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Why do the lambs remain silent?

by Rainer Mausfeld
James Madison (1751-1836), one of the founding fathers of the constitution, proclaimed that every form of government should be designed "to protect the minority of the opulent against the
majority". Madison tried to solve the tense relationship between the common people and the elites with a "representative democracy", a de-facto oligarchy.

extended version of a talk presented at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel,
22. Juni 2015

Translation by Dr. Daniel Wollschläger

Why do the lambs remain silent? On democracy, psychology,
and the ruling elite's methods for managing public opinion as
well as public indignation
by Rainer Mausfeld

This presentation discusses methods employed by the ruling elites to make their grave
violations of moral norms invisible to public morality and cognitive awareness.
Violations of moral norms can be made "morally invisible" even if all relevant facts are
unobscured: This can be achieved by embedding these facts into a context that prevents
eliciting widespread unease and indignation. One example is the structural violence
associated with the implementation of neoliberal economical doctrine. While societal and
humanitarian consequences of this violence have so far been mostly observed in so-called
third-world countries, they also manifest themselves more and more often in western
industrialized nations.

Violations of moral norms can also be made "cognitively invisible" even if all relevant facts
are unobscured: This can be achieved by embedding these facts into a context such that no
conclusions may be drawn on their basis. In particular, such facts remain isolated from
similar events that the elites wish you to judge according to very different principles. One
example is the practice of "targeted killings" of persons whom the government deems a risk
to national security. These murders break international law and would not be accepted if
carried out by states declared as "enemy" dictatorships.

Mass media play a pivotal role in making facts morally and cognitively visible: In addition to
reporting simple facts, media typically also deliver the contextual frame necessary for
interpreting the facts, thus shaping our political world view. The invisibility of some moral
transgressions is thus part of our daily live and concerns us all. Reflections on this
phenomenon provoke basic and elementary questions. No expert certification is required to
think about these questions, even if the ruling elites try their best to restrict discourse
about them to a narrow group of "qualified experts". As "citoyens", well-informed and
dutiful citizens trying to actively participate in forming our community, we possess what in
the age of enlightenment came to be called "lumen naturale": We are endowed with a
natural reasoning faculty that allows us to engage in debates and decisions about matters
which directly affect us. We can therefore adequately discuss the essential core of the ways
in which grave violations of law and morality are hidden from our awareness without
having some specialist education. This point is at the heart of the following presentation.
Importantly, our natural reasoning faculty allows us to scrutinize and question the concepts
used to describe, structure, and evaluate social and political phenomena. As a glaring
example, we can look at the neoliberal jargon that tries to veil and hide what it is actually
implying. It would be easy to fill an entire Orwellian dictionary with newspeak terms like
structural reforms, willingness to reform, reducing bureaucracy, de-regulation, stability and
growth pact, austerity, European financial stabilization mechanism (bailout fund), free
market, lean government, liberalization, harmonization, market-conforming democracy,
necessity without alternative, human capital, temporary employment, ancillary wage costs,
social envy, top performer, etc. etc. Such seemingly innocent words come silently bundled
with an ideology whose totalitarian character we need to uncover and point out explicitly.
However, before we can do that, we need to become aware of and identify the hidden
premises, prejudices, and ideological components which are engrained in the way in which
we talk about social and political phenomena. Otherwise, we might unwittingly and
involuntarily fall for the ideology bundled with the vocabulary. Again, we need not be
experts for this task. We all already have the prerequisite cognitive skills, even if those skills
may need to be trained and honed to be used effectively.

For the sake of staying in power, the ruling elites of democratic nations often hide
important premises and ideological components of their choice of words when presenting
social phenomena and their actions to the public. I will further on try to identify some of
these components. But first, I would like to illustrate the problem of making facts invisible
with a phenomenon in visual perception.

In figure [DW XXXX], we tend to perceive random fragments of objects without being able
to figure out how they relate to each other. Why does this display make it hard to grasp the
meaning of the visible fragments? The answer given by perceptual psychology basically
argues that our visual system cannot apply its natural object-centered categories as it
usually does since the cause of the fragmentation is missing from the depicted scene.
Keeping everything in the scene unchanged except for allowing the cause of the
fragmentation to be identified leads to a dramatic change: We now immediately perceive
how the fragments combine to complete objects and effortlessly pick up their meaning. This
phenomenon reflects a general principle in which our mind works. We will see how this
principle operates in many other situations as well. Presenting several meaningfully related
facts in a fragmented fashion can hide their deeper connections. We then perceive no more
than isolated information fragments without relating them to each other - reading the daily
newspaper typically has this very effect. However, once the cause which made the
information become fragmented appears, we have no trouble to "connect the dots" and
perceive how the pieces of information fit together.

The paradox of democracy
This presentation is about why it is possible to make facts invisible through fragmentation,
and exactly how this can be done. In turn, these questions prompt us to ask who wants facts
to be invisible, and who these facts should be invisible for. To understand these questions,
we need to look at the so-called "paradox of democracy", really a problem in the
relationship between the political leadership and the general population. The systematic
analysis of this paradox goes back to antiquity. In political discussions, the general
population is often compared to a herd of animals. Since the herd is said to sometimes
exhibit irrational and unpredictable behavior, it is argued that it needs to be controlled. For
the political leadership, it follows that it is important to interpret the silence of the herd and
construe it to be in line with the leadership's own political actions. Recently, this idea has
become popular through Richard Nixon who interpreted the "silent majority" of the
American people as supporting his militant policy in Vietnam.

The Greek historian Thucydides (454-399 BC) was the first to study these issues
systematically. He was also the first to realize the deep connections between our ideas
about different forms of government and our assumptions about the nature of mankind.
Implicitly or explicitly, every form of government is linked to what we consider the
essential nature of the human mind. Thucydides thought that the general population has a
tendency for acting emotionally, being guided more by raw instinct than by rational
consideration: "Public opinion is erratic and capricious, the general population blames
others for its own failures." In contrast, Thucydides argues, political leadership is mainly
motivated by its pursuit of power in order to satisfy its dictatorial ambitions. Thucydides
realized that all adequate ways to organize institutional structures must take into account
the psychological weak spots of human nature. He thought that democracy as a form of
government was unfit to comply with this demand. Influenced by the reign of Pericles,
Thucydides instead thought that a form of government would be ideal which on the surface
bears the name of democracy, but really is autocracy, the rule of the first man as single head
of state.

Aristotle's view was similar. He considered the "timocracy" to be an ideal form of
government, the rule of the distinguished property owners. Aristotle suggested that
democratic and oligarchic elements should be balanced such that neither the poor majority
nor the rich elites would be able to dominate power. For Aristotle, democracy was a
degenerate form of timocracy because the poor majority might decide to divide the capital
of the rich minority among themselves - a possible course of action which Aristotle
considered unjust.

The same idea can be found in the constitution of the United States: James Madison (1751-
1836), one of the founding fathers of the constitution, proclaimed that every form of
government should be designed "to protect the minority of the opulent against the
majority". Madison tried to solve the tense relationship between the common people and
the elites with a "representative democracy", a de-facto oligarchy. He thought this would
guarantee that the interests of the rich minority be protected. These examples shall suffice
to show that western school of thought is rife with doubt and even sometimes hostility
towards democracy as a form of government. (1)

Nevertheless, the concept of democracy continues to gain in importance in political
discourse and rhetoric in newer times. Not only is democracy one among several possible
forms of government, it is the only form that allows for legitimate political power. At the
same time, the ruling elites consider democracy a "necessary illusion". Behind all their
soaring rhetoric of democracy, they are eager to establish the institutional oligarchic
structures necessary to preserve their own interests. They therefore declare real
democratic accomplishments as an "excess of democracy" and try to erode democratic
structures in innocuous ways so as not to arouse public suspicion. This process is currently
accelerating at a frighteningly fast pace. The EU legislative process, the actions of the world
bank and the IMF, the TTIP trade agreement, and the so-called "Troika" are some of the
many indications pointing to this direction.

Establishing oligarchic structures under the veil of democracy has been impressively
successful as western democracies now bear close resemblance to oligarchies. This view is
not only shared among critics of the ongoing process of tearing down democratic elements
of government but also among the ruling elites themselves. In the U.S., Samuel Huntington
contributed to a report on the "crisis of democracy", there referring to an "excess of
democracy" as diagnosed by the editors. Huntington concluded that the management of
"democracy" was relatively easy under president Truman who was able "to govern the
country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and
bankers". Ever since, this "excess of democracy" was diminished wherever possible,
prompting the Washington Times from April 21, 2014 to state: America is no longer a
democracy – never mind the democratic republic envisioned by our Founding Fathers. In an
interview from July 28, 2015, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter called the U.S. an
oligarchy with unlimited political bribery. Evidently, the elites regard the oligarchic
character of the U.S. as an obvious fact. Those who do not place much weight on public
statements of the elite may instead be convinced to recognize the obvious by supporting
scientific evidence. Political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page (2014) recently
analyzed how much influence the broad body of U.S. citizens exert on political decisions.
Their results show that the actual impact is near zero, and for about 70% of the population,
there is no influence on political decision making whatsoever.

The situation in Europe is very similar. In order to develop a somewhat realistic picture of
the current state of affairs, it helps to take a look at media catering to the elites, such as the
Wall Street Journal. As the financial and economic elites rely on accurate assessments that
are undistorted by partisan political views, these media afford an unclouded view on
political realities. Since these media cater only to the elite, they can dispense with any crude
rhetoric and propaganda found in the mass media consumed by the general population. The
Wall Street Journal from February 28, 2013 soberly states that a democratic process is no
longer able to stop the neoliberal agenda, citing as evidence that the public has voted
against it repeatedly and in several countries, but without consequence. In Europe, the
conviction that the voter has any consequential impact on the results of an election is thus
an illusion, just as it is in the U.S. By voting in an election, voters today cannot anymore
exert influence on decisions that are relevant to the institutional structure of the political

For economic policy, this powerlessness is hardly surprising because neoliberalism and
democracy are deeply incompatible. As Milton Friedman (1912-2006), one of the founding
fathers of neoliberalism, succinctly put: "A democratic society once established, destroys a
free economy" (Newsletter of the Mont Pelérin Society)" - a development which the
economic elite naturally opposes. They regard democracy only insofar as "permissible" as
the economy is protected from any implications from democratic decision making
processes. Which is to say as long as it s not a real democracy. It follows that international
neoliberalism currently is democracy's worst enemy.

From the perspective of multinational business corporations, democracy mainly is a risk to
their business model and to their revenue. The general population may not agree that
society has to conform to economic constraints and corporate interests which view salaries
and social benefits as negative factors for their accumulation of wealth. Ruling elites then
may have to force adequate "restructuring measures" on the population in order to satisfy
the interests of business organizations.

A society that is thoroughly democratic is thus incompatible with an organization of society
favored by the ruling elites. Conceding that "democracy" is a necessary illusion in political
life, elites prefer it to assume the shape of a "spectator democracy" steered by experts
rather than be a participatory democracy that is a lot harder to control. A spectator
democracy is much more suited to maintain the illusion of democracy while at the same
time ensuring a stable continuity in the status of the political elite.
This very problem is at the heart of the influential report "The Crisis of Democracy"
mentioned above. In 1975, this report was commissioned by the "Trilateral Commission".
"Trilateral" here refers to the fact that the members of this elite discussion group were
drawn from the main economic forces - North America, Europe and Japan. The Trilateral
Commission has close ties to other elite social networks, especially to the Bilderberg
conference and to the Atlantik-Brücke (Atlantic bridge). German members include Joseph
Ackermann, Gerhard Schröder, Edelgard Buhlmahn and Theo Sommer.
The "Crisis of Democracy" report notes that there is only one possibility to solve the crisis
caused by an "excess of democracy" and to manage democracy in the interests of the elite:
"The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of
apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups." It goes without
saying that those whose apathy and noninvolvement is regarded beneficial for the effective
management of democracy are part of the general population, not the members of the
ruling elite. The elite's goal of achieving a spectator democracy can thus only be achieved by
depleting the political interests and involvement of the broad body of citizens and instead
foster their lethargy and moral apathy.
Reaching this goal requires employing suitable techniques, especially to induce apathy - be
it through economic worries, fearmongering, consumerism, etc. Other important techniques
are those for managing public opinion and outrage.

Democracy and propaganda
In pondering advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government, U.S. political
scientist Harold Lasswell (1902-1978) came to the following conclusion which nicely
aligned with widely held beliefs of the elite: Democracy should be preferred if it is possible
to make the citizens conform to the political system and agree with the decisions taken by a
specialized political caste in their name. This could be achieved only using suitable
propaganda techniques. Propaganda would thus be an essential and inevitable part of every
"operational" democracy. Lasswell saw techniques to manage public opinion as
advantageous over dictatorial measures of controlling the public because they were
"cheaper than violence, bribery or other possible control techniques." In this sense,
democracy is an optimal form of government provided that it is firmly guided with
supporting management of public opinion.

Edward Bernays (1891-1995), the most influential propagandist of propaganda, was very
frank in pointing out these issues, for obvious reasons much more so than what is common
nowadays. In his book "Propaganda", published in 1928, he laid the foundations of modern
propaganda and developed different propaganda techniques. We here regard as
propaganda all systematic attempts at undermining the natural faculty of reasoning to
create attitudes, convictions and opinions which facilitate disenfranchize the citizen at the
benefit of the ruling elites. (4) In "Propaganda", Bernays states: "The conscious and
intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important
element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society
constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. [...] We
are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men
we have never heard of." What is relevant here is that Bernays is not formulating goals, he
simply comments on the status quo of his time. The described situation has since developed
much further and is even more serious now. Today, propaganda is an essential part of the
indoctrination system in all western societies. The "invisible government which is the true
ruling power of our country" consists of well-connected social networks of different elites
that operate largely unnoticed and without public scrutiny. It is them who "manipulate our
organized habits and opinions". They steer political decision making and, assisted by mass
media's "embedded journalists", portray the results as following from inevitable constraints
that ultimately benefit of all citizens. (5)

How could the elites accomplish this goal of a suitably lethargic population ruled by an
invisible government? Evidently, mass media play a key role. A particularly lucid account of
mass media's role is given by Paul Lazarsfeld (1901-1976), one of the most eminent
scientists in communication studies and co-founder of modern empirical social science: The
citizens need to be flooded with information to create the illusion of being well informed.
For the average citizen, the illusion of being well informed has the effect that "his social
conscience remains spotlessly clean. He is concerned. He is informed. And he has all sorts of
ideas as to what should be done. But, after he has gotten through his dinner and after he has
listened to his favored radio programs and after he has read his second newspaper of the
day, it is really time for bed." For Lazarsfeld, mass media therefore are among the "most
respectable and efficient of social narcotics". According to Lazarsfeld, mass media induce
such a warm and fuzzy feeling of being well informed that, after having read the newspaper
during breakfast, after having checked the online news portal in the afternoon, and after
having watched TV news in the evening, citizens are so overwhelmed by information that
they fail to recognize the root of their own malady. The well-educated social strata are
especially susceptible to this illusion of being informed. Over their lifetime, intellectuals
have obviously been particularly exposed to the doctrine of the currently ruling ideology -
just as they were in Nazi Germany. By silently condoning the actions of the elite,
intellectuals are a major factor in stabilizing and perpetuating the ruling ideology of their
times. There are many examples for narcotizing the general population through affective
measures. (7)

Besides sedating the public, fearmongering techniques are particularly important in the
political domain of exerting affective control over citizens. The rhetoric popularly employed
for legitimizing military "interventions" often follows two strategies simultaneously: While
the well-educated social strata often respond favorably to waging war under the banner of
humanitarian intervention, the remaining parts of society are most easily won over by
inducing fear of evil and violent enemies. A historically famous example with enormous
consequences was Colin Powell who, in his presentation to the UN security council on
February 5, 2003, held in his hand a plastic tube filled with powder. He was supposed to
demonstrate "unambiguous and undeniable evidence" that Saddam Hussein had access to
weapons of mass destruction. Presenting this "evidence" was mainly targeted at the U.S.
population to scare them into supporting a U.S. invasion into Iraq that had long since been
planned. Manipulating the affective state of the population like this proved to be quite
effective, ultimately resulting in the "collateral damage" of killing more than 100000 Iraqi
civilians. More recently, the gravest example of pursuing a hegemonial policy with the aid of
fearmongering is mass media's coverage of Russia and Ukraine. (8)
In general, short-lived techniques of steering public opinion are inferior to those that have a
lasting effect. In this sense, influencing public opinion is more important than manipulating
the affective state since opinions are typically more stable than emotions. Techniques which
allow manipulating public opinion therefore play a key role. Here, I restrict myself to
discuss only a few relevant aspects. Using the following techniques does not require any
advanced knowledge of psychology, they are routine business in mass media production:
1. Reduce facts to subjective opinions. Hannah Arendt remarked that masquerading facts
as mere opinions is one of the most distressing aspects of totalitarian systems.
2. Present facts which are actually closely related in a fragmented way. This destroys all
context required to understand their meaning and implications.
3. De-contextualize facts - remove facts from their proper context such that they appear
to be isolated single events.
4. Re-contextualize facts - embed facts into a new context with positive connotations.
Make facts lose their proper context which might carry the potential for instilling
public indignation.

Beyond these fairly simple techniques, psychology has identified more subtle cognitive
mechanisms of developing attitudes and taking decisions which can be exploited for
effectively manipulating public opinion. These mechanisms are all the more relevant as they
work pre-attentively and thus are beyond conscious cognitive control. Two examples may
serve as illustration:

1. A number of experimental studies have shown that people rate statements as more
valid or true merely because these statements have been repeatedly made as opposed
to just once. [DW Subjectively more valid statements were also shown to be more
persuasive.] This effect can even be obtained if the experimenter explicitly emphasizes
that the repeated statement is actually false. Processes like this are automatic and
unconscious - we cannot resist them by sheer willpower. The effect remains unchanged
even if the subjects participating in the experiment knows about it in advance: The
more often the subject hears a statement, the more its subjective validity increases.
Innumerable examples for this technique can be readily found in daily newspapers -
writing about the "Greek aversion to economic reforms", or calling the recent crisis on
the crimea an "annexation by the Russian federation". Merely re-iterating these
statements over and over makes us believe them more. (9)

2. In areas where we have little expertise, we tend so seek truth in the center among a
broad range of views. This means that a-priori, all opinions are equal to us, and we
simply discard those on the fringes of the spectrum that we call "extreme" - even if
those extreme views happen to be correct. Defining what makes up the acceptable,
still-reasonable region on the spectrum of views is therefore an effective way to
manipulate public opinion: [DW Shifting the perceived extremes also sways the
perceived center among arguments in a debate.] Having the power to control what
counts as the boundary between "still-reasonable fringe ideas" and "unacceptable
extreme views" in the publicly visible range of opinions thus goes a long way in
managing public attitudes. A neoliberal, market-driven conception of democracy
makes it especially important to control how the left fringe of the "acceptable"
spectrum of views is defined, of views that can still be acknowledged as "justifiable"
and "responsible". For examples, the ruling elites of our "liberal democracy" might
declare that what is expressed by Jürgen Habermas is right on the edge of what we are
willing to accept as reasonable. Positions that are more radical than Habermas and are
more obviously targeted at the heart of power will then be branded as "irresponsible"
because they fall beyond the invisible demarcation of what constitutes "acceptable"
views. Once designated as "irresponsible", such positions are then barred from
mainstream public discussion.

How can we hide politically inconvenient truths from cognitive and
moral awareness?
Once we have raised our awareness for the aforementioned techniques of manipulating
public opinion, we can analyze an interesting paradox which history supports all too often -
a paradox between our actions and our self perception. Action and self perception may also
diverge on the level of states and nations. Counting on the support of the majority of the
population, states may commit horrible atrocities like torture, mass-murder and genocide,
and yet uphold the view that these actions are somehow morally justifiable. This troubling
phenomenon raises important questions concerning the nature of the human mind. Because
we undoubtedly do dispose of the necessary moral sensibility and capacity to judge what
we consider unjust, at least insofar as it concerns the actions of other people. Said paradox
can only be evoked when our natural moral judgment is sufficiently undermined or blocked,
most easily by making the atrocities committed by our own society morally invisible.
At first, it might seem difficult to let obvious facts become invisible, but magic performances
tell us that hiding things in plain sight is not extremely hard when the audience's attention
is properly managed. Hieronymous Bosch's (1450-1516) painting "The Conjurer" skillfully
and aptly illustrates the general principles: Some obviously well-to-do persons gather
around a table to watch the fascinating performance of a conjurer. The conjurer commands
some rather simple yet effective skills to capture the audience's attention for his own
benefit. Some members of the audience are gawkers or voyeurs, others appear to be casual
bystanders. One conspicuous person is dressed in the traditional costume of a religious
order, wearing a pince-nez. This means that he obviously knows how to read, the definitive
sign of an intellectual. The intellectual quickly realizes how the lack of alertness of the
audience can be exploited for his own interests: He quickly steals the money purse of the
man in front of him who seems to be hypnotized by the conjurer and who leans in to get a
better view of the pearl in the conjurer's hand. The thief is what came to be known as a cut-
purse in the middle ages. Bosch's painting illustrates how easy it is to use misdirection to
manipulate human attention such that the obvious becomes indetectable, and striking facts
become invisible. As I am going to show, this is also true in the political domain, with the
same remarkable and worrying effectiveness. I will make use of some facts that directly
bear on the paradox between our actions and our self perception, that is, on the serious
moral transgressions of our own political communities. In doing so, I would like to reverse
the conventional political perspective: Instead of inquiring about the alleged or true
motives behind our governments' crimes, I would like to focus on the citizens, that is on
ourselves. Why do we not react to these crimes with a moral outrage as it would be
Since the facts themselves shall serve only as a background for examining this question, I
will provide just a few examples. These examples are chosen according to the following
three criteria: 1. They refer to actions where the responsibility lies with us - the political
community which we belong to. 2. They refer to clear-cut crimes and severe violations of
moral norms - actions which we would not hesitate to morally condemn and feel
indignation about if committed by our enemies. 3. They are undisputed and well
documented with extensive coverage by mainstream media - even though this coverage
might often be fragmented and suitably re-contextualized.

Making minor facts invisible
"Minor" facts are especially easy to hide from moral evaluation because inherently, they
have little "moral visibility" - be it because they have limited scope, little political weight, or
because they concern relatively abstract issues. Mass media may cover these "minor" facts
without concern, such facts may be visible in the literal sense yet are invisible to our moral
Serious transgressions of moral norms may still be made invisible without much effort if
caused by abstract institutions. In contrast to tangible and visible violence, structural
violence somehow circumvents our natural moral sensibilities. Examples include effects of
globalized financial oligarchies which act beyond any democratic control. The human mind
is not well equipped to perceive abstract causes, they often remain undetected even when
their effects are massive. In 2012, Jean Ziegler, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right
to Food, gave an interview to German newspaper "Junge Welt" in which he remarked: "It
took German fascism six years of warfare to kill 56 million people - something which the
neoliberal economic system has no trouble accomplishing in about a year." Even when it is
easy to directly point the finger at a cause, we still struggle to react with moral outrage if
that cause is an abstract institution: The World Bank is tasked with providing loans for
long-term projects serving the development and improvement of local economic structures.
For years, international human rights organizations condemn violations of human rights
committed by the World Bank. Sometimes, this issue even makes the news in our local mass
media. Major German newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" wrote on April 16, 2015: Many
African infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank include bulldozing slums
without advance warning, forcing residents to migrate or become homeless. On the same
day major German weekly newspaper "ZEIT" ran the headline "World Bank violates human
rights world wide" and reported: In the last decade alone, "3.4 million people have lost their
homes or livelihoods as victims of more than 900 projects financed by the World Bank."
Informing the public about these devastating facts poses no risk to public peace - as long
they are not put in context, these crimes are difficult to understand and hence neither
arouse much interest nor trouble the population.
It is something else entirely with tangible crimes like torture. Torture always has a human
personal offender. If the cause of a crime is not abstract, but instead there is a real human
perpetrator, our moral sensibility is activated much more easily, as is our natural capacity
for moral indignation. Nevertheless, fragmentation and de-contextualization can make even
these crimes morally invisible.
Uzbekistan serves as another example: Uzbekistan is one of the most repressive
dictatorships in the world with a regime that routinely commits the most brutal violations
of human rights like mass murder, torture, and forced child labor. However, since Germany
operates an air force base in Uzbekistan and therefore has a strategic interest in
maintaining friendly relations, tolerating torture and mass murder is among Germany's
vital national interests. (10) We can easily find more such inconvenient facts which are
hidden from our moral faculty.

Making substantial facts invisible
How about ways to make substantial facts invisible, which at first seem to be impossible to
hide for their large scale alone? This feat requires big efforts, in politics as well as in stage
magic. Still, David Copperfield has famously shown in 1983 that he can make the statue of
liberty disappear in front of his audience. That kind of magic trick requires an involved and
refined technical apparatus. Manipulating public opinion also requires the large apparatus
of mass media to make facts disappear, and the process is in a sense costly, but it relies on
psychological techniques which are not overly sophisticated.
One of such facts is the number of civilian casualties since World War II killed in U.S.
military "interventions". Officially, the U.S. is often designated Germany's "closest ally", and
Germany's Office of Foreign Affairs sees the transatlantic relationship as being based on a
set of shared core values. Facts on human cost of lives in U.S. warfare therefore concern a
policy domain for which "we" share responsibility.
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