Posts Tagged ‘ big lie

The Bikecast Episode #51: American Exceptionalism

“American Exceptionalism” undergirds nearly every channel of information and every aspect of political discourse in the United States. It is, at its core, the belief that the unbending laws of nature and the consistent historical forces that have affected every institution throughout human history are not and will not be factors in the history and future of the American people.

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One aspect of this delusional concept comes immediately to mind and wouldn’t be disputed by readers of this blog, though it would be by most Americans. American Exceptionalism is used to recast the aggression of our rulers against foreign peoples as wars of liberation, humanitarian interventions, peace keeping, police actions and the like.

Every ruling class in recorded history initiated wars to accrue control over additional resources, territory, slaves, and tax base to themselves. This expansion of power always takes place at the expense of the subjects who produced and had expropriated the materiel for war and who are called on to fill the ranks of the army. Nobody seriously disagrees with this most basic, obvious, and repeatedly demonstrated fact of human history.

The popular narrative, however, exempts the United States from this ironclad historical pattern. Illumination collapses the dichotomy and returns us to the reality in which the aggression of our current rulers and the sacrifices of the workers parallel those of rulers and subjects throughout history.

The domestic facet of American Exceptionalism is even more widespread and is more immediately dangerous to those of us living here. Behold the remarkably clear analysis of one Anne Applebaum:

The result: Egypt, like many Arab societies, has a wealthy and well-armed elite at the top and a fanatical and well-organized Islamic fundamentalist movement at the bottom. In between lies a large and unorganized body of people who have never participated in politics, whose business activities have been limited by corruption and nepotism, and whose access to the outside world has been hampered by stupid laws and suspicious bureaucrats.

-Anne Applebaum

As IOZ points out, and let me state again that each and every one of you should read IOZ every day and send him threatening letters on days that he doesn’t post (don’t really do that last part). Anyway, as IOZ points out, “with a few tweeked adjectives,” the above critique fits the United States to a T. He also observes that she, and I will add most Americans, would dismiss such a claim as absurd.

We’ve recently seen European social programs stripped down and eliminated, food and energy prices increasing and the rising up of people against their governments. Many Americans are already facing the challenges of getting by without regular work while prices increase and state assistance becomes increasingly scarce. Somehow, the idea that a confrontation is coming between the state and the people remains popularly inconceivable.

Even when the world is watching the rulers of a country shut down the country’s communication infrastructure, systematically imprison popular leaders, and send para-military “security forces” out to do battle with those demanding very basic institutional reform, the myth of American Exceptionalism keeps most people from seeing the connection to domestic events.

The myth is pervasive and deeply ingrained. Anyone who even suggests that “national security” policies (for example, the internet kill switch, massive increases in security infrastructure/personel/armament, the elimination of habeus corpus and basic legal principles) aren’t intended to protect us from terrorists, but rather to protect the ruling class from future domestic dissent is immediately labelled paranoid, a wingnut, a conspiracy theorist.

We who live on the North American landmass are not immune from any of the historical forces that govern the dynamics of human interaction and have special predictive powers around human systems premised on violence. We are not protected by the rulers. The “defensive” apparati that we are taxed to build are intended to protect the rulers from expressions of our discontent.

The ruling class has disassembled and replaced voluntary social networks with compulsory institutions that they control. They’ve syphoned off so much wealth and warped the economy to such a degree that they can no longer afford to stuff their pockets with gold while maintaining payments to those that have come to depend on them. Thus, the payments will dwindle or cease (what? you thought that they’d stop stuffing their pockets?) and, out of desperation, people will take to the streets, demanding a restructuring of the social order.

They will be met with the tear gas, batons and bullets that they’ve spent their life funding. They’ll be tossed into the prisons they’d imagined were meant for drug dealers. Their communications will be disrupted by technologies sold as protections against terrorism. This is a historical inevitability. This is the ironclad dynamic of societies whose “order” is premised on violent domination of one group by another. America is no exception.

The Bikecast Episode #8: The Big Lie

This podcast is an amalgam of a couple recordings. I think that it flows OK, but I’m afraid that I have a hard time detecting incongruities because I’ve listened to the material so many times. Due to poor use of sound editing, there’s a number of instances–especially toward the end–where words get clipped. I found a way around this, but not in time to “save” this recording. Let me know what you think.

Download this episode of the bikecast
In this episode I talk about The Big Lie. I’ve written about it before and, if you’re hunting down references, you’ll find some of them in that post. This set of show notes will be brief as they are essentially a supplement to the previous article.

When I refer to The Big Lie, I’m actually identifying a particular pattern–a subset of big lies–that I define as being the exact opposite of the truth. I see this pattern everywhere and it’s effectiveness at diverting attention or investigation is evident.

There is a weakness in the method because, once a skeptical mind grasps the pattern and begins to identify it in the narratives that surround it, the big lie loses all effectiveness. In fact, the truth–or its approximation–can now be derived from assuming the opposite of the big lie.

Here are a couple of links to get you started, should you disbelieve any of the claims I make during the podcast.

War on Drugs

A canvassing of unintended consequences of drug criminalization.

Increase in social violence due to prohibition.

War on Terror

The war on terror (and it’s undeclared predecessors) is the cause of terrorism. The war on terror (and it’s undeclared predecessors) is the cause of terrorism


For debunking the Big Lies around education, I cannot recommend these resources highly enough:
John Gatto was long-time educator. His website is a bit of a mess, but you can find his articles all over the place. Here are a couple of representative samples. The Six Lesson Schoolteacher. Why Schools don’t Educate

School Sucks podcast, also run by an educator of 10 years, is excellent.

I may get back to the other examples–religion as anti-answer and religion as enabler of immoral behavior–in future podcasts. They don’t have the same body of evidence as the other examples.

Government Failure?

The right wing, and previously the left wing, go on and on about how badly government has failed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Government has been an overwhelming success. Trillions of dollars have been stripped from voluntary production for peaceful consumption and shoveled to the politically connected financial aristocracy. Trillions more has been printed up for the same purposes, radically devaluing the few dollars that the poorest workers among us receive.

The military industrial complex gets to provide for the occupation of 100+ countries, 2 endless hot wars, countless bush wars, clandestine operations, and protection of shipping lanes. Military deployments provide employment for the lowest socio-economic classes. Along with section 8 concentration centers, low-cost access to toxic food, and a booming police and prison system, this keeps the masses of the powerless and oppressed from outright revolt.

Pharmaceutical companies get to have tens of thousands of competitors jailed for distributing alternative, low cost medication (yes, I mean weed). Teams of government lawyers and diplomats travel the world shutting down generic competitors for patent infringement saving “big pharma” huge amounts of money at the cost of an equally huge amount of human suffering and death. The ways in which government pillages the 99% of regular citizens–not to mention fer’ners–and enriches the 1% ruling class are boundless.

So why all the nay-sayers claiming that government isn’t doing it’s job? If you talk to them, you’ll quickly discover the crux of the issue: they think that the unassailable and frequently unleashed hurricane of state violence is somehow helping or protecting them. An uninformed observer might wonder how something so precisely opposite of the truth could roll so easily from the tongues of otherwise intelligent people. One answer, of course, is 12+ years of state “education” that, for most working families, is pretty difficult to avoid. Secondarily, the products of this near-universal public education produce the media and cultural artifacts that we are immersed in.

An Experiment

As an experiment, adopt the mindset that the purpose of government is to redistribute wealth from the poor, productive classes to a very small group of extremely wealthy people. Imagine that government is designed to shield existing corporations from competition, to grant monopoly privileges, and to prevent new products and services from entering the marketplace. Put yourself in the position of a politically connected oligarch. Would you prefer to cooperate peacefully with foreign merchants, buying raw materials at the price they offer? Or would you collaborate to send the national army to occupy the land and take the resources at a fraction of the price?

I’m not claiming this as bullet-proof evidence, but don’t many of the puzzles and mysteries of government action suddenly evaporate? Doesn’t it make sense that the apparatus that enforced slavery, exterminated the native population, subjugated women and children to male family members, bombed union picket lines, and drafted the poor into endless foreign blood-baths for the enrichment and benefit of themselves and their wealthy friends–doesn’t it make sense that they would continue to do so?

Try it out, if you can, for as long as is manageable and let me know how it feels.

See also

The Big Lie

Die Grosse Luege (The Big Lie)

… in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; Even though the facts . . . may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world . . .

—Adolf Hitler , Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X[1]

The big lie may be the most successful stand-alone propaganda technique in history.  We swim everyday in a sea of such lies and yet we rarely, if ever, notice them.  Like an optical illusion, we focus our entire attention on it while it jumps and squirms and evades our ability to bring it fully before our senses.  And so we must bring reason to bear in addition to our senses to detect the big lie.  What to do with one once we’ve found it, we’ll leave for another time.

Protection from Islamo-facism

Since the big lie is as difficult to pin down in the abstract as it is to detect in reality, let’s start with an example.  I choose this example because it’s the easiest for us anti-imperialists to grasp.  The lie is that we need a large and powerful globe-spanning military to protect us from rabid, suicidal foes who want nothing more than to kill us and take our stuff.  We’re told that our freedom will end the minute we stop razing villages, imprisoning farmers and shepherds, overthrowing democratically elected foreign governments, and supplying firepower to brutal dictators.  Reality, in this case, is available to anyone with a few hours of research and some very basic critical thinking skills.  In reality, the U.S. military has spent the last 100 years, conservatively, creating an army of rabid, suicidal foes bent on revenge.  It has swelled the number of those willing to fight by starving, torturing and killing legions of mothers, sons, brothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, and friends.

As we see from the above example, the big lie is not simply not true.  It is the opposite of the truth made difficult to detect by its over-the-top audacity.  Even now, having stated what is real, my mind wanders in search of scenarios in which an Army-less America is overrun by . . . somebody from somewhere.  These are the ‘traces’ of the big lie, the result of imperfect deprogramming after dozens of years of propaganda.

Just Say “No”

Let’s look at the big lie around drug prohibition–anti-imperialists are also frequently opposed to jailing people who’ve committed no crime.  The big lie is that the war on drugs exists to decrease drug dependency, drug related crimes and the violence of the drug trade.  The staying power of the big lie is illustrated by the drug war.  Even with a prison system overflowing with non-violent drug users, hundreds of thousands of bodies littering Central and South America and billions of dollars “up in smoke,” this choice piece of propaganda persists.  Even those who would legalize marijuana can’t understand that society would not erupt into madness if “hard” drugs were legalized.  The primary effect, guaranteed by iron-clad laws of economics, would be to radically decrease the price of drugs.  The 99% markup that allows for the marketing of drugs to kids, the arming of the most violent criminals, and the need to steal and trick to get a fix would vanish.  And with it, the distinction between legal and illegal drugs–so crystal clear to the propagandized mind–would dissolve  away.

Compulsory Schooling

Here’s a hard one we might not have noticed.  We who believe that human beings are all valuable understand that denying someone an education is the surest way to limit their potential for self-fulfillment.  Literacy is key to economic freedom and human progress, and we look back with shame at the times when society attempted to deny this ability to women, slaves, and various immigrant groups.

Our genuine and honorable feelings about the value of education pave the way for a big lie: without public education, the poor would be uneducated.  Non-labor jobs would be the domain of the males of the dominant ethnic group.  Illiteracy and the resulting stratification of society would lead to massive injustice as the poor languished, the rich thrived and the middle class desperately sought some way to scrimp and save in order to educate their kids.

Of course, government schools do not educate the poor.  They do guarantee that white men dominate the non-labor workforce.  They result it the highest illiteracy rates in the history of this continent.  The rich thrive in carefully gerrymandered school districts or private schools.  The poor endure 12+ years of boring, degrading and brutal  “child” care, and the middle class scramble to locate themselves in the districts of the wealthy or budget for private school.

The very circumstances we fear above all others–those we are told to fear by “experts”–are precisely the outcomes of the government remedies we are told we must accept.  Financial chaos, lack of  healthcare, oppressed minorities, suffering of the elderly; whenever we’re told to be afraid and that only the coercive might of the state can protect us from a dismal outcome, we must attempt to escape our programming and look for the big lie.