Physics Flavored with Politics

Here’s a good blog for those of you who like to keep track of what’s going on in the world of physics. The author throws in some interesting and thought-provoking comments on politics and other topics outside the realm of science, from the point of view of someone who is obviously very smart, but not a policy wonk. For example, here’s one of his latest about Obama’s visit to Russia. It includes the following remark about why we may have elected Obama:

“Where does the difference between the reactions come from? Well, I think that the Soviet Union and other socialist countries have done pretty sophisticated things to improve their propaganda methods and to make the citizens join the official bandwagon and to respect the official cults. They had to be increasingly sophisticated because the citizens were increasingly more able to see through the tricks. Today, the citizens themselves are pretty realistic and many of them can see if someone tries to manipulate with them, especially if the methods are too obvious.

“The Americans and many other nations seem completely naive in these respects, like little kids from a kindergarten who see a magician for the first time. Naive child-like people may be cuter and happier but they may also do many more silly things.”

I rather suspect he overestimates the effectiveness of Communist propaganda and the naiveté of my countrymen here. I lived in Germany in the 70’s for over three years, and occasionally listened to East German radio. It wasn’t grossly inept, but seemed rather crude to me. As for us, we may have elected Obama, but his opponent wasn’t exactly charismatic, and, if the election had taken place in most west European countries, they would have elected him by a much greater margin than we did.

As for our “simplicity,” I suspect it’s not quite as extreme as most Europeans think. We’re used to listening to sophisticated spin, and have much better access to alternative viewpoints than the citizens of any European country I’m aware of. Most of them have nothing like our talk radio, or influential blogs with massive audiences on both the left and the right that are a rapid and effective check on the accuracy of stories that appear in the mainstream media.

Be that as it may, Mr. Motl obviously has no anti-American ax to grind, and his comments are a refreshing departure from the vanilla stuff one usually reads on the European left and right.

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