Ideology is the intellectual glue which binds a group/society together. It is the unique world-view which informs the members of the group and which differentiates the group from other groups. It is the system of beliefs by which the group interprets and comprehends reality. Religion, capitalist economic theory and Marxist economic theory are examples of some contemporary ideologies.
Any ideology has two components which are in dynamic conflict with each other. The first component is the degree to which the ideology accurately reflects reality. An ideology which greatly misrepresents reality hinders group effectiveness in competition with other groups and in dealing with everyday problems. Creationists have real problems with the natural sciences. The second component is the degree of internal cohesiveness of the ideology: the degree to which it is unique group identifier. This internal cohesiveness component necessitates that the group ideology misrepresent reality to some degree. Science is not an ideology. A group which believes in gravity and magnetism, for example, is not unique, hence, there is no internal "we’re different from them" cohesiveness. In other words, there is a trade-off between reality interface and group cohesiveness. The more irrational the beliefs, the greater the group solidarity for those who accept the ideology. Also, in times of perceived danger, group solidarity is emphasized as people rally around the flag.
Social mythology is the reality distorting criteria by which society evaluates specific events. The notion that the United States invaded Iraq to defend itself against Islamic terrorists is logical within the framework of ideological misrepresentation. Furthermore, true believers have no difficulty accepting the notion that our military troops are risking their lives to bring freedom and democracy (holy words, totally devoid of real meaning) to the ungrateful, ignorant, radical Islamic "ragheads" of Iraq. The reality that "our sons and daughters" (as they are referred to on TV) are, in fact, Imperial storm-troopers subjugating and terrorizing a largely defenseless Third World country is totally incomprehensible to the majority of Americans.
An additional factor is the degree to which most people intuitively sense that acceptance of official mythology is a critically important component of internal social cohesiveness. To debunk the mythology is perceived as an attack on group solidarity, hence, a traitorous threat to the effective functioning of society, and to its ability to defend itself against external threats, real and imagined. Most people can be fairly described as faithful followers. They are not concerned with critically evaluating group goals and actions, which they feel is best left to the leaders in our hierarchical society. Rather, they are more concerned with fitting in and doing their part to advance group objectives. They tend to respond to media messages as to how they should think and behave. There is a certain logic to this. Aligning with power is generally safe and rewarding, whereas, confronting elite power frequently has negative consequences, particularly for the relatively powerless.
Two points come to mind. First, the degree to which the entertainment media actively promulgates the mythology which shapes our society’s world-view. Warfare and warriors, heroes and heroics, patriotism and the use of massive violence to "defend" our freedoms from sinister evil-doers are all recurring themes which facilitate the maintenance of our violent and militaristic society. The average person perceives reality in a massively distorted fashion due to this ideological pre-conditioning.
The second (truly depressing) point is the degree to which self-styled faithful followers can even begin to function as responsible citizens in a democracy. Without delving too deeply, it seems apparent that people who behave as faithful followers in our hierarchical society have a real problem discharging their obligations as citizens. Faithful followers don’t seek out information to use in rational decision making, rather, they respond to media generated cues as to how society’s rulers (the business elite) expect them to think and behave. They look to the corporate media to give them their marching orders.
A good example of what I am talking about concerns the War on Terror. On 9/11, slightly over 3000 people were killed in a horrific act of terrorist violence. That same year, just under 50,000 people died in automobile accidents. The propaganda of the ideological system told the people that repressive, police state measures (and foreign wars) were needed to protect them from the imminent threat of terrorist mass-destruction. The killing machine in the garage continued to be depicted as a friend of the family. Pacifist critics of the government were harassed and put on "no fly" lists as a "security precaution." This seemed reasonable and prudent within the systemic ideological deception. Most people believed because they wanted to believe. When the government said to seal off windows with duct tape, the Faithful Followers climbed into their dangerous killing machines and drove to get duct tape for their windows. To a rational person, this behavior was irrational to the point of being ludicrous. To the logic of the Faithful Follower, it was a demonstration of group loyalty and solidarity.
For most people, acceptance of group ideology/mythology is seen as a condition of group membership. While certain aspects of the group world-view may be demonstrably false and even irrational, there is a compelling logic to being a member in good standing in a powerful, supportive group. Group solidarity is an important component of group power and dissension and infighting are perceived as threats to the ability of the group to defend and protect the membership. Deviation from group ideological correctness may elicit hostility from self-styled "defenders of the faith." These are the drill sergeants who help the elites keep the rabble in line. The brown shirts whose function is to maintain group internal discipline.
In the long run, most organizations (particularly large, powerful organizations) eventually are run by ambitious individuals who use the organization for achieving their personal objectives, usually power accumulation. Almost all organizations are continually engaged in the struggle for power (competition). More sales, more members, more money, etc. This ongoing struggle for power is usually camouflaged by the group ideology which artfully misrepresents reality in a way conducive to disarming opponents and motivating supporters. The U.S. is a benevolent superpower, not a brutal empire, etc. Ideology provides the basic framework of deception by which the elites justify and implement their strategies for power accumulation.
Anyone who seeks to change society needs to deal with society as it is. Rational arguments have little impact on people primarily guided by group mythology and group expectations. Within the internal logic of group ideology, non-conforming opinions make no sense at all, and may be interpreted as a threat to the group. Ideological misrepresentation is an essential component of elite domination and control. As long as the reality distorting mythology is accepted, the majority of people will continue to follow the logic of the illusions and deceptions. Meaningful change absolutely requires the shattering of the official mythology.
See also "Keith's NO EMPIRE Blog" at http://saskck.blogspot.com