Critics of Horkheimer and Adorno, or of Marxian thought in general, often essentially make a just-so argument saying that, in fact, publics are wise and make good decisions, regardless of institutional or structural knowledge-distribution practices.
This is nice, and would be nice if it were true, but everything I’ve experienced in my life tells me that it simply is not.
Every student in every class that isn’t actually from China continues to discuss China as though it were a Maoist backwater in which illiterate man-children walk about doing little but persecuting others while starving to death. Show them pictures? Point out that virtually every high-technology item in their lives comes from China? No effect.
Virtually everyone in my personal life, including current family, multiple exes, friends, acquaintances—continues to believe that fat will “clog your arteries” and “make you fat.” This despite the fact that Americans have become fatter even as they have reduced fat intake and increased carbohydrate intake. Even people from previous generations that were thin eating fat and are now fat eating none believe this. Show them trendlines that completely contradict this causal claim? Nothing.
People continue to pursue employment and to seek new employment to try to increase their financial holdings. This despite the fact that each of them readily admits that the only reason companies employ people is to skim value from their labor, i.e. if the company does not profit from the hire, then the hire will not be made, meaning that the worker is not receiving the full value of their labor in wages. They’ll all readily admit this. Then, ask them how to get rich? Get a better job.
And so on and so forth. This set of examples was chosen becuase it’s so varied. There are lots of examples from across political, economic, and cultural life.
The fact is that most people believe utter shit that’s not true most of the time, and that they will happily admit is not even logical, yet they will not change their beliefs—not for a second—and they have no explanation for this behavior.
They are not susceptible to logic and evidence, even when they admit that the logic and evidence are persuasive and conclusive. It’s a matter of “yes, I can see that this is true and that is false…but I prefer to believe the false that anyhow!”
Horkheimer and Adorno, so far as I’m concerned, were far more right than wrong, if not absolutely and entirely right in every way.
People are stupid and believe stupid shit. The truth or falsehood, or even the empirical demonstrability or lack thereof of anything you tell them, has no bearing on their belief, or—thus—on their behavior.
Quite simply, people will believe what they have to in order to get what they want—and mostly what they want is to get laid, to belong, to have no cognitive dissonance, to not have to face harsh truths, to be dominant in society rather that subjugated, and so on.
Truth isn’t a value for humans. Bread and reproduction are.