Posts Tagged ‘ propaganda

Salman Rushdie and the “Innocence of Muslims”

Salman Rushdie has some harsh words for President Obama and other western leaders:

I think if we wish to live in any kind of a moral universe, we must hold the perpetrators of violence responsible for the violence they perpetrate. It’s very simple. The criminal is responsible for the crime.

Oh no, wait. He’s talking about the US armed militants that turned on their masters and killed 4 Americans . . . in a country where the United States indiscriminately bombed 1,000 civilians (very conservatively) out of existence in the previous year.

I hesitate to tell someone who grew up Muslim about the recent history of the Muslim world, but anybody who says:

. . . in the last half-century, these cultures seem to have slid backwards into medievalism and repression is one of the – I think it’s one of the great self-inflicted wounds. And out of that comes the rise of this new, much harsher Islam . . . the readiness to believe that it’s OK to kill people if you declare yourself offended by something. This is the mindset of the fanatic, the mindset of the tyrant. And it’s a real shame that it seems to have spread so widely across the Muslim world,

needs, perhaps a quick refresher.

The “slide backwards into medievalism” wasn’t a “self-inflicted wound.” The people of the muslim world were dragged into the torture chambers of medievalism by colonial secret police; were herded into medievalism by western armed and supported dictators; and were finally bombed into medievalism by 30 years of relentless aggression from western militaries and their proxies.

Yes, Islam is awful and stupid and can be a rallying point for hostilities that are boiling over. The same is true for any Abrahamic religion. The idea that some 13 minute Youtube clip is really actually driving the entire Muslim world in a batshit firebombing rage is remarkably stupid. I’m sure Salman Rushdie is not remarkably stupid. He sort of sounds like it in this interview though.

Which brings me to point #2:
The idea that some 13 minute Youtube clip is really actually driving the entire Muslim world in a batshit firebombing rage is remarkably stupid.

And yet, that’s the story–at least the headline–nearly universally across all media. Man those people are crazy! They’re going nuts over an offensive Youtube clip? Another round of bombing is too good for them!

I *have* actually heard a couple of reports that at least hint at the fact that perhaps, just maybe, daily drone attacks, constant military occupation and the propping up of a whole chain of awful governments against the will of the population have *something* to do with the recent violence. Literally, like 2–maybe 3–in a solid week of coverage.

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times makes a convincing case that the Libya attck was “blowback” from the killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi, an ally of the United States in the fight against Gaddafi who was then assassinated. The death was announced on 9/11:

An immediate effect of al-Zawahiri’s video was that an angry armed mob, led by Islamist outfit Ansar al Sharia, set fire to the US consulate in Benghazi. The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed. It didn’t matter that Stevens happened to be a hero of the “NATO rebels” who had “liberated” Libya – notoriously sprinkled with Salafi-jihadis of the al-Libi kind.

This isn’t conclusive, of course, but it’s infinitely more likely than a crowd of would-be peaceful muslims driven into a lunatic rage by a Youtube clip.

Which brings me to point #3:
Does anyone thinks it’s strange that this movie trailer isn’t actually associated with a movie? I checked the Googles, Amazon, even Ebay. There is no movie “Innocence of the Muslims.” I’m not trying to spin a conspiracy yarn . . . not yet anyway . . . but this is just a true statement. The movie does not exist. The clip on Youtube can’t really be a trailer for a movie, then can it? Where did this story even come from?

Segueless jump to point #4:
Guess what, almost no muslims are protesting at all. Even given the occupation, the appropriation of their resources, the secret police, the constant surveillance, the desecration of everything . . . sacred, etc., there are a few hundred up to a couple thousand people engaged in protest at each of these events.

In one of those rare instances in which something on the Internet gets lost, I can’t find a site I saw yesterday that had the size of the protests vs. the populations of each country. Suffice it to say that the burner/rioters represent tens-of-thousandths of percents of the population (i.e 00.0001%)

Take a look at the #MuslimRage Twitter hashtag. It’s adorable. Here are 13 pictures of Muslim rage. Take a look. Just like you, amazingly enough, almost everybody else in the fucking world just wants to live their lives and be left alone by the lunatic %00.0001 percent of busy bodies and psychopaths that ruin it for everyone.

To conclude:
This story in which cultures are clashing and a mad and unfathomable “other” is just waiting to destroy you and your happiness is bullshit. It’s just a story–completely fabricated by people who will take your money, at gunpoint if necessary, to kill and enslave innocent human beings, just like you and your family, all around the world.

It’s just a story to blind you like Salman Rushdie is blind–who can look at a history of the last 50 years and not see that the murderers who need to be held accountable are the leaders of the western powers?

Don’t believe the stories. Don’t become blind to evil. Let’s leave the stone age relics of religion and rulers that the 00.0001% would have us cling to behind and forge a new path for humanity. A path that most of us have been on this whole time.

Everything’s Cool in Libya Though, Right Steve?

My opinion, that NPR is a particularly insidious source of propaganda, is not new. As psychologists continue to demonstrate (behind paywalls, for the most part, the bastards), smarter people don’t hold a world view more in line with reality, rather they are better able to rationalize whatever worldview they happen to hold. Arguments with religious scholars about the tenets of their respective faiths demonstrate this amply.

Given the time pressures and competing political agendas, most smart people want to believe that things are going, at least passably well in some part of our sprawling empire. An ongoing series, “The Revolutionary Roadtrip,” by Steve Inskeep gives a 5 minute daily balm to any concerns the NPR audience might have.

I should interject, now that you’re three paragraphs in, that this isn’t some outstanding specimen of NPR state-narrative reinforcement. It’s pretty pedestrian actually. I just happened to hear it right before I read this counter-punch article which covered similar topics. I thought the comparison was fairly striking. To wit, Steve Inskeep:

Orwell came to mind for me as we traveled through Libya, because it was Orwell who said, “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”

For forty-two years, Moammar Gadhafi controlled the present, rewrote the past to suit his ends, and seemed likely to hold on into the interminable future.

Now Gadhafi is gone, killed by rebels in his home city last October, and Libyans are still finding fresh and original ways to display the bloody images of his final moments on Facebook.

His death finally released Gadhafi’s grip on Libya’s recent history, and his people are just beginning to revise the record.

He goes on to talk about visiting the national museum, where all of the Gadhafi related installations have been removed.

And now, Counterpunch’s treatment of narrative-control in Libya:

It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming elections, but recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the new NATO-imposed government last month, has created a new crime of ‘glorifying’ the former government or its leader – subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment . . . Even more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law amongst the new government . . . whose only power base remains the colonial armed forces – is Law 38. This law has now guaranteed immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution”. Those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha – such as Misrata’s self-proclaimed “brigade for the purging of black skins” – can continue their hunting down of that cities’ refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new ‘law’ on their side.

Counterpunch also highlights the 50,000 killed by NATO forces, the necessity of removing Gadhafi before the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) could operate freely on the continent–until now AFRICOM was headquartered in Germany; and the US combat troops now engaged in South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. Counterpunch addresses the topic of Libya repeatedly and in depth, the archives are a phenomenal resource.

The rest of “the Revolutionary Roadtrip,” thus far, has highlighted North Africa’s favorite hot-sauce, camel meat as food, and a scare story about the danger of radical Islam derailing NATO’s “democratic reforms.”

It’s indicative that the very tippy-tip of the left-leaning mass media can’t even so much as hint at the return of brutal colonialism on an already tortured continent. It’s disinformation at it’s worst to highlight the brutality of the previous regime without mentioning that the current one has retroactively and in perpituity legalized death squads It’s the height of dark irony to allege Orwellian control by a very weak dictator from the gobal platform of the state radio of the most powerful and narrative dominating empire the world has ever seen.

It’s an illustration of the power of the human intellect. Such a flimsy and transparent touchstone will suffice to shield the public conscious from the blatant, deep evil of our rulers.

Nothing New in the National Defense Authorization Act

The National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1540) was signed on the last day of 2011. The bill, now law, has been in the non-mainstream news lately because of several clauses that “allow” the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens without trial.

As always, discussion and skepticism about the claimed authority to cage human beings forever, without a stated reason, and without any recourse is extremely healthy and I applaud anyone who brings the topic up at all[1].

That said, the belief that this power hasn’t always existed under the Constitution is patently incorrect. The indefinite detention of the seditious without trial is as old as “the republic” itself. A typical American lifetime has seen multiple instances of indefinite political mass-detention cloaked in the claim of national defense; ours is unlikely to be any different.

The root of the problem isn’t that the current government is becoming tyrannical, it is already demonstrably so. The root is that the government has always been tyrannical. It has always used prisons and the military/police to kill or cage anyone[2], foreign or domestic, who challenges the existing power structure in a meaningful way. What we’re currently witnessing is simply the increase in numbers of domestic subjects who recognize, to some degree, the nature of the existing structures and who are compelled to challenge them.

The NDAA, then, is just a reminder that you too are subject to indefinite, trial-free detention; or indefinite military detention; or trial-free military detention. You will not, however, be held indefinitely in military detention without a trial, they promise.

Besides not being worth the paper it’s written on, the signing statement will not protect anyone from disappearing whom the government deems to be a threat to “business as usual.” Even the party hacks for the democrats concede that point. Their focus is on the fact that the NDAA claims not to expand current executive power . . . aaand that the executive can currently do whatever it wants to anyone in the world. History, both mainstream and revisionist, reminds us in no uncertain terms that government has always claimed and exercised this power.

Simplistic, though thoroughly sufficent, evidence is offered by the Injustice Everywhere’s worst police misconduct of the year poll[3].
Here you will see a sampling of the thousands of instances of government killing, detaining, and caging human beings without trial.

You could argue that the killers aren’t from the military–not even the federal government in most cases. I would like you to reexamine the trees and keep an eye out for the forest. Putting aside uniform colors and the jurisdictional questions of whose cages/bullets belong to whom, your rulers will not let you disobey in any meaningful way. Even movements as mainstream as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are threatening enough to provoke fear-mongering about domestic terrorists and reminders, like the NDAA, of the price of dissent.

To sum up: the NDAA is a reiteration of the relationship between the subjects and the rulers. The rulers can beat, cage and kill anyone they want at will. There is no systemic recourse to speak of. There are no legal nor practical limits to their power over you within the nation-state framework. Until this observable fact is . . . observed by a critical mass of the ruled, we will continue to exist and live our lives at the pleasure of the power structure.

Update: Glenn Greenwald and Mike Adams do wonkier and better written analyses of NDAA but come to similar conclusions.

  1. [1] I’m definitely not trying to use the “This has always been a problem, so shut up,” technique. Rather, I’m going for, “let’s talk about how f’d up it is that this has always been and continues to be the case.
  2. [2] It will also, without hesitation, kill or cage anyone in the vicinity or of the same race or religion.
  3. [3] I originally misattributed the poll to Copblock.org, another great, illuminating website. Thanks Ademo for the correction

A Note to Fellow Travelers (and Myself) on 9/11

The loss of 3,000 innocent lives at the hands of other humans is always and everywhere atrocious. The last 10 years have been riddled with atrocities as religious and political leaders have sent the broken to kill the innocent in countless locations around the globe. Listening to/reading the media portrayal of 9/11 leading up to the 10th anniversary has been maddening. Accepting the media perspective as representative of the people of the United States might lead one to conclude that the tragedies of the last 10 years are the fault of ignorant, small minded “sheeple” who have lent their support to a terrifying global empire.

This is not the case. The majority of Americans do not support U.S. foreign policy in Iraq or Afghanistan. The majority do not believe that further occupation of those countries is useful. The majority do not believe that domestic security should outweigh civil liberties.

The majority of Americans either believe that (43%) or don’t know if (13%) U.S wrongdoing might have motivated the attacks of 9/11. That in spite of the fact that:

the notion that American “wrongdoing” is a cause of anti-U.S. Terrorism is one of the most rigidly enforced taboos. Nothing provokes allegations of “unpatrotism” or “anti-Americanism” — or intellectually dishonest claims that one is “justifying” Terrorism — more than pointing out this obvious causation. Despite that, and despite the natural jingoistic bias of believing that one’s own country does not engage in truly bad acts (certainly not sufficiently bad to provoke Terrorism), a very sizable portion of the citizenry has come to that conclusion on its own.
Glenn Greenwald

The political hacks often talk about how their candidate/party has only limited control over a given political outcome. I have to remember, during propaganda saturated moments such as these that the citizens have nothing to do with a given political outcome. The majority dislike the same sickening results that we apolitical folks oppose, but their opinions don’t count any more than ours do.

What has been and will be broadcast from the Federal Communication Commission’s licensed stations is pure propaganda. The saccharine melodrama will resonate, to some degree, with most of us, but the collected content reflects the beliefs (or is reflected in the beliefs) of a tiny minority of people.

The anti-state message to the wider population is to be on guard for misinformation from “the mainstream media”, that it doesn’t reflect reality. The message to the enemies of empire who may tend toward bitterness toward during the all encompassing media blitz on a week like this is that the propaganda doesn’t reflect the beliefs of the majority of our fellow subjects.

Update: Another article on how Americans believe that the Government “Overreacted, Overspent and Weakened Ourselves Through the War on Terror”

Pity the Party Hacks

One of the many things that swing out of the mainstream from time to time to knock a bit of reality into my delightful pocket of anarchism is the political left’s inability to abandon, or even critisize, capitalism.

Capitalism, corporatism, crony/state capitalism, call it what you will–I’m referring to the economic system that has always obtained in these glorious united states. In this system, concentration of capital–purchasing power and means of production–use the legitimized violence of political institutions[1] to increase their wealth in ways that would otherwise be impossible [2].
Capitalism
This, in turn allows capital to concentrate in greater amounts and at a greater rate providing additional resources to create favorable monopolies, governing/regulating bodies, tax structures, and foreign policy (i.e. war). Which, in turn results in further abnormal and absurd profits, and so on and so forth.

Eventually, the oligarchs of accumulated wealth in this country have even won control of the printing of money and the issuance of debt (at interest rates set by their own cartel!). They’ve been awarded mineral rights around the globe by puppet regimes–mineral rights protected by the largest and deadliest military the world has ever seen. Their property and means of production in the home country are protected by a legion of police only slightly less well armed than the hordes sent abroad.

The reason they can do this is that they get it all for free! Certainly they pay some taxes, but in return they have access to assets on the order of trillions of (public) dollars to protect “their” property, mineral rights, even the pictures, sounds, words, and ideas that their workers develop for them.

Their employees’ retirement pensions and eventual healthcare are paid for, not by them, but by the public. The people that work for them are educated by the public. Goods flow in and out of their warehouses on public roads. Their merchant fleets shuttle cheap goods from poor countries with brutal leaders installed with public dollars to keep their people poor and compliant and working for nothing. Those fleets are protected by an awe inspiring navy under the watch of thousands of navigation and communication satellites. None of which is purchased, built, or placed by the majority beneficiaries.

Capitalism is the way by which the wealth and well-being of the 99% are trapped, extracted, and collected to benefit the interest of the tiny remainder. The entire nation-state is bent toward taking money and labor stolen from the workers and building armies, police, infrastructure, and regulation that benefit the people who built the nation-state for just that purpose.

As the inestimable Dennis Perrin points out:

Liberal groups bemoan the class war, but do little to oppose it. For one thing, they’re not opposed to capitalism — though what we’re enduring is beyond supply-and-demand definitions. Modern capital has its own language, its own currency, its own country. Liberal commentary rarely touches on this. They believe that modern capital can be bent in a progressive direction. By who or how is fuzzy. But it can be done. First, we need to elect better Democrats; and then etc. etc.

The democrats, individually and as a party, benefit mightily from serving accumulated capital. They will not take actions that threaten their share of power; if that means supporting wars, prisons, torture, a police state, the slashing of social spending, so be it.
Party Hack
The hacks on the political left benefit from the trickle down from the democrats. They can make a living reading, writing, speaking, and anlyzing as long as their conclusion is that:

  1. The structure of capitalism must remain unchanged and unchecked[3].
  2. and

  3. The democratic party, not a third party, and certainly not an alternative social structure is the means to social progress using the structures of capitalism; as Dennis says, “by who or how is fuzzy, first we need to elect democrats.”

This puts the party hacks in a weird and convoluted position. All of the traditional left-wing recommendations for real improvement in people’s lives and society at large–legalizing local organizations to compete with corporate monopolies, absolving bogus debt and laughable absentee property claims, the closing of prisons, the ending of wars, and the end of legal statute enforcing morality and social norms. . . the party hacks can’t really use any of it. They’re left cheering when the stock market goes up because maybe some of the newly appropriated corporate billions can be used to buy catfood for the elderly; or trap children in the mind-numbing prison camps of public education for 10 more days a year, or create jobs by increasing the ranks of homeland security.

It’s a testament to their intelligence that they can form a cohesive narrative and defend it at all.

  1. [1] After, if necessary, creating said institutions.
  2. [2] If you’re unfamiliar with that what of I speak, I recommend Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism, or anything by Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky
  3. [3] Other than, perhaps, regulation further insulating some corporations against competition from some others; enshrining political favorites as indefinite rulers of a sector of the economy.

The Mythology of Police “Service”

I remember being shocked when I found out, as a young lad, that “bobbies”–british cops–didn’t carry guns. Even Barney Fife[1], in the entirely non-violent town of Mayberry, had a gun with a bullet for the one-in-a-million chance that he would need to protect somebody with deadly force.

The narrative of police service–in Mayberry, USA or London, England circa 1950–is that it was a relationship between a corp of caring persons of integrity and a population that occasionally needs some protection or a helping hand. “Peace officers” were a combination of AAA agent, google maps, responsible friend (in alcohol related scenarios), occasional therapist and only in very rare circumstances, a body guard.

I have read and heard countless stories that fit with this model: flat tires changed by a cop; rides home provided by a cop; high-speed escorts to hospital provided by a cop; barroom scuffles broken up by a cop. I have no doubt that these stories are true and that, historically, police service meant that (some) people were served by police. I don’t doubt that, even today, police exist who really want to serve others on their “beat.[2]

However, during the same historical era that Andy Griffith was providing homespun wisdom and good natured dispute resolution to the town of Mayberry and that baton twirling bobbies were helping old ladies carry their groceries home in Tottengham; ghettos in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Northern Ireland were crawling with heavily armed, abusive state thugs who were terrorizing the minority inhabitants.

The police in these areas were an instrument of social control. They violently upheld the existing economic order, attacked organizations that the ruling class perceived as competing for loyalty, and beat down any resistance to institutions of central authority. The techniques employed were savage and dehumanizing and robbed great number of human beings of life, health, freedom and possessions.

Now, when baton charges and water cannons are unleashed on Her Majesty’s Loyal Subjects in the Home Counties, it’s not a new form of policing, it’s simply expanding the relationship between police and subject formerly reserved for the Catholic minority in Ulster. When highly militarized police roll up to a house in working-class suburbia and kick in the door, it’s an expansion of policing policies that have been in government housing projects in every major US city since the 1960s.

As the minority inhabitants of western countries have been shouting all along, the police “protect and serve” the rulers, not “the people”. When Britain was largely middle class and all of the “troubles” were caused by enemies of the monarchy in Northern Ireland, local policing was friendly and public opinion turned a blind eye to the brutal policing across the Irish Sea. When suburban and rural communities were largely middle class, local police provided a “service” and nobody raised a fuss about the virtual military occupation of black communities in decaying urban cores.

With the western economies in free fall, the middle class has and will continue to evaporate. Formerly loyal subjects of the monarchy and the nation-state will find themselves in the same plight that 2nd, 3rd, and lower class citizens have been facing lo these couple hundred years. The policing tactics that previously happened “over there” will increasingly be applied “over here.”

Yet the pundits and the rulers clamor for more. On the political right, there can’t be enough cops being brutal enough to enough people; even on the political left, in the name of “job creation,” Rachel Maddow advocates the increase in the number of police nationwide.

Demographics that have traditionally been exempted from police are now experiencing life as “perpetrators.” All but the most privileged are increasingly subject to arbitrary police violence. Sites like CopBlock, The Agitator, Injustice Everywhere, Gangsters in Blue, and Photography is Not a Crime, attempt to keep up with and report on all manner of crimes conducted by the police.

The police are not here to protect and serve you. They’re very likely to, accidentally or intentionally, hurt, cage or kill you or someone around you should they be called for assistance. Their job is to control you and to assist their masters in extracting money and obedience from you in all cases. The police of the mythological past are no longer with us–if they ever were–the today’s police are not to be trusted by anyone under any circumstances.

Update: And then of course, there’s Syria

  1. [1] This post is premised on your knowledge of The Andy Griffith Show a quick glance at the Wikipedia article should suffice.
  2. [2] Even these hypothetical “good” cops are still required by the policies of their governing institution to make unjust arrests of non-violent offenders of arbitrary statues and ordinances; there’s only so much even a well-intentioned cop can do.

Trust and Obey

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

- Classic Creepy Hymn

For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking, recently, about my history with religion. I’m perceived as being hostile to (most specifically) Christianity and even accused of “hating” it. I honestly don’t feel like I hate Christianity–I’m not even sure what that means–but I wanted to think through the possibility and explain my opposition to religion and why it is often so fierce.

Most atheists’[1] primary objection to religion is that it’s not true. Believers are like our primitive ancestors who think the earth is flat. The atheist can’t understand why, when faced with very clear, logical, and conclusive[2] arguments against the existence of whatever god(s) are in question, believers refuse to modify their position or admit its obvious absurdity.

The argument is about what is factually correct, and most of the “wrongness” of the religious is thought to be in their lack of understanding of reality. In this context, the argument against religion is like an argument about where the 1928 olympics were held[3] (well, ok, an argument taking place before search engines . . . and away from libraries). Somebody is right and somebody is wrong–or both might be wrong–but if everyone is convinced of their “facts,” then there’s no means by which to end the argument or make progress in any direction.

And of course this is annoying and, if the individuals in the discussion stake enough of their identity in their positions, it can even be infuriating for them. Nevertheless, it’s often enough chalked up to a difference of “opinion,” or a matter of faith, or a to-each-his-own scenario or whatever.

Religion has a much, much darker side however, which is it’s training in obedience in the face of things one is told one “can’t understand.”

This isn’t a trait of hardcore evangelical faiths (aka fundamentalism), but is a common thread throughout all varieties of religion. Religions are premised on the notion that the universe we perceive and can bring our senses and mind to bear on isn’t “real.” Beyond the senses, beyond matter and energy, there is a much greater, majestic, and eternal reality filled with spirits and, most importantly deities, that determine the fate of your eternal soul and are very interested in your choices and actions[4].
Conveniently, these Gods can’t simply tell you what you need to do. Unless you’re a Moses, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, or L. Ron Hubbard, you’re going to want the guidance of an expert–a priest, minister or other clergy. These people will help with the interpretation of religious texts at the very least and may even be in a direct chain of communication to God himself.

Baby praying--super creepy
Even though a cursory lay-persons reading of, for example, the New Testament reveals a pretty simple message–don’t hurt other people, help children, the poor, the sick and the old–the primary message of every religion is, as the song goes, Trust and Obey.

Children, obey your parents; women folk, obey your men folk; slaves, obey your masters; church members, obey the church; and everybody, obey the government[5]. Submit and obey. Obey and submit. You have been put on this earth under the supervision of various god-appointed authorities. They exist to interface with the mysteries and complexities that are beyond your comprehension and to deliver to you divinely prescribed commandments that you are to follow.

Of course, religion is not alone in this endeavor. The other authorities at the top of the previous paragraph reinforce each other. Parents tell their children to obey the church (priests, sunday school teachers) and the state (police, school teachers). The government legislates, public schools teach and elected leaders constantly harp on the need for obedience to spiritual leaders and parents (or adults more generally).

Religion adds the mystery and ritual, however, and goes beyond right and wrong, legal and illegal to a special dispensation on what is transcendentally good and evil.

These two things–1. casting doubt on the biological means of comprehending the material world (senses and reason)[6] and 2. elevating blind obedience, faith and submission to authority into the highest realms of virtue–move religion from the category of factually-and-infuriatingly-wrong to that of fundamentally-destructive-of-human-well-being.

There’s much more to say, and it’s likely that my real-life conversations about religion will inspire future posts, but I’m going to wrap this post up and leave you with the dirge that inspired this post. Warning! If you know this song, think carefully about re-subjecting yourself to it–it can stay in your head for days.

  1. [1] For the purposes of this article, I’ll refer to all manner of non-believers as atheists
  2. [2] At least, as conclusive as any argument against the existence of anything can be.
  3. [3] I tried to think of a better example: evolution, global warming, geology, but most break down along religious lines.
  4. [4] One could argue that the “personal deity” is more a description of western, abrahamic religions, but even easterners seem to receive directions to kill based on religious differences, so I’m going to cast my net widely
  5. [5] On very rare occasions these things can be in conflict, but after a brief, usually violent, sorting-out they tend to self-correct and harmonize.
  6. [6] I may follow up about this, but a really good analogy can be found in this Stephan Molyneux podcast.

The Bikecast Episode #54: Whence Bigotry?

The evolutionary psych story about humanity is that war, genocide, and the divisive “-isms” that keep humans in a perpetual state of conflict are inevitable expressions of an “us vs. them” tendency that is simply a part of our biological makeup.

It’s indisputable that people can adopt an identity that is essentially oppositional to another nation, race, religion or ethnic group, but how much of this tendency is nature and how much is nurture?

Only one human trait is truly immutable: adaptability. Children learn very quickly what they need to do to ensure their physical safety. In our dominance based society, a major element of required adaptation is siding with proximal agents in society vs. outsiders, real or–primarily–imagined.

In fact, examining the volume of propaganda that is directed at Americans, from the cradle to the grave it’s unsurprising the kinds bizarre and absurd expressions of xenophobia that crop up whenever the “enemies of America” (or of “real” America) come up in conversation.


Download this episode of the Bikecast

Japan

Take, for example, this stream of . . . just really weird comments that popped about on Facebook and Twitter after the last month’s earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan. Citing Pearl Harbor (Pearl Harbor? Seriously?) as the counter-balance in some twisted version of karma is really, really fucked up.

Anti-japanese propaganda from the Second World War
Where did this enmity come from? There can’t be more than a dozen people alive on the planet that participated in the fighting at Pearl Harbor. Japan has been a more than cooperative American colonial forward base in East Asia for over 65 years. There are very few who derived their prejudice against the Japanese from lived experience, but a quick glance at “educational material” and popular culture should give a clue about where the animosity comes from.

The facts, which one has to dig a bit to find, paint a different picture. The popular depiction involves a ruthless and brutal empire[1] that, in an attempt to enslave the entire pacific strikes out at a peaceful merchant republic. This depiction, crafted, as always, by the victors served to put the United States on a war footing. Pearl Harbor was a story meant to ease the resistance to conscription going into the war, and to ease the collective conscience after Japanese cities were incinerated by fire bombings and, finally, annihilated in nuclear blasts.

The truth is less useful. Objectively, two empires, one small and resource starved and the other vast, expanding and reaching the height of its powers met in the western Pacific. A faction of the leadership of the United States, including large parts of the executive branch, wanted to go to war in Europe and intended to do so by drawing Germany’s Pacific ally into a conflict.

This bikecast/post isn’t intended to address this issue in depth. It requires the kind of care and attention to detail that I can’t generally muster. Luckily, the issue has been researched to death by just the kinds of minds by which one wants important issues researched to death. The evidence is overwhelming and the objections, as far as I can find, are few and feeble (and rebutted). This page of links from the Independent Institute has alot of good starting points for the interested.

In any case, the nature of the war, fought thousands of miles from California against an island nation far and away the technological and economic inferior of the United States required an enormous amount of propaganda. In retrospect, as each new generation of Americans confronts the nightmare of history’s only nuclear strikes, the tale requires an arch-enemy so lunatic that no alternative was conceivable but to vaporize hundreds of thousands of people to bring the war to an end.

And that is the legacy that is echoed in the comments about Japan today. Jingoism generated by a ruling class to support their decisions and those of their predecessors three generations ago.

If we have to demonize the Japanese in order to distract from the reality of the war in the Pacific, how much more demonization is required to justify the enslavement of a race?

African Americans

The answer is, “quite a lot”–11 on a scale of 10 and we see the evidence for this in Western bigotry against blacks. This may be especially true in the United States where racial policy has been an political issue for three hundred years.

How does one justify the perpetual enslavement of a people? They have to be animals, unfit for a place in civilization, unable to control their impulses and desires, a danger to advanced society. If abolition is on the table, a strong and reliable political move is to drive into the public consciousness the most gruesome and horrifying stories of what will happen when the black race is freed.

If integration is on the table, the wise move is to tell these stories again. To create and fund “science” that supports racist conclusions, to integrate racism into every possible aspect of society: education, religion, community organizations, etc. The politician willing to do so and support others in doing so can have a long and prosperous career, since no one pays any heed to the wars he starts and the money he shunts to his supporters and allies.

The legacy of nationalized racial policy is what we see around us today. Racism isn’t a biological inevitability. It’s the result of an explicit policy of centuries of fear mongering for political power and financial gain.

The Entire Non-Christian World and The non-English-speaking Americas

Nowadays, our attention is turned to (at least) two new enemies who, we are told, seek to despoil our country. The muslims (or islamo-fascists) and spanish speaking central/south Americans and carribean islanders (aka mexicans or illegals).

Popular stereotypes of these people differ radically between 1900 and today. I go into some hand-waving detail in the podcast about my perception of these changes. Suffice it to say that the fanatical muslim and job-stealing mexican are inventions of the last 40 years. They were created specifically to allow monstrously inhumane treatment of human beings and vast appropriations of stolen money to the military-industrial-prison-security-congressional-complex. The amount of energy and effort being put into the new stereotypes assure us that, in 100 years, people will still be clinging blindly to these beliefs.

And why the energy and effort? Greater fear and anger associated with these groups means more power given to the police, military and surveillance state and votes for anyone who promises protection from these “threats.” Nobody can speak against this most destructive of enemy imagery and hope to be taken seriously by the corporate media much less have any chance at political office.

To sum up, the quantity and ferocity of enemy-making propaganda has to be such that virtuous choices like withdrawing western troops from the middle east, allowing free travel over the southern border (or not going to war in 1941 or not owning black persons before 1865) are unthinkable.

We’re still reeling from the propaganda of the past, and new bullshit is being constantly heaped on top of the old. The perpetrators and agitators are those that benefit from hatred–those whose actual crimes: mass theft, kidnapping and murder, necessitate the creation of unfathomably evil foes. Only by projecting their own wrongdoings onto others can the perpetrators escape from scrutiny. Not only can they commit the most horrific crimes against humanity, they can do so in the name of protection people from the harmful other.

In the podcast, I reference Lloyd DeMause who makes a similar argument with regard to enemy imagery historically directed at children. Here’s a page of his online books. I’ve read much of The Emotional Life of Nations and listened to some of the Origins of War in Child Abuse. Also, here’s a current example ad hoc ratcheting up of enemy imagery in wartime as various minorities are targeted as foreign mercenaries. Oh, and the movie I was trying to think of was Lawrence of Arabia

  1. [1] no argument there, btw

Reasoning in Midstream

“Reasoning in midstream[1]” is a common phenomenon in public discourse that typically starts right around the time that bombs start dropping or legislation starts being penned in response to a “crisis”. It is the monotonous focus on the present state of a problem–a pending genocide, a health or financial emergency, or a security threat–disregarding the history or context in which the event takes place. In addition to discouraging discussion of root causes, reasoning in midstream also allows for attention to be drawn away from parallel dangers that are still in earlier stages.

By way of an analogy, imagine a society whose diet consists of only Snickers and Coke (a-cola, that is). After forty or fifty years, the toothless, diabetic and morbidly obese nature of the elder generation forces the society to examine the ailments of the worst off and explore possible solutions. Radical dentistry, amputation of gangrenous limbs and liposuction are proposed and touted as the only way to address these epidemics which, apparently, arose from nowhere. Perhaps an underemployed nutritionist suggests a change of diet, but the idea is dismissed as ineffective against the immediate problems faced by the older population.

Of course, without a change in diet, however insufficient against some of the immediate dangers facing some of the population, the problem can’t be checked in any meaningful or sustainable way. There’s most likely not much that can be done to help those that have been eating the lethal foodstuffs for 50 years. In this example, it’s plain (for us) to see that efforts would be most profitably invested in changing the diet to avoid the same problems in those that are currently 5, 15, 25, and 35 years old.

If this society limits itself to reasoning in midstream, however, solutions that aren’t directed at the immediate and spotlighted most critical cases are disregarded entirely. No ultimate causes of the current problem are sought and no thought to preventing future problems of a similar nature is given.

Leaping out of my flimsy analogy and into harsh reality, the most recent example of reasoning in midstream (let’s call it RIM from now on) that I’ve experienced has been around the topic of Libya.

Here, for the first time since Clinton and NATO decimated and subsequently occupied the Balkans, we have a progressive war for progressive goals lead by a progressive administration. This has caused tremendous cognitive dissonance on the left and lead to somber and thoughtful defenses of the necessity of aerial butchery. Where there is hesitation, progressives are plagued by the programmed question: “What possible alternative exists?”

What alternatives indeed? There are no good answers in the moment, because it’s the last 60+ years of malignant foreign policy in the region that have brought us to this terrible, yet easily predicted, outcome. Yet no discussion exists of the historical context of western intervention in North Africa. And so the policy is more of the same–remove the leader and arm some new “legitimate government” that will guarantee the continuity of the status quo.

Whatever happens, say proponents of RIM, don’t let’s think about the other dictators and puppet states, in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Geogria, El Salvador, Djibouti, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, etc.–I left out the countries that don’t seem to be in immediate peril of revolution–who continue to receive the very same western military aid that has allowed Gadaffi to commit this most recent democide.

The goal of the imperial state and it’s licensed, regulated, and wholly corporately owned mass media is to push aside such radical questions and return us to the case at hand–to RIM. Surely we can’t let this moment pass, this horrible thing happen, surely something must be done . . .

When “something must be done,” we immediately know that we are being asked to support a heaping helping of more of the same upon a people that have had their enemies propped up by western imperialism and their countries and wealth sold out from underneath them to western interests.

Nothing should be done. The violence must end which necessitates not adding to it. The dictators past and future should not be armed by money expropriated from the western working classes. As I discuss in The Winding Up of Violence, places like Libya, and much of the rest of the western controlled world, are like pots of water (two metaphors in one blog post! Noooo!). As long as they are exposed to heat, armaments and violence, from outside the system, they will remain in a turbulent state.

Foreign perturbance must cease, and the region will settle in to a stable state governed by the will of the people living there. This will happen at some point. The amount of harm, destruction and dislocation that will have to be endured is a function of how long it takes for the west to withdraw and cease interference, which is an economic inevitability at this point.

The sooner we cease to reason in midstream, and to see the calls for increased intervention for what they are, the sooner the people of Libya, the Middle East, and the entire world will have an opportunity to craft a peaceful existence for themselves.

Related:

  1. [1] Wes Bertrand describes the process more abstractly in the first chapter of his book Complete Liberty

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.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

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.