke puffing from the initial plane hit.

Even my aged aunt, who has trouble with her sight these days, could clearly see each tower go down in a matter of seconds, as she stared from her sixth floor apartment window on 6th Avenue and Houston Street, looking downtown, straight at them. As they came down, tears came to her eyes.

Yup, it was a sky in which my wife who was in Brooklyn could see the second plane turning 180 degrees (nigh impossible for a pilot, but not for a radio-controlled plane) to slam into the South Tower. She called me as it was happening and gasped on the phone to put on the TV, that only minutes before some members of the film crew she was working with had seen the first plane hit the North Tower. Now, their video was replaying the second hit.

Also, George Bush told reporters later that he had seen the first hit on TV and thought that was some lousy pilot, ha ha. That was some gaff, ha ha, because it wasn’t shown on TV that morning, ha ha. The crews weren’t there yet. He could have seen it in his secure, closed circuit communications room at the elementary school he was visiting and listening to pupils reading a book about a pet goat while New York burned, ha ha. But it wasn’t till the next day that the TV stations got some footage shot that morning by a French crew making a documentary about the WTC. They caught the crash by accident. That footage was duplicated and used on the news, such as it was.

Then, pal, there’s my friend Jay, who saw it from the 107th floor of the North Tower, from the restaurant Windows on the World, where he was a manager. He called his wife to say he was going downstairs to see if he could help with whatever trouble there was and then he would come home. That was the last time she and their two kids heard from him. That’s my sky.

I can still clearly see us sitting at his wake and an oil painting of him on an easel staring back at us. He was posed in a dark blue suit, white shirt, and reddish tie, a friendly smile on his mustached face that never moved. Jay was on the PTA with us, and helped every charity he could, and never said no, even that morning. So blue, so cloudless, so vibrant, it hurts.

In fact, my vibrant blue sky that day shed pieces of correspondence, memos, trade notes, letters, all from the exploding towers, into my cousin’s small garden in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, maybe five miles away. That’s what a blast it was. He walked home from work, uptown New York that day, over the Brooklyn bridge to his brownstone to find that effluvia of life. He gathered each holy piece with his son and put it all in a box and into a closet for safekeeping. It makes him teary to talk about it.

That’s what color my sky is, Mr. Cognitive Dissonance. But hey, dude, you got a president to back you up. He still thinks Iraq is a success. More than 2,300 Americans dead, an estimated 250,000 Iraqis (citizens and solders) dead. And over a trillion bucks blown, according to Bob Herbert in the March 23 New York Times, “George Bush’s Trillion-Dollar War.” And then there’s the Kurds and the Shias going at the Sunnis and visa versa, a civil war. No exit strategy. And it’s a success. You think Bush has trouble adjusting what he believes to what is really happening? I do.

Even Brzezinski Is Bailing

Even Zbigniew Brzezinski, who wrote of the need for a Pearl Harbor-like incident in his book, The Grand Chess Board -- an incident that could be used to militarize America -- is now bailing. That same language and notion appeared on PNAC's Program for a New American Century) website, envisioning the neocon march to empire via preemptive war. That same Brzezinski said Wednesday night on Jim Lehrer’s News Hour it was time to cut bait and split Iraq. This is also the man who helped organize the Mujahideen with Osama bin Laden and the CIA to help Jimmy Carter fight Russia in 1978 when it took our bait and invaded Afghanistan. Am I making sense? Am I entertaining you? Are keeping you up? I hope so, dude. I don’t want to loose you.

Everybody knew we needed Afghanistan to run those Unocal pipelines south, carrying the oil from up north in the Caspian Sea region down to Pakistan and India and the Indian Ocean to China.

Am I making sense? I know you think I’m nuts. But you didn’t even understand what I wrote about Larry and the boys and the asbestos-bomb of the WTC.

Money, oil and power, dude, that’s what it was all about. And 9/11 was just the “Pearl Harbor” to get the attack on Afghanistan going. Then a simple leap of a lie to get us into Iraq, the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, which no one has found yet, and millions of Americans believe are there, somewhere, under a mushroom cap (not cloud). Cognitive dissonance on a mass scale.

That’s my sky, Mr. CD, wherever you are, thinking that CNBC and Sean Hannity and Bill Riley and all the right-wing fakes are telling you the truth. The truth is that for the first time a big time publication, New York Magazine, March 27, pg. 28, is running a multi-page story, “The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll” by Mark Jacobson, seriously questioning 9/11. Someone may actually have gone through their processing cycle and given up the dissonance and perceived some truth. By the way, the Grassy Knoll was in Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was ambushed and killed, by at least eight gunshots from three different angles, as seen by a CIA man on the original Zapruder film footage.

September 11 was also an inside job, Mr. C D, that Bush and Boyz, the Pentagon, DOD, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, George Tenet, the Intel agencies, the FBI helped to happen, squelching warnings left and right. This according to FBI Agent Harry Samit, supposedly a witness against Moussaoui, but who said he warned his supervisors more than 70 times that they should look at Moussaoui’s laptop, but nobody did. They didn’t bungle it by accident. It was The Plan. They made it happen. They already knew what Moussaoui could tell. He’s just another patsy.

See, my sky is clear blue. I can see why they had a whole slew of terror hijacking drills going on that September 11. So planes were siphoned off to every drill and the air traffic controllers were confused as to what was what, who was who, when the first tower was hit and the drill went real. So they have to call for planes for New York from Otis Air Base in Cape Cod Massachusetts, 150 miles away, and they arrive too late. Monmouth Air Base in Jersey, 10 miles away, no deal. Read my article Moussaoui takes the fall for 9/11 and find out what happened at the Pentagon in DC. Or call 1-800-294-5250 to order the second edition of Loose Change right now. How simple and entertaining can I make it for you?

And since we’re challenging notions, let’s really jog that cognitive dissonance. Flight 93 never crashed in southern Pennsylvania. What they found was a 20-foot wide hole with a bunch of scrap poured in. Flight 93, which had gone west actually landed at 10:45 a.m. in Cleveland’s Hopkins Airport. Its 200 passengers were evacuated within a half-hour to an empty NASA facility nearby. What happened to them then? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe they are in paradise with the poor people from Flight 77 that never hit the Pentagon. But there’s more.

How about Katrina, the second 9/11, which was also “allowed” to happen. Bush sits on his duff for days after he’s notified the storm is number five huge, the levees could go down. Was it cognitive dissonance? He couldn’t see a category five hurricane take down a nice ole town like New Orleans? Why can’t he and his associates put pieces together? Why can’t they act? And if they can’t, why in the hell are they sitting at the helm of the Ship of State. Why aren’t they thrown in the brig in irons? Answer me, Mr. C D. I think you’re a little bonzo for believing all this crap.

What Color Is Your Sky? Vanilla?

Is it a Vanilla Sky like that Tom Cruz movie, a romantic action fantasy? Where the handsome guy gets all the babes in some totally implausible plot as implausible as 9/11’s script would seem to the ignorant, the uninterested, the disengaged, the inbred cognitive dissonants.

Nor is this adult cognitive dissonance limited to your average American-I-don’t-know-anything-about-politics. Catch this.

“Less than a week after he denounced the ‘wayward path’ of deficit spending to a gathering of 2,000 Republican Party stalwarts, Bill Frist,” according to the March 21 New York Times editorial Deficit Demagogues, “the Senate majority leader and would-be president, was busy presiding over business as usual in the Senate . . ." where “51 Republican Senators and one Democrat approved a $2.8 trillion budget for 2007. . . . after Frist and 51 other Republicans voted to raise the nation’s debt limit for the fourth time in five years -- this time by $781 billion, to nearly $9 trillion. All of that increase will be needed to pay for earlier tax cuts and spending increases, and, if the Republicans get their way on taxes, to pay for future deficit-financed tax cuts.” The shadows of 1929 lengthen over our endless blue sky.

Is this Congress’ cognitive dissonance? Maybe. Maybe just your ordinary garden-variety dumb crooks, don’t give a rat’s ass crooks, every single one of them. At least Mr. Vanilla Sky who wrote to me revealed his total innocent ignorance. These guys know better, but they don’t care. Until we hit the Wall, the Great D of 2008.

As to their constituency, the Republican voters, the grand old party and its new found Conservative Christians who want to teach Unintelligent Design and wait for the Rapture to sweep them up from all this hellfire, here is cognitive dissonance sine qua non, the real thing, full blown, terminal. They ain’t a letting go of one piece of crap that’s been told or taught to them by Pat Robertson, George HW Bush, Billy Graham, The Easter Bunny, The Spoon-Benders, The War Lords, The KKK, The Reconstructionists, CFR and so on. No, sir/ma'am, hold on to that crap, till you bust.

So, there it is, lovers of truth. The Comedia as Dante would call it, the grand comedy of 21st century living. You’re gonna die laughing. Before that happens, try to get over your cognitive dissonance soon. Work on it. See somebody, shrink, reverend, guru, gas station attendant, bartender, masseuse, book club, whoever works for you. 'Cause, sorry to say, the joke’s on you. Oops, I mean us! I have to stop thinking it’s only about them.

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